Mama Bear

Written by: Andrea Angileri
There was a black bear loose in our city not too long ago. Extremely rare for our area, the bear was discovered by a retired science teacher. A teacher who, I recall, wrote a quirky message to me in my middle school yearbook, something to the tune of not relying on my good looks to get me through life, but to apply myself, but that is neither here nor there. The retired teacher noted that the bear had been likely pushed due to lack of resources and was probably looking for a mate. It was probably a male, not wanting to ask for directions, but pushed beyond its comfort zone and looking for a connection….hmm…if that don’t sound like a mama bear.
They are at the park, at the pool, at the school, on the web…oh yes…the Mama Bear is alive and well because the Mama Bear lives deep within all of us who call ourselves “Mother”. Some ‘Mama Bear’s start out strong, defending their child the moment they enter this world because there is a special need…in their child…or in their inner selves…others are evolved through eventual circumstances. I saw a Mama Bear being born the other day…at a baby shower. She was opening up random onesies and holding up cute bibs, and I couldn’t help but think, “There she is…the birth of the Mama Bear…welcome to one helluva club”. I used to cringe at Mama Bears…until I saw that I met mine.
My son was 11 when my first encounter came with my own inner Mama Bear. Sure, there had been times that I would get the post baby sensitivities, the insecure moments, but up until then, I most probably thought of myself as more of a Berenstain Bear ‘Mama Bear’. But then it happened…something that would make me throw off my bonnet and toss of my apron in a ‘HAIL NO’ kinda way. Let me set the stage….
I’m at a pool party with my oldest….by myself. This is a rarity. That means that I left behind an 8 year old, 5 year old, and a 3 year old. Obviously, I found the most comfortable hammocky looking chair and I just vegged. Then my moment of peace got completely f#cked up upbruptly stopped. My son had thrown a plastic toy across the pool and it smacked this older lady right in the back. He was in shock and apologized. The lady…who was probably also in shock..turned and yelled, “DON’T THROW TOYS IN THE POOL!”. My son gives a “I didn’t mean to hit you” and she repeats with the same loud tone and with a finger, “I DON’T CARE. DON’T THROW TOYS IN THE POOL!” There was a long awkward silence and I am not even exaggerating. I sat in my hammocky chair. I visualized myself leaping up and making a dramatic scene defending my son. I sat in my hammocky chair…
Another mom came over a few minutes later, “Hey,” she says, “are you having fun?”
“I’d have a lot more fun if that lady hadn’t just yelled at my son” (I slightly feel the guy next to me turn. He had an odd look on him. It was probably her husband. Who knows)
The mom agreed and moved on and I could feel my cheeks flush. Something in me was unhinging. It was ‘Mama Bear’.
“You have to go over there and say something, “ Mama Bear insisted.
I checked in on my son who had moved on, and it had probably been a good 10 minutes after the incident when I marched my little butt over to the other edge of the pool where the older lady was talking with a younger woman. And this is what transpired.
Me: “You can talk to your grandchildren however you want, but I don’t appreciate you yelling at my son like that”
Older Lady: Not remembering what she said verbatim here, but something about it taking her by surprise and it hurt, and it was over and done with now.
Me: “I know I would have been pissed if I would have got hit too, but you made a scene.” And then something about how I was just trying to relax somewhere in the dialogue.
I walked away and just went on with the party. Later on the younger lady came over to talk to the group, turns out she was the daughter of the older woman. My son and I leave at a later unrelated time In the car I told my son that I was upset about the incident and I addressed the lady. I felt like he needed to know that I defended him….but in all actuality, I don’t know if my son felt the need for my defense. It’s like that sometimes with ‘Mama Bears’. We fight and claw and sometimes our kids don’t even ask us or want us to do it. What irked me is that this lady didn’t know my kid. If you are his teacher or his relative then at least you KNOW the kid. Don’t yell at my kid like you know him! A ‘Mama Bear’ was born that day. It was bittersweet. I was proud for standing up…but sad that it brought out the ugly in me. In hindsight, I realize that the older lady was probably being a little ‘Mama Bear’ herself. I mean, she was in the pool with her grandchildren. She took the plastic hit, but something in her snapped when she was in protective mode. Que Sera.
Seriously though, what is it with waterparks and ‘Mama Bears’? There was a different incident with my youngest son which he went down the slide and bumped into a little girl and the mom went a little too nuts for my liking. My kid didn’t want to go back into that area for the rest of the day. I threw on compassion and asked if the little girl was o.k. later in dry turf. They were just a family. She was just a mom getting into my kid’s face. Whatever.
Sometimes in this Mama Bear life you need to just realize that we are all Mama Bears, we just belong to different dens. We are conditioned to defend our own children, at any cost. We might turn to realize that our cubs are just playing in the background….oblivious to the dangers we are defending them from. Our cubs are like that lone loose Northern Illinois black bear everyone is freaking out about. Crossing counties, finding his way, maybe he’s having a blast alone. Our children might take a detour, but they they will be independent..if we let them be. Related: Nobody is fretting about the black bear anymore, he’s old news.
It’s exhausting being a Mama Bear. I’m going to put on my Berenstain bear bonnet and apron, make some damn muffins, and let Papa take a turn.

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Poisoned Perceptions

Poisoned Perceptions
Written by: Andrea Angileri

I recently watched several Netflix rentals, one of which was James Gandolfini’s last film entitled, “Enough Said”. In an interview, I remember his co-star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus echoing to Oprah Winfrey that this movie was much more closely reflective of Gandolfini’s true self, versus the Tony Soprano character he was famous for. I heard the movie was good, but had no idea that there would be such a strong message delivered by the late actor.
In this film, Louis-Dreyfus’ character Eva meets Albert (Gandolfini) and begins a tentative relationship with him. Both characters are divorced and in the process of sending their only daughters away to college. Unknowingly, Eva (a masseuse) also begins a friendship with admirable new client Marianne (played by Catherine Keener). When Eva finds out that Marianne’s ‘ annoying’ ex-husband is Albert she finds herself grappling with telling the truth, separating someone else’s truth from her own, and accepting her own truth. Eva is challenged to see Albert’s flaws. Some of Albert’s’ ‘flaws’ are petty, like the way Albert separated his onions in his guacamole or didn’t use bed stands, while the other more physically apparent, that he was overweight. Marianne obliviously confides details of her ex-husband and unknowingly confuses Eva’s’ feelings towards Albert through their conversations, in which Eva is all ears with clouded discernment. Marianne is admirable and nice, which adds to Eva’s confusion. As movies go, there will always be revelation and some sort of resolution. This compromised friendship becomes revealed to all and the dust settles.
Gandolfini delivers an excellent line in the movie, he says, “You let my ex-wife poison your perception of me?”. Eva backpedals and defends saying, “No…I did not let her poison my perception.” Eva and other characters resolve their own ‘poisoned perceptions’ and the movie ends…but the message resonates within me. ‘Poisoned perceptions’….’poisoned perceptions’…when in my life have I too been susceptible to having my perceptions poisoned? And the answer is….’When have I NOT ever been susceptible to having my perceptions poisoned?’ For truly, this is a main theme in human existence, to seek out our OWN truths and perceptions, in a world filled with varying truths and perceptions. Whether it is about our spouse, our children, our parents, the town we live in, or our entire lives, people will challenge us. Yes, there are flaws. I firmly believe that to truly love somebody or something you must be able to see their flaws. You may even have to voice the flaw, defend the flaw, accept or reject the flaw, and figure out how it all fits into our life plan. However, it is up to us to not let others or even OURSELVES poison our perceptions and affect our own truth. It may be a matter of saying, “Yes…I see that flaw…and I have had to deal with it” or more boldly, “No, I do not share your perspective of this flaw…at all…in fact…I don’t even see it as a flaw.” This can be an ongoing internal or external process. It’s not that the ‘perception poisoner’ is some sort of evil step-mother handing you a poison apple. It can come in the form of a child’s negative attitude, a loved one’s advice, a stranger’s off-handed comment, a local headline, something your saw in the media, or the small but mighty voice within ourselves.

What will you do today to ensure you will not let your perceptions be poisoned and just as importantly…What will you do to ensure you are not poisoning other people’s  perspectives?

The Holiday Break That Never…Ever…Ends…

My Netflix Queue is full of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and I have surrendered to a glass of Reisling.  Is it 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday?  I have forgotten because this is clearly…The Holiday Break That Never…Ever…Ends.  Don’t get me wrong….I love my kids.  It’s o.k. parents….we can still love our children but crave a certain amount of daily routine that the school year provides….it’s o.k.  One popular mom blogger made a comment about the impending snow day and there was a comment from a mom whose child had passed in the summer who had a lonely winter break.  This is terrible. Obviously, we feel like crap when we realize that the things that irritate us would be a blessing to others at any moment.  The idea that we can lose our children or that they will grow up keeps us in check and provides those out of the blue “I am so blessed” moments of clarity.  But yet…in the midst of being 37… with a 13, 9, 6, and 4 year old…this is The Holiday Break That Never…Ever Ends..and I can’t feel my mind.  Let me just re-create an email conversation for you to help illustrate this.

My boss:  “You don’t have to go to Rock Island for that visit.  You don’t have anybody else closeby…it’s up to you.”

Me:  “No…that’s o.k.  I already told her I’d be there.  I’ll make it work.”

Rock Island is 2 hours and 20 minutes away from my house.  I basically broke even between pay and gas to get there.   These are the type of decisions that one makes after clearly being inside the house too long with young children.  I

There are plenty of things that I don’t miss about being out in the winter wonderland with the hustle and bustle of the school year.  I have just forgotten how irritating the school year is.  The 7:00 wake ups, the drop offs, the pick ups, the homework, the school functions we hardly make anymore.  I did get my kids in the car today for an outing and then I remembered what sucks.  Here is my list:

What Sucks About the Winter

1.  Not being able to just fly out of the house.  You need to heat up the car, scrape, bundle up the kids, blah blah.  Last winter I clearly remember throwing hot coffee at my frozen windshield in a sheer Frankie Heck ‘The Middle’ fashion.

2.  Being Cold.  I would rather be able to feel my fingers and toes…it’s best.

3.  The Roads.   I would rather be able to see the roads…it’s best.

That’s really it in a nutshell..about winter I mean.  There are nice things about the winter.  

 

Snowy Siblings.  They are bundled up, they are walking closely side by side to keep warm…crunching through the snow.

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Christmas Morning.  Sure, the days preceding are spent wrapping gifts and ensuring our bank accounts are drained.  But the look on their faces on Christmas morning makes it all worthwhile. Plus they will have toys that they will get bored of to play with over break with their friends.

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Hanging Inside with Holiday Specials.  It’s cold.  There are tons of holiday movies on.  Surrender to the couch, pop some popcorn, make some hot chocolate and savor it. 

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 Date Nights with the Kids.  Holiday break is the perfect time to squeeze in a date night or two with the kids.  They might even be a part of the entertainment.

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 Snow.  The ultimate sensory experience.  Bundle up, grab some shovels, throw it in the bathtub, whatever.  Snow is fun to play in and it’s free.  Sure as an adult being cooped up for days, you might feel like doing face down snow angels indefinitely, but go ahead…throw a snowball…build a half-ass snowman.  Be a part of it.  Think:  “Hot Chocolate Awaits!”

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 Playing With Things That Don’t Normally Get Played With.  This is your chance to bust out the crafts, blocks, board games, and get CRAZY!

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 New Year’s In.   It’s that night where I watch Times Square from my couch and imagine all of my family there…taking turns bitching about the crowd and how cold we all are.  My New Year Eves with all the kids home under one roof are like our winter break groceries…slowly dwindling.  

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So there it is. Even though I snapped at my child after stabbing me in the face trying to put kid-size sunglasses on my face last night, I can identify it as a holiday break overdose symptom.   After throwing up mixed match socks in a ‘Who Cares’ manner…I can identify that it is cabin fever and I merely need to step outside of my  house for a while before I can kiss and make up with mundane household chores.  Tomorrow…we will have another day off because of 40 degree below windchill.  I know that it will be all too soon before I wish it was all back.  I will go back to work, they will go back to school, the steadiness of life will pick up a bit.  But…until then…let the winter games CONTINUE!

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BloggyCon 13

BloggyCon ‘13

Written By: Andrea Angileri

I only find this typical of me suitable because it is the last day of 2013 and I have not yet blogged about attending my first blogging conference.  I began blogging because my Facebook status updates were leading to notes.  I knew I had things to say that nobody wanted to hear a select audience would appreciate.  At first, blogging was fun.  I had lots of views and stretched my neck out to other bloggers who were gracious enough to let me guest blog.  I planned to attend a blogging conference in Ohio.  Ohio….a 7 hour drive…what optimism!  After a while I fell into an ‘STD’….’Stats Trap Depression’.  How did my views go from hundred to goose eggs?  Why did I care?  Aren’t I blogging for myself?  I found Twitter.  My blogs grew fewer.  Still….when the big conference arrived I was hopeful.  My husband and I packed up for our longest married road trip.  We did well because I absorbed myself in Netflix   we love each other deeply.

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From Illinois, I was familiar with Lake Michigan and found Lake Erie equally beautiful.  The line to check in was as long-winded as my earliest blog posts.  But, the Halloween atmosphere was cool and the check-in staff was courteous.   I quickly learned to change the adjective ‘outdated’ with ‘historic’ and we moved on.  It was breezy, but hubby and I walked the shore.   I beamed like a 6 year old at a birthday party when I was  handed my bag o blogging goodies.    Then we ate hot dogs…like 6 year olds at a birthday party.  What shall we do tonight?   We did what every couple without kids does…we went to the hotel’s TGIF’s.   The artichoke spinach cone was not enough to satisfy my appetite original.  My husband took an Instagram…but of his receipt.

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The next day I was ready to get my conference room on.  It was like a little hide and seek game, but I found the main room.  I had my expectations realistic.  I would be open to receiving as much information as I can squeeze into my already cluttered mind, while meeting a few people that I would hope to remember to contact again.  My realistic expectations were met.  Lots of really good information about the blogging world.  I learned about monetizing your blog, niche-marketing, photography, making contacts, and how to get a Honda Van for a week.

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To be honest…as if I lie…I felt like I was at my Ed.D residency.  A bunch of really cool people with lots of information who knew what the hell they were doing.   Did I mention that I later bowed out gracefully with my Ed.S?  It’s o.k. … I wasn’t the only one.  That said, I appreciate all the efforts going into it to organize and get the conference in motion.  It’s nice to look around and see  other bloggers off-line in person.

My husband and I wandered around CedarPoint equally amazed at all the awesome rides that we wouldn’t wait in line for.  He made eye contact with the cartoonist and I averted my eyes.  It was like I knew BitStrips would be the next best thing.  We admired families with kids, bought souvenirs for our 4 left behind children and silently wondered, “What  would our kids think of all this?”…then we took a nap.  After our 5 p.m. nap we got a little crazy and  went to the mall.  Our waitress was the nicest Snooki impersonator you ever did meet.

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The last day, I was ready to pack up and get back to flavored Starbuck’s my kids.   A head full of ideas…a shoe full of sand.   I realized that there would be a place for me as a blogger if I chose to pursue it more seriously…though as a person who forgot how many irons I actually threw in the fire…it would have to wait…for now…

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Fair Judgment

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Written By: Andrea Angileri

The kids loaded up on the green dragon rollercoaster as they do every summer in every state across the U.S.  Some bravely sit in the front, some timidly anticipating the whip of the tails end.   I pull out my white iPhone to take a picture, but quickly shrink back as the parents on either side of me also take out their white iPhones.  The ‘Look at me while I parent’ social media generation is irritation, yet I am completely absorbed in it.  It was then that I notice two boys, one about 5, but the other looking to be on the shy side of 2.  Instantly, I remember the loads of information about Shaken Baby Syndrome that I’ve stored in my child development mental  database.  “Symptoms might not show until later childhood”…”Can happen during playful moments”…”Skull and brain collide”…  Some part of me shakes my head, the mom doesn’t realize this, she is smiling ear to ear at her boys…about to take off on their brain jiggling adventure.  I’m one of the most laidback parents that I know, yet…in that moment.  I was judgmental.

The children had a fun ride, no crying, just smiles.  They unloaded the rollercoaster and headed off to other fair things.  After each ride, each one of my children would emerge, completely disoriented on which direction I was anxiously awaiting.  It was not more than 10 minutes later that I saw it.  A mother with tears running down her blotchy face running to a small wandering toddler.  It was evident in that moment what had happened.  The child had gotten lost.  For a minute, for a second…seemingly for an eternity.  The mother picked up her son and held him in a close embrace.   My fair judgment had completely subsided. It was the same family.  I went over to her and gave her a hug.  I told her that I saw what had just happened and that my heart goes out to her…it has happened to all of us.   In that moment…compassion.  I realized and continue to realize that intelligent parenting decisions and common sense have not always lined up in my own life…I have made my share of mistakes.  The tipping car seat, the procrastinated light switch plate replacement, the heavy blanket incident, the ‘Daughter Driveway Faceplant’ , the ‘Spacing out watching ‘Lost’ while my son climbs out of the bathtub to retrieve the plug’ incident, the ‘Dodging my daughter who then slammed into the corner of  the end table’ incident and other sometimes ridiculous…other times scary blind eye moments that I store in my parent insecurity knapsack.   Somewhere, a mother mourns a mistake she made.  An accident….a blind eye moment…a life-changing event.  My heart goes out to that mother and what she has to endure.  For the rest of us, we continue on with parenthood…sometimes light-footed…sometimes heavy-hearted…always reminded. 

Goodbye 2013: I’m Still…..but I’m Here

 

As John Lennon so pointedly asks “So..this Christmas…and what have we done?  Another year over and a new one just begun”.   When I hear this lyric I feel slight slacker panic.  What REALLY have I done this year?  My knee jerk reaction would be to say that there have been losses and gains this year.  There has been hurt and there has been healing.  I haven’t blogged much, mostly pictures with captions. There have been blog posts that are hidden in the crevices of my heart and mind.  I’m still….but I’m here.  So why don’t I remember the details of 2013?  At the end of each year I like to dig back into the calendar to see….what has this year brought?

January:  I subbed in special education classrooms, a challenging, but rewarding experience.  I grow new appreciation for my children. My oldest son dances in his school talent show.

February:  I babysat a lot.  I attended my first same-sex civil ceremony and it was beautiful.

March:  A Chicago trip to wrap up the last of my talk show phase.  This time my boys appear . I’m getting more comfortable with my food monitor job, but still learning.

April:  Lots of dance competitions.  I lose a dear Uncle, I gain a precious niece.

May:  Another semester of community college adjunct teaching wraps up.  I buy a car.

June:  Head to the Dells for a successful dance Nationals.  I complete my Ed.S.

July: Summer with the kids in full gear.  I see beautiful fireworks. I replace a busted car mirror.

August: My youngest starts preschool..then she gets her tonsils out.  I become a soccer mom.  The school drop off and pick ups baffle me a bit.

September: I turn 37.  I attend a blogging conference in Ohio. Lake Erie is beautiful. I come home and pull 2 wisdom teeth.  Later celebrate 14th Wedding anniversary.

October:  My oldest makes his Confirmation.  I’m a dance mom again.  Parenting responsibilities are in full gear with appointments, conferences, field trips, and the all the rest.

November:  I have a teenager now.  The process of letting go begins. 

December:  I wrap up a year of working, teaching, learning, growing, loving and parenting.  The holidays come and I am grateful.  My children are young and the Santa spirit is in ¾ of the kids still.  I am aware that many are hurting in a way that I have not truly realized in years past.  I realize that life is precious.

So that is 2013…for me.  I hope yours was also a year of working, teaching, learning, loving and growing.  Wishing you all a wonderful 2014!