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Lessons learned (a.k.a. maybe ask)

You know that I always bake for school meetings, right? And for when my kids go off to their weekly gaming night? I love to bake. I can no longer actually EAT most of what I bake, but that’s okay. It makes me happy to feed other people. Funny story: usually at the holidays I start making cookies at the beginning of the month and bake all month (sometimes making/freezing dough to bake later, sometimes baking cookies and freezing them) so that we can give out goodie baskets at school before the winter break. That’s not the funny part. The funny part is that I just found out that one of the teachers we’ve been giving cookies to—ready for this?—has a wheat allergy. She didn’t tell me (and assumedly doesn’t know that I’m also allergic); one of the kids figured it out.

I felt terrible, of course. Our past gifts were useless and perhaps we seemed thoughtless. What if she hates us now?? (I’m glad I didn’t overreact or anything.) But I didn’t know! So today I emailed and asked some questions (Celiac or allergy? Is cross-contamination an issue? Do you even like sweets??) in preparation for Cookie Season. That was well-received and now I know how to proceed. It’s almost like… things go better when you get clarification. WEIRD.

This is a clumsy lead-in to my post today at Alpha Mom, in which I learn that what I think about a situation matters a whole lot less than what the person actually IN the situation thinks about it. Again: WEIRD. Who knew?

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Totally not getting dressed today

Greetings from my very quiet, very not-filled-with-frantic-cooking house. I am busy working in my pajamas and the dogs are very busy holding down the floor in my office, and this is very much like a lot of other days in my life because, hey, freelancing is all about not having to put on real pants. But it is also unlike other days because USUALLY on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I am baking and prepping while the teenagers alternately complain that there is nothing to eat and insist they’re not hungry yet.

This year, though, I got a good night’s sleep last night while my children stayed up all night on a bus with a hundred of their closest pals. (Sounds super fun, right? FOR THEM.) This morning I got a rapid series of texts from one teen proclaiming the greatness of coffee and the other one is ignoring me completely, but is, in the wise words of an adult on his bus, “grumpier than George Costanza’s dad.” Oh. Well, then. I’m sure once they get to a crowded, noisy hotel he’ll perk right up! HAHAHAHAAAAAA.

So I wrote you this post at Alpha Mom, yesterday, before they left, and I stand by it. It’s weird, not having them here. But it’s okay. They’re having a big adventure and I am having a little extra quiet time to think about how marvelous it is that they are. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Getting through a rough patch

Everything is fine. In the grand scheme, that is. Everyone’s basically okay, there’s nothing here we can’t handle, and yet… it’s been a hard week or two for various reasons. I’m finding that the interesting thing about being a family who’s weathered some Serious Shit is that when a problem crops up, you’d think (correction: I’D think) that we’d sort of go, “Oh hey, no biggie, we’ve handled WAY worse than this!”

The reality is that a problem crops up and everyone melts into a puddle of OH GOD NO NOT THIS AGAIN because emotions have a way of beating out rational thought, every time. It’s just plain hard, having someone you love hurting, and when it’s not an easy fix (or even, sometimes, an identifiable cause) and your family unit has spent so much of its life prostrate to emotional wreckage, problems can feel bigger than they are.

Oh, look. I just used a lot of words to say, “Don’t panic, we’re fine, but I can’t fix everything for everyone with a magic wand and that sucks.” This is totally different than your experience as a parent, I am sure. HAHAHA.

Anyway! In the midst of this I read a hundred different iterations of articles reporting on this new(ish) study about kids and religion and generosity, and as usual, I have some thoughts. I’m over at Alpha Mom wondering if I’ve failed my kids, because I spend an awful lot of time wondering if I’ve failed my kids. It’s my favorite hobby! (That word favorite may not mean what I’m using it to mean, here….)

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It was a very merry Halloween

For some reason, we don’t really get trick-or-treaters at our house. This means I buy a bunch of candy “just in case” and then no one comes and then a month later I wonder why I’m fat. It’s a mystery! I wonder if I’ll ever solve it!

Nonetheless, some Halloween merriment did commence. Monkey had been declaring himself the symbol of American freedom for months, so it was a natural choice for AP Dress-Up Day for him to go as, well, the symbol of American freedom:

monkey-eagle

(I think his teacher liked it. At least, midday I got a text asking where I’d gotten the wings. I’m going to assume Monkey got his extra credit.)

Chickadee and a pal spent the night watching Saw, and I earned bonus Cool Mom points the next day when they went looking for Saw 2 on Netflix only to discover the Saw movies had, apparently, only been available until Halloween, and I went ahead and rented it for them on Amazon. The thing that’s nice about having a nearly-18-year-old child with similarly nearly-adult friends is that I don’t have to stop and think, “Is this movie appropriate?” Instead I can simply think, “Can I possibly curry favor by aiding and abetting the viewing of this terrible movie?” It’s great.

Anyway, that sort of got me thinking about the passage of time and other such “my baaaaaaaybeeeeeees are growing up!” sorts of things, so today I’m waxing nostalgic over at Alpha Mom about how much things and have changed (and some ways in which they haven’t).

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Breaking: Old dog learns new trick

That would be me; I’m the old dog. In this instance, anyway. Duncan is ALSO an old dog, but I don’t think he’s learned any new tricks lately, unless you want to count the fact that he has recently started barking at the oven in the evenings. (Chances are, with his limited vision, he’s seeing some movement in the form of his reflection and getting startled and thinking someone is there. Or, if you like the kids’ explanation, it’s that Duncan Donut has realized his long-lost twin brother Krispy Kreme is trapped inside the oven. KRISPY. IN THE OVEN. Get it? My children are terrible people. They make me so proud.)

grumpy-dunc

Gratuitous grumpy couch-faced dog shot.

So… wait, what were we talking about? Oh! Right!! Me learning a new trick. It’s called butting the hell out. It’s difficult to master but I think I’m getting it. Slowly. Check it out over at Alpha Mom, if you’re so inclined.

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You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

Actually… most of you probably WOULD like me when I’m angry. But other people… not so much.

Anyway, I’m trying to cool down, but: I’m angry. Every day, in a dozen tiny ways, the world misunderstands my kids. That’s the nature of the beast and my mantra is to assume people are generally well-meaning and kind, and ignorance isn’t malice, after all. But every now and then, the ignorance is hard to bear.

I dusted off my soap box for this one, because disability is not laziness, and teachers—of all people!—should know that. C’mon. It’s 2015.

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Life is like a sticky banana

Bananas are a very tricky thing ’round here. They have to be ripe—but not TOO RIPE—and they cannot have any signs of bruising (because that’s not a thing that ever happens to bananas… oh, wait…) because that is Completely Unacceptable. This is where people who are new here assume that I have toddlers because HAHA no one over the age of 4 would be this picky about fruit, right? Yeah. No. (For the record, it is really only one child who is super-picky about the state of bananas, but then the OTHER child insists things like, “I don’t like watermelon” and WHO DOESN’T LIKE WATERMELON, THAT’S CRAZY so let’s call it a draw when assessing Which Teen Is More Insane When It Comes To Fruit, I guess.)

I don’t pack bananas in lunches all that often, on account of the whole It Must Be Banana Perfection thing, but every now and then the planets align and a perfect banana emerges. I will lovingly scoop it up, adorn it with a quick note a la The Bloggess (I did it once and then there was complaining if it didn’t happen every time), and place it INSIDE a large plastic container also housing a sandwich, so that the aforementioned pristine banana-ness may be maintained despite whatever trials and travails a lunch bag might encounter throughout the morning. Both children are aware that this constitutes an implicit Banana Contract wherein YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE BLESSED BANANA AND NOW YOU WILL EAT IT.

You can skip eating the crackers. You can leave the juice pouch. Heck, don’t even finish your sandwich. I don’t care! But eat the damn banana. Because perfection is fleeting. (more…)

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The greatness of terrible television

I watch way more TV than I probably should, and some of it is great, but a lot more of it is downright terrible. I’m okay with this. I don’t go out and get plastered or gamble; if watching stupid programming is my biggest flaw, I figure I’m doing okay.

Recently Chickadee got first me, and then Monkey, hooked on Girl Code. Have you seen it? It’s AWFUL. Just, like, cringeworthy in every possible way. It’s so bad, it’s FANTASTIC. If you’re not easily embarrassed and are looking for an open door to talk to your teens about sex and other uncomfortable topics, Girl Code is your show. It is MTV’s living, breathing answer to the timeless question, “Are most people really pretty gross?” (Answer: Yes. Yes, they are.)

So when someone wrote in to Alpha Mom to ask me about dating rules for my teenagers, I was ready. Because we watch Girl Code! And we talk about all kinds of stuff! And no, I still have no idea what I’m doing, not really, but I have an approach that—so far—seems to be working. Come on over? (And seriously, DVR Girl Code. You can either thank me or chew me out later.)

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The magic of growth

The older I get, the easier it is to figure out what really matters. I had a friend in high school who often proclaimed that she didn’t “suffer fools gladly,” and while it was a grandiose turn of phrase, at 16 or however old we were, it felt kind of… rude. It felt like the point was that stupid people are stupid. Now that I’m older and arguably wiser, it feels more like a declaration of focusing on what’s important. I’m not always good at it, even now, but I’m improving.

Also, I believe God has a wicked sense of humor, so of course I have a couple of teenagers to help show me the way via stark illumination of the many ways in which a human can get caught up in everything BUT what really matters. Hooray!

Example 1 of focusing on what matters: Duncan has (another) ear infection. He is pitiful and cranky, and he really doesn’t want me messing with his ear, which of course I need to do to put medicine in it. (Progress: a year ago he would’ve bitten me. Now he just pulls away and cries and my heart breaks.) Duncan also has a deep and abiding love of ice cubes, to the point where anyone using the water dispenser on the fridge will cause him to materialize out of nowhere, staring upward and wagging, hoping for an errant chunk of ice. He’s still doing this even though he’s unwell, but (perhaps because he’s unwell?) he is likely to grab any offered ice, spirit it away to another room, and then leave it to melt and create a surprise puddle. So I don’t want to give him the ice, because I don’t like surprise puddles.

“Just give him some ice!” Chickie said, seeing me trying to explain to him that he didn’t really want any ice, this morning. “Who cares if there’s a puddle? He loves it! It makes him happy! He’s old and his ear hurts! GIVE HIM SOME ICE!” Know what? She was right. The moral is something about being nice even if you end up with a wet foot, or something. I don’t know.

Examples 2-6 of focusing on what matters: I’ve got an assortment of unexpected life lessons I’ve had to teach my teens over at Alpha Mom today, because “practically raised” does not, oddly enough, mean things have gotten any easier. (Kids, man. SO MUCH WORK.)

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A matter of distance

I’m beginning to suspect that Otto was excited about Chickadee finally getting her driver’s license because it afforded him the legitimate opportunity to talk endlessly about Our Next Car. Otto LOVES talking cars, in a way I will never understand, but I tolerate it because I adore him and he’s cute. Also, any time I go to him and say, “There’s a light on my dashboard that sort of looks like a fish that lit up…?” he knows exactly what it is (and fixes it). He’s handy to have around, even if he gets a little too excited about cars, sometimes.

Here’s what matters to me in a car: 1) It should get me from point A to point B without any of the pieces falling off, and (hey, Georgia!) 2) the air conditioning should work. That’s… pretty much it. My current car doesn’t even have one of those remote clicker thingies so I have to unlock the door with a key LIKE AN ANIMAL. I don’t care.

Otto cares, deeply, about makes and models and mileage and design. While I count down the days until graduation—a tangible, shareable proof that we all made it out of The Bad Years not unscathed, no, but ultimately triumphant—Otto is reading his automotive magazines cover to cover, lurking on various WE TALK ABOUT CARS A LOT discussion forums, and scheming a dozen different ways to make all of his 4-wheeled dreams come true. (Sometimes it’s “You should think about this kind of car,” which is fine, but other times it’s “We should trade in this car and get that car for you and then I’ll swap my car for this and she can have this other thing” and I start rocking back and forth with my fingers in my ears.)

So he’s thinking about cars, and I am realizing I’m thinking about proximity. (More on that at Alpha Mom, if you want to come over.)

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