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Problems I can solve

I find it very tempting, when bad things happen in the world, to become furious with everyone and everything and assume that life is hopeless and awful, etc. But I’m trying to figure out how not to do that, so much.

Yesterday Monkey called me from school because he was unwell, and I tried to focus—step by step—on all of the good things this showed me. Yay for a kid who has become able to identify problems even though his own body is often a mystery to him! Yay for ease of communication to relay that information! Yay for flexibility of schedule (me) and health insurance (us) and transportation (despite the fact that Chickadee now drives my car way more often than I do) to take him to the doctor! Yay for meds! And yay for being able to follow specific, useful steps towards making sure my child is safe and healthy, at least for now.

It helped, a little. Not much, you understand. But some.

Before all of that happened yesterday, I put up a new piece over at Alpha Mom, but then the news about the latest school shooting broke and I couldn’t see interrupting that with this. So you get it today, albeit now you get it along with the disclaimer that I’m feeling sad and helpless about the stuff I CAN’T solve, but I’m trying to cling to what I can. Like helping my kid when he needs me, or dispensing advice about how to handle mean girls. It’s not enough. But it’s what I’ve got.

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Always bucking the trend

I love reading articles about “today’s teens” because they never actually sound like they’re about any real-life teenagers I’ve met. Granted, my special snowflakes are the specialest and the flakiest (haaaa) and their friends also tend to be anything but regular, but still. “Kids today” are risk takers! “Kids today” act first and think later!

Well, okay—that’s true even of my kids, I guess. Except instead of using drugs and sleeping around, my kids are doing things like stabbing each other in Minecraft “by accident.” (OOOOOHHHHHHHHH! Rebels!!)

Therefore, I humbly offer as an antidote to umpteen articles about how kids today are all suffering from FOMO: A piece about teens dealing with the opposite of FOMO, over at Alpha Mom, because ’round here, that’s how it goes.

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Because reasons, that’s why

It has come to my attention that my perception of “normal” may be… a little off. Weird, right? I—and my family/home—am the picture of boring normalness, surely. (Voices in my head: Yeah, no. Also, don’t call me Shirley.)

I mean, doesn’t everyone reassure others about their competence by announcing that they’re a dog door? No? Or own their stupidity by exclaiming “Gorgonzola!”? Also no? Weird.

For some reason, this morning, I started thinking about all of the weird little things which happen around here and strike me as perfectly normal even though it’s POSSIBLE that they’re not. Or maybe they are and I’m just really confused. That’s also a plausible explanation because let’s face it, I spend a lot of time being really confused. A day where I’m NOT confused is probably… a day when I’m asleep. (Wait, is that an option? I would like to be asleep right now.)

So for my own amusement (and maybe yours?), here’s an assortment of things which I’m sure are perfectly normal: (more…)

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Greetings from Crankytown

I’ve got sleep on my mind, because we are currently experiencing a shortage. It’s no one’s fault, really, it’s just a lot of stuff on the schedule and less-than-ideal time management and the usual crop of minor crises. Everything’s fine. We’re just tired.

It did seem like a golden opportunity to make with many words about how important sleep is to growing teens, though. I swear I am more or less following my own advice, it’s just that life is unpredictable and also morning seems to come very early.

You can read more on Alpha Mom while I fantasize about taking a nap. (I won’t actually be taking a nap, though, because I’m about to go have a mammogram, instead. I KNOW HOW TO PARTY!)

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Back to pretending to know stuff

Back in Real Job Land, I continue to be paid to act like I know things about parenting. Ha! This is the greatest scam in the whole world. Uh. I mean. Wow, I AM SUPER KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT STUFF. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Can you imagine how excited I was when that whole study about how teenage girls are more successful when their mothers are nagging bitches came out? Posing aside, I can nag like nobody’s business. I’m sure you’ve never figured that out about me. And while I have learned in spades that I cannot simply bend my children to my will (but I’d be down for that if it worked…), sometimes I just cannot shut my mouth. So. I nag. I have nagged. I continue to nag. And so when we recently went to Senior Parent Night at the high school and they spent 45 minutes telling us YOUR CHILD MUST TAKE THIS TEST and YOUR CHILD MUST MAKE THESE DECISIONS and HERE ARE COMMON DEADLINES I sat there, perfectly smug, because know what? I AM THE WORLD CHAMPION OF NAGGING. I am the naggiest. Someday, probably soon, Chickadee is going to stab me in my sleep, but when that happens, I will die knowing that she already finished applying to college before Senior Parent Night. So. I’ll be dead, I guess, but self-satisfied and confident in my decision to nag.

I learned a few things over the summer as I nagged my child through the process of figuring out how to proceed, I think. A lot of that “essential college application rules” stuff is… nonsense, or at the very least, not one-size-fits-all. Over at Alpha Mom I’m busting the most common myths, because no one should have to freak out over what should be a manageable—and even exciting—process.

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Love in a time of stuff

I often refer to our housekeeping style as “tidy with hidden pockets of disaster.” We spend most of our family time in the kitchen and family room; those rooms are clean and orderly, for the most part. My office desk tends to suffer from pile-itis, but I’m working on that. I exhort the children to keep their spaces free of clutter, or at least not covered in dirty laundry, which in teenage parlance is the same thing. But I must confess that somewhere along the way, part of how we kept the main areas of the house looking reasonable was to dump anything “to be dealt with later” into our master bedroom, because really, who goes in there except us, anyway?

My last big bedroom clean-out was probably 5+ years ago, and the clutter crept back in, and about a week ago, Otto asked if maybe over the weekend we could work on digging out our room a little…? You could tell he was hesitant with the request, and “we” meant “mostly me,” as most of the junk was on my side, and was a combination of stuff belonging to me and the kids. Otto asks for very little, and I love him, and he was right, it was out of control, so I spent most of Saturday sorting, pitching, and rediscovering that, huh, our bedroom is pretty big. I felt super accomplished about it, too.

Of course, part of the motivation to get rid of stuff may have been that I am also in the process of accumulating more stuff. Shhhhh, don’t tell. Also, if you think I’m crazy, that’s okay, but over at Alpha Mom, I’m revealing how retail therapy is about more than shopping right now. I hope it works.

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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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Not sick, and slightly useful

I spent last week in a grudging state of malingering. Malingerment? Whatever. I was not SICK sick, you understand. I was not so ill that I could take to my bed without guilt, but I had a cold (THANKS, KIDS!) and just didn’t feel 100%. I got up in the morning and packed lunches and did the other morning routine things, then tried to work for a while and often ended up taking a nap at some point and trying to work some more and then making dinner. And I felt really stupid about it all, because: not sick. Not really. Just a little puny, that’s all.

[Aside: Now that I am officially Working Less my inherent tendency towards crippling guilt has kicked into overdrive. Not bringing in the big bucks? WE’LL HAVE LOVINGLY PREPARED HOMEMADE MEALS AND CLEAN BATHROOMS! Because if I’m not singlehandedly taking care of the mortgage, by God, there WILL be from-scratch focaccia with dinner! So what if I have to wash my hands twelve times while I’m making it because of all the nose-blowing and whatnot? I WILL COOK FOR YOU AND YOU WILL APPRECIATE IT. Also I appear to have made myself entirely too useful at the high school; I blinked and found myself holding no fewer than three positions requiring actual thought and action. I’m dumb.]

It was sort of a long week, is my point. Life didn’t stop and I wasn’t sick enough to opt out, so I just dragged along until I started feeling better on Friday. This meant, of course, that I tried to Do All The Things over the weekend and now today I’m tired and cranky. This whole being an adult thing seems overrated. (more…)

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Oh you know, the regular

We are all trying to get settled into the school routine now that we’re back to it, and it’s been long enough that it’s not feeling new, but short enough that we’re still sort of hoping it might be a mistake and it’s still summer. I’m not really sure what’s happening. Mornings haven’t been too bad just yet (I wrecked it by saying that, I’m aware), but evenings are proving challenging.

I forgot that when everyone doesn’t get home until after seven, I really have to crack that whip and shove dinner in front of everyone to keep the evening moving along. (But why are they late? They had cake after marching band. GUESS WHO WASN’T HUNGRY FOR DINNER?) Monkey used to be my reliable “Well, it’s 8:30, I’d better turn in!” angel of a easy-to-bed kid, but I guess he’s a little old for me to still be expecting that from him. The problem is that escalation, thy name is sibling. Chickadee never wants to go to bed, EVER (this is not new; she was the prototypical BUT I’M NOT TIIIIIRED!! shrieking toddler and is now just… a larger, slightly quieter version of that), but now that NEITHER of them want to leave, it’s a complete goat rodeo every night.

Mind you, I don’t force anyone into bed. Just LEAVE ME ALONE. Go upstairs, be quiet, do whatever. I don’t care. You don’t have to sleep, but I don’t want to see you anymore. I think that’s fair.

Meanwhile, last night I didn’t manage to evict them from the family room until around 9:30, and once upstairs, they commenced having some sort of discussion (?) or argument right at the top of the stairwell, bickering back and forth until I bellowed, “GOODNIGHT! GO! TO! BED!”

Chickadee bellowed back, “DON’T TELL ME HOW TO LIVE MY LIFE!” while Monkey came streaking back down the stairs to do a victory lap around the first floor, shirt held triumphantly above his head and trailing behind him like a flag, calling, “I’m a FREE SPIRIT! I CANNOT BE CONTAINED!”

The dogs were super confused. I, myself, found it difficult to be cross when they were both being such goobers.

ANYHOO, I just like to establish my status as a professional and flawless parent (*cough*) before redirecting you to my latest bit of parenting advice over at Alpha Mom. Today I’m tackling the “my kid isn’t fitting in with her peers” question, and thank goodness, that is MUCH easier to address than getting teenagers to go to bed.

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