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Happy second GET OUT birthday!

Once upon a time, a long long (longlonglongLONG) time ago, I started a blog shortly after my firstborn turned six. At the time she had buckteeth and dark blonde hair and little blue glasses, and she often glared at me and said I DON’T LIKE YOU when I displeased her. This week that same sassypants turned TWENTY, only now her teeth look great and her hair is currently… um… strawberry blond with pink tips, I think… and she has a little opal nose stud instead of glasses (not to help her see… oh, you know what I mean) and nearly all of her texts to me start out I LOVE YOU but also I get I HATE IT WHEN YOU’RE RIGHT sometimes, and I screen-cap it every time because it delights me.

We thought eighteen was a big deal, but she seems to be taking twenty much harder. “Now I REALLY have to be an adult,” she kept saying, like the Adulthood Police might pull up on her at the park and be all, “Ma’am, excuse me, but aren’t you a little too old to be riding on that playground equipment? Can I see some ID, please, and can you tell me when you last filed your own taxes?” I always found it hilarious when my father would say things about how he knows I’m an adult but he always thinks of me as a kid, but now I get it. Twenty is still a toddler. Twenty is playing grownup and hoping no one notices.

Just as the last birthday before you leave for college is the GET OUT birthday, the birthday before you move into your first apartment is a similar—and yet unique—extravaganza. (more…)

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Recentish

I am positively CRUSHING 2018, in case you were wondering. Why, I made a new vision board on January 1st—as I’ve done for the past howevermany years—and I finally took down last year’s board and hung the new one this week. In April. LOOK AT ME GO. (Okay, in my defense: It has to be sealed with some spray stuff and I couldn’t find my old can of it, or maybe I’d used up the old can, I don’t know, and then I didn’t buy any until my 57 trips to the Big Home Improvement Store during Dressergate, and then I had to find the Command Strips, and… yeah, okay. That’s not really a defense.)

The hanging of my New Year’s Plan (such as it is, in collage form) promptly during the first week of April was perhaps a perfect metaphor for the overcrowding and disorganization in my life of late, so I started making some hard decisions, too. For example: Easter was this past Sunday, so this should be the week I plant my garden. But after a survey of my current life circumstances and the dozen projects I have yet to complete, as well as a quick review of how much I hate tomato-thieving squirrels, for the first year in a decade, I’ve decided not to put in a vegetable garden. Instead, I signed us up for a CSA, like the crunchy hippie I aspire to be. I mean, the cost is probably about the same, but this way I get more variety, less work, and 100% fewer tomatoes pilfered by overgrown rodents. Plus we watch a lot of Chopped and so I’m looking forward to opening a week’s haul and going GOOD LORD WHAT IS THAT HOW DO I COOK IT OR IS IT HERE TO EAT ME. Adventure!

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All grown up and good to go

Monkey turned 18 last week. EIGHTEEN! That’s just plain nutso, because I can barely remember my own name these days, but I have such clear memories of the day he was born, so it cannot possibly have happened so long ago. I remember the doctor insisting it would “be a while” because my labor with Chickadee was so long, and he checked on me and left the hospital, saying he’d be back around lunchtime. Less than an hour later I told the nurse I was pretty sure I needed to push, and she checked me and laid a gentle hand on my knee. “DO NOT PUSH,” she ordered me. She picked up the phone. “We’re gonna see how quickly the doc can get back here in his little red sports car, okay?” Turns out his car was pretty quick, and a good thing, too, because one push and everyone was screaming “STOP!” because Monkey—tiny in comparison to his sister, but a champion in-utero acrobat—was born with his umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck. The doctor worked the cord free, caught the rest of him, and HOWWWWW was that 18 years ago? We beamed at our new baby while his chin dimple quavered and his lower lip protruded and he wailed about his eviction. I had gushed about how huge and beautiful his sister was, when she was born, but after an appropriate period of oohing and ahhing and getting him settled, I confided to his father that Baby Monkey was so tiny, I was afraid I might break him. And then I added that he reminded me of a very angry naked chicken.

(Don’t worry, he doesn’t resemble a chicken anymore. He’s much larger and far too hairy.)

Anyway, it was all a long time ago, is my point. Now he’s 18, and in addition to the usual suspects (homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast! cake after dinner! cards and presents!), THIS birthday he also got to register to vote, upgrade his driver’s license, finally use the online access to his bank account instead of asking me to check it (that’s a bank rule and it’s dumb, right?), and apply for a student credit card. We’re saving the existential angst and crushing debt for his 21st, though. (more…)

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2017: What. A. Year.

Chickadee has been home—intermittently, to be sure, as her college pals are mostly elsewhere, and as often as not, that means I’m kissing the back of her head as she leaves for a day or three to be with them—and that means certain things are assured:
1) Her “debris field” (as Otto likes to call it) is a constant reminder that my child may grow and mature but will always be comfortable and, to some extent, toddler-esque in her childhood home,
and
2) The time will come when she is lounging on the couch, looks up from her phone, sighs with disappointment, fixes me with a baleful stare, and says, “WHYYYYY don’t you ever blog anymore???”

I don’t have a good answer for her, just like I didn’t have a good response for the reader who recently felt it necessary to post on this blog’s Facebook page to let me know that she couldn’t be bothered to follow me any longer if I wasn’t going to write more often. I come away from both interactions feeling chastised and vaguely defensive, although in the case of Facebook my inclination tends toward “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out!” whereas with my own kid I try to find an actual answer.

There isn’t one. I mean, there’s no one thing I can point to and say, “This is why.” It’s a lot of little things and a few hard-to-quantify things and life and time and dogs and doubt and fear and happiness and having just plain gotten out of the habit. I cannot promise you I’ll go back to writing regularly in 2018. I mean, I might. I don’t know. But I did think a wrap-up of 2017 was in order, if only to appease my daughter.

I never was known for my brevity, even when I wrote every day, and I haven’t written here since… October. So, um, buckle up and maybe grab a snack. (more…)

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Once there’s car bling, it’s official

When Chickadee decided on Tinytown College (not its real name), we made several trips to campus before she began her time there. Every time, we went to the bookstore and accumulated more Overpriced Licensed Stuff™, of course, including shirts for the whole family, which was ESPECIALLY important because we have since discovered that perhaps the REAL reason Chickie picked this school is because every occasion merits a free shirt. She has the shirts that we bought her and a shirt for every activity she’s in and a shirt she got at freshman orientation and a shirt for her dorm and a shirt for the Honors program and a shirt for having accumulated shirts and don’t forget the free shirts for things she doesn’t even belong to which are apparently rained down on campus at regular intervals. (Me: “Where did you even get that? You don’t live in that apartment complex.” Her: “Well, yeah, but they were giving them out in the quad, soooo….”)

Chickadee also owns a licensed lanyard, TC-mascot-themed earbuds, some sort of Terrible Towel-esque scrap of cloth (hilarious, as this school doesn’t have any Division 1 sports teams), and so on. MANY MANY MANY licensed Tinytown College THINGS.

(In case you’re wondering, I also received a licensed mug for taking her to their scholarship competition and a licensed logo imitation Tervis tumbler for taking her to orientation. That seems like a fair return on the tens of thousands of dollars we pay them, right? Sure!)

What I did not buy, initially, was a decal for my car. I don’t know that it was a conscious decision. I just… didn’t. It didn’t occur to me, I guess? I was too busy gasping for air once I saw the price tag on the “TC MOM” shirt my child insisted I needed? Who knows. When she left for college, my car did not yet proclaim OH HEY I RAISED A CHILD TO SEMI-FUNCTIONALITY AND COLLEGE ATTENDANCE IN ANOTHER TOWN yet, or, you know, via shorthand: Tinytown College. (more…)

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Learn a little, screw up a little, rinse, repeat

Otto and I spent most of the spring and part of the summer talking about, planning for, and perhaps-a-little-too-gleefully anticipating our empty nest. It’s not that we don’t adore the children—of course we do!—it’s just that… one, we’ve never been “just us” the way a traditional first-marriage couple gets to be, and two, have you met my children? They’re amazing, but I’m tired. We’re tired. It’s been a long nineteen something years since I first surrendered myself to motherhood.

Raising kids on a completely normal/expected trajectory is hard, I assume. I mean, people tell me that it is and I believe them. I don’t know about that, firsthand, on account of my children have never been normal. (I say that with love, you understand.) So: normal childrearing is hard. Childrearing with divorce and remarriage and special needs and giftedness and trauma and mental illness is HARD. And yes, sure, it’s the toughest job I’ll ever love and all of that, but: hard. No one gazes into the eyes of their newborn and thinks, “Wow, I can hardly wait until the first time he swears at the principal,” or “She’s so precious, it’s hard to believe that someday she’ll have a middle-of-the-night nightmare/flashback/sleepwalking episode and flee the house and wake up barefoot and distraught in the middle of oncoming traffic while we and the police are searching for her!”

It has been worth every single moment and every gray hair. (And I’m not just saying that because my kids will read this, even.) But we are tired. So of course we saw what seemed to be a logical endpoint and upcoming reprieve and we were giddy. And then it didn’t happen. (more…)

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Irma and others

Don’t try to have a conversation with me this week. I will, at some point, mutter darkly about throwing away five pounds of PERFECTLY GOOD shrimp. It will not need to be relevant to the conversation for me to bring this up, either. I am bitter and it’s stupid that I’m bitter and yet: five pounds of shrimp. It’s become the focal point of every feeling I’ve had the past few months.

But let’s back up.

When I last left off, we were mostly all about Monkey’s immediate needs and making sure he was okay. It was all… well, it was a lot. Me imitating Oprah and randomly pointing and shouting “YOU get an ulcer, and YOU get an ulcer, and YOOOUUUU GET AN ULCER!” did little to alleviate either his immediate health crisis or his mood, which is just crazy because I am exactly like Oprah but he never seemed all that excited about the ulcer. But time (and meds and modified diet) heals a lot, and although we are all still working on the game plan for moving forward next semester, Monkey is Monkey again.

At the same time, Chickadee was getting ready to head back to school, and I needed to be there for her, too. In particular, I needed to sit in her room while she cleaned it. Because my adult daughter is a toddler and cannot accomplish household tasks without me prodding her continuously loves me so much. Ahem. And somehow, Chickadee owns more STUFF than anyone else in our family, so the room clean-out we did last year before she moved away was amazing and then over the course of the year (take one thing, leave twelve more on every visit…) and the final move-back-with-a-dorm-room’s-worth-of-stuff-while-deathly-ill somehow culminated in four times as much stuff as we’d started with, seemed like. (more…)

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Course correcting

Hello! Greetings from the land of Never What You Planned, But Somehow It More Or Less Works Out Eventually. I feel like I’ve spent the last 19 years exhorting my kids to be flexible! Go with the flow! But don’t be afraid to change course! There are no wrong choices, only “right for right now” choices, and if/when they stop being the right choices, you’ll make another choice! It’s all part of the journey to where you’re supposed to be!

A lifetime of trying to convince them that life throws us curveballs and that’s okay, and they can handle it, and yet… they struggle with this. I do, too. Sometimes people who live in this house cling to a plan like it’s life or death, and when the plan goes awry or stops being the right plan, the death-grip-holder-on-er in a question has a very hard time letting go because THAT WAS THE PLAN, world without end, amen.

Anyway. Learning! Growing! Changing! And—sometimes—hurting. I don’t like that part quite so much, but no one asked me.

So that’s preamble to two things I have to share today. First, I have a new post up at Alpha Mom with yet more advice for your new college student. And second, remember how we started this summer with Chickadee being deathly ill? Well, why not just make this The Summer Of Pestilence, bookended with sick children? Sure, WHY NOT. We headed out last week to pick up Monkey from his summer program and attend his college orientation and, um, it did not go entirely as planned. See, somewhere along the line my son decided that “work hard” was synonymous with “just keep going even if you’re so sick you can no longer keep food down and you have lost the will to live.” I’m telling you it was like a bad Monty Python sketch, with him assuring us over and over that he was fine, except instead of severed limbs laying around it was slightly (only slightly) less obvious how sick he was, at first. Without going into details I will just say that he made the very difficult (but wise because OMFG) decision to take a medical withdrawal/deferment for the fall semester. We have several months to 1) get him healthy again, 2) teach him about this whole BALANCE thing where you DON’T jeopardize your health, and 3) make absolutely sure that this is what he wants and he’s in a place for college to be a great experience rather than, say, the self-imposed death march he was apparently on for a month without telling any of us.

We are learning ALL OVER THE PLACE, yes we are. Onward.

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News you can use (for… umm… something?)

Chickadee has been giving me a hard time lately about the blog. “You never write,” she complains. “Why don’t you write anymore?”

I look at her, and she looks at me, and I shrug. Sometimes I follow it up with the usual excuses—I don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy; my life is pretty boring; there’s other stuff that’s more important right now. Those things are true, but another truth lies between us, unspoken: It has been a hard summer, for all of us, but especially between her and me. And the kids are theoretical adults (or close to it; heavy emphasis on “theoretical,” too) and whatever I may struggle with relative to them might’ve been a funny anecdote when they were little, but not so much, now.

Still. She asks more often when things have been difficult between us. She wants affirmation that I still love her, but it is easier to needle me about my blog than to admit she is affected by anything I might do. Dear Chickie: I still love you. For the love of all things holy, please clean your room and the bathroom and maybe eat something with some protein in it and perhaps consider generally working on taking care of yourself and being kind to those around you. Love, Mom.

Anyway, she is right, a number of things HAVE happened, and we are long overdue for an update, so I will try to hit the highlights here as best I can. I do not promise that any of it is interesting, but what can I say? You always get what you pay for, with me. (more…)

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Hello yes hi we are alive

A very patient reader pointed out over on the Facebook page that I never updated after the last post (about Chickadee being in the hospital). I’m sorry! I wasn’t trying to be a giant jerkface, but it just happens naturally, I guess. So, to clarify:

1) I suck.
2) Chickie was in the hospital for 5 days and then was released to us.
3) She is feeling a billion and twelve percent better than she did during the acute phase which landed her in the hospital.
4) She does, however, still have mono, which means…
5) … she sleeps roughly 16 hours/day, and…
6) … she had to resign from her summer job, and…
7) … her liver is still Not Happy and being tested every couple of weeks, and…
8) … she is well enough to do things she likes but not well enough to unload the dishwasher, okay??

We are getting on each others’ nerves but she is recovering. And I will take squabbles about the dishes all summer long over literally carrying my child into the ER because she’s too sick to walk. So. Practical take: Also let us not forget that timing-wise this was pretty much best case scenario; if she’d gotten sick earlier in the semester it would’ve been catastrophic. Opportunity to torment our child take: Jokes about who your kid was swapping spit with while away at college never get old!

So that’s that. Everyone lived and the folks at the hospital were great, but we sure are glad to be home. (more…)

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