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The dawn of a new era

If forced to keep it to a single word, these days, about how life is, or how the kids are, or how I feel in general, there’s no question that the most explanatory word I can grasp is WEIRD. Life feels weird. I feel weird.

Visiting a bunch of college campuses made it all real, I suppose, except it didn’t make it any less weird. Chickadee is a senior. Monkey is a junior. After years of just-get-through-today we are now firmly in plan-for-your-future mode and it should be GREAT, yes? It is. There were times I didn’t know if we’d ever make it to this point, so it IS great, and we celebrate (quietly, without any sudden movements, so as not to scare anyone or upset whatever deities were kind enough to see us through to this point), but it still feels surreal. It’s easy to talk about a mythological “someday” and even if it’s all you ever wanted, it’s still strange for “someday” to become “right now.”

So, the good: Seeing Chickadee think about her future with excitement. That is VERY good. Seeing her passionate about goals—which, to be honest, is something that’s been missing for her for years—that’s awesome. There is nothing but excitement and pride for me in getting to watch her figure this stuff out. It’s not 100% smooth sailing and there have been and will be disappointments along the way, but that’s exciting, too, because she’s dealing with this thing we call NORMAL LIFE and figuring out how to ride the waves instead of just rolling over on her back and floating or (worse) shrugging and resigning herself to drowning. She’s swimming, swimming, swimming, and I don’t know that it’s fair to want any more than that. (more…)

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Dental hygiene: Well, crap edition

Help, my face is numb.

Backing up: What better way to create a gentle reentry into normal life after a relaxing getaway than to visit the dentist?

Backing up even further: Once upon a time, we were Visit The Dentist Every Six Months Like Clockwork people. I believe in good oral health, truly. But… at some point I had to cancel a cleaning for Chickie because she was in the hospital (yes, this was years ago, I KNOW I SUCK THANKS) and then our dentist stopped taking our insurance and the rest of us stopped going and hadn’t found a new dentist, and somehow—presto, chango, lazy-o—years elapsed and none of us had been to the dentist. Whoops. It wasn’t intentional, it just sort of… happened. So the good news is that we finally got our crap together and Otto went to the dentist a couple of weeks ago and the kids and I went yesterday.

The bad news is that I had a cracked filling and Chickadee needs to have her wisdom teeth out and Monkey came back from his cleaning with a hearty, “Here, Mom, I brought you some gingivitis!”

They had a cancelation for today, so I got my filling fixed, but I am pretty sure my entire face was injected with novocaine. I can’t stop playing with my lower lip, because it’s just this flubby slab of numbness. Fun!

While I go continue to marvel at the never-ending entertainment that is proper dental attention, you could go over to Alpha Mom and read all about how I love Snapchat. No, really. I do. No numb lips required, even.

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While we sweat into puddles

Greetings from… somewhere. I’m not sure where we are, right at this moment. We’ve stopped for lunch on a whirlwind Tour Of Campuses and so far we are still speaking to each other and cheerful, so things are going great. This is especially impressive when you consider that it’s currently 90-something and 70-something-percent humidity and we just spent hours tromping around a campus behind a VERY perky young thing who kept asking Chickadee, “Do ya like it? Huh?” (If there is anything Chickadee loves more than melting in the heat, it’s someone asking her repeatedly if she is happy and engaged. I had to stifle a snicker every time it happened. She kept answering, “… yes…?” which was pretty much Chickie-ese for “Please stop talking to me.”)

Anyway. We’ll keep hydrating and touring, and while we do that, you can go over to Alpha Mom and read about my summer rules for teenagers, if you like.

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This is not the post I meant to write

I’m about 700 words into a different post and I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about. In fact, I realized I don’t want to talk, because I feel like all I do is talk, and the people I have a habit of talking at/to are tuning me out. IMAGINE.

So: I would like YOU to talk, please. LET’S SAY a certain kid is nearing the end of high school and a frenemy situation has reached Maximum Suckitude, where a former friend has extended the expected nastiness and friend-poaching and whispering to maligning this kid’s genuine achievements in addition to just plain being an asshole. LET’S SAY that all of the usual advice—ignore it, smile and be so sickly sweet that the aggressor wonders what you’re up to, align yourself with those who don’t listen to that nasty crap, know that all of this stems from jealousy and low self-esteem and your best karmic move at this point is genuine pity, etc.—is falling on deaf ears. Let’s say this has been going on for years and the latest straw or three is straining the camel’s back to capacity and promises that “this year will fly by and then you’ll never have to deal with this person again” are being met with skepticism.

What do you say to make it more bearable, other than “Yes, this sucks, and it’s unfair, and it will get better very soon but not soon enough”? My tales of high school suckitude giving way to a much improved life in college are being met with “I KNOW” and eye-rolling.

Hit me with your frenemy stories (preferably ones which end with your happiness and their sad, meaningless existences OR heartfelt apologies once they grew up a little) so that I may demonstrate this is a universal experience and somehow, we survive and thrive anyway. Please and thank you.

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I’m a disgrace

My favorite thing about writing for Alpha Mom is the occasional, drive-by, years-after-the-original-post which is always—and I do mean ALWAYS—someone who wants to tell me that I’m an insult to humanity and irrevocably screwing up my children. You have to have a pretty thick skin if you put yourself out there (which is something I didn’t always have, true) but the random general “U SUCK!” comments don’t even count. I find myself wondering what makes a person think “This is very important that I tell this person how displeasing and wrong I find them. I shall do it right now, for it cannot wait and takes precedence over any other matter in my life. However, I should be very conservative with my use of letters, as they are a precious resource.”

Because my life is lacking in meaning and direction… er, I mean, because I am filled with hubris and also because it’s my job (and also, my poor terrorized children think it’s HILARIOUS that I sometimes give parenting advice on the Internet), our new teenage-problems advice column has a second installment up over at Alpha Mom. This time I’m tackling homework wars, particularly when special needs are part of the mix. Not that I would know anything about that. My perfect children always complete their homework with joy and laser-like focus, largely due to my superior skills as a parent.

Please remit “U SUCK”s at your earliest convenience.

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Everybody keep breathing, please

Summer is firmly upon us, and I am enjoying all of my unexpected down time. HAAAA. You know, in-between the driving lessons, ferrying children to and fro, working on a few different projects for the school (damn my need to be “helpful” and “participatory”), gardening, sort of working, various visits and engagements, and trying to keep everyone alive (which turns out to be harder than I think it’s going to be, all the time).

We had houseguests who brought their two dogs, and do it was DOGAPALOOZA here for a couple of days, and after they left, Duncan seemed REALLY tired, which, fine, I guess having two extra dogs all up in your face is stressful. But then he started refusing to get up… or eat… and he got up one afternoon and peed all over the carpet and lay back down right next to it. Plus he was blowing little snot bubbles out of his adorable little smushed-up nose and there was a lot of sneezing and some coughing. (Pro tip: Don’t Google “canine influenza.”) Anyway. The vet put him on some antibiotics and he’s perkier, now, thank goodness.

Monkey is very busy 1) eating everything that is not nailed down and 2) planning out various D&D campaigns and talking to his friends about said campaigns and showing up in my office to say things like “And each oracle gives you a one and a half modifier to your level for the next strike!” (I try to nod and look impressed.) Chickadee is very busy 1) working, 2) driving, 3) doing music stuff like joining a jazz band so that she can learn yet another instrument because apparently jazz flute is not so much a thing, 4) studying for the ACT, 5) binge-watching Netflix, and 6) insisting she is too busy to unload the dishwasher. I choose to believe this is all fine and good.

Because there’s not enough other stuff going on, I’ve finally ordered some paint for my office. You know, because I picked out that paint two years ago and I am nothing if not punctual. Otto said he’d redo the floor for me, too, if I picked out some laminate, so maybe that’ll happen, too. Then my office will be BEAUTIFUL and I will maybe have to, you know, work more.

While I try to relocate two overloaded bookcases (ZOMG), you can head over to Alpha Mom to read about how teenagers differ from toddlers. Spoiler: Notsomuch.

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Vroom vroom vroooooooom

I don’t think I ever posted about taking Chickadee to get her learner’s permit. We did it well ahead of when we let her start driving—much to her chagrin, because we are simply The Worst—and I guess it seemed like sort of a non-event? The most entertaining part was that it was a twofer—our Bonus Kid at the time who was about half a step above being an orphan also came along for permit-ing due to a lack of actual parental units willing to do the honors, and theoretically you have to be a relative to take a minor to the DMV for this stuff, so when asked if said kid was my child, I smiled and lied, claiming to be the aunt. Without batting an eyelash the clerk signed and stamped all the paperwork while the kids tried not to giggle.

We came home, took a dozen pictures of the two of them posing with their permits, and then neither of them actually learned how to drive. Kind of anti-climactic.

It was a good eight months later that we finally allowed Chickadee behind the wheel, and for the first four months of practice, it was slow going. She was terrified, for one thing, and for another, we’re still The Worst, setting up RIDICULOUS and UNFAIR rules like “be caught up on your schoolwork” and “treat family members with respect” and other such nonsense to earn a turn behind the wheel. It wasn’t until a couple months ago when she really started getting her crap together on a consistent basis that we moved to serious training. Nowadays, if we’re headed somewhere? I just toss her the keys and get in the passenger seat. We’ve both just gotten comfortable with this new status quo. (more…)

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Countdown to independence

Chickadee is in the process of deciding which colleges she wants to apply to. This is exciting, but also just plain WEIRD, not to mention a little scary. (I mean, for me. Probably for her, too, but I don’t presume to speak for her.) By this time next year, we’ll know where she’s headed.

That means I have just one year left to teach her how to be a self-regulating semi-adult human being. AHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAOMG. (Hang on while I type the rest of this with my head between my knees.)

Throw in the intrinsic differences between my kids when it comes to some areas of self-awareness and regulation, and I’m flying blind. It’ll all work out, though. I mean, probably. Right? Right. Today at Alpha Mom I’m loosening the reins in preparation, and we’re a little excited and a little nervous.

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Admitting ignorance is the first step

Remember the old saying about how a kid’s parents get dumber and dumber until the kid is an adult and then—magically—the parents start getting smart again? We’re going through that right now, and I always thought it meant that hahaha, the kids would think I was dumb when really I wasn’t, BUT NO, I’ve come to believe that I am truly losing brain cells as they get older. My poor kids, and their dumb ol’ mom who can barely function anymore.

For a while there, Monkey was very fond of declaring, “It’s okay, I’m a doctor!” in response to any sort of doubting of his ability. This morphed into, “It’s okay, I’m a DOG-tor!” (usually while holding a dog, natch), and now it seems like everyone in the family uses it as an all-purpose response. Well. The other day I tried to say “It’s okay, I’m a DOG-tor!” and it came out more like, “It’s okay, I’m a dog door!” and now Chickadee is fond of saying, “It’s okay, Monkey, Mom is a dog door.” I have no idea what any of that means, but there you have it. How dumb am I? I am SO DUMB, I am now a dog door. (May I show you to the run? It’s lovely out there.)

In the meantime, my children only increase in their ingenuity. About a week ago I discovered Chickadee’s watch left on my desk after the kids headed to school, so I sent her a picture of it with the caption, “OH NO!” She replied with this image, and the caption “IT’S OKAY, I GOT THIS.” Because of course.

All of this is a long preface to two things. The first thing is that driver training continues apace even though I am really dumb, and you should go read about it over on Alpha Mom if you are so inclined. The second thing is that we’re thinking of launching an advice column over on Alpha Mom sort of like Amalah’s Advice Smackdown, but for questions specifically about older kids and teens/young adults instead of little kid stuff. Would you read that? Would you ask stuff? Would you ask stuff and read it even if I—clueless and confused much of the time—was the one writing it? Any and all feedback welcome, and if you’d rather just send in a question because you think it’s such a great idea, hit me up at alphamomteens@gmail.com. (Have I mentioned lately that you’re my favorite? You totally are.)

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Who says romance is dead?

Exactly eight years ago, right about now I was getting my hair done in preparation for taking another crack at the whole ’til-death-do-us-part thing. That feels simultaneously about a million years ago AND just a few weeks ago. Time is weird like that.

As is his style, Otto swooped into the kitchen this morning with a small flourish and a big, “Happy Familyversary!” and an extremely thoughtful gift for me and a family gift for all of us. He is the BEST. (Did you know that the 8th anniversary is pottery? I got a beautiful piece and we’re all going to a wheel class at a local studio next week to make our own creations, too. Again, I say: HE IS THE BEST.)

Because I suck, I confess that often I don’t get him an anniversary gift at all because I suffer from Gift Anxiety and his presentations to the three of us each year are always so thoughtful and amazing I feel like I cannot possibly compete. But something spoke to me this year, something I think he needs to have at this point in our marriage, and so I actually have a little something for him. Rather… it’s arriving today. Shipping was slow. So:

Me: I have something for you. But you have to wait until tonight.
Him: Oh?
Chickadee: GROSS.
Me: Ha! Not that, something else. It’s arriving tonight.
Him: Oh. [He sounded a little disappointed.]
Me: But hey, THAT TOO, if you want.
Chickadee: EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

It’s actually more romantic when you can squick out the nearest teen. I’m pretty sure that’s a thing.

Happy anniversary, honey! Whaddaya say we go out to dinner tonight and find an innocuous way to mortify both children in public to further cement our love and kick off the next eight years together?

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