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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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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Working on growing up

I spent all summer avoiding thinking about work, and now summer is over and I have to be an adult again. Being an adult is highly overrated.

It turns out that if you’re trying to shepherd a couple of kids toward adulthood, though, you kind of have to have a grasp of it, yourself. At least, that’s the idea. So I keep working on it, FOR THE CHILDREN, even though I would much rather… read a book, or bake something, or bathe my cat. And you know I’m allergic to cats (even the imaginary ones I don’t really own).

We spend a lot of time talking about our kids growing up and changing, and not a lot of time talking about how our lives and goals and callings tend to change right alongside them as we’re busy focusing on their needs. Maybe I’m just having a mid-life crisis, but I’m doing a bit of “what’s next?” over her and wondering if I truly know what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t have the answer (yet), but over at Alpha Mom I can at least tell you that I am for sure in good company in my confusion.

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Cheers, not tears

There were a few things different, this year, as we tried to corral the kids for pictures and they rolled their eyes and bickered and insisted they were just plain over it. For one thing, even in wedges, and even on her tiptoes, Chickadee can no longer even pretend to be taller than Monkey. For another, I sent one of the pictures to Kira and she immediately sent back, “I don’t mean to alarm you, but someone has swiped your baby boy and replaced him with an enormous man.” (This is true. Also: Terrifying.)

We were having fun. Then Otto mentioned that this would be our last photo of two sets of shoes together on the first day of school. That’s different, too. That’s nothing short of miraculous, frankly.


Senior year skulls, junior year WOW THAT IS BRIGHT GREEN.

We’re in the final countdown to liftoff, and I’ve never been more excited. You can head to Alpha Mom for more details on why I won’t be wasting any time being sad this year.

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Snippets in no particular order

I remember when preparing the kids for the start of school was practically an Olympic event. You’d get the list of school supplies and head off to your local Big Box store to buy your assigned allotment of glue sticks and whiteboard pens, and if you were supposed to have a magenta with teal striped 2.5″ 3-ring binder for a particular subject, well then, you had best find yourself that exact magenta with teal stripes 2.5″ 3-ring binder OR ELSE. Plus the clothes shopping. LORD. Uniforms, for the uniform years, or just replacement of what’s outgrown (him) and stocking the latest trends (her) before the big day.

Preparation for school this year:
Me: Does anyone want to go shopping for clothes? Do either of you need anything?
Monkey: No.
Chickadee: I’m busy.

I picked up some loose-leaf binder paper one day when I was getting groceries and they had a B1G1 special at the supermarket. Then I ordered a box of pens and half a dozen spiral notebooks from Target. Later that same week Chickadee deigned to go thrifting with me (first day outfit: procured) and I gave Monkey a haircut. Done! I LOVE HIGH SCHOOL! (more…)

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In which I pretend to have a grip

There will always be an element, for me, of “why in the world would you assume I have any idea?” even when I am being paid to dispense advice. The technical term for this is “Imposter Syndrome.” The Mir term for this is “just being my normal neurotic self.”

Today at Alpha Mom I’m offering up some thoughts on knowing when to suspect autism spectrum disorders in your small child, now that I have the luxury vantage point of my kids being nearly grown. On the one hand, I’m not an expert, and I’ll be the first to tell you I made (and continue to make) a lot of mistakes… but on the other, my general philosophy on when to seek help is a simple one, and I think it’s served us well over the years.

And in other news, I found three tiny, perfect cherry tomatoes this morning that the squirrels missed, so I’m taking that as a good omen.

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As my denial comes to an end

I don’t know if you know this, but APPARENTLY simply refusing to think about the realities of having a child applying to college/graduating/getting out of Dodge doesn’t stop it from happening. We are gearing up to start Chickadee’s senior year and I have many, many feels. SO MANY FEELS. But I have to pretend I don’t, because, GOD, MOM, STOP. So it’ll just be our little secret, Internet. I know you won’t tell anyone.

We went through the Cabinet Of School Supplies last week and determined that we still had plenty of pencils left over from the last time we bought a gazillion-pack, but we needed loose-leaf paper, and spiral notebooks, and a few other things. All items were picked up or ordered. And then we were at Costco buying All The Maple Syrup this weekend and they had 2-packs of pillows and I thought, Huh, that’s a good price, and we’re here, and she’ll need pillows for her dorm room. It seemed reasonable. The next thing I knew, I’d ordered her a duvet after arranging with a local crafty friend to have a duvet cover custom-made because EITHER my child is extremely picky and wants something that doesn’t exist in the world in duvet cover form OR this is my lame way of making sure she knows HER MOMMY LOVES HER even after she leaves. Or both. Whatever.

The countdown is on, and I still have no idea what I’m doing. Only now there’s an expiration date on my influence. Fantastic! This prompted me to expound on my cluelessness even further over at Alpha Mom today, because ready or not, senior year is going to be a challenge for both of us (more me than her).

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I’m just stroking his ego, really

I view myself as a strong, independent woman. I was fine being single. I don’t NEED Otto, you understand. I just WANT him. I like having him around, because he’s cute and funny and my rotten children often do not laugh at my lame jokes. But I could totally manage without him if I had to, despite his frequent assertions that I married him simply either for his health insurance or because I needed a lawn boy.

Once the freezer was cleaned out the other night, many items had been thrown away. Various mystery or in-need-of-disposal items, however, were in glass containers, and so we chucked them into the sink for defrosting so that the containers could be dumped out and then cleaned.

Yesterday—because my Pavlovian response to a big stack of dishes in the sink is to make an even bigger mess in the kitchen—I baked some “one-bowl muffins” which, true, only used one bowl, but also used my food processor and a bunch of other items, and filled the sink the rest of the way up. Once I got dinner going, I finally turned to cleaning up the carnage. I loaded the dishwasher, dumped out now-defrosted containers, washed items by hand, and then… turned on the garbage disposal when I was all done.

Did I mention, yesterday, all of the little containers of pesto in the back of the freezer? Darling tiny glass jars, each one juuuust small enough to slip down the drain unnoticed and be ground into a couple dozen jagged shards of glass while I cursed and leapt to turn off the disposal. Whoops. Nice work, me! So I’ll tell you that I don’t NEED Otto, but it’s a lie, because yesterday I needed him to extract all that broken glass and fix the garbage disposal. Or maybe I’m NOT a dumbass, and I just like making sure he feels needed. HARD TO TELL.

Whether I need him or not, soon it’s going to be just him and me again, so today I’m over at Alpha Mom planning for the future. (Not on my list: grinding up more pesto jars.)

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