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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In related news: girls are complicated

Hey, I wrote some advice-y stuff and forgot to tell you about it, but then I remembered: I wrote a thing about girls and autism because someone asked, and also because I find it a totally fascinating topic.

Having a kid or two with special needs means a lot of adults who were never diagnosed in childhood end up learning important things about themselves and going OH MY GOD THAT’S WHY as they go along just trying to meet their kids’ needs. I, myself, am not autistic (although—GEE I AM SURE THIS IS SURPRISING—boy am I having a ton of conversations lately about ADHD Inattentive Type because… what were we talking about…?), but I have found myself lucky enough to befriend a significant number of autistic women who have taught me a TON about my kids. Even better, they’re just plain some of my favorite people. (We all know I appreciate a well-placed lack of brain-to-mouth filter, and, well, autism is good for that.)

Girls are different. Girls with autism are especially different. You can read more at Alpha Mom if you’re so inclined.

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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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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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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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