Sunday, June 05, 2016

Do This Parenting Thing. Trust Me.

I know that not all of my parenting choices are perfect, but there are a few decisions I've made that I can confirm are Fantastic. One of the best ideas I've ever had was to take each child on a special Mother-Child trip when they turned 10.

Why ten? 10 year olds are still "kids" and enjoy much of the innocence and wonder in the world of childhood. Not quite pre-teens with all of the hormones and angst that arises from the struggles of growing up, 10 year olds are kind of a perfect mix of little kid and big kid.

It's a sweet spot.

And so, I take them on trips. Nothing over the top like flying across the world, but somewhere relatively close, affordable, and unique to their interests. The other qualifying marker is that the trip must be somewhere where neither of us has ever gone before. :)

And tomorrow, Corinne and I will travel to West Virginia to zip line through the mountains, kayak in the morning quiet, raft in white water for a full day, hike and climb and spend quality time together where we can listen to our music, be silly and giggle, and simply enjoy our bond as Mother and Daughter.

If you know me even a little bit, you probably know that I am quite nostalgic and wistful concerning my kids and the speed at which they are moving through their childhoods. Whenever my youngest completes a milestone, it is all the more poignant knowing that this particular moment is the last of its kind for our family. This week will be the final Mother-Child-10-year-old-spectacular-vacation. Knowing just how distant the boys' special vacations already feel in my heart only cements my need to sigh wistfully and feel poetic about her dirty feet and swiftly growing limbs. 

To put it succinctly, I feel as though this is the final "sandcastle" on this particular beach...

Ready or not; Here comes the tide.

(2015 LTYM Chicago - "Sandcastles")

Monday, May 09, 2016

Stream of thought on raising teenagers...

I need good teenager stories. Not stories about good teenagers; in fact, keep those to yourself, please. I only want the stories from parents whose kids have grown up and past this phase I find myself drowning within.

I am not one to accept abusive relationships. If you treat me badly, we will part ways. This is the only time in my life that someone I LOVE is anything other than respectful towards me... And I can't leave.

Granted, I don't WANT to leave. I want to be here, in this house, with these people. I want to be living and laughing and struggling through life's crap with all of them. But I never expected that parenting through the teenage years would be more difficult than they were as an actual teen.

I don't know... this shit is rough. Rougher than anything I've really had to deal with before. The absolute astonishment I feel over some of the arguments we've had (over COMPLETE BULLSHIT) have floored me. If I had spoken to MY parents the way that E has spoken to me this past year? HAHAHAHAHA!!! He doesn't know how lucky he IS. And maybe THAT is the key? Do I take everything and everyone away from him? Seclude him from life and hope that his particular personality doesn't react in the opposite of our desired outcome? Some kids, when you punish them THAT way, turn to hatred, drugs, running away... I honestly DO NOT SEE THAT as a possibility for this particular kid, but it's there, in the back of my head. A little voice saying "Does ANY parent REALLY know what goes on inside their child's head?"

Nope. They never do. There would be a lot less tragedies in the world if parents could actually see into their teen's heads...

He's so deceptively difficult. He is the dream teen for everyone else; Helpful, kind, hilarious, etc. This indicates to me that he understands what is expected of him in society and life. It also means that he feels that I am worthy of less respect than the average person on the street.

That's some effed up shit right there.

If my friend or significant other treated me as less than an average person on the street, guess who wouldn't be in my life any longer? JUST GUESS.

My God, I wish he was 7 again. Not that he was a perfect angel, because he was NOT, but at 7, he hugged me voluntarily. At 7, he understood that I was in charge, even though I was willing to talk through situations. At 7, there are clear definitions to the mother/son relationship.

At 14, not so much.

People tend to mock the teen years. They laugh over how stressful they are, how crazy teen hormones are, yadda yadda. This honestly is no laughing matter. It's not fun. It's not rewarding to be on the receiving end of unwarranted anger, resentment, and disrespect on a regular basis. My own life has value that exists outside of being Mom, and DAMNIT I want it to be recognized!

Whatever. I have too much laundry and too many dishes and too many errands and too much school work to help with to spend on here, trying to figure out life. I am hoping and praying that this stream of thought is one of the last about this particular teenager. Maybe he's nearing the end of his hormone issues? Maybe he is ready to really accept responsibility for his actions and tone of voice? I just wish there was a real and true crystal ball that I could look into that will prove to me that he WILL TURN OUT OK and that we WILL have a good relationship as he becomes and adult. I just want my kids to be happy, to be loved, to feel their value. And I just want the same for myself.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Remembering Grandma...

Driving in the car with the windows open, sun (finally) shining on my face, I can't help but reflect. My mind wanders. Memories surge.

My grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old. My mom was only...God. My age? Younger. She was younger than I am when she lost her own mom. That's baffling to me...

I have a few real memories of my grandma. Strong ones, like sitting behind her, brushing her hair, even though she would pay to have it set at the salons. (Or did she do her own, but do it so well that I couldn't tell?) Either way, she let me and my sisters brush and comb and put in "fancy barrettes" without much fuss. How generous a heart she had. How kind...

We (my younger sister and I) used to "sneak" her romance novels and move her bookmark to a different chapter. We'd then ask her if she wanted to read for a while, giggling behind our hands. She would always gasp "in surprise" when she'd realize that "someone" had moved her bookmark... It wasn't until much later that I actually understood how sweet she was about our little pranks. She adored us and didn't care if she had to reread a chapter more than once.

I can distinctly remember sitting on her bed in the mobile home she and my grandfather lived in. She collected beads and sequins in a large bin and would let us sort through them to our hearts' content. There are still a few Christmas ornaments on my own tree that were constructed by her crafty hands made up of stick pins, sequins, and beads all arranged in a truly perfect order around styrofoam balls. I don't know how she did that; I tried once, to recreate her designs... It's not as easy as it looked. The patience and artistic talent she must have had makes me smile whenever I see them reflecting the lights on our branches.

She cooked the best spaghetti with... rabbit meat. Seriously, if you've never had it, I cannot describe it. I probably only had it a few times in my young life, but the memory of that smell and taste is one that has stuck. I've tried to cook it with chicken instead; the sweetness of not only the meat, but also her hand, is lacking and the sauce does not compare.

There was an assortment of magnets on her refrigerator that were somehow exotic to our little minds. It was truly FUN to spend our afternoons arranging the dimestore flowers, vegetables, and random doo dads into scenes that would then hold up our drawings. The magnets always seemed to just "be there" but I wonder, did she scour the flea markets in her free time, picking up new ones here and there so that we would be surprised on our next visits?

My God, I was only 8... Younger than Corinne is now. I try to not focus on the memories of her final months, but she was so sick, so fast and I was so little. It was scary, despite my parents' efforts to shield us from her disease. When they removed her larynx in an attempt to get rid of the cancer, she couldn't talk anymore, but she still found a way to write out how much she loved us... As a kid, that paper didn't impact me as much as it does now. What kind of effort must that have involved to hold the pencil to the paper and shakily write for 3 little girls?

Driving today, it hit me again how much I owe to all of the women before me. My mother, her mother, and all of the mothers before them... The women who have held their babies and loved each generation, raising them in one continuous line until it reached me...and extends beyond me. I cannot feel alone or disconnected when I count the mothers before me. The mothers who will come after me. the babies who become women who become mothers, all because of the love and hope of those who surrounded them.

Springtime never fails to remind me of renewal. No matter how empty a field, how barren a tree, or how gray a sky, the spring always comes.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Hold 'em or Fold 'em?

My God, it's hard to parent teenagers. For the obvious reasons, it's an emotional journey, but as a nearly former blogger (crickets over here), I am missing the tie that got me through a lot of their younger years: community and camaraderie. The "Been There, Done That" aspect of young motherhood is nearly absent in the teen years of motherhood. Out of respect for my kids and their own need to tell their own stories (or not), I keep quiet. At least 96% of the time, anyway. I find that parenting in this kind of cocoon of silence is the quiet straw that broke this camel's back.

Why was I crying in my car at 9:00 pm all alone? Can't tell you. It's not my story. Except that I'm IN this damn story and the other side of it will most likely become fodder for "Remember when Mom..." lead-in's. 20 years from now, I won't be able to pull this up and say "THIS IS WHY I DID THAT. You were no angel, kid. Just you wait till your own precious babies become teens. Then we'll talk."

Ugh. I hated hearing that when my kids were little. I wanted advice! Show me how to ford through these murky waters! Don't send me out into the seas of teenagers with only one paddle and a slow leak! Teach me how to sail!!

Even now, I struggle to find the words to write that can adequately express how thin and tender my skin is right now; to do so might crush one of my kids' hearts or trust. I CAN'T DO THAT.

But this sucks.

It sucks worse than potty training.

It sucks worse than a high-needs child throwing the 14th tantrum that day in a public setting.

It sucks monkey balls.


This stage scares the shit out of me, and even though I think we're making good choices with a particular teen, there isn't any guarantee that he'll "make it out ok." A lot of teens DON'T make it out ok. A lot of kids who are well-loved and come from "good" families end up...elsewhere.

This is like going to Vegas (I assume; I don't like gambling.) and putting all of your money on one reasonably strong hand of cards. You are fairly certain that this will think... Well, maybe? I mean, what if I have misread the cards already thrown? What if I haven't judged the other players in this game adequately? IS SOMEONE BLUFFING?

Holy hell, I don't want to gamble with my kid's life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I am quite envious of those people who claim that older children are "easier" than babies and toddlers as they either have some pretty easy teenagers with easy-breezy issues or they're big, fat, lying mc-liarpants. Either way, it doesn't seem to be the case with me and my own teens and I am quite tired of this emotional stress and tears in the bathroom but there isn't any TIME for tears right now because I have to drive someone to an activity. All I wanted was some respect for maintaining this house as it falls apart around us all and all I got was an argument that brought me to my knees behind a bathroom door. 

And there isn't TIME to truly communicate with my eldest teen that, even though I am PROUD of his hopes to join the military, I am PETRIFIED of what the potential loss his joining could mean to our family. How do you get through that conversation without crying? Every time? How? There isn't time because it's ticking away and they're growing up and away from me and I am not equipped to handle all of these changes at once but Life doesn't seem to notice or care. 

Tick tick tick and the decisions must be made and I honestly feel like I can go from a mountain top of contentment to a valley of despair in less than 3 seconds. No one is prepared to handle the emotional trauma that parenting teenagers can bring. Just like you can never fully describe childbirth, or what it is like to brave through the first year of parenthood, I cannot do justice to what it feels like to mother these 3 kids at 17, 13, and 10. Please give me a tantruming toddler to hold onto in a corner for 3 hours after a week of not showering. Please give me a collicky infant and sleep deprivation. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016


As is usual, the family was all over the place last night. We sort of fall asleep where we may and it works for us. Last night ended up with Patrick on the couch with Evan and me sleeping beside Corinne upstairs. I took a moment to just stare at her profile and couldn't resist stroking her forehead, cupping her cheeks, and marveling in the beauty that is my 10 year old girl. I am so grateful that I can still sleep beside her and hold her in her sleep. It's the one time that I can hug them to my heart's desire, and she is the last one that still fits into the criteria of being ok to sleep beside. Trust me, no 13 or 16 year old boys want their mom to crawl into bed with them for a full body hug. 

Good God, I miss them, though. I miss that closeness that can only come from an extended embrace. I miss the familiarity of their skin and breath. 

Have you ever keened? It's a longing that literally cuts through your heart, into your stomach. You can FEEL the ache in every cell of your body...and I keen for my babies. Last night found me gasping sharply at the memory of Justin, age 3, curled up beside me in our too-small full size bed in the attic bedroom of our first home. His absolute trust and complete love for me... I had to hold my breath so as not to wake Corinne from my cries when I pulled up a perfect memory of Evan's sweet voice asking me to sing "You Are My Sunshine" just 'one more time, Mommy' as I laid beside him on his big boy bed in the big boy dinosaur bedroom... 

I miss my babies. My body rejects the knowledge that they are pulling away with a quickening speed. My mind understands it, but my cells... I can't breathe for thinking of it. I honestly can't catch my breath and the keening is fierce.

It's a struggle to not smother Corinne. I don't want her childhood to be full of memories of me saying only "I miss when you were little!" as though I am not enjoying the present, because I AM. I love these moments deeply and fully. They're flying by, and soon, they will be over, and I will be a mother without anyone to mother. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

A rant about teenagers. It doesn't make any sense. Neither do Teenagers.

"It's normal," they say.

"You can get through this," they say.

"Don't take it personally," they say.

I know. I will. But I am. I am taking it personally. Because in no other time of my life have I ever deliberately sought attention from people who are consciously, and sometimes, vehemently pushing me away. If a person doesn't like me, I move on.

Living with two teenagers is like living with two of your closest friends who no longer adore you as much as you adore them. I mean, it's happened before where I have followed a friend around and asked to hang out and get together repeatedly, only to be met with "Sure,sure! Let's do that," and then...nothing. I don't ALWAYS get the hint quickly enough, and have occasionally dangled at the end of a string..wondering. Eventually, the hint takes hold and that friend fades into a memory.

I can't and won't do that with my kids. OBVIOUSLY. But man...

I don't care that it's normal. I don't care that I did this to my own parents. I don't care that they will grow out of it. I don't care that this is their first time being teenagers and first step into adulthood.

Right here, right now, TODAY, is what we have. The future? Who knows what it holds? Who knows if it exists? At this moment in time, my feelings are hurting and it sucks. All I wanted was something as simple as the happy presence of our family of five to carry out a tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree. Instead of sucking it up and tolerating it for 45 minutes, one teen stomped through the mud and shot daggers at my head and the other teen carried his winter coat instead of wearing it, occasionally muttering about how "all of the trees are FINE. Why do we have to do this??"

Thank God Patrick is so kind. I didn't engage any of their retorts and Pat made sure to tell me how much it means to him that I insist on traditions. Corinne, at 10, still loves the tree farm, and enjoyed all of the stories I was sharing about tree farm trips of years gone by. She distracted me from melancholy and deserved a happy mom, so I tried to shake off the feelings of inadequacy for her sake. But there were moments when I was sitting alone on the bench, waiting for our tree to be shaken and wrapped up, that I couldn't choke back the tears. Moments where I watched a toddler boy skipping along with his parents, dropping more cookie crumbs than he was eating, and the memories were so poignant and fresh...I was grateful for my sunglasses. I am grateful for the memories I have of my own toddlers and children skipping happily alongside me, but so envious of that connection and assurance that my children love me.
Xmas tree farm 2015. Alternate title: "Smile, guys. PRETEND you're having fun."

I consider myself to be a fairly kind and generous parent. Generous with my time, our resources, and patience. I don't ask for an overabundance from these kids, but I do expect a few things, without fail.

Respect. For me. For Patrick. For our family values and traditions.

Kindness. Tone of voice is a big one, especially with teenage boys. Just because I'm a mom doesn't mean I don't get my feelings hurt. I will NOT be spoken to with hatred or disgust. The words "I hate you" have not been uttered in my house. Lord help the child of mine who ever considers it. Their fate will not be pretty.

Accountability. Be where you say and do what you promised. I am grateful that this isn't a huge issue with my kids. They generally do what is required and have yet to truly be anywhere that they weren't supposed to be. (that I know of. The trust is not yet broken.)

My God, I have GOOD KIDS. I really do. I know that there are kids out in the world who push dangerous limits and make unquestionably BAD choices. In the grand scheme of things, I have little to complain about. I should grow a thicker skin, I guess? It's just...

I only have 14 months left with my oldest before he is officially an adult. Have I mentioned he's thinking about joining the military? So this means that I have one more Christmas with him as my child. One more birthday. One more Summer. One more first day of school. And then it's over...

16 years ago, it seemed like 18 years was a long time...

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