Preparing for the great flood

T-Rex has grown into a goofy tween — a very tall, skinny, goofy tween. He’s shot up at least 2 inches since late summer (when I bought him new jeans, naturally) and now his jeans are so very short. Over the weekend he said, “Mom, Drama Girl says my pants are too short.” I replied, “Yes. They are.” He didn’t believe me.

Son, when you see a large band of white sock between where your sneaks start and your pants end, your pants are too short.

We’re having a really hard time finding jeans in a boy’s size in long length, so we might have to either move up two sizes and cinch his waist with a rope or try a super skinny-small men’s size. If anyone has suggestions, let me know.

Otherwise, I can take comfort knowing T-Rex will be prepared for high waters.

Thursday Thanks: for a “tune up”

T-Rex, my son, chose to play the oboe last year in his first year of band so he could sound like a snake charmer. (A handy skill to have in certain Indiana Jonesey situations, I imagine.) However, somewhere between September and May he realized that 1) the oboe is hard to play especially when 2) you don’t feel much like practicing.

Oh, and 3) that you start out souding more like a bleating, squeeking farm animal than a snake charmer.

This year T-Rex asked if he could try another instrument. As a music lover and former band geek, I was glad to hear he still wanted to participate, so I said “sure, what is it you want to play?”

“Something easier than the oboe,” he said, “like the cello.”

The cello.

Squeeky charmer to Yo-Yo Ma. Oy vey.

Motherhood is not a roller coaster

Here’s a little essay I wrote about Mother’s Day. It appears online, along with many others, at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms — I hope you can take a few moments today to enjoy the ride!

People say motherhood is like riding a roller coaster, but I  think of it as visiting the whole amusement park.

It’s true that we moms experience our share of heart-pounding thrills, those  moments when exhilaration and panic meet. They include a child’s many “firsts”:  His first steps. The first time she performs a solo onstage. The day you know they will leave you to go off to college or to live their own lives.

Raising kids makes us moms want to scream, too – but not in the hands-waving,  “I’m having fun” way! (More like the Edvard Munch way!) From the time my kids  were infants I’ve grit my teeth through stages I thought would never end, only  to be surprised when a “good” stage of childhood ended far too soon…usually  just as I had it figured out. I’m lucky, though. My frustrations have been over  things like tantrums and missed homework assignments; maybe a few outbursts over  my lack of time and sleep. Many moms deal with far worse.

People like to compare motherhood to riding a roller coaster, but a roller  coaster can’t convey the bumper-car silliness of watching your son goof around  in the backyard with his buddies. Or the lazy-river-calm of rocking your baby in  the middle of night. Or feeling like you’ve won the biggest prize in the world  when you see your teenager show extra kindness toward a classmate who’s a little  different or, unexpectedly, toward you.

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned as a mom and yet how little I know  sometimes. Motherhood has its highs and lows, but it isn’t a closed, predictable  loop. With every sight, every sound, every ride, every day, I discover something  new about my children and myself.

[Now, doesn’t that make you want to visit Kennywood or your favorite park?!]

Fresh as an Irish Spring

My son has been having some issues lately with the “p” word– puberty — which he and his sister will only refer to by its first letter. Right before Easter we noticed that T-Rex began emitting a deadly, hormone-induced BO. I admit that I first teased him about it — albeit in the privacy of our own home — in an attempt to shame him into using shampoo and soap. That felt horrible to writeWho wants to shame their kid into anything? I didn’t, but you should know that a few months earlier T-Rex went through a phase where he frequently “forgot” to use shampoo and soap until I called him on it. (Aside:  I have a new respect for fifth-grade teachers.)

Anyway, I finally realized that he was washing up, but that Ivory wasn’t doing the job. Bad mom! Then I felt really bad when I read his last-minute note to the Easter Bunny, who he still believes in:

Dear Easter Bunny,

I would love if you could give me a 3DS game called “Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D,” a bottle of cologne and a bottle of hair gel. I love you!

Love,

T-Rex (Your Best Bud – YBB)

I ran out to the grocery store at 10:30 p.m. and picked up hair gel and Old Spice. Hey, it was that or Brut – what do you expect at 10:30 p.m. at the grocer?! I also picked up a package of Irish Spring deodorant soap.

I imagine my son is now the cleanest, manly-est smelling kid in his class.

Conversations with a Moody Teenager

So my daughter is about halfway through her 13th year. Things had been going remarkably well with her, all things considered — too well I now realize, lulling me into thinking that my little Drama Girl was not going to be a, well, Teenage Drama Girl.

Oh, sure, every time I ask her a question she replies with the same bored /mymomisadope / shrug-of-her-shoulders answer: “I don’t know”. I don’t like it, but I was starting to think maybe that was as bad as it/she would get. I was wrong.

Case Study: A Recent Phone Call After School

Me:  “How was school today? I mean, what was your favorite part of your day…I mean, [damn it, why can’t I think of an open-ended question?!] tell me about your day at school.” [Ha!]

Her:  “I don’t know.”

Me:  “What do you mean, ‘I don’t know’?”

Her:  “I mean, ‘I don’t know’.”

Me:  [clenching jaw] “Okaaaay. Do you have homework tonight?” [Of course she has homework. She always has homework.]

Her:  “I don’t know.”

Me: “It’s a yes or no question.”

Her:  [silence] “Mmm, well, I don’t knowww…”

Me: THAT IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER!”

Her:What. Ever.”

And, that, my friends, was the end of our phone call. 

 

The Sandwich Generation

Part of why I decided to begin blogging again was (is) to find a way to deal with my family’s changing dynamics and relationships. When I met J. I was almost 40 and a mother of two elementary-school-aged children. I didn’t define myself as a “single mom” or “working mom”; I thought of myself as a driven individual, with her own needs, interests and dreams, who just happened to be single, working and a mom. Somehow, some way I also managed to carve out a wee bit of the time to pursue my own interests while balancing motherhood, dating, chores, family, friends and a career.

Fast forward:  Almost five years have passed. The kids have grown and I’ve gained not only a loving husband, but a loving extended family through him. I’m enjoying the good moments, and there are many of them, but I worry. I worry about our parents’ health issues, which are becoming more serious as the years go on, about his elderly mom’s needs (and, I’m ashamed to admit, how her needs put us out), about our siblings’ struggles with unemployment/divorce/injury/stress, about what I’m doing (or not doing) to help the kids mature, about taking the next step in my career to make my time away from home more interesting and meaningful…and a whole lot more.

Sometimes I get annoyed that everyone else can’t just “buck up” or leave me/us be. Sometimes I get angry that my wee bit of time gets smaller and smaller. Last night was one of those nights when I got annoyed, then angry, then guilty.

So very guilty because there are many people in our lives who are struggling with really big problems.

aargh.

I am part of the sandwich generation. Most of the time life’s sweet and comfy like enjoying a good PB&J. But sometimes, ya know, I just end up feeling smooshed.

 Are you a sandwicher, too?

Leadership is hard

Last week my son and I attended a panel discussion sponsored bythe Boy Scouts on the subject of leadership. The panel included five men who hold senior-level positions in our state government, a local company, a branch of the military, a national non-profit and a large religious organization, respectively. Much of what they said went straight over the Super-Mario-Bros-filled head of my tween and I imagine most of the other boys. I can’t blame them; most adults have a hard time articulating what they do in a relatable, understandable way to someone who doesn’t have the same experience.

I got something out of the session, though. Not only do I understand adult-speak — blargh, pass me one of those acronyms* already! — I have to be a leader as a manager and a parent. I’m supposed to set goals and expectations, give clear directions, listen and generally help my peeps problem-solve their way through tricky situations. Having that kind of responsibility kinda sucks sometimes, but after hearing these guys I at least felt that I’m on the right track, even if not always successful in my efforts.

After the session I asked my son what he thought made someone a good leader.

“It’s hard,” he said.

Why, yes, son — being a good leader is hard!

“No, I mean it’s hard because I didn’t understand most of what they were talking about.”

Oh.

Allow me to lead by example by taking a Tylenol.

*PaMOOTA!