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Tuesday, December 30, 2014


As hard as it is to believe, 2015 is almost here. The year is drawing to a close, and ready or not, a new one is upon us.

2014, undeniably, was rough. I lost a sister, very unexpectedly in August. Dropped out of college in the Spring semester. Had kids flounder in school.

Theresa never missed a moment of life. She was always
up for new adventures. She was my hero. 

There were also flashes of sun from between the clouds. I restarted college this fall. Thing1 finished middle school successfully in June and started high school in September. Babygirl entered a program that will let her graduate from high school early and she's looking forward to starting college in January 2015.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions, because they seem like a flash in the pan, something you declare with a lot of bravado in January, and fizzle out by March.

This year, however, I'm making one for myself: This year, I resolve to be more positive. To appreciate the incredible blessings we enjoy and to stay focused on the goals for the future. Since my marriage fell apart, I've been determined not to become "that person"; the woman who obsesses over her ex and his new life and hates him, using him as a scapegoat for everything bad that happens to her post-divorce.

In ancient times, a goat was symbolically burdened with the sins of the people,
and driven off into the wilderness, to cleanse the tribe of its guilt. 

I don't want to carry this anger anymore. I'm tired of being angry. Tired of his name bringing a flare of pain and disgust. I am angry, and have every right to be, about the way he handled our ending. His deception made the parting much more painful than it needed to be. His behavior since leaving hasn't helped. He's hurt my kids, and for a Mama Bear, that can be an unforgivable sin.

There comes a time, though, when you have to let go of old disappointments. Holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal and expecting it to burn the other person... you're only hurting yourself. What harm does my anger do him? None, of course. He's off living his life. Staying angry is only letting him still have a say in my feelings, whether he even knows it or not. I'm SO ready to cut those strings. My ex is no saint, but I've moved on and my life is no longer bound to his choices. It's time to embrace freedom, and like Elsa, "let it go". 

Do you have any resolutions for 2015?

I am so ready to see what a new year will bring. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Reasons I Don't Want My Son to have Sex

There are so many blogs out there about why we don't want our daughters having sex. Many of the lists contain similar themes, many of which also apply to our sons: Because they're not ready. Because there are emotional connections that come with physical intimacy, that can really screw you up later. Because disease. And babies. And because they're not ready.

Can we stop this madness? Please?
What's wrong with our teens being allowed to be kids? 

We don't have as many conversations about, or with, our boys. And those moms who do say they don't want their boys having sex too young are often seen as women-hating slut shamers, who are trying to raise Mama's boys, forever tied to the apron strings.

In fact, anyone who calls for balance in this discussion with our teens about having sex is likely to be attacked by one of two sides: Those who believe teens should have lots of wild, crazy sex as soon as possible, with no regrets, because YOLO!, or those who think you shouldn't ever have sex until you're married, preferably in your 40s, with the lights off and as many clothes as possible still on. And don't enjoy it. It's for procreation, not for pleasure, you sick pervert.

You Only Live Once.
So... do it right the first time. 

What ever happened to middle ground? What ever happened to personal responsibility? What has happened to make our sons believe that they are less of a man if their belts aren't notched by the time they escape the confines of high school? Why do we make teenage sexuality so damn complicated?

I've been thinking about this since before my son decided that girls don't have cooties. I've been through this stage with Babygirl. My reasons, with both my kids, are pretty much the same. This isn't a gender thing. This isn't about slut shaming, or about not raising a rapist. This is not about trying to control my kids. This is about empowering them to make good and healthy decisions for their own lives.

My reasons for not wanting my son (or, for that matter, my daughter) to engage too early in the mattress mamba:

1) Babies are expensive. Duh. Yes, birth control is cheaper. A LOT cheaper. But. The failure rate for a male condom? 18%. EIGHTEEN PERCENT. That's very close to 1 in 5. Yikes.

Let's break this down, shall we?
There are somewhere around 400 teens in my son's high school. According to the CDC, about 35% of those kids are having sex at any given time. So, if the math plays out, that's about 140 kids. 18% of 140? Twenty-five. Mathematically, about 4 of those kids will be gay. (3.6% of the population identifies as something other than "straight".)

Assuming that the rest are boy/girl couples, that's an average of 10.5 girls. Let's round down to 10- that's ten girls per year having babies. That's about right, from my personal knowledge of my kids' friends and what's going on in the school in general.

I'd rather my son was not one of those ten baby-daddies who find themselves, at fifteen, in sudden need of a job to keep their new offspring in diapers.

He can't even drive a car yet.
Can you imagine this kid with a baby?? 

2) Romance and relationships. I love my son. I think he's just about the peachiest little dimpled bundle of giggles to ever have graced the world with a goofy grin. He's a great kid. A seriously great kid. I get compliments from other parents about how polite and kind-hearted my kids are. But. He can also be a bit of a douchebag. Hey, he's almost 15. His social skills, along with his brain, are not fully developed. His emotional stability is on-par with a lemur on crack.

So, entering into a relationship that includes the emotional fall out that comes with sex? Not the best thing for my handsome little bundle of hormones. He's still learning to navigate friendships. Romance is far more complicated, and that's an arena he's not ready for. The kid can barely keep a lizard alive. He's so not ready to make a serious emotional investment into a relationship with a girlfriend.

3)  Disease. Ok, so only 35% of kids are having sex. Chances of my teen catching a STD from his first partner might seem slim, but... 1 in 4 sexually active teens have an STD. Those aren't odds I want him to chance. If that makes me an over protective mom, so be it.

Incidentally, 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys, will be a victim of a sexual predator before they are 18. A whole other conversation, but important for parents to know, so that they can take steps to protect their children.

4)  Brain development. I won't pretend that I begin to understand the complicated processes that happen behind my kids' skulls. I can't even tell you why they don't pick up after themselves or why they can't retain instructions I've given them for more than 3.4 seconds, but can recite the entire list of their favorite video game stars. And their birthdays.

The bottom line is that, though I don't understand much about the teenage brain, the experts at the American College of Pediatricians say that engaging in behaviors like sex before the brain is fully developed can change the way the neural hookups get established, creating addictive behaviors and tricking the brain into needing more stimulation to achieve an appropriate response to the release of dopamine and other "feel good" hormones.

Seriously. His brain is amazing, but... yeah. Not developed. 

5)  I want him to have a fulfilling sex life. A recent study showed that there are long-term consequences in marriage associated with behaviors that go along with teenage sex:

"Rhoades and Stanley hypothesize in the report that "more experience may increase one’s awareness of alternative partners." In other words, people who have a number of prior relationships may become dissatisfied more easily."

Yes, I admit it, this one has a selfish component.  I want my son to get married, 
and, hopefully, give me grand-babies someday.
He might not. I accept that too, and I'll love him, no matter what his choices are.
Bottom line? I want him to be happy. 

Does that mean that having sex as a teenager will mean that my son is more likely to be unhappy in his marriage? Not necessarily. And having partners before marriage isn't always a negative or traumatic experience, for men or women. For some, it's a learning experience. 

But... you never forget your first. Sometimes relationships, especially when teens and their emotions are involved, are complicated. Throw in some typical teenage lack of judgement, and there's a pretty good chance things could go south in a drastic way.  

Why would I want him to risk that, while he's young and impressionable and his hormones are raging like an off-shore storm? Why would I want him to dive head-first into such a momentous first, when the benefits of waiting are so well documented? 

I don't, of course. And, I say that with a caveat- I recognize that he's not my little toddler any longer, and I can't redirect or distract him, or simply tell him "No!" and put him in time out. This is not a choice I can make for him. This will be his decision, and, ultimately, he will make it without my input, and perhaps hopefully(!) without my knowledge. All I can do is talk to him, give him the information, assurance of support, and guidance he needs, and hope he makes the right choice for himself when the time comes. 

How about you? Have you talked to your son about sex?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is Your Teen a Mean Girl?

Not long ago, a friend of mine from high school posted a Facebook status asking if anyone remembered who the "mean people" were back in high school, and names immediately came to mind. Twenty years later, I can't tell you the names of most of my teachers, but I can remember with painful clarity the girls who gave me sidelong looks and asked "innocent" questions like, "Why do you dress like that?" in a tone of amused disbelief. The adult knowledge that Mean Girl behavior is born of insecurity doesn't change the fact that the scars run deep.

 As much as I want to emulate Elsa, I can't just Let it Go.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

I drove several of Babygirl's friends home from a concert the same week, and listened in on their conversation. To be perfectly fair, Babygirl didn't, herself, say anything "mean". She's usually the first to jump in and defend anyone who comes under attack. She is the champion of the underdog, the hero to the downtrodden. Normally, an unkind word spoken in her presence is shot down quickly, with grace and style.

Remember those days?
I do.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

This talk felt different... It wasn't the kind of full-on cut down I normally associate with bullying. I wouldn't even go so far as to call what went on "bullying" behavior. The conversation was a critique of a peer's singing performance, and the comments wouldn't have been unkind, if not for the tone and very-public setting. If the same conversation had taken place with the girl, it might have been constructive criticism. I've often heard the same girls speak with each other with sympathy and empathy, offering support and advice. Not this time. I actually winced at hearing that the singer had a "Disney voice," especially when the disclaimer was added that,
"You can only do so much with a Disney voice."
"This song is too high for her. She's actually a Soprano 2."
*snort* "More like an alto."
"She's straining."
The talk wasn't kind or helpful. It was born of a competitive spirit, and it happened behind her back, which made it gossip. Worse, the conversation was carried on at full volume, in a public place, where it was sure to be overheard, and possibly probably repeated to the singer.

If I tried singing Let it Go, the audience would be straining... to be first out the door.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

I heard the conversation through the hyper-alert ears of a Mom who was also once a teenager, who couldn't have imagined singing in front of a crowd on my best days. My heart hurt for the singer, imagining how she would've felt, overhearing her classmates' rather unkind critique of her efforts.

These kids are being taught by a world-class singer, Mr. G. He's traveled around the world, appearing in operas and stage shows professionally for years before settling down to raise his family and teach high school. I am grateful that my Babygirl has had an opportunity to study with this man. Even if she doesn't go on to become a professional singer herself, she has certainly absorbed the urbane quality of his confidence, and has learned to take pride in hard work and self-improvement through his lessons. Unfortunately, she also seems to have become familiar with the diva cattiness that is sometimes associated with the profession. When I mentioned later, how mean the conversation had been, she said
"It's just something that happens with musical people, Mom. We talk like that all the time."

We talk like that all the time.

Mr. G has taught Babygirl to sing... to soar with her voice, above her insecurities and self-doubt. He's taught her to work hard, to practice, and that applause only comes with hours of practice and dedication. It's not his job to talk to her about always being kind and mindful of her conversations; that task is left to me... And, it seems, I still have talking to do.

Am I being too sensitive? Maybe. But my friend's question, which generated a conversation some 200 responses long, and the memory of my own Mean Girl ghosts from the past, seem to say not. The entire incident has left me wondering, if I could be a fly on the wall to conversations I had as a teen, if my words were ever unkind enough to stay in someone's memory. I wonder if I have former classmates who would remember me as one of the "Mean Girls", and if I've done enough to teach my daughter not to be.

How about you? Have you spoken to your kids about how their conversations affect others? Have you talked to your child about bullying, not just from a victim's point of view, but about how easy it is to speak unkind words that might have lasting ramifications? Are we doing enough to teach our kids what kindness and empathy mean?

Photo courtesy of LittleHeartsBooks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Chaos With the Wild Things

So, last evening, we decided to put up our tree. It's a tradition for the teens to do most of it themselves.

We got the tree- And Thing1 did the manly job of trimming the base and putting it up. He did great, as always!

It's a beautiful example of symmetry and life. 

It didn't take long for the cat to take up her place under the tree. She's saving the spot where her presents belong, of course. 
The Pumpkinater has staked her claim. 

The kids had the lights and tinsel on in no time. 
Fabulous Decorating Services at work.

I love this angel. She's graced our tree through a lot of years. The bird was one of the kids' yearly ornaments. They each get one every year, so that when they have their own homes and trees, they'll have a start on their decorations. 
Apparently the Angel will be guarding last year's leftover candy cane.

The tree was finished. All was well. The kids went to take the dogs out while I sat, admiring the tree. It looked great... for about four minutes, before it came toppling down. Turns out we were missing one of the four bolts that goes with the tree stand.
Annnnnnnnd then the tree tipped over. This is me holding it up while Thing1 adjusts the stand. 

We got it back up... and it fell again. So now it's leaning up against the wall, until I can crawl under the tree and adjust the stand again. Just another typical Christmas with the Wild Things!
No matter what happens... I believe in the holidays. I believe in family. I believe in us. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

The Future Threat

“When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Who wants my kids? I'm giving them away... Cheap! Free, even...

How many times have I said that over the years? No offers came forward, so I don't know if I would ever have followed through on the threat, but Lord knows I fantasized a time or two about giving them away!

The other day, I called my Mommy. (Yes, really. Shut up. She's my Mommy.) I talk to her several times a week, to keep her up dated on what's going on around here. She moved to Florida a couple years ago, when I was still freshly divorced and struggling to piece together a new life for myself and the Wild Things. She worries, so I call.

My mom, Gloria, with her sisters.
Mom's the second from the left. 

We got to talking about my sister, who passed very unexpectedly this summer. It's been a devastating few months for all of us, but it's been hardest on her kids. They lost their father last year, and now Theresa. Even though they're all grown, with kids of their own, nothing prepares you for facing life as an orphan. Mom mentioned that they've been struggling to settle her estate- not because of any disagreements, they've worked together beautifully, thank God, but because my sister didn't leave a will.

My beautiful sister, Theresa, and our Mom. 

I said, Who has a will at 53? She was just building a new life. Divorced just over a decade, and out of college only 5 years, she's been teaching littles in a school that has a mostly-disadvantaged population. All her time, energy, and love has been poured into those children, and she's been making a difference, making real changes in the lives of kids and their families. She never considered a future in which her own children would have to dispose of her worldly goods and settle her personal accounts. Not at her age. Not when she had everything going for her, and the pieces of her life were just beginning to fall into place.

"Do you have a will?" Mom asked. "You should, you know. You know, to protect your kids. Who would take care of them?"

The truth is, I don't have an answer to that question. I'm sure my ex would step up if something happened to me. He'd uproot my kids, move them half-way across the country, and turn their lives upside down, bringing them into his new life, his new home, and his new family, something they have no desire to be a part of right now. Not having a will leaves my kids' futures in the wind.

If living through a tornado taught me anything, it's that life can change in an instant.
Image courtesy of Pixabay

I love my family, but I'm reluctant to pick from them and say You. You are the one I would trust to raise my children, to make the decisions that would need to be made, and look after their best interests.

How do you make a choice like that? And yet, how do you not?

My sister didn't plan to leave her kids with the burden of dealing with her affairs. I own a home, my only real asset, and Babygirl is turning 18 next week. Would she be able to take on the responsibility of running a house and raising her 14 year old brother? Thing1 is a freshman in high school. They're close, but at 18, I can't imagine Babygirl being left to shoulder that burden.

These two, on their own??
I love my kids, but they're not ready for that kind of responsibility. 

The ex and I put off writing our wills years ago, because we didn't want to choose someone to look after our kids if something happened to us. The dilemma hasn't changed, but our situation has, and it's time I created a piece of paper I don't think I'll ever need, as insurance against a future none of us wants.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, The future depends on what you do today.” 

How about you? Do you have a future plan in case the unthinkable happens? Have you designated someone to take over your parental responsibilities? How did you choose?

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Wheels go Round and Round

Remember that song? The wheels on the bus go round and round... round and round.. round and round...

Video by KidsTV123

Drove you crazy, didn't it? Until the day the big yellow bus came for the first time, to gobble up your precious babe and carry her off to the first day in a big school. For a moment, even if it was just for a moment, you wished you could hear her two-year-old voice piping that song endlessly... just one more time.

Even if you thought you were totally prepared, and even if she was so excited and couldn't WAIT for her first bus ride, and let go of your hand without so much as a look back and stepped proudly up those stairs... Even if it was the proudest Mama moment you'd had to date, you've got to admit it: Just like every other Mama sending their precious babe off for the first time, you cried.

Or, if you're like me... you held on to that smile for dear life until the bus rolled away, before you burst into ridiculous harsh sobs right on the front lawn, clinging to your second child until he spotted an earth worm and squirmed to be let down. Then you let him go and sat sniffling, vowing he'd never be allowed to get any bigger, only slightly comforted by the fact that you still had a toddler to cuddle, for just a little longer. The first week was the worst. Eventually, you got used to the morning routine, and, by the time the second one took his turn climbing the steps and rolling away, you began to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Well, I am here to tell you that the Big Yellow Baby Eater has nothing... NOTHING, on college.

This picture was taken just last week... in 1997. 

 Babygirl has received her first college acceptance letter. She'll graduate in January, a plan we've been talking about for over a year, since her guidance counselor suggested it as an alternative. She'll walk out of the high school she's been attending for four years (with one year off for homeschooling), as a high school graduate. 

Unlike most kids who leave high school, she won't even wait the usual 2 months to start college. There will be no buffer, no last summer during which I can pretend her laundry will always litter my floor and my pitiful collection of makeup will forever disappear into the black hole of her bag. 
She'll pick up her studies, as a matriculated college student, in January.  
In case you can't count, that's less than a month away.

My heart can't take this kind of abuse. Can't we just rewind time? Suddenly, I miss the kindergarten days... and I wish she'd just keep riding that big yellow bus for a little bit longer. 

I'm not ready for this. But she is... and  I have to let go. Even if this is who I see walking away from me and disappearing into that huge campus:

No matter how tall she gets, she'll always be my Babygirl. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

When Your Holiday is Broken

Sometimes, things just don't go as we plan.

Life gets in the way. Things change. Families break up. Death, divorce, or separation come in like bulldozers, destroying everything we love.

Divorce comes in like a wrecking ball...

Sometimes, especially in the wake of a divorce, the changes can be a relief. No more fighting. No more tension. Freedom. Hope. A new future. A second chance.

Rebuilding means all of those things, and more. What was broken can be swept away, and rebuilt into something new, maybe something better. When a marriage has crumbled, it was because the foundations were not strong. Divorce, at least for me, meant that we were finally acknowledging that what was once "us" could no longer be saved.

Suddenly, everything has changed. 

The holidays, however, are about family. About tradition. About all those years we had together, and celebrating everything we'd built. Divorce's bulldozer has come in and taken all of that down, and, especially for the first few years, living in the wreckage is painful. Living in the wreckage, and trying to make it festive for the holidays? It's a recipe for despair.

The holidays are also an opportunity for rebuilding. You have a  new reality, a new family dynamic, so this is the time to celebrate the new beginnings... and to create new traditions of your own.

For me and the kids, that process has been a little rocky. The first year, they went with their Dad to the in-laws' for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I was fine with it- we had our "family" holidays a day after, with just the three of us. It was a little sad and awkward, but the kids had a nearly-normal holiday- celebrating with his family as we always had. And, they got a second celebration with me, a relaxed day of movie-watching and hanging out.

Then, their father moved out of state. Half-way across the country. Their lives changed, again. Last year's holidays were harder. The kids were struggling in school, and coming to terms with his slowly dwindling efforts at contact. We all hit a wall, a tsunami of depression and anxiety. We were swamped, but we kicked up, swam to the surface, and broke through. Both kids went onto home tutoring programs to finish out the school year. I dropped out of my college that semester. We made adjustments, and we moved on, together.

It's been rough, but with a little help from friends, we're conquering our giants.
Thing1's response to big problems seems especially appropriate. 

For Thanksgiving last year, my in-laws were out of town. The kids were facing their first holiday without any of the traditions they'd had their entire lives. I was determined that it would not be an empty holiday. We would have fun if it killed us. So, we saw Frozen. It wasn't a completely drama-free day, but we made memories. We were happy. We had so much fun, we decided to make Christmas a day of movie marathons. So, we watched The Avengers, The Life of Pi, and some Christmas movies. It was a good day.

This year, our Thanksgiving was a little different. The in-laws were in town, so they invited the kids over. I spent the day working, and planned on a big holiday for us on Friday.

The best laid plans often fall apart... and mine did. Big time. Thing1's best friend, Thing2, wanted to come over. He's here so often, he might as well be part of the landscape, so I thought sure, why not? It was only a minor adjustment in our plans- instead of eating at home, we'd go pick up Thing2, grab breakfast out, and swing home for a few minutes before the movie, in order to put the bird in the oven. It'd be ready when we got home.
I just needed to get it in the oven, and we'd be good to go...

Thing2 was late. No problem. We still had time... just... to get home and put the bird in the oven. It was all good... Until Thing1 had one of his famous mood swings. He went from relaxed and looking forward to the movies, to throwing a temper tantrum and arguing that he "never wanted to see the movie anyway," because he "didn't get a choice". (We'd discussed the movie line up and I'd specifically asked him if there was anything he'd rather do. When it comes to holiday plans, we work as a democracy.) The argument escalated, and he stomped off upstairs just as I finished putting the bird in the oven. Our plans for a movie were spoiled, and my habitual calm was shattered.

Furious, and more upset than I should've been, I went for a walk... and made it 1/4  mile up the road before my leg gave out. I limped home, in pain, and spent the rest of my day sulking behind my computer screen.

Babygirl, in a rare moment of teenage wisdom, (the kind that give me glimpses into her future as a thoughtful, amazing young woman), mentioned that her brother was just being a "self-centered teenage boy," and that it's "not about you, mama."

Not about me. There's a part of me that answers back, you're darn right it's not. It's about my kids. It's about our family. It's about us being happy and productive and stable.


Yesterday's meltdown told me something about myself. Sometimes, it IS about me. Friday's Thanksgiving celebration was supposed to be MY Thanksgiving. My kids had a Thanksgiving already. They had it with the in-laws, and the family of the father who abandoned them. I'm glad they had that time with the out-of-town cousins, aunts, and uncles they don't often see, but there is also loss... I used to be a part of a family, and now I'm not. It's a very strange and disorienting feeling. 

Yesterday was supposed to be about celebrating the new us. The kids and I. When I lost my chance at what should've been a happy family afternoon, I felt that loss, hard, and the grief and anger poured out. 

My holiday was broken, but I don't have to let it stay shattered. Christmas is a few short weeks away. We'll try again. We'll build another new tradition. Maybe we'll see a movie out, or maybe we won't. Maybe the kids will have something they want to do. It won't matter, as long as we do it together.

We may be broken, but we're rebuilding. And that's all that matters. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Meet the Wild Things

Life with teens isn't always parties and pizza and late-night phone calls.

When you're the mom (or the dad), life with teens can be aggravating. Frustrating. Exhausting. Expensive! And satisfying beyond belief.

Especially when your teens are as awesome as mine.

I'd like to introduce you to my family. I really would. I'd like to have everyone, or at least mostly everyone, I meet during my internet travels, over for steaks on the BBQ and a few sun-soaked hours lounging around the table out on our large enclosed porch, just chatting and laughing and getting to know one another.

The blessing, and the curse, of the internet is that it brings people from all over the world together, in this virtual place. So, in lieu of medium-rare steaks on the grill and a bottle of beer, I will share, briefly, my family. This is, after all, the very best I have to offer.

My beautiful BabyGirl.
My only regret with this photo is that she'd dyed her
rich red hair to black. It's taking forever to grow out again. 

This is BabyGirl, wearing her cast tee-shirt from her school's production of Phantom of the Opera last year. This girl isn't just gorgeous, she's got a set of pipes on her that can make a grown man cry. Seriously. She makes me cry all the time. And not just when we blow up at one another, either. The girl can sing. She's got the power and control that comes from several years of working with a really top-class instructor. I will forever be grateful to Mr. G for bringing out her confidence and teaching my little angel how to use her wings.

She wants to be a vet tech. She's graduating high school a full semester early, and will begin her college classes in the Spring of 2015. She's compassionate, empathetic, intelligent, and fierce, especially when it comes to her friends and family. She drives me crazy. She makes me proud. She scares the hell out of me sometimes because I know how far she can go, how stubborn she can be, and how soft her heart is. I know just how easily life could snap her up, chew her up, and spit out the pieces. I also know that she's strong. And she's going to be just fine. 

Thing1. My crazy ray of sunshine.

Meet Thing1. How do I describe him? He's a mystery wrapped in enigma. Every time I think I have him figured out, he enters a new stage of growing up and surprises me again. I'm both afraid and hopeful that he'll inherit some of his father's traits. And some of mine. 

He can be loud, vulgar, funny, and sweet, all in the span of seconds. He can go from out-of-control rage to rushing into a hug as if someone had flipped a light switch. He regularly places and wins in BMX races. He plays Minecraft. He excelled in home schooling, but was determined to return to the battleground of public school, and in his second year back is slowly, finally, winning back ground. He is succeeding. He doesn't know, yet, what he wants to be when he grows up. Probably something with computers. Or games. Maybe. At 14, he's got a lot of growing room left, and he needs to figure out how to fit into this gangly new body, with its voice cracks and sudden growth spurts, before he finds his niche.

"Don't let go, Jack!..." 
My kids have a goofy sense of humor. 
These two... they are my life. My heart, grown legs and gone walking around outside my body. They are my reason for being, for getting up in the morning, for fighting back the demons of ptsd, of insecurity. They are the reason that, every time life knocks me down, I dust myself off and come up swinging. Without them, I surely would've given up long ago.

They are my second chance. My song. The candles whose flame I hope will go on to light up their little corners of the world. Lord knows they've rekindled mine.

So, I've shared. Now, tell me a little about your teens, and your life together. What do you love most about your teenagers? What are their hopes and dreams? How have they changed your life?

We're all in this together, Mamas, and Papas! Let's do this.
The three of us in Niagara Falls, braving the roar of the water, together. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mining for Understanding

Creepers. Endermen. Zombies. Spiders. Mods.

Are your kids speaking a foreign language? Or, are they just addicted to one of the world's most popular games: Minecraft?

I am here to steal your diamonds. And your time.

Whether you play on a PC, XBox, Playstation, or mobile device, chances are, you been invaded by this pixelated crack. At last count, the PC game has been downloaded over 17 million times. At $26.95 a pop, plus the recent sale of the title to Microsoft, you can bet the Mojang team are laughing all the way to the bank.

That's right, 17 MILLION.
It's even in our schools. 

Their gain is your frustration. Moms all over the internet describe kids who zone out for hours, "mining" in search of treasure, or building elaborate houses or other structures. They trade with villagers, grow crops, and fight mobs. (Which are, by the way, different from "mods". Get it right, or risk being the victim of an eye-roll.)

Not only are the kids playing the game you unwittingly plunked down thirty bucks to buy, they probably watch Youtube videos as well. Names like Etho, Captain Sparkles, and PewdiePie are whispered like charms to appease the vengeful Minecraft gods. There are inside jokes and secrets known only to denizens of the Minecraft world. There is more than treasure in the depths of the game. The delight of seeing Notch while playing on a "server" is only surpassed by the shock and fearful awe of glimpsing the mythical HeroBrian.

Would it kill this guy to blink once in a while? I mean, really. Holy creepy, HeroBrian!

By now, if you're like most moms, you're reaching for the Advil and Chardonnay, just thinking about it. Minecraft seems like an alien planet. You suspect that it's secretly a parasitic creature, crawling into your kids' vulnerable little heads and feasting on their growing brains.

Fear not, fellow Mamas. The addiction isn't fatal, and in fact, has real benefits for your kids, and, potentially, for you. As your tweens grow into teens, they may become withdrawn, quiet, and increasingly secretive. Even if you avoid the cliched "My parents are the enemy" attitude embraced by some young people, chances are you will sometimes struggle to make a connection with your child.

For those who are willing to take a step into their child's world, to learn something about the game that their kids are so passionate about, the rewards are better than finding a whole cache of diamonds. Since Minecraft has a connective feature, you and your child can play together. You can meet on common pixelated ground.  And, who knows? While beating a few zombies together, you might even... Talk. Laugh. Bond.

Your kid's obsession might seem weird, but it's important to him. 

Is it a stretch to think that a video game could produce a magical unicorn-and-bunnies-pooping-rainbows-all-over-the-living-room relationship with your kids?


Parenting takes work, and a few hours of sharing screens isn't going to be enough, on its own, to build a relationship. But it's not inconceivable that playing Minecraft could provide you with a shared interest, and give you something to talk about when everything else is just too awkward. Who knows, you might even find that you like playing. After all, it's not that different from Legos.

Remember these?
Bonus- You won't step on Minecraft blocks on your way to the bathroom at night!

Ready to give it a try? Or at least find out a little more about your kids addiction, and win the title of Coolest Mom Ever? Check out the video tutorial series I've created on Youtube, specifically for parents baffled by the phenomena known as Minecraft:

Happy mining.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Welcome to Life With Teens, and Other Wild Things

Life with teenagers is one of the most chaotic, crazy, and fun experiences a parent can have.

Now, imagine life with teenagers as a single parent.

Scary stuff, isn't it?

For some of us, it's a whole new ball game. For others, it's just a new chapter, not a plot twist. Maybe your ex has walked out on you, a spouse has passed away, or has been called off to serve his or her country. For others, the other parent was simply never a part of your kids' lives. Some people are single by choice. No matter how you've arrived at this destination, raising teens as a single parent is a challenge too many of us face, and we shouldn't have to do it alone.

There are dozens of blogs and sites that cater to parents of young children. One major blog, Scary Mommy makes a strong effort to be the Huff Post of mommy-blogs, but many of the articles relate to pregnancy, infertility, potty training, surviving toddlerhood, and other topics relating to the care and keeping of the under-5 set. While there's a strong parenting community, those of us who are dealing with teens might not find what we're looking for among moms who are still rinsing breastmilk out of their yoga pants and wiping bottoms with one hand while pulling a crawler away from the electrical outlet with the other.

Most mommy blogs don't deal with questions like,

Why is my 13 year old going through so many pairs of socks? And where is all my hand lotion going?? 

I think my son or daughter might be gay. How do I talk to them about this?

My daughter's best friend is pregnant. She's keeping the baby and my daughter wants to throw a baby shower. Am I responsible for providing snacks? 

I found pot in a sock drawer and it's not mine! What do I do??

Life With Teens, and Other Wild Things won't be able to address every single parents-of-teens experience, but it does provide a gathering place, where we can come together and share survival tips and wisdom, heartache and triumph. As parents, we are all different. We have different worldviews, different experiences, different paths to walk. By celebrating the diversity, as well as the common experiences we're all facing, we can lift one another up, and maybe, just maybe, survive the insanity known as parenting teens.

Are you a parent of a newly-minted teenager, or in the midst of raising your teens? Come on in, take a seat, and buckle up. I'm glad you're along for the ride.

Hold on tight. Here we goooooooooooo.........