Jello Trees

I used to think having toddlers was the hardest test of Motherhood and some kind of divine punishment, until I had a teenager.

The tricky part is that they often act like regular people and then SURPRISE, crazy is in the room.

Yesterday I had our 16-year-old and 11-year-old twins in the car.  Answering a backseat inquiry of where we were going I replied “We are dropping T off at his girlfriend’s house.”  I was immediately and strongly reprimanded: “Mom, she is NOT my girlfriend.”  “Oh-OK, well what is she then?” I asked   “If you insist on this track of conversation I am going to sit in the back of the van.”  Ouch.  Once upon a time I would withhold his Gameboy if he didn’t eat his broccoli.    Now he is withholding what he knows is sacred to me:  conversation. It seems like this switcheroo happened overnight.

The late, great Erma Bombeck once said  “Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree.”

I agree, except teenagers are squirmier.  Go ahead, try and hug one.  Ours tells me I get a “crazy ‘hug’ look” which is why he escapes to his room where loud alternative rock quickly blasts out of the IPOD speakers.  This is meant as a deterrent.  The flaw in his plan is that I really like alternative rock. But, I get it- I wouldn’t want my parents thinking my music was cool either.  I would have probably turned to Liberace or something.  BUT, I’m not like OTHER Moms I tell myself, I remember what being a teenager felt like. That wide divide between parent and kid. When he was little I was never Room Mother or Team Coach.  I wanted him go to school and sporting events knowing he was supported but allowed regular childhood events like not being picked for this or that unfold without my interference.  I listened and gave advice and offered to intervene if he wanted in these (thankfully rare) instances, but only had to once.

That’s why it cut to the bone when I dropped him off for lacrosse practice a couple of years ago and he gave me these directions: “When you pick me up don’t get out of the car.”  startled, I asked:  “How are you going to know that I’m here?”  “I’ll find you-just stay in the car.”  I drove home shocked and in disbelief.  Do I embarrass my son?  I remember my friend Stacey’s horror when her Mom would pick her up from our gymnastics practice in high school.  Mrs. P. would click into the gym in red hot-pants, 4 inch heels with aqua-netted Dolly Parton hair waving at Stacey and stage-whispering “I’ll be right over here!”

I wear regular jeans and tops and if anything my taste in clothes is classic but certainly not hot-to-trot, or conversely too conservative.  Besides, I’m cool.  So what’s with the ‘keep away’ vibes Mr. Teenager?  You certainly need me when it’s time to get your learner’s permit, buy new clothes or upgrade your cell phone!  Yes, I have said those things to The Boy.  The Boy is however, 6 ft 1 and has developed a half-smile/smirk expression that I am learning to translate.  Gone are the days when he would run into my arms.  We used to play a game called Koala Hug.  I would walk around pretending to do household things like fold the laundry while he clung to me with arms and legs wrapped around my torso saying “Whatever you do, I won’t let go!”

But he is letting go.  I guess that means I have to.

But not yet.  I’m not done with him yet.  I haven’t finished teaching him all the really important things. Like grace, humility and being strong when you really want to crawl back under the covers.

Tonight though, I got him.  We were in the kitchen and as he walked towards the fridge I faked left and spun and grabbed him in the torso.  I held him tight, breathed in the smell of his t-shirt and he actually hugged me back.

I couldn’t see, but he may of been smirking.  I didn’t care.


City To Country: Survival Tip #3

This is #3 in a series of 5

The following advice was researched heavily.  My husband and I moved our family of 5 + dog to the country nearly five years ago.  We were keen to relinquish traffic, long lines for everything and a crazy pace.  We also wanted a freer childhood for our sons and at school,  smaller class sizes.  While I was looking forward to the gorgeous landscape and my husband the fishing, I neglected to remember one important detail.  I thought the country was suburbia.

It isn’t suburbia.  It’s rural.  As in everybody put your mailboxes on one side of the road and grab a flashlight because it’s pitch-black at night-rural.

Time for a disclaimer:  Country living is not for everybody.  If you are the sort who enjoys more pavement than grass and for whom taking a hike requires a hazmat suit to avoid mosquitoes, snuggle into your favorite sofa at Starbucks with your Espresso Macchiato and assume the following occurrs in an alternate universe. 

For the rest of you?  Bookmark on your smartphone, pronto.

Tip #3:  Wardrobe

I like to read Vogue.  One of my favorite shows is Project Runway and I have a wonderful daydream where I am Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn’s love child.  I would grow up in the front row of the couture shows wearing hand-made suits and blowing air kisses. Instead I am in line at the grocery, wearing Gap and politely asking for “Land O Lakes American sliced tissue paper-thin.”  Make it work Mr. Deli man, or you’re out!

Did I mention that by living in the country you may develop a healthy imagination? 

You need a few items in your closet that will be especially useful. Besides the obvious: jeans, polar fleece ( I’m not kidding) and thermal tights, there are two items of apparel I have found crucial. You may enjoy the Net-A Porter website although there is little there that is practical except for the…

Hunter boots.  Buy two pair.  One to keep at home, and one for the car.  We have the same seasons as the city here:  Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  But we also have a bonus:  Mud Season.  When you suddenly find yourself driving down a dirt road to bring your child to a playdate and his friend’s mother wants to show you the horse barn, you will write me a fan letter.  The pair I keep on my back porch came in handy recently when our septic system service person called me to the back yard to “take a look down the hole.”  You can use your newly heightened imagination for the rest.  Let’s just say that afterwards I got in the shower fully clothed with my boots on. 

Swimwear.  The name of the game is Serviceable.  When you go to the local lake that serves as the town beach you need to have a Lands End one-piece that covers every area of skin you do not want on display when you need to move quickly.  I learned this lesson when on one 98 degree summer day, knee-deep in the lake with a healthy percentage of the town’s mothers and children there suddenly ran a woman towards me along the shoreline.  She was yelling “Watch out!, watch out!” and stopped in front of me.  She looked down and between my legs swam a long black water snake.  In the next 1.2 seconds I leaped David Lee Roth-like from the water and landed on the sand.  I am not proud to say I took no notice of the location of my children or anyone else.  I stood panting on the beach as everyone ran to see the monster disappear into the reeds.  Thankfully I was able to use the distraction to adjust my Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. 

Extra tipMake sure to tie your bathing suit top with a double knot.

If you follow my lead and get the boots and bathing suit you may decide to wear them together.  For this, a certain amount of confidence is required.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself strutting down the runway in your inspired get-up to “Country Girl Shake It For Me” by Luke Bryan.  I don’t know if you’re ready for primetime, but the snakes will leave you alone.

Next Week…Tip #4:  Leisure Activities

I Am A Willow Tree

 I twist.  I bend.  I follow the wind.  I am a willow tree. Because I’m a woman, duh. 

It’s Monday, the first day of this blog and the first day of the week.  This Monday begins like every other: iPhone alarm set to “Smoke Detector” goes off, beagle howls, (BREAKFAST!) twins shuffle to the kettle, husband just a week-end memory leaving me empty hangers in the bathroom, and the piece de resistance:  tall, brooding teenager mole-eyes it to the shower mumbling something in my direction.  I prefer to believe it is “Good morning lovely Mother, may I have something to drink?”  It was more likely, “Ineedcoffeewhereareallthetowels?”

I should be used to this by now, I’ve been a Mom for nearly 16 years, but for some reason I am optimistic enough to believe that THIS Monday I will have a schedule that will be FIXED for the entire week.  I will get to the gym every day, be at work when I plan on it and always have at least one gallon of milk in the fridge.  It doesn’t sound like too much to ask.

Suddenly the teenager appears, “I need to stay after on Wednesday, so I’ll need a ride.” Twin #1 remembers “My report is due tomorrow and I hardly started!” Husband texts  “I’ll be out late tonight.” Email from a client “Can we meet late afternoon on Wednesday?” It isn’t even 7 am. 

Needing to fix my tea, I reach for the milk only to discover the jug is empty. There’s a little milk leftover in the bottom of twin #2’s discarded cereal bowl.  Excellent, I don’t even need to add sugar.  I am a willow tree.