Month: January 2015


We Had Five Minutes to Choose Our Electives.

Shane came home from school with a green piece of paper and a course booklet for middle school.

“We had five minutes to choose our electives,” he told me. “And we had to take a foreign language, so I picked French.”

“WHAT?!” I shrieked, as I often do. Long story short, the middle school counselor had come to the elementary school, and had the students select electives during an assembly. The fifth graders turned in their choices on the spot, without so much as a note to parents that it would be happening.

Within minutes, I was on the phone with the middle school.

Shane and I went through his elective choices, read the course book, discussed the classes, and chose electives that he would actually enjoy: band, film and theater.

Two days later, the middle school counselor called me back. I tried to be polite, even though I wanted to crawl through the wire and strangle her with it.

“I was wondering if we could meet for a few minutes,” I asked, “so that I could give you Shane’s new list of electives.”

“Oh that goes to his homeroom teacher,” she told me.

“But you already have a list of electives from him, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but I don’t even look at those unless I don’t get a new one from the fifth grade teacher.”

In other words, I thought, 90% of parents whose children did NOT tell them about the assembly will never even know they had options.

“Well,” I ventured, “I would like to make sure that the old list is thrown away.”

“I always throw away the old list when I get the new one,” she said.

She wasn’t understanding how her stunt at the elementary school made me distrust her. I had to explain further – and with good reason.

“I have an older child,” I told her. “When he was in fifth grade, I spent 45 minutes with the counselor – a counselor who is no longer there – and we discussed his options. It all seemed fine until the first day of school, when we discovered that nothing from our discussion was in his schedule.”

“Does Shane have an IEP?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “In fact, after today, you may never hear from me again. Shane is a completely different kind of kid.”

“Well, she was a different counselor,” the new middle school counselor assured me. “I’m very detail-oriented and I make sure that every piece of paper that crosses my desk is handled appropriately.”

I envisioned her writing my name on a post-it note as we talked, scrawling, “TROUBLE-MAKER” after it.

I tried to laugh. “Oh, so you’re like me!” I exclaimed, suddenly hoping to bond.

She chuckled, but not much. “If it would make you feel better,” she said, “you can bring Shane’s electives list into the school and I’ll destroy the old one while you’re here.”

“That would make me feel better,” I agreed. “Thank you.”

Sometimes it just takes awhile to get what I want.

I Think It’s a Bad Idea.

The last time we allowed Dylan to use YouNow.com, he ended up on the phone, in less than an hour, with some complete stranger in New Jersey.

“But I blocked my number,” Dylan whined, when we told him it was not okay to call a complete stranger.

As parents, Bill and I can’t keep up with what sites my kids are on. As soon as Dylan was old enough to have a Facebook page, which I understood, he moved directly to Instagram, SnapChat and Vines. I got an Instagram account, and kept up with it for about two days. Then I got behind.

I’d never heard of YouNow, but we thought it was risky. We said he could try it – and then we had the New Jersey stranger incident. To say that we kaboshed YouNow quickly would be an understatement. We CRUSHED it. Immediately.

Then, tonight, Dylan was bored and wanted to take another stab at YouNow.com.

From what I can tell, YouNow is a forum for anyone, anywhere, to broadcast anything – LIVE. From what I can tell, it is almost exclusively teenagers behaving randomly, seeking attention. It doesn’t look like a positive way for my boy to voice his talents.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” I told him.

“But I know better now,” he said, “and I won’t give out my phone number or any other personal information. I won’t use my own name. I won’t even use my own voice!” (How he can pull off this stuff is beyond my intellectual capacity.)

“Dylan,” I said, “you are 14 years old now. You are going to do what you want to do, no matter what I say. I am telling you that I think this is a really stupid idea.”

“But can I do it?”

“I would rather you don’t do it. I don’t like it. I don’t like what happened last time.”

“But that won’t happen this time. I’ll be much more careful.”

“But you don’t know what will happen this time.”

“I do know! I’ll be way more careful. You can trust me.”

“I’m not worried about trusting you,” I said. “I am worried about the people in the world who I don’t know, and who I can NOT trust.”

“But I know about all of that,” he said, “and I will be really careful.”

My voice rose to record decibels over the course of our 35-minute argument. By the time it was over, I still had not definitively said “no” but I had voiced absolutely no assent.

“I THINK IT IS A REALLY STUPID IDEA!” I screeched, accomplishing nothing.

Eventually, I left the house to pick up a pizza. He continued the debate by calling me on my cell. Then, after I accidentally hung up on him – my phone is broken and randomly does this, I texted him:

Here is the bottom line. If you make immature and irresponsible decisions, we will be forced to treat you like a person who makes immature and irresponsible decisions. It is your choice.

When I came home with the pizza, Dylan and Shane were playing together – sweetly. Laughing. Having a ball.

Like nothing had ever happened.

There Is No One There.

It’s supposed to snow.

I get an email from Dylan’s school saying, “The school will call you at 5:30 a.m. to let you know if schools are closed.” So I set up my room in such a way that the phone is next to my head. I set my alarm, in case schools are open. Then I go to bed.

I am dreaming that I am pedaling a Big Wheel on the highway, singing Gordon Lightfoot at the top of my lungs: “If you could read my mind Love, oh the tales my thoughts would tell….” Then, suddenly, mid-pedal, I am awake.

I don’t look at the clock. I don’t even open my eyes. I am thirsty, but I don’t want to get water, for fear of waking myself further. I think, I should turn down the heat, and realize I’m in trouble because I’ve had an actual thought. I try to go back to my Big Wheel, but it’s no use. I stay very still.

Then I start thinking about going to visit the Grand Canyon with my kids. I worry that they will fall off the edge. I lecture them in my head, as if we are taking that trip tomorrow. In my head, they are angels, listening to my lecture. My lecture alters their otherwise devastating destiny of doom. Then I start to worry about steep roads and rattlesnakes.

When I roll out of bed, maybe 20 minutes later, the clock says it’s 4:15. I peek out the window. No snow. I still have two hours to sleep.

I get back into bed. I flip from one side to the other. I cuddle my pillow, then let it go. I lay flat on my face, hoping it will ease the permanent pain in my neck. It doesn’t.

I start to think about the high school IB program, which is eliminating the Pre-IB classes for underclassmen. This upsets me, even in my bed. I consider emailing the IB program coordinator. I draft the email in my head. I try very hard to be polite.

I curl my body into a fetal position. I realize that I am grinding my teeth and forcibly relax my jaw. I hear a roar in the sky – is it a fighter jet? or just thunder? I don’t hear rain. With our close proximity to the White House, I can’t identify the noise.

I don’t even know that I’ve drifted off until the phone rings. I pounce on it like a lion, say “hello.” My voice is clear, because I’ve been awake for so long.

There is no one there.

It is 5:30 a.m. It’s Dylan’s school calling. I go downstairs and check the school’s website to find out what they would have said, if the automated system worked. The website says: “OPEN ON TIME.”

They called me at 5:30 a.m. to tell me schools are NOT closed?!? I want to kill someone. Of all the stupid …!

But I want to sleep more. I go back to bed. I take deep breaths. I flip and flop. I unclench my teeth again. I unclench my fists, too. I stay as still as possible.

Suddenly a French nurse is asking me how to pronounce my name – which wakes me up. Is my name French? I don’t think so. And why was I dreaming about a French nurse?

I lie flat on my face again. It still doesn’t work. I toss, turn, try desperately not to think.

Someone in my dream says, “And what is your opinion about these locker-pushers?” Then my alarm goes off, waking me for the day. I groan. My eyes burn.

I look out the window again. Now, in the pre-dawn hours, it starts to snow.

Hi, Baby!

When Shane was born, it was via C-section – along with an emergency bladder repair. I’d had a normal labor, until something went horribly wrong and even the epidural couldn’t kill the pain.

One nurse – only one nurse – knew that something wasn’t right. She saved my life, and probably Shane’s, by insisting that the doctor take a second look at me. He did, and I was rushed to the operating room where they discovered that my normal labor was no longer normal.

When Shane emerged, he started to cry. Well, he screamed. The doctors told me that he’d popped a small hole in his lung with all the screaming. They made it sound like it was nothing. In fact, Shane had a pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung caused by air in the chest cavity.

In his entire life, Shane has never screamed that ferociously again.

As I lay on the operating table, I begged to see my baby. I had to yell to be heard. He’d been crying non-stop since he was born, and the nurses and my husband did nothing to make it stop. They all wanted to get Shane to the NICU as soon as possible, but I insisted on seeing him first.

Shane was gorgeous (unlike all other newborns except my own). And he was wailing uncontrollably. He hadn’t shut up for even one second since he’d been removed from the womb.

“WaaaaaaWaaaaaaWaaaaaaWaaaaaaWaaaaaaa!”

Someone was holding him next to my head, since the rest of me was strapped down. I couldn’t hold him, but I could introduce myself. With my high-pitched, reserved-for-babies-and-puppies voice, I said, “Hi, Baby!”

And Shane stopped crying.

His newborn eyes widened into tiny saucers as he tried to locate the source of the sound. I kept talking. I don’t know what I said, but he didn’t cry at all for the two minutes I spoke.

Then they whisked him away, and he was crying again before he got to the door.

When they allowed me out of the recovery room, I insisted that they take me to the NICU to be with him. I’d had a rather major operation and everyone wanted me to rest, but I wanted to be with Shane. So for the next two days, while Shane was stuck in an incubator with a blue hat and a pacifier to keep him quiet, I spent every waking moment in the NICU.

Eventually, we all were allowed to go home.

Since that time, Shane has been my darling and a saint. While he’s my “Angel Baby,” he idolizes Dylan – which means that Shane’s parents always come second. But he is a cuddler and gives great hugs and has always made others feel loved, even when he’d rather be playing a video game or eating some sharp cheddar. He’s been such a sweet, beautiful addition to our family, and I simply can’t imagine my life without him.

Shane turns 11 today, and I am just as in love with him today as I was on Day One.

Happy Birthday, Angel Baby.

Where Is the Suitcase?

We were out of town for two days, and I forgot to post my blog before I left. My apologies to my very few readers! I am technologically incompetent and couldn’t figure out how to post from the road.

When we got back into town, we lugged our various suitcases upstairs. After the first day, Dylan’s suitcase had become a hamper, and was stuffed to the brim with dirty laundry.

Without asking me, Dylan lugged his suitcase upstairs. It was heavy, and it’s the only one we took that didn’t have wheels. So it wasn’t an easy job getting it up the stairs. Then he opened it up, discovered that it was full of clothes, and immediately began sorting the mess. He made piles for each member of the family, folded the clothes neatly and then called us in to get our piles.

I had no idea he’d done any of this.

I was in the laundry room, and wanted to locate the laundry-filled suitcase, so that I could start sorting by color (not by family member).

Meanwhile, Shane picked up his pile and brought it to me.

“Why do you have a pile of dirty laundry?” I asked him. “Where’s the suitcase?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Well I don’t want you to throw the laundry on the floor. Go find the suitcase!”

Shane dutifully wandered away. Then my husband, Bill, came in with his pile – and we played through the whole scenario again.

“I don’t want piles of laundry on the floor! I want the suitcase! Where is the suitcase?”

No one bothered to tell me that Dylan had sorted the laundry. They just kept wandering out with their armloads of dirty laundry. Then Bill and I got into a big fight over my insistence on having the suitcase filled – which, he later confessed, was his way of “protecting” Dylan from the Wrath of Me.

When I was crawling into bed, exhausted and angry over the whole thing, Bill finally told me what Dylan had done. So I went into Dylan’s room.

“Daddy told me that you sorted through all the clothes,” I said. “That was so nice of you.”

“It took me like seven minutes,” he said.

“I’m really sorry I yelled,” I said. “I had no idea that you’d done that.” I patted his back, because he didn’t seem to want an apologetic hug.

I went to bed feeling guiltier than ever about my stupid control issues. Really? I couldn’t just take the piles of laundry and sort them later? Why did I have to have that suitcase packed with laundry?

And now it’s the next day, and I feel even dumber than the day before. Luckily, in addition to my church-course-related book – for which I am still waiting – I got an email from Free Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy, one of my heroes and the queen of letting go.

The email said that she’s got a new TV show coming out: “World’s Worst Mom.” I am going to love it.

Maybe they’ll even let me be the star.

Don’t Die!

Today, Dylan is on a field trip with his school. They went skiing.

Dylan is an excellent skier. He got his own skis last year, and he was zipping down the black diamonds (whether or not I liked it) in two days. I’m not worried about him getting hurt.

My concern, instead, focuses on the exceptionally high number of small things he must remember. So for the entire drive to school this morning, here is how the conversation went between obsessive, panicked me and my ADHD teenager.

 

Don’t lose anything. If you lose anything, you have to pay me for it. Do you understand?

“Yeah.”

It’s important to drink water. You will get dehydrated if you don’t. Where is your water bottle? Will it fit in your coat pocket?

“I think it fits. If I lose my water bottle, do I have to pay you for it?”

No. But don’t take it if it doesn’t fit in your pocket. There’s free water in the ski rental area, and in the cafe. But drink plenty of water. And be sure to eat. Eat on the bus – both ways. You have enough snacks for both ways.

“You already told me that – twice.”

And eat healthy food for lunch, not just junk. Don’t spend ALL the money we gave you! And don’t lose your snow pants. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather wear long underwear? And what about a hat?

“I’ll be wearing a helmet the whole time, Mom.”

You might need a hat when you take off your helmet. But that’s okay, I wouldn’t want you to lose your hat. And don’t lose your gloves! Whatever you do, don’t lose your gloves! Remember how, last year, sometimes we’d see one glove when we looked down from the ski lift? If that happens to you, and you can’t get your glove back, ask a teacher to buy you a new pair. Tell her I’ll pay her back. But you have to pay me back. Okay? You can NOT ski without gloves! 

“Okay.”

And don’t lose your skis. How are you going to remember which skis are yours? Are you going to remember where you put them during lunch? I marked one of them so you should be able to find them again. Don’t lose your boots, either! 

“I’m going to be wearing my boots the whole time.”

Oh, right. Okay. So do you have everything you need? Where is your money?

“It’s in my pocket.”

Make sure it’s in your zippered pocket. Where is your phone? Do you have your phone?

“Yeah.”

Don’t lose your phone! It’s the only way you’ll be able to find everyone if you lose them. But the MOST important rule is, DON’T DIE! And don’t break a limb, either. 

“Holden broke his arm last year.”

Who’s Holden?

“He went to this school last year.”

Well I’d rather you didn’t break anything – but definitely don’t die! If you see a tree, or even if you’re just going slightly too fast, sit down. Okay?

“But I was planning to die and break a leg today.”

If you’re dead, I won’t care if your leg is broken! So the most important rule is don’t die. Oh, and have fun.

 

I helped him carry in the immense amount of stuff he needed for the day. Then I drove for 45 minutes, and pulled into my garage. At about that time, I got a text from Dylan.

“Um, I don’t have any ski poles.”

Sure enough, in all of my insanity, I’d forgotten to pack his poles.

It Didn’t Seem Like a Good Fit.

After declaring two days ago that I would be registering for a 10-week series of church workshops, I had some issues.

First, I don’t like social events of any sort. I am an introvert by birth, and have developed a strong fear of people thanks to – I believe – a horrific experience in middle school. So I wasn’t looking forward to going to any of these church meetings.

In addition, my husband – who is incredibly social and makes a great buffer at social gatherings – was going to miss at least two of the ten meetings. He did not need to be there, as the workshops were really for me. My husband has a very passive-aggressive demeanor, which means no one thinks he is controlling except me. And there is no doubt that I am too controlling. So everyone overlooks his issues.

And Shane has a church group on Wednesday evenings, which means that he would be at the church for more than an hour before my group even starts. And while there is free childcare, I had envisioned the group as a “family activity” – and I couldn’t see how Shane could take part. He is not in the least anxious, manipulative or controlling.

Yet, he would have to sit there for another two hours, waiting for me – either in the group, or in childcare. It didn’t seem like a good fit.

Then the Wednesday night school meetings started popping up. Everyone is suddenly getting ready for next year! Incoming 9th graders (Dylan) and their parents are going to be incredibly busy in the next few weeks. In addition to our high school “welcome” meeting, I will also be attending the informational meeting about the International Baccalaureate program at the high school.

Both meetings are on Wednesdays.

But I went to the church website anyway, because I felt compelled to do something – even if nothing was lining up the way I thought it should. There I discovered a video to “tell me more” about the meetings. And watching the video taught me something extraordinarily helpful: The meetings are based on a book.

The book is called, Keep Your Love On, which – in my not-so-humble opinion – is not the best title for the book if it means an end to anxiety, manipulation and control. But I suppose “love” is a fair antonym, so maybe it’s the perfect title. I don’t actually know.

Buying the book and the study guide online costs the same amount as the 10-week workshop series.

That was the final straw. I bought the book instead of registering for the course.

I figure that I would get one, maybe two tidbits for lifelong happiness from the workshops. And as a rule, I get one, maybe two tidbits from every self-help book I read.

This way, I can get the same information – which, I believe, is the stuff God wanted me to know – without the angst of socializing, missing school meetings and rearranging the family schedule.

I can – and will – read the book on my own time, and promise to share any wisdom I glean. Meanwhile, I thought I’d best come clean and admit that I am not going to register for the 10-week series, since I was so adamant only two days ago that I would.

I try hard to be honest.

Sometimes, though, I just change my mind about stuff.

Be Careful What You Pray For.

“Be careful what you pray for – you might get it.”

I’ve heard this so often, I try not to pray for anything at all. I’ve always been a believer that God really listens – even when I don’t really listen back. I worry not only that I’m wasting His time with my menial prayers, but also that my wishes might cause unforeseen grief to someone else.

I remember reading The Monkey’s Paw in school, a story that terrified me. The story tells the tragic tale of a man who wishes for – among other things – enough money to pay off his house. His son is killed the next day, leaving him with just enough insurance money to pay off his house.

Talk about an unforgettable story.

Anyway, when I was blogging last week about my resolution to BACK OFF and let my kids be who they are, I also said a few prayers. I really want to change, to be less fearful and more able to go with the flow.

The next day, I went to church. On the bulletin, a blurb caught my eye about an upcoming 10-week series of meetings:

“Adults and children alike thrive in healthy, loving relationships. Come and learn how to rise above anxiety, manipulation, control and conflict…”

I know I am more anxious and controlling than most people. I also know that being aware of my problem has cost me plenty of money and time in self-help books, courses by the experts, and other assorted therapies. I’m not sure that any of them have done a bit of good, but I do spend a lot of time now apologizing for my behavior.

And I’m not sure this church thing is going to help, either. Still, it’s so obvious to me that this group is meant for me. I said a prayer – and up popped this group.

I hate groups. I don’t like socializing and I’m honestly not that fond of many people. I always worry far too much that I am bothering them when I speak. (This goes for the whole world, actually.) I’m nervous and anxious and a bit resentful about the whole thing already… although that’s exactly why I’m going to register for the group.

I just wanted to announce that I’m doing it – so that I don’t back out – and note that my prayer was answered. And now I’m doing something I don’t want to do, in order to get what I said I wanted. It may even help, but who knows?

So now I am scared. “Be careful what you pray for.”

He Was Early.

After a long, long winter break, I knew my kids were not looking forward to going back to school. I’d like to say that I did something really cool, like cool moms do, and made their first day back fun or – at the very least – not routine.

Instead, I pushed them right back into the routine. I made sure their lunchboxes were on the counter before they went to bed. I reminded them to set their alarms and warned them that I wasn’t going to wake them up. (This was mostly for Dylan, who gets up two hours before Shane has to get up. Shane gets up without an alarm anyway on most days.)

Then I tried to get myself to sleep at a reasonable time, and didn’t stress as much as I normally do. I did jump back out of bed to do a few things – although I can’t remember what they were – and finally fell asleep in time to get my allotted six hours.

When I woke up, it was still dark – as it is, most days, in the winter. I checked the clock to make sure I’d set the alarm right. I was exhausted, but I crawled out of bed. I brushed my teeth and my hair, changed my clothes to get ready for the gym, and slogged downstairs.

And there was Dylan.

The lights were all on in the kitchen, and Dylan was slathering peanut butter onto a piece of whole wheat potato bread. He’d gotten downstairs before me – something I’d never seen, on any day.

He’s making his own lunch, I thought. Normally, this is a punishment. If the kids forget to put their lunchboxes on the counter, for example, they are required to make their own lunch. Dylan’s forgotten enough that he rarely forgets anymore.

Did he forget last night? I asked myself – and realized in the same instant, No. He didn’t forget. It’s the first day back at school! I remember both lunchboxes sitting there!

“Good morning,” I said.

“Good morning,” Dylan said.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m just making my lunch,” he said. “I didn’t know what else to do, since I got down here so early.”

“Well, I can finish it,” I told him, “if you want to go do Lumosity.” Lumosity is a brain-game website that, supposedly, helps him function better mentally. (It sure doesn’t hurt.)

“Okay,” he said. He put his sandwich in his lunchbox, and went to the computer.

I watched him go. It wasn’t far, but I couldn’t quite keep my jaw from the floor as he left the kitchen. He was early, I thought. EARLY!  I was simple too astounded to do much of anything.

Then I remembered: I volunteered to finish making his lunch. And so that’s what I did.

And Dylan hasn’t been early since.

But he also hasn’t been late.

I Am Watching a Deer.

I am sitting at my computer. The house is quiet. It is a school day, but schools are closed, so Dylan is asleep and Shane is reading in his room.

It’s the first real snow of the season.

Outside, it is still falling, steady and strong. It’s enough snow to thoroughly blanket the driveway, but not yet enough to  cover the autumn leaves strewn about in our yard. The silence is unusual and glorious.

Across the driveway, we have a tiny stream that runs through a patch of trees. We call it “the woods” because in our county, this is one of the few remaining places where more than two trees stand together. It’s a group of maybe a hundred trees – enough for the stream to flow through unimpeded, but not enough to encourage hiking.

All of our local wildlife lives inside the group of trees. They have nowhere else to go. We have a family of raccoons, some foxes and plenty of squirrels. Often I will see a group of three, or even ten deer.

But today there is just one. He is a very young buck, his antlers barely longer than his ears. He has been lying in the snow for hours, and has a full inch of snow on his back. He is so still for so long, I start to wonder what he is thinking – if he is thinking. Does he understand the snow? It’s probably his first, with antlers that small.

The females live in groups, lifelong. But the bucks go it alone when they’re barely old enough to walk.

This one set out so early in his life, he has no one to teach him about snow – or anything else. Even though he’s not yet a year old, he is destined to figure it out for himself. He’s a teenager in deer years.

After hours of snow, he stands up. Unlike a dog, he doesn’t shake. The inch of snow still covers his back and the top of his head. And he just stands there, turning his head every few minutes, then standing still again.

A squirrel scampers past and he seems to watch. If the squirrel is okay with this, maybe it’s not the end of the world. A minute after the squirrel passes, the buck shakes himself off and walks a few feet.

There isn’t anything to do. There isn’t anywhere to go for food, but he is up and exploring. He has decided that it’s okay to get up, shake it off and explore.

I watch him in his seeming peace and imagine his confusion. I see only calm, but I wonder if he’s scared.

I am watching a deer – another of God’s creatures. And all I can think about is Dylan.

Next page →