Top 20 Tips for Savoring the Holidays

I’ve been re-reading a book I originally read in the mid-1990s. It was an Oprah’s Book Club favorite titled, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The book is a bit more “new age” than I typically like, but I really love the overall message it delivers about appreciating what you have, paring down, and simplifying your life. It’s set up in a format to be read a little bit every day over the course of one year. A while back, I was reading one of the October entries about coping with stress, an appropriate topic for many of us today.

I was also thinking, as we are in the midst of the holiday season, a few tips on how to slow down and really enjoy this time of year might be appropriate. So here are my top 20 tips, inspired by the book, on coping with stress so we can truly enjoy the holidays…

1. Keep a gratitude attitude. Write down five things you’re grateful for every day.

2. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

3. Don’t overschedule your days; truly LIVE in the moment.

4. Set realistic deadlines and achievable goals.

5. Surrender expectations.

6. For every time you say “yes,” let there be a “no.”

7. Allow an extra 20 minutes for everything you do.

8. Breathe deeply several times throughout the day.

9. If it’s not delicious, don’t eat it.

10. If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it.

11. Laugh every day.

12. Luxuriate in all five senses.

13. Let Mother Nature nurture you.

14. Turn off the telephone ringer, and turn down the answering machine volume during dinner.

15. Avoid energy vampires (negative people!).

16. Cherish your friendships.

17. Savor beauty.

18. Care for your soul.

19. Remember to dream.

20. Show love every day.

Image by: Tell Jeeves

Wordless Wednesday

The Roman Coliseum under a full moon...

Palatine Hill...

Santa Maria sopra Minerva...

Michelangelo's La Pieta...

Ah...we'll always have Rome!  Merry Christmas!

Road Trip Revelations

Recently my hubby Chris and 15-year-old son Josh took a road trip across the state together. It was a long drive, and at one point Chris said to Josh, "I'm getting tired here, I need you to talk to me for a while."

Josh dutifully unplugged himself from his iPod and asked, "What do you want to talk about?"

"I dunno," Chris said yawning. "Um…why don't you tell me the first thing you'd like to do when you get your driver's license?"

"That's easy. Take Cutegirl* out on a date," Josh replied without hesitation.

WHAT?! When Chris shared this story with me, my jaw fell open. Since when did my son like some girl enough to want to ask her out on a date? And me with no clue this had occurred! Of course, in typical male fashion, Chris couldn't provide me with any of the details I craved, such as Cutegirl's* name, how Josh met her, did Cutegirl* know he liked her, etc.

Josh has always been open with me and a great communicator. So for the next few days I waited patiently for him to divulge this latest tidbit of news to me. But he said absolutely nothing about it. Nada. I refused to take this sitting down. I didn't want to divulge that his dad had shared this info with me so I tried a different tactic.

Sauntering up beside him after school one day, I casually said, "Soooo, buddy. Anything new going on in your life?"

"Not really."

"Nothing interesting or new you'd like to share with your ol' mom?"



I was really getting frustrated. Then, one afternoon, I got an unexpected break. As Josh was chatting away about his day at school, he mentioned the names of some kids he'd been talking with between classes. One new name in particular jumped out at me and I immediately latched on. "Who?"

Interrupted from his flow of chatter, he looked at me blankly. "Huh?"

"Who did you just say you were talking with?"

"Boy, Boy, Cutegirl*, and Boy."

Bingo! "Who is Cutegirl*?"

"Oh, you don't know her. She's just a girl I had in my old Basket weaving* class."

"Oh." Expectant pause…

Undaunted, he continued on with his story without expanding on this babe at all!

Humph, again!

Not to be thwarted, I did what any normal, nosy, busybody mom would do. I secretly snagged his old yearbook and searched for Cutegirl*. Since I only had her first name, no luck. But using my highly honed undercover investigator mom skills, I turned to Facebook, and… Gotcha! I studied her profile pic. So…okay, she looked like a nice girl. Now I just needed him to tell me all about her.

More impatient waiting. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. While he was doing homework and I was sitting beside him pretending to edit something, I blurted out, "So, are there any special girls you're interested in?" Oh yeah. I'm the essence of subtlety.

He looked over at me. His gorgeous brown eyes wide, "Um, no offence mom, but I think this is the sort of thing I should really be sharing more with Dad."

Oh the pain! I clutched at my heart, reminiscent of Sanford in the old Sanford and Son series. "What do you mean? What are you saying? You've always been able to talk with me."

"I know, but…" he squirmed uncomfortably in his chair. "This is different, it's guy stuff."

"Well fine!" I huffed. Then I sniffed. "Doesn't matter anyway. I know who she is."

He frowned at me suspiciously. "Oh yeah. Well, what's her last name start with?"

I stated a letter, and his eyebrows shot up. "It does start with that letter! What does her first name start with?"

I stated another letter.

"Dad told you!"

"No, he didn't," I said airily, preparing to dramatically sweep from the room. "I guessed it from other things you've shared with me. You know I do actually listen when you talk."

Now it was his turn to Humph! He grumbled for a few seconds but I could tell he wasn't really mad. And I think he learned a valuable lesson as well. Don't mess with the mom. Don't bother hiding stuff from the mom. She's way too much of a nosy, busybody to keep things from anyway.

*Certain names and details have been changed to protect me from my son's wrath should he ever actually read my blog.
Image by Frapestaartje

Gratitude Challenge - Day 7 Photograph

As part of the Gratitude Challenge, I was technically supposed to post this picture to my social network on Day 7, (I'm way past that!) but the important thing is that I've gotten it out here now, right? I took this photograph during our amazing family vacation to Hawaii three years ago. It inspires gratitude in me on several levels.

For starters, all my life I've wanted to see Hawaii. I secretly think I was supposed to have been raised there. My mom claims my father passed on a job opportunity when my siblings and I were really little, and instead of the Hawaii job, he selected the Midwest. But that's okay, because I wouldn't know all the incredible people I know right now if he hadn't done that. (Guess that makes for gratitude point number two!)

Another reason this picture inspires gratitude in me, is because I'm NOT a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination. But I carted my tripod and camera over treacherous terrain, set it up and messed around with the shutter speeds until I achieved this awesome effect of the waterfall.

I'm grateful that when we took the trip, our kids were old enough to always remember it. I'm grateful that we took the time to travel on Maui's stunning Road to Hana, and used the detailed guidebook of island secrets our friends suggested. I'm grateful we were all healthy and fit enough to traverse the top-secret hazardous trail of slippery rocks, which ultimately led to the discovery of this incredibly beautiful hidden waterfall.

When I look at this photograph, it brings back all the memories of that remarkable trip…

• Standing on black volcanic rock and witnessing the formation of the earth as glowing hot lava seared its path through the rain forest, dropping with a steaming hiss into the Pacific Ocean.

• Hiking over that same black volcanic rock in total darkness, with only the stars (& our GPS unit) to guide us back.

• Daily rainbows.

• Exotic flowers and plants.

• Fresh pineapple and delicious Hawaiian cuisine.

• And the most beautiful views we've ever seen.
We had some of our most memorable family vacation moments on this trip. Some great, and in all honesty, some not so great—but we can laugh about those moments now. And finally, I'm grateful for this picture because it also represents a hope that one day, we'll get to go back there and experience it all once again.

Now, on another note…

I'd like to give a great big thank you to Amy of Moving On From the Drama for blessing me with the Lemonade Stand Award for my gratitude attitude!

The rules for this award are:

*Put the Lemonade logo on your blog or within your post.
*Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude.
*Link the nominees within your post.
*Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
*Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Here are the ten blogs I'm nominating for their own Gratitude Attitudes:

3 Little Ones
A Walk in My Shoes
All in an Iowa Mom's Day
At Home with Heather
Baby Steps
Diary of a New Mom
Everyday Mama Drama
Holli's Ramblings
Megan Rebekah Blogs…and Writes
On My Way to Barnes and Noble

And another thank you goes out to The Girl Next Door Grows Up for presenting me with the One Lovely Blog Award. She has a "lovely" sense of humor and you should check out her blog for a good chuckle when you have a chance.

This lovely award is to be given to up to 15 blogs you have newly discovered and, of course, think are just lovely. I'm encouraging aspiring writers to visit the following writing-related blogs. I get "lovely" encouragement and inspiration from them all:

Alice's CWIM Blog
Writer Mama
Mridu Khullar
Daily Blog Tips
Nathan Bransford Literary Agent
Newbie Blog
The Wealthy Freelancer
The Well-fed Writer
There Are No Rules

Texting – Walk the Talk

I got busted! With all my high and mighty talk about placing limits on my kids' texting habits, it appears I needed a reminder to follow my own rule.
We took our annual family trek to Frankenmuth, Michigan a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who've never heard of Frankenmuth, it's a super cool town known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria." It is also home to the uber-famous Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world's largest Christmas store. Bronner's unabashedly proclaims "the joy of Christ's birth is celebrated all year at Bronner's - Enjoy CHRISTmas, It's HIS birthday; Enjoy Life, It's HIS way." The store provides customers with a phenomenal 5-1/2 football fields of dazzling Christmas magic.

Every year since our oldest daughter was two, we've had a family tradition of visiting Frankenmuth in early November. We have dinner together, enjoying traditional German cuisine at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, then head over to Bronner's to shop. Each year, we allow the kids select one ornament of their very own. That way, by the time they leave home, they'll have several of their very own hand-selected ornaments to take with them for decorating their first Christmas trees. We always spend two to three hours in the store, just meandering through, exploring the miniature lighted villages, home décor, and ornaments of every theme you can possibly imagine.

But something happened during our visit this year that's never happened before. You see, last year we didn't have a cell phone family plan with unlimited texting.

This year, as we strolled along exclaiming over the glittering sites, every so often Ashleigh or Joshua would flip open their cell phone and whip off a quick text. After much grumbling, I finally told them to knock it off. "This is family time," I proclaimed, and they should simply hold off on texting their friends right now. They were actually really mature about it, agreeing with me and putting their phones away.

A short time later, while we were marveling over some Italian hand-painted mouth-blown glass ornaments, I heard telltale beeping coming from inside my purse. I unzipped it and checked. Ah, a message from my dear friend Susan, asking me a pertinent question about the upcoming city council vote. I quickly sent an answering text. A moment later, she texted back with a new question. I responded again. We went back and forth a few more times when I suddenly felt as if I was being watched. I glanced up to see Ashleigh and Joshua standing in front of me. Brows arched, arms folded across their chests.


"What?" said I, still pathetically clueless.

"No texting during family time!" they said in unison.

Oops! Heh, heh. Need to follow my own rule, I guess.

I flipped my phone shut and was a good girl for the rest of the afternoon.

Cell phone image by: Alanairis
Bronner's image

Girls Fashion Trends: Too tight or too short, that is the question

My 15-year-old son was having a discussion with one of his best friends and her mother on the way home from a Halloween party a couple of weeks ago. They were discussing the issue of girls' Halloween costumes. When purchasing a pre-made costume, it appears that girls, from elementary school age up through teenagers, have a choice between form-fitting catwoman-type body suits, and the super-short-skirt variety.

They asked my son his opinion on which he thought was worse: too short or too tight--as far as attracting a guy's attention for all the wrong reasons. He claimed, "Too tight is way worse than too short."


He explained that although the skirts are often too short, most girls (at least the girls he hangs out with—thank you God!) wear shorts underneath these skirts. In essence creating a skort. But the form-fitting ones outline everything, leaving nothing to the imagination.

But as I thought about the discussion later, I wondered why we were even debating between too short or too tight? I mean, what's up with this trend anyway? No matter which type of costume girls pick, most of them pretty much portray young girls as sexy. What kind of message is this sending our girls? Dressing like a slut can be fun?

Of course, this trend isn't exactly new. The costume situation has been escalating for a couple of years now, and it's really just an offshoot of girls' fashions in general. I wonder if it all started with the underwear peep shows. You know what I'm talking about. A few years ago, it suddenly became socially acceptable for girls to let their bra straps hang out.

Image by lenifuzhead

What's the big deal, right? So what if I'm wearing a spaghetti-strap top and my bra straps are hanging out for the world to see. At least I'm wearing one, right?

Then clothing manufacturers started making them clear so we can pretend we don't see them. Or they make them brightly colored so we can pretend it's just another clothing strap. And if the bright red bra that goes along with those brightly colored straps clearly shows through that lovely sheer white blouse our daughter is wearing, it's all good.

Close on the heels of the bra-strap trend came the "whale tails." For those of you not familiar with the popularity of thongs, whale tails are the term used to describe how the top of the thong rises above the waistband of girls' low-cut jeans whenever they sit down.

Guys have gotten in on the whole underwear peep show act too. Although the massive amounts of fabric hanging above the falling-off-their-butts jeans that define boys fashion today hardly qualify as a "peep show." I don't get it! Are teen girls seriously swooning over this look? (I know mine isn't!)

Image by: Malingering

I'm curious. If you're the parent of a daughter (or son!), what do you think of the recent trends in girls' fashion? Do you think the underwear peep shows are perfectly fine? And which is worse: too short, too tight, or both? Share your thoughts.

Costume images: Rag Doll, Tea Party Hostess,Sexy Prisoner, Sexy Pumpkin Witch

I'm Grateful For...These Blog Awards!

I'm so honored! I've been blessed with two--count 'em two--blog awards within one week. And right smack in the middle of my 21-day Gratitude Challenge. How cool is that? Now I have even more for which to be grateful.

My grateful thanks to Laura of Ziggy's Blog  for presenting me with the Honest Scrap Award. She gave me this award which is typically "given to others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you." Aw shucks, I'm blushing! Thanks so much, Laura. As a fellow mom of teens, Laura's blog is chock full of great information about teen trends. I encourage you to check out her blog.

This award comes with some rules:

1. Thank the person who gave the award and list their blog and link it.
2. Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself.
3. Present this award to 7 others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
4. Tell those 7 people they've received the Honest Scrap Award, and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

So here are 10 Honest Things about me:

1.  My kids will be surprised to learn this about me, but I tend to be a little uptight at times. I know, I know…shocker!

2.  I hate change.

3.  My children are constantly forcing me to grow. (Emotionally & spiritually, not height!)

4.  I can get lost while driving in my own hometown.

5.  I'm supposed to be wearing my glasses for driving at night but I use my son's eyes to see street signs instead.

6.  My first two years of college, I lived on Doritos, M&M's and Mountain Dew. (All the stuff mom and dad never let us have when we were kids!)

7.  I'm a secret control freak. (Guess it's not so secret any more. Heh, heh!)

8.  I graduated from high school and college without ever taking Chemistry or Biology. (I took photography and astronomy instead. Can't get away with that today!)

9.  I'm writing a novel.

10.  I have bug-phobia.

I invite all my blog readers to check out the following blogs that I am in turn presenting this award to:

1.  Julie at Foursons
2.  Brandy at You Don't Know
3.  Chef Eureka at Two Peas in a Pie
4.  Christine at Propeller Head Mom
5.  2 Toddlers and Me
6.  Natalee at Raising Normal Kids
7.  Kristine at Stories of Life: One Writer-mom's Odyssey
I am also the grateful recipient of The Heartfelt Blog Award, given to me by Kristi of Moms Own Words. Thanks so very much, Kristi!

The rules of the Heartfelt Blog Award are:

1. Display the logo.
2. Nominate up to 9 blogs that make you feel comfy or warm inside.
3. Link to your nominees.
4. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting.
5. Link to the person from whom you received the award.

Soooo….here are the 9 folks I'm presenting with The Heartfelt Blog Award.

1. Yonca at Yonca is Cooking
2.  Missy at Two Little Monkeys
3.  Lauren at Thinkspin
4.  Marisa at Mama Needs a Hobby
5.  Tami at Diary of a Mad Woman
6.  Molly at I'm a Sleeper Baker
7. Vanessa at A Military Wife's Mayhem
8.  Amy at Moving On From the Drama
9.  Christina at hooey! critic

Gratitude Challenge

I stumbled across this Gratitude Challenge while poking around the Mom Bloggers Club. My hubby and I have always tried to emphasize to our kids the importance of maintaining a gratitude attitude.  Our family has had some emotional and monetary setbacks this year, and I've made a deliberate attempt to maintain a gratitude attitude by writing down five things for which I'm grateful every night before I go to bed.

Check out the groovy Gratitude Challenge widget I've pasted below my bio on the right-hand side of my blog. I think it's totally cool!  Anyway, in honor of the approaching Thanksgiving holiday, I'm challenging you, my beloved blog readers, to take the 21-day Gratitude Challenge along with me.

If you have a couple of extra minutes, check out this inspiring YouTube video of the first thirty people who took the Gratitude Challenge. And keep a rockin’ Gratitude Attitude!

When I Think of Her…

When I think of her, what immediately comes to mind is her laugh. Light. Musical. Joyful. Like bells tinkling. She had an infectious laugh. It was nearly impossible for anybody to hear her and not find themselves laughing too.

She could make pancakes without following a recipe. This might not be such an amazing feat to some, but it always boggled my mind as I’d watch her prepare breakfast during our weekend visits.

She possessed a laid back personality, especially compared to my uptight Type A-ness. I was secretly convinced she would live well beyond me due to this fact.

She loved the outdoors with a passion. We’d hiked together many times. Through the woods to witness maple trees tapped and harvested to make maple syrup, along the shores of Lake Michigan, across the rocky terrain of the Canadian Bruce Peninsula. Sometimes just the two of us, but most often with our entire families spilling along the trail together, laughing, talking, embracing nature.

She had an amazing faith. Deep and real. She firmly believed that some how, some way, God causes all things to work for our good, no matter how dismal things appeared at the moment.

When her husband was diagnosed with ALS, she—who to my knowledge had never run a race before in her life—began training for a marathon in support of the cause. And then she ran it. And then she finished it. When her father was diagnosed with lymphoma she ran a race in support of that as well. She went on to participate in a triathlon, and multiple 5-K races in between.

She was an amazing listener. Whether we agreed on things or not, we could always share open-minded discussions. Without judgment.

She was an avid game player. While our husbands sat hunched over the cribbage board, she and I would play Scrabble for hours (basically because we’d get sidetracked by our conversations in between actually playing the game). We played Euchre with our husbands as our partners. Once. (Never again!) We played games with our kids as well. We once had a Phase 10 game last for months because we couldn’t finish it before our weekend visit ended. But like people often do with chess games, we just picked up where we’d left off the next time we got together.

She was a natural nurturer, but never an enabler. She was the kind of person who inspired friends to be the very best kind of friend they could be.

She loved her family, and she was a fighter. When she received her own cancer diagnosis, she battled diligently with insurance companies and health care providers to cover her treatment. She travelled to multiple states, obtaining the best care possible. She did what she needed to do to try and heal. For three years. She was relentless.

Without knowing how near she was to the end of her life, my husband and I travelled across the state to visit her and her family the weekend before she died. Even though she was bedridden, I spent an hour talking with her. She was weak and had lost weight, her brown curls just beginning to grow back again after her last chemotherapy treatment. Her energy was low, but it is a time I’m so grateful to have had.

She passed away three days later.

When I think of her now, it’s not so much how she was during that last visit. It’s more like snapshots and video snippets covering the entire 25 years I knew her. It’s with that joyful twinkle of mirth sparking deep within her bright blue eyes. And despite the aching lump that lately resides permanently in my throat, and the tears that spill from my eyes without warning, I know without a doubt that she is all right. I know she’s dancing and laughing with joy in Heaven. Because when I think of her, it’s her laughter that fills my mind, clear as a tinkling bell.

Devastating News

I just received some devastating news. My son informed me he is not going trick-or-treating this year! It was bad enough when my daughter stopped.

I’m having déjà vu. This reminds me of how I felt when my daughter was 2-1/2 years old and I learned that naptimes didn’t last forever. Ridiculously, it had never occurred to me that my child would actually grow older and not require that down time any more—regardless of the fact that mommy still needed it! This move away from trick-or-treating is affecting me the very same way, and it’s devastating on several counts.

First, I wanted my final season! I’d already anticipated this would be his last year for trick-or-treating because he’s 15 years old. And I personally think it’s weird when driver’s licensed teens sporting five o’clock shadow, park at the end of my driveway, ring my doorbell and mumble trick or treat in deep manly voices while expectantly holding out their candy-stuffed pillow case towards me.

Second, I’m sad because this signals the end of an era. I’ve already had to deal with the mental reality that both of my babies are in high school, now THIS! When did they change from giggling toddlers to mature, composed teens able to have intelligent conversations with me about art, authors, politics, and religion?

But worst of all, more devastating than my previous two points, is the fact that there won't be bags of candy for me to raid anymore! Wah! Just like naptimes, mommy still needs this; I look forward to it every year! The kids returning from their trick-or-treating excursions with their huge hauls. Dumping out their overloaded bags, ooohing and aaaahing over them late into Halloween night. The next day, they would each pack a few treats for their lunches, leaving their bags trustingly on the kitchen countertop. They headed off to school, completely unaware that I foraged through those bags on a daily basis—snarfing up their Take 5s, Baby Ruths, Whopper packets, and Butterfingers.

But no more. Sigh.

Well, fine! I guess I’ll just have to take this into consideration when I shop for the Halloween candy I pass out to our neighborhood kiddies. Sure my husband may be suspicious as to why there are SO MANY MORE bags of candy than usual waiting for disbursement. He may doubt me when I claim that I’ve noticed more kids running around the neighborhood lately. But hey, he’ll ultimately be grateful for my foresight because I’ve busted him foraging through the kids’ bags before too!

Yup, we’ve moved on from the Candy Zone, and we’re now entering the Par-TAY Zone. Instead of trick or treating, both kids will be attending Halloween parties this year. I must admit, we’ve hosted a couple of murder-mystery parties for my daughter’s friends and they’re a blast! (We’ve used this site for all our party materials; check it out if you’re interested: Dinner and a Murder Mystery Games.) My son will be attending a scary-movie-night party. Not my bag, but he’s really looking forward to it.

As always, there are positives and negatives to every stage in our children’s lives. I know they’ll have a lot of fun hanging out with their friends. I need to just get over it, I guess. Maybe I’ll drown my sorrows in some chocolate. Pass me a Kit Kat, will ya’?

Image by Rochelle et. al.

Wordless Wednesday

My husband shot this while on a business trip in India. I'm amazed at this picture because it looks as if he'd stepped back in time instead of actually driving just outside one of the largest cities in the country.


I took a walk in the woods on Saturday. All by myself. This may not sound like a big deal to some, but I’m—er, over 40 and have never taken a walk in the woods by myself before. As a family, we’ve done plenty of hiking all around the beautiful state of Michigan, as well as in several other states and countries. But on this particular day, my husband was out of town for work, and my kids were busy with their activities.

As I drove my son to his afternoon refereeing job, I glanced out the window; the woods of the state park flew past us. The sunshine dancing off the colored leaves beckoned me. It was irresistible. So after dropping him off, I ran home, grabbed my camera and decided to hike alone.

I can’t explain it, but for the past year or so, I’ve been craving time spent in nature even more than usual. Whether sinking my toes into the hot white sand along the shore of Lake Michigan, or breathing in the heady scent of summer flowers, or plunging myself deep into the woods like I was doing today, there is some baser instinct within me needing to be fulfilled.

I entered the woods and was immediately enveloped in its tranquility. The only sounds, the hushed whisper of leaves brushing against one another in the breeze, the music of birds calling, the scampering paws of squirrels as they dashed across the path in front of me. Moist black dirt patterned with multicolored leaves muffled the tread of my hiking boots as I made my way down the path. Dappled sunshine added to the lacy pattern beneath my feet.

As I walked I allowed my thoughts to drift. I’ve been fairly stressed out lately. Suppressing feelings without even realizing it: worries about our job situation, trying to figure out which direction to take with my writing work, coming to terms with a dear friend’s recent death were uppermost in my mind. Maybe that’s why I’d felt such an overpowering desire to take this walk. The serenity of the woods offered me a natural cure.

 I hiked for a long time, and even though it was cold, I refused to walk briskly. I meandered. I looked about me with the eyes of an artist. I snapped pictures of everything I found interesting: fungus growing on rotting tree trunks...

the mosaic of colored leaves as they fell onto the path, the way the light touched the trees as they reached skyward and arced overhead, making their leaf-enshrouded branches glow. The woods surrounded me, filled me with its richness. I breathed it all in. Deeply. Savoring.

As I finally made my way back to my car, I knew there were more “productive” things I could have done with my time. I needed to work. I needed to start digging through the massive pile of papers and bills sitting on my kitchen countertop. I needed to finish several loads of laundry that the kids hadn’t had the time to fold. But I’d ignored those needs, and I’m glad. Instead I recognized what I truly needed at that moment in time. Peace.

Wordless Wednesday

Okay, I'm doing it again. This post isn't really wordless. But it's too funny not to pass on. In honor of finishing off the first month of the school year, I give you "Math 911."

Techie Teens

I recently read a blog article titled, “Controlling the Techie Tween,” by Gila Brown, parent coach, over at Mamapedia Voices.

I read with interest, her parental coaching tips regarding technology and tweens. She states, “While kids may not be able to articulate their need for gadgetry, parents need to understand and respect it. Trying to control the usage or censor the content, only serves to undermine the parent-child relationship.” And, “The bottom line is that trying to control the techie tween is futile and unproductive.”

Is she kidding?!

Her article stresses that instead of trying to control your child’s gadgetry, your energy “would be better spent on communicating with them to develop a mutual trust.” Um, exactly how are we supposed to do that if they’re plugged in all the time?

Nope, I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Brown.

As parents, it’s our job, to set some limits and controls, until our tweens and teens develop enough self-discipline to manage it on their own. For Christmas last year, we finally got both our teens “real” cell phones as opposed to the $19.99 Tracfones and accompanying 3-month/60-minute phone cards we’d purchased for them at Meijer in 1986. (Okay, just kidding—it wasn’t really 1986!) For an added surprise, we included the unlimited texting feature.

Well, it wasn’t long before the texting frenzy began. Then came the IM’s, listening to iPods while sending e-mails, Internet surfing, requests for Facebook pages and before we knew it—all this techie stuff was getting out of hand.

So my hubby and I established some techie-related guidelines that must be followed, or the privilege of using all this cool new technology becomes null and void. For example:

     -We installed security software on our computer to keep the creepy porn stuff out, then we permitted each of our teens to have a Facebook account with the stipulation that they each accept mom as one of their “friends,” and had to give us their top-secret password for page access.

     -No texting during family game nights, movie nights, meals, or “real life” conversations.

     -Cell phones turned off and turned in at bedtime.

     -Absolutely NO texting while driving!

     - No texting during school hours.

     -No texting or Facebook while doing homework.

     Exception to this rule: AP Physics. Prompted by the following conversation:

     “Mom can you help me with this problem?”

     Leaning over my daughter’s shoulder, I viewed the confusing physics jumble staring back at me from the computer screen. I read it through. Read it again. And again. My mouth hung open for several seconds, before my vision cleared and I was able to turn and focus on my girl’s sweet, hopeful face. “Uh…no, honey. No I can’t. Maybe you should text somebody from your class?”

And finally…

     -No privacy. This one’s a bit more controversial, but once they’re 18, and off on their own new adventures, they’ll have all the privacy they want. But for now, as the parents, we’re responsible for their welfare. If periodically checking the content of e-mails, IM’s or text messages helps us do that, we’ll do it in a heartbeat.

Up until about a year ago, my hubby and I were blissfully unaware of how the world of tween and teen communication had been changing all around us. But the fact of the matter is, whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, these techie toys are here to stay. And it’s the responsible parent who does the tough job of learning their way around this new world. And it’s the loving parent who takes the time to set up some boundaries, never tuning out to the fact that their kids are plugged in.

Image by: ydhsu

Wordless Wednesday

Okay, my mother sent me this video of Swan Lake a while back, and I just had to share it for my Wordless Wednesday posting.  These dancers are...simply amazing.  Make sure to note the utter confidence on the face of the ballerina throughout the entire performance.

My Very First Blog Award

I’m so flattered! I just received my very first Blog Award. One of my fellow mom bloggers, Theta Mom, has kindly honored me with the Over the Top Award. Thanks so much, Theta Mom. As I discover more about the world of blogging, I’m learning that each of the various Blog Awards being disbursed in cyberspace comes with a specific set of rules.

As a writer, I’m particularly challenged by the Over the Top Award because the rules in accepting this award are to answer the following questions using only one word.

The Rules
USE ONLY ONE WORD! It’s not as easy as you may think. Copy and change the answers to suit you and pass it on.

All righty, deep breath in. Let it out. Okay…bring it!

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse

2. Your hair? Spirals

3. Your mother? Interesting

4. Your father? Active

5. Your favorite food? Chocolate

6. Your dream last night? Kaleidoscopic

7. Your favorite drink? CaramelMacchiato (yeah, yeah I know it’s really two words!)

8. Your dream/goal? Novel

9. What room are you in? Office

10. Your hobby? Photography

I am passing this award on to some fellow mom writers & bloggers who I feel are definitely up for this “over the top” challenge. Congratulations go out to:

My Little Patch of Sunshine
ACU’s Stiletto Shoes and Pretty Pink Tutus
Manda Blogs About…
Brickhouse Mama 2
A Simple Wife
Unscripted Life
Gutspilling 101
My Mommy Needs a Life
Think Spin

Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Well, it finally came. I’d been dreading the arrival of this past Tuesday for several weeks. My senior daughter’s last-first day of high school, and my freshman son’s first-first day of high school.

It’s not so much the high school part that I was dreading, it was the whole “going back to school” part. Believe it or not, I actually loved school when I was a kid—all the way through my college days. Loved it! And to be completely honest, I’m such a nerd that if being a student actually paid money, that’s what I’d do for a living.

But, being the parent of students—well, that’s an entirely different matter. It’s not nearly as much fun. The way I felt about the start of this week reminds me of an old joke:

Person 1: I don’t wanna go to school, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna!!!!
Person 2: Sweetheart, you have to go to school.

Person 1: But whyyyyy?
Person 2: Because school opens today. And besides, you’re the principal.

Ha, ha! I’ve never been one to subscribe to the Staples commercial’s philosophy about back-to-school being “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Nope. For me, as a parent of students, summer vacation is “the most wonderful time of the year.”

It’s a time to say good-bye to that hectic whirlwind of school-year routines: the nagging to get homework done, trips to the store to get poster board and supplies for an upcoming project, carting kids and myself to games, practices, banquets, meetings, volunteer committees, special school events. Ugh! I’m going into hyperventilation mode just thinking about it.

Instead, summer vacation is a time to say hello to languid sunny days, the sandy beaches and white-capped waves of Lake Michigan, sitting on the deck listening to the crickets, staying up late to watch shooting stars. A time for bike rides, ice cream for dinner, campfires and s’mores. Swimming and sunshine and serotonin. Aaahhh. I’m going into daydream mode just thinking about it.

My kids have always shared my summer joy. But this year, a couple of weeks before school started, my daughter had the nerve to say, “You know something? We need school to start.”

“What?!” I cried. “How dare you utter such curse words in our home, right in front of me like that!”

She eyed me with her best 17-year-old mom look. “Mom, you need school to start. You need the routine.”

Alas, she was right. Over the past couple of months, my entire home and work schedules have literally fallen apart. One of the blessings of being a freelance writer is having the flexibility to work from home. But with summer vacation in full swing, it’s also one of the curses.

My writing projects sit on my desk, untouched, gathering dust, while the summer sunshine beckons. I neglect running weekly errands in favor of joining friends for swimming, and outdoor barbeque parties. My family dines on water, bread crusts, and the remnants of peanut butter scraped from the bottom of the jar because I haven’t quite made it to the grocery store.

When school was in session, I maintained regular work hours. I was cranking out writing submissions left and right. I was adding between 500 to 1,000 words per day to my work-in-progress novel. My errand running was prioritized and routed for maximum coverage in minimal time. There was food in the house.

Then slowly between July and August, everything began collapsing. Instead of arising at 5:00 a.m. like I was, it became 6:00 a.m., then 7:00 a.m., and beyond. Between visiting college campuses with my daughter, and squeezing those summer delights into our days, the weeks blew by and I accomplished nothing.

Well, the party is officially over. I’m getting up at 5:00 a.m. again. (Okay 5:30 a.m.—I need time to wean myself back, right?) I’m back to regular errand-running times, and set work hours. As I sit here and write, outside my window I see green leaves ruffling in the still-warm breezes, and over the hum of the computer, I can hear the crickets chirping. Sigh. Summer is…well, GREAT! But it is good to be back in the saddle again. So here I go. I’ve got a lot to accomplish before…

Christmas vacation! Yeah! My other “most wonderful time of the year!”

Image by: Merelymel13’s

Wordless Wednesday

Okay, technically this isn't "wordless." But a friend of mine sent me this video and I had to share it with you all, especially with those enjoying the gift of motherhood.  However, whether mothers or not, enjoy this feel-good moment!

Ultimate Stress Reliever

As the start of the school year approaches, I feel myself settling in the traditional hyperventilation mode I hit every fall. There is so much to do! And with a college senior who was gone half the summer, our days are now crammed with researching and visiting college campuses, searching for scholarships, and generally floundering around feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Plus, fall soccer started for my son (Yeah, yeah, I’m a soccer mom and proud of it!) with all its obligatory practices, and games. Lately, I feel like I’m constantly driving, or biting my nails while my newly permitted son is driving, making lists, and just running around DOING stuff for everybody.

Well, I was visiting the site of a fellow blogger, ThetaMom, and she issued a challenge for all the moms out there: Take a one-hour time-out for yourself within a week, then share the story on your blog. And by time-out, she meant without involving the kids in any way, shape, or form.

Just STOP for an hour? Hmmm…this was a challenge! But thanks to a dear friend of mine, I have a built-in monthly break that I adore.

Several years ago, my buddy, Cheryl, talked me into joining her group of Bunco Babes which met once a month. In case you’re unfamiliar with Bunco, it’s an incredibly mindless dice game that actually serves as a cover for women to get together and talk. Yes, talk! You get to talk to your friends for hours! Uninterrupted by children, homework, housework, cooking, or carpooling. It’s AWESOME! There are three tables of four players each. Players rotate throughout the night, giving each person ample opportunity to talk to everyone there.

Now I’m going to share a little secret about MY Bunco group that I haven’t even told my family. Okay, scoot a little closer to your computer…

We haven’t actually played Bunco in over a year! Don’t tell!

The first few years we started out playing, we really did! But over the past year, we’ve gotten so busy talking and laughing and eating chocolate M & M's and laughing and…well sort of never get around to actually playing the game.

So this past Friday, I got all ready, passed farewell kisses around to my family and sailed out the door at five minutes before 7:00 p.m. like usual, on my way to PLAY Bunco (wink, wink). This time we all brought books to lend, and shared some of our favorites with the group. My night with the Bunco Babes is a highlight of each month. I just love hanging out with those women! Memories of our times together keep me laughing the entire rest of the month as I recall the jokes and conversations of the evening. If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend creating your very own Bunco Babes group as the ultimate stress reliever!

Images by Jono Rotten

Wordless Wednesday

I'm sure I've mentioned my lack of a green thumb before. Well, if anyone recalls my Mother's Day blog about the totally awesome ice-cube orchids I received as a gift, and has a soft spot for anything green and growing, you might want to sit down before viewing this blog post.

Because I'm pretty sure it can't be good to go from this...

to this, in only one day. Seriously, one day!

I Survived Tryouts

For the past several days, I’ve experienced some strange symptoms. Heart thumping erratically. Shallow breathing. Feeling anxious. Yesterday, the symptoms grew more severe as the morning progressed. I couldn’t concentrate on my writing. My stomach was upset, my knees were weak, and if somebody looked closely, they could probably tell that my hands were shaking.

My symptoms peaked, then almost instantly dissipated at 10:36 a.m., as I watched my son and his buddy walking slowly from the high school soccer practice fields. I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the features of his face. He was talking to his friend in his usual animated way, and smiling. I immediately felt the knot in my stomach begin to loosen. As he approached my waiting van, he caught my eye and his grin grew wider. He swung open the door and said, “I made the team!”

FINALLY! I could breathe again.

My son is about to enter his freshman year of high school, and we just experienced high school soccer tryouts. I say “we” even though I’m certain my son had no idea that every single day of those tryouts I was out there on the field with him. I’m always on the field with him.

I’m sure many parents can relate to what I’m saying here, right? We’re on the field, or the court, or the stage with them—our kids.

My daughter has run with the high school cross country team for the past three years. When she (& the other runners) would pass me by at meets, I would clap loudly and shout encouraging words. As I watched their faces reflecting the extreme difficulty of the course, I’d literally have to suppress a ridiculous, almost overwhelming, urge to cry over how hard they were struggling, pushing themselves to run faster. Run harder.

I suspect (hope?!) I’m not alone in this strange phenomenon of “empathy parenting.” It’s not that we’re living vicariously through our children. It’s just that we…care so much. I know that whatever happens, whether they make the team or not, whether they come in first place or last, whether they screw up their lines or not, it’s what’s meant to be. They will have positive and negative experiences throughout their lives. And when bad stuff happens, they’ll eventually get over it. Learn from it. Move on. But when I’m in the moment… Heck, what can I say?

As much as my logical mind knows it’s ridiculous to become so caught up in their stuff, I can’t seem to stop it. All I know is, when they’re out there, I’m out there. But I guess if a parent can’t be their child’s biggest cheerleader, who can, right?

Take a Break

During the week I was home alone, some good friends of mine were camping with their kids about half an hour away, and they invited me to join them. I was hesitant. I’ve never camped as an adult. Growing up, my family camped a lot. But kids get all the fun parts of camping, their main responsibility is to play all day. But adults, I suspected, found it a lot less fun and a lot more work.

Initially I thought I’d just visit for a few hours then head back home. But my friends wanted me to really experience camping as a grownup and encouraged me to stay overnight. So I did. I was pleasantly surprised to find the entire adventure quite relaxing.

And, okay, their campers did have microwaves, potties, showers, running water and a working T.V. But it’s still camping, right? I mean we were at a real campsite and everything.

And admittedly, my friends had done all the meal prep work and cooking, and had already set up their campsites. So my only responsibility was the dog and myself.

But the break away from the responsibilities of the real world was…refreshing. We walked in the woods, played Apples to Apples, and Spoons. (I love that game!) Even when it rained for a bit, we just sat under the retractable awning on one of my friend’s campers and chatted until it stopped. In the evening we had a campfire and made s’mores. We laughed over the fact that one friend and her son were trapped in the public restroom at bedtime by a nocturnal skunk taking an evening stroll. We went to bed only when we got tired, and got up when we awoke naturally. No alarm clocks.

Being away from cell phones, real phones, the computer, and all responsibilities felt really good. Watching my friends’ children, perfectly happy without their X-Boxes, and iPods, just riding their bikes around and playing together in the woods reminded me of simpler times.

It really brought home to me the importance of taking breaks. Real breaks. Not planned vacations with full itineraries of sightseeing and lack of sleep. But honest-to-goodness sit-on-your-butt-doing-nothing breaks. It’s still August, and there’s plenty of summer sunshine left. So go ahead. Get out there, spread a blanket on the grass and take a break. It’s on me.

Image by: Paul.Carroll

Home Alone

I experienced an incredibly strange phenomenon last week. I was home alone. For the entire week. I haven’t had the experience of being home alone for an entire week since…um…whoa! Never! I just realized I’ve never been home alone for an entire week in my life! That can’t be right. Lemme think…

Grew up in a family of six.
In college I had roommates.
After getting my first job, I shared a house with two other twenty-somethings.
Moved briefly back home with the family before getting married.
By the time my hubby started traveling for work, our daughter had been born.

So wow, I’ve never been home alone for an entire week. Interesting…

Well anyway, I ended up home alone because my hubby left on a business trip, and the kids were both at high-school church camp together. I had been alternately dreading and anticipating the week. I was certain it was going to feel really weird having no one to care for and no one to talk to except myself (and the dog). But the idea of freedom from any commitments, and the time to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, just sounded so…wonderful.

At first, my days were fairly typical. I went through my usual morning routine, and worked on clients’ writing projects throughout the afternoon, just like always. The only differences being that I was able to make a gratifying dent in the dreaded “pile.” (You know the “pile,” right? That massive pile of papers that always stacks up because you keep shoving more papers on top of it waiting for time to get to them.) And I was able to dedicate more time to my creative writing projects. I even surpassed my goal of 3,000 words for the week, adding 4,600 words to my work-in-progress novel.

But aside from those few differences, my days were pretty normal. After a couple of days of this it struck me, “Hey you’re doing it wrong.” I needed to start thinking outside the box. To recognize that I didn’t need to conform to any set routines. To grasp the unfamiliar concept of: I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

Suddenly, I began to enjoy the ultimate flexibility I had in my schedule. If I felt like goofing off in the middle of the day, and doing all my writing at night, I could. If I wanted to talk on the phone for hours, eat junk all day, work through dinner, and watch a movie until 2:00 a.m., I could. And so I did! It was very freeing that way. That was the good part.

But I’ll confess, it WAS a little lonely. The times that felt the strangest were the evenings and dinner time. I’d notice how quiet the house was then. I found myself talking to the dog a lot. And making him answer me in the ridiculous baby voice my daughter and I use. Then I’d respond again, then he would, until I finally realized I was having an entire conversation with myself. (Not a good sign!)

I started to relate to the Tom Hank’s character in Castaway, when he discovers “Wilson,” the volleyball. Although, I felt marginally better knowing my “Wilson” was an actual living, breathing creature.

When my week alone came to an end, I reflected that although I had been lonely, I hadn’t felt quite as lonely as I’d thought I would. I think it’s because I knew my days were numbered-- that my time alone would only last this one single week. If there hadn’t been an end in sight, I probably would have felt very differently.

On Friday, it was time to pick up the kids from camp. I was so glad to see them! So was “Wilson” who insisted on coming with me for the ride. So now I’m readjusting back to normal mode once again. Making dinner. Keeping regular work hours. As I write, I can hear sounds of movement from upstairs and the T.V. is on in the family room. Someone comes in to talk with me, or to ask me a question. The sounds of life in the house. The sounds of my family. My week home alone was cool. But I really do like having these folks around me. Good stuff.

Man Voices...

As those of you who follow my blog know, I've mentioned how freaky it is listening to the voices of my son and his friends. How they seem to have suddenly changed from boy voices to man voices overnight--with none of that squeaky in-between stuff that I expected. Well check out these 14- and 15-year-old Italian boys singing in some truly ultimate man voices. (PG-13 warning on the the lady host's attire! Could she be any more lowcut!)

Mommy, He's TOUCHING Me!

My 17-year-old daughter just made her brother cry. Real, blow-his-nose, tears-dripping-down-his-face crying. And not because she pinched him when I wasn’t looking, nor because she called him some awful name. It was because she wrote him an incredibly sweet, heartfelt letter about how much she loves and appreciates him, and hopes to become a better sister to him than she has been in the past. I know what you’re thinking and no I’m not dreaming.

Ashleigh has returned, from her recent mission trip to Guatemala, a changed young woman. More aware of the blessing her family (and particularly her little brother) is to her.

Once upon a time when Joshua was born, Ashleigh was initially curious, then annoyed with her new brother. Suddenly attention was being diverted from her 2-1/2-year-old cuteness to his adorable baby new-ness. I’d catch her “patting” him in such a way as to make me wonder whether she was truly patting him in love, or smacking him in irritation.

There was a brief smooth patch in their relationship when Joshua reached his toddler years. During that window of time, Ashleigh could pretty much get her little brother to do anything in exchange for the honor of playing with her, and having her undivided attention. Joshua adored (and still does) his big sister. Dress him up like a girl. Paint his toenails. Order him around. He was a willing accessory in her games of make believe.

I looked on smugly, certain they were going to be the rare exception and actually escape the whole sibling rivalry thing altogether. (Hark, dost thou hear the evil laughter in the background here?) Then…

KA-BLAM! It hit.

When they reached about the ages of 6 and 4, it seemed like they quarreled over every little thing. Who got to brush their teeth first, who got to hug the dog first in the morning, who got the “good” chair. And I absolutely could not stand it when they’d start fighting. I know the much-quoted parental advice on sibling rivalry is to “just let them work it out.” But I had a really hard time with that—especially when it came to name calling. No “S” words (“stupid”) or “D” words (“dumb”) on my watch!

As soon as I heard an unkind word or the start of a fight, I was in their faces, often forcing them to play the Compliment Game where I’d immediately sit them down and have them give three compliments to each other. The compliments had to be about qualities they genuinely admired in each other, and could not be something superficial like “I like your shirt.” After the first couple of times, this “GAME” drove them nuts.

“No, puhleeeze mama! Not compliments again!”

Other times I would shriek in frustration. “Stop it! Be nice to each other. Once daddy and I are gone you will only have each other!”

To be totally fair, their relationship wasn’t completely contentious. They had their occasional good moments. Like when I’d catch Ashleigh reading books to Joshua in the middle of the afternoon. Or when he’d share a last treasured piece of candy with her. But more often than not, if they weren’t busy doing something else, they were annoying each other.

Then, over the next decade, so slowly and so subtly I was hardly aware it was happening, their relationship changed—is changing. Now at 17 and 15, they are evolving into not only siblings, but friends, right before my eyes. And it is so cool!

All it took was a two-week mission trip to Guatemala.
And over ten years.
And nagging parents drilling it into their heads.

Yup. Seventeen years, parental nagging and a two-week mission trip. Cool, eh?

Quote of the Month

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."

~ Beverly Sills ~

Image by: Holly Bowne

Unaccompanied Minor

Monday we took our daughter to the airport to fly to Guatemala on a mission trip. ALONE. Her first mission trip. Her first time flying alone.

We didn’t even let our kids do sleepovers until they were in the fourth grade. We didn’t allow them to watch PG movies until they were nine, and PG-13 movies until they actually WERE 13. Now we’re letting our daughter travel to a tiny Central American country. By herself!

Logically, I know she’s 17-1/2 years old. I know she’ll be a senior in high school next year, and after that she’ll head off to college and onto new adventures of her own. Logically, I knew I was going to miss her.

But I think, without realizing it, I’d been suppressing certain thoughts and feelings. And they all bubbled to the surface when we checked her in at the airport and I discovered that I would not be permitted to accompany her to the gate and onto the plane.

My hubby flies a lot for work, so he’s got some fancy schmancy card that allows him (& us when we travel with him) to sail through shorter check-in lines, and sit in comfy clubs nibbling on snacks and sipping ice-cold beverages, while the regular non-fancy-schmancy-card folk have to herd like sheep through endlessly long lines and stuff.

So once we’d checked her in, my hubby confidently requested guest passes for me, our son, and himself, so we could accompany our “unaccompanied minor” through the airport.

“Sorry, no.” we were told. “We can allow only one adult through.”


“But we have a fancy schmancy card! And she’s an unaccompanied minor traveling far, far away, to a scary place for TWO REALLY, REALLY LONG WEEKS.”

“Sorry, no.”

We spoke to a manager. We carefully re-explained the situation.

“Sorry, no.” (Yeesh! Did these people take Jim Fay’s “Love & Logic” parenting classes or what?!)

“You’ll have to say good-bye here,” I was told.

It wasn’t until that very moment that I realized how precarious my emotions really were. I warned them that if they didn’t let me through I’d throw a tantrum. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t believe me. I burst into tears. But those cruel, heartless airport personnel didn’t care! Nope. They made me say good-bye right at the entrance of the BIG, STUPID airport.

I had to stand off to the side, like the shunned, while she moved with her dad through the security check and then ultimately disappeared from my sight. Swallowed up by the crowd.

I felt incredibly deflated.

My son could have accompanied his sister, since he’s a “minor” too, and therefore not considered a security threat like my five-foot-tall self was I suppose. But he sweetly offered to sit with me, trying to entertain me with his cool iPod Touch games for an hour while I pouted. As I sat there wallowing in self pity, I felt even worse when I realized this is only a taste of what it will be like just one year from now.

I remember somebody once telling me that God made kids grow into teenagers so that by the time they leave home you’re ready for them to leave home.

But I confess, so far it’s not workin’ for me. I like hanging out with my teens. When I think about Ashleigh going off to college, it’s going to leave a really big hole that I can’t imagine filling right now. And when it’s Joshua’s turn…oi! I can’t even go there!

I know this is the whole point behind raising these kids we’ve been blessed with. Helping them to have the confidence to step out and carve their own special niche in the world. But when that time really comes, I now have no doubt; it’s going to be incredibly hard to…say good-bye.

Image by: The Shane H

Time Flies

I took my son parking-lot driving several weeks ago. He’s signed up to take driver’s ed over summer break, and I thought he should get in a little practice time before the big event. We’d done the exact same thing with his older sister. So I figured “no big deal” when we pulled into the empty high school parking lot. I put the van in park and climbed out, entering the passenger side while he slid over into the driver’s seat.

Over the past year, my boy has undergone a lot of changes. In my opinion, it seems boys’ pubescent changes occur more quickly and dramatically than girls’. When I look at his school picture from the beginning of the school year, vs. how he looks now at the end of the year, I’m stunned.

His face has lost most of its baby-like softness, appearing more toned. And there’s a whisper of dark hair skipping above his upper lip. He’s shot up in height, starting out the year shorter than me, and is now five inches taller. He’s developing muscles, which he enjoys flexing in front of my face whenever he gets the chance. (What is it with boys and flexing their biceps? My brothers used to do the same thing!)

Most shocking has been the sudden onset of his “man-voice.” What happened to that squeaky in-between phase? I swear boys are just skipping that phase all together now!

(Remember Pete in the Brady Bunch? “Time to Change”)

But as bizarre as all that other stuff has been, NOTHING has freaked me out as much as seeing my BABY behind the wheel of our van.

“This is too weird. I can’t do this. You have to trade me back seats,” I’d said.

He’d given me a look. “Mom. C’mon!”

“I’m serious. This is freaking me out. You’re not old enough to drive a car!”

“But you did this with Ashleigh at the same age!”

“It doesn’t matter. I can’t explain it, but it just doesn’t feel right.”

He’d refused to budge, and after taking some deep breaths, I’d finally calmed down.

As I directed him to drive in large circles around the lot, I thought about what he’d said. It was true. I’d done the exact same thing with his older sister. So why was I freaked out over having
him do the same thing at the same age?

Is this why the youngest child in a family sometimes takes longer to “grow up”? Is it because we freaked out parents try to hang onto our “babies” as long as we can?

As the left-hand circles he drove got smaller and smaller, I thought about how time with my kids, AS kids, is getting shorter and shorter. I remember when they were little, and I was doing the full-time stay-at-home mom deal. We’d flow through our days, playing, attending toddler gym & art classes, running errands. Occasionally a smiling older person would walk up, delighting in the antics of my little darlings, as they shoved clothing racks aside to play tag in stores while I exasperatedly tried to shop.

I’d puff out sighs, feeling exhausted. And they’d always say something like, “Enjoy them while they’re little like this. The time goes by so quickly.” Then a bittersweet smile would flicker across their lips as they’d turn away. At the time, I couldn’t relate at all. When my oldest finally reached the age of five, it felt like it had taken five long years to get there. But once the kids got into school, without me noticing at first, time started to speed up.

Now, I can’t believe I have a 17 and an almost-15 year old. How did it suddenly get to the point where I have only a few short years left with them? It’s like the realization has finally struck. Wait a minute. This is real. They’re actually growing up on me. Instead of getting kids to share a toy, or settling an argument over a T.V. program, I’m facing a lot scarier stuff. Like handing over the car keys.

Time IS really starting to fly. I’ve decided my new goal is to focus on savoring each precious day with them. Yup. I’m gonna treasure every little—oh my gosh! I just realized something. In another year my youngest will be 16, and he can start dating! What were we thinking? Sixteen isn’t old enough to date! No. Definitely not. Uh-uh. Not happening. We’re going to have to talk about this.

Image by Cosmic Spanner

Who Says I Can't?

I saw this really funny Mother’s Day card back in May. It had a picture of a 1950’s June Cleaver style mom, complete with pearl necklace—her arm around a pouting, incredibly sad-looking little boy. And the caption read something like: “You stay right here sweetie, while mommy goes and gives that mean old bully a smackdown.”

That totally cracked me up! Because, it’s so true. Any mom will tell you, mess with our kids and you’ll bring out our inner lioness.

And it’s not just confined to dealing with bullies. It makes no difference if they’re toddlers, or teens (who are bigger than we are), the instinct to protect our cubs arises in any situation where we feel our child is in peril.

The other day my 14-year-old son, Joshua’s, soccer team was playing in the pouring rain. While we parents stood on the sidelines, sinking into the mud, I suddenly noticed Joshua double over, then raise his hand in a request to come off the field.

He NEVER does that.

He sat down on the bench, remaining doubled over, his arms wrapped tightly around his ribs.

“Why is Joshua doing that? Did anybody see what happened?” I asked anxiously.

I received several negative murmurs in response.

“Is it his ribs? Did someone hit him in the ribs?”


“Didn’t see.”

I waited several long minutes, my eyes glued to Joshua’s still doubled-over form.

“I’m going over there,” I announced, and began marching around the field’s perimeter.

“You can’t do that.”

I was halted by another team member’s father.

“Why not.”

“You have to wait and see if the coach waves you over.”


“That’s just how it works.”

“But the coach isn’t even looking at him! He’s watching the game!”

The man shrugged sympathetically.

“Well that’s just stupid!” I fumed, sloshing back through the mud. “What if something is really wrong? What if one of his ribs is broken?” What if he needs emergency medical attention? (Have I mentioned before that I tend to have a somewhat, er high-strung personality type? Anyway…)

I stood there waiting a few more minutes. Joshua remained doubled over.

“This is ridiculous,” I finally said. “That’s it. I’m going over there.”

“Don’t do it.” Another dad stood in my path.

“Why can’t I go over there?” I was whining now.

He proceeded to share a story with me, about how when he was 15, and playing baseball, a boy on his team got hit by the ball. The boy’s teammates helped him off the field and onto a bench in the dugout. The boy’s mother raced over and said (in front of everyone) “Are you okay, sweet pea! Let mama check out that bump?” Naturally, the kid was mortified. Probably scarred for life.

“But I would never call Joshua, ‘sweet pea’!” I huffed.

The dad just shook his head at me.

I stood there several more minutes, sighing dramatically every few seconds.

“Would you like me to go over and check on him?” he finally offered, taking pity on me. (Or possibly hoping to escape my dramatic sighing.)

I turned hopeful eyes toward him. “Would you?!”

The nice man trudged around to the other side of the field. I saw him speak briefly to Joshua—still doubled over—then he trudged back.

“Well? Should I call an ambulance?”

“It’s just a stomach ache,” he grinned.

“Oh. Uh—thanks.” I mumbled sheepishly.

For the remainder of the game, though, I wondered why it was okay for another player’s dad to walk over there, but not the player’s mom. Weird ‘sweet pea’ mom story aside, who made up this unwritten rule that if a kid gets hurt on the field, it’s not okay for the mom to check on her very own child?

I posed that very question to my son later, as we drove home from the game.

My boy stopped toweling dry his hair, turned his beautiful dark eyes in my direction, and answered me. “Kids did, mom. Kids made up that rule.”