Things Parents Say…with a NYC Accent

"Dashboard" by Tomo Nakajima (2013), Flickr. All rights reserved.
“Dashboard” by Tomo Nakajima (2013), Flickr. All rights reserved. If this car had Sirius radio, I’d buy it.

Every morning on the way to theater camp it’s the same. The Kid and I fight over what we’re going to listen to on the radio. He punches buttons and I veto his selections.

Then I get, “But Mom! It’s ‘Loota’!”

Me: “We are not listening to people who name themselves after criminals who steal from stores during riots.”

Kid: …

Then I see the display on the stereo screen: Ludacris.

I still made him change the station.

It was a lot easier when he was small and had to sit in the back and couldn’t reach the radio.

And any of you who tell me I need to savor these last 3 1/2 years until he gets s driver’s license and is no longer in my passenger seat, you can have his musical (and I use that term loosely) selections.

Stumbling Blocks on the Road to Sanctity

Via Seinfeld Daily on Tumblr.
Via Seinfeld Daily on Tumblr.

Get into a car with me and you’ll meet a whole different Barb. While I’m not Road Rage Incorporated, in the sense that I don’t get aggressive and tailgate or illegally pass people, I do vocally (with windows safely rolled up, but within earshot of my children) express my frustration with people who drive 30 or even 45 when the speed limit is 50, who leave the turn signal on for miles or don’t use it at all, or commit the Cardinal Sin of Driving: neglecting the “Thank-you Wave.”

I mean, how hard is that?

And then I remember Luke 14: 13-14:

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

In other words, I can’t be a saint until I stop expecting a thank-you wave.

Midnight Run

(Middle-of-the-night, more precisely.)

I was actually awake until almost midnight, which never happens, but The Kid was having 4 friends sleep over and the Super Smash Brothers tournament-in-progress was pretty loud, so I sat in the living room with my Kindle book until I couldn’t see anymore.

At 4:30 AM, The Kid’s low-blood-sugar alarm went off. Hubs asked if I’d go deal with it since he’d been up until 3 with the boys.

(I didn’t ask who won the tournament, figuring that if it had been Hubs, he’d have told me.)

I stumbled grumpily down the stairs, turned on the kitchen light to grab the stuff I needed to double-check that blood sugar, and…nothing.

Figuring the light bulb had burned out (I’m still using up my not-big-enough hoard of incandescents) I tried the downstairs hall light. Nothing. Upstairs hall, nothing. Dining room, nothing.

So I went downstairs in the dark to the basket near the printers where we keep 2 flashlights and 1 battery-operated camping lantern. I went for the lantern, then grabbed the testing supplies and went to wake TheKid.

The two friends who were sleeping on the floor, and who I had to step over to get to him, were awake because they’d heard the alarm. They razzed him as he sleepily told me he’d had a fruit rollup 20 minutes ago, but I made him drink juice anyway.

After that, I asked how long the lights had been out. The kids didn’t know, but they did tell me that the basement lights worked (they’d left those on…) and so did the bathroom and The Kid’s room.

The plot thickens. The family room lights worked too, and two boys were still up, so I asked them how many cell phones they had charging in there.

“ALL of them,” one answered as he yanked chargers out of power strips.

Hmmm…

So I had to find a light switch I hadn’t yet tried, so I could turn it on and then head to the garage to fiddle with the breaker box. That did the trick, but then I was good and awake so I sat in bed reading my Kindle for 45 minutes until I realized it was 5:30 and this was Not A Good Idea.

Fitbit OneWhen I woke up two hours later and got ready to go downstairs, I lamented the fact that while I was doing all that running around in the middle of the night, I hadn’t put my Fitbit in my pocket. So I don’t even get credit for the 4:30-AM cardio.

 

7QT: Summer of the Street Urchins

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The 7 Quick Takes today are hosted at an alternate site while the usual hostess is on vacation, so THANK YOU to Kathryn at Team Whitaker for stepping in as a substitute!

Little Brother, age 12, has a pack of friends whom I have nicknamed The Street Urchins. Middle Sister thinks that’s mean, but I just call ’em like I see ’em. There are four Street Urchins on this block. Three of them live in divided households (one lives with his grandparents, so he splits things three ways). The fourth’s parents own a restaurant, so he seems to be left to his own devices as often as the others, who could be here for several hours, spanning two mealtimes, without any adult looking for them.

I don’t mind if the Street Urchins play at my house or swim in my pool, but I do insist on some house rules, and yesterday things got pretty rocky in that department, and I told them all to go outside or go home. I might have raised my voice. (Sorry, not sorry.)

I don’t put up with their nonsense because I don’t want these guys, in 4 years, to be the ones binge-drinking at someone’s house party and destroying property/mistreating others. Looking into those faces yesterday, I could see where this could happen. I’m not their parent, but if they’re at my house, they’re playing by my rules.

Without further ado, here are the 7 things I expect from visiting Street Urchins.

-1-

RESPECT THE ADULTS. Say hello when you arrive and goodbye when you leave. I deserve to know who is in my house/yard/pool. If I provided a snack or a meal, thank me for that. Don’t rant because the pizza isn’t from your preferred source.

-2-

RESPECT THE OTHER KIDS. You are too old to tattle-tale over nothing, and that’s not a nice way to treat your friends.

-3-

RESPECT MY HOME. Don’t throw things in the house. (That goes double for the pieces of the remote control that you tossed behind the couch.) Put away what you take out. My pantry is not your pantry.

-4-

RESPECT MY TIME. You live on this block. If you want to swim in my pool, bring your own towel. I am not your laundress.

-5-

RESPECT MY HOSPITALITY. If you want a snack, ask. If you have a snack, clean up your mess.

-6-

RESPECT YOUR OWN GROWNUPS. If they call here or show up here and tell you it’s time to leave, do not make them wait until you play one more round of a video game.

-7-

RESPECT MY POOL. Have fun but swim safely. Don’t climb on the sides. Check in with me before you swim and before you leave.

Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child, when that child’s own personal adults don’t take responsibility. These children are in my village, and when they play here, they’ll play by the same rules my own kids must follow.

I’m Hitting the Wall Right Now, God

Yesterday at our Secular Franciscans meeting we had a guest speaker: a Sister who works at a local retreat house. She gave a presentation about practical ways to pray constantly.

francis house of prayerHere’s one of the recommendations she gave us:

  • What is the one sentence I’d like to say to God right now?

I just used that technique, and I have to say, there’s comfort in it.

I’m in the middle of some red tape on the medical-provider end of Little Brother’s diabetes care, and the idea of the confrontation I’ll probably have to have in order to untangle this mess has ratcheted my anxiety level into the stratosphere. Suddenly I just stopped what I was doing while waiting for the phone call I’m dreading and said, out loud,

“I’m hitting the wall right now, God.”

(Fortunately no one else is home right now.)

It helped a little, though, just to get that out there. I can kind of feel my jaw unclenching and my fists opening up–just a bit.

And then, the tears. Not tears of despair, but instead that almost-relief when you know in your heart that God’s got this.

image source

We are all losers here

With a disease like dementia, there are no winners. Except maybe the people who make the drugs that cost a small fortune and don’t even work, but which people buy because it’s better than having no hope at all.

In my mother-in-law’s case, those drugs seem to be making matters worse. After a rough few days at the end of last week, my husband moved her in with us. It’s no longer safe for her to remain in her own home, even with a part-time caregiver.

There is a lot that I need to write about, just to get my mind around all this, but which I don’t want to publish here. This disease is cruel and embarrassing. The limits of my patience and capacity for mercy are definitely being tested. I am caught in the middle right now–stuck between what she wants and what she needs, and that’s hard when you’re talking about an adult.

So I guess that while I will continue to process this experience through writing, it’s going to have to stay unpublished. That’s OK too.

But I can say that I don’t know how to handle some things in the most kind way possible. For instance, making her coffee. Hubs gives her the cup of hot water, the jar of instant, the packets of blue sweetener. Then he has to remind her how much to measure in, and that she has to open the sweetener packets, not just throw them in the cup, paper and all. I just make her the cup of coffee and deliver it. It’s not like we can ask her which she’d prefer.

It’s a lose-lose situation.
Posted with BlogsyPosted with Blogsy

But I Switched to Decaf (well, Half-Caff, anyway)

I was having a really good (and quite productive) morning. By 10:30 AM I’d started laundry, hung one load on the line, had some “prayer and coffee” time, made my to-do list for the day, set up the kids’ chore schedule for the week, and gone to Mass, the bakery and the supermarket.8046b-michelesplanners

Then I got home and started working the phones and the planner.

I needed to call the soccer camp where we’d just registered Little Brother to clear up a few questions (such as why I’d never received an email confirming his registration, for starters).

I called the pediatrician to schedule Little Brother’s physical.

I called my gynecologist to make an appointment for my mother-in-law, who has dementia and needs to see a gynecologist (but can’t remember who her GYN is or when she last saw that doctor).

I scheduled 4 college visits in the next 3 weeks for Middle Sister.

And then I couldn’t settle down. I was so agitated that I couldn’t sit here and write. I’m having a hard time writing this, actually. I can’t get calm.

I decided to run over to the GYN’s office and pick up the new-patient packet that needs to be filled out before the appointment. Then I went to the Carter’s store to get a baby gift for my cousin’s little girl who’s being christened this weekend.

Driving home, I was still agitated and really wondering what the problem is. I’d had 2 cups of coffee today, but one was half-caff and the other decaf. Yet I feel like I’ve had a whole pot of high-test.

Then I thought about how I spent my morning. Phone calls, scheduling of appointments and college visits and other things that are going to be unsettling at the very least–no wonder I’m agitated. Anxiety is in high gear right now.

And there will be no more coffee for this mama today.

Of Parenting, Free Will and Poor Choices

One of the hardest things about being a parent is letting your kids make their own mistakes. rain bootsIt’s not too bad when they’re toddlers and they want to wear their rain boots to the grocery store on a hot, sunny day. There’s a natural consequence there. They’ll get hot, sweaty (and stinky) feet. They’ll learn the hard way that this isn’t a good idea.

Once your kids are older teenagers and young adults, the mistakes they make go beyond the fashion faux pas of the terrible twos. They still have to learn the hard way, and it’s a lot harder on the parents.

We’ve hit one of those “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” situations as parents, and the helplessness I feel is a lot greater than what I felt when those same children, as two-year-olds, suddenly and inexplicably refused to eat the grilled-cheese sandwiches they’d demanded for lunch every day for the past three weeks.

Now, it’s not that my kids have never screwed up before, but usually you find out about it after the fact. At that point it’s all about picking up the pieces, in whatever form that takes, and helping them navigate the natural consequences of their actions.

This time I watched it happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it (despite many ahead-of-time parental warnings, which did happen–and which were ignored.)

I can take them to Mass every Sunday for their entire lives, making sure to work around sports schedules and theater schedules and birthday parties and all kinds of other things, but I cannot make them want to go. I cannot force them to make the right choice and to go to church before they go to the beach.

They have the gift of free will, and they used it. They chose poorly. And that makes me sad. It makes me feel that what I’ve been trying to instill in them for the past 17 or 21 years has been rejected.

Did I, as a parent, a Catholic, a Franciscan, do enough? To what extent do I take the blame for my Big Kids’ poor choice?

 

Quite a Ride

So I need a nickname for the gang of teenagers that hangs around my house.  The little guys are the Street Urchins.  The sixteen-year-olds?  What do I call them?

It’s been a rather difficult week in Teenage World.  Parenting teenagers definitely resembles a roller-coaster ride.  You’re strapped in for the duration (7 years, give or take time for those rocky pre- and post-adolescent stages).  There are the ups and downs, twists and turns, and occasional spins that turn you upside down.

In the past week, we have experienced

  • curfew battles
  • playing one parent off another
  • sulking
  • plenty of eye-rolling, stomping up the stairs and slamming of the bedroom door
  • The Silent Treatment
  • and an ill-fated trip to the mall.

They’ve got nothing to do and way too much time to do nothing in. The bunch of them went job-hunting–together–after swimming at my house yesterday.  I’m not sure that the best way to look for a job is to show up as a Six-Pack at the pizzeria or Edible Arrangements with wet hair, wearing short shorts and flip-flops.  I asked the kids if any potential employer had wondered if he was expected to hire the whole crew.  (They didn’t get why I thought that was funny, or even worth wondering about).

But we’ve also got a teenager who dissuades her younger brother from styling his hair like Eddie Munster, who “takes” me grocery shopping so she can do all the heavy lifting, pushing and loading that I can’t do, who takes 3 AM phone calls from friends in despair over a family member’s bad health and questioning the existence and benevolence of God.  While I’m not thrilled over a 3 AM phone call, I am so gratified to know that when her friends have crises like that, they turn to her.  That says a whole lot about my daughter, right there.

I’ve got to take the bad with the good here.  A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.  Ultimately, I think I’ve got a good kid, and maybe her friends are good kids too, but I don’t know them well enough to really determine that.

Today is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of teenagers.  And they need his intercession and inspiration more than ever.  So today, I prayed for that bunch of teenagers (and they still need a nickname).  And I’m on my way to the supermarket, driven by my very own teenager, to stock the fridge with sodas so her friends will find something cold to drink when they show up later.

image credit

The Lost Boys

What IS it with the kids on this block?

There are four boys on my street who are the same age as Little Brother.  I call them the Street Urchins.  They wind up here a lot, perhaps because I’m the one who lets them in.

They know that if they play at my house, they’ve got to play by my rules.  Street Urchins who drop the f-bomb in my family room get sent home.  That’s me, the Mean Mommy.

This morning, I mentioned to TheDad that last night one of the boys’ moms had come here looking for him about an hour after his sisters picked him up.  That’s when he told me that he’d heard there were marital problems in that household, and this boy might be moving soon.

One of the other boys lives with his mom and older siblings.  His parents have been on-and-off separated for several years now.  His dad, though, stays involved and is a Cub Scout leader.

I don’t really know much about the new kid on the block, other than the fact that his parents just opened their second pizzeria.  He seems to be on his own quite a bit.

And then there’s Adventure Boy, who (like his 3 older siblings) is being raised by his grandparents though his mom lives across town.  Sometimes he goes there.  Sometimes he spends a few hours with his dad, and his grandmother reports that the custody issues aren’t pretty.  He’s been left to his own devices since he was a preschooler.

A week or so ago, two of these boys knocked on my door at 8:20 on a school night, looking to play with Little Brother.  Ten minutes.  That’s all I gave them.  Who lets their kids out at 8:20 on a school night?  Who lets their kids disappear after school, never looking for them until they have a baseball game or soccer practice?  Who doesn’t call their kids home until after 8 (if then)–kids who have been out since 4 or earlier, who haven’t been fed dinner, who haven’t been nagged about homework?

Sometimes I think I should stop calling them the Street Urchins and refer to them as the Lost Boys.

I’ve ranted about these kids again and again and again.  I resent being Mommy to the whole block.  This isn’t what I signed up for.

After yesterday’s Cheese Ball Debacle, in which two of the Street Urchins thought it would be fun to toss Utz cheese balls into each other’s mouths, and then pulverized the ones that missed–all over my back porch–I was more than a little bit hot under the collar.  They come here, make a mess, help themselves to snacks and drinks, make a mess, kick soccer balls at my pool filter and front door, make a mess, and (apparently) never have to go home.  And I resent that.  A lot.

I plan to come down hard on the Street Urchins next time they show up, about the cheese balls.  That is disrespectful to me and to my home, and wasteful of food.  If I’d found the mess before they left, they would have been the ones out on the porch with the ShopVac.  Instead, it was Little Brother.

But after TheDad mentioned that yet another Street Urchin is dealing with problems at home, my heart melted just a little bit.  These kids need what they’re not getting at home, I realized.  None of them is in a situation of his own making.

I was wondering, the other day, if refusing to buy Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Starbucks lattes really does any good.  I’m not convinced that it does.  And while I’m happy to be able to afford the big box of diapers every month that I donate to a local crisis-pregnancy center (and I will continue to do so), that effort is a drop in the bucket.

What I need to do is give where it really counts, and that means giving until it hurts.  That means putting up with the Street Urchins and continuing to remind them that baseballs are not Pool Toys and sending them home when the streetlights go on.  It means welcoming them, but setting (and sticking to) limits.  It means praying for them.  It means doing the right thing even when I don’t feel like it; even when I’m cranky and resentful and feeling put-upon.  Maybe especially then.

Honestly, this may be the most pro-life thing I can do right now.

In your charity today, please offer a prayer (or several) for the Lost Boys.