The Graduate

This is her fourth graduation.

The first one took place when she was only two years old, and her older brother was finishing kindergarten. Because she was treated like a little sister by every child in the class, they let her into the line as they queued up to receive their diplomas from the principal.

Sixteen years later, she has finished high school and is setting her sights on college, complete with two scholarships.

She’s the one in the sunglasses in the photo to the right. Her radiant smile says it all.

We’re as proud as we can be of the Hurdler of the Year, winner of the Girls’ Track Leadership Award, Stage Manager, and future nurse.



R.I.P. Maytag

For the fourth time in less than ten years, our dishwasher has broken.

Every time, it’s the same. The panel on the front where you select the cycle and turn it on breaks. First the latch that helps you open the dishwasher door starts to disintegrate. You can still use the dishwasher, but it’s a little more challenging. After a while, I guess the pieces of that latch start falling down on the inside, and none of the buttons on the front work anymore.

lonely maytag repairmanSo much for that “lonely Maytag repairman” myth.

Is there a Lemon Law regarding dishwashers?

Middle Sister observed this morning, “You don’t need a dishwasher. You have 3 kids.”

Me: (figuring that none of the kids would be on board for that kind of KP)  “Really?”

Middle Sister:  “Oh…yeah. You need a dishwasher.”

Mr. Appliance says that the average life expectancy of a dishwasher is 12 years. This one isn’t going to make it.

The new KP schedule will be posted on the refrigerator. Have fun, kids.


A Near Miss in the Laundry Room

I don’t get how other parents of high-school students do it. Apparently many teenagers do their own laundry. I’m rather territorial about the laundry. OK, I’m obsessive about the laundry. That and the kitchen are my domain, and I like it that way.

Now I’ve got a teenager who wants to wash her own things, and that means we’re bumping heads about whose turn it is to use the appliances.

toll house morselsIt also means I’m finding open bags of chocolate chips on top of the dryer. Somebody was having a snack. Fortunately, the snack was located before I turned on the dryer to its usual setting of “Slightly Cooler Than Hell” to make short work of a big load of towels.

I think that if she’d waited just a few more weeks to be so independent, I’d have gotten into the swing of the back-to-school routine and this wouldn’t have been such a difficult transition. As it is, it hasn’t been pretty.

Read the rest of my laundry lament at Tjoos.


old west portraitWe went out to dinner tonight to celebrate TheDad’s birthday. At his choice of restaurant, many walls were decorated with Old West portraits–except for the ones by the bar, which held large TVs featuring SEC football.

Middle Sister mused aloud about whether, in 150 years, our portraits would be hanging on some restaurant wall somewhere. “Would we even know? I wonder if those people know we’re looking at their pictures right now.”

I didn’t think that we’d know about it if this happened. “How would we be able to keep track of all the places where our digital images wind up?”

Little Brother disagreed. “We’d know about it in heaven!”


“God has excellent eyes!”

They Held Down the Fort

I’ve got to hand it to my kids. Because TheDad is absolutely swamped at work (and has been for about a month now, with a bunch of unrelenting project deadlines) they were largely left on their own this week while I was at the writing conference.

There were a few “distress calls” in the form of text messages from the Big Kids, but the issues were minor ones.

I’m going to reproduce some text messages/exchanges exactly as they happened–grammar and spelling issues notwithstanding.

Big Brother:  “How do i use dishwasher” That was the simplest one to handle.

Middle Sister: IMG_0728

I’m pretty proud of myself for not losing my mind over that. To be fair, I will admit here and now that one time I poured the bleach in that “middle thing” that is supposed to be for fabric softener.

Which reminds me. I need to go run the washing machine with vinegar in that “middle thing” right now to rinse out the rest of the soap.

Big Brother cooked dinner for two nights. That’s not really newsworthy in itself, since he cooks at college all the time. But he outdid himself this time–he served edamame one night as a side, and apparently Little Brother “destroyed” it.

calphalon panOn Thursday we had quite the detailed textversation about whether (and at what temperature) he could put my Very Favorite Skillet into the oven. I told him exactly what kind of pan it was–it’s my one piece of *really good* cookware and I’m obsessively kind of protective of it–and sent him off on a Google search to find out. (Apparently, it’s good up to 500°.)

Later, I got a text during dinner to let me know that dinner had been a success:IMG_0729

That was quite entertaining for everyone in my table.

Middle Sister announced, upon my arrival, that she will make a good housewife.

There were no dirty dishes in the sink and the clean ones were put away.

I do need to teach my kids how to properly load a dishwasher, as I’m obsessive particular about that (and I have mad Tetris skillz that translate well to dishwasher-loading).

And all 3 of our cordless phones had gone AWOL. I’ve been home for over 4 hours but I’ve only found two so far.

But all in all, they did a great job. They ate well, kept the place just about as neat as it is when they’ve got adult nagging supervision, got Little Brother to and from our town’s recreation day camp and one soccer practice, and dealt with him when he wasn’t at camp or soccer. And Middle Sister’s doing a show at the same time.

I’m gratified to know that I’m not obsolete yet (as evidenced by the small difficulties they encountered) but that they’ve proven themselves to be quite independent when they need to be.


It’s all politics, all the time around here tonight. TheDad lives for this stuff and is even ignoring an upcoming nor’easter in favor of election returns. Little Brother’s school had a mock election today among grades 4 and up, so he’s interested in watching the elections as well (though I suspect he wants to stay up late so he can play Minecraft with the news in the background.

And Middle Sister asked what channel would have the elections (pretty much everything but ESPN, kid) because she’s taking US History 2 this year and her teacher expects the class to pay attention to this. Along with a real-life civics lesson, she’s also getting a geography challenge; her teacher gave the kids unmarked outline maps and wants them to label the states according to the results.

He’ll get no argument from me, but my older two kids missed the geography boat in their early educations. I insisted that Big Brother sign up for a geography class in high school and he later conceded that he’d learned a lot of important information.

When Middle Sister complained that she didn’t know which states were which, I informed her that she’d be selecting Geography as her first-choice elective next year, and if she didn’t, I wouldn’t sign her course-selection card. There was loud protesting, but I’m not giving in, even though Grandma stuck up for Middle Sister and said that it’s not important to know where the states are. (Thanks for that.)

Big Brother said he’d pass on watching election returns at college, because he figured that watching these in a public place could get tense. Besides, he’s got stage crew.

And I’ve got a couple of interesting books and a bowl of Halloween candy to occupy my attention. I voted, and there’s nothing I can do about this now.

I Do Not Like This, Uncle-Sam-I-Am

There was a blood-donation drive at our parish today, and Middle Sister wanted to donate. She’s 16, and that’s old enough if she brings along a parent to sign a permission slip. So I took her over there, filled out the form, and sat with her while she read the packet of information and disclaimers that she was handed.

Finally her name was called and we went over to the desk where the nurse was taking medical histories. First Middle Sister had to produce an ID with her date of birth. A school ID wasn’t going to do it, and I reminded her that she had her driver’s permit in her handbag. Then the nurse told me that I wasn’t allowed to be there. Citing “privacy issues,” she said that while my daughter gave her medical history, I couldn’t be present. I could, however, stand next to the table where they would take the blood out of her arm. That is, if I weren’t so squeamish about things like that. (I’ll drive you to the ER if you don’t make me look at the wound.)

So I had to go sit on the other side of the room while my underage daughter gave her medical history. She is not old enough to get an Advil from the school nurse if she has a migraine without parental permission, let alone donate blood or get her ears pierced (or any other body part). I accompany her to medical appointments. But I AM NOT ALLOWED to listen to my minor child give her medical history.

Can you tell I’m not a fan of this policy? My daughter wasn’t asking me to please go away. She didn’t seem to care one way or the other, which is comforting to me. If the patient doesn’t care that a parent is there during the medical history, why is it a problem for the nurse?

I was only able to find a small amount of information regarding confidentiality on the Red Cross website:

The Red Cross maintains the confidentiality of information we obtain about a donor and will release a donor’s confidential information to his or her parents only with the donor’s consent.

Is this all part of HIPAA, or is this something new? Regardless, I don’t like it. Not one bit. If she is young enough to require my signature before she can give blood, she is young enough that I can still listen to her medical history.

And after all that, her iron was JUST shy of the benchmark required for blood donation. So this was all for nothing.

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

Part of That World

The Little Mermaid was Middle Sister’s favorite movie when she was around 3 or 4.  I don’t think I’ve seen, heard or thought about that movie in at least 10 years.

But she borrowed it from a friend and watched it today as a break from a marathon final-exam cramming session.  And really, some of its messages gave me pause.

I’ve got a beautiful 16-year-old daughter who’s strong and strong-willed, who has a bit of a rebellious streak and is definitely a risk-taker.  In other words, I’m raising Ariel.

Does my Ariel think the grass is greener on the other side of some fence?  Does she wish that she were somehow different–different in a way that denies a part of her true self–so that she could fit into a world that is not hers?  Does she think that her life wouldn’t be complete unless she fit into that world?  Would she be willing to make a Faustian bargain to get there?

Is this movie’s lesson any different from the one we learn in Grease?  Boy is attracted to girl, but she’s not good enough to keep “as is.”  She has to change so they can be together.

Maybe that’s what I like about the movie Legally Blonde (silly though it may be.)  In that one, the girl changes because she thinks it will help her get her boyfriend back.  By the time he comes around, though, she discovers that he’s not the man she thought he was–and she decides not to let him get in the way of her goals.

I want my daughter to know that she doesn’t have to be Ariel, or Sandy, or even Elle Woods.  I want her to discover how wonderful she is, just because she is Middle Sister.  I want her to discover and develop her unique talents, to use her strength to help others, to love her life.


Last night before she went to bed, Middle Sister told me that she needed to wake up at 6 this morning. “I set my alarm, but come in and make sure I get up,” she said. “Don’t let me stay asleep. I HAVE to get up.”

So at 6 this morning I knocked on her door and got a mumbled response. Opening it a crack, I reminded her that she wanted me to wake her at 6.

“I was up too late last night trying to get my mascara off,” she replied sleepily.

“you told me to make sure you got up at 6,” I said.


“You also told me not to take no for an answer.”

“Well, I’m saying no,” she shot back. At that point I figured that I’m going to lose either way, so I closed her door and went downstairs to enjoy my coffee before she gave me trouble for waking/not waking her–whichever she considered the greater offense at the time.