Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The last of the teen years

By the time you read this, I will no longer be the parent of a teenager.

For the past 13 years there has been a teen in this house. First Born celebrated her 13th birthday in the fall of 2001. Just after she turned 19, Second Born joined the same willful, exhausting ranks. I should have gotten hazard pay for some of those stages.

The majority of days with a teen at home were actually easy, breezy, beautifully written as picture perfect moments that would make great Hallmark card scenarios.

Some days took a year to go by.

Our years with teen girls included a large dose of mood swings and watermelon lip gloss. They went through jeans faster than the Real Wives of New Jersey pull each other’s wigs off. It has been a period chock full of highs and lows, of muddling through the rough spots and bonding over Gilmore Girls episodes.

But I think we could learn a few things from teenagers and about them, and maybe even about ourselves.

For instance...

Teenagers know everything. Don’t bother to try and prove your point – you are clueless. And teens don’t care if you know more answers than them on Jeopardy. They are pros at the eye roll, the shrug and the grunt, if they react at all.

Siblings will fight like cats and dogs, more so if at least one of them is a teen. They consider it a birthright. Rarely, however, will you witness a stronger response for protection duty than that of a teen whose sibling was wronged. My favorite line when First Born found out her younger sibling was the victim of some verbal bashing: “I’m the only one who gets to pick on my twerpy little sister! Who was it??”

If a teenage girl defines you as “sort of a jerk” you have just been beyond insulted. It’s not a spontaneous reaction or an emotionally charged conclusion. She observed the person you are in circumstances within and beyond your control. Just calling you a jerk would not have covered that final essay in her head.

Teens will point out that we consume too much butter or salty foods, then pour half a bag of shredded cheddar on the macaroni and cheese they eat three times a week. The following Monday they might announce they will only eat lettuce for the next ten days. Even restaurants don’t know whether to fill up the salad bar or keep the spinach artichoke dip coming when they see a teenage girl entering the premises.

A young child is often filled with hugs and “I love you” moments just because you are Mommy or Daddy (or a goldfish). It is genuine, spontaneous, and just plain adorable. That same phrase from the lips of a teenager means that after late nights and long mornings, arguments and silent treatments, seeing the best in them and also facing the best of their worst, you’ve done all right by them. I’ve always thought of that “I love you” as priceless.

By the time they are heading toward that 20th birthday we have gone from catching our children when they fall to watching them from the sidelines and standing quietly in the background. We hold our breath and witness them taking flight, and we continue to hold our arms out just in case they need a gentle, nonjudgmental place to land.

I have learned that as my kids have grown I’ve experienced a freedom I’m not quite sure what to do with at times. There are days when I suspect that I’m the one who isn’t completely ready for the next thing.

So what can we learn from teenagers?

Maybe we can learn to fly.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Housekeeping – surviving or surrendering

Let’s get something out in the open. I’ve never claimed to be the world’s best housekeeper. Dusting, vacuuming, washing dishes - they’re all necessary evils that I avoid like – well, like laundry. There is, however, one chore I definitely detest more than others. Mopping.

In this house it is a constant battle to keep the kitchen floor even semi-clean. I wish I could say it’s just because of the animal fur and mud being tracked in, the normal pet-owning, spouse-tolerating reasons you would expect. But you know that’s not the end of it.

My kitchen floor is a magnet for disaster.

Case in point: I finally got around to washing the floor last weekend. Please note, I will not be responding to any inquiries regarding how long it had been. The act of washing the kitchen floor requires moving furniture, shaking out the mat everyone is supposed to wipe their feet on that is never really free of grit even after vacuuming and slamming it against the vinyl siding(which now has a big gray blotch on it), sweeping, and washing the blasted dishes in the kitchen sink so I can soak the mop in it. Really, I just wanted to nap by that point.

After blocking all doorways and forbidding any living thing to enter for the next 20 minutes, my kitchen floor was clean. Practically spotless. You could eat off a 2-square-inch spot of that floor… for about 30 seconds. Then the Golden Retriever walked through and little fur puppies once again wound their way around the table and chair legs. The cat appeared for her evening snack and left morselettes in the corner under the cabinets. Spouse wandered through leaving tiny droppings of dirt and other unidentified matter from the bottom of his fake Crocs.

As if that wasn’t exhausting and traumatic enough, the next morning I reached into the refrigerator to take out eggs for breakfast. I hadn’t noticed that the carton was ripped. The carton went one way, the eggs another, and the next thing you know...

“I’ll have a half dozen raw eggs spread across my clean kitchen floor and under the fridge, please.”

Not to be outdone, the following evening the kitchen cabinets decided to stage a coup, and chose the canola oil to be their representative. As I was about to pour a small amount into a pan, the oil pushed itself out of my hands and flowed as quickly as it could onto the gas stove before lunging for the floor. I caught it in the nick of “What’s going on here??” It took twice as long to clean up the oil as it did the eggs from the day before, and I swear I could’ve just lit the dang floor on fire and cooked the already scrambled eggs quicker.

If I happened to love housekeeping, these little mishaps wouldn’t rattle me in the least. I would have a comprehensive collection of cleaning products in place of the rags that I currently neglect to shake out until I have to declare the dust as a resident. I would toss the used vacuum bag more often rather than wait until something claws at me through the nozzle. Visitors would no longer be able to write their name in the particles on the television stand.

Best of all, the mop head would never look used because, naturally, I would wash the floor so often there would be no dirt to dredge up.

But I’m never going to love housekeeping. I am more of the mindset of my hero, Erma Bombeck, who said, “Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”

What’s my solution to avoid this fate? I’m just going to collect the dog dust bunnies, spread them around the floor and claim that we installed a shag rug in the kitchen.

(Journal Tribune 10/5/14 edited)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Purr-fect timing!

Fall weather - the perfect time to curl up (like a cat, right?) under a blanket with a good book. And I am VERY excited to announce that my story, Two and a Half Cats, was selected to be published among many funny, heartwarming, sweet reads all in one book - Not Your Mother's Book on Cats! You don't have to own a feline (actually, they would own you) to enjoy these stories.. but don't be surprised if you decide you're ready to adopt after reading them. Just remember... dogs have owners, cats have staff!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Archery - a comedy of arrows

I may have mentioned previously that Spouse and I are big patrons of deals through websites like Groupon and Living Social. Sometimes those deals lead to odd choices – things we never would have thought of trying were it not for that enticement of paying half price.

And so it was with our experience this summer with archery. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like someone handing you a bow and arrow and expecting you to hit something smaller than the side of a barn to make you realize just how uncoordinated you are.

Our instructor, Brian, a young man in a red shirt and khaki shorts who reminded me of a camp counselor that had gotten himself in too deep, led the three of us (Spouse, Second Born and yours truly) into the shooting range past a trio of boys no older than 8 years old. There was absolutely no doubt we were about to be shown up by this small cluster of sharp-shooting juveniles.

Brian had the questionable pleasure of working with the three of us as a group. His first direction was to stand where he positioned us, then he drew chalk around our feet and forbid us to step out of the marks. What makes you not be able to stand in one place more than someone saying you have to?

His second direction was to try not to cry when the 8-year-olds next to us successfully popped balloons around the bulls-eye while we chased our arrows around the building.

Naturally, we offered our own type of entertainment as a family of two left-handed parents and one ambidextrous teenager. It took him a few minutes to line us up without spearing one another.
Once the chalk lines were drawn I tried very hard to stand as if my feet were glued to the spot. My back was to Second Born and she was facing her dad.

Following the rules can be downright dizzying – I swayed precariously whenever Brian stood between the other two and I tried to catch a glimpse of the lesson, though he always repeated the instructions within my eyesight. I was just double-lesson-dipping for fear of being completely embarrassed any minute now.

Once Brian was convinced we didn’t present a danger to anyone, especially him, he let us each line up an arrow on our bows. Your assignment in archery is to listen for the “click” of the arrow into the string, position your front arm, bend it slightly but not too much, bring your other arm back with your thumb and pinkie touching and the other three fingers pulling the bow string, release the string and hit something. Preferably something that has been placed in front of you with a bunch of colorful circles in it. This was the ultimate multi-tasking assignment in conjunction with weaponry.

We weren’t bad, really, as long as the targets were within 20 feet. Maybe 15 - we didn’t ask for fear of shaming ourselves in front of the short pros next to us. Second Born had quite the eye and gained the moniker Katniss (because, really, what else would you reference?) Spouse was better than he gave himself credit for because he wanted to be perfect. I was satisfied with not sending an arrow spiraling to the back of the building. We all got pretty excited each time we wiped out a balloon. I barely heard the snickers from the 8-year-olds.

The thing is, I am hooked. I seriously want to pursue this sport. So if you happen to know of an archery club in this area, please let me know.

Just don’t mention that I’ll need the side of a barn as a target.

(8/10/14 Journal Tribune, edited)