Home again

We had a great week by the lake. Some highlights:

My brother in law brought his new girlfriend along, and we all unanimously adore her. His ex-wife, I hate to say it, but she must have been unhappy in the marriage for a looooooong time before we realized it, and she was always a bit of a downer at family gatherings. The new girlfriend is fantastic, fits right in with the rest of the family, would make an awesome stepmom for my nieces, and is just an all-around good egg. Plus she has no family of her own so she is always available to do stuff with us. :-)

Sailing was good, especially with Jay. He finally started to catch on to the thrill of it. In the past he’s always been the bored teenager, or the bored 10yo, or the bored 7yo, but this year hubby and I made a point of taking him out, just the three of us, and insisting that he take over as skipper. As he sat there with the rudder in one hand and the mains’l sheet in the other, it suddenly clicked for him and he said “wow, it’s an amazing feeling when the rudder answers.” Oh yes it is! And we especially loved that he used the word answers. :-)

We played tons of games. We taught Elle how to play Hearts — that was a mommy moment for sure! Also, she also finally learned to do the bridge (shuffling) which she has been working on for a long time. Awwwww!

We also played quite a bit of our favorite board game, Wise and Otherwise. This game is basically the same as fictionary, only with proverbs. You are given the first half of an old proverb, for example, “There is an old Italian saying: The chestnut is for . . .” Everyone writes down what they think is a plausible second half of the sentence. One person reads them all aloud and everyone votes on which they think is the true one. Just like in fictionary, you get a point if someone votes for yours, and you also get a point if you vote for the true one. This is the most awesome game for family gatherings ever. Little kids can play just as well as grownups, and every round is hilarious. My one criticism about this game is they made it a lot more complicated than it needs to be, with playing pieces, a board, extra rules, etc. All you really need are the cards with the proverbs, pencils and paper. This shouldn’t be a competitive game; it’s about laughing and having fun together. In fact we ended up giving a lot of “ghost votes” to show appreciation for proverbs we knew were not correct, but were too clever or funny to pass by.

Post A Month, anyone?

Because whoa, it’s been longer than that since I checked in here at all. I stopped by just now for the first time since Mother’s Day and wow! People came and visited, and even left comments while I was gone. I am touched, and inspired to start this up again.

Summer is always a crazy time at our house. Everyone is home all day long, including my husband the teacher. With two parents home (I’m a WAHM) all day, we’ve never been big on signing our kids up for day camp or summer activities. We live in a perfectly nice neighborhood with trees, parks, and other kids all around, and we obviously don’t need daycare, so what’s the point? Right. Well, it sounds good anyway. But the fact is, there are five of us living in 1,500 square feet and with everyone home all the time we are constantly bumping into each other, both literally and figuratively. The house is always a a mess and no one has any privacy. Add to that the fact that summer is my busiest time for work, and yes I am feeling a little bit crazy.

So, here are a few tidbits:

My son has a girlfriend. A real girlfriend. Their facebooks say they are “in a relationship.” He goes to her family functions. He teases her little sisters. He hangs out with her friends. In an earlier era she’d be wearing his class ring. And I’m really glad for him. I like her. But it is definitely weird. Uncharted parenting territory. I’m discovering I have surprising feelings about it. Like: she better appreciate what a lucky girl she is, the hussy! (She is soooo not a hussy. They met in Latin class, ferchrissake. And her summer job is mother’s helper to a family with newborn triplets. But that thought creeps up on me from time to time, regardless.)

My daughter is learning to take chances, get messy and make mistakes. This is very very hard for her. I’ve never known such a cautious, risk-averse person as this girl. It is a perennial struggle for me to judge how hard to push her towards independence. Right now we’re working on it in the context of music. A few weeks ago her violin teacher had her in tears at her lesson, not over tricky passage work, but over the fact that he wants her to make her own artistic decisions and not wait for him to tell her how to polish a piece. And guess what, little by little, she is doing it! She’s working on a piece right now that isn’t too technically demanding but has a lot of musical depth to it and is perfect for making artistic decisions. And a wonderfully “safe” way for her to try her wings.

My little guy is playing with Legos. All. Day. Long. Ugh, the darn things are everywhere. But I have to give him credit for one thing: he really does play with them. He gets quite a bang for his Lego buck. When I was a kid I loved Legos too, but as soon as I built something, I was done. Dee, however, builds in order to play. And unlike his sister, he has no trouble making artistic decisions. His lego creations usually stray pretty far from the direction that come in the box. And his favorite pieces are the people.

My son, the actor

So last night I’m herding cats, I mean, trying to get the kids off to bed, and I have the following exchange with my 7yo son.

Dee: Mom, I can’t brush my teeth because there’s no more toothpaste.

Me [remembering that the tube is indeed just about empty]: Ok, well, why don’t you brush your teeth in the upstairs bathroom?

Dee: I don’t have a toothbrush upstairs.

Me: Ok, well, why don’t you bring your downstairs toothbrush upstairs?

Dee [long pause as he processes this, trying to figure out if he can stretch this argument out any further, and finally he breaks into a big grin of admiration at my superior problem-solving skills, comes over and gives me a huge hug]: Mom, I love you!

I am so proud of him for staying good natured even though I got the better of him. This could so easily have degenerated into whining, arguing, and other more unpleasant forms of bedtime delay. So I am laughing and hugging him, and hubby comes into the room. Did you hear that conversation, I asked him. No he didn’t hear it. So I suggest Dee and I replay the scene for Daddy’s benefit.

Dee promptly goes back into the bathroom. He emerges a moment later and complains that there’s no more toothpaste. We replay the whole conversation and Dee not only does his part word for word, but he does not crack a smile or even glance at his dad to see his reaction. He doesn’t overact, he doesn’t mug. He doesn’t hesitate. He does it perfectly, right down to the pause, the processing, the sudden grin, the loving hug. It is freaky.

— — —

I remember another time when he was maybe 4 or 5 and I came into the room to find him in an attitude of total dejection. Hunched over, utterly downcast, gazing off into the distance in despair. I was scared. When I asked him what was wrong he said his girlfriend was trapped in that burning building over there, and he had no way to get her out, bla bla bla. It turned out he was acting out a scene from a superhero movie. But he had truly scared me.

— — —

Another thing he does is toss out funny one-liners while remaining so deadpan that it’s hard to tell if he’s being funny on purpose. One time I was in his room saying goodnight to him when we suddenly heard a commotion outside. We looked out the window and saw that the teenage girl next door was having her birthday party outside, a big crowd. “Oh, it’s just a flock of zombies,” said Dee matter-of-factly. Again, he doesn’t even glance at me to see my reaction. He just goes on about his business, leaving me to wonder if he’s delusional (does he actually believe they’re zombies?) or so caught up in his imagination that he doesn’t bother to preface it with “Hey, let’s pretend…”?

No, I think he knows very well what he’s doing. He’s acting.

My New Year’s baby

Yes, this day also happens to be my firstborn child’s birthday. He is fifteen. (The answer to your question is no. He arrived in the evening. He wasn’t even the first child born in that hospital.)

Unfortunately he’s starting his sixteenth year with a black cloud over his head. He had his birthday party a couple of days ago, a slumber party with half a dozen of his pals, and he behaved badly. He will not be having another sleepover, either hosting or attending, until summer. And as of this writing, we are still waiting for his apology.

Jay’s bad behavior came out of left field. He said NO to his father. Outright NO. In front of his friends, no less. He hasn’t said NO to us since he was eighteen months old. Seriously. We nipped that NO thing in the bud when he was tiny. And just to be perfectly clear: he is not a doormat who does whatever we tell him. He will argue and manipulate us until he’s blue in the face, and he is very good at it. And as annoying as it is, a part of me is proud of his ability to argue. But outright defiance… nuh-uh. Not okay.

He is a teenager. I know that. It’s his job to test limits. It’s to be expected that he’ll have lapses of judgement, especially when he’s with his pals. I also know that it’s our job to rise to the challenge, and we have. He tried to get around me yesterday, catching me when I was alone and asking me whether I thought Dad “overreacted.” Oh no, buddy boy. No I most certainly do not think he overreacted and furthermore, sweetheart, your attempt to divide us will not work. Hubs and I are completely on the same page, thankyouverymuch.

I do wish this hadn’t happened on his birthday though. Darling Jay, you are the light of my life and you always will be. Happy birthday, my precious son.

Confession

There are several people close to me who I believe have inattentive-type ADD and I know I should feel sorry for them but frankly I am sick and tired of dealing with it. One of them is my mother-in-law, a sweet pink-cheeked white-haired 70-something who is so scatter-brained you wouldn’t believe.

We had plans this afternoon, involving me, my daughter, my MIL, my BIL and his two daughters. BIL was going to pick us all up in his van at 4. We were going to go to the park and get in line for tickets to an outdoor show that will be sold out if we don’t get there early. We were going to bring picnic dinners and frisbees and have fun hanging out while we waited. I spent the earlier part of the day rushing around trying to get all the things done that I need to get done before we go, whipping together a picnic dinner (thank you honey for hard boiling some eggs this morning), making sure violins were practiced and showers were taken, figuring out father’s day stuff for my father and my honey, yadda yadda yadda. Only to have MIL come over a little after four: “Oh, I changed the plan,” she said airily. “I’m going to go ahead now and get the tix. BIL will pick you up in about an hour. That way the girls won’t have to wait so long.”

Um, okay.

“I checked the website,” she continued. “It turns out the tickets go on sale later than I thought.”

“Oh really,” I said. “Not at 5:00, like I told you?”

“Oh yes, they go on sale at 5:00. I know that’s what you said but I had it in my mind that they went on sale at 4:30 and even though I know you said 5:00 I didn’t really hear it.” (This is a nearly word-for-word quote.)

<sigh> It actually does make it easier to go at five instead of four, but I wish it had occurred to her to tell me in advance. This is exactly the kind of thing she sucks at: planning, time management, considering the possible consequences of a decision.

“Okay,” I said. “I guess I’ll go put our picnic dinner into the fridge for now.”

“Good idea,” she said. “Could you put mine in your fridge too?”

Argh!

We have an angst-y adolescent in the family, our 14yo son who is finishing the eighth grade. He is basically a good kid and I am fairly confident that he’ll be all right when he comes out on the other side of this, but lordy, lordy! These days, he is No Fun At All.

I am so tired of the eye rolling and the great… big… heavy… sighs.

I am so tired of his constant complaints about his younger sibs, who really don’t deserve it.

I am so tired of him acting like being with the family is such a goddam burden.

I am so tired of his swagger.

I am so tired of him using the fact that he is fourteen to justify his obnoxious behavior. I blame the fifth grade health class for that one, by the way, for telling the kids to look forward to mood swings and fights with parents — seriously, was that really necessary?

Argh.