With friends like these…

A conversation last week with co-workers about the truly unintelligent things teens tend to do led me to muse on some of my own teenage stupidity…

My senior year in high school I started hanging out with a friend of a friend. I think I was fascinated by her life – she basically had no boundaries and at the time I found that exciting (now, of course, I realize how sad it was that she had no one who really cared what happened to her).

My friendship with Kim turned into a series of disasters that I look back on in awe. It’s pretty amazing that one person could lead to so many “WTF!?!?!” moments. To be fair, I made plenty of completely stupid teen moves on my own, without Kim’s influence. In reality, I’m pretty lucky to have made it to adulthood without serious injury and/or jail time.

A few samples of “Kim stories:”

  • In the interest of full disclosure, I was a cheerleader in high school. One night, wearing my adorable uniform, I picked Kim up for a football game, and she had a guy with her I’d never seen (this was a common occurrence). No problem – I gave them both a ride. It wasn’t until the next morning that I discovered the pipe the guy had left in my back seat. Gee thanks, Kim. What a great gift that would have been had a teacher or parent found it before I had. It would have been instant removal from the cheerleading squad. I would never have forgiven her the loss of that darling uniform.
  • About a month before I headed off for college a group of us, including Kim, used our fake IDs to get into a club on male stripper night. Two strikes against me for a) owning a fake ID and b) underage drinking. But where the evening really got exciting was when it was time to head home and Kim was nowhere to be found. The rest of us searched the club in a panic and finally discovered that Kim had taken off with one of the strippers. As stupid as we were, we at least recognized the fact that we were going to be in deep $#%*! with our parents when we came home without one of our group. Second act: When I got home my 6-month pregnant mother wormed out of me what had happened, and insisted on driving back to the club with me to search for Kim one more time. Believe me when I say trailing behind a pregnant mom through a disco dance floor cured me of wanting to hang out at male stripper night ever again in my life.
  • My night at the disco.

    My night at the disco.

    My final Kim experience took place during my freshman year in college. Set-up: My dad lived in Kansas City, as did my boyfriend at the time. Somehow I ended up inviting Kim to spend the weekend with me at my dad’s – in hindsight I’m certain she finagled the invitation for her own reasons. We spent one evening at my boyfriend’s house, which he shared with a couple of other guys who were in school with him. When it was time for my boyfriend to take us back to my dad’s house, Kim was holed up in the bedroom of one of the roommates and refused to come out. I begged and threatened for an hour, then finally gave up and went home without her. Oh, boy was it fun to explain that to my dad. I don’t know how Kim got back to her house 60 miles away after that weekend, but it wasn’t with me. In fact, I never saw her again. That weekend was the nail in the coffin for that “friendship.”

I do have Kim to thank for one huge life lesson: Listen to that little voice in the back of your head – it can save your life. It took me a year of bonehead stunts, of waking up on a Saturday morning feeling tainted and guilty (even if Friday night had been perfectly tame) just from having spent time with her. But I did eventually learn the lesson, and it’s one I’ve passed on to my kids.

So am I the only one? Anyone else have “stupid teenager” stories?

photo credit: Roo

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Project, continued

The classroom we’ve been sprucing up for the coming program year is coming right along.

Middle Sister and I have searched local hobby and discount stores to find wall hangings, and two gentlemen from church spent three days on the paint.

Can’t wait to see it in action in a month and a half!

The green pillar on the left has a mate about five feet away from it, and two other walls are the same green. Pretty bright, but very fun!

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Personal effects

Well, this is weird. The Husband is a confirmed member of the Society For Putting Things On Top Of imageOther Things. Yet before he left town for six weeks, he managed to clear off several of the horizontal surfaces that are regularly littered with 6-10 inch high piles of his…belongings. Note my very polite use of something besides a four-letter word there.

For the first time in many months I can dust. And my soul is at peace as I can look around in my own bedroom and not be assailed with mountains of papers, receipts, notes, and miscellaneous detritus.

Apparently there are compensations.

 

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Marvellous meatless meals

With The Boy at work at the farmer’s market all day, and the husband now off on his new job adventure, Middle Sister and I took the chance to make a couple of our favorite meat-free meals today.

Spinach pie has been on my menu plan for a couple of weeks, but a good time didn’t present itself until today. When we have a full house I make a couple of these beauties, but with just the two of us today we halved the recipe:

imageSpinach Pie (recipe for one pie)
6-8 phyllo dough sheets
Mix together:
2 bags frozen spinach, thawed
minced onion
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup feta
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
olive oil

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lay half the phyllo sheets on the paper. Spread the spinach mix on the sheets. Top with the other half of the sheets. Brush with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350.

Together with a simple salad of greens and tomatoes we picked up at the market this morning, it was a fabulous, light summer meal.

For lunch we threw together an old favorite I picked up from one of those annoying “Let’s be healthy!” publications our insurance company sends us periodically – probably the only time I’ve ever found anything useful in one of those.

imageTofu Stir Fry
16 oz extra firm tofu, dried off and cut into cubes
1 TB canola oil
1 pkg fresh snow peas
sesame seeds
For the sauce, mix in a blender:
3 TB peanut butter (we used PB2 today)
1/3 cup water
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB vinegar (we use whatever type we have on hand)
4 green onions, chopped
2 TB brown sugar
1/2-1 tsp corn starch

Brown tofu in oil. Add snow peas. Simmer for a few minutes with sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Again, yummy and light. But both meals were hot, and we’re in the middle of another nasty heat wave…so tomorrow we’ll do a nice chilled chicken salad, with enough leftovers to make a few lunches next week.

It was fun to indulge ourselves with a couple of recipes the males in the family don’t care for too much. But I’m hoping The Boy will be home a bit more in the next few days. Cooking for two just isn’t quite as much fun. Of course, there is one advantage: More leftovers!

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What happens next?

imageWell, we did it. We’ve got The Husband on the road for what should be at least six weeks, and we all survived.

We had one last visit together to our farmer’s market, on the way to pick up his rental car. About half an hour ago we said our goodbyes and now he’s on his way to Little Rock.

I say it should be about a six-week absence because I’m having a hard time believing there won’t be some crappy cosmic joke that sends him back home before his training is over, unemployed and having to start over again. It happened twice in the first quarter of the year. I’ve been burned twice now, and I can’t help but expect the same again. But here we are one more time – “Once more into the breach.”

The Husband and I met when I was a freshman in college. Started dating at the end of that year. Since that time the longest we’ve been apart was when I was at a three-week continuing ed. course in Iowa. If living without him for six weeks or more (I hope, perversely) isn’t a paradigm shift, I don’t know what is. I truly don’t know how to react or what to expect.

To be honest, there is a part of me that is incredibly relieved to have him gone for awhile. I think all long-term couples need some time away from each other, but with his long stints of unemployment in the last year, we’ve had WAY too much together time. I fully admit to being impatient and easily annoyed, and I seriously needed a break from my husband’s ADHD, OCD tendencies, and depression/anxiety. Just a few days minus stupid, hyperactivity-induced noises would be heaven. A few days without constant questions/panic about where his personal belongings are. A few days without feeling responsible for someone else getting out of bed at a reasonable hour and having a productive, grown-up day.

imageAt the same time, the closer we got to saying goodbye, the more I appreciated him. The more I enjoyed his presence, his jokes, his generosity and thoughtfulness. The more I wonder what on earth it will be like to try and be a family without him. Thank goodness Middle Sister is here, and The Boy will still be around for a few more weeks.

So here I am with fear and a feeling of impending doom, mixed with relief and extremely cautious hopefulness.

Sigh. I’ll just have to wade through it, one day at a time.

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Ode to Oldest

Never let it be said that “Mom Goes On” isn’t fair and balanced. Well, at least in the area of admiration of my three children. So today we toast Oldest Sister.

I’ve often said, almost seriously, that our oldest could have been abandoned as a child and raised herself with great success. She was the easiest baby, toddler, preschooler, and even teen I’ve ever encountered. Never a fuss or tantrum. Always reasonable. Capable of interesting conversation before the age of three.

She’s driven – a hard worker in every area she attempts. Couple that with natural ability in pretty much every academic area and in her chosen extra-curriculars (viola and piano) and you get a student who was at the top of a very competitive high school class. A good role model, both to her classmates and to her siblings.

But she’s not just a brainiac robot. This girl has an amazing, quirky sense of humor that takes new acquaintances totally by surprise. She’s kept us in stitches from a very young age, making up ridiculous songs that have stuck in the family memory (“Sleep Like a Lazy Chicken” and “Penguin Mart” are two big hits from her repertoire). She led her siblings in fascinating summer projects like videotaped re-creations of the first two Harry Potter movies and writing a novelette only with words that contain no “e’s.”

imageWith all that drive and hard work, we as parents had to work constantly to get this child to give herself a break. She sets high goals and sometimes wears herself out making sure she achieves them. Since she went off to college she’s fallen to fairly significant illness more than once, largely from overwork. To be honest, I don’t know where she gets it. Her father and I are both lazy layabouts in comparison.

Every child holds a special place in her parent’s heart and soul. The oldest in a family has the benefit of having spent some of her most formative time with her parents’ full attention due to lack of siblings. My memories of one-on-one time with our darling first child will always be a treasure I hold close.

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ABC’s of Parenting: V is for Vomit

I have to thank Gluestick Mum and her post this week about kids and vomit for this edition of the ABC’s of parenting. Vomit is an immutable fact of the life of a parent. I think we all have our battle stories. Here are three of my best:

Vomit Story, Oldest Sister Version:

It was fourth of July. A picnic with two other families, HEAT, running around like maniacs, and – as it turned out – too much soda. After Oldest finished her meal and downed an entire can of orange pop, she ran off with her little friends to visit the children’s booth set up by our local fire department. The friendly firefighters were giving away stickers, coloring books, and – thank goodness – toy fire helmets. The kids tore back to our picnic blanket with their loot, and immediately upon arrival, Oldest started to turn green. With lightning-fast reflexes only a parent possesses, one of our friends stuck a toy helmet in front of our daughter’s face just in time to catch a hat full of orange puke. Of course, she instantly felt fine. We tossed the helmet in the nearest trash can, and went on enjoying the evening.

Vomit Story, Middle Sister Version:

There were  couple of years when all the kids were quite small that I swear we cleaned up a middle of the night vomit disaster at least once a week. The washing machine was permanently set to “hot water.” We had to invest in new sheet sets just to make sure everyone had clean bedding every night, In the middle of this barf era, Middle Sister “wombinted” (her version of “vomited”) in her bed toward morning, all over her special blanket. There were so many chunks that Husband took the blanket to the back porch and shook them out on the frosty winter grass. We were in the middle of a cold snap – no one would be going out any time soon. Middle Sister, wide awake, followed him to the door and watched. Of course, three days later we had a warm spell and the siblings wanted to go out back to play. Middle Sister went into full hysterics, pulling her brother and sister away from the door. “NO!” she shrieked. “THERE’S WOMBINT OUT THERE!!!” She didn’t go out to the back yard for months.

Vomit Story, The Boy Version:

Also in the midst of the nighttime barf era, The Boy took to vomiting in the middle of the night every single Thursday night. Coincidentally, this child absolutely despised going to our church’s Mother’s Day Out program…and Friday was our kids’ day to go. Didn’t take long to put two and two together. He’d figured out that hurling allowed him to stay home the next day. Don’t ask me how he made it happen – maybe it was some freaky psychosomatic thing. But he got so good at it that the pattern continued through the summer, during the program’s break time. Stubborn much?

The sad thing, in my opinion, is that though giving birth to children automatically requires barf clean-up skills, what we don’t get as parents is the ability to do all those clean-ups without wanting to hurl, ourselves. Cosmically unfair.

But kid barf is an inevitable fact of parental life. Best to have a barf kit permanently placed in the car (brilliant tip from Gluestick Mum), as well as a bucket, Clorox wipes, and extra bed sheets at the ready at all times in each bedroom.

 

 

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High Anxiety…

I already knew that I was becoming more introverted with every year. But guess what? I’m discovering that stress and anxiety make the thought of human interaction about as attractive for me as surgery minus the anesthesia.

This week, I’m still reeling from last week’s round of constant illness in our middle daughter AND experiencing paralyzing anxiety in The Husband as he prepares to be off on job training for six weeks. (He’s really looking forward to the training and the work. The preparation to leave may kill us both.)

And in the midst of all this joy, three HUMAN CONTACT TORTURE TECHNIQUES have been thrown at me in one day:
•Dental appointment this afternoon. Should be no big deal, right? Logically it wasn’t a big deal. But having a stranger with surgical gloves WAY UP in my personal space for forty minutes was a big enough deal that this alone would have screwed up my day.
•A reminder mid-morning that I have a meeting tonight at 7:00. I knew about this event at some point – in fact later in the day my iPad gave me a *ding ding!* reminder – but in my mind it was still way in the future. So what that the meeting is with people I truly enjoy and respect – coworkers and former coworkers who I know for a fact would have my back at any time, without me even asking. It still looks like a ruined evening for me because I have to LEAVE THE COMFORT OF MY COCOON.
•And the worst of all, a seemingly innocuous event that has been looming unscheduled for months was foisted on me today: The Husband and I are suddenly scheduled to have dinner with The Boy’s girlfriend’s family Thursday evening. An ENTIRE evening with people who I have met one time, who I know are extremely pleasant. I think I’m going to hurl.

Yeah, I know. It’s all in the attitude. I could look at all this stuff in a positive light:
•Hooray for dental hygiene! And I don’t have to go to the dentist again for six months!
•I get to see awesome people who will make me laugh and make me think. Spending time with them will be healing and restoring! Whoopie!
•I don’t have to cook Thursday night! And I’ll get to know better the family our son spends quite a bit of time with! Yay!

There was a time in my life when I would have gone all Pollyanna and bent over backwards to see everything with those rose-tinted glasses.

Today is not that time.

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Thoughts for the mom who sat in front of me yesterday

Dear Mommy,
I’m sorry I don’t remember your name – I know we’ve met before. And I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to speak to you yesterday. I would have liked to tell you that watching you with your 14-month-old daughter made my day.

What I do know is that you’re in church with your little girl a lot of Sundays, on your own. You keep her happily occupied, and I can see that you love having that time with her. I also see some other things.

Like the fact that you hastily pulled your hair back into a pony tail so you could get yourself to church on time. I think there wasn’t time for makeup yesterday, either. Yet your adorable daughter was dressed to the nines, with her hair perfectly gathered into a bow.

I saw your attention constantly pulled between keeping your daughter happy and participating in the worship service. And I understood when attention to your little girl won out.

I watched you fuss over your little darling. Getting something out of her eye. Keeping her from eating floor Cheerios. Making sure she only ate one at a time. Handing her a tippy cup when one got stuck in her throat. Giving her toy after toy after toy. Kissing her often and whispering into her ear.

I saw myself in you, in those blessed and blissful days of being the mother of one daughter. Completely wrapped up in the joy of being her mama.

Thank you for reminding me. And for clearly enjoying your little girl as much as I enjoyed mine.

-Amy

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And now for something completely different…

…an afternoon at a local theater watching a live simulcast of the final performance of “Monty Python Live (Mostly).” There were no men with stoats through their heads. No men with three buttocks. But I haven’t laughed so hard in ages.

So what was there to laugh at? Many favorite sketches. Singing along with “The Philosopher Song.” The gents going out of their way to make each other laugh in the middle of a line. New twists on old material. And a few brilliant cameos.

We could, of course, have said just about every line right along with them. We probably introduced our kids to Python humor before it was really age-appropriate (if there is an age for which it’s appropriate), so they’re right in there with us on the quoting. For the most part we restrained ourselves. But it didn’t really matter, because we were among our own kind…when one of the pre-show trivia questions was about which protest organization the title character joined in “Life of Brian,” one of our fellow Python-ites in the crowd shouted out, “Splitters!”

One interesting thing that hit me as we were wiping away tears following the Michaelangelo sketch followed by “Every Sperm is Sacred:” I’m guessing a lot of this stuff plays a whole lot better in London than in the Midwest of the U.S. People around here think Ferris Bueller is funny. Bad words, blue humor, full frontal nudity, and irreverence? Not so much. Trouble is, sheep are very dim.

imageAnd as the five guys left who are not “ex-people” took their final bow, it occurred to me just how much joy they’ve brought me and everyone else who loves them. Of course, they’ve offended a lot of people too…which just makes them all the funnier. But think of all the laughter they’ve contributed to the balance of happiness here on this earth (which is, of course, revolving at 900 miles an hour… ). If I’m really down, a few Python sketches on YouTube have me laughing before the funny stuff even starts. That, and always looking on the bright side of life. What an amazing legacy.

They mean to take Wimbledon…

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