Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Life in the Stands

This one was written in early March. It didn't make the paper. Enjoy!

It's Friday night and I have done the grocery shopping. Now the weekend is mine, I tell myself. But not so fast. Don't forget that the laundry needs to be done, we are volunteering at a youth wrestling tournament on Saturday and there's church and a play I want to attend on Sunday. Oh, and remember the stack of papers that need to be corrected and the lesson plans that still aren't finished. Since Early December our Saturdays have been spent in the bleachers at various varsity wrestling tournaments throughout northern Michigan. With my son making it all all the way to States this year we tacked on 3 more weeks to the season. Don't get me wrong. I love the sport of wrestling and I especially love supporting my son and his athletics. I enjoy supporting both boys in whatever they choose to do whether it's Sammy's sports or Robby's music and ministry. However, spending 8 hours sitting in bleachers after a two hour drive can test even the most dedicated parent. I always take a little ditty bag of stuff to keep me busy. I have even taken to letting school work pile up so I could take it with me on Saturdays. Even the excitement of the state tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills quickly wore off as we stayed in the stands for the familiar 8 hour stretch. I have to keep reminding myself that we only have one more year and then it will be over. I do know there are parents who can completely relate when I utter that tiny prayer "Lord, please let this be the blizzard that calls off the tournament just this one Saturday." I understand that swim meets and volleyball tournaments can be just as brutal on the lower back and posterior. I really don't remember my butt hurting that much when the boys were younger. Maybe I just had more padding back then or the cartilage hadn't yet begun to break down in my hips. But besides the pain and discomfort of bleachers, Saturday tournaments reduce my weekends to the 5 hours after church on Sundays to get everything done that I can't do during the week. As much as I would like to say that everyone willingly pitches in, let's be real. Most of it falls on me. Fortunately another wrestling season is behind us and I am looking forward to a weekend of rest and relaxation. It just won't be this weekend.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Endless Grouchy Teen Stage

This is one I won't be publishing in the paper. Enjoy!

"I am soooooooo over the grouchy teen stage!" I lamented to my aunt via text message. We started that stage of parenting when my older son Robby turned 13 and it continues with our younger son, Sammy, who is 17 and literally disgusted with our every word. I should have known. When our boys were toddlers I was having a conversation with a neighbor.
"I remember when my son was little. He was so sweet. Then he became a teenager and he turned on me." She warned.
"You must be a bad parent," I remember thinking. I was going to fill our home with positivity and open lines of communication. Wrong answer. I was quickly humbled to learn that I was just as bad at parenting because with each 13th birthday came a stranger. Apparently this isn't a new phenomenon. In her book, "Just wait till you have children of your own!" Erma Bombeck said that her children withdrew to their rooms when they turned 13 and didn't reappear until they were married. Where were my sweet boys, one who brought me wounded chipmunks and the other, who said "Watch Mom!" as he showed me tricks he could do on his rip-stick in the driveway? They talked to me about everything and had smiles that were contagious.
Now I find myself learning about my boys relationships through the gossip grapevine.
"I hear your son is taking so-and-so to Homecoming."
"Yes he is! She's a sweet girl. We're so glad he asked her."
Then I send the rage-filled text. "Really? I have to learn about your homecoming date from someone at school? Will you at least be kind enough to invite me to your wedding?"
I literally have to work up tears so they will tell me where prom pictures are going to be taken.
"I have raised you for 17 years and I can't even be there with the other moms when you get pictures taken? What have I done that is SO embarrassing? My mere presence is humiliating to you?"
"Take it easy Mom. I'll be sure to have someone's mom tag you on Facebook."
I know I'm not alone in this. One of my friends sat in her car for 20 minutes waiting to take homecoming pictures, only to learn that pictures were being taken at a different location.  Just asking simple questions evokes a hostile response with "that face." I recently said to Sammy, "Do you realize that the only time you're nice to me is when you want something from me?"
"No, he replied. I just asked you for gas money and I wasn't nice."

And there you have it. See you at your wedding!

A Few Simple Rules for Staying Home Alone

At parent teacher conferences I always get to talk to at a least a few parents who are raising boys and I think back to when our boys were young. They were pretty active and at times needed some pretty specific rules and guidance. Our boys are older now so we don't have much when it comes to rules other than, "Make smart choices," "Be home at a reasonable hour," and "Call if your plans change." They really aren't rules as much as they are guidelines. I am a worrier though. I'm the kind of parent that worries that if I don't say it, the worst might happen. I have said "Watch for deer" so many times that the kids thought it was funny to beat me to it and yell "Watch for deer!" on their way out the door. But then when Tom and I hit one with our motorcycle last fall I said, "See! It CAN happen. Anyone care to mock me now?"
When we first started leaving the kids home alone we had the fairly standard list of rules like "No fighting" and "No calling Mom or Dad for stupid reasons." Of course we had to be specific. "An emergency means someone has lost a limb, not Robby won't give me the remote." When they were old enough for whittling with pocket knives and air soft guns we would leave saying "No guns. No knives"  One day I specifically remember leaving for a ride on the motorcycle and as I swung my leg over the bike I called out "There's some steak on the stove!" Then at the same time Tom and I both yelled, "Don't eat the steak! There's yogurt in fridge" (obviously, someone could choke).
No guns
No knives
No solid food

For a while there it seemed like we were adding a new rule to the list every time we went out. Like the time we came home and one child had tied the other one up and left him in the back yard.
No rope

Someone learned that you could set fire to ants and leaves in the driveway with a magnifying glass.
No fire

"Robby broke the couch."
"How do you know he broke it. Looks fine to me"
"Well, we heard a huge crack when he hit it after jumping off the balcony."
No jumping off the balcony.

"Geeze! What can we do?"
"You can stay upstairs and watch a movie. Your brother can stay downstairs and play xbox."
I'm thankful that those days passed us by without serious injury or fire department intervention. These days when we leave all we say is "Clean up after yourselves and don't forget to feed the dog." And the response?  "OK. Watch for deer!"

Monday, March 17, 2014

Let me Tell You About my "Children"

Back in January I eagerly entered this column in the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. The results came out and I wasn't one of the winners, which was disappointing, but I can finally publish it. Enjoy!

I guess I just assumed that bragging about my children would always come naturally. Maybe not. A few weeks before Christmas, a neighbor of ours hosted a holiday open house as a sort of "get-to-know-you" evening. I should probably mention that our neighborhood isn't a young, up and coming area full of families with young kids. It is predominately people our age, (mid to upper 40's), and older. As we were chatting with folks we knew and acquainting ourselves with neighbors we didn't, I found myself talking mostly about our pets. People would ask about our kids and I would say, "We have two boys; one is 17 and one is 20. But let me tell you about our cats!" I seemed to blather on and on about how Nova is an expert mouser, or spent 45 minutes describing the medical concerns of our aging dog. The funny thing is the conversations like that were mutual. When do we stop bragging about our children and start swapping Instagram photos of our cats like I do with my friend Bridget? I have not seen one picture of an old friend's adult daughter on his Facebook page, but I could name every one of his 4 dogs. Our next door neighbor and I were discussing her previous dog, Ivy and also the current one, CJ, when she mentioned something about their son and daughter-in-law. Son? Those people have lived next door for 7 years and I had no idea that they even had children! And likewise, she couldn't get my kids' names straight but she could easily name our dog and recall the name of our last cat. I have known for a long time that the circle of life begins with your pets as "kids" and then when the real kids come along the pets become animals again. What I didn't know is that when you can't gush over those adorable pictures of your kids with green beans smeared over their faces anymore because they are now grouchy teenagers who want nothing to do with you, the next likely step is to revert back to those sweet furry friends who can't get enough of our affection. This went on and on at that party.
"Did you know the cute little dog on the corner, Angel, died? And what's the little girl's name again?"
"Yes, of course I know you. You are the one with the beautiful German Shepherds."
I'm sure this stage is temporary as we patiently await grandchildren. But until that time I'm going to need a bumper sticker that says "Let me tell you about my beagle/golden retriever mix."

Monday, March 10, 2014

Feeding Boys--2 Years Later

A few years ago I wrote a column about the challenges of feeding teenage boys. At the time we were going through roughly a gallon of milk a day and couldn't keep food in the house, now I find myself at the other end of the spectrum. My guys are older. Both are driving and have jobs, sports, and other social obligations or responsibilities that take them away from home quite frequently. In the old days I'd spend an hour or so coming up with a weekly menu. This worked out pretty well until we turned the corner into jobs and drivers licenses. These days my menu consists of 2-3 meal ideas with the hopes of having at least one night with everyone home. Meat stays frozen until the last minute and I make sure we have lots of eggs and cereal. Poor Tom has been the one who seems to suffer the most because if I find out the boys won't be home for dinner I figure there's no point in making an elaborate meal until he says "What's for dinner?" And I say "Oh, um eggs." Or Ill try and act like I had a plan by saying "fried egg sandwiches!" Sometimes we have one of the boys and a friend home so Ill make dinner. Then just before dinner is ready they will say "We're heading out. Sorry! We'll grab something in town" and then Tom and I are stuck with sloppy joes for the next three nights strait. One particularly annoying situation occurs when I make dinner expecting one or both boys home and when they arrive I tell them that dinner is ready only to be informed that they have already eaten elsewhere. Again, Tom and I are eating cream of something casserole leftovers for a few days. As you can tell, I'm kind of an all or nothing person. If we all aren't going to be here I'm not crazy about putting in the effort to making a big meal if its just going to be the two of us at the table separated by a laptop and an iPad. Transitioning into empty-nest hood seems to be a process of slowly making adjustments here and there. I am learning to cook for two while being ready for four. I seriously understand why empty nesters eat out a lot. Its just easier. Our weekly family dinner has evolved to JW Fillmore's after church. It's still a challenge feeding boys. However, the challenge seems to be knowing when and how much. One thing I fairly certain of is when the transition has been made and its just Tom and I, he probably won't be requesting eggs for dinner.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Don't Have a Problem...I Just Need More Chapstick

I can pinpoint to the moment when the lip balm problem began. I was on the bus in 7th grade and a kid named Chris yelled, "Hey Raisin-Lips!" There I was, completely humiliated and scarred for life. At that moment I vowed to never be called a name like "raisin-lips" again. I have always been a very girly-girl and appearance has been important to me. It would be natural to assume that calling any 7th grade girl a name like "Raisin-Lips" would be damaging, but calling a girl with self-image issues that same name launched a dependence on lip products that has lasted over 30 years. I sometimes call it an addiction because when I don't have Chapstick in a pocket or nearby, I instantly begin to feel panicky and my lips start to dry up and hurt. These are very real, physical symptoms triggered by a fear that I might be more than a 5 minute drive the nearest Walgreens. I never leave the house without making sure I have a tube of lip balm in my pocket, and my purse, and the car. I'm like the guy who has to light a cigarette on his way from the car to the Walmart entrance. I know I'm not alone either. My friend posted on my Facebook page that she was at a concert and forgot her Chapstick at home. I almost made the 20 minute drive to bring her some. I can relate! Don't get me wrong. I don't in any way minimize the real, physical struggles that are part of the lives of those with substance abuse issues. I understand that my dependence, (and that is what it really is, dependence), on Chapstick in no way compares to the dependence one has on drugs or alcohol. Lip balm addiction isn't life threatening and I won't lose my family or job because of it. I can say that it does interfere with my life. I can honestly agree with step 1 of the various Twelve Step programs, that I am powerless over cherry Blistick, which is my balm of choice. Did you know that there are actually articles, websites, and blogs dedicated to the topic of lip balm addiction? Go ahead and Google "Chapstick addiction" and you'll be astounded at what comes up. Here are a few things I have learned from these sources.
Vaseline or petroleum jelly will actually pull moisture from your lips, causing you to need to re-apply more frequently. I know this to be true because I used to carry a hand lotion sized tube around in my purse.
Any sort of mint flavor is irritating to lips.
Tarter control toothpaste will dry out lips. I tried using the whitening toothpaste and it does the same thing. I stick to plain old regular Colgate.
So wherever you are, Chris from 7th grade. I'm placing the blame directly on you. My name is Dawn. And I'm a Chapstick-aholic.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Bra Gives Me More Support

I recently entered a writing contest and the following post was my second choice. The first choice article has been submitted and can't be previously published in a paper or blog. So wish me luck and enjoy the runner-up!

"You know I could sue you for that" remarked my 17 year old son after he discovered I had mentioned his name in the column I write for a local paper. I mistakenly assumed that after  three years my biggest fans would be my family. Think again. In the beginning Tom and the boys seemed to be OK with being in the public eye because what I wrote wasn't about them. My first indication that the support was waning was when I wrote about my husband referring to me as a "good little cooker." They guys at work thought that was pretty funny and gave him a little ribbing about it. He came home and firmly requested that any columns that included him needed to be reviewed and approved before they could be published. Then after the column about teaching my son Robby to drive, he came home and asked,
 "Did you write about me in your column? Don't do that anymore."
It was evident that support was decreasing. Then came my younger son, Sammy. Apparently his buddies at school had read a column of mine and spent the lunch hour joking about it. He told me that absolutely under no circumstances was I to write about him ever again. Strike three. Do you know how difficult it is to write a column about your life without including the members of your family? Some of my best material comes from my husband and teenage sons. They can be downright hilarious at times. It bugs me that they have stifled my creative outlet so at times I use it against them,
"You better get your keister over here and do these dishes or I'm going to write about you in my column!"
Robby did eventually soften up a bit. When I asked him if I could please write about his homecoming nomination, he said, "It's your column. Write about whatever you want." Sammy, on the other hand, has not. I did mention his name but it was about my husband and I going to his football game, so it wasn't technically about him. There really is a fine line between letting it all hang out and respecting the dignity of your family. I'd love to write about the never ending trail of dirty socks strewn about the house, but in doing so it might cause repercussions that I'm not prepared to deal with at home. For the sake of an interesting and humorous column I'll have to choose my words carefully and find creative ways to highlight the antics of my semi-supportive family without a pending lawsuit.