Some Carpe Diem thoughts for moms of TEENAGERS.

Unless you've been sitting in a solitary cell at Guantamano Bay with a burlap sack over your head, you've read Momastery's viral blog post "Don't Carpe Diem".  It has tugged heartstrings and tweaked the old "feelings buttons" on hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of readers all around this lovely big globe of ours.  Mine included...I loved it, and it brought back some emotions that I thought had been put away with the Wiggles VHS tapes and the Stride Rite shoes and the strollers.

But, being the cynical Eeyore that I am, as I read it, I kept thinking, "Good Lord woman.  Come cry to me when the kid peeing in the corner is peeing onto a pregnancy test stick or into a cup at the drug testing center."

Because yes, I think we can all agree that parenting little kids is a complete mind f*ck somedays (see, I'm still kind of uncomfortable dropping the eff bomb but you get the idea).  Being surrounded by a platoon of tiny dictators who have limited vocabularies and even more limited bowel/bladder control IS exhausting and, at the time, I thought getting through that phase of life would make me Queen Mom or at least the Jane Goodall of parenting. 


Here's the rub:  those sweet little monsters grow up.  And there will come a day when you would not only WELCOME some well-meaning old biddy coming up to you, you will beg her for reassurance that you too will make it to the ripe old age of 50 or 60 without killing someone.

I used to roll my eyes at the women who'd offer me a little mom-sympathy at the Target checkout, the women who were at Target, all alone, and weren't grabbing employees to tell them in a frantic, high pitched voice that "OMG I CAN'T FIND MY SON HE'S ABOUT 3 FEET TALL, REDDISH BLONDE HAIR AND IS WEARING A BUZZ LIGHTYEAR T-SHIRT" (note to past self?  HE'S IN THE LEGO AISLE).

Now I realize that those women were not looking at me with any sort of condescending "enjoy these moments, dearie" feelings, they were actually staring through me and silently freaking out over the giant technicolor T-rex that was eating the cash register and the cashier behind me.  Because at that precise moment in time, her Xanax-chardonnay cocktail had just kicked in and bitch was tripping.  You know why she was mixing pharmaceuticals and booze?  BECAUSE SHE HAD TEENAGERS.  And she wasn't a senior citizen, either, but most likely in her mid-to-late 40's.  You think you look haggard at the age of 30 because Axel or Simone kept you up all night asking "where does shoe go when I flush it?" try staying up all night at the age of 44 because Alex or Maddie kept you up waiting for the guy at the impound lot to find your car. 

Don't get me wrong:  teenagers are not demons, they are not Satan's minions sent here to slowly turn the female population into sleepwalking, alcoholic zombies.  Most, if not all of them, possess surprisingly human-like attributes ranging from actual feelings to what can look like responsibility.  I have four kids, three of whom are teenagers.  And I know there's a God because only one of mine has crossed the line from mind-effing to actually removing the brain matter from my skull and using it like playdough.  The other ones, so far, have only managed to turn me into a weeping, self-doubting banshee who sometimes screams out phrases like "THERE WILL COME A DAY WHEN YOU WILL MISS ME!!".  But they're only 14 and 16, plus I have one who is only 11 and is just now starting to show his horns. So there is still plenty of time for fun.

And lest you are thinking to yourself, "Geez, Jenny.  Get a grip.  They're healthy, they're alive, you should be grateful you have them.  Get over it!"...believe me, there are flashes of love in there.  Really.  Sometimes hours of love, or like 45 minutes at a time.  Those moments are what keep me from going completely over the edge.  I used to think that getting my kids through high school would be my crowning achievement, but now I realize that if I get all of them to the age of 18 without one or all of us ending up either in jail or a mental institution, I will go all Mary Tyler Moore in downtown Minneapolis and twirl around in a circle while tossing my freaking beret up in the air and screaming "I'M GONNA MAKE IT AFTER ALLLLL!".

Being the parent to a teen is challenging, but I know some of my friends have fewer challenges than others.  For some of these moms and dads, their biggest frustration is that "Chrissy is really getting behind in answering her acceptance letters!  Grrrrr!" or "Bobby really has to learn time management!!!  You can't feed the homeless, mentor underprivileged youth and be captain of the fencing team...at least not all in one day!  UGHHH!".  And you know what?  I am so happy for my friends, and even for complete strangers, who have teenagers like that.  Seriously.

But my reality, and the reality of countless other mommies and daddies out there, is different.

I used to get myself through public tantrums and outbursts by telling myself, "He's really smart.  The smart ones get frustrated more easily, that's all.  He's super smart."  And now I get myself through particularly trying teenage moments by telling myself, "He's really smart.  I heard the smart ones can usually avoid getting raped in prison.  He's really smart."

I remember how upset I'd get when I'd find stinky old sippy cups of milk under the couch, or when a Hot Wheels car would get stuck in the toilet or when I'd come into a room and find a toddler surrounded by yards of video tape.  I'd clean up the mess and sigh and wonder when the day would come when my kids could get their own glass of milk, or wipe their own butts or clean their own rooms.

Now I find towels that are so encrusted with something so unspeakable that I could use them as lumber, toilets that get clogged with bowel movements so big I'm tempted to check them for a pulse and I walk into a room only to find a teenager quickly closing a window on the computer (safe search only works for so long, my friends).  Now I wash the towels, plunge the toilet and sanitize the keyboard and wonder when my kids will have teenagers just like them. 

But just like the Carpe Diem chick, I do see the light in the darkness.  I have some truly beautiful times with these teenagers, and every once in a while I get a glimpse of the adults they will someday become.  We've had conversations that have reminded me how smart these kids really are, observations they've made that reveal to me how fabulously wicked their senses of humor are becoming, and moments of poignant clarity that remind me just how insanely hard it was to be a teen. 

At the end of the day, I find myself grateful, so very grateful that these teenagers, all three of them, and yes, especially the most frustrating one, are mine.  I know there is a reason that God or the Stork or whomever it is that decides which baby will go to which parent gave these brilliant, unique individuals to me.  Someone, somewhere, deemed me capable of not only getting these individuals through toddlerhood and childhood intact, but through their teenage years alive.

Am I up for the challenge?  So far, the answer is "Yes."  Or, if I've had a few glasses of wine, "Yesh."

So, mommies of little kids who are struggling to get through the day and are now measuring time in cool Greek terms, hang in there.  I don't want to sound like one of those old coots in Target, but you will get through these times.  And you will have a sweet Golden Age from about 9 to 11.  Or maybe not.

But you will get through it.  And when these kids are teenagers, thanks to Momastery and all the friends who've shared her fabulous blog post, you'll know that Carpe Diem translates to "Seize the Day", not "Seize their necks".  This information will serve you well, warriors.  It will serve you well, indeed.

P.S.  And when I see you at Target, and I call you warrior?  Please know that in my head I'm not picturing a fierce, Amazonian sword-and-shield bearing soldier, but rather one of those weary looking African tribeswomen, with paper-thin depleted boobies and a trail of naked kids behind her.  And I'm picturing it with love.


Ten On Tuesday

Terrible blogger here.  Haven't done anything on this little page in a week!  But I have kind of a good excuse:  I've been busy...incredibly, wonderfully busy.

Lady luck has smiled on me, nice and bright and flashing her pearly whites.  When you have had a couple of years of disappointments, of heartache, of more than your fair share of moments when you look skywards and with fists a-shakin' yell out "WHAT NEXT?" you come to expect the worst.  Ok...maybe not "the worst", but you come to expect a kind of shitty mediocrity, a limbo-ish life where you're neither down in the very bottom dreck of the sea of life, nor are you floating happily on the surface.  You come to expect to have to fight for flashpoints of light, to have to bargain and negotiate for just a little break here and there.

And maybe that's what makes days like I've been having even sweeter for poor slobs like me.  I think, after you go through tough times, you learn to really, really appreciate when things come easily.  When things go your way.  When, finally, your heart feels like leaping out of your chest not because you've just been told "Hey, your debit card was declined" but because "Congratulations, here are the keys to your new car!".

The same day I went to pick up my new car (it's 6 years old but dammit, it's new to me), my friend Gillian called to tell me that my old truck was dead on the side of the road by our school...with my sainted landlord Dan directing traffic around it like a lifeguard waving rubbernecking beachcombers away from a beached whale.  She stopped and asked him if he needed help.  He said he was waiting for a tow and that he didn't want me to worry about it.  Did I mention he's a saint?  I was filled with two feelings at that moment:  guilt, for selling Dan my money-sucking albatross of a vehicle and....

relief.  Sweet relief that finally, it wasn't me in a dead truck.  It wasn't me crying behind the wheel, waiting for a friend or a friend's husband or a tow truck or a good Samaritan to come to the rescue.  Dan told me upfront, when he agreed to buy the albatross, that he knew it needed repairs, he knew it would cost him some money and he was fine with that...so I didn't feel like I ripped him off or sold him a lemon.  My conscience was pretty much clear that way.

You know what?  Relief is a nice feeling.

Anyhoo.  I have more to dish about how I got my car, who sold it to me and how the whole transaction made me an even firmer believer in cosmic hoohaw like kismet, fate, serendipity and karma.  But that's for later.

Now it's time for my Ten!

1.  Oscar nominations came out today.  Who is Brad Pitt paying/humping/hypnotizing to get that snooze of a movie "Moneyball" nominated for so many awards?  And Jonah Hill for Best Supporting Actor??  Please...he went to the Seth Rogen College of Acting.  Which means he's a one-trick pony.  In Moneyball, he plays the same guy he played in Superbad...only instead of drawing giant erect penises he was drawing baseball stats.  Yawn.

2.  Hey, men who read this?  Go look at the garbage disposal for a second.  I'm about to go to a bad place.

Are they gone?  Ok good.  I haven't shaved my legs since the last time I hooked up with Cabin Boy.  Which was in...I think November?  From the knees down I look like a man with skinny ankles.  It's actually quite fascinating, being a Yeti.  I have to stop myself from saying, "You have to see this" and pulling up my pant legs for people to see my hirsute shins.  Might be time to get a new hobby.

3.  I got into a fight.  But it was an online fight, on the Huffington Post.  I commented on someone's comment, and I was a total bitch.  And it felt kind of good!  Now, you might be saying, "So what?" but if you know me, you know that I am the least confrontational person in the world (besides like maybe Gandhi or Mother Teresa).  I'm the person who says "I'm sorry!" when someone bumps into me.  For me, too, "fight" means I commented on her post, then she commented on my comment.  Not really Fight Club caliber stuff but still...it's been a long time since I had my claws out.

4.  Wheat Belly Diet:  Like the Monkees used to say, "I'm a believer".  And how.  It's been about two weeks for me, and I am already feeling a difference.  More energy, clearer brain, less hunger.  It's amazing.  I don't have a scale here but I'm already feeling a difference in how my clothes fit, too.  Read up on it, if you're curious.  As much as I love bread, it's becoming very clear to me that wheat and other grains weren't doing me any favors.  Oh and here's something not everyone will tell you about no/low carb eating...YOU WILL SMELL FUNNY FOR A WHILE.  I smelled breastmilk baby poop for a few days and finally realized it was me.  Between that and the Sasquatch legs I'd say it's a good thing I'm flying solo right now. 

5.  When you have kids, there are things you should be told right away.  One of those things is that you will never watch movies in quite the same way again.  I watched "50 50" and instead of just watching the movie and enjoying it (and I did like it), I watched it picturing one of my own kids going through a cancer battle.  And then I thought about my friend Sarah and her son James and his battle with cancer.  And then I cried.  And then the movie was over.  Perspective changes, people!  (and where is Anjelica Houston's nomination for this movie???)

6.  My eBay account was hacked a couple of weeks ago.  eBay closed my store without notifying me...and when I called to ask them "What the hell?" they denied doing it.  It took me several phone calls (many of which ended with me being disconnected...classy move, eBay) and many conversations with people named "Kay" and "Chuck" with heavy eastern Indian accents before they admitted closing it.  I was pretty close to taking a major eBay break before all of this went down....now I'm taking that break.  I miss the good old days on the 'Bay.

7.  So my new car is a Ford Focus.  Approximately 25-29 mpg, compared to approximately 9 mpg on my old Excursion.  I will be saving about $300.00 a month, folks.  That's huge for me.  I'm all Katrina and the Waves this week...walking on sunshine.  And I can't wait until I lose that awful habit of keeping one eye on the gas gauge when I drive. 

8.  Being the President has got to be one of the suckiest jobs ever.  I don't care where you stand on how he's done, whether you love him or hate him or just don't care...but I'd like to see ANYONE out there run a country and do it just right so that everyone is happy. Or maybe even just half of the country was happy.  It's not possible!  You couldn't pay me enough to take that job.  By the way, this is not an endorsement.  I'm totally on the fence this time around.

9.  Almost done reading "The Help".  I so wish I had waited to see the movie.  Books are always so much better, aren't they?  Now when I read, I read the passages in the actresses voices.  And as much as I love Emma Stone, I get tired of hearing her voice.  Also, it's hard to keep the voice in my head low like Viola Davis (who was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Aibileen, WOOOOOOOT!  I loved her performance!!!). 

10.  Valentines Day is coming up...and strangely enough, I'm not caring one bit that I will be alone that night, with my hairy legs and my baby poop stench.  I will eat cheese and hard boiled eggs and I will get a heart-shaped pizza for the kids.  Because, like all the years before...they are my Valentines this time around.

And that's just fine with me.

That wraps it up.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go look at my car which is parked in the garage.  It's been over 10 years since I've parked a car in a garage, and just like a new mommy, I have to check on mine to make sure it's still ok.


Ten on Tuesday

It's Tuesday.  Here's my ten:

1.  Goodbye truck.  Dan, my angel landlord, is buying it from me.  And in what could be interpreted as a final act of defiance or as a final reminder of GOOD RIDDANCE, the second he drove it to his mechanic to have it looked at, the alternator took a crap and is now dead.  Because he is a saint, he's still buying it.  Which is AWESOME because that truck, although it has been a decent mode of transportation over the past decade, has been a monetary vampire.  Just this past weekend William had a hockey tournament in a town not more than 25 miles away from here.  We went back and forth, back and forth, Friday and Saturday.  Gas?  $80.  Thank God for awesome families, we were able to mooch a ride on Sunday.

2.  So now, of course, I am Carless Jenny again.  You never realize how much you depend on your wheels until you find yourself without them.  But I'll gladly snowshoe to the grocery store if it means I never have to weep bitter tears at the gas pump whilst standing next to the big giant beast again.

3.  One more car thing:  that truck is officially the last vestige of my marriage, the last item that was purchased with Big Daddy, the last stinking reminder of a long ago life.  I remember when he pulled up into the driveway with that massive white vehicle, all proud, with a stack of paperwork on the passenger seat. I remember looking back and practically hearing an echo when I talked to the kids in the third row.  I remember having a quickie in the back seat, in our driveway while the kids and their babysitter obliviously sat inside the house (like how I say "quickie" like it was an anomaly?).  When he left me, there was about $15,000 left on that loan, and I paid that sucker off within a year.

4.  Beyonce gives birth!!!  Yeah, I know, whoop-de-doo.  But...there's buzz about whether or not her daughter entered the world via vagina or belly incision.  My opinion?  WHO CARES?  I've had babies both ways and believe me, the end result was exactly the same:  a baby.  I cannot stand the "Natural Nazis" who claim that anything other than a completely natural birth makes for a less-than-real mother.  What about adoptive moms?  Are they fake moms?  Hardly.  And don't get me started on the celebrity "too posh to push" c-section thing.  Do they schedule c-sections because they HAVE to, or is it to save their cootchies?  I had mine because despite the fact that it looks like a baby could sail out of me sideways, my pelvis is apparently a petite little thing.  And my babies had pumpkin heads. I can't imagine having a c-section for any other reason other than necessity.  But.. bottom line is, who gives a flying fig how a baby gets from A to B?  It's what happens after they land that's important.  And believe me, Beyonce's baby is not going to bat an eyelash over how she entered the world.  Kid was born with more than 99% of the people in this country will have in their lifetimes.  Lucky baby!

5.  Portlandia:  my new addiction.  Sure, it can be like a bad SNL sketch at times, but when it's funny, it's HILARIOUS.  Fred Armisen is da bomb.  Nobody parodies hipsters like he and Carrie Brownstein.  And believe me, hipsters are just begging to be parodied.  They are neck-and-neck with holistic, high-strung yoga mommies in the race for Most Annoying People On The Planet.

6.  Wheat Belly diet:  I'm giving it a whirl.  Of course, I'm not buying the book because that would be crazy (and apparently the books cost money), but there's enough information online that I get the gist of it.  It's AMAZING and HORRIFYING how much grain-based stuff we eat.  Wheat Belly says I can gorge myself on cheese, bacon (uncured), avocados and olives.  Ok then!  I'm also taking a break from the drinkies.  So far I have to say I miss the bread more than the wine.  But then again it's only been 2 days without bread vs. 9 days without wine.  We shall see.

7.  Did you watch the Golden Globes?  We watched some of it.  A few observations:  Angelina Jolie needs to eat a little more (listen, even me with my ham-hock arms found her spindly spider arms kind of icky).  Brad Pitt?  I don't get the hoopla.  He doesn't float my boat at all.  (and Moneyball was just "ok" in my opinion...not awesome.) I cried when that chick from The Help won.  But...um, hello Matt LeBlanc!  When did he turn into a silver fox?  Joey, how YOU doin'?

8.  Where was I?  Oh..yeah.  I'm putting Cabin Boy on hold for now.  He was fun and fit the bill for what I needed.  An itch that had to be scratched, was scratched.  And now I no longer itch.  He's a nice guy, a funny guy, but I've decided that I need to save myself (ha!  ha!!!!) for someone different.  Cabin Boy was (is) a fun diversion, a safe and extended one night stand/booty call.  But here's my new philosophy as far as me and the fellas go:  I'm worth more.  I'm worth more than stupid booze-fueled texts, I'm worth more than last minute hook ups. I is kind.  I is smart.  I....sorry, I'm reading The Help (finally).  Now, don't get me wrong:  if the planets align just right, and we happen to be in the same place at the same time and are around the same BAC (blood alcohol content, yo), I may find myself with that itch again.  But for now, I'm putting it on ice.  Mr. Right is totally out there somewhere...I just hope it's not like in Bangladesh or someplace like that.

The bright side?  Only 5 more years until I can register on OurTime.com (the geriatric online dating site).  Sigh.

9.  I hate, HATE those AT&T commercials where two self-absorbed mother effers sit there on their phones and tell everyone "that was so 27 seconds ago".  Especially those office bitches.  I want to take the phones out of their hands and smack them about their smug heads with them.  But I do like to ask my kids, "Do you guys know how to post videos to facebook?" over and over. 

10.  Do graduation parties have to cost thousands of dollars?  I'm starting to feel anxiety about Charlie's party.  I don't want him to be the kid with the totally lame party, but being a realistic person I have to face the fact that I can't hire Coldplay and have a lobster tank here for him.  What is a mom to do?  There are approx. 5 months to worry about this one. 

Oh and here's a bonus:

11.  I need to bend the ear of a website developer person/people, or someone who has started their own interactive website.  Anyone out there?  I have an idea.

That's my 10, people.  A new Dance Moms starts in a few, so I have to go grab an avocado and watch my favorite psycho in action.  Please don't ever get me started on the whole dance thing.  Please.

Be safe, friends.  Hug your kids, hug your friends and don't forget to take care of YOU. 


When a Stepmom Crosses a Line...

I've been trying.  Really, I have!  I have been sitting on my hands and biting my tongue for many, many months. 

I have said nothing when I wanted to scream, typed nothing when I wanted to write a blog post or send an email or just put an effing message in a bottle.  High road, people.  That's the road I've been trying to take for a long time now.

"Put your blinders on, woman" I said to myself.  "Don't let that stuff seep into your life."

But like one of those awful up-the-back diaper explosions, the mess that is called "stepmother" has seeped out of bounds. 

When I first found out about her, way back when, when I was still convinced my husband left because he was "depressed"..I had two wishes:  the first was that she not have any STD's (since he was double dipping back in those days. Ugh.).  The second was that she not show up at our divorce court dates swollen with a secret love child. 

Both of those wishes were granted, thank God.

When I found out they had tied the knot, I had only one wish:  that she be kind to my children, and not make their already-scrambled lives any more convoluted.

And you know what?  I'll admit it:  I resented her being there.  I couldn't stand the fact that there was another woman in their dad's life, let's not get into how my claws came out when I tried to grapple with the concept of that same woman playing Mommy with my kids.

I was definitely a traveler on the Low Road back then.  I did ALL the wrong things, like backwards-text-book.  I grilled the kids when they came home about what was said, what they ate, what they watched and how they were treated.  I scoffed at their descriptions of what she cooked, what she wore, how she decorated.  I worried when they told me stories about her smoking and drinking, tried hard to not vomit when they told me how they could hear moans and "Oh baby" through the thin walls of the house. 

I saw red when I was told about Henry having his hair pulled.  Just about blew my top when she shaved the boys' heads.  And wept when she chose to call me a "fat bitch" when my son was in the hospital after trying to take his life. 

But that was then.  When Big Daddy became Big DeadBeat Daddy, I decided that I needed to knock it off.  I had bigger fish to fry, after all.  I forced myself to ignore whatever floated back from "that house" and focused instead on getting through what proved to be the toughest time in our lives, so far. 

You know when I finally knew I was on course for the High Road?  When the kids came home with the news that Big Daddy and Secretary were expecting Spawn.  I had a brief gut-punch of sadness, and then it passed.  I didn't want to know ANY details.  I was finally getting to that golden milestone all of us who have been dumped aspire to reach:  The fabulous "I Don't Give A Shit" phase.  I was there, and it was awesome.

Oh sure, the kids would still try to raise my hackles now and then.  There were always the "they didn't feed us" complaints, and it did make me upset when they would tell me about how Secretary and Big Daddy would have a nice meal just for themselves while the kids had ramen or hot dogs.  I'm not stupid, I know there are kids in this country who would love to go to bed with ramen in their bellies, so I put that one aside.  And if they were hungry, I fed them another dinner.  No big whoop.

I almost detoured back to the Low Road this past Christmas, though.  Not one, not two, but three of the kids came to me, separately, to tell me how hurt they were about the Christmas card that Big Daddy and Secretary sent out.  Sent out, and displayed proudly on the fridge.  It was a photo card, with a few pictures of Spawn and holiday greetings from "The Big Daddy Family:  Big Daddy, Secretary, and Spawn".  Yes, they sent that out.  And yes, they let the other kids see it. 

Who does that?  Who sends out a card and signs it "our family" and leaves out four children?  It made me sick.  It made me sad.  And it made me mad.  Mad at her, for thinking it was ok to do that.  Mad at Big Daddy, for not standing up for his four older kids.  The kids felt, quite honestly, like crap.  I said nothing to them except, "I'm sorry that happened."  I wondered if people who got the cards, family members who love my kids, said anything to them?  "Hey nice card, but aren't you missing a few people?"  or "Maybe my eyes are going but I didn't see Charlie or Molly or Henry or William in that photo...what gives?"  Do you think anyone would say anything?  I have asked myself if I'd be the one to speak up, to point out the blatant disregard for Big Daddy's first four babies...and I honestly don't know what the answer would be. 

But that too, passed.  We had our hugs and our "whatevers" and like all the other bygones before it, we let this bygone go.

Cut to last night. 

Last night was a night just like any other here at Chez Hausfrau.  It 'twas a Tuesday, so the kids were supposed to go with Big Daddy for their twice-weekly "dinner hour" visit. A term I use loosely, because dinner in my world apparently means something completely different in World of Big Daddies And Secretaries (can you imagine such a world?  It makes my eyes water.).  Anyhoo.  So the two younger boys went, the two older kids stayed (why?  you may ask.  why?  Because they didn't want to go.  And I'm beyond tired of pushing them to go without any support and/or reinforcements from You-Know-Who). 

So the two younger kids come home later, starving as usual.  Bickery as usual.  I started making Second Dinner for them and World War Three erupted in the living room.  Kids screaming at kids, kids screaming at me, shoes thrown outside (seriously...this has somehow become the epic throw down at our house..once your shoe has been thrown outside, IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG, beotch).  Havoc.

Tears were shed, a Family Meeting was called to order, etc. etc.  Hugs all around and then finally, peace.

And so...after that, Molly was in the kitchen with me, hanging out...I could tell she wanted to talk.  She started slowly, and then the words were rushing out of her.  More words than I've heard out of her in AGES (her laptop has fallen ill so she's been forced to interact with us).  She told me about how Big Daddy and Secretary have been asking her to babysit.

(FOR THE RECORD:  I'm ok with this.  I think it's great.  That baby, despite being made from two morally questionable, vapid beings, is just a baby.  And half of it is half of my kids, so by proxy it must be sort of ok. )

She told me of a talk that Secretary had with her, just the other night.  She started out by telling Molly that Big Daddy really, really wants to be closer to her, but doesn't know how (really?  Really???).  Then she sidled up to my daughter, and began asking her things.

"Do you think you'll ever have kids?"  and

"Do you think you'll ever get married?"    and then.....

"So when you get married, do you want to marry a boy, or marry a girl?".

Molly is 16.  Molly is a shy, introverted, quiet, bookish girl who tries desperately to NOT stand out from the crowd.  She's not boy crazy, she doesn't spend hours on the phone talking about Taylor Lautner and Selena Gomez and OMG the half-nekkid boys standing outside Abercrombie. 

Molly gets lost in books.  She has a WICKED sense of humor.  She loves deeply and she is fiercely loyal.  She stays home on weekends more often than not.  She loves That 70's Show and she's a great (and busy) babysitter. 

She is 16.  And when I heard that last question, the question that a woman who cannot possibly "get" my daughter the way I do, a woman who is barely old enough to be Molly's big sister asked my girl, I lost my cool. 

But I did it quietly.  I did it while stirring something on the stove, and I controlled myself.  I asked Molly, "And what did you say?".  Molly blushed.  She said she laughed and then said, "Whatever."

Whatever.  Whatever is, a line was crossed.  I don't care how young you are, how stupid you are, or how hopelessly clueless you are...the questions that Secretary asked my daughter were inappropriate.  MOLLY IS 16.  She's just trying to navigate high school, figure out being a teenager.  Here are some things you ask a 16 year old girl:

What classes do you like?  Which ones do you not like?  Which ones are you REALLY good at?

Who's your favorite author?  What's your favorite book?

What's on your iPod?

Have you seen any good movies, or did you watch the MTV music awards or the Oscars or whatever was on t.v. recently?

You don't ask a 16 year old about getting married, or having babies.  Or what gender their partner will be.  That's a conversation that is brought to you, by them. 

Raising teenagers is tough, and I can only imagine what it's like to have three of them who aren't yours in your house.  Three teenagers who have a pretty good idea about what your role was in their parent's divorce.  It must be hard.  It must be kind of scary.  God knows I'm scared some of the time and I know these kids inside and out.

But no matter how difficult it is, you have to learn about boundaries and lines and personal space.  All three of these things were breached when Molly's stepmom decided it was a good idea to sit down and gab. 

I was surprised by my reaction, and then I decided that it was justified.  Would Big Daddy sit down and have that conversation with Molly?  Or with one of the boys?  Would Secretary sit down with Charlie and ask those same questions?  

I think she crossed a line.  Or maybe I'm overreacting?  Maybe those old hurt feelings aren't gone, like I thought...maybe they're still there, below the surface, just waiting for a crack in the armor to appear.

Or maybe...maybe I'm just trying to protect my babies still, after all these years.


Number 13

A couple of weeks ago,a high school hockey team took to the ice to play a game.  They played hard.  And then, one of the players was checked, from behind, into the boards.

In his father's words, they "counted to five, like you always, do.  But he didn't get up."  Jack Jablonski, a 16 year old sophomore at Benilde-St. Margaret's High School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, didn't get up.

I'll admit it right here:  when the first news stories reported this, I didn't stop to think about it much longer than a few seconds.  I was caught up in my own "stuff", like usual, and so I saw this kid's beautiful smiling face flash by on the screen, along with some words about "hockey tragedy" and I didn't really think much more about it.

I feel bad about that.  Because the next day, I thought about it, long and hard.  Friends of mine who know this young man were posting on facebook about it, and so I read more.  I read the news articles that described this boy in greater detail, that described what happened to him.  They described how he was now lying in a hospital bed with a halo attached to his head, awaiting surgery on his spine.

Awaiting word about whether or not he'll walk again.

And as I read more, I cared more.  I watched YouTube videos made for this boy, videos that showed a toddler Jack, an elementary school Jack, a handsome manchild Jack dressed in his hockey gear.  I watched, and I cried.

My kid plays hockey.  And as I watched the montage of Jack's life unfolding in front of me, I couldn't help but picture my own boy, my William, in the same snapshots.  I thought of the pictures I have of him, as an angel cheeked little toddler, of him standing next to his kindergarten teacher, of him presenting his Culture Box in 4th grade.  And I pictured him in his hockey gear, mouth guard clenched between his teeth, sweet blue eyes peeking out from beneath his helmet.

I felt, for just a second, a brief snippet of time, a little bit of what Jack's parents might have been feeling when their boy was injured.  I thought about those awful five seconds you count, sure that the kid will get up to some weak claps from the crowd, a few backslaps from his teammates...and imagined how it must have felt when their baby, their Jack, their sweet 16 year old boy, didn't get up.

It felt pretty awful.  And I imagined that feeling multiplied by a thousand, by a million, by infinity.

And that's how Jack's mom and dad, and Jack's little brother, must have felt.  I can't fathom it.  I don't want to know it.

But this I know:  He's a pretty remarkable kid.  Remarkable in his normalcy.  Remarkable in the resemblance he bears to so many other kids around his age.  That tall, skinny, good looking mix of innocence and impending adulthood and goofy teenager.  The more I read about him, the more I learned about him, the more it sunk in that this could be one of my sons, one of my neighbor boys, one of the gangly boys in the halls of the high school.  He could be any one of our kids.

So I decided to pray.  I prayed for him right then, and I've prayed for him every day, several times a day, ever since.  And while I was offering up my lukewarm half-Lutheran/half-nothing prayers to that kid, I offered them up to all the other kids out there who are facing challenges just like Jack.  I joined the facebook groups, I changed my facebook picture to the jersey bearing Jack's number and name, and I continued to read about his progress.

I read about how Jack, from his hospital bed, wanted to relay a message to the boys who checked him...that he wasn't mad.  I read the story about the day one of those boys went to the hospital and asked Jack for forgiveness.  And about how Jack comforted this kid.  From his hospital bed.  

I wept with the rest of my community when, after surgery, the doctors said Jack wouldn't have movement below his neck, ever again. How does God do this, how does this happen during a simple hockey game?  A game that thousands of kids play every single day...a game my own son plays, with an enthusiasm I wish I could bottle and sell at Walgreens or Target.

But then, I thought of countless other kids, not unlike Jack, who have been placed in front of seemingly impossible hurdles, and how they've dealt with, and faced those challenges with a grace and strength that I doubt people twice their age could muster.  Other kids have made it over these bumps in the road.  Some of them bear the scars from these battles, some are seemingly unscathed.  But they've come through.

And then...there was good news.  Jack moved his arms.  And I swear, you could hear the roar of cheers and cries across our little city.  His doctors said he wouldn't move again.

But he moved his arms.

Jack is already beating the odds, like an army of kids before him.  He's making progress he wasn't supposed to be making.

Will he skate again?  Walk again?  Dance with a girl again?

I don't know.  Nobody can know that right now.  But this I do know:  there is power behind all of these prayers, all of this goodwill.  All of this SUPPORT.  I know the doctors and scientists would disagree with me, and say that this was just a fluke, a random, one time victory.

But, I don't care what the experts say.  Jack doesn't care, and his parents don't care, and the thousands of people who are rooting for this kid don't care what logic or experts tell us what will or won't happen.

Because miracles happen every day.

Jack Jablonski borrowed this beautiful quote for his 8th grade yearbook:

"I don't believe in miracles.  I rely on them."

We all do, Jack.

Friends...if you believe in prayers, or sending good vibes or even just holding someone's name near your heart and thinking good, healing thought about them, please do me a favor and keep this kid (and the boys who checked him, because this was an accident that could have happened to anyone) close over the next few days and months:

Jack Jablonski, number 13.  In our hearts.


Diez el Martes (that's Ten on Tuesday, Spanish style yo!)

Hola mis amigos!  I hope you are are totally rocking this new year.  Me?  Meh.  I've tried to avoid putting a lot of pressure on my chubby rounded shoulders by making any big, broad resolutions.  In fact, I ushered in the year sitting on my couch, watching the Law and Order marathon on USA Network.  My only complaint was the freaking Sarah Mclachlan animal commercials they played EVERY 10 MINUTES.  Now, if you know me, you know I love me some animals.  I would have a barn full of cats, dogs, horses and lambs and baby cows if I could.  But I can't.  And it got so soul-crushing to hear Sarah's warbling "Silent Night" while the images of the abused and neglected animals flashed by that I did the reprehensible thing:  I changed the channel.  God help me.  But I did hug Walter each time and said to him, "I'm so glad we found you, my love."  That's got to count for something, right?

Anyhoo.  Without any further ado (adieu?), here are the diez el Martes:

1.  If there was a Shit-O-Meter that we used to rate our days, with 1 turd being a great day and 10 turds being a shit-tacular day, today would have been like, maybe a 12.  I won't bore you guys with the utterly trite details, but I will say that it involved one of my kids, me chasing someone with a stainless steel mixing spoon, and a call to the police.  I will also say that today we found out that a 5'3" mom chasing a 6'2" 17 year old with a stainless steel mixing spoon is not considered "child abuse".  I've already said too much.  Talk amongst yourselves.

2.  So after a day like that, where does a girl go? you may be asking yourself.  Well, this here girl goes to the grocery store to get toilet paper.  And while she was there, she may or may not have said to herself, "SCREW IT" and picked up some sushi and some cheap ass wine.  Toilet paper, you may ask?  Yes.  Because naturally, after talking to police officers while wearing a nordic wool ski hat, braids, a matted fleece jacket, faded and stretched out yoga pants and shabby faux leopard fur slipper scuffs, the bathroom in the mancave became locked.  From the outside.  We tried everything to get it open, I even tried offering up middle aged lady tears as a sacrifice...but no go.  And of course, we were down to two rolls of toilet paper, the last one was, of course, locked up in what we now call "Tomb of the Splattered Toilet Seat".

Landlord is coming over tomorrow to fix it.  I just pray there aren't any disgusting surprises in there.

3.  Here's one for the "Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmmm" files:  John McCain sent me a friend request on facebook a few days ago.  Being a mature woman, and thinking to myself, "well, why can't we be friends?" I accepted.  A few hours later, he was nowhere to be found on the friends list.  "Weird", I thought to myself ,but didn't give it much thought because facebook can be wonky from time to time.  Cut to the next day, and I get another friend request from McCain.  Here's where I said to myself, "Hmmmm."  Accepted once again, after all, who among us hasn't been stymied by this crazy interweb stuff?  So, I decided to check out his profile.  Saw some travel photos, and not much else.  "Oh well" I said to myself.  "He's extending the olive branch.  And I love me some olives."  Tonight, bored after the police/stuck locks/wine and sushi binge, I decided to look him up again, and maybe drop a "Hey stranger" line his way.  Guess what?

He unfriended me again.  This time?  I'm chalking it up to kooky.  McCain, if you're reading?  I'm not officially creeped out yet, but we're one friend request away from that.  Normally I'd be thrilled to get a stalker but today I'm feeling particularly shaky and vulnerable.  So knock it off.

4.  Speaking of shaky, Cabin Boy gets back into town tomorrow night.  He sent a text, wants to get together on Friday night for dinner at his place.  My gas tank is again on fumes and I'm pretty sure I've gained about 35 pounds since he's left so I'm hoping we can change the date from "his place" to "my place" and "dinner" to "let's play Helen Keller, kinky style, in a completely darkened room with both of us wearing blindfolds and earplugs".  And does anyone have a Spanx bodysuit I can borrow?

5.  This is a fun time to be politically Switzerland-ish.  My Republican friends, and my Democrat friends, are all just starting to very subtly boil, like a pan of water about 6 minutes into a mac and cheese meal.  I am so confused this time around.  So very, very confused.

6.  I've had the Lynrd Skynrd song "Gimme Three Steps" stuck in my head for about 5 hours now.  There is no explanation for this.  It's a song I think I fist-pumped along with maybe 4 or 5 times in high school, at some very unfortunate keggers.  Here it is, because it would be awesome if it was implanted in your head too:

Why, God.  Why??

7.  Celebrity Wife Swap:  The television equivalent to eating McDonald's french fries in your car.  You watch, you soak it in and you pray that no one sees you doing it.  Gary Busey?  I think I'd rather find Big Daddy under my bed.

8. Best lip balm ever:  Blistex Deep Renewal.  A month ago my lips were like the pebbly surface of old school Samsonite hard sided luggage.  Tonight they are silky smooth.

9.  Pinterest?  Thanks for making me feel like a complete and total idiot.  I DON'T GET YOU.  Do people really have that much spare time (says the woman who has watched 198 hours of Friends reruns in the past 3 weeks)?  Really, I don't understand it.  Just tonight, I "repinned" some funny Solo-cup wine glasses.  That's it, folks.  That's all I've done.  I think I have officially become "unpinteresting".

10.  Katy Perry/Russell Brand divorce.  Knock me over with a feather.  Or a shot of whipped cream.  I just wonder, who instigated it?  Katy seems pretty cool, Russel seems like he has one or more STD's (pick the scabbiest one you can imagine, then add another one for shits and giggles).  I can't wait to hear the details in Us Magazine.

That's the 10, sweet and lovely readers.  I hope 2012 is treating you all with kid gloves so far...and if not, hang in there.  The best is yet to come.
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