Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book Review: My Teenage Werewolf

This book warranted more than the sentence or three that I give the other books I've read.  That's partly because of my strong reaction to it, and partly because of the strong reactions I got from my teenage daughter and another teenage girl who was visiting and saw it on the coffee table.

Both of them were offended by the title:  My Teenage Werewolf.  And when they found out the premise of the book, they were no less offended.  Author Lauren Kessler wants to "understand" her 12-year-old daughter better, so she shadows the girl at school, summer camp, at the mall, and on athletic fields.

My daughter was horrified--and relieved to discover that I had no intentions of similarly invading her life.  Even if there was a book deal involved.  Perhaps especially if there was a book deal involved.  (A lot never gets said here, because my daughter is 15, and I need to respect her privacy.)

I read the book because I wanted to find out how this mom managed to "embed" herself in her daughter's academic and athletic world.  How did she talk a school principal into allowing her to follow her daughter around all day?  And if she spent her day following her daughter around, how did she get anything else done? (There was frequent mention of lattes in the book, so I'm guessing copious amounts of caffeine were involved.)

I'm the first to admit that I don't have the ideal relationship with my teenage daughter.  We butt heads a lot.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that I'm the adult here, and that part of being 15 is being irrational, mercurial, and even selfish at times.  But part of being 15 is also being industrious, generous and energetic--all of which she is, and often in surprising ways.

Teenagers are on their way to growing up, and they are trying to make their way in a challenging world.  While I agree that it's a good thing--actually, a necessary thing--for parents to be involved and engaged in their kids' lives, I know that as teenagers learn to do more and be more, parents need to step back and let that happen.  Within reason, of course.  There's less hand-holding and more listening, often for things that are not said.  I felt that Kessler was busy trying to relive her own teenage years through her daughter, and that's never a good idea.  Other times I felt that Kessler was using her daughter as a means to an end (see "book deal" above.)  That's not a good idea either.

I'm not looking for the "ultimate bonding experience" with my daughter.  Sometimes I'll settle for enjoying our mutual favorite Panera sandwich, Asiago bagel with veggie cream cheese, with her.

Disclaimer:  This is a completely uncompensated review. I borrowed the book from the library.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not Your Bus

Little Brother is the only kid in the neighborhood who doesn't have school this week.  That's because he's the only Catholic-school kid in the neighborhood.  Everyone else went back to school today.

While he could have slept in, Little Brother is not that kind of kid.  There are video games to be played, and Nerf slam-dunks to be practiced.

Besides, he thought he'd lord it over all his friends, since they have school today and he doesn't.

When he followed TheDad out to his car to say goodbye for the day, he saw people gathering at the bus stop.  But he came in to watch a few more minutes of SportsCenter.

And suddenly, the school bus was pulling away from the curb, and it was too late for him to brag about his week off to his friends.

"Mom," he shouted accusingly, "you were supposed to tell me when the bus got here."

Since when am I responsible for reminding my children to meet a school bus that isn't theirs, so they can brag to their friends?  If they want to act like that, they certainly don't need my help.

"I only issue reminders for buses you're supposed to be riding," I informed him.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Slowly but Surely...Spring Cleaning

I'm using the 3-bag method to clean up in here today.

  • 1 paper grocery bag for recyclable paper
  • 1 tote bag for stuff that belongs in another room
  • 1 trash bag

So far so good!  I've discovered that I do, indeed, have a desktop.  It is brown.  It is not dusty, because there was no room for any dust to land on there!

I found a couple of things I didn't know were missing, and my bag of stuff to relocate is by far the fullest of the 3 bags.

The rest of the house still needs work--lots of work.  But my little corner of the world is well on its way to neatness.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

On Good Friday

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Pragmatic Sacrifice

There is just so much sacrificing a 9-year-old can do.

Case in point: Middle Sister had a friend sleep over last night. Despite the fact that there's a trundle bed in Middle Sister's room, we woke up this morning to find her friend snoozing on the family-room couch. That's where the TV is.

Little Brother wanted to watch TV.

While I was making his breakfast, he complained about the fact that he can't watch TV this morning.

"It's Good Friday today, bud. It's a day of sacrifice."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, sacrifice is giving up something important, especially when it helps other people. What did Jesus sacrifice on Good Friday?"

"His life," he said, as he gave me a big hug.

"So I think you can manage to miss your TV show this morning," I told him.

He nodded, thinking about that for a bit. "It's OK, Mom," he said. "My show comes on again at 10:30. Do you think she'll be up by then?"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It Might Get Loud

The Boy Next Door and a few other friends are over here to hang out with Middle Sister. They're all freshmen in high school, which means that while these guys enjoy going to school dances, they also enjoy staging Nerf wars with Little Brother.

Middle Sister came in here a few minutes ago to ask me to get Little Brother off the porch, where she was sitting with her friends.

"Find a friend your own age," I told Little Brother.

But the friends piped up, "No, we're having fun! He should stay here."

"Yeah," Little Brother chimed in. "They're like the brothers I never had."

"You have a brother," I reminded him.

So Little Brother remains on the porch (or in the yard--I just saw a bunch of these guys run by the window) with Middle Sister and the guys. There he is, right in the thick of things. And while it's noisy out there on the porch, I really don't mind having this bunch over. As long as they remember to put their empty soda cans in the recycling bin, they're welcome here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Not So Grumpy

Sometimes you just have to break your own fashion rules.

I figure that I'm not young enough to pull off T-shirts with slogans or sweat shirts with pictures. I make an exception for Notre Dame and any school/team spirit wear associated with my kids, but that's it.

And I'm not a big Disney fan.

But a few months ago I found a fleece with my favorite Dwarf's picture on it, along with the words "I'm GRUMPY." At the time, I joked that I was buying it so that on days when I was feeling grumpy, I could issue a warning to my family.

That's not how it has turned out, though. When I wear this fleece, my grumpy mood tends to evaporate. The picture makes me smile, and it's hard to be grumpy when you're smiling. It's a weird way to get an attitude adjustment, but it works for me.

I should wear this shirt every day. I'm sure it would never pass the test on "What Not To Wear," but that's OK.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why I'm Thankful Today

Today didn't start out so great, but I do have plenty to be thankful for. I wasn't feeling well yesterday so most of the afternoon was spent on the couch with the heating pad. Fortunately I have a laptop so I was able to get my work done. Also fortunately, I have a husband who can turn a blind eye to a fair amount of clutter that happens when I don't bother getting after the kids who've left a "Hansel and Gretl" trail of shoes, sandals, sweatshirts, novels, pretzel bags, jars of change, school projects and books for projects-in-progress all over the place. I also, fortunately, have a husband who is more than willing to take us to the Chinese buffet when I confess that I'm just not in the mood to cook any dinner.

So there were dishes to wash this morning before I could have coffee (I needed a clean coffee cup, after all). It's never fun to wake up and find dishes in the sink. But Little Brother got fed, dressed, combed, and out the door with a minimum of drama. Middle Sister did not miss the bus or forget her lunch.

I missed daily Mass because I had a GYN appointment. Not my yearly (that's coming up in 3 weeks) but a visit because I've been having problems. Again. Silly me for thinking that the hysterectomy would take care of all the problems.

The nurse weighed me before she took my blood pressure. BIG mistake.

The doctor kept me waiting for an hour. But then she kept other patients waiting while she listened to my concerns, asked detailed questions about my symptoms, checked on dates, reviewed past test results, and settled on a plan for where we go from here. I felt like I had been heard and that my concerns were respected.

So I left the doctor's office two full hours after my appointment time. (Good thing I had my Kindle with me!) I was two blocks from the mall, and I decided to run in and check to see if the shoes I had seen on sale last time I was there were still available. Hey, a little retail therapy never hurts. Especially when shoes are involved. As luck would have it, the shoe rack at the Lands' End Shop in Sears had ONE pair left of my "old faithful" sneakers--and they were in my size. Even better, they were on super clearance: $55 sneakers marked down to $6.99. AND they had ONE pair of a slightly dressier boat shoe left, again in my size, again marked down to $6.99 from $50.

I may have 3 medical appointments scheduled within the next 3 weeks, but at least my feet will look good when I get there.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Before there were Blogs

Before there were blogs, I had a cyber-lifeline. It was a group of moms on an AOL bulletin board. All of us stayed at home with our very young children. I think I found this board when Big Brother was a toddler.

At the time, we lived in a neighborhood that was primarily retired military. They were great neighbors; there was always someone at home (and out in their yards) during the day--but there was no one for Big Brother to play with and no moms for me to chat with.

That's where the SAHMs came in--the Stay At Home Moms from the AOL bulletin boards. We had our own little meeting spot where we could stop in at any time and post a message; in no time at all, it seemed, someone would leave a comment for us.

We encouraged each other through births of children, infertility, deaths of parents, job losses, military deployments, potty training, temper tantrums, food allergies and health crises. And when we gradually moved away from AOL, we took our core group with us and formed an email list. That petered out after a while, but then along came Facebook--and magically, we're all back in touch again.

Now it's time to support one of our number, as we've just learned (via Facebook) that one of the SAHMs has suddenly lost her 20-year-old son. He was a college student, and an intelligent young man of many talents and great promise.

I request the kindness of your prayers for the repose of Mark's soul, and for his parents and two brothers and many friends and relatives who mourn his loss.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. And may those he left behind be comforted.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tween Track Trends

At Little Brother's track meet today, I was doing the "recording" (writing down everyone's times for each race) when the other teams' recorders and I noticed a couple of girls wearing two different running shoes.

It seems that they'd traded ONE of their shoes with another runner, so they each had two different shoes.

No big deal, they told us. The shoes were the same brand and the same size.

After another mom explained that runners' feet are each different and the shoes conform to the feet, she mumbled to me that she really doesn't like parenting other people's children.

Clearly I have no such qualms; at that very moment I was asking the girls if they were running in any more races today and instructing them to change their shoes back before racing again.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Digitally Catholic

It's not like I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. And certainly, my digital pursuits have enriched my spiritual life.

I listen to satellite radio and enjoy Catholic programming.

I listen to podcasts.

I read blogs. I have a Kindle.

And I have an iPod touch with plenty of Catholic apps. Those are useful things, those apps. One of my most-used apps is Divine Office, which allows me to download the Liturgy of the Hours at home, where I have wireless access, and take the prayers with me. It's much easier than carrying a heavy book.

But today, I brought my iPod to Mass, arriving a little early so I could pray Morning Prayer (this morning was a little bit off schedule).  I have to say, it felt kind of weird sitting there in church with an iPod.  Even though the only app I used was Divine Office, and no one was even paying attention to me, I felt very conspicuous.

Then I came home and read about a new book, Prayer in the Digital Age, by Mark Swaim. Looks intriguing! Maybe it's just what I need to read.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Mass Appeal

Yesterday before the closing performance of the high school's spring musical, Mass was celebrated for the cast, crew and orchestra. This way, they make it easy for all the hardworking performers to attend Mass.

When TheDad and I arrived to watch the final performance, three separate parent volunteers informed us that Little Brother had been one of the readers at the Mass! They all said that he did a great job.

But at the cast party after the play, we got the full story from the director and the orchestra's conductor. The priest had asked for three volunteers to be readers. Little Brother was one of many volunteers, and he was chosen to read the responsorial Psalm.

One of the adults reviewed this responsibility with him, reminding him that after each stanza, he should raise his hand to indicate the congregation's turn to respond.

"I know about that," he replied matter-of-factly. "I go to church."

From the Department of "What Were They Thinking?"

Little Brother's school is very big on reading. Both reading for information and recreational reading are encouraged at school. I'm glad about that, since I'm also a big fan of reading.

In the primary grades, there's time built into the students' day for "DEAR" time (Drop Everything And Read.) And once a month for an entire week, the Reading Train comes to school. Each student is required to carry a book wherever he goes (except to lunch, because the train doesn't come during lunch). You never know when you'll hear a train whistle and the announcement: "Climb aboard the Reading Train!" Everyone heads out to the hallway with their book, sits down on the floor, and you hear nothing but the rustle of turning pages for 15 minutes.

Little Brother's class has reading time as well, but it's not called "DEAR." Instead, his teacher calls it "DIRT" time: Daily Independent Reading Time. She has provided string bags for each student to keep a couple of books, to be read during DIRT time.

Can you tell where this is going?

They call these bags "DIRTbags."

Saturday, April 02, 2011

It Can't Come Soon Enough

Closing night for the high school's spring musical (The Wizard of Oz) is tomorrow. We've been eating, breathing, and not sleeping the play for over two months now.

I had my reservations about allowing Little Brother to participate, but I went ahead and let him do it. (I also notified his teacher about the certainty of late bedtimes for days on end, and asked her to let me know if there were any problems with schoolwork or behavior. I guess there haven't been any.)

Middle Sister has been doing everything at school except for showering and sleeping. That's all she's had time for at home. She'd get to school around 8 AM, go to class until 2:30, start track practice at 3, eat dinner, and go to play practice until at least 9--and in the last two weeks, as late as 11.

No one's been around to do any chores. Except for me, when I'm not behind the wheel of the van, shuttling people back and forth to play practice.

The play has been a great experience for both of my kids. Middle Sister has made new friends and learned new skills (she's helped with stage crew set-building as well as being a cast member.) And Little Brother, apparently, has been "adopted" as the whole cast's little brother. At those Tech Week Dinners, he could be found dining with the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Wizard and the Flying Monkey in Charge. I'd go over to make sure he'd eaten a good dinner, only to find him playing video games on someone's cell phone or high-fiving a cast member.

So I'm glad that they have both had this opportunity, and I know they'll be missing the play on Monday when they get to eat dinner here at home and do chores and not have somewhere to be after dinner. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to serving dinner to the whole family, nagging my kids to get those chores done, and not having to get somebody somewhere after dinner.

After all, "there's no place like home."