Spring Break…?


Last week:

“Momma could you write a note to my track coach telling him we’re going to be out of town next week on Spring Break so I can skip practices?” The boy asked. A few weeks earlier, his coach moved him off the discus and shot put rotation and made him a long distance runner-primarily because he needed to get into better shape. As you might imagine, he is not too happy about his move. “Nope, sorry, I can’t lie for you” I replied. “

First day of Spring break:

“Momma, I have my whole Spring break all planned out for myself…” the boy began. “Yeah?” I replied, curious but not all that interested. “Yes. I’m going to play Jak and Daxter (video game) from start to finish and see if I can break my previous record.” He explained enthusiastically. “Oh really?” I said back to him. “Yep-nothing but me and the game all week long”.

First Afternoon of Spring Break after Track practice:

“Momma, do you know what happened to the Jak and Daxter video game? I can’t find it.”


“Momma, You are totally ruining my pre-planned Spring break….” The boy said as he picked up a pair of socks from the clothes basket to fold. “And your point is…?” “Were you not listening?” He inquired. “Bay, there’s an old expression that says if you would like to see God laugh, tell him your plans…” I replied. Judging from the quizzical look he shot back to me I added, “Bay-never tell your mother your plan for a ten day break is to do nothing other than play video games. Now I can see maybe playing one day…but not all ten.” “It’s my Spring break and I should have the prerogative to enjoy it the way I see fit”. He argued. “Yes, you’re right it is your Spring Break-at the school that I work hard to pay for…and you’re taking said break in MY house, which together with your father, work hard to pay…and you do very little to contribute in either endeavors.  SO…you’re Spring break belongs to me-not you, me.” I explained.

Mumbling under his breath-but still loud enough for his mother to hear he said, “We’ll see about that….” Which made his mother look around the house at all the areas that needed help-you know the kind of help a 15 year old boy could do-with little trouble and wrote him out a to-do list saying, “And when you finish folding all this laundry-here is a list of things that could also use your assistance.



Shrugs, eye rolls and mood swings…


“Mom, my color pallet has certainly changed over the years…” the doll began. We were walking hurriedly through a department store looking for a dress shirt for me to wear that evening. “Yeah, how so?” I replied while sifting through a few racks of clothing. “Well I used to like really bright and colorful clothes….now I like grays and black” she explained. “In other words you’re wearing colors to match your moods?” I suggested which was met with her tongue sticking out me. “Sorry doll couldn’t resist” I offered and proceeded to watch her shrug and then roll her eyes at my apology. “Well then never mind” I murmured to myself and chuckled.

I graduated college with a degree in Communications and one of the basic tenants of the degree is the ability to read body language. But who needs a degree these days? The doll’s large usage of shrugs and eye rolls seem to convey just how bored she is with all of us. Saturday night during a family party, when all the kids broke out of their designated assigned area, the doll was the only one to remain put. “Where’s the doll?” I asked her cousin Mary. “She’s too engrossed in her technology” she explained. When I questioned the doll about whether she was hanging out with her cousins or just sharing the same space she rolled her eyes, shrugged and then uttered, “Same difference”.

In addition, her father and I have found how easy it is to provoke them from her. Apparently, the simple act of opening my mouth is the trigger:  “Doll what’s going on at school…?” *shrug* “Doll I need your help in the kitchen *eye roll* or even better yet, “Doll your bedroom looks like a disaster… *shrug and eye roll” combination. Throw in a good mood swing undercurrent and all bets are off!! Unfortunately the only defense her father and I have is to mirror the eye rolls and shrugs back to her-which evoke even larger one’s back to us-which make us chuckle.

I know some day in the not so distant future, the doll will out grow these mannerisms and revert back to the nice young lady (I hope) she was prior to puberty’s interruption.  I just hope she realizes when her parents made those obnoxious faces or exaggerated eye rolls in response to her own, we were trying desperately to lighten the mood…so these transition days weren’t so hard. We’ve probably failed more times than not–but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying.

Growing up is hard to do…just ask a parent.

Baby conundrum…


Saturday late morning…

“Don’t call me that!” the doll said to her brother-who knew that he could elicit more reactions from her by continuing to say what she didn’t want to hear. “STOP TALKING TO ME” her voice escalated. He continued to talk.”MOM TELL YOUR SON TO SHUT UP!” The doll yelled in my general direction.

I separated the two-giving them both jobs in different rooms-the doll with me drying dishes while the boy dusted the living room. Peace brokered by different orbits. “Mom I hate him, he’s such a jerk!” The doll informed. “Doll, really? You hate him?” I asked. “Yes mom. He won’t stop talking to me ever…he’s like a gnat flying at my head constantly and I want to squish him” she explained. “But you do realize, every time you respond to his annoyance, you’re giving him permission to continue, right?” I asked. “How?” she replied, quite annoyed with me. “Because he got a response from you-so he’ll keep provoking just to get a response. Good/Bad-it doesn’t matter.” I explained. “So he’s like a bully….?” She asked. “In a 15 year old, who loves his sister but has a hard time showing it kind of way…yes”.

Armed with this new information, once they completed their chores and were again in the same orbit, the boy began to speak and the doll responded-again.


“What? Its not a bad name…” The boy concluded.

“MOM, please tell your son to stop calling me “Baby!” He knows I don’t like it but he keeps calling me that anyway”.

Both kids began to speak at the same time-the boy trying to talk over her…”Mom she’s acting like one right now”

“Mom he’s telling me I’m insecure being called a baby-when in fact I simply hate that name”

“It’s true mom she has a fear of the word baby”


“I’m not being a bully-I’m your brother and I love you…baby!


I tried my best to ignore their arguing but with the doll’s escalation of voice and demeanor, I knew I had to jump in…

“Boys and girls….” I began and then waited a few minutes for them to stop arguing. “Hello….first of all you two are 12 and 15 years old which means that you two will argue about everything for the next year or so…so pick your battles wisely. Second, Bay, she does not like you calling her…” “I don’t understand why saying the word ‘baby’ makes her nuts…”He argued. “BAY, EXCUSE ME, MY TURN TO TALK, YOURS TO SHUSH!” I replied. “Second, stop calling her baby. I know you think its fun to provoke a reaction from her, I’m telling you, it’s not. It’s not fun for her or me and soon it will not be fun for you. Third, Doll, cut the boy some slack…I don’t think he wakes up each morning planning on how to drive you nuts. “But he won’t stop talking to me!!” she cried. “TOUGH TOE NAILS!! He’s your brother-deal with it and finally-both of you stop being assholes.!”

-Yes the swear jar is no longer in effect-

“MOM!! What did you call me?” the doll shrieked. “You heard me-both of you. If you can’t sit in the same room with one another without causing grief–then move to another room.” “But he…” she began but I cut her off. “Knock it off..we’re done talking about this. Bay-go get dressed for the day, you too doll and stay out of each other’s way…now go.”

Neither child was satisfied with my solution, however they did cool their arguing for a little while.


Last night I asked the doll to move to a different couch so I could sit in her spot. When she got up to move I replied, “Thanks Baby!” I was shocked when she angrily turned toward me and said, “DON’T CALL ME THAT!!” “Call you what I just thanked you for moving?” I replied. “Don’t call me BABY I hate it!” Looking over at her father and then back toward her I replied, “Excuse me, I’m not the boy, I’m your Mother. You are my daughter, my baby-my baby DOLL”. ” I HATE BEING CALLED A BABY!!” she shouted back to me.  “I didn’t call you a baby…I said thanks baby-using “baby” as a term of endearment.” My husband looked over at the doll an added, “Perhaps our “baby doll” should go to bed…she’s cranky…” Which earned him a sneer and a “STOP IT DAD” in response.

Ah yes. twelve year old girls…

different realizations…


Insights: the boy likes to greet everyone he meets with “Good Morning” regardless of the time of day or night. His reasons have changed over the years as to why he uses this particular greeting, but his most recent conclusion is “more people enjoy receiving a morning salutation than any other”. “Okay but why not just say ‘good day?’ See short, sweet and to the point” I offered. “Because just saying ‘day’ is boring and makes people think you don’t mean the salutation.” Hmmm
I love my work…helping families care for their parents, but the last few weeks have been difficult on two of the ladies with whom I spend my days. One recently had emergency surgery and has spent the last month in the hospital and rehab, while the other came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized as well. Two weeks ago, I brought Mrs K. home from rehab; for evaluation as to whether she could successfully master her home without additional assistance. When we entered her house she was high; happy to be home as she offered scenarios to the Physical Therapist about how she could get along. Ten minutes later all her excitement disappeared at her realization that she wasn’t physically ready to come home permanently. “As much as I want to, I am not ready” she said exhausted by the visit. Her simple admission was heartbreaking to witness as the light of hope dimmed in her eyes.

Yesterday was so beautiful that Mary Alice and I decided to take a walk. “Maybe the walk will help my eyes” she said as we prepared to leave. “Eyes? What’s wrong with your eyes?” I asked. Looking at me she said, “You know, it’s just dumb…I look at things and I can’t think of what it is…just dumb. Maybe the sunshine will help my eyes.” I smiled at her and said “Well it certainly can’t hurt” and we exited the house. I was struck with how the realization of her plight was there-even though she struggled to understand why–which for the life of me I don’t understand either.


On a good note, Mrs. K came home on Wednesday-her daughter flew home from San Francisco and has taken up residence until there is no question as to whether she can remain at home by herself.



smiling from IMs…


There was a time in the not so distant past that when the doll had “private” questions, she would wait until we were alone in the car to ask me. Those days are in my past…and I miss them. Nowadays when she asks-if she asks, she simply approaches. Why is this so bad? Because now she can read my face and see when I’m fumbling…instead of sounding like the true “Know-it-all” mom. In addition, many of  our “so-called” conversations aren’t even taking place in person anymore, rather over our Ipod instant messaging system which, while functional at getting direct questions answered doesn’t leave me with much satisfaction. But as the mother of a tween-almost teen aged girl…I guess I’ll have to take what I can get.

And…..what I’ve been getting  is…insight into my doll’s personality, humor and creativity–without her sullen self realizing she’s letting me see too! I mean, I’ve always known she had a dry sense of humor…only now I have digitized copies to prove it…20140417-105712.jpg




short quip editions…


My sister Ann Marie, the boy and I worked in my father’s front garden the other day-pruning down his chrysanthemum bushes and preparing them for a colorful growth season by pouring alum into their base and the soil below. As we did so, we engaged in small talk in which my sister marveled at my doll’s reading explosion. “I can’t believe she read all the Harry Potter books in such a short time…” Ann Marie said. Smiling back, her proud mother-me replied, “Do you know what else she accomplished during that furious week of reading?” Ann Marie’s eyes grew large with anticipation at what other marvel my doll may have undertaken and replied,”What?” “Not a darn thing. She never picked up after herself, didn’t do her chores, nothing. She was too consumed with reading.”  Laughing Ann Marie replied, “Well you let that happen…” and I agreed. The fact that the doll has discovered reading all of a sudden-we’re still adjusting to. “At least while she was at camp they kept her too busy to read; but since she’s been home she’s almost non stop, while my house disintegrates around her…” I explained with a laugh. “You know what that means, don’t you?” My sister asked.

“Yep-she’s bored.”

And there are way worst things the doll could be into…so I should just keep my mouth shut…





grit and mom’s will…

Sweet gum tree fruit is not a nice fruit.

Sweet gum tree fruit is not a nice fruit.

The boy is expected to earn 20 hrs of community service throughout the course of one school year-per year in High School. Last summer, he earned the majority of his hours working at our annual parish festival; the rest he’s been earning through hit and miss tasks this last quarter of school. But the boy being who he is does not like doing the service hours willingly-unless of course there is a greater payoff than just accumulated service hours. “How about a night without your mom bitching at you to get them done?” I asked when he scoffed at a chance to earn a few more.  “Mom, its not that I don’t want to earn them….they just need to be the right kind of work.” He responded. “Well at this point, beggars can’t be choosy” I argued back.

“Marsh, if the boy still has service hours to pick up, I have a job for him…” my friend Chris began. “The neighbor at the end of the block has extremely bad allergies and Lupus so he can’t rake out his yard or do any type of outdoor clean up. If the boy could rake his yard; rake the debris into a tarp and I’ll take the tarp and make mulch from the debris. If he’s willing to do that,  I’ll sign his paperwork. And believe me…the entire neighborhood will thank you”. Her last remark rooted in truth–as the owners inactivity the year before, turned his property into the neighborhood eyesore.

Now I know my son and manual labor his the last thing he’d like to do. But time is running short for him to fulfill his service hour quota so I agreed. Sunday afternoon, we showed up to rake this neighbor’s yard which had only one good thing going for it…the grass was still relatively dormant and therefore not as difficult to rake. However, the contents in the yard-leaves and Sweet Gumball fruit, made job all the more challenging. Located on the street side of the property is a large Sweet Gumball tree the city planted as a replacement for all the Ash trees killed off by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. If you ever wondered if the city is run by idiots…take a look at these trees and the large amounts of fruit they drop onto lawns and streets every year. These gumballs of spikes make clean-up very difficult-as they stick to everything they come in contact with-especially the ground.

filled one garbage container-only 1/4 of yard complete

filled one garbage container-only 1/4 of yard complete


Ten minutes into the job the boy and I were arguing about pace. As I saw, I was doing the majority of the work-he was dabbling with the idea of using his rake. As he saw, mom was being a bitch. As we raked we squabbled-me pointing out how slow he was moving, him getting upset with me for noticing how slow he was going. “You know this is your service project not mine….I could just leave and make you finish on your own!” I yelled at one point. “This is not my service hour job-I never agreed to do this crap! You did and you dragged me along!!!” The boy yelled back. “That’s because you need the hours!! Besides what about the guy we’re helping…? Did you ever think about him? How do you think this will make him feel…that someone cared enough to take care of this for him?? Think about someone other than yourself!!” I yelled back-which only made him slow down further.

Yes….mom is not the best motivator when doing things she doesn’t want to do either.

Almost three hours later, we put as many leaves and Sweet Gumball tree fruits into the tarp as we could; enlisted the help from my friend Chris and her son to help carry the tarp and its contents back to her house (three houses away) and finished cleaning up (a stretch of city property) that many Gumball fruit littered-filling one large garbage container to the brim.  Looking around I said to my friend, “This place is nuts…there are still a zillion of those gumballs all over his yard…” She nodded but added, “True, but anything is an improvement over what it was before…and the neighbors will be happy this stuff won’t be blowing into their yards any time soon. At that,  I declared us finished.

“Momma I have blisters all over my hands…” The boy announced unhappily. “So do I…now you see why your dad and I want you to excel in school…so you won’t have to do manual labor for a living-like your dad.” Looking down at his hands the boy remarked, “Well you could have told me this…I didn’t need an example.” “Bay…we all need examples sometime–and you should feel good you helped this guy out” I replied.

He grunted in return…sounding very much like a 15 yr old boy.