Tuesday, July 26, 2011

i've never done this before

Oh my gosh.  I am getting weepy.  My oldest turned 16 today.  What does that mean?  Holy crap I am old.  Hah!  Just kidding.  Seriously though.  Wow.  Just wow. 

It's still an experiment in process.  But it's soon to be over. F*ck.  Did I figure it out?  I only have two years left.  He's a good boy and he's irritating as hell.  Anyone that tells you boys are easier than girls at the teenage years, well, I dunno.  Maybe they are right, maybe not.  I don't have a girl so I'll never know.

What I do know is there is a lot of drama.  A LOT of drama.  Even with a boy.

And he has a girlfriend.  A real girlfriend.  What does that mean anyway?  What are they doing?  Do I really want to know what they are doing?  "Un"fortunately she moved to LA this summer.   He's attached.  Technology helps ease the heartache I think.  Unlimited texting is a good thing, at least for my wallet.

And the mouth.  Always had the mouth.  Since he was a newborn.  He knew what he wanted and don't even.  No.  I am serious.  100% serious.  It's how I describe him time and again.  And he is still...to this day... as stubborn as he was a newborn.  Of course now he can speak.  And back to the mouth.  It never stops.

But he's awesome.  He may be a pill for the family but I never EVER hear a bad report on him.  [Okay that's a lie.  I've heard plenty of complaints for cryin' out loud!  Boy scout camp. Reports of "impulse control".]  Let's focus on reality.  

Something recent.  For the first time he went away with another family for a ski vacation.  An entire week with another family.  I wasn't worried.  I knew he'd behave himself.  What I didn't know was how well he'd been taking those lessons.  He was a model guest.  From the mom and dad I received nothing but over-the-top complimentary texts and emails, almost daily.  Further conversations months after the vacation, the parents specifically recalled with detail his acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.  His ability to be "in tune" (their words not mine) with what other people might need or think.  I was speechless.  I am proud.

He is was an avid reader.  At a parent-teacher conference when he was in 5th grade I remember his teacher telling me that his reading level was at grade 11 and his vocabulary was at college level.  But he doesn't read anymore.  I tried and tried and tried to find books that interest him but I've been unsuccessful.  I know he would continue to read but he needs something to grab his attention. Ugh!  The frustration of it all!

And he can be so frustrating!  He is just like me - always has to have the last word - argumentative to a fault.  He should be a lawyer.  [That's actually a running joke in my family.]  He argues.  He beats me down with his words.  [Should I expect anything less?]  He is comfortable with adults, even preferring their company over boys.  He is wise beyond his years - and yet not.

I want to believe that he is still a child.  I want to believe that he is mature and grown up.  Neither is the case.  Such is teenage wasteland.

I am churning out random thoughts on this special day.  I've never done this for one of my boy's birthdays.   I see it all the time - letters from bloggers to their children.  They are beautiful to read but I've never done one.  But now I have.   This isn't a tribute - it's just who he is.  And, this is my life with him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

i was in the picture mood

I snapped off a few photos this weekend with my trusty iPhone - photos of things that I like and make me happy.

First up:
I mean really, who cannot melt at the sight of this?  A little note for no apparent reason, except of course to tell me he loves me.

This is the fog coming over the hills, darkening the sky and bringing in a chill.  Some folks might not like that, but I love the wind whipping and seeing the mist materialize before my eyes bringing sweet relief on warm summer days.

And then the fruit from our plum tree this year!  Holy cow that's a lot of plums.  Help?

A little preparation for my annual backpacking trip with the boy scouts.  Always be prepared which means set the tent up once before you go!

And last, a little bit of creativity from the 7yo.  Introducing "The Shield Generator".

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the grades game

Last weekend we attended a gathering at a friend's house here in town.   Although the family has two boys the same age, the parents are a bit older than my husband and me.   I find this often with other parents with teenagers.  I had my first child at age 25 but it seems most women in my town held off until 35 or 40 to start having kids.  Realize that this puts 10-15 years of an age gap between myself and the moms of other teens.  I don't really care but I think it is one of the reasons I don't hang out with many mothers in town.  There is a big difference between 41 and 56.

When it was time to eat I ended up sitting at the patio table with the "girls".  All of the women were in the upper 50's and all had children who recently graduated from the local high school and were on their way to college.  Naturally the conversation surrounded the kids.  We talked about the differences between boys and girls, the colleges their kids were going to and the "grades game".

In talking about the high school, I mentioned that my son received a D in his AP European History class but passed the AP exam.  I was questioning if the teacher might have been a little harsh on the grading.  All four women, almost in unison, said to me "he has to get that D off his transcript".  Failure to do so would result in him not being able to get into a 4-year college.

The conversation continued on with further detail about the grades game.  Apparently to get into college the number one factor is GPA, with SAT scores taking second.  Further, and this is what is most disturbing to me, these women - these experienced having just been there, done that - all agreed that my son should drop his honors classes and take the simplest classes possible just to get the higher GPA.  That unless he can guarantee he is going to get an A in an honors class, he'd be better served taking some bullshit class like Foods.  My son liked chemistry this year and has signed up for AP Chemistry.  Now I think he should drop it.  That is sad and it disgusts me.

These women all agreed that colleges don't look at the classes the kids took - they only look at the GPA.  The fact that my son passed his AP exam is irrelevant - that D is all that matters.  These women must have said to me twenty times that we have to do something to get that D off his transcript, even if it means taking a follow up class at some private academy to the tune of $3,000!

How can this be?  How can course content not matter?  I sit here and I am still slightly skeptical although I think I would be a fool to dismiss advice from four women who all said the same exact thing.  Women who have just lived through this experience.  I am so disappointed if this is true, but can I risk it? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

top ten summertime favorites

The 4th of July festivities this past weekend spurred all sorts of random nostalgic thoughts. It started with the party we attended on Sunday. Kids were running around with water guns and using the slip-and-slide. Then we went across the street to the middle school's field and did old school games. There were the sack and wheelbarrow races, the water balloon and egg tosses. The only thing missing was the grease pole. These were activities I did as a kid at my own small town 4th of July celebrations.

On the 4th we went to the center of town for the parade. Hubs and the middle boy played in the All Orinda Pick-Up Band and the little one marched with the cub scouts in full uniform. The teenager and I sat and smiled and cheered on the sidelines as the floats passed by. It all struck me as so similar to my own youth even though I live so close to the big city.

Growing up in a small town meant summers were simple and slow. I hated it then but it feels appealing now. Here are my top ten favorites on summertime and what it means to me.

1.) Letting them sleep
2.) Backpacking with the boy scouts
3.) Quiet mornings smelling the fresh cut grass and listening to the birds chirp and gentle breeze float through the trees
4.) Lazy days, lazy schedules
5.) Ice cold Bud Light and freshly shaken cosmos with my girlfriends on the patio
6.) Smoked ribs, potato salad, fresh cut fruit
7.) Garden tomatoes and caprese salad
8.) Hot days and cold, foggy nights
9.) Little brown bodies with sun-bleached hair
10.) Painted toes with the sandals to show them off

What are your favorites of summer?

Friday, July 1, 2011

i am not a bad parent - or am i?

Something has been bothering me lately. It was recently brought to my attention that perhaps my suck-it-up style of parenting could actually be bad. I thought I was providing them a sense of real world and independence but apparently there is something to be said for compassion. Now, I think I can be compassionate. I just don't think that it does my kids any favors to shelter them from the real world.

What do I mean by this? Well, for example, if one of the boys wakes up with a cold (and I mean really just a cold), I assess and will often send him to school. There are many days when a person might not feel well but life has to continue. Please know though that I am not heartless. The primary gauge of stay home or not is if he is running a fever. Fever means no school. There are also times when it is plainly obvious that, fever or not, he's just too sick to go and I will keep him home on those days too. But in general, my philosophy is life will be full of aches and pains and you just have to learn to deal with them.

This brings me to Henry's toe. Henry is seven and last Fall he complained that his big toe hurt. I took a peek at it and, sure enough, it was red and swollen and looked like he broke it. Now I've had about five or six broken toes, even played the second half of a soccer game with my big toe broken. I know from past experience there's really nothing you or a doctor can do about it. It will heal and might be slightly more crooked, but that's about it. Knowing this, I did not bother taking him to see the doctor. He never really complained about it. He went all through ski season with no issues. I figured it was history.

Fast forward to Spring. And buying new shoes. And measuring his feet for new shoes. Much to my surprise and dismay Henry's broken toe foot measured a full half inch shorter than his other. My guilt rose to my cheeks, my face flush with regret. I am well known for thinking the worst possible scenario and started obsessing that my neglect has somehow caused him to be permanently damaged. Maybe it was a break on the growth plate. Would he need surgery to re-break it?

So I did what every normal mother would do - I avoided. I didn't call the doctor. I didn't do anything except dwell in my guilt. But, as luck would have it, I had to take in Danny for his physical before camp and Henry was with me. Luckily I remembered the toe when I was in her office and asked her to take a look. She did and more importantly, she didn't judge. She simply wrote me a referral to the ortho guy.

So today we went and got an x-ray and saw the orthopedic surgeon and the verdict is in. He does not have a broken toe but the interesting thing is he never did! What he has is an extra bone in his foot. I saw it right on the screen (x-rays are all digital nowadays). The surgeon laughed. I sighed with relief although there is still a nagging in my head that maybe I should have done better.

Am I too harsh with the kids with the suck-it-up style parenting? Am I too harsh on myself or should I receive failing marks for my avoidance here?