If you don’t want to know the answer. . .

question mark shadowAs I was writing a short bio for a post I was submitting where I had to ‘name three things you like to do’, my son walked into the kitchen on his eternal quest for a snack. Watching him rummage through the refrigerator, I wondered about his teenaged view of his middle-aged mom. Seen through his lens am I just some one-dimensional obliging automaton, existing to simply fulfill his needs for food/clothes/money/a ride/just about anything? Or does he see me as living, breathing, flesh and blood human being with my own needs, dreams, personality and life to lead? Does he even notice what type of music I like to listen to, what my interests are, how I take my coffee? Curious, eager, and maybe a little scared to find out, I asked him:

“What are 3 things you think I like to do?”

Pensively swirling his spoon in his yogurt, he seemed caught off guard by such a question – is she serious?/is this is a trick question?/am I gonna get in trouble?/what time of the month is it? were all easily read on his face as he sized up the situation. What does mom like to do? Is that such a novel concept?

“Welllll, you like to be happy.” Awww, that’s sweet and besides, the alternative sucks. Yes, it’s all fun and games until your happy hormones start drying up – it’s good to know that he doesn’t think I’m some miserable troll as I roller coaster my way through this perimenopausal minefield.

“You like to buy stuff at Sephora.” Okay, that’s true and at least he’s observant about it – Mother’s Day is coming up so that should make gift-buying a no-brainer.

“And. . . you like asserting your control over others.” Say what now? By ‘others’, I’m assuming he means him. Still, the comment sounds a little Fifty Shades of Grey – I’m going to have to check that kid’s Kindle. Liking to exert control over all things aside, isn’t part of the parent/teen dynamic a test of wills, a battle over control? If telling him that:

No, 30 degrees is not shorts weather even if the calendar says it’s spring; and

Yes, you have to put your name on your homework every single time because you are not so ‘swaggy’ that your teachers will just recognize your handwriting; and

No, having the closed-captioning on while watching ‘Let’s Be Cops‘ does not count as independent reading; and

Yes, proper aim and flushing is always required bathroom etiquette all fall under the auspices of being controlling, then I’m guilty. Call it control, rules, boundaries, discipline, whatever – at 14, he doesn’t realize or appreciate the chaos his life would be without it. While being deemed a cheerful, cosmetic hoarding control freak is no Hallmark card, I embrace it – it’s a small price to pay for turning out a responsible, productive human being.

My heightened snarky senses can already feel the ‘Jeez mom – if you don’t want to know the answer then don’t ask the question’ forming in his smart-alecky little mind, just waiting to jump onto his tongue and spring forth from his lips. I can’t argue with his assessment so I’m going to let this one go. Better I should just let him finish his yogurt – he’s probably delusional from adolescent hunger. I make a mental note to get more probiotics into his diet.

“Um, can I go now?” he questions, trying to slowly edge his way out of the kitchen to safety.

“Yeah. Go. Now.” I say in my most non-controlling, happy tone of voice as I continue typing and notice that my nail polish is chipping, which reminds me that I’m almost out of my favorite shade and a trip to Sephora is in the near future. . .

Walking Tall

mom & son
Something upset my son recently, and it took me rather by surprise. None of the usual suspects were to blame, like me snooping through his iPhone, or subjecting him to my passive-aggressive parenting techniques (yet again!) or me nagging him to put his dirty clothes in the hamper for the bazillionth time.
What propelled him into a moody funk was something quite small, measuring merely one-quarter of an inch.
When the nurse measured his height at his yearly physical the other day, it was confirmed that he is a full 1/4 inch taller than me.
Yep, my baby, my one and only, the love of my life, was officially taller than his mom.
I can attest to the fact that all the clichés are true – kids grow up so fast, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, the days are long but the years are short. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I reveled in his squeals of hysterical delight as I pretended to be the Cookie Monster, munching on all his delicious little cookie toes? Today you couldn’t pay me enough to go near those very non-cookie smelling feet, but I digress.
Actually I’m kind of excited that soon he’ll probably be quite a bit taller than me – any day now I can retire the step stool I use in the kitchen to reach stuff in the high cabinets; I’m always tripping over that damn thing.
But while I was figuring out all the ways I could use his height to my advantage, it turns out that his view on this recent development was less than positive.
When I called him for dinner later that day, I found him in his room going through a pile of Matchbox cars that hadn’t seen the light of day in years – not really playing with them, but just turning them over in his hands – considering them.
“Honey, what are you doing?” I asked.
“Nothing. Just visiting my childhood” he answered.
Ugh. Smelling the angst in the air, I asked him what was up.
“I don’t want to be taller than you” he said quietly.
“That’s what’s bothering you? Not wanting to be taller than me?” I responded.
Shrugging his shoulders, he said “I guess I’m just not ready to grow up.”
Ah, there it was. He wasn’t considering the cars. He was considering what they represented. The journey to grown-up is a bumpy one, and you never know what might trip them up along the way. Just as my heart swells with pride and love and joy for my teenage man-child,  right then it ached with the growing pains he was experiencing, perhaps more child than man at that moment.
“It’s okay to feel this way; there’s a lot going on with school and friends and other stuff, and sometimes it’s nice to think back to when times were simpler. We just have to talk about it when you’re feeling this way, okay? “
“Yeah”.
Having witnessed enough push-up and arm-wrestling contests to realize that we’ve arrived at the competing-with-dad portion of the program, I attempted to lighten the mood by asking, “Well, how are you going to feel when you’re taller than dad?”
Brightening at the bait he said, “Oh no, that’s different –  I can’t wait to be taller than dad!” Who, by the way, is considerably taller than me – I guess logic doesn’t play well with puberty!
Being one half of a mother/son bond equation himself, I sought my husband’s perspective when I told him about our exchange later that evening. He wasn’t surprised at all by our son’s reaction. Raising his hand up over his head, he explained, “Because in his eyes, you’ll always be up here.   :)

6 Tips For Book Report Success & Beyond

When my son first entered middle school, one of the requirements in his language arts class was writing a monthly book report. While he enjoyed reading, inwardly I cringed at the thought of him struggling with this assignment – learning how to craft a book report can be a daunting task for any student, and if your child has an attention deficit as mine does, it can prove even more challenging. Reading through the book, keeping the sequence of events in order, identifying the main ideas and conflicts, even formulating opinions about the story can be a frustrating endeavor for a kid with executive function difficulties. Through the hazy fog of middle age, I reflected back to my school days and thought about the strategies that worked for me. So after some tears, trial and error, I put together this game plan for book report writing success. These tips can be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an attention deficit.

Select a properly leveled book to read

Pick a book that is not only engaging but also at the proper reading level for your child. A good rule of thumb that my son’s teacher follows is the “five-finger rule” – if there are more than five words on the page that your reader is unfamiliar with, perhaps the material is too difficult and another book should be chosen. Ask the teacher for guidance if you are unsure.

Read the book twice

If time allows, have your child read the book through twice. I know, your child may balk at this idea (mine certainly did), but if the material is interesting and fun to read, this might not be a problem.

Take notes 

While it’s fresh in his mind, encourage your child to take notes on the material he’s just read.  Have him jot down plot points, characters or events that captured his interest and discuss them with you.

Keep a dictionary handy

If your child does happen to come across a word he is unfamiliar with during reading, encourage him to look it up.  It could help reinforce a connection to the material that’s just been read, with the additional benefit of learning a new vocabulary word.

Read the book along with your child

I know this is adding yet another morsel to an already full plate, but if you can, try to familiarize yourself with the book as much as possible. Being able to discuss the book with your child can help him make connections and give you a sense of how much content your child is absorbing.

Rough drafting and editing

When it’s time to start writing, have your child do a rough draft first. This helps organize their thoughts and review for those pesky grammar gremlins, like punctuation and sentence fragments, who love to steal precious points from reports. Reviewing and revising a rough draft also provides an opportunity to ensure that the questions being answered are the ones the teacher has asked.

I’ll admit that my son was less than thrilled using these techniques at first. To him, it just seemed like a lot of extra work – and it was. But when the grade on his second book report increased by a full twenty points, he was so proud of himself, and that inspired him to continue using the techniques until they became second nature. The rough draft technique has also proven especially helpful in completing homework and answering essay questions in other subjects. As he ends his middle school years on the honor roll and enters high school in September, he’s come to terms with the fact that although he may have to work harder and it may take him longer, he’s certainly capable of being successful in school, and that the extra effort is well worth it.

What tips or strategies have you employed to help your child with book reports or homework?  What has worked for you?  Let me know in the comments!

You Had Me At Free Clam Bra. . .

Mermaid Mug

When I saw this mug I knew I’d found my tribe. Okay, perhaps nix on the murderous intent, but a life with no pants, no periods and perfect hair – count me in! And with the cost of lingerie why should Ariel be the only one who can rock a free clam bra? A girl can dream. . .

 

Macy’s, Menopause and The Men’s Room

restroom-signs-unisex

Recently actor and dad Ashton Kutcher and his 5 month old daughter Wyatt Isabelle were in the news. It seems that doting dad Ashton was rightfully miffed at the curious lack of diaper changing facilities in men’s restrooms.  It’s 2015, people – dads change diapers! So what’s a dad to do when faced with a diaper changing dilemma? Will Koala answer the call and outfit men’s rooms across the nation with changing tables, or will desperate dads everywhere start storming the ladies’ room to avail themselves of their diaper changing facilities?

While it would be rather startling to walk in and see some guy in the ladies’ room (especially if it’s Ashton Kutcher!), having recently made my own foray into the men’s room, I’m hardly one to judge.

Allow me to explain.

I’m at a point in my life where hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and yes, a fussy bladder have become a fact of life.   A quick search over at  WebMd bore this out:

During and after the process of menopause, levels of the female hormone estrogen drop significantly. In addition to controlling your monthly periods and body changes during pregnancy, estrogen helps keep the bladder and the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, healthy.

Lack of estrogen may also cause the pelvic muscles responsible for bladder control to weaken, resulting in urinary incontinence.

While I haven’t started cruising the Tena aisle at the drugstore yet, lately the sense of urgency I feel when I have to pee is, well, pretty damn urgent.  When I have to go, I. Have. To. Go.

And here comes the part about the men’s room.

I was shopping for my husband at Macy’s one afternoon when the urge hit. Having learned the hard way not to ignore it for too long (my first ever UTI a few months ago taught me well – thanks again, menopause!) I made my way to the ladies’ room only to find a burly plumber at the entrance, who informed me that it was closed due to a burst pipe, and that I should use the ladies’ room on the 1st floor.  I was on the 4th floor. The men’s room was right next door. My brimming bladder felt like it was knocking against my uterus and ovaries, threatening to make a break for it.

I made, what seemed to me, a perfectly logical, rational decision. I was going to use the men’s room.

I have three younger brothers. I have a husband. I have a son. I know what boys look like. There was nothing in that men’s room that I hadn’t seen before.  After all, I wasn’t going in there to look. I was going in there to pee.

The plumber watched me turn, make a right and start walking into the men’s room.

“Hey, you can’t go in there!” he called after me.

Now, I’ve always been a calm, reserved person; I play by the rules and don’t like to make a scene. But this stage of life has flipped a switch in me where my tolerance level for just about everything is at an all-time low – so dude, there is no way in heaven or hell that you’re going to tell me that I can’t go pee!

I turned to face him and replied sweetly, “Oh, really? Watch me.”  Head down and eyes averted, I scurried into the men’s room (I think I caught a fleeting glimpse of some boots standing at a urinal, I can’t be sure) and plunged headlong into the first stall I came to. I locked the door, and stood there for a second, listening. Was the plumber going to call security to come hustle me out of the bathroom? Was there a guy wearing boots standing at the urinal ready to curse me out for invading this sacred man-space? Was I going to make it through this without peeing my pants?

All I heard was silence. I yanked down my Lululemon’s, squatted over the toilet, and mercifully, gratefully, peed. And peed. And peed. When I was done I slowly opened the stall door, stuck my head out and looked around. The men’s room was empty. I rushed out, quickly washed my hands at the sink and glided out triumphantly, the plumber nowhere in sight. But there was an elderly couple standing in the hallway who saw me exit the men’s room. They looked at me, looked at the “out-of-order” sign that was now in front of the ladies’ room, then quizzically looked to me again.

“It’s okay, go ahead – it’s empty” I whispered conspiratorially, nodding over to the men’s room.  The woman gave me an amused little smirk and, shrugging her shoulders, walked in to use the facilities while her husband stood guard outside.

And, not that I was looking, but I don’t think there was a diaper changing table in that men’s room, either.