There are a ton of things I adore about raising tweens/teens. I’m happy to go on and on about how awesome older kids are – but I realized very quickly this weekend that the fact that I cannot physically move my children to force them to do something is one of the biggest drawbacks.
This past Friday, the kids and I were driving 45 minutes south to hang at my parents for the day. We had to be there by 8:45 am so I could start my work day – we were already running a tad behind because we had to drop the kitten off at the vet. So, we’re hustling, just about to get on the highway, when the Bean let’s out a shriek from the backseat that can be heard for miles.
There is a spider on the arm rest next to her and she’s losing her mind. The Bean hates spiders – somethings I wrote about here – and she was going into panic mode.
I pulled over as quickly as I could and Beaner jumps out of the car, freaking out. I quickly took care of the spider and told her to get back in the car. She flat out refused. Nope. Not happening- she’s not getting in the back of the van again. Ever. For her whole life.
I’m quickly looking at my watch, looking the Bean and looking at Scorch, who is laughing his fool head off from the front seat, trying to figure out the best way to manage this nonsense so I can get to work on time. We’ve got two choices: keep going to my parents and go back home. Either way, we have got to get back in the car to get to where ever we’re going.
I take stock and hope that if I can get the Bean to ride shotgun, Scorch will ride in the backseat and we can just go somewhere. Yes, the Bean is too small to ride shotgun usually but desperate times and all that.* I tell the kids the plan and Scorch, between snorts of laughter, refuses to move. Flat out refuses to move. I calmly tell him to move his hiney so we can get going and he’s just like – Nope. And the Bean is like Nope when I tell her to get in the back seat. So, we have a stand off.
After a quick few minutes of negotiations and some not-so-quietly shared threats, I finally get the Bean back in the backseat and we’re on our way. But I’m ticked- like, really, really, really angry that Scorch wouldn’t move his seat and that the Bean is scared of spiders and that we’re running behind and that I have so much to do. Basically, I was in a tizzy over everything.
And Scorch, bless his complete inability to read the room, pipes up next to me as we’re pulling out of the parking lot where all this has gone down, “Mom, do you see….”
And because I’m so freaking ticked off at this point, I cut him off quickly and without much thought to what’s coming out of my mouth, yelling:
“YOU are not allowed to talk. I don’t SEE ANYTHING – and I don’t care what you see. You could see Mickey Mouse shitting rainbows right now and I don’t want to hear a word about it!”
“Mickey Mouse shitting rainbows” is not a phrase I thought I’d ever utter in my life. Yet, here I am, earning my Parent of the Year award in a Wendy’s parking lot on a summer morning.
If you need a babysitter or any parenting tips, y’all know where to find me.
(stop judging me, JT, I can hear you from here).
This summer has been amazing – hands down, one of the best we’ve had. We have traveled to new places, visited with family, caught sharks, hung out with friends, welcomed a new nephew / cousin into the crew and watched more than a few ball games.
We’ve had quiet nights at home where we’ve all retreated to our own corners and nights we’ve danced in the streets. My house has been, more often than not these past few weeks, filled with at least 2 kids who aren’t mine- usually more. My backyard is littered with wiffleballs and makeshift bases and Gatorade bottles. We’ve heard coyotes chattering in the hills across the street and adopted a new kitten.
We’ve celebrated birthdays – mine and the Bean’s – as well as our anniversary. We’ve floated in pools in the hot sun and had to bundle up to stay warm on boats. We’ve roasted marshmallows and ate more ice cream than I could measure.
We’ve worked out 3x a week at 7 am and the Hub’s has rehabbed his knee from ACL surgery. I quit two jobs that I had and loved for over 5 years and started a new one, requiring a trip to CA to meet my new coworkers. We’ve dealt with some stress (ask me how our home addition is going- I dare you) that comes with adulting, but it hasn’t overshadowed the fun.
All in all, we’ve simply enjoyed the hell out of each other. School starts in a week – the shoes have been purchased, the supplies sorted out and the schedules posted. We’re ready for routine again and all the fun that comes with fall- football, Halloween, the gorgeous leaves and the upcoming holidays. But I can’t lie, I’m going to be more than a little sad to say goodbye to this perfect season.
18 years ago today, two kids got married.
We had been together three and a half years and had been living together for a year an a half. The Hubs had been in the Secret Service for almost two years and I had had two different jobs in the past 20 months that we were living in DC. We had already changed apartments, figured out what the hell 401Ks were and thought we were bonafide adults.
When we got married, we were the first in our crew to do so. We had a gorgeous Catholic mass complete with all the trappings: escorts down the aisle, a veil, and family and friends blowing bubbles as we left the church. I was completely calm and collected on my wedding day- there was no doubt in my mind I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
Our reception had over 200 people in attendance, great food and an open bar. The party was epic and included a school bus, grandfathers dressed up as the Village People and hours and hours of dancing. The party officially ended at 11, but the after party was still going on at 3 am when my father finally ordered Pete and I to go to bed because we had to be up for the post-wedding brunch the next day. 😉
We were two kids with the world at our fingers tips, promising each other forever in front of God, family and friends.
It’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Over the past 18 years, those kids grew up. We moved a handful of times, adding two kids, three cats and a dog to our crew. We battled infertility, dealt with job loss and said goodbye to friends and family that left us too soon.
There were a few times over these past 18 years that I wondered if marrying the Hubs was the biggest mistake of my life. Times where I looked at real estate listings, wondering what house I could afford on my own for the kids and myself. Times I laid in bed next to this man I promised my love to, wondering what in the world I was thinking when I said “I do” all those years ago.
It seems cliche to say that marriage is hard work…as well as slightly dishonest. I don’t consider my marriage hard work, but our marriage is something we have to work at. We need to remember to prioritize each other, to talk to each other about the things that matter, and to love each other through the rough spots. Sometimes my marriage is a feeling of completely contentment and sometimes it’s a decision I make daily to forge ahead with, and make things work.
Thankfully those hard times are completely overwhelmed by all the times I can’t stop grinning, so very glad this messy, loud, chaotic life is mine. Times when I am so very grateful at all the happiness around me and this life we built together.
So, if I could tell those sweet kids getting ready to start the biggest chapter of their lives anything, here is what I would tell them:
Here’s to many more years of a happy, happy life!
The Bean has been playing lacrosse for over 3 years. The first few years, she loved it – the physicality of it, the speed, the great kids she played along side. Then last year, she started to make noises about not wanting to play anymore.
The thing about the Bean is she *never* wants to play anything. She is happiest in our house, Facetiming friends or playing on her phone – but, 9 times out 10, when she gets out of the house to do whatever activity she’s been dragged to, she’s happy to be there. So, when she started saying she didn’t want to play lacrosse, I pretty much ignored her and I signed her up for the season anyhow, figuring once she got in the swing of it, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
<Hi, my name is Heather. Evidently I’m new to this parenting thing.>
When lacrosse season started, Bean had to miss the first few weeks of practice due to conflicts. She kept telling us she didn’t want to play but we kept assuring her she’d love it and not to worry. I figured she’d fall into the same routine of complaining and then being fine once she was actually there.
Finally the first practice she could attend arrives and I knew I was in for a battle, but I figured within 5 minutes or so she’s be resigned and we’d be on our way.
Me: Hey, you have practice tonight. Eat your dinner and we’ll head out in a bit.
Bean: I’m not going.
Me: Yes, you are – we’ve talked about this. You love lacrosse! Eat up and we’ll go!
Bean: I don’t like lacrosse and I’m not going- I told you I’m not playing this year.
Me: Yes, you are- you’ve made a commitment.
<This is normally where she cries. Once that doesn’t work, she folds, grumpily gets ready and away we go to have a good night.>
Bean: (completely calm) No, I did not. YOU made the commitment. I told you I didn’t want to play, you signed me up anyhow. So the commitment is on you.
<Huh. Welllllll, this isn’t going to plan. She has a point, but I’ll be damned if I tell her that.>
Me: Either way, you’re on the team. They are expecting you – go get changed, we have to leave in a few.
Me: (clearing losing here and more than a little flummoxed) Well, if you don’t get changed, I’ll take you in your school uniform. I don’t care.
Bean: Neither do I. You can take me in my dress clothes – when I get there, I’m just going to tell the coach I don’t want to be there and sit on the bench. You can make me go, but you can’t make me play.
I always knew the Bean had a bigger back bone than most people. She’s been stubborn from day one and I know this trait will help her move mountains when she’s older. But now? Now, when she’s 11, I really just want her to do what I tell her to do. It would make *my* life a thousand times easier.
But did I really want to teach her that she has no voice now? Did I want to stifle her autonomy and force her to do something she really didn’t want to do – something I knew she didn’t want to do, but I signed her up for anyhow, ignoring her wishes? Do I want her to be a person that gives into what other people tell her to do just to make the other person happy?
I grew up with the philosophy that once you committed to something, you saw it through and have tried to raise my kids with the same mindset. But, in this case, she didn’t commit to something- she was 100% correct that the Hubs and I made that decision for her.
Sometimes, as a parent, it’s easy to make a proclamation and decide that the most important thing is to force your kids to do what you say. You dig in your heels and decide that that decision is a hill you’re willing to die on. And sometimes, as a parent, you’re 100% correct and your kids just have to deal.
And other times you wise up and realize that raising a kick-ass kid with a mind of her own and the strength of her convictions is a thousand times more important….no matter how much you miss watching her play.
Dear Bean –
Happy birthday, kiddo – you’re 11! And, frankly, you weren’t happy about it. You told me, very seriously, that 10 was a great year and you’re a little worried that 11 won’t live up to your expectations.
Girl, I hear you.
Getting older is HARD and I know you’re starting to realize that things are changing. You only have one more year left in your beloved school and the kids you’ve known since you were 3 will scatter. We’re still in the process of figuring out this home addition. And this summer is an odd one with lots of trips – one without your dad and I. While you do many, many things well, you do NOT do change.
But here is where I tell you, it’ll all be fine. I swear it.
You weren’t wrong though- 10 was a stellar year for you! You slayed 5th grade with great study habits, a wonderful teacher and solid friendships. You continued to ride horses, you gave up lacrosse (in a moment that oddly made me stupidly proud of you), you made more Tik Tok videos than should be legal and girl – you found basketball.
You’ve never been much for team sports, and that’s Ok. You don’t thrive off of the sense of community that comes from playing on a team, you don’t really care about meeting new people, nor were you particularly sold on sports, but something clicked this year. So, with the urging of some friends, you decided to try out for a travel basketball team.
You made that team and you FOUND YOUR TRIBE! A group of girls that you instantly bonded with- I have never seen anything like that with you before. Even your teacher commented that being part of this team gave you more confidence across the board. So, high-five to that!
And now, you’re 11.
Here is what I hope for you this year:
So, here’s to 11 being even better than 10! I can’t wait to see where your adventures take you.
I love you,
You turned 13 this month.
You are now a teenager.
I don’t know how that happened either, but it did. I swear it was last Mother’s Day that you came roaring into our lives…but it wasn’t, was it?
Before I became a Mom, all I really knew were babies and toddlers. Those were the ages of the kids I babysat for, the ones I liked the most. When I envisioned being a mom, I pictured chubby cheeked infants (which you were), sturdy-legged toddlers (also you) and that was about it. I didn’t give much thought to parenting a child, let alone a teen. I realize it seems silly when I write it out, but that’s the God’s honest truth.
This year, you started 7th grade. You moved out of your small, protected Catholic school with 14 kids in your entire grade to the public middle school with 200 kids in your grade. You know your father and I battled about this – he wanted to send you to a Catholic school 45 minutes away to keep you safe and swaddled. And I did too- but the logistics just didn’t work so instead, I became the cheerleader for our local public school hoping hoping hoping you would thrive there, all the while so freaking nervous about it, I couldn’t sleep some nights.
When I think back to my middle school years, I just remember how precarious things were. Friendships were constantly shifting, bodies were morphing, voices were changing – nothing was static and, for someone like me, who loves to know what’s going on all the time, it was scary as all get out. But middle school in 1991 is very different than middle school in 2019 so I held out hope that your experience would be better than mine.
I warned you that things would change this year. Friendships may not be the same, dating was going to become a thing and expectations were going to be a lot higher. We established some ground rules, let you (little, slight, small YOU) join the modified football team and prayed things were going to be OK.
And you know what? They weren’t OK.
They were amazing.
You, my funny, goofy, amazing kid, thrived in 7th grade. Yup, friendships were challenged, dating was a thing (not for you though – sorry, your parents are mean) and expectations were a lot higher – but you met them all. Except for that 43 in Orchestra- but you fixed that fast enough and took allllllllll the teasing that went along with it (because, really, who gets a 43 in Orchestra?!) with good humor and determination to do better. You learned how to schedule your time, take responsibility and make things happen.
You made new friends, learned a whole hell of a lot of new words, saw a lot of fights, decided both your father and I were cringy at various times during the year, learned that just because your friends “shipped” you with a girl doesn’t mean you have to date them, saw that the world is made up of a lot of different colors and sexualities and took advantage of a lot of the opportunities offered to you.
You have always been one of my favorite kids in the world, but, to my absolutely delight, you’re growing into one of my favorite people in the world.
So now, 7th grade is almost done and you’re 13. We’re seeing glimpses of the part of teenagedom we were warned about- the hormones, the dramatics, allllll the feelings. I know it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but I’m hoping we’ll keep talking to each other, sharing our experiences and working forward. I’ve promised you this a million times – your family will always be the first to support you when you try new things, the first to correct you when you’re being a jerk and your safe place to land no matter what.
Here’s what I hope for you in your 13th year:
While I couldn’t have imagined raising a teen 16 years ago when we we started trying to expand our family, now I can’t stop being amazed over how very lucky I am to be doing so. I’m so excited for you, Scorch. It’s a privilege to watch you grow, knowing how many fun things are coming for you – new friends, first loves, learning to drive, going to dances, heart breaks, discovering what makes you happy, finding your true tribe, going to college.
So, here’s to 13. May it be your best year yet, my boy – and if it’s not, know that we’ll love you no matter what.
All my love,
A friend on Facebook posted this yesterday and it resonated with me…
….especially because we just returned from a trip from Florida and I had posted a quick recap in pictures. OF COURSE I picked the best pictures – the ones where the kids were smiling, you couldn’t see my double chin and the sun was shining. Essentially, all I showed were the highlights, so in the interest of full disclosure let me tell you a bit more about what a 2400+ mile road trip looks like with my family.
First, we drove from our home in NY to Virginia to St. Augustine to Orlando to Tampa and then home again. We are not a family who can drive overnight – we *need* to be in a hotel by 9:30 because no one can sleep in a car and we all start to get a little bitchy if we don’t get our sleep. So, the Hubs had it all planned out- we’d leave our house by 1, run a few errands, get the kids from school by 1:40 and be where he wanted to be in VA by 8 pm to spend the night. He insisted I make reservations at his hotel of choice because he KNEW we’d make it there without any issues. And I refused because this isn’t my first rodeo and I KNOW how a family road trip goes.
As we always do, we left late, forgot to run one of our errands, panicked that we didn’t leave the key for our house sitter, realized the Hubs forgot to put his car charger in my car (which was my fault, some how) and finally grabbed the kids at 2:30. Honestly, not so bad as far as our road trips go. We finally did make it to the hotel the Hubs wanted to that night – a blessed Country Inn and Suites so the kids could sleep* while the Hubs and I relaxed in the living room. (*they didn’t sleep, they wrestled, yelled, had a pillow fight, used the beds as trampolines and generally were loud pains in the asses and we didn’t care because we were tired and it was only Day 1. Parenting: killing it since 2006!).
The next day was uneventful (well, as uneventful as 12 hours of driving can be: no blood was shed, no one puked and the car didn’t break down) and we made it to St. Augustine for our overnight. We had a 45 minutes wait at our favorite restaurant so we played on the beach across the street. Pure bliss after 12 hours in the car!
The next day, it was on to Disney! We are very, very lucky that the Hubs has family that works there and are kind enough to get us in the parks for free, otherwise there is no way this could be an annual destination because Disney is expensive and I’m cheap. We stayed at the beautiful Coronado Resort and managed to find that great mix between busy and relaxed (read: we spent a lot time at the pool).
We’ve learned over the years that while Disney can be the most magical place on earth, it’s crowded, noisy, overstimulating and overwhelming no matter how many times you go there. I never wanted to be that mom that dragged her sobbing kids through the parks (I *may* still have some issues around Disney as I was the sobbing kid <at age 14> being dragged around the park. Not one of my finest moments) but that doesn’t mean meltdowns don’t happen:
We survived Disney and headed over to my parent’s place on the Gulf side of the state for a few days of pure relaxation before heading back home. Honestly, despite some glitches, the trip had really been fantastic.
But, sadly, all good things must come to an end and Friday we packed the car back up and got on the road to head home. All was well until we hit South Carolina and, within miles of crossing the boarder, we ran over debris over the road. The Hubs and I exchanged a look, hoped what we ran over was soft plastic and crossed our fingers. That worked great until the tire pressure light went off about 20 miles later – at 4:15. On a Friday. Did I mention my snow tires were still on my car? Do you think tire shops in South Carolina even stocks snow tires? Yeah, me either.
Blessed be southern hospitality though because, after a panicked phone call, we were able to limp into a tire shop at 4:40 (with an audibly hissing tire) and have our car looked at immediately by Buddy. Buddy, my new BFF, was able to patch our tire – otherwise we would have been stranded until MONDAY afternoon – and we were back on the road within an hour. Buddy, a man who I will name my next pet after <because I’m NOT having more kids> stayed an hour late to get us rolling, charged us $23 and bid us a safe trip.
Clearly we didn’t make it as far as we wanted that night, something that infuriated my type-A husband, but we did manage to book another suite in a hotel so the kids could go to bed while the Hubs and I decompressed. Only, when we checked in, there weren’t any suites left – something they told me AFTER I paid, despite telling me that was what I was booking over the phone.
Again, no big deal- talk about a first world problem right? We’ll just all turn in and get an early start in the morning. Only- the other thing we weren’t told was that there was a biker convention in town. *sigh* I have no issues with bikers, but what I do have issues with is bikers pulling in and out all night in front of our hotel, revving their engines keeping us all awake. To add insult to injury, all the beds were all sagging in the middle, the kids refused to sleep in the same bed and the ice machine was right outside our door.
The only upside was that we got on the road super early the next morning. The drive home went swimmingly until about 2 hours in when the Bean got sick.
Because, of course she did.
Thankfully she was just car sick and not sick-sick and I’ve learned my lesson to never travel without Dramamine and a bucket – so all was well(ish) pretty quickly. We got home safely after 12 hours on the road and my newly fixed tire didn’t decide to start leaking again until this morning. And the Bean? Well, she decided to puke an hour after getting to school today.
All in all, the trip was amazing – but honestly, if you looked at the pictures, you’d think it was amazing 24/7. But it wasn’t. Life isn’t and to expect it to be is unreasonable. I’m very thankful that I’m blessed with two amazing kids, a husband who drives the whole time so I can read, the means to travel and jobs that give us this flexibility. We’ve had some amazing trips and some truly terrible trips (I’m looking at you, camping trip of 2018). We’ve had trips where 3 out of the 4 of us have gotten the stomach bug (Disney, 2017), trips where 3 out of 4 of us have ended up crying on vacation, trips where the Hubs got both the flu AND mono (FL 2016) and trips where just everything sucked and we really didn’t like each other.
That’s just how life goes. But we keep going, keep making memories (good and bad) and use Facebook or Instagram to highlight the very best parts. When we share stories of our trips with friends and family a few years from now – are we going to remember the short wait time in Epcot? The killer dinner in St. Augustine? Most likely not. But we’re never going to forget the the kindness of Buddy and the absolute fit Scorch threw when Bean started puking!
Back in the fall, I took Scorch to one of the varsity football games. He was settling into middle school and feeling like the big man on campus wearing his modified football jersey to hang out with all his friends under the lights. Oh, he thought he was hot stuff and he was feeling it…
…until I made him leave before the game was over because he had a 3 hour long practice starting the next day at 7 am.
He wailed, he pleaded, he tried to bargain – he was pissed at me like never before because I was making him leave early. He was in SEVENTH GRADE and he was NOT A BABY and why was I SO MEAN?!!? He ended his fit asking me if I wanted to be a COOL MOM because this was, unequivocally, not cool.
Fast forward 3+ months and Scorch, the Bean and I have had lots of conversation about the fact that I am not the cool mom, the Hubs isn’t the cool dad and we’re all OK with that. Because right now, to my kids, being the cool mom means letting them do whatever they wants….and nope, not going to happen.
Here’s what kind of mom I am though:
Maybe one day I’ll earn some cool points, but I’m not losing any sleep over it if I don’t.
Despite what I keep writing every.damn.time I have to write out the date, it’s 2019 and I have high hopes for this year. There is nothing particular special about this year, but I have a good feeling about it. The date rolls off your tongue and it just sounds right.
2018 had it’s ups and downs, but it ended on a high note. A healthy family, a joyous holiday season, time with loved ones and friends. Lots of laugh, a tad too much wine at times, a few excuses to get dressed up and hours upon hours spent cheering on both kid’s basketball teams.
2019 hasn’t started on the best foot. We lost a dear, wonderful man yesterday. An old family friend who we spent countless hours with growing up as our families vacationed together. You know those friends who you don’t see for years, but you pick right up on without missing a beat when you see each other again? That is Jim’s family. The soundtrack of my childhood would have been a lot less bright and hell of a lot quieter without Jim’s booming laugh and bellowing yell when one of us was in trouble. My heart is breaking for his family as they navigate this much duller world without him.
And then there is the government shut down. The Hubs, a federal employee who has to work during the shutdown, refuses to allow me to freak out until he’s actually missed a paycheck as he knows my inner Chicken Little is thisclose to coming out. So, I won’t freak out- I’ll just continually update my financial spreadsheets preparing for each of the 1 millions ways things can go.
All this, though, doesn’t mean the whole year is going to suck Right?! I mean, it can’t. I won’t let it. So…here’s what I’m hoping to do this year to help it suck less for me and my little crew:
So, that’s what I want out of 2019. Here’s hoping the highs outweigh the lows, the laughs out number the tears and the love continues to grow.