Regular… a highlight-REAL

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Forget about a Facebook highlight reel. You know, how they (whoever “they” might be) say that social media shows the pristine good. Because, who’s going post a picture of a college reject letter rather than the happy photo of your top pic school’s acceptance with the kid’s name on their scoreboard. I mean really. But truth is, I could since we got one yesterday. I also burned a bagel AGAIN(!), in the toaster. That’s easier to share.

But, our house is about as far from highlight reel as you can get. It’s more of a highlight-REAL. Take this morning for example.

I snooze my alarm at least five times. My great intentions of getting up early for a few quiet moments to myself so I can put some finishing an article whose deadline was Friday (operative word “was” – my attempt missed the mark so I’m rewriting a bit) fail. No worries, though. The snooze button and I are close friends. We interact almost every day, multiple times before the sun rises.

I finally get up. Wake up one kid who needs to study for a test and head downstairs. As I reach to light the fire (an absolute must on a chilly morning) I see a roach. For those of you who might not know, the roach creature and I are NOT friends. Hate only touches the surface of my disdain for the little Energizer-Bunnies that never stop even after being whacked a dozen times.

But I put on my brave hat, grabbed a shoe and hit the darn thing. Of course, I missed. It somehow disappeared. And all I could do was hope that it went under the house – or somewhere far, far away.

I moved on.

Studious-kid sleep-stupored his way downstairs and grabbed his books. Then he settled in next to the fire … until something ran behind his back. Screeching, he jumped up and yelled, “A ROACH!!” as it scurried under his binder.

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let that thing escape another time. So together, studious kid and I teamed up to kill the intruder. He bravely lifted his binder and I smacked the bug with the kid’s shoe. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.

As soon as his sisters came down, he told the tale through which we had survived victorious. Next came finger pointing at who leaves crumbs when eating by the fire – a clear rule-violation. (We have a kitchen-only food rule.) That kept going, as did the victory story, all while I’m trying to cook a breakfast that requires little chewing since two of the kids got their braces tightened yesterday.

For once, I actually remembered the orthodontist appointment and went. No need to mention that I might have gotten the kids out of school the day before, showing up for the appointment a day early when the doctor is at their other office. Yippee – got to go to the ortho twice! My calendar challenges just aren’t getting any better.

The kids grab their scrambled eggs and moan every time something passes their lips. Any eating stops the minute we hear a frantic scream from the living room. Jack, hysterically crying, runs to me for safety after throwing his shoes across the room. Apparently, dead-roach has a sibling who had nestled into Jack’s shoe that had also been by the fireplace overnight.

It was freaky. Seriously, who wouldn’t be unnerved by feeling a roach in your shoe?! We were all a little shaken.

But again, trying to be brave, I went to the couch where Jack had been sitting when he discovered the antennae on his little hand. And there, in fact, was another roach – ON MY COUCH!! And I’m like, “What?! Seriously?! TWO in one day!!” We haven’t seen nary a bug, except for the fake ones that Snopes puts in my path to cause heart stoppage, since we’ve moved a couple years ago.

Again, I take a deep breath and bravely Dudley Do-Right in to save the day by killing the beast. Yeah, I missed again.Not only did I miss, I somehow managed to push the bug into the couch. Where it still is. How will we ever sit on our couch again?! Even right now, I have the cushions off and am watching – hoping that bug comes out. But, if I were the roach, I’d stay amidst the springy, cozy darkness and wait – I’m sure a wayward kid will once again forget the kitchen-only rule and leave a few crumbs in a cushion.

Limping, we survive breakfast and head to the car for school. A dead bird lies just outside the car door. Yes, I will be finding the shovel when I get home to dispose of that lovely item.Then, en route to school, Fury remembers a book he needs, so we circle back and he mad-dashes because minutes matter. It’s a domino affect for us. Five minutes behind schedule can lead to a tardy for the last drop-off.

Jack, still reeling from his roach-shoe experience, angry-slumps in the back seat, grumbling. He has decided that the morning’s trauma absolutely warrants a free day home from school. His mean-mom disagrees.

We drop off one kid and race to the next school.

“You know, you’re not supposed to drink and drive,” Jack growls at me from the back seat.

“What?” I ask.

“Yes. I just watched you drink. And you’re driving.”

“Honey, it’s coffee. They mean a beer or something like that.”

“It doesn’t matter. Since you did that I should get to stay home from school.”

Okee-dokey. At least he’s tenacious – and creative – and attentive to the rules. If only they would follow the food-only-in-the-kitchen-rule.

We get to school. Fury hops out. Jack takes his time. “Jack get out, Honey. We’re holding up the line,” I sing-song encourage. He slow-motions his way out the door, mumbling, “I love you Mom. I hope you have a good day. I won’t.”

And as he gets out, stray pieces of trash fly after him. Now not only have we held up the line by a slow-motion exit, but our trash is flying about. Everyone can see the mess that lives behind our closed car doors. My little rule-follower races after the trash, grabbing it with his back-pack flopping around. He heads back to our car. Opens the door and puts the fast-food wrappers and stray home-work papers back in it.

The carpool monitor smiles at me, as do the others as I drive past after having held up the line while my child was bounding after flying trash.

A good start to a regular day. Regular, scary, hilarious, embarrassing – still peppered with “I love you Mom” in the midst. Here’s hoping that I always see the love in the midst (… and that I find the couch-roach. Seriously, how we will ever sit there again without wondering when it will reappear!)

Thanks for walking the road to me.

-Kay

More from our Highlight-Real

Chipotle

The burrito bowl given to me by the VERY nice Chipotle guy while I stood, holding up another line, looking in an empty wallet – cleaned out by my kids. “You come here all the time,” he said. “This one’s on me.” LOVE THAT!! … Still, I had a little chat with the kids about putting the credit card back where it belongs.

toot

One of my prouder moments – again at a restaurant. We do eat at home. And avoid potty-talk. Right? (Sorry, Mom :)

couch

I’ve got my eye on you Couch. The kids suggesting putting a Honey-Nut Cheerio on the seat, “Roaches like those.”

The Perils of Cheating

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Frustrated with my phone, I might have marched into the Apple Store yesterday. My phone has one of the recall batteries. All I really need to do is make an appointment and have the battery replace – for free – since it’s recalled.

But, for whatever reason, I just haven’t made and kept the appointment. So I suffer along, ever-wondering if 53% battery life means 53% or if the phone will die in a matter of seconds. I’m living on the edge. Never sure if I will momentarily be completely cut off from civilization as I know it. Alone. Stranded in a carpool line with nothing but my thoughts!

But another issue of late compelled me to finally address my phone issues. The phone quit receiving incoming texts. For all I know, the outgoing texts didn’t send either. But who can say? All I know is my complete and utter lack of responsive communication was leaving a path of frustration.

“Thanks for ignoring me,” Snopes said as she sat down for breakfast.

“What?”

“Yeah – I texted you last night… to apologize … then to reach out because I needed to talk. I asked you to come up and talk,” she said. “But I guess you were too busy with whatever you do to come and pay any attention to me.”

Huh?!

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I tried to defend myself. “I didn’t get a text.”

She avoided further conversation. But a brother was quick to join in as was a sister.

“She was probably playing on her phone – and couldn’t break to read a text.”

“Yeah – Candy Crush. She’s started playing again.”

“Oh – she’s addicted,” added the brother. They nodded at each other, confirming the diagnosis and pathetic-ness of it all.

“I was not playing Candy Crush,” I splatted back. “And I’m not addicted.” My word – you join in their games once or twice and now it’s an addiction. “I really didn’t get the text.”

“Whatever,” the hurt daughter shrugged. “I just wanted time with my mother. Most mothers would be thrilled their teen daughter wants to talk. But….”

The morning zoomed on as we raced to get everything together and everyone out the door. But when I got home from school drop-offs, I screenshot my texting thread with her. Proof that I did not get her text message. So there.

By that point, it genuinely didn’t matter.

But the next day, I had the same problems with a few friends who had been texting me and wondering why I wasn’t responding.

Apparently, nothing was coming or going from my phone. And I was quick to blame that darn thing. As if the battery life issues weren’t enough – now I was leaving a trail of frustration in my lack of communcation.

So I marched into the Apple Store to give them a piece of my mind and to let them know how my life was being affected by a defective phone.

“Beyond the battery issues,” I told the clerk, “I can’t receive texts!”

“That’s strange,” the guy said.

“Yes,” I agreed. “And rude.”

“Let me look at your phone,” he said. He took it and whirled around all the screens in lightening motion. How do they do that?! And then he announced the verdict.

“Somehow your date is off. It’s set to think that tomorrow is today.”

“What?”

“Yeah. Bizarre. All you need to do is set the time and date for now.” Then he laughed, “I wonder how that happened.”

Standing there, I knew exactly how it happened.

I had done it.

And I actually admitted it, almost dying laughing while I did. “Oh my goodness. I re-set it.” With the guy staring at me, assessing my looniness, I continued, “I had run out of lives on Candy Crush. And my son, who is a few levels ahead of me, somehow never runs out. And he sort of hinted at a way to trick the game into thinking time has passed. He wouldn’t tell me how, so I did it myself by re-setting the phone’s date for to be tomorrow.”

The guy isn’t laughing, but I am. He’s just blank-staring me, probably feeling sorry that my kids have such a weird mom. “The texts got lost … all because of Candy Crush,” I shook my head.

The guy wash shaking his, too.

Realizing the embarrassing element involved in all this, I thank him, snatch my phone and try to make a quick get-away.

In all my life, I have never, ever, been able to get away with a single thing. I always get caught. So I really just don’t skirt the edges. Why do it? I never works for me. And – the truth is –  I actually thought about that when I re-set the date to get more lives so I could keep on playing. It’s a game – who cares? I convinced myself. But it was wrong. And, of course – I would get caught.

I share this all with you for two reasons: 1) to blanket apologize to all the people who have been unintentionally ignored this week due to my communication issues, and 2) to be the live-out-loud example that cutting corners, even in something as ridiculous as a app-game, is never a good idea.

Well, the latter has been the lesson I’ve tried to point out to my kids. I’m not sure they are hearing it though. The laughter and legitimate hard time they are giving me is loud … and deserved.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Teen Talk

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Even though the teen years offer some interesting (mind-numbing) opportunities (challenges), one of my very favorite things that accompanies budding young adulthood is the rich conversation that doesn’t always, but sure can flow.

I actually enjoy the fresh opinions and raw points of view that come with teen-talk, even though they sometimes feel more like an assault than a relationship builder. And, I appreciate how teens say what they’re thinking. I’m glad they push the envelope and don’t blindly ascribe to cultural norms (understatement) – at least norms are according to parents.  And I’m glad they defend by clarifying (“That’s not what you said. I heard you say _____”) our conversations. Because, what they hear is so often not what I said – or meant to communicate.

Sometimes I can forget that communication is a 2-way street, consisting not only of what is said, but also of what is heard. And with teens, quick-checks along the way to understand the heard part is important. I like that. It’s good for me to slow down. As adults, we’re quick to move on, to assume without clarification. Clarification can be awkward, appear confrontational … but, not with teens. They’re happy to clarify.

When conversing with a teen, one must often cross rivers of emotion and wade through a streams self-obsession to get to the real thoughts. So, there’s little lazy-talk with a teen. If a real conversation occurs – more than acknowledging grunts or placating affirmations – it goes deep quick.

But to get to the good stuff, we must endure – a lot of eye-rolls, sighs, fines, nothing’s, and loads of silence. And, enduring takes time. Which just might be the key. Time. Lots of it. Because, you never know when a teen might feel like talking. But taking time, being patient, wading through miscommunication and enduring are all worth it to get to a genuine conversation. It’s like mining for gold. We must pan through mounds of dirt in order to catch sight of the nuggets when they suddenly appear.

Time is key; but so is presence. Not just physically, but mentally. Because no one, let alone a teen, is going to share anything beyond pleasantries with a stranger.

Yesterday, Jon & I experienced some flecks of gold. And interestingly enough, it was at a restaurant. Because apparently the magic of eating meals with kids can happen even if it’s not at your own dining room table. What a relief! I might have entertained slight feelings of guilt over family dinner plans that often steer off-course and don’t resemble Norman Rockwell these days.

“I’m glad we eat together,” my teen said.

We huh? Does this count?!

“I’ve heard from other kids that they don’t eat with their families more than twice a week. But we do all the time. And I like that.”

Good to know. How nice that method doesn’t trump action.

And that’s when it happened. She asked a question. Then voiced concern. And rather than rush through an answer, we – for some crazy reason – took time to respond, explore, listen and ask more questions. I learned so much. And I watched, for a brief moment, my teen dip her toes into adulthood. It was a brief tip, but genuine. And it was challenging (because it’s hard to chat with your child without trying to parent) and wonderful.

We talked about deep topics. And thanks to Jon & I both participating, she got a man’s point of view as well as a woman’s. It was impromptu and deep and good because she needed direction and clarity to navigate a few social issues that had been misunderstood. And in the process, she realized that one of the things her dad has told her over the years, one of the things that has been a burr under her saddle and taken as a personal-slight (“Go upstairs and change your shorts. Those can’t be seen below that t-shirt.”) began to be understood as it has always been intended: I love you. I don’t want a boy looking at you and thinking things. You are a treasure to me.

I don’t know if we always get to see the light-bulb go off, so I thought I’d share … as an encouragement to keep on keepin’ on.  Because one more thing about teens and conversation, they’re listening, even when it doesn’t seem like they are. And they’re hearing.

We all learned something yesterday.

  • Communication is a 2-way street
  • What is said is as important as what is heard
  • A few checks might open the door to even deeper conversation

Quick-checks open the door because they show that we are listening, too. The checks are a blessing to our kids. Plus, they ignite our own appreciation/acceptance that young adulthood is arriving. And in the process those budding young adults may begin to recognize that we parents just might know what we’re talking about. Maybe not all of the time … but most :)

What are you learning from your teen?

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

The Rubric – Inspiring or Debilitating

I think I’m officially back from my little hiatus. We’re putting the final touches on I’m Happy For You (Sort of … not really), so I’m starting to breathe a bit more freely. I’ve been drowning in words and just couldn’t subject you guys to more. Of course, get a little burr under my saddle – and she’s back (eek!)

“Do you remember ever having rubrics in school?” I asked a friend this morning on the phone. “I’m not sure I completely agree with their use … or at least exclusively. What do you think?

“What’s a rubric?” she asked.

I was surprised she asked. She has kids in college. I know she’s had to bump up against these things.

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“You know, those guidelines they give the kids to follow when writing a paper or doing a project. It tells them exactly what they have to do in order to get certain grades.”

“Oh, yes,” she replied.

“I bumped into one last night that reminded me how I just might fundamentally disagree with their prolific use these days.”

Normally I don’t see my kids’ assignments. Right or wrong, I really do let them navigate that road themselves. I make sure they know I’m here to help. But they rarely ask. They for sure never want my help in math – in fact they run screaming if I offer. But, sometimes in English – they’ll take their chances.

Before Christmas, I wasn’t asked – but I did help one of the kids type his assignment. I really did it as a surprise. He’s so diligent in everything he does and I thought I could lighten his load by simply typing a portion of what he had already hand written.

I loved his story. Though peppered with spelling issues and grammatical missteps, it was clever with quippy anecdotes and interesting use of quotes that seemed to me a terrific start at learning how to write. I mean, he’s a youngster – far from being able to transfer grammar-rule knowledge to smooth use. I even went so far as to think – wow, this one could be a writer. Anyway, I typed exactly what he wrote, not correcting it. I thought I was doing the right thing.

Until he got in the car yesterday.

“I’m so stupid,” he said as he sank into the front passenger seat. “I’m dumb. I’m a failure.”

Okay – he’s prone to drama; so I rarely allow those types of announcements to mean more than what is usually the case: life-frustration. And I did what I do, told him to snap out of it. (so tender and loving)

Still he was down, I couldn’t help wondering what happened. Apparently – that paper happened – and a rotten grade. He bombed – despite a valiant effort. And when he handed me the paper for my signature the next morning, I saw why he was SO down. The red pen had bled on his paper and its accompanying rubric.

The rubric outlined in detail each requirement and corresponding point assessment according to each checked – or in his case, unchecked – box. The rubric detailed pretty much every step – even tiny details. It dictated his actions as well as the actions of his teacher (whom I adore), who is doing her job. A job that required her, according to the rubric, to prolifically use her pen that was in major need of a tourniquet by then end of his paper.

And I was reminded of my tense relationship with rubrics.

They’re everywhere – not only in all of my kids’ classrooms in each of their different schools, but also in countless other areas of life. They come in the form of boxes that need to be checked in order to assess/grade achievement.

In theory, the rubric offers guidelines – guidelines that are good and helpful and necessary. But in practice, rubrics often go beyond good-intention guidelines to promoting the letter of the law rather than intent. And in doing so, they can serve as a gateway to performance and – I’m afraid – a deterrent to exploration, to experimenting, to creativity and to learning.

I find a significant portion of learning occurs during the prone-to-mistakes process. So, can learning/life be quantified in a rubric?

“I’m not sure about our reliance on rubrics,” I told my friend. “They add fuel to culture’s trend toward performance. We so desperately long for there to be a right way for everything – quantifiable rules to follow so that results are guaranteed. And it just doesn’t work that way.”

“I watched every bit of air being sucked out of the wind of that boy’s sails,” I added. “And, I couldn’t help but think, what a shame. The rubric convinced him of something that is not true. (He isn’t stupid.) And yet thanks to the rubric, he can prove to me that I’m (the one telling him – you’re a good writer, you can work on the grammar and spelling, creativity counts for something) wrong.

Though education related rubrics are tangible, many of life’s rubrics aren’t.

Pinterest might lead me to believe that my kitchen needs to be updated to a certain standard in order to be able to invite people over for dinner (stainless steel appliances: check, paper plates: 30 points off!, slightly charred pork tenderloin cooked in a needs-calibration-oven: gross, no one wants to come to your house!!)

Facebook healthy-living posts (veggies from my organic garden: where are they?! Kay walked 6000 steps today: – not!) might hold out some standard that leads me to think I need to be at a certain fitness level in order to even consider working-out. And no need to go down the road of religion and all its temptations to make a relationship with God about performance. Or parenting that never ceases to herald all the boxes that need checking in order be a considered a good one.

It’s such a fine line. Can the rubric and hands-on, creative, failure-laden learning co-exist? I think it can. At least I sure hope so. But I think it takes a lot of time, patience and trust. I need to remember that as I’m faced with life’s rubrics… especially in this parenting stage.

I hope I can remember that along with the boxes that beg to be checked, I also have tender hearts that need room to navigate life outside of them. I could probably offer some help on the front end as they learn (my word :).

Rubrics – inspiring or debilitating. You tell me

Thanks for walking the road with me.

– Kay