Just Love Them

Eight years ago, I was flying home for my sister’s funeral. God, that sucked. It still sucks. Seeing the posts of when she went into Hospice, waiting for word, then when she passed, and then her services come up in my TimeHop – you just should be able to block some things from coming up in your social media memories. I miss her, especially lately when things have been such a struggle with the kids. I know she would have pulled up a stool to my kitchen counter, poured a glass, listened, and then would have given me some insanely awesome, sage advice. I know it.

Instead, I’m left with the last words she said to me, which were, “Just love your babies.” Lord, but I hope I’m doing her proud. And I guess when it comes right down to it, what better advice is there when parenting teenagers going through a ton of muck? Just love them. Everything else will fall into place. Love them enough to be strong. Love them enough to be consistent. Love them enough to stand by your rules, your values, your beliefs. Love them enough to help them become independent. Love them enough to not tolerate bad behavior. Love them enough to hold them accountable. Love them enough to require them to be respectful. Love them when they hurt. Love them when they’re unsure. Love them when they’re doubting themselves. Love them when they make mistakes, and help them learn to pick themselves back up. Love them enough to push them when they need to be pushed. Love them enough to let them know when they need to pull back. Love them enough to let them be independent while under your watchful eyes and the safety of home, and a known environment. Love them enough to talk with them, ask questions, know who their friends are, what their dreams and desires are.

I consider my sister’s words often – not just those last words, but all the words she gave me. She loved fiercely. She took such joy in living. Her laugh filled the room. Her sarcasm inspired all her siblings. She was our Queen. She momma-bear’d with the best of them – she taught me how to momma bear. She kept us together, reminded us the value of family, no matter how unconventional our family was/is.

She’s been hovering this week – I’m sure for my parents and my siblings, her children, her Spouse too. This year has been so difficult, and I’ve found myself in a deep, dark place too frequently. Nothing was getting through. But lately, I’ve heard her, and her reminders to just love them. I can do this. She’s gone, but her lessons live. 11:11

 

My sis with baby Little Man E and Deb

Itis

I have itis…….No specific itis, just itis. There’s physical itis – I am on week 17 of a 19 week half marathon training plan. My right hip has so much itis. My left IT band decided it needed itis for the first time in my life. (Totally used to managing my right IT band). I’m also tired of training. I want the race to be here. So I have training-itis. Mentally getting myself out the door every running day is challenging.

We’re reaching the end of the school year – although, as I mentioned, while Big Man and P have just 7 school days left, Little Man has 19 school days left. It sucks. I have school-mom-itis. I’m over checking grades, checking homework, asking if they have homework, getting kids out the door in the morning, making sure they go to bed at night. Done. Finis. Toast. Exhausted. Drained. ITIS!!!!!

I also have some domestic-itis. I have no motivation for laundry, grocery shopping, Costco trips, dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, making the bed. I make myself do it, because I am a responsible adult, but geeez…..I know now why my mom used to go off the deep end and totally lose her ish whenever we’d roll our eyes and/or groan over what she’d decided to make for dinner. I think one of the most over-rated things of being an adult is choosing what to make for dinner. Don’t even get me started on making sure you actually have what you need to make what you’ve decided you want to eat, nor on actually cooking it, and even less cleaning it up. My bed hasn’t been made in weeks, unless you count yesterday when clean sheets were put on all the beds.

I have a little work-itis too. I do love my job, but I’m struggling with a very-low patience level due to all the other itis’s I’m currently managing, so tedious tasks are, well, tedious, and annoying. I wanted to poke my own eyeballs out while spending two hours on a PowerPoint, only to discover it didn’t save half of what I’d done. Then another spreadsheet just flat out disappeared off my external hard drive. Can’t find it on my computer anywhere. And darn it, I really hate when I forget something or make a mistake. The event I worked today was on the Bay. I sat there and watched boats for half an hour after everyone was checked in and the program was underway. That half hour of quiet and calm is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment.

My mind and body want to float in my pool with a book and a beverage all day, every day. I don’t know what you’d call that particular itis, but I have it. It’s probably the worst itis I have at the moment. I’m sure it’s making all my other itis’s worse, don’t you think? I can hear the water flowing over the edge of the hot tub into the pool. It’s warm outside, and the water looks so inviting. And my float is just floating around the pool, looking lonely. Sigh….

What’s your current itis situation?

Enough

I’ve said it before, but seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough to re-live high school. Oh, there were great things that happened to me, so many amazing experiences. But holy wow, the stress, the pressure, the hormones, the emotions, the jerks and queen b’s. It was really hard – trying to live up to expectations, real or imagined, while trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be, while trying to  make sure I did what I had to do to get into college, while dealing with friends and classmates going through the exact same process. I remember crying a lot. I remember dealing with ulcers and other stress-induced illness by the time I was fifteen. I remember pushing myself harder than anyone else – the drive to be “perfect”.  And this was all in the time where rumors were spread via those folded up notes a-la 80’s, and during lunch or at post-game dances.

I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for teenage girls these days. It was hard enough to get through each day before there were phones and cameras around 24/7. Social media has been around most of my kids’ lives. They live their lives on blast. Remember when you had a bad hair day in high school? There weren’t any cameras around to capture it. Or if you fell walking across Senior Court, people would talk about it, but there wouldn’t be video evidence to spread the humiliation even further.  You would likely have to see that boy you really liked walk his newest girlfriend down the hallway, but you didn’t have photos of everything else they did in your face every day. I can’t imagine the pressure girls (and likely boys too) these days have to always look perfect, be perfect, not let things get to them in public. I think they’ve had to grow up much more quickly than we did.

With that all in mind, I want my babies to know they are enough for me. Just them, just as they are.

You are enough…

You are not what you wear. You are not what uniform you might put on for whatever sport you choose. You are not your success on the field. You are not how many honors or AP classes you take. You are not even the grades you get or the test scores you earn. You are not how many friends you have. You are not whether you date anyone before you’re sixteen. You are not whether you ever date. You are not whether you take someone or get asked to Homecoming or the Prom. You are not how many pictures there are of you in the yearbook. You are not what college you might get into. You are not how clean your room is, or if you finish all your chores without being told. You are not whether you finish that half marathon at a faster pace than last year. You are not your golf ranking. You are not whatever role you get for recital or Nutcracker. You are not the IEP meetings we go to annually. You are not the papers you write, the projects you finish, the number of books you read, the car you drive. You are not the money you earn, the house you live in, the career you decide upon. You are not the Facebook posts, the Snapchats, the Instagram photos, the re-tweets.

You, just you, you are enough. You are loved, you are cherished, you are wanted, just as you are. Remember that……There’s going to be so much pressure in your life to do, to be, to look everything “perfect”. But none of that makes you more. They are just what you do, how you look. They are accessories. You – you are enough.

Clean-up on Aisle Five, or What It Takes to Parent Teens

I kind of interrogated and then lectured Big Man this morning, and then I came back and apologized for being a little over the top. I told him we’re trying to figure out this parenting-of-teens thing, and sometimes we’re going to mess up. I reminded him we trust them until they give us a reason not to, but give us a reason not to trust, and they’ll go back to being treated like five year olds on lockdown. This stuff ain’t easy.

The morning conversation had me thinking during a.m. carpool what it takes to survive parenting teens. First off, God hears from me a lot, even if it’s just something like, “Sweet Jesus, get me through the next two minutes without totally screwing this up!” and “Good Lord, what  now?” There’s a LOT of head shaking involved, and frequent banging of that same head against the proverbial wall. They will insist upon messing up – often repeating the same mistakes, doing the same exact thing you’ve already had five conversations about with them. And as Little Man would say, there’s a lot of face palm too. I almost need a neck brace at this point, and my youngest JUST turned 13, which means I have a ways to go.

You definitely need your tribe. There are days the frantic texts fly – “Hey, have you been through this?”, “Hey, have you heard of this thing?”, “OMG!!!! WTF??!!”. “Would you believe he/she?”, “Do you know anything about such-n-such kid?” It’s not just bad stuff. It’s sharing the really good stuff too, along with the commiserating. There are the sanity-saving, wine-fueled pow-wows where we remind each other not to put our own crazy on our kids, and where we can actually  hash out whatever situation has come up, knowing we need to keep our mouths shut around said teens, and that they wouldn’t listen to us anyways.

Which brings me to another thing….There’s a lot of tongue-biting and teeth clenching. I think I might be rolling my eyes a bunch too. Spouse and I are having more conversations about the kids than we’ve had since they were little and we were just trying to survive baths and bedtimes. We keep checking in to make sure we’re on the same page. He checks my crazy, and I give him lessons on life with teenage girls (remember, he has no sisters and went to an all-boys high school).

I frequently remind myself to just shush – that whole “check yoself before you wreck yoself”. That. They have stuff they need to figure out on their own, without my interference or advice. Unless it’s a safety/legal issue, or will have really big-picture repercussions, I try to leave them to it. Not that I don’t ever try to help, give some direction, or at least offer my opinion, but they’re working on becoming independent young adults. You can’t stop that process by running their lives for them.

You have to take care of yourself. I run, I spend time with my friends, Spouse and I have our date nights. I remind my children I am not here at their beck-and-call, not here to serve them 24/7.  I work hard to maintain an identity that isn’t just “mom”.

It’s hard, but I admit to them – or try to – when I’ve messed up, and apologize. While as parents we need to maintain our authority, we also need to acknowledge the fact we aren’t perfect, and we are learning too. I read something the other day that to us, our kids will always be babies – baby preschoolers, baby big kids, baby teenagers, baby college students, baby adults. Every first is still a first. That means to my parents I’m a baby mom-to-teens. This is a first for me. I’m sure my parents are giggling while they’re watching this – the difference being a baby-parent-to-teens will ask her parents for advice, and will also actually listen to that advice.

If they should happen to read this post – I love you guys so much and I’m so proud of who you are, who you’re becoming. I truly don’t think this stage is the worst thing ever. It’s amazing to watch you face all these firsts, to see you experience high school and all the memories you’re creating.  I’d do anything to make the process easier, to keep you from pain or  hurt, but this is your life, your experience. Go live it. Go be great. Become.

I have good kids.   They do give me great joy. They also frustrate the hell out of me. (Why can’t people just do what I think they should do??!!). I am still figuring this whole thing out. I’m adding tools to my toolbox. By the time Little Man is a Senior, I just may have it together.

We Listen to Music

One of the Princess’ friends made a comment to her that we always have the music on – at home, in the car, everywhere we go. And we do – we always have music on (unless we have the news, sports, or our favorite shows on tv going).  We listen to all kinds of music. If you put my iPod on total shuffle, you’ll hear everything from video game music to movie soundtracks, classical to hip hop,  Broadway to ballet music,  country to Christian,  gangsta rap to the Brat Pack, and Pop to hard/hair band rock.

I learned an appreciation for music basically from birth. My family always had music on, as well as my godmother/babysitter/second mom. I grew up to a varied soundtrack. We knew when the music turned on every Saturday morning. that was our cue to start our chores. We heard Neil Diamond and Elvis mostly, but also my mom’s favorite old-school, twangy country music, and the old standards for my dad – Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, and Nat King Cole. In the car, out by the pool, camping trips, on the boat – music was always on. From my godmother – a bit younger than my parents – I gained an introduction to the Beatles, Peter, Paul & Mary, and whatever was contemporary at the time. My godmother also took us to church every Sunday. I sang in the youth choir, learned all those good Lutheran hymns, and all our VBS/Sunday School songs, which we loved (at that young age) to belt out in the car, and around her house. My brother, four years older than I, started listening to his own music in middle school, and we’re talking late 70’s/early 80’s, so disco, Journey, KISS, Styx, Queen, Abba, Boston, Kansas, and the Eagles were added to my life soundtrack. I think I got my first PlaySchool plastic record player when I was about four. My first album was Peaches & Herb (that’s a little terrifying), followed by the Grease soundtrack, Andy Gibb, Sean Cassidy, and Donny Osmond (no jokes regarding my age, please!).

High School brought a new soundtrack, but the music definitely continued to play, all the time. INXS, Prince, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Time take me back to dances in the cafeteria after football games. I can almost feel the cool fall night air, remember clearly sitting on the benches outside the cafeteria where we talked with our friends and waited to be asked to dance by that certain someone who’d caught our eye that week/month. Chicago always reminds me of hanging out by the pool of my best friend’s neighbor, or sitting in her room doing homework. Janet Jackson’s Control and Run DMC’s You Be Illin have me dancing cheer routines from Homecoming and Hoopla. Beastie Boys takes me back to being on the bus to basketball games – Funny how you can remember the lyrics to every song on one particular album, including the order the songs were in, 30 years later, but can’t remember what you ate for lunch three hours ago. Paul Revere anyone? Fight for Your Right? Girls? Oh  yeah…..And don’t even get me started on the soundtracks to Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Breakfast Club. Sigh…Jake Ryan and Blane….mmmmmmmm…..

My college soundtrack covered the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s. I went from the scene in Santa Barbara – Oingo Boingo, UB40, the Cure, and U2 – to the Central Valley of CA and hip hop/dance music including MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Kriss Kross, and Color Me Badd. I spent hours driving to and from Santa Barbara listening to Kylie Minogue, Amy Grant, Michael  W Smith, and Debby Gibson.

Nearly every relationship has a playlist. Every single time I hear The Outfield, I’m once again riding in my first boyfriend’s truck (or his daddy’s Porsche, but that’s another story for another day). Garth Brook’s Friends in Low Places comes on and I’m at one of many college parties, with some awful memories attached to that particular disastrous relationship – but I still love that song. LL Cool J and Jodeci play, and I’m in J’s truck driving to our first vacation together in Tahoe. (It seems I dated a few boys who drove trucks) Color Me Badd songs remind me of following my end-of-and-just-out-of-college boyfriend to Chico for the baseball team’s games, and some of the ball players doing a crazy-good job of lip-syncing and dancing in some bar there.

Everyone who’s had someone has also lost someone. I have my sad break-up songs, my angry break-up songs, my revenge music.

Then there’s Spouse. We have our own soundtrack, and it’s pretty long. We met in a country bar, so that genre has always been part of us. Garth Brooks played at our wedding, as did Clay Walker, and Shania Twain. We also both love to dance, so any pop/dance music from the last twenty years goes on our soundtrack too. Loving, and actually being able to dance was one of my top requirements for the man I would spend my  life with. Spouse qualifies.

I have my own playlists for each of them. For Big Man, there are the songs that remind me of driving to and from the NICU – He’s My Son, and Creed’s Arms Wide Open. Wake Me Up When September Ends will always, always make me cry,  because it takes me back to that month – the month he was born, the month I lost everything I dreamed of when I got pregnant with him, and gained a tiny, two-pound, fragile, miracle of a child. For P, our only girl, My Little Girl, I Loved Her First, and Slipping Through My Fingers will remind us how quickly she’s growing up, that someday she’ll belong to someone else. I hear Nutcracker music, or any of the songs she’s danced solos to, and I can see her dancing in my head. Taylor Swift reminds me of the concerts we’ve gone to, For Good from Wicked reminds me of singing in the car with her (which we do a lot). I’m watching my kids develop their personal life-soundtracks now too. P is already planning the playlist for her Sweet Sixteen party, and I’m sure she will carry those songs with her for the rest of her life, as a captured memory of that night.

One of my FB memories the other day was when Little Man was little, and was singing Sexy Back loudly from his carseat in the second row of my SUV. Not embarrassing at all to pull up at a light, windows open, and your toddler is singing about bringing sexy back. Mother of the Year.

We do listen to music, all the time. It can reflect a mood, improve a mood, or set a mood. Music is part of our family fabric. What’s on your life soundtrack?

Huddle

We have two more weeks before our kids are on spring break. It seems an eternity since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to a much-needed break. The Herd will be headed out on an RV trip to some National Parks. We had invited a few other families along, but it didn’t work out for either of them to join us, so it will be just us – just the five of us. While I was super bummed our friends couldn’t come along, I’m now grateful for the time we will have as a family.

I’m feeling we need a family huddle – a time to re-group, reconnect, heal some wounds, help recover from some lessons, push a re-set button. It has been yet another haul this school year. We’ve had some really good things happen, but we’ve also each slugged our way through some pretty heavy stuff. I think we could each use some time to lick our wounds, figure out what we can fix, how we can fix it, what we need to move on from, what lessons have been learned, how we can communicate our needs to each other much better than we have been. We can remind each other all the great stuff about us.

Oh, it won’t all be serious stuff over the whole week we’re gone. There will be adventures – lots of hiking and biking. There will be lots of pictures, because that’s what I do. I’m already planning the scrapbook for this trip in my mind (and on Pinterest). There will be music, food, games, books, late nights, blessed mornings. Someone will say something funny and it will become part of the fabric of our family – another story to tell in years to come. We will see amazing things, go amazing places. There will be meltdowns, arguments, frustrations, but those are all part of building memories, right?

I just feel we need this time to figure out who we are as a family once again. I cannot wait to see the places we’re going to see, but more than that, I cannot wait for the time together, away from tv, friends, distractions, training schedules, classes, homework, practices, computers.  We will be contained in one RV – no separate bedrooms to run off to and close everyone else out. I’m sure that may sound like some form of torture for my three teens, but I think they’re looking forward to this as much as I am. The time with them still under our roof is speeding quickly by. I’m grateful to have the chance to be with them, experience something new for all of us.

Does your family take huddle time sometimes?

You First

My mom recently moved out of the home she’s been in since I was just out of high school. In the process of the move, she gave me a bunch of my old things, including a box that held some of my older journals from high school. Might I just say, “wow”. Wow, did I worry a whole heck of a lot what other people thought of me, but then isn’t that the way of teenagers, particularly teenage girls? I can’t believe how much I allowed my vision of my self-worth to be wrapped up in who liked, or didn’t like me.

Learning to be okay with and like yourself is one of life’s hardest and greatest achievements. I didn’t quite figure out I wouldn’t be too attractive to others until I was attractive to myself until later. I think I was in my mid-twenties, ditching yet another failed relationship, stuck in a hotel room by myself on a business trip before I sat down and faced it all. I needed to like and accept myself first before I could expect anyone else to really like and accept me. I had to be fine alone before I could truly be in anyone else’s life, much less truly let anyone else fully inside my life.  Make sense? That was an intense week of self-reflection and self-revelation. It was painful at times – I had to clearly see and accept all my faults. I also had to clearly see and accept all my strengths, something I actually found much more difficult.

Back in high school, and even early college, I felt my value came through having someone want me, just me. I’m not talking about friends – I was lucky enough to have some really incredible friends who loved and accepted me more than I did myself. I’m still grateful to them for keeping me afloat. But as I read the words I’d written from freshman year through my high school graduation, I realized my days were preoccupied with whomever I had a crush on at the time. If he didn’t talk to me on a particular day, I must’ve looked bad or sounded stupid. If he didn’t acknowledge me, it was because I was an ugly, annoying little girl. If he didn’t smile at me, it was because I was wearing the wrong clothes. If I didn’t get asked to the prom, or homecoming, or the winter dance, I was worthless and a failure. I didn’t have a boyfriend until mid-way through my senior year of high school. Looking back, I can see that was mostly because of the way I viewed myself. Once I gained a little bit of confidence, things started to change. But if I’d spent less time obsessing about who liked me, or didn’t like me, whether I had a boyfriend or not, which group I was part of or not part of, and spent more time learning to like me for me, maybe I would have found a peace with myself much earlier in life.

Watching my older two navigate high school, I’m reminded why you couldn’t pay me enough to relive those four years (well, most of them anyways – it wasn’t all entirely awful). If I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self anything it would be to love, care for, and accept myself first. I’d tell myself not to send my “representative self” to school each day, but to just be me, and be good enough with who I really was to put that person out there every day. If I wasn’t good enough as myself, my representative certainly wouldn’t be good enough either as she was a shell, a front, a wall between me and the world around me.

I guess my point is this – love you, first. Once you learn to love you, others will find it easier to love you too.