iowa vacations and the safety of flight: conversations from the car

On the way home from the dentist office this morning, I absent-mindedly shared with the kids that I needed a vacation. It has been awhile since we’ve taken a vacation, besides the long weekend in Oklahoma City earlier this summer. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we were pretty avid travelers prior to COVID. This has been the longest stretch of time I’ve not left the country since the mid-90s. Any time off I’ve taken since starting a new job last fall has been to do consulting work. Whaaa whaa. Tiny violin time. I have just been feeling…restless. I was hoping to do a big trip this fall but I’ve been in some kind of recession/inflation/work-your-butt-off mode and I’m thinking I’d better store canned goods under my house instead of spending an extravagant amount of money visiting southern France (my original plan). All this to say, that simple utterance about needing a vacation sparked a humorous conversation which left me smiling for hours. Neelah was the first to pipe in.

“I want to go to England or France.”

Noah: “I don’t want to ride in a plane. I will go to the airport. I love the airport. But I’m not going on a plane.”

Me: “I understand buddy, sometimes I get nervous when I fly, but flying is actually one of the safest ways to get around.”

Noah: “Not when someone bombs your plane.”

Hmmm. True. Or when you are hijacked. I spent a long weekend with a woman in Varanasi, India, just hours after she and more than a hundred other fellow passengers had been released from the hijacked flight that landed in Kandahar after taking off from Kathmandu. She was passing through Varanasi on her way to Bodh Gaya (where Buddha was enlightened) and I was simply wandering the streets, getting massages on rooftops, and taking morning and evening boat rides on the Ganges as bodies were cremated on the ghats along the river. She had been given the option to fly home to Canada, but felt that would mean the hijackers won. She opted to stay in India for a month as she had originally planned. I was at the beginning of a 6-month stay and had just survived the much anticipated and dreaded “Y2K” event in a foreign country. I admired her resilience. Since we were only within about 48 hours of her having spent a week on a hijacked aircraft, I was hoping her mental state would remain strong when everything finally set in. Her family had pleaded with her to return to Canada. I felt honored, humbled, and quieted to have been the first person she spent any considerable time with following that incident.

Neelah: “Well, then. I would like to go to England or France or Iowa.”

Me: “Iowa?? Why Iowa? We’ve driven through Iowa before.”

Neelah: “Yes, but I’ve always wanted to explore Iowa.”

Me: “No offense, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone use the words “explore” and “Iowa” together in a sentence…”

Neelah has had a fascination with Iowa since her class at school performed the “Music Man” several years ago.

Me: “Iowa is a possibility, and we can avoid flying. Maybe we can go to Chicago and spend a couple of days in Iowa on the trip.” I was thinking that unless one has family in Iowa, it probably shouldn’t be one’s final destination for a vacation. Who knows though. I’m sure there will be at least one person who reads this who can prove me wrong.

We started to consider when an Iowa (Chicago) trip was possible. There were at least two people in the car that felt skipping school this fall for a week would be a good choice. While it might not happen that soon, it was now on our (their) list of dream vacation spots. The conversation dwindled as we entered our neighborhood and encountered a man standing at an intersection near our house waiting to cross the street. A man with a 3-inch booger swinging from his nose, glistening in the sun. Neelah got excited and distracted and started screaming at him from inside the car “Eat it! Eat it already!” Our Iowa vacation was quickly forgotten.

Ahhh…car conversations.

the power of positive messaging

I’ve been so overwhelmed lately and school and all of our fall activities don’t even start for another week. I’m already anxious about the anxiety of my day starting at 6 am and not ending until 8 pm between work, my side gigs, school drop-offs and pick-ups, soccer, dance and baseball. I’ve put over 12,000 miles on my car in the 7 months I’ve had it, and anticipate with all that activity, I will hit close to 20,000 miles by the end of the year. I’m tapped out. My therapist talks to me about “filling my tank” – what does that even mean??

I’ve been staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning listening to inspirational talks on YouTube. I’ve read motivational speeches set against background images of people working out, climbing mountains, going to the ocean, running marathons and reels of Matthew McConaughey and Denzel Washington movies. Then I wake up in the morning and turn on YouTube again to listen to more while I throw back some coffee. I’m trying to pump my brain full of motivational quips – don’t give up, keep going, cut the negative self-talk, life is hard and get over it, nothing good comes without hard work. I’ve generated dozens of post-it notes which I stick up all over the house. I’m sure the kids are wondering why they’re staring at a pink post-it note that reads “You have a say-so in how your life goes” while they brush their teeth. Funny story – there was a response post-it on that particular message that said “Sometimes, but mostly you don’t…” Ahh…so sad, the life of a 10-year-old.

At this very moment, I’m daydreaming about turning to the guy next to me at Starbucks and shouting like they do in the YouTube videos: “Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about what you do about it!” before grabbing my stuff and marching out the door with Baba O’Riley by the Who playing in the background. I imagine throwing in a bunch of cuss words, because somehow that makes it feel even more motivating.

One speech I listened to recently really struck me. It was the idea of facing adversity when going after your dreams, and that the average person “turns back” – therefore guaranteeing that they never achieve their dream. The speaker tells people they need to close themselves in a room, once a day, and host a dream party. Focus on your dream, visualize it, celebrate it, then go out and live it.

Think about that for a minute. The “turn back” moment. How many times have I started something I had dreamed about or loved, and then when people criticized me, I got bored, or felt I’d never get anywhere with my dream or didn’t get enough kudos or recognition, I turned back. I gave it up. Dozens of times. I’ve turned back dozens of times. There are very few things I didn’t turn back on and trudged through – going to graduate school, pursuing and fulfilling the donor/baby process, buying and maintaining my own home (and the damn yard – “maintain” is on a spectrum, there is no shame in that. After all, the two “roommates” I support and chauffeur all over town love the yard but have no interest in maintaining it). Those big ones are things that are not very easy to turn back on. But there are dozens of smaller things that I’ve let go for the wrong reasons – mostly due to the opinions of others or the failure to prioritize my own growth and “tank filling.”

When I inundate myself with positive messages, it doesn’t allow my brain to spend time with negative thoughts late at night or first thing in the morning. It encourages me to think about the things I love to do, where I’ve turned back for the wrong reasons, and what dreams are worth revisiting. My day job is rough and I feel like I don’t have a skill in the world. Sometimes, you just need to hunt the positive messages down and immerse yourself in them, because you’re not always going to find them in the world around you. Note to you and me: there is good in you, you do have a purpose, you just need to find your thing and your people. Now, go out and yell something motivational at that guy sitting next to you at the coffee shop. He will appreciate you for it.

the changes are coming

The other day I was walking past Noah’s bedroom and I heard a grown man on the other side of the door. A bit shocked and curious, I opened the door.

“Who are you playing with??”

He gestured towards the monitor and was equally confused by my shock.

“It’s Joe, momma.” (Not his real name – “Joe” is a longtime friend of Noah’s who I hadn’t laid eyes on since the end of this past school year).

“Why does his voice sound like that?”

Noah shrugged. I shrugged. What had happened to Joe? Most of Noah’s closest buddies still have that crackly in-between voice that’s not quite boy and not quite man. Joe sounded like he drove a one-ton pickup and had killed his own breakfast that morning.

More than any kid I’ve ever met, Noah definitely has his finger on the pulse of puberty and body changes. A good friend of mine thinks he’s headed for the field of obstetrics and gynecology. She’s convinced he will be the most knowledgeable and compassionate male ob/gyn ever. Fortunately, at this age, he is still thinking about paleontology and geology, not vaginas. He is truly a cool kid when it comes to these conversations. I can talk to a lot of people about a lot of things, but when it comes to the topic of puberty or sex, I imagine I look like most of Noah’s peers when their mother brings up those things. My eyes get wide, I start stuttering and I freeze up. Reference my responses to the 69 questions:

“It’s a year. A Bryan Adams song. From the 1900s. Ying Yang symbol. Some weird math in a new song by Ariana Grande. No, I have no idea why your friends are talking about it.”

One day as we were driving back from school, Noah shared that he found his uncles disturbing.

“Momma, I know what happens when babies are made. I’m so disturbed that Uncle X, Y and Z have kids. Do you know how those kids happened?”

“Yes, I do. Isn’t that wonderful that your momma didn’t have to do that disturbing thing to have you?” I felt very undisturbing for the moment in his eyes. One benefit of the donor process. Noah wouldn’t have to associate that disturbing event with his existence.

“Yeah. Sheesh. Wow,” he says.

Not long after that conversation, one of his friend’s mothers asked me if Noah was bringing home any school work from their reproduction classes. She said she had been interrogating her own son and he refused to share anything with her. I asked Noah. He disappeared into this room then returned, displaying large color drawings of the male and female reproductive systems, with correctly labeled anatomy (the child can’t spell “didn’t” but he knocked “fallopian tubes” and “clitoris” right out of the park).

“Do you mean these momma?” He asked proudly.

I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Who knew my son would be a reproduction system nerd? “Yes. Those.”

Seriously, this has been great. Most of my work is done on the technical education piece. We watched puberty videos together. I preferred the ones made in India. Very modest and general, focused on hair growth and the Adam’s Apple. All of this is still very scientific to him, with no shame and embarrassment. I consider myself very fortunate because I ended up not being that cool mom who can talk about anything.

spa day love overwhelm

My child worked so hard this evening to get my attention in order to give me a “hand spa day.” It was so sweet. I kept putting her off in an attempt to complete the never ending list of things that I needed to get done. First it was stopping by the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, then getting dinner together, doing dishes, watering the yard, weeding the yard, clipping some small weird trees that are popping up, and tying up loose ends in my consulting work. By the time I was ready, it was 9:30 at night, my son had been on the phone with his best friend for an hour, and my daughter was standing next to a sink filled with now cold water, bordered by towels, nail tools, polish, and lotion, waiting so patiently. She asked me to sit down and place my hands in the sink and relax. Then she proceeded to chat with me like I was at a spa and she was just making conversation.

“Did you know it’s stingray season in Florida? Yeah. They hide under the sand and you step on them then ZAP! they sting you. So there’s a special stingray shuffle you do to avoid stepping on them. Like this.” She demonstrated the shuffle.

Then:

“How have you been staying busy lately?”

Then:

“Did you know Elon Musk is not going to buy Twitter now? I think they are still making him pay a billion dollars though because he decided not to do it.”

(I was thinking that the daily current event assignment I had given them for the summer was really paying off).

“Did you know that cats have spiky tongues? That’s why they never lick you.”

From my room, my son paused on his Nintendo Switch and said, “A cat licked me once. It was weird.”

“Noah, cats don’t lick you.”

I threw in. “Actually I think cats do lick you. My business partner’s cat was licking her face non-stop on camera the other day during our meeting.”

And so the banter continued, with my son popping in now and then when something peaked his interest.

This whole experience brought to mind a post I saw on Facebook recently in my single moms group. A mom was sharing that she had just had her second child, her hormones were out of control and she was crying all the time. She asked: does this get any easier, and could the group please provide some encouragement. I paused after reading that post and thought – no, it doesn’t get any easier. Raising children is hard with a partner, but it feels nearly impossible on your own. You will never stop crying, not knowing what to say or do, and feeling overwhelmed, lonely and afraid. But I wanted to say something kind and encouraging and not depress her further.

I wish I could have seen ahead to this evening’s activities and shared them with her via some type of experiential telepathy: the spa, the conversation, my son laying on my bed in the room next to us, chatting in randomly, my daughter telling news stories. How this all felt, and the special bond we have created, first launched by the decision twelve years ago to have a child in an unconventional way. So hard, and so many tears, and craziness and stress and it doesn’t stop, it never has. People have always tells me it gets easier in some ways but harder in other ways. You spend less money on daycare and more money on sports and other activities. They rely on you less for assistance with every day stuff but it get tougher with emotional stuff and bigger decisions.

It doesn’t get easier. Balancing the tough stuff with the profound feeling of gratitude from the bond we share and the love we have and the gift of all that – that eases the “does it get easier” question. Maybe that’s not the right question. I’m not sure what is. Maybe that’s just always the first question in those moments when you feel like you’re drowning. I am wishing for my fellow single mom that spa day love overwhelm energy.

road trippin’ = peace

We love to travel. When COVID hit, our visas were canceled 6 days before we were scheduled to leave for India. I have to admit, the kids were not jazzed for this one – the prospect of spending 15 hours in the air on one leg was a bit terrifying for them. I’ve spent months in India throughout my adulthood, my son is half Indian, and it is probably the single most place in the world where I feel total peace. Even landing at the airport in the middle of the night in Mumbai, which has historically been total chaos. The shock of that experience alone was probably going to send my kids into a panic. It might be best that our trip has been delayed until a future date, when they are older.

After COVID, we took to the streets and have taken a few road trips over the past couple of years. We even lived out of state for a couple of months. It was heaven – a decision that took less than 6 days to execute between the spark of the idea and driving out of town with a rental booked near the ocean across the country. The kids and I just completed a short road trip (20 hours + 3 additional hours when I made a wrong turn – the backroads of Kansas are especially beautiful, for real). Good times with great friends, legal fireworks, and lots of swimming to counter hot temperatures, high gas prices, and too much McDonalds.

Traveling is fun and exciting but it is also a coping mechanism for me when hard times hit. It’s a way to simplify, to let go, and to be distracted from pain, sadness, loss and grief. It’s a way to free myself from harboring resentment and hanging on to self pity and it gives me space to process and time to be present with the people who are most important to me. It’s healing. Prior to having the kids I spent days and weeks and even months in various countries, traveling by train and bus, staying in out of the way places on a budget, making lifelong friendships, and learning new languages, food, and cultures. I lived an entire lifetime before I decided to have my children and while most people my age are seeing their kids graduate from high school and college right now and mine are not even wearing deodorant yet (one should be), I’m thankful. Life is disrupted by so many things at the moment and I’m glad I’ve never waited or thought “I can do it another time when it makes more sense.”

Do the thing that makes the least sense. Now. Get on the road, book the trip, make the move, quit the job, start the new career, say goodbye, say hello, say I love you, put whatever it is behind you. Do it. Traveling is my best way to heal. What’s yours?

get your s#*t organized, and don’t forget to enjoy the present

I hired a personal organizer a couple of months ago. I had always been led to believe that this was a luxury for the rich and famous and I needed to figure out how to clean up for myself. It’s not. Organizers are pretty reasonable. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart though.

The woman I ended up hiring was the only one who actually came and looked at my space, and then followed up with an estimate I couldn’t refuse. I was ecstatic. I was going to pay an organizer to recreate my space in lieu of a spring break vacation and my kids were happy because they don’t like to leave the house. I could not have anticipated the trauma that would ensue.

She brought two other people with her. I came to know them as the “New Girl” (mine was her first house) and the “Empathetic One” because every time I tried to remember their real names, I got them mixed up and they would correct me. Over and over. Until I started to feel really stupid. They each took a room in my house, minus the kids’ rooms and my living room. My job was really just to stay out of their way. Until I came across the lead organizer dragging a huge black hefty bag behind her and basically swiping things off my window sills into the bag. My anxiety forming quickly, I stopped to ask her what she was doing. She said she was throwing away what she thought was trash. Meanwhile, the Empathetic One was pulling down every picture and kid drawing on my refrigerator just behind her.

Here’s the deal. The organizer and her crew were not bad. They did a good job. Their work helped me start to think through how to organize things and since they came, I’ve been good about putting things away from the spaces they organized and keeping window sills and counters clean. I just didn’t realize the impact seeing my kids’ goofy, half-finished art projects being tossed or packed away would have on me. After they left that first day, I cried. Even after the lead organizer promised not to remove anything from the house. The huge black bag STILL sits in the corner of my dining room, waiting for me to go through it. Right alongside a bag with the kids’ first twin bedsheets in it (Lightning McQueen and Hello Kitty) that I can’t seem to haul away.

They came back again the next day and I cried some more. The Empathetic One was kind and acknowledged how difficult the process could be. I was glad the lead organizer showed up later, I would have been horribly ashamed if she would have seen me crying over handmade votive candle jars that were broken long before she had arrived and spelling tests saved from kindergarten (the last year my son would spell anything accurately forever).

Looking back, I would do it again. There are still rooms in the house that need serious help. I realized that I was not necessarily attached to the things, but more attached to an era that I would never see again. The era when the kids were small and innocent and sweet and created things with their whole heart and soul. A time that I took for granted while in the midst of, and sometimes even resented as a single mom. In a way, the organizing project caused me to stop and really take notice of the moments the kids and I have together, and to enjoy them, or at least sit in them. Sit in every moment, good or bad, because it is part of a period what will never come again. It taught me that worrying about work, or meeting the right person, or how I’m going to manage the upcoming year’s activities and driving, are really not the things I need to obsess about. That is all easier said than done, but sometimes I am able to achieve that state of present living, which is entirely peaceful.

Things Our Family Loves to Do Together

When you think about it, it is often the small things or seemingly mundane activities that bring us the most joy. Our little family is no different. I’ve compiled a list of things that we like to do together. The first seven are things we loved to do in 2015, when I first drafted this post (and never published it). Items 8-11 are current day. Take some time to think about the small rituals or activities that you enjoy doing with your family, it is grounding.

1. Drink chai and eat cookies in the morning. In 2022, this is still a favorite for Noah and me. Although I’ve traded out chai for coffee and he has traded chai for chocolate milk. Now we have arguments over who makes it. He swears that I have some magic touch as a mother to know how to get the proportion of chocolate to milk just perfect. I suspect he is being lazy.

2. Build a fire in our backyard. In a fire pit of course. While this is still a favorite, we don’t do it that often because I am fire challenged. We stayed in a cabin with a sauna and no running water in the woods of northern Minnesota a couple of years ago, and whether or not we could bathe depended on my luck with starting a fire in the sauna each night. Let’s just say I will never serve time in prison for arson.

3. Cuddle in bed in the morning. This activity caused me to run late to work more than I’d like to admit. There was nothing like a 4- and 5-year old who woke up in a happy mood and wanted to hug and kiss you. They smelled so good at that age. I needed to take advantage of this time before their feet and breath and pits started to smell and they didn’t want to be anywhere near me, and especially not in my bed. Surprisingly in 2022, they still love to sleep with me. Except now they are huge and like to sleep sideways with their feet in my gut. Which has its upsides: the smelliest parts of them are farthest away as long as their feet are covered.

4. Walk to Walmart to buy popsicles and chocolate milk. I don’t always feel right admitting that I patronize Walmart. It is within walking distance of my house so it just makes sense most of the time for our crazy lifestyle. Or when we wanted to buy popsicles and chocolate milk while riding around the store in a wagon that we pulled over from home. These days, I still mostly frequent Walmart, but I do pickup instead from the mass shooting incident Walmart. I just don’t have the patience for crowds anymore and the Walmart near my house is the sketchiest I’ve ever seen it. It is the sketch magnet for the area. It says something when you choose the mass shooting Walmart over the neighborhood market Walmart.

5. Floss our teeth. We don’t really love doing this together, but I thought if I added it to the list, we might start believing that we do and floss more often. Nowadays, I floss my teeth regularly due to the generous amounts of guilt served to me by my dental hygienist. I need a hygienist at home to guilt my kids about tons of different things since it worked so well for me. Neelah brushes all the time and flosses once in awhile. Noah brushes less often than we’d like to acknowledge, and never flosses. I guess we didn’t manifest that activity even though I wrote it down.

6. Paint our nails. Everyone used to get in on this one. I had to buy shades of white, gray, blue, and black sparkly nail polish for my son. Some people I associated with at the time believed that if you painted a boy’s nails, this would automatically turn him into a girl. While I didn’t agree, I tried to be sensitive to their superstitions with “boy” colors. Now, in 2022, Noah refuses to wear nail polish on his fingers or toes, even though it is really in vogue for boys and men now.

7. Visit (and use) public bathrooms. This was an early obsession of Noah’s. I have heard this is not unusual though. The good news is that while he will use a public bathroom if he has to, he would prefer to use the facilities at home. So my exposure to public bathrooms and their inspiring decor has been limited in recent years. My bathroom at home remains half painted and lacking in thought-provoking art.

8. Watch YouTube, TikTok, and play video games for hours and hours. I need to get over the guilt of this. The kids do learn some interesting things: how to avoid creepy people, the oldest chess piece on record and how much it sold for, how to do fun crafts with Jolly Ranchers, etc. They also play games with each other and with friends, which is the socially acceptable way to connect these days. I can’t really say we do these things together because I am usually cleaning or working or telling them they need to get off their devices.

9. Go through the drive-through at McDonalds. This is a deeply-rooted tradition that goes back years, and Friday night is our typical night. I have watched the cost of meals slowly creep up as the kids get older and eat more. We have thrown away landfills full of happy meal toys. Sorry, environment. It’s McDonalds’ fault.

10. Netflix and chill. Apparently this means something different than it did a few years ago. We truly just stare at the screen and chill out. Noah’s favorite show is Grizzly and Lemmings, Neelah loves Supergirl, and I have seen Jungle Cruise at least 5 times in the past few months because I “like” Dwayne Johnson. Sometimes we can find a series that we all enjoy and is appropriate for their age. I also like to watch Bosch on Amazon Prime, but I have a friend who watches it with me and criticize every move the cops make as “not realistic.” Never watch cop shows with cops. They totally ruin them. You probably already knew this.

11. Talk about reproduction and puberty. Just kidding. Noah is the only one who enjoys this activity.

It’s interesting that I sat at the end of this post for quite awhile, staring at the screen and trying to figure out what else we liked to do together. I couldn’t come up with much else. I guess as kids head into their teenage years, the list grows smaller. I’ve heard that in most cases, kids come back around. We’ll circle back on this in another 7 years.

If Bedtime Sucks One More Time, I Will Eat Your Ears, One More Time

I posted the following back in 2016. As I scroll through my early posts, I’m reminded how much I used to laugh and how (almost) everything the kids did had some hilarious quality to it. We all seem more serious these days, we laugh a little less and a little less hard. My daughter will probably be taller than me within a year, and my son, who refuses to eat anything beyond lentil soup and fruit snacks, may not be. But they are both getting older, and quite honestly, we are all less funny. I’m just as lame now as I was back then with dealing out consequences. Along with giving everyone -including my children- too many chances, I’ve also convinced myself that everyone -including my children- is good at heart and has my best interests in mind and would never try to pull one over on me. Not true. This post brought back great memories though, and made me laugh hard tonight. _______________________________________________________________________________________

I am a sucker for second chances, third chances, fourth chances… In every aspect of my life. Naturally, my kids had this figured out in the first 48 hours they were on Earth. And instead of decreasing my tolerance for chance giving, I choose to stress out and create more ridiculous consequences in my mind, hoping one will resonate with them. This has resulted in the generation of outlandish and creative consequences by my children as well, particularly my daughter. Recently, our conversation went like this while returning home from school.

From the backseat: “Momma, I want chocolate milk.”

“Sweetie, I don’t have any chocolate milk with me. You will have to wait until we get home.”

“Momma, if you don’t give me chocolate milk right now, I will chew off your face and poop in your eye.”

Our conversations often go like this. She makes her request. I decline the request. Some possible responses I will hear:

“If I don’t have my bapu (pacifier) right now, I will throw up.”

“If you don’t let me go outside right now, I will eat your ears and then leave you forever.”

“If I can’t have candy right now, I will freak out and you will be sad.”

I have begun to realize that she is randomly compiling the stuff she hears from me when I am at my wit’s end, and she is rearranging it, adding her own flair. As I get more tired, more exasperated, my responses to bad behavior start to deflate, and resort to primal, animal-like responses. I don’t recall threatening to chew off her face, but I might have used some combination of these words? My chances go on, I don’t nip things in the bud, and now I’ve created a little girl who will threaten to poop in your eye if you don’t give her what she wants. 

As I write this, I look over at her lying on the bed, laying there, watching me, sucking intently on her bapu, with a calculated look in her eyes. If I give her more than a furtive glance, she will try to woo me like a siren at sea, breaking into “You are My Sunshine.” We are at the close of an extremely long bedtime saga this evening. Lots of stuff has gone down. My son brushed the dog with his toothbrush. My daughter announced and cheerfully made two trips to the bathroom where she made faces at herself in the mirror, lifted the toilet seat cover up and down several times and flushed, all without actually going potty. There were several incidents of pinching. Noah practiced counting up to 100 and backwards to 1 while Neelah belted out “Jesus Loves Me.”

I issued several verbal warnings. The warnings started out promising. “I will separate you.” “You will lose TV in the morning.” But the kids’ violations just didn’t seem that serious, not serious enough to follow through on with real consequences, and so I just kept throwing more stuff out there and I got more tired of reminding them to quiet down and go to sleep. I figured that I might outlast them and they might tire themselves out. And they finally did. There is probably a better way. I keep telling myself I have to choose my battles and their bedtime behavior isn’t really that bad. *Sigh.* There will probably come a day when there is a showdown, and the one who leaves with his or her face intact will be the winner.

sensitive conversations

If I had a dollar for every time my kids asked me what 69 means over the past year, I would have at least 69 dollars. At least. You would think that they both attend school with several sex-crazed pre-teens. Or perhaps just kids with older siblings who keep them in the loop on such issues. My daughter is the worst because I can always anticipate when these conversations are going to happen: when we are going somewhere in the car alone together. My son just randomly popcorns sex into conversations.

“Momma, do you want to hear a fun fact about penises during puberty?”

He loves the reproductive system. He was his 5th grade classroom’s best pupil and he always wowed other parents with his openness to discuss puberty and reproductive issues while their own children froze with a pleading look in their eyes whenever the topic came up. All I can say is that I’m glad he always initiates these conversations, because I’m not the cool parent I’d thought I would be in conversations about sex. But that’s another post for another day.

My daughter on the other hand – I squirm. Because she doesn’t provide fun facts or tell me why baby boys get boners when they get their diapers changed, she asks tons of questions. For the purposes of this post, I will use the name “Jane” for female classmates and “Fred” for male classmates. I would use Dick (i.e. Dick and Jane? Remember them?), but that might get confused with content somewhere.

“Mommy. Fred moans in class all the time and the teacher tells him it’s inappropriate. Why does she say that?”

Me: “Well, what kind of moan is it?”

“I don’t know.”

I run through a handful of different moans. None of them are exactly quite right.

Me: “Well, I’m not sure then. But if your teacher thinks it’s inappropriate, then he shouldn’t be doing it.”

“Fred and his friends always asks me if I have any cookies. Jane tells me I should tell him no, otherwise he is going to bug me all day. I don’t like it when they do that. It’s annoying. What are cookies?”

I’m really not sure about this one. I’m assuming it’s inappropriate since it’s coming on the heels of 69 and moaning and that these boys are not looking for baked goods.

Me: “Are you friends with these boys? Maybe you should stop hanging around them unless they behave more appropriately and you feel comfortable. I don’t think a friend would ask you those questions.”

(Well, I might not have been that objective and articulate. I’m sure I wasn’t. Probably more along the lines of “I don’t know what they mean but they are gross. Stop hanging around them.”)

There were other words, slang terms, that came up. Ones that I’m even too modest to utter publicly, and having been based for several years in a police department for work, I can say a lot of things without shame.

Soon, I’m going to resort to some sort of question box like my son had in his classroom, and both me and my daughter can write our questions on pieces of paper, fold them up, and stick them in the box and my son can answer the questions once a week.

it’s exactly 4 o’clock!

My daughter has developed this habit lately of randomly announcing the time. In the car, at home, at night when she’s in bed, while she’s watching TV, playing a game on her tablet or in class. It’s a compulsion. She used to only announce the time on the hour. Now she announces any time that pops up when she has eyes on a digital clock of any kind. She also spouts out random math problems related to the time; it’s a bonus when two of the 3 or 4 digits are factors of the third or if the time has just changed and there are no seconds into the hour yet.

“It’s exactly 12:34! 3 times 4 is 12! 12 divided by 3 is 4!”

“It’s exactly 4 o’clock no seconds! The time just changed and no seconds! Exactly 4 o’clock! 4 times 0 is 0! 4 plus 0 is 4!

It’s mind boggling. She thinks so quickly. We’ve teased her and tried to mimic her, but we are too slow, as if we can’t really transition to do simple math that quickly. She yells at us and tells us we have to find our own “thing.” The other day she told my son he has to keep track of license plates or cars when we are driving, but he can’t yell out the time. A friend of mine likes to yell out the time on the hour and stretch the word seconds about 3 seconds so we’ve officially moved into the next hour. “It’s exactly 7 o’clock no secooonnnnnndddsss!” It drives her crazy.

The other day when we were driving, she asked me to put my hand over the clock at 4:58 to block it because she “couldn’t help herself.” As we were coming up on the hour, she pushed my hand away and yelled “It’s exactly 5 o’clock! No seconds! The time just changed!” I just shook my head.

I asked her a couple of months ago if she does it at school. She says she has and sometimes she gets in trouble. I told her that maybe she is disrupting the class and that’s why she gets in trouble. She told me that she has done it when other students are talking. She said that one time a boy was sharing a sad story about his grandfather dying and she interrupted, yelling “It’s exactly 2 o’clock!”

“I just can’t help it, Mommy.”

It might be that upon reading this, one of you messages me and tells me she has some rare disorder that involves yelling out the time, and that other people do it too. Maybe it’s a quirk that she will grow out of. But for now, I will just have to get used to that random outburst that comes out of the darkness after she has gone to bed and I’m assuming, has fallen fast asleep – “It’s exactly 11 o’clock!”