Well played by the teenager

I have probably mentioned a few times….. I am a clean freak. Just a little bit.

Not surprisingly, the kids don’t appreciate a sparkling floor as much as I do. Gleaming fixtures do nothing for them. The smell of lemon fresh pine sol doesn’t spark joy, it just makes them hide.

I was in whirlwind clean mode today after bringing Sammy home from school. When Jake, the teen got home, I followed him up to his room…. this is after I’d washed floors, vacuumed, and cleaned 2 bathrooms….

“Look,” I said to him, holding a box of miracle Clorox singles scrubs.

“These things are amazing! Even YOU can keep your bathroom clean-FINALLY-if you just use these once or twice a week!”

He wasn’t impressed. Kind of lingered in the doorway and I could tell I was losing his interest. It looked like he needed a demonstration.

Desperate to get his attention, to engage him in my cleaning fetish, I force him to watch as I blast the sink and start scrubbing it.

“Watch me!, just watch….. see how easy it is!!!”

I lather, I rinse, I repeat…. and off to the toilet to show him how the SAME sponge has enough cleanser to continue the job here. You can use the same one!!!

All the while he is mumbling about how it doesn’t even look dirty to him as I bitch about the toothpaste marks, hair, and good old dust showing up all over the place.

I finish.

And it’s sparkling, clean…. I feel great!

Except I was supposed to make him do it.

Oh well. At least I know I have a good day or two before my beautiful job is buried under another coating of grime and apathy.


My biggest critic


image from: abovethelaw.com

The oldest is fortunate enough to get my blogs posted to her wall on Facebook so she doesn’t even have to strain herself to find and read them. It’s my way of keeping her posted on the goings-on in the house, and in my head.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, she has designated herself to be my official critic. She is pretty harsh sometimes, and I find myself getting strangely frustrated when I see a 6/10 on a post that I thought was at least a solid 8. Feels like I’m back in my first writing class in college……

let’s be honest you’ll probably never gain enough self-control but I like the optimism, 6.5/10

I enjoy that you’ve accepted defeat, since you have 4 kids there’s no way you’ll ever win. and I love how mean Jenna is, she’s got spunk. I’ll give it an 8/10

I’ll give it an 9/10 because I like how passive aggressive you’re being with Gasan and I enjoy your sarcasm

aww this made me sad. you have a 10/10 forehead and you’ll still be hot when you’re all wrinkly :))

you’re a ho ho. I don’t like that you’re being healthy, it makes me feel like I should change my lifestyle and I’m not ready for that. 6/10 for unintentionally shaming me
I have found that she tends to be a little more forgiving with her grading system when she’s feeling sorry for me for 1. having so many kids, 2. having so many kids and so many wrinkles, and also she seems to like it when I’m being snarky.

I’m not going lie, I now find myself anticipating her judgment, and also find her awesomely sarcastic and amusing. I wonder if she thinks her personality is anything like mine??


Taco salad can predict the future


I want a taco salad.

I don’t want to make one, I want one from taco bell. I don’t eat these very often, but today I want one.

I resisted the urge all day, but tonight it’s calling to me from across the road as I stir this delicious dinner of vegetables with green curry. I’m not being sarcastic here, it’s really good.

But it’s not a taco salad and so is not going to satisfy me.

I couldn’t get one for myself.  I was rushing with the kids to get them home and in bed, having just brought soup to my own mom who isn’t feeling well. She told me not to come, but I knew she would eat the soup… ended up driving home later than I thought, and although I pass taco bell, I just couldn’t justify wasting the time for myself.

Running upstairs to get them to bed, see the oldest sitting on her bed, hasn’t gone out with her friends yet. PERFECT.

“Please, can you get me a taco salad?”

I get a stare.

“You don’t need a taco salad. I’m doing you a favor”

I throw out another please but don’t have time to grovel as I start the bed time ritual for the two little ones.

Soon after, I hear her leave the house. I begin to think along the lines of “wow, she’s really getting it for me…. awwww, she didn’t have to, that’s so nice.”

But time passes, and she doesn’t come back. I notice a text on my phone. It’s from her, she’s going out with her friends. I’ve lost hope.

After this revelation… a little passive aggressive texting back and forth, me trying to ensure she feels guilty and suddenly realizes how much she loves and appreciates me, and how much I DO FOR HER… her focusing more on the fact that I seem to be upset about a taco salad, and not the meaning BEHIND IT….

Because this obviously means that I will end up in “a home”. Alone. Discarded as soon as I am no longer useful.

Currently working on a way of avoiding this, while also ensuring all remaining children find it impossible to say no to me for any reason.





Beyond clean…


It’s funny how different people can define a concept in so many unique ways.

Take the concept of clean, for example. As in “A clean room”.

To my teen, this is a very loose concept, a fluid term, can’t be pinned down to any rigid standard…. certainly not by any standards of mine that might include Windex or a vacuum cleaner.


His clean is so unstructured, so free…. free of the materialistic burden of bedspreads and dirty socks, free of the narrow-minded idea that toothpaste on the sink could ever be “unclean”. Indeed, the toothpaste is clean. The sink is clean. Together, they can only be MORE clean.

He must be evolving, my small mind tries to understand.


I struggle with it.

I’m sure it’s my own fault. My faulty reasoning, that of an adult whose only remaining dream is to walk into his room without being disgusted.

I cracked today. Vacuumed up things that didn’t seem to belong on the floor by my antiquated reasoning. Toenails, fingernails, I don’t know what that other stuff is…..

Felt a small measure of peace, probably destroyed an ecosystem he was painstakingly trying to create.

Oh, I’m sure I will remain an embarrassment. Not enlightened enough to see beyond my superficial concept of clean. I hope he can forgive me one day, and learn to somehow live with my primitive addiction to Pine-sol and Clorox wipes.

….not so evolved……



The becoming that happens to us


You are 17 “and a half”, as you like to remind me.

As if being 18 will make you a real adult.

Not 18, not 20, not 28……

I think real adulthood settles in somewhere in the 30’s, I FINALLY feel like I’ve gotten there. But probably 15 years from now I’ll be thinking how I still didn’t have a clue back then….. when I was just 39.

I think a lot about how much I’ll miss you, because again, you like to remind me how soon you’ll be leaving. Off to college, adventure, LIFE.

You laugh at me because I finally start tearing up every time we talk about it, when before I was just on your case about not missing deadlines and getting all those college visits scheduled.

Of course I love you. But I have grown to really, really like you. The person you are. I dread you being gone from my day to day routine. I feel sad for myself, and for everyone that will have to put up with me after you leave.

I was driving home today, thinking about how people become parents, and more specifically how women become moms.

You are the person who first made me a mom.

When did I start to FEEL like a mom?

It wasn’t when you lived inside of me or even  just after having you. I wanted you, I loved you, but I can look back now and say no, I didn’t feel like a mom yet.

I grew into it, as you grew.

We reached milestones together, mine as your mother, and yours as a growing child. My self consciousness as a parent gone by the time you hit preschool….and I fought with anyone who would dare stop you from hugging your friends goodbye, or from keeping chapstick in your backpack.

I became strong for you, from being your mom.

I’m still becoming, I don’t think we ever really stop. And again, you have been the catalyst for so many of the things I have become… A mom, the mom of a teenager, soon to be the mom of a child who has grown up enough to leave home…and one day the mom left at home as the rest of your siblings follow you.

And I like to believe the things I tell you about our relationship. How it will change as you grow older, and right now I know you are so ready to get away…but that eventually you will come back. I tell you how close we will be, even closer. I believe this, and want you to believe it too.

You are becoming independent, and I know I’ve pushed a bit lately, worried I’ve sheltered you too much and wanting to make sure you can handle it alone…ordering pizza by yourself and making your own appointments…buying your own tampons. (Alright, we both know I’m going to send you care packages with all that stuff plus chocolate…). But still, being away is going to be so new and exciting…that for a while I am going to become more of an obligation. You will HAVE to call your mom, you will HAVE to spend time with us on breaks from school…you won’t need me the way you did before.

But time has this way of going on…and as you are becoming an adult, a wife, a mom, I will be there right along with you. Becoming your friend, a mother-in-law, a grandmother…

I am so grateful for this journey, and for having you to share it with me.

The joy of having a 13 year old


Truly, an unparalleled experience.

This is the second time I’ve had a 13 year old. I have 2 more to go after this one.

There are just so many amazing and wonderful things that go along with this age. Some things I remember from my first child at that age, and some new things I am just learning. For instance…

There is a need to be right, and always have the last word. It’s not even a need to be right, who am I kidding. He’s right. that’s IT. I just NEED to accept it.

There is a potential argument for everything. Because he is always right. And by speaking to him, I might somehow be questioning his awesome rightness, so he must assert himself yet again.

the whole idea of good personal hygiene is still a bit hazy….the need to take a shower after football practice does not strike him as urgent, although the rest of us are gagging every time he comes close to us and begging him to clean himself.

Deodorant is still considered optional.

He will still take walks with me and the little kids to get ice cream, and even pull the wagon without embarrassment.

If he is required to make his bed and keep his room clean, I have no right to expect him to help vacuum the living room. because that is borderline abuse. And the start of a text argument.

He plays amazingly well with the 4 year old, then fights with the 4 year old, then gets mad at me because I expect one of them to be more mature than the other in these situations. Apparently the 4 year old should know better.

He still lets me kiss him goodnight, and tells me he loves me.

hairy legs and baby face. (him…not me)

All discussions (arguments) will end in me losing. Because no matter how wrong I believe he is….. he simply reminds me that  I am the one who chose to bring him into the world. And since he couldn’t have done anything bad if he didn’t exist…..that clearly makes everything my fault. (he’s a philosopher.)

He will be a man…tomorrow. But still clings to his childhood today, as do I. The day I can’t excite him with some fake tattoos or bubble tape will be a sad one indeed.

She’s leaving me

Proof...she loves me!

Proof…she loves me!

My 17 year old is gleefully counting down the days, no, the HOURS until she leaves for college. Leaving the rest of us behind as she forges ahead into her dazzling future.

I did the college visits, kept harping on her to start the FAFSA, and the early application process. Sent emails and made phone calls to people working in the profession she wants to study, trying to find out where the best colleges are for that sort of thing. Talked about getting a job, being responsible, growing up…..

All the while seeming to forget that I was working on her ticket OUT of here. Away from me. Like…. away as in not planning to live with me in a permanent way anymore.

I must have been refusing to face that part of it for a while. After our trip to PA to check out a school there, I was telling a friend about it. I got a concerned sounding “and how are YOU doing?”…”Well, I’m…fine…. how are  you?”  I wasn’t sure why I was being treated so carefully and considerately. But I get it now. Because I’m going to fall apart, and my friend was just checking to see if I’d started yet.

I think now that the flurry of activity is over, I have time to really think about this.

And here come the random episodes of blubbering and panic, the desperate wish to freeze time, the happiness for her and sadness for myself.

I feel very much like a certain Greek father asking his daughter “Why you want to leave me???” with his teary, tortured voice.


My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 2002. Best Movie Ever. courtesy of yourtango.com

I’m far from an empty nester, with three other kids who will be staying home for years yet. But she will leave a void and no one else can fill that spot. She’s my daughter, but also sometimes I feel like she’s my only friend in this house, like she’s got my back in a way that no one else can. She makes me smile on days that I am so fed up with the world, even if she tempers her greatness with moments of being a pure teenager.

I love that girl.

And it’s hard to know that she won’t be here with me every day anymore. She will start to change. She will come home on breaks, some weekends, and she will be itching to leave…she won’t tell me what she’s up to, at least not while she’s doing it.

And I will watch her transform into a real adult. A woman. Independent. And I think I’m allowed to shed some tears for that, because I’m so full of emotion I can’t seem to help but cry a little when I think about it.

I can sit here and say, she is EVERYTHING I could ever have hoped for in a daughter. I have worried from her infancy that I wouldn’t know how to “do this” right. To keep her close to me. I know what I wanted, it was not the relationship I had with my own mom…she and I did not have an amazing bond, and still struggle to understand each other. But I think I got it right, somehow, with my own daughter.

So of course I hate to see her leave, as much as I love to see her embrace her future.

And so, we turn to our usual comfort measures…

little chocolate donuts. The cure for all ills.

little chocolate donuts. The cure for all ills.

Friendly advice

So my daughter dropped a bomb in my lap yesterday, there is a boy she wants me to meet.

She didn’t want to tell me because “she knows how I get” about this stuff…… but she already told her dad about him…because he is the cool parent, and believes no bad choices can be made by his children.

I’m already angry with her for lying. Never before has this boy been mentioned, yet somehow they have spent enough time together to cultivate a relationship. Now she wants me to meet him so they can move forward in some way. I KNEW something was up when suddenly she is dressing up and putting makeup on before just hanging out with her best friend. But my questions about what is she doing, where is she going, who is she with failed to bring forth any mention of this boy.

Her response? Well, they’ve been texting a lot… and she went to a couple of his softball games….and you know they didn’t initially plan to see him but other plans fell through and so you know this was just kind of something that “happened” so innocently.

And this is the part that I suck at. Because I can’t tolerate being lied to. I can’t tolerate thinking of my daughter being fully or semi-naked with a boy….and what really is the POINT of going out with someone at that age if not to experiment with things that require a lack of judgment and clothing. And I just don’t think she needs a boyfriend.

I called a friend to vent a little. She listened, and gave me some friendly advice.

“Better go and get her on the pill.”  WHAT? No, I’m not putting her on the pill. Why does this mean she’s going to have sex!  She always tells me how stupid the kids she knows are for having sex! She doesn’t WANT to have sex! This was met with a laugh, because apparently that’s what kids do when they want to have sex but don’t want their parents to know they want to, or are already having sex. According to my friend, they put the spotlight on a friend so you can focus on that horrible person, and never think that your own sweet child is doing the same thing!!!!!  My friend knows this, because she did this herself.

So I’m really uncomfortable right now.

I don’t want to be that ignorant mom who can’t face what is going on. But am I stupid for believing what my daughter claims to think and feel about things when we talk? I have been so proud of her for not being like kids her age who are smoking, drinking, doing drugs, having sex. She talks about the girls in school that she knows are sleeping around, she brings home gossip about who got pregnant, who had an abortion, who got expelled for coming to school drunk.  These conversations have ended with me feeling so thankful that she hasn’t been tainted by the things that happen around her, and I’ve always thought she had a good head on her shoulders.

Am I stupid?

According to my friend…yes.

I was pretty ignorant about what was going on around me in high school. Friends that ended up having sex made me feel that I needed to save them from their low self esteem, because surely that’s the only reason they turned to a boy for that kind of attention. They must have just not felt loved enough. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized I was probably the odd one, the one not having sex.

Stories my ex husband told me about when HE was in high school made me realize how sheltered I was, and naïve.

Other friends have shared their own stories of being a teenager….things they did.

One friend was raped by her boyfriend several times. She cried through it, but didn’t stop it….this was the first person she had sex with and it almost seems that she just didn’t know what to do about it.

Another friend was curious about things that boys and girls do together…. so she suggested to a co-worker that they team up and use each others bodies for training purposes. Duh, what do you think HE said??

Most of my friends have had some sexual experiences by the time they were my daughters age. I think I am the only one I know who had ONLY been kissed by then. Once or twice.

I want to cry.

I know too many people that have had abortions. Too many people that have had STD’s.

I don’t want that for my daughter. And I don’t want her to feel, as I think she does, that she needs the attention of a boy to really feel like she is worth something. This is not how I raised her. But this seems to be how it IS for so many kids at her age. She has talked about wanting a boyfriend, wanting to know that someone cares about her and finds her special and beautiful. I get this, I know those feelings, I was her age once.

I want her to feel that melting heat when you kiss someone you are crazy about. That fluttering in your stomach when you picture his face, or even whisper his name to yourself. I want her to feel giddy with happiness when she looks across the table into the face of the man she loves with all her heart, knowing he loves her too.

But I really, really doubt she is going to find that person now, at age 17. Instead, she is more likely to find a boy an insecure as she is. Curious about what sex feels like. Wanting to feel like they are grown up and special, and invincible…. and ready and able to spread HPV like it’s going out of style.

I’ve gotten a lot of advice. Friendly advice about how to handle this part of growing up.

But I’m not just putting her on the pill. I just can’t do that. And I don’t think she wants me to do that. I want to believe she still isn’t ready for that.

I will talk with her. I will talk and I will listen. I will pray.

I guess this is where I have to put some faith in her, and God, and myself for being hopefully a good enough parent to her.

I know she will make mistakes. I just don’t want them to be the kind that alters the course of her life, or limits the opportunities she has. I know I can either drive her away or bring her closer to me with my actions. I am hoping for the latter. I love her so much, and I just want to fast forward through this part of parenting. I know I can’t force my beliefs INTO her head and heart. But at the same time I don’t think I need to give her the message that “I know you’re going to have sex, so here’s the pill.” I hope I know my daughter well enough to guide my decisions about what to do with her. My friend, at her age, was having sex. And lying to her parents about it easily. I hope I’m not that parent.

So we are going to talk, a LOT.

And time will tell.



My girls, at the beginning and the end.

Today, my first baby turned 17.


This is when she was just a couple months old…if that.

meandray 5-2014

And this is us today…. she is bigger than me now!

I have one year left at home with this one, before she heads off to college. I know I won’t be close to having an empty nest yet….but she will be sorely missed as a daily presence in my life. She has magically grown into this….person….who I have come to depend on in so many other ways than simply as a child, the first of four.

she is coming to the end of childhood, of her teenage years, and the start of adulthood. REAL adulthood. And all the joys and horrors that come with it.

I am happy for her, terrified for her, but mostly really, really excited for her.

I sat with her at a college visit last week, almost crying as I pictured her maturing and changing into a bona fide grown up during those years away at school. All the opportunities open to her, I can’t wait to see where life takes her, and I can’t BELIEVE we are at this point already…… I just had her. I can relive that day, I still see that purple baby they put on my stomach, me rubbing her foot, not really knowing what else to do, not able to register yet that my life had just changed in an immeasurable way. A wonderful way.

And then I look over here…..


And see my 17-month old taking her first half-naked selfie…with MY phone!

And I wonder…… am I strong enough to go through this again?

Of course, raising a daughter is difficult. Is it possible for me do as well with this one? And whose to say I had anything to do with the first one turning out so well? (so far!)

I can look back on the times my oldest has hated me, the times I’ve truly disliked her. The lies I’ve caught her in, the “discussions” about why certain things are NOT ok for her to do. The worries, the heartbreaks, and the accomplishments along the way.

The maternal RAGE when my child has been hurt, teased, bullied. Because sadly, it seems to happen to everyone at some point.

Oh, it’s not easy for girls to grow up.

I can say from my own experience, and the collective experience of so many girls and women I know….. the teen years pretty much suck. High school is generally something we would prefer not to go back to. Ever. For so many reasons, much of it due to the fact that it is PAINFUL to be a teen. Transitioning between childhood and adulthood, it is not a great place to be in many ways. We take our uncertainty out on our peers, on ourselves, and of course, on our hapless parents. There is a reason it’s call teen angst.

Talking to my oldest today about how much different life is after the high school drama is over….and looking at my 17 month old, who has no clue what it means to feel unsure of yourself, or worried about what your peers think of you….who could care less if the other tots like her new sundress or not.

I’ve got one daughter at the end of her childhood, and one just beginning. I hope I can be whatever each of them needs, whenever they need it. I hope my oldest will be there to help  guide the youngest, providing sisterly advice that will probably trump my motherly advice.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

And I hope, in the end, that I haven’t screwed up too badly. That my girls remain as close to me as we are now, even closer. I hope they live happily and love deeply….. and grow to be strong, independent women.

And of course, if they are ever blessed with daughters…… I will wish for them the same thing my mom, and millions of moms have wished for their own daughters……

“I hope you have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU!!!”….