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When the Tween Has Outgrown the Teen (and everyone else)

24 Aug
Boy giant and his big sister

Boy giant and his big sister

We are now a household with a 12-year-old who is larger than the rest of us. No one else is bothered by it, but his 16-year-old sister is not in favor of this new development.

“Why couldn’t he just stay small?” she complains. “I liked him better when he was little and had those cute cheeks.” When he was a baby, she called him “Pillow Cheeks Cheeto Face.” I’m not sure why she added the “Cheeto Face” part, but it was his nickname for a long time.

Now, the cheeks are all but gone, having been stretched into a much longer, more grown-up-looking mug. He bears an alarmingly close resemblance to my dad circa his HS senior photo, including the super-sized eyebrows to match. And all of a sudden he has very particular fashion choices, only wanting to buy A&F jeans and athletic wear from a ridiculously expensive place called CHAMPS. He has entire color-coordinated ensembles by the famous designer Kobe Bryant in color-blocked schemes alarmingly reminiscent of the 90s men’s fashion that I have already once lived through.

Every time I come back from even an overnight trip he looks different. His legs are long and knobby-kneed, he wears a men’s size 11 shoe, and he’s in men’s medium shirts and young men’s jeans. There is a hint of facial hair. The doctor tells us that he will likely be 6 foot 5–a regular Jolly Green Giant compared to the rest of us. Good thing he plays basketball.

Curious onlookers have started asking: “Where does that height come from?” True enough, the gene for height clearly did not manifest for either of the boy’s parents. But our families both have it. My maternal grandmother’s father and her husband’s father were German (one of them living in Columbus’ German Village). For this reason, my mother is taller than my father, and my brother is 6 foot 5. My husband’s mother’s family is from Denmark and Poland three generations ago, with the result for his generation being that two of his sisters are taller than him.

This family history is a source of great disappointment to my 16-year-old girl, who bemoans her “fun size.” She complains, “Mom, it’s not fair. I’m not even as tall as you.” True, she is only 5 foot 2, but she won out in other ways as a result of heredity.

The lottery of genes has winners in different ways with both of them. In my daughter’s favor are a natural toughness and no-nonsense attitude, which serve her well in keeping her brother in his place. She hits hard, and my son knows it, so it’s quite amusing to see how she coerces him into doing what she wants. Even without the height. She can be very intimidating.

Often, my son will play the “I’m still the baby card,” and ask her to get him a glass of “ice-cold water.” This is pretty ridiculous coming from such a large person, as well as a 12-year-old, and she understandably laughs and tells him to “go get it yourself, dumbo.” At other times, she manipulates him by not letting him eat–an artful use of the carrot approach that works quite well with him at this stage (and probably for another 10 years at least). “No, you can’t have the donuts. I have them locked in the car,” she declares. Pretty good, especially when she hides the keys from him.

Ahhh, siblings. It’s fun as a parent to sit back and watch them work out their differences, being themselves, and growing up together–even if “up” no longer means height for the one.

No Dance In This House

3 Aug

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic /

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve written a post.

But it’s true. The blog has had no love from me lately.

I just haven’t been inspired. Lots of writing to do at work, and lots of writing to read by my students at the Glenn School. I needed a break from extracurricular writing.

But now I’m back.

I’ve had an entire year of utterly or nearly embarrassing my children, so there’s a lot to catch up on.

One of my less popular ideas quickly vetoed by the family:

Inter-generational dance party!!!!

What’s not to like? Here’s what I had in mind:

  • Awesome playlist ranging from Motorhead to The Clash, from Prince to Robin Thicke
  • Invitations to all people who love to dance: young, old, and in-between
  • No alcohol or illegal substances, and an 8-11 pm timeframe so kids could come with parents and enjoy

In short, just good, clean fun.

Let me just say that the idea did not go over well with the young ones or the old one (i.e., grumpy husband). Everyone quickly scrambled to come up with sleepover plans with friends, or, in the case of my husband, one night at a hotel.

Well, apparently my children are just too darned self-conscious. Or perhaps worried that friends would not want to see their mother dancing. It breaks my heart that these kids can’t just let loose and enjoy the moment. I’ve always enjoyed dancing–even when I was supposed to be self-conscious as a teenager. Guess I didn’t pass on that gene, or maybe they’ll loosen up as they get older.

And my husband keeps the hours of a dairy farmer. Going to bed at 8 pm does not work when there’s a dance party going on in your house.

Well, I still have the playlist, but I’ll be like Billy Idol dancing with myself.

Bottle Patrol

28 Jul


Everyone has their thing.

My husband’s thing is to be OCD about windows and doors in the house, specifically windows and doors being open or closed at certain times of day. And fans being on or off at corresponding times of day, to maximize air flow in our “naturally” air-conditioned home.

And my thing is bottles. That’s right: bottles.

Specifically, it drives me crazy when people (i.e., my husband, and following in his footsteps my son) open a new bottle of something when there is already an available bottle that is not yet empty.

This is a significant issue in the refrigerator and in our bathroom. It happens with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and personal care products. I have come to believe that this issue is associated with the regular requests from my husband and son that go something like:

Where is my ___________?

Note that I get this question on a daily basis, in person, via text and voice mail. I can guarantee that if I have an early morning flight, as soon as I arrive at my destination I will hear this question from either my husband or my son.

Another variation on this same theme:

I can’t find the milk (I just bought) in the refrigerator. Where did you put it?

My response:

If you just bought it and put it in there, why can you not find it yourself? Do you still have eyes?


Why do I have to know where all of your stuff is?

If I am not around to answer these questions, then a new bottle of (fill in the blank) gets opened.

I have dubbed myself “Bottle Patrol” in order to keep this problem in check. This is a real-life story about the hell I go through to keep this house organized in terms of bottles.

Two weeks ago, I had to consolidate body wash, dandruff shampoo, and conditioner in the bathroom because there were so many opened bottles of the same thing. It took me an hour to do this, upending bottles and draining them into corresponding already open bottles, rinsing out the empty ones, and putting empty and washed bottles into the recycling.

This morning, Bottle Patrol was on duty yet again. This is often the case after my husband makes the bi-weekly trip to Costco. He grew up Mormon and therefore has a natural instinct for stockpiling large amounts of supplies. The man has strong survivalist tendencies. His philosophy of “More is better” gets him in trouble with the Bottle Patrol.

Upon entering the bathroom this morning, I noticed that the problem I’d cleaned up two weeks ago had reappeared:

Three bottles of dandruff shampoo (two as of yet unopened) and two bottles of body wash (one still unopened) were overpopulating the shelf in the shower.

My response (he was not here to hear me say it):

No, no, and NO! Why do you keep doing this! We have tons of storage space for all your extra supplies. Why do you have to put the new bottles into rotation when the old one is not yet empty? Why, why, WHY?

I often go on to ask myself:

What does he think will happen that he puts so many flipping bottles of stuff in the shower? Will he for some reason be taking a shower and finish off the opened bottle of dandruff shampoo, and then have to be forced to open BOTH of the new bottles? The man has no hair. I cannot imagine this happening!

My son, as mentioned, has these same tendencies. Being a newly minted pre-teen, he is all of a sudden uber-hygiene-aware. He is stuck on Dove Men’s Body Wash EXTRA FRESH with Cooling Agent and Micro-Moisture. Promptly upon opening a new bottle, he announces:

Mom, I need more of the Dove Men’s Body Wash, THE GREEN EXTRA FRESH KIND. Can you get me three bottles?

Clearly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to bottle accumulation.

I will train that kid, but my husband is beyond help.

Apres Zumba

22 Jun


Tonight was my first Zumba class ever.

It reminded me a lot of aerobics. Combined with dance moves that don’t come naturally for people of English origin. My genes don’t take kindly to shoulder rolls, meringue, or excessive hip-shaking.They upset the natural balance of being uptight and anxiety-ridden.

But I did it anyway, and it was kind of fun.

Plus I didn’t fall down or run into anyone else, which means that I consider the experience a win for myself and a few other ladies.

I’m confident that if evaluated on my technique and/or artistry, I would have scored in the bottom decile of the class. My contribution pretty much involved bouncing around like a goofball for an hour, a few beats behind the instructor at all times, trying not to APPEAR too winded.

I was careful to position myself in the back of the room, well behind my daughter who was also in the class. Two reasons for this: Not wanting to embarrass her, and if I couldn’t see the instructor I could watch my daughter and figure out what I was supposed to be doing.

One benefit to the Zumba is that the instructor didn’t seem quite as intent as my yoga instructor on killing me during the class. I didn’t feel close to death at any time, which also gives Zumba extra points.

Permission to Zumba

14 Jun


I have discovered that embarrassing my teenaged daughter is a relative thing.

A few weeks ago, she decided to take a Zumba class. This is a new fitness approach developed by a Colombian man and involves a vast menu of dance moves, including belly-dancing, hip-hop, and meringue–interspersed with squats, martial arts, and the occasional Bollywood move.

I offered to join her and was quickly rebuffed. “Please don’t.”

It’s true that I have been accused of being a great embarrassment to her. Sad, I know.

Well then. So much for bonding with my daughter before she becomes a fully licensed driver in October and I never see her again. (This is what will happen if she follows in my pattern as a teenager. Luckily, so far she has not followed in my footsteps except in a few good ways, so she’ll probably stick around.)

But tonight, she went to the class and came back to report: “Um, it’s okay if you want to come with me. There’s no one my age there. It’s all older ladies like you.”

And so, just like that, I have been granted permission to Zumba.

Apparently my attendance is only a problem if other teens are present. I probably would have felt the same way at her age. I’ll take this opportunity to spend some time with my firstborn.

Whetstone Rec Older Ladies, watch out for me and my daughter. We are ready to Zumba like nobody’s business.

Memorable Moments with Children (or: You Just Said What?)

18 Jan

Castillo Dominici /

Anyone with children knows that they have an amazing super-power:

They can embarrass us with no fair warning.

At dinner tonight, we were laughing with the kids about a few good memories, most of which involve human body parts or funny twists on words:

  • When she was about 2, my daughter skipped past the small-talk of introductions upon meeting new people. She instead went straight to the point: “Do you have a penis or a vagina?” Around this same time, she was also convinced that my mother had a penis. We repeatedly reassured my mother that her first grandchild’s faux pas had no real underlying meaning–only that she was undeniably and always in charge.
  • While driving to her dance class once day, my daughter and I were listening to the radio. NPR was on, and they were talking about basketball games. Were were in the period of March Madness, and my daughter was about 5 years old. She didn’t often take in topics like this, so I was surprised when she commented, “Wow, that must be a pretty wonderful game.” “What game?” I asked. “The game where they get the big cookie,” she said. I had to think for a minute: WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT? This was basketball, pure and simple, no cookies involved. “I don’t understand, honey,” I replied. “What cookies do you mean?” “The championchip game.” Oh. Yes, that would be quite the cookie.
  • I have found that one of the best times to talk about topics no one likes to discuss is in the car. It’s the perfect setting: everyone is trapped and must listen. This works quite well for sex ed conversations, for example. Years before we had to go into the intimate details of this, my daughter blurted out the question: “Do babies really come out of your bum?” She was about 7 or 8. We have always been anatomically correct in our replies to these types of questions, so in a very matter-of-fact voice I told her from where they typically emerge, briefly. She got very quiet, then burst out laughing–loudly–saying, “No way, Mom! That canNOT be!” She was doubled over laughing for so long and didn’t really believe me on this point for some time.
  • Both of my kids nursed. My daughter did for about 1.5 years, and my son did until he was 3. (Think what you’d like — I don’t really care, and the World Health Organization recommends it up to the age of 5.) When he was 2, I took him to a professional conference with me, a conference where I was in the midst of mostly men and just a few other women. My mom (see above) was there with me to help. While we were eating dinner with the large group, I was in the line for food. Mom and my son were across the room, when suddenly I heard loud and clear: “NEW-NEW, puh-leeze!” He was not requesting new potatoes. And most people could guess what he meant. Oh, well. Everyone else was eating, too.

Opportunities for being reminded that (a) we are not in charge and (b) you can’t make this stuff up.

The Search for Perfect Waffles

23 Dec

Image: Rawich /

Yesterday, the kids and I ventured out into holidayland (aka Target) to purchase a gift from them to my husband.

My husband clearly defines what gifts he wants for Christmas each year, from me and from the kids. Down to the make, model, and serial number. This is because I have a history of giving him gifts that he really doesn’t like. A few examples:

  • 1987: A snake ring. I thought it was really cool, but he’s not a snake ring kind of guy. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking. They must have been burning some extra-strong incense at Tradewinds (vintage Columbus-ites will remember this hippie campus tchotchke store), which is where I made the unfortunate purchase.
  • 1988: A juice-maker. Although he’d never expressed interest in receiving one, I thought that he probably really wanted one. I was wrong.
  • 2007: A really cool metal mobile made by a Columbus artist who used to be a barista at Cafe Brioso, David Morgan. This mobile is very modern-looking with lots of abstract shapes and mirrors and is hanging in our big room, but it’s become part of the “why the he!! did you think I wanted that?” collection. Several friends have complimented me on it. It truly is a work of art and I love it, but Ben has determined it was more for me than him. Well, maybe.

You will note that I had a good run of 19 years in there. Hey, we’re not all perfect. The only good explanation that I can give is that when pushed against the wall (because I normally buy gifts at the last minute) I have lapses in taste (notably, the first two items above, not the last).

Back to Target. Now, I know that the waffle-maker variety my husband has determined the kids can afford ($40, he won’t let them spend more). In a fit of unprecedented early preparation, I’d skated through the kitchen small appliance aisles at our local Target and found “it” a couple of weeks ago, but the whole point is to have the kids and their wallets with me when making the purchase. So I felt pretty proud that I’d done some reconnaissance work well in advance.

It took us 20 minutes to get in and out of the store, even in the midst of the busy holidays. Yet another pat on the back for me, eliminating wasted time wandering around the store, etc. And, added bonus, the thing was $20 less than I’d originally thought, saving the kids’ allowance money.

We get home, and my daughter has volunteered to wrap the waffle maker. As we’re getting out the wrapping paper, she says, “Hey, this one doesn’t flip.” What? WHAT? WHAATTTTTT!

Yes, it’s true, we picked the wrong one off the self. Dangflabbit. This inferior non-flippable version was right next to the flippable one that we wanted. Explaining the lower price. Ugh.

So last night, after my daughter and I went with friends to see the Nutcracker, we go back to the neighborhood Target to get THE waffle maker. It was 11 pm, and we could have done cartwheels down the aisles it was so dead in that Target. Pretty smooth process with the return, until we get to the small appliance aisle, and of course all of the flippable ones are gone.

After 20 minutes of wandering around the store to find a customer service person (after incorrectly pegging several unsuspecting innocents wearing red), we locate a true Target employee, a young woman with dyed-black hair and multiple swirly tattoos on her arms. She comes to help us out with her revved-up calculator inventory-checker thingy and scans the product code to find out if they have any “in back.”

After five minutes of scanning, pushing buttons, and saying nothing to us, she pronounces, “We don’t have any in back. Do you want me to see what other stores have them?”

Well, why the he!! not? It’s 11:15 pm, and what else do we have to do? There will be no sleep until we finish this thing. I do not want to be hunting for this blasted waffle maker on Christmas Eve Eve.

She asks, “Do you know the DCPI?”

Since I do not speak the Target dialect of Vulcan, why no, I do not. But she tells us that by knowing this top-secret product code we can properly determine whether or not the store has the exact waffle maker of our liking. Since this is still a foreign language to me, I let her do the honors by checking on her revved-up calculator inventory-checker thingy. Polaris, Sawmill, and Lennox have them. Ding-ding. We can quickly run to Lennox.

“Do you want me to have them save one for you just in case?” she asks.

Of course I do. I am taking no chances.

So she pages the friendly guy at customer service that moved me through so quickly minutes ago, but the guy says that I can come up to the customer service desk and use their phone to call Lennox because he “has Guests waiting in line.”

Forget it. I can call them on my way there, or take my chances that no one will take the last 2 flippable waffle makers at 11:30 pm. As I walk by the customer service desk on my way out, I see that there’s one person in line. Thanks, perky customer service guy. Also, I am not your Guest…I am just someone who wants to buy a waffle maker and get the heck out of here.

Daughter in tow, we shoot over to the Lennox Target. I am now competing against a mystery shopping opponent who also wants one of the two remaining superior waffle makers at the Lennox Target. The clock is ticking, and I WILL get there first. En route, I alternately hum and whistle “The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairies,” which has the intended purpose of driving my daughter nuts and does work.

Upon arrival at the store, we see that since everything’s set up the same, this is going to be quick and easy.

Back again in the familiar small kitchen appliance aisle, there are NO waffle makers of our variety. Of course.

Right around the corner there’s a helpful Target Host ready to assist me, his Guest. He too has been equipped with a revved-up calculator inventory-checker thingy but has learned more English than his Vulcan Graceland Target Hostess friend. Plus he’s funny. While waiting for him to follow the same five-minute scanning and button-pressing process as his cohort, my daughter and I walk around to the end-cap and I knock into a Kitchen Maid can-opener, which falls to the ground and breaks. “I saw nothing!” declares my witty Target Host. And then, “You’re in luck, we have one ‘in the back!'”

And so we follow him, and he smartly agrees with me when I say, “These damned waffles had better be good.” We wait by the bra and undie section while he searches through “in the back.”

As our Target Host swings through the doors with box in hand, the “Hallelujah Chorus” is playing on the muzak. Until I see that the box he has in hand is for the same unflippable variety waffle maker that we just returned at the Graceland store. “This isn’t it, is it?” I now realize that “in the back” is a terrible place of mere illusion.

Are we going to have to leave the store with the same inferior waffle maker that we’d returned shortly ago?

I tried to convince my daughter that a fondue maker or cupcake-shaped cupcake-maker or donut-shaped donut-maker would be great, but at this point I’ve clearly reached the danger zone that brought about the snake ring oh so many years ago.

My daughter helped to find a solution that will (hopefully) make my husband happy. She has good taste and a smart head on her shoulders.

I will report back on the end of this story after the gift has been opened.