Tag Archives: moms

Straight From the Mouths of Teenage Drivers

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I’m teaching my third child to drive. It’s making me crazy. Certifiable. Nuts. I don’t remember it being this hard with the boys. In honor of this special bit of parenting craziness, I’m posting a list from my fourth book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. Feel free to yuk it up at my expense. As usual.

Straight From The Mouths of Teenage Drivers:
1. “I’m not speeding! I’m going exactly the speed limit!”
2. “That dent was already there.”
3. “I’m not too close.”
4. “That car needs to stay out of my lane.”
5. “I know what to do. You told me that a hundred times already.”
6. “I did come to a complete stop.”
7. “This is harder than it looks.”
8. “That was close!”
9. “Merging is hard.”
10. “I forgot about crosswalks.”
11. “I’m never going to parallel park, so I don’t need to practice that.”
12. “You don’t have to yell at me!”
13. “Sorry. Is that going to be expensive?”
14. “I drove well this time. Didn’t I, Mom? You didn’t throw up once.”

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Letter to My Son’s Kindergarten Teacher

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Below is an excerpt from my first book, SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully. It was written about my son, Warner, now a sophomore in college. Some of it is still true! I’m posting in honor of my favorite day of the year: The first day of school! Mimosas for breakfast! Happy fall, y’all!

I am entrusting my oldest child to your care. He has a tender heart. I think you are lucky to spend the better part of every day with him. His siblings and I will miss him. Here are some of the things you should know.

  1. He is sad when it is not a school day.
  2. He would rather read books than eat candy.
  3. He has the negotiating skills of a Middle Eastern diplomat.
  4. He is kind.
  5. He loves babies.
  6. He can hack his way into NASA on the computer.
  7. He will be close to death before he will admit being injured.
  8. He has the verbal skills of an Ivy League graduate, but he has just learned to tie his shoes.
  9. When he is invited to a party, he saves part of the candy from his treat bag for his little brother.
  10. He loves knights, pirates, and cowboys.
  11. His feelings are easily hurt.
  12. Don’t debate theology with him. He has humbled priests far and wide.
  13. He has a broad musical repertoire, which includes the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the Hallelujah chorus.
  14. He is very patriotic and will correct you if you miss any words to “The Star Spangled Banner.” He is the only 5 year old    who knows what “ramparts” are.
  15. He can sound out any word, so if you wouldn’t say it, don’t spell it.
  16. He has an Old Testament sense of justice.
  17. He is excited to try new things.
  18. He has hair untamed by any brush.
  19. He responds well to praise.
  20. He has friends of all ages.
  21. He has an unfettered imagination
  22. He thinks fine dining involves macaroni and cheese.
  23. He loves museums, concerts, and movies.
  24. He believe anything is possible and is impressed Santa knows his size.
  25. He was loved before he was born.
  26. He will remember you for the rest of his life.

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Pre-dawn Mopping

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Is it wrong to mop at 5:30 am? What if it’s the only time I have to mop? Does that make a difference? Is pre-dawn mopping a sign of mental instability? After threatening to do so for years, am I finally, truly, losing my mind?

I hate summer. I do. I don’t care if all the rest of you love it. I dread it. It’s one long, hot, humid slog for me. Sure, I can summon up a vodka-and fruit-juice-induced smile when I have to, but my heart’s not in it. I don’t like to be hot. Even as a kid, I never liked baking in the sun like a beached whale. I like schedules, a bustling routine, and the threat of wind, cold, and the warmth of hearth and home to look forward to when the sun goes down early on winter evenings.

I know I’m in the minority on this, maybe a minority of one. Heard it. Don’t want to hear it again. When all my kids are home for summer, it’s a madhouse here. Nobody gets up at the same time. My kids have camps, activities, and summer jobs with weird hours. My teenagers believe they are entitled to stay out til curfew every night and then come home at midnight, turn on their stereos, shower, chat with friends, and watch movies til the wee hours—never mind that my husband and I still have the same work schedule as always. There are so many seatings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that I feel like the cook on a cruise ship.

I tell you this to explain how I ended up mopping at 5:30 am like it was a perfectly reasonable, sane, smart thing to do.

Every day, my goal is to do a bit of cleaning, about an hour’s worth, whenever I can fit it in. Mondays, I dust and clean glass. Party on! Tuesdays, it’s sweep and vacuum fun. Mopping and cursing on Wednesday. Thursdays are the worst: bathroom atrocities. Fridays are kitchen duty. Fridays are horrendous if I clean the stove and do a major fridge clean out, or they can be a slacker day with a mostly countertop clean. Depends on my mood. I like to keep Fridays flexible. It’s the beginning of the weekend, after all.

OF COURSE, I have to skip some days. The price for that: double dip with chores on another day. It’s not a perfect plan, not by a long shot, but it’s something—a bone to throw to the cleaning gods. I like to say I clean like the maid. In other words, I do a so-so job. I don’t clean like I live here and personally care about how clean things are. I clean like it’s my job to do it, and I do the least I can get away with and still get paid.

I’ve tried all sorts of mind games with house cleaning over the years, like splitting jobs with my husband and kids and hiring outside help when I could afford it, but I’ve never really found anything that worked for our family. The truth is: I’m a neat freak. My husband is neat, too, but only because he’s been married to me for 26 years. He does it to make me happy, but he doesn’t NEED the clean like I do. My kids are messy, filthy, disgusting creatures who feel no natural inclination toward cleanliness at all and who don’t care one bit what I think about that.

Therein lies the inevitable conflict. Although I awoke with joy to Wednesday morning mop day, I knew from experience that my kids would be racked out in bed until noon. I could wait around all day on their rooms to be vacant. I don’t know how this happened, honestly, but I have somehow been reduced to the status of highly educated hotel maid. I wait around every morning for the occupants to check out so I can clean their rooms, gather laundry, pick up trash and half-eaten food items, collect glassware and assorted flotsam and jetsam, and generally wonder how anyone who shares my DNA could leave a dribbling pudding cup in the bathroom.

I sat on the stairs to contemplate my options: Would I get the chair or life if I went in my kids’ rooms and knocked them into next week with my mop? Would it be worth the hassle of rousting them out of bed and getting them to pitch in, which is certainly the lesson a responsible parent would teach? Nope. I’m just too tired for that, I decided. Suffice it to say, even though I probably should have been, as usual, counting my blessings, I was not.

And, yes, I even make myself tired sometimes.

Then I had a mopping epiphany. My three teenagers sleep like the dead. (Which is another thing I blame them for, even though it’s illogical and unfair. They can sleep through anything: a noisy burglar, 4th of July fireworks, and tornado sirens. I battle insomnia on a nightly basis, and I’m convinced I could be a nicer parent if I could just get more sleep.) I knew without a doubt that I could open those bedroom doors, cruise in like a woman with a plan, mop, and the ungrateful wretches WOULD NEVER KNOW I WAS THERE. The floors would be dry before they poked their entitled tootsies from under the covers.

Grabbing my mop and bucket, I decided to go for it. I charged into my son’s bedroom, a woman on a mission with a space-launch-worthy deadline. Sure, it was a little early, but I was up, and I wanted my jobs out of the way. I made it all the way around the bed without waking the 6’3”, 185-pound lump sprawled diagonally across the bed. I finished the bathroom in between my boys’ rooms and was just about to retreat gleefully when I accidently slapped my soaking mop into the side of a long arm dangling over the edge of the bed.

An eye peeled open. I decided to brazen my way through the early morning interaction. I didn’t have a lot of choices.

“Mom?” my son growled.

“Good morning, son! It’s a beautiful day!” I announced.

One hairy eyeball slid from the top of my mismatched exercise clothes down to my hot-pink house slippers, over the mop I held defensively in front of me like a sword from Braveheart, and finally landed with a blink on the bucket of dirty water I clutched tightly to my side like I’d just baptized someone with it in the Jordan River.

“What are you doing in here, Mom?” my teenage son asked.

I decided to go with a cheery response.

“I’m mopping, of course. It’s Wednesday. I’ll be out in two minutes,” I responded.

“Seriously, Mom? It’s 5:30 in the morning. This is totally whacked. You know that, right?” he demanded in a sleepy voice.

“Well . . . yeah. Possibly. I’m doing the best I can, son,” I admitted with a sigh.

Sadly, this is who I am. I’m afraid my well-deserved epitaph is going to be like the ones we chuckle over while standing in line for the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World: “Here lies Mel. She did the best she could,” or maybe, “Here lies Mel. She meant well.”

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Death By Vacuum Cleaner

I was nearly killed by my vacuum cleaner today. In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that this wasn’t my first potentially lethal encounter with a household appliance. Upon occasion, I have been known to stick a fork in the toaster, and my gas logs and I are barely on speaking terms. I also had a close call with a professional carpet-cleaning machine a few years back (which inspired a chapter called “The Big Red Cleaning Machine” in my book Southern Women Aging Gracefully). It had me trapped against my car for about half an hour. Dicey.

What do such run-ins say about me? Nothing good. How exciting could my life possibly be if I have near-death experiences–not by bungee jumping in Belize or soaring over the Grand Canyon–but by vacuuming?

Here’s the story: I was vacuuming the stairs to my second floor, backing my way down, manhandling the vacuum awkwardly down one stair at a time. I had the cord wrapped around my neck so that I wouldn’t accidently suck it up in the vacuum. I’ve done it this way a thousand times before WITHOUT INCIDENT, I’d like to point out right here, so . . . don’t start with me.

You can guess what happened next. I accidentally knocked the vacuum cleaner over. It immediately tumbled to the bottom of the stairs. I rocked back and forth for a few seconds on the stair tread; there was just enough time for me to feel smug for not falling in the wake of the vacuum, when I was suddenly jerked off my feet as the vacuum cord necklace I was wearing tightened into a noose worthy of the Wild West. I reacted as any panicked vacuumer would react—I grabbed the cord and started yanking, trying to prevent a suburban garroting. It was immediately obvious that my only chance for survival was to follow the vacuum free fall. I needed some slack, and I needed it bad.

As I allowed myself to be tugged like a misbehaving dog on a leash to the first floor, I had time to reflect upon how truly distasteful my obituary would be: “A local writer and mother of three was strangled in her home today by her vacuum cleaner.” Every single person at my funeral would be fighting a serious case of the giggles. Who could blame them? My teenagers would likely be too embarrassed to attend the service.In general, I am not a prideful person. I’m known for my self-deprecating humor, in fact. I have to admit, however:  death by vacuum cleaner—that’s not the way I want to go. Even I can do better than that.

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