Category Archives: Mothery Mumblings

Mothering without losing my marbles (mostly)

I’m clearly not the mom I once was

The other day I entered my son’s bedroom on some errand or another, and realized something important. It had to do with the olfactory impact of enclosing an adolescent and his Axe body spray in a small space with a fish tank and an only halfway clean lizard terrarium.

I realized my gag reflex has returned.

I’m not sure why this surprises me, but it does and I’m kind of sad. I used to have an iron stomach when it came to unpleasantness. But my once desensitized sniffer must have been part of a latent superpower that surfaces when I need it most; like back in the day when I’d decide whether a toddler needed a change by putting his diapered butt right up to my face. When this superpower is fully engaged, I can scrape dried poo off my shirtsleeve with the aplomb of a Ludlum CIA operative pitching a Molotov cocktail at a Russian mafia stronghold and then taking a slow-motion saunter toward the camera with a wink and a hair flip.

I have to tell you, that thought made me do a Google search for something like this:

manicmumbling.com - mom of teens

Photo by Film Frame – © DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved.

But then I stumbled upon this … and it made my day.

(and, well, let’s be honest, it probably more accurately resembles me leaving the scene of an explosion).  (more…)

You wait. I’ll be so dang merry, Christmas won’t know what hit it

Manic Mumbling | So Very Merry for Christmas“Don’t you just get more and more excited as it gets closer to Christmas?”

This was the start of a conversation over scrambled eggs yesterday, December-the-very-first, with our exchange student, Anna. Since I don’t talk much before 8 am, my only reply was to stare at her over my coffee mug, contemplating her sobriety.

Then I thought about the relationship I have the holidays, and how likely it is I’m gonna let this girl way down sometime in the coming weeks.

If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I’m kind of a Scrooge. Want a refresher? Well there’s that tale about our amazing city lights tour – aka the Vomit Trolley Ride of 2004, or the one about how I only do Christmas crafts as an act of revenge, or there was that time I almost came to blows with Santa.

I haven’t any excuse for this hostility. It’s not that Christmas is a particularly dark time of year for me. I don’t get seasonal depression. There’s no trauma in my past. I’m just one of those people who really doesn’t go in for schmaltz. Or shopping. Or crafts, clutter, or empty calories for that matter (except beer, that is. And I do kinda dig spiked eggnog). I’m mostly just lazy. And a cynic. And schmaltz is way less funny than cynicism.

A little research and a consultation with our own kid who’s currently living among Anna’s people, confirmed that Danes do Christmas like they mean it, and Anna appears to be keeping pace with her homeboys. Before December was even upon us, she’d been to two tree-lighting ceremonies and a couple holiday concerts, and had a stack of homemade Christmas cards ready to send. The girl is ready for the holiday. (more…)

There isn’t any Teflon-coated bubble wrap suit for teenagers. I’ve checked.

Manic Mumbling | There is no teflon coating for skateboarding teens, I've checkedI got into a little argument on Facebook recently.

Someone said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

Oh, it’s so sad. A child was hit in a crosswalk this morning on his way to school. Please be careful everyone.

Then another person, whom I’m just going to call the “Douche Bag of the Day” responded (again … paraphrasing):

Ahem, not to seem insensitive, but who is really at fault here? Shouldn’t kids watch where they’re going? And shouldn’t parents blah ditty blah, hell-in-a-hand-basket, when-I-was-a-kid blah blah?

Again, you know, paraphrasing.

And I saw red, because some kid that very morning was rushed to the hospital as his bike lay crumpled on the sidewalk and a whole bunch of other kids and probably a crossing guard were doomed to relive the exact moment over and over again in their heads for a number of days if not weeks.

And some parent was pacing in a room with outdated magazines wondering if she should call all the relatives and feeling like she was going to throw up at the same time her throat was constricting and so jumpy that if someone tapped her on the shoulder right then they’d have to peel her off the ceiling.

And here’s this Facebook commenter positing on the state of parenting and kids today and wondering who was at fault? (more…)

Of latent Tiger Mom tendencies and how once I was able to stifle a lecture

Manid Mom - Of latent Tiger Mom tendencies and how once I was able to stifle a lecture

Pretty, but probably not a good pet

If you’ve been paying attention at all, you’ve probably noticed we’re not much for helicopter parenting. For a little refresher, here’s a quick story about bags of teeth, and another about how we rate kid activities on the amount of time they require our backsides be removed from the sofa.

I rather think this has worked to our children’s advantage, requiring them to become savvy to all kinds of helpful stuff, like how to find the fire extinguisher, or the expiration date on a gallon of milk. It’s kind of like we planned it, but in reality this is what happens when your MO is expending the least energy possible while keeping people alive. (more…)

A hyggelig holiday

manic mumbling - a hyggeligt holiday

A webcam view of Stanley, with and without smoke

If you’re like me, you look at the word “hygge” and think it’s a remix of something Will Smith wrote when he was still Fresh Prince-ish kind of cool and then you have an ear worm that is really not my fault because you should get your head out of the 90s.

If that sounds like really aggressive way to launch a subject, it’s because I’ve got “Na na na na na na na nana” going through my head, so … sorry.

(more…)

I’m not a wreck, YOU’RE a wreck

I'm not a wreck, YOU'RE a wreck. A few thoughts on parenting and a newly empty nestEarlier this week, I was lying in bed, at o’dark something-or-other, trying to clear my head.

“You’re awake aren’t you?” Mike said.

Yup. We haven’t been getting a lot of sleep around here.

We went out to the living room and Jack was there, on the couch with a quilt, scrolling through his phone. He’d been up all night cleaning and sorting, and now his room was too empty to sleep in.

Today, he took his 50 lb. suitcase, a file of instructions and itineraries, 200 potato pins, and a book about his life in Idaho we’d made for him to show his host families while he’s on exchange, and boarded a plane. We’ll next see him again in person in eleven months.

People have been asking us how we’re dealing with his departure, and for the most part I’ve been Scarlett O’Hara-ing the whole thing, saying that I’d think about that tomorrow.

Well, today is “tomorrow,” and I’m still not actually sure what I’m thinking. (more…)

Everyone, just chill about Pokémon Go

pokehunting manicmumbling.com

Summer evening pokehunting with Dad

If you’ve been paying attention the last three and a half weeks, you’ve probably heard a cacophony of opinions about Pokémon Go. Well actually, you’ve probably mostly heard people griping about how stupid it is that someone put a snipe hunt into a phone app and suddenly everyone’s flocking to city parks like Columbus just discovered a “New World.”

Among the Poké-bashers is Juan Buis of The Next Web, who says everyone should delete Pokémon Go from our phones right now, for our own good.

Not because the app could give the developer or anyone who hacks them access to your whole Google footprint. It’s not because the game’s glitchy and there’s that ping-y music that will trigger an eye twitch in about thirty-seven seconds. Nope. It’s not because people are catching Pokémon in places like cemeteries and hospitals and memorials where it’s really kind of grossly inappropriate to be playing a game of any sort. Nuh uh.

Nope. Juan wants us to stop playing Pokémon Go right now, because it is a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME. We’re better off spending that time doing something productive.

Wait, a minute … you mean to tell me my kids dragged themselves away from their quadratic equations and bonsai pruning to play a game that has no freaking point? You’re saying they’ve forgone their studies in ancient Sanskrit and their practice in Thai Chi for NOTHING?

Well, dangit. (more…)

The saga of the family photo

boys_photo_sessionOnce, when we were still a family of three, Mike and I won a photo session at a charity auction. The photographer was newly in business and would process the photos for almost nothing for her portfolio. This was good, because we’d bid on the session without thinking there’d be money to pay for the actual photo printing.

They were candid and cute and I loved them. But I was also a new mom, working full time, and chronically short of sleep. I put the pictures of sunflowers and my sweet baby in a shoebox somewhere and I don’t think I’ve seen them since.

The next time we sat for a family photo, it was for a church directory. We had a preschooler and a toddler. We stiffly posed in front of a blue screen. I smiled my big grin that makes me look a little crazy. I think you can see my bra strap in one shot.

Shortly after the awkward church photo, we decided we needed something higher end. The kids were growing. Jack no longer had the insanely chubby cheeks that dominated that first photo session. Who knew what other changes were in store?

There was a photographer who’d done portraits at preschool that were startlingly different. Close up, soft light, landscape orientation. Not like regular school photos at all. She had a good eye. I scheduled a session.

…And then abruptly had to reschedule after Colin discovered scissors and experimented on his own bangs and then the fur of his favorite stuffed bear. (more…)

Blood drives and bucket lists

Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.

Photo: Rotary Global Network for Blood Donation. Not sure why the vampire capes were necessary.

About a month ago, Jack saw a blood drive van and told me he wanted to donate – had been wanting too for a while, in fact – and now that he was seventeen he could do so without parental permission, which makes two whole things I didn’t know.

What he actually said was it was on his “bucket list.” I told him he and I had different understandings of the term, but then he told me another list item was traveling to all seven continents. So maybe he does get it and is just a weirdo.

I’m not totally surprised he’d include something altruistic on his list of things to do before he dies, but why not digging wells in Africa or something? Building a house? Letting someone poke around trying to find a vein is on a list I keep too. A list of things that make me woozy if I think about them too much. Heights are on that list. Cleaning toilets. Ebola. (more…)

Of couches and tchotchkes: pros and cons of hosting an exchange student

Exchange Student Hosting, www.manicmumbling.comAs I’ve mentioned, the term exchange student horror stories is one of the more frequent searches that brings people here. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Are you all considering hosting a student and wondering if it’s crazy? Maybe your own kid’s thinking about exchange, and you want ammunition to talk him out of it?

OR … are you creative industry types trolling for movie fodder?

Because if it’s that last one, I’ve got a great idea {call me}.

If it’s either of the former, I’ll warn you I’m biased. We’re preparing to welcome our sixth exchange student to town. Between Mike and me we’ve also been counselors to another five. Our oldest is going on exchange, and we’re actively hounding him to make good use of the tutorials we bought so he can coherently ask for directions to the bathroom once he gets to his host country later this summer.

Outside of Google searches, I’m asked every once in a while about the pros and cons of hosting exchange students. It’s hard to come up with a list. It’s kind of like quantifying the ups and downs of parenting, really. The downs of parenting are pretty straightforward. You don’t have to practice sleeping in ninety-minute spurts every night, or actively wear spit up on your shirt to know neither is especially your cup of tea. (more…)