They broke my doorbell!

Several months ago I blogged about how our tiny neighborhood has suddenly exploded with kids – all boys, and one brave tomboy girl. Every time I see the group of them coming down the street, I smile at the gang of trouble headed my way.

And trouble is what I got.

The typical afternoon starts with my doorbell ringing. But it isn’t the simple ring that you or I would do. It sounds more like this: ding-dong-ding-dong-ding-dong-ding-dong…pause about 30 seconds then repeat…ding-dong-ding-dong-ding-dong-ding-dong and continues until someone comes to the door.

I might be a little more tolerant if the kids were toddlers and didn’t know any better, but they are 10 and 11 years old! Even my son is frustrated by the time he answers the door.

Then when my son tells them he has to finish his homework, they are back at the door in 10 minutes repeating the same doorbell pattern. Ugh!

When my son is finally finished with homework, he’s allowed to go out and play. We live in a condo area, so the rules for him are fairly tight – no playing on people’s driveways, stay out of the bushes (residents pay for upkeep through the HOA, and it’s only a matter of time before a bush or flower gets broken and the kids get blamed by one of the residents without kids).

One Saturday morning, an adult came to our door, and rang the doorbell (as it should be rung) and it broke…IN HALF! No kidding! The actual button broke in half! The adult felt very bad, but I actually thanked him and told him it wasn’t his fault. It was only a matter of time. And that he actually did me a favor! Now they can’t ring the doorbell like crazy people!

However, later that day, they came to the door and knocked. But when I say “knock” it was actually more of a pound. You would have thought that someone was being chased by a crazed person with a chainsaw and desperately need help. Knock-knock-knock-knock-knock…or pound-pound-pound-pound-pound-pound…pause and repeat. You get the idea.

I’d had it! After all, I work at home, and with summer coming up, this can’t continue! So I answered the door, and politely but sternly, demonstrated how to properly knock on a door. Another parent happened to be standing in front of their house (the one whose kid is the main perpetrator), and backed me up. He also offered to repair my doorbell.

We haven’t had any obnoxious knockers since. Sometimes I think kids just need to be reminded of good manners, or be taught in the first place. Wish me luck over the summer.

Oh, and I don’t plan on fixing my doorbell anytime soon.

Taking care of an aging parent

 

It’s been simmering for quite some time…the idea that my mom should not be living alone. There are a myriad of reasons to reconsider her current living situation.

The first and foremost being that her quality of life is diminished because she just can’t afford it anymore, and my brothers and I can’t afford to keep sending money to the money pit. There are also, of course health reasons that come with many septuagenarians that need to be addressed and watched over.

It’s a hard line to take: when the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. No one likes the ramifications of what that entails. There will be power struggles, the first of which is actually convincing her that her quality of life would be better living with one of her adult children. No parent wants to give up their independence, and having to rely on an adult child is not part of their plan usually. You don’t raise your children thinking “I can’t wait until I can get under their roof.” But there’s a whole generation of parents right now, who didn’t save enough for retirement because they didn’t have to. I know it sounds foolish to our generation, but for my parent’s generation, there was always going to be a pension that you’d rely on. It’s what their parents did, so why think to plan for anything different. But those pensions disappeared and here we are.

To my detriment, I’m a planner, and I woke up this morning around 6am and my brain started “planning.” My mom hasn’t even agreed to the new arrangement yet, and already I’m going through all the possible scenarios, the logistics, the financial and legal details in my head. I’ve made lists, and researched the possibilities, both good and bad, of taking in an aging parent.

But here’s what it boils down to: it’s my turn to return the favor. All the nights she spent pacing the floor, all the financial sacrifices she and my father made, all the emotional collateral they spent raising me has brought me to this moment. It’s time to give back.

I have a fabulous husband, by the way, who happens to share the same responsibility to family that I do. We decided long ago that whether it was his mom or mine (both of our fathers passed away years ago) that we would open our home if we needed to. It’s just what you do.

But convincing my mom to sell her home (that’s falling apart around her), move across the country, and move her entire life into one bedroom (basically) is going to be a hard sell. I get it. Would you do it? Things would have to be pretty bad for me to convince me to do something like that. The opportunity at the end of that bridge would have to be pretty encouraging. And my mom is not one that likes adventure – she’s a planner too.

Fortunately, my brothers and I agree on a plan for Mom. We support each other and her. We just want her to be better off. Her “Golden Years” haven’t been very golden so far, and now we have the chance to help her make them better.

I only hope I remember this when I’m aging and my kids step in to take charge. I hope I remember it’s because of love that they want to see me in a better situation.

Have you taken a parent into your home? I’d love to hear some of your experiences or advice as I go into these uncharted waters.

The Neighborhood Rules – Practicing for Life

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When we first moved in to our neighborhood 4 years ago, there were only 4 kids: 2 of mine, and the neighbor’s 2. But since the last year, the neighborhood is now booming with kids! On my short street alone we have 13 kids! Finally we have a good old suburban neighborhood, which is exactly what we were hoping for when we moved here.

Right now, my son is out playing with the other kids in the neighborhood (ages ranging from 6 to 15). He’s eleven, and we’re in a small townhome area, so I feel pretty secure about him running around. I can hear them from my open window and see them run past every now and then.

I spent the first few years that we were here outside with him while he played with friends. Mostly I was the “Car Watcher:” I was the one yelling “CAR!” every time someone drove into our neighborhood, training my kids and the others to get out of the road and be aware of their surroundings. Now I hear them doing the same thing and teaching the younger ones to get out of the road.

We laid out a very specific set of rules for playing in the neighborhood:

  1. Stay off of people’s property
  2. Don’t play around cars (moving or parked)
  3. Leave the area the same, if not better, than it was when you got there
  4. Don’t go in anyone’s house without telling me first
  5. Watch out for the younger kids in the group
  6. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in your own yard
  7. Someone is probably watching what you’re doing – be good
  8. Don’t chase the ball into the street
  9. Be courteous of neighbors and cars
  10. If you break something (God forbid) be accountable for your behavior

I realized that these rules can be applied to life as well. Playing outside prepares them for life, but it’s done without sitting them down and lecturing them. Once they have a good set of ground rules, it’s the best way for them to learn their limits.

These are skills that they will never learn sitting in front of a computer screen. These are childhood survival skills: get out of the road when a car comes, don’t shoot the neighbor’s car with a Nerf dart, throwing rocks will damage property and people (so will dirt clods, pine cones, and sticks), climbing trees is both exercise and fun, dirt won’t hurt, made-up games are often more fun than organized sports, and getting up when you fall will make you stronger.

Being outside, and playing with friends is probably the best “interactive” experience a kid can have. The best part is that not a single kid is running around with their phone in their hand. Not even the older sibling that shows up on occasion to toss the football around with them.

I’ve witness acts of kindness the older ones have shown to the younger kids: tying shoes, holding hands so that they can stay with the group, teaming up with an older kid when playing hide-and-seek, and making sure everyone is accounted for when a car comes by.

Here’s hoping everyone gets out to play in the sun!

I’m not a yeller…but maybe I should be

 

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I’m not a “yeller,” but I’m starting to think I should try it. (not really)

I wasn’t raised in a yelling household, and we haven’t raised our kids in a yelling household either. Instead, we opt for “strongly suggesting” or “fiercely encouraging.”

How exactly does that sound? Instead of barking orders at the kids, I tend to say things like “You need to clean up your room now,” or “would you please take out the trash.” Things like that. And it usually worked…until recently.

Now that my kids are tween and teen, I’m competing with forces much stronger than the “Mom Look.” I’m competing with technology sucking their brains. I’m competing with “friend influences” that don’t make the best choices. I’m competing with emotions and boundary pushing like I’ve never experienced before.

It’s not that I want to be my kids “friend.” I know I’m their parent, but I need THEM to know I’m their parent, and as such, I deserve more respect than I seem to be getting. Now before you say “You have to give respect before you get it,” I do. As I said…I’m NOT the yelling mom. And that expression goes both ways.

I don’t want to raise my voice. I think it’s ineffective and not in my character. If I HAVE to raise my voice, you should know you’re in trouble. And if I have to see one more of those blank teenage stares, I think I may go mad. And don’t get me started about how many times I have to repeat myself. I should only have to say it ONCE. Shouldn’t I?

You should at least have enough respect for me to TRY to kiss my you-know-what until you’re out of trouble. Make an effort. Show me you’ve understood what you did wrong. Show me you’ll at least TRY not to do it again.

Don’t make me yell. I don’t want to, I don’t like to, and I think there are better ways to communicate.

Can anyone relate?

Family Time – Am I Asking Too Much?

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Family Time should consist of more than shoe shopping on the weekends or errand running during the week. And, though I value every minute I spend with my kids, helping with homework and studying can hardly be considered “quality time.”

It seems I’m constantly competing with electronics for any conversation at all. And dinner time gives me only 20 minutes (at the most) of their undivided attention.

But getting them interested in spending time with the family, all together at the same time, doing the same activity, (especially the 14-yr-old) is down-right exhausting. And what I’m left with is grumbling kids that are sparing me very little of their cerebral attention.

The worst part is that I know they are merely “appeasing me” until they can get back to their own interests, namely the darn technology.

Has family time really changed that much from when I was a kid, or teen? I mean, I have memories of playing family games together with my brothers and my parents. I realize we didn’t have the electronic distractions we do now. In a sense, if we didn’t find friends to hang out with on a Friday night, we were essentially stuck with the parents, and, as such, we were subjected to there torturous games of “Sorry” and “Scrabble.” But we hung out…together.

The difference today is that my kids don’t have to go outside of the house to find their entertainment. And friends? They can meet up with them on-line. So maybe it just “feels” different. As parents, we’re competing for our kids’ attention on a whole different scale.

I don’t want to force them into Family Time, because then what I’m left with is pouty kids who will go along with whatever said activity is, but you can bet their enthusiasm is less than convincing, if existent at all.

So what’s a parent to do? I know I only have a few years left before they are completely out the door, at least with the older one. The 11-yr-old still has a few more years, but I feel like time is getting away from me.

So I’m asking other parents of teens: what have you done to implement Family Time? Has it been successful? I’d love some ideas.

Why textbooks are still necessary

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There are A LOT of different ways to teach and learn, and it seems every school is different for different reasons. I understand budget restraints, and different teaching styles, and I’m not a teacher, so I can only speak from a parent point of view. #momopinion

But I MISS TEXTBOOKS!

My daughter has a full schedule of classes: all the basics, History, Language Arts, Geometry, German, Health, Science…the usual.

But what she doesn’t have is textbooks. Only her History class uses a textbook. The rest of the classes use printed worksheets to work on and study from.

I understand that textbooks are expensive, but they are useful and so much more consistent when it comes to the learning material, especially for us parents.

I can’t tell you how many times my daughter has brought home geometry homework that I can’t help her with because, let’s face it, high school was A LONG time ago for me. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve had to prove “Angle-Side-Angle” or use the Pythagorean Theorem. And when she brings home a printed paper, it would be nice to have a textbook for a reference.

The same has occurred in German. I took Spanish, not German, so I’m not much help, and you can’t count on google translators to correctly translate sentences.

My kids laughed at the fact that I saved my Harbrace College Handbook, but my daughter finally appreciated it when she needed to know the difference between a compound sentence and a compound-complex sentence.

That’s why I love our public library. I’ve checked out a German to English Dictionary AND Workbook, and my daughter’s grasp of the German language improved. I also checked out an Idiot’s Guide to Geometry complete with exercises and answers. It’s starting to come back to me now, and it’s helping her too. #supportthelibrary

The “age of technology” is a marvelous thing, but it isn’t a consistent resource. Not to mention, a book never goes “offline,” and when you look up a subject in a reference book, chances are you won’t find objectionable material that you weren’t looking for. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a “virus” from a book either.

I guess I’m old fashioned, but textbooks do still have their place in school. Sometimes it’s to help the kids, and sometimes it’s to help the parents help their kids.

Mid-Life Observations

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I have a couple more years until I reach 50…the dreaded middle age.

Now, I’m not one for making a big deal of getting older. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to physical upkeep. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t color my hair regularly, I live in sweats and t-shirts (flannels in winter)…I know, my poor husband. But he isn’t exactly working out everyday trying to impress me either. LOL

But I’m starting to notice a few things as I get closer and closer to middle age.

  1. I make noise when I get up off the floor. I mean literally. My joints creak every now and then. I have a bad knee due to a bouncy house accident (bolts and everything), and it pops and creaks from time to time.
  2. I groan more often than I used to. When taking out the trash, or reaching to pull the laundry out of the dryer, or doing some other unsavory activity, I groan a little. I’m not sure if it’s to express my displeasure, or it’s an involuntary action. Either way, I’m starting to sound like my mother.
  3. And that’s another one…I sound like my mother! Dear God, no! But it’s true. I hear things I say to my kids that sound vaguely familiar to me. And that’s when I remember where I’ve heard them before…my mom. She warned me this would happen. #momsalwaysknow
  4. I have gray hair that is growing along the edge of my forehead, and it’s about 2” long. I can’t tell if it’s growing in or breaking off. But when I blow dry my hair, it sticks straight up, and it looks like I’ve seen a ghost! #hairwoes
  5. My skin is starting to loose its elasticity…especially on my hands. It reminds me of the Stretch Armstrong Doll we had as a kid. My son likes pulling on it and watching in slowly…really slowly…go back into place. Thanks kid.
  6. Time management has gone all haywire. I go back and forth between wanting to spend time with my kids and husband, and wanting to be left alone. Okay, that may not have anything to do with middle age. #findingbalance
  7. Keeping a clean house, having dinner on the table on time, and making sure the laundry is done has lost its romantic appeal. Everyone is old enough to take care of those things on their own. It isn’t like when they were little and I HAD to do those things. They should carry their own weight, right?
  8. I find myself not understanding my kids’ humor. We don’t find the same things funny. The gap is widening, and again, I’m hearing my mother in my head.
  9. I hear myself saying “When I was young” or “when I was your age” to my kids far too often. Which is usually answered with “You just don’t understand, Mom!” I’m not the cool mom. #neverreallywas
  10. And finally, 10:00pm is my quitting time. I used to be a night person. But years of waking up early to get everyone ready for school and work have ruined that for me. Even some Friday nights I find myself ready for my pajamas at 7:30pm.

My biggest problem is I don’t know how to stop it, so I guess I better learn to embrace it. It’s just around the corner, and my husband will be there sooner than me. I do have to say that I like myself a whole lot better in my 30s and 40s than I did in my 20s, so at least there’s that. Maybe my 50s will be even better? Here’s hoping!