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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Slave to the Lender

As I was tucking Trey in tonight, he was being especially sweet. One of the things he said also struck me as very profound.

"Mom, I'm grateful to you and Dad for taking care of me and letting me go to college debt free. One day when I finish I'll be free and debt-free. Some other people will be independent, but they won't be free."

Very interesting to me how this child has so fully absorbed the lessons from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, at the tender age of 12. I guess he's been the one who was fully steeped in it from such a young age. I hope the concepts continue to stick with him throughout his life!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Every Mother Should Have Sons

While I love all my children, it has become my firm belief that each and every parent should have a child (at least one!) of the opposite gender in their home.
There is just something about it- little girls and their Dads, and Moms and their sons.

For example, tonight Rob, the boys and I went to see our county's production of Les Miserables. My kids have seen Les Mis a couple of times over and we know the storyline and songs well. I was between the boys and we were all armed with tissues.

I cry at various songs, some harder than others- "I Dreamed a Dream" gets me, Fontine's death just about does me in.
During both these songs, the boys grabbed my hand or wrapped an arm around my shoulder.

Chris' favorite song is "Stars" and Trey's favorite song is "A Little Drop of Rain" although it absolutely KILLS him every time.
When it is time for A Little Drop of Rain, I could feel Trey sobbing and sobbing beside me. This continued for quite a while.

A bit later, he leans over and whispers "It took me two songs to recover from that!"
"Me too, buddy" I whispered back, "I was doing the ugly cry."
"That's okay Mom" he leaned in and said quietly, "even when you do the ugly cry you're always beautiful to me."

That right there is why Moms having sons is the best thing ever in the whole world. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Flashes of Light

"Oh, GREAT," I muttered to Rob. If there was a sarcasm font, this would be written and bolded in it.

You see, Trey has been attending a camp this week called Extreme Recess. It's a long day- it runs from 9-5. He loves it though. The first day I picked him up early and was instructed to 'please don't pick me up early again.'

The downside is that this camp is positively kicking the child's butt. He is T-I-R-E-D at the end of the day. As in crankapotamous, -can't talk to him for at least an hour after it's over- kind of tired.

After a particularly whiney evening, Rob and I decided the boy needed to go to bed early. He clearly was exhausted, clearly needed rest. We told him he had to be in bed to sleep at 9 PM.

What had me so irritated, then, was that the thunderstorm in the area was rolling in right around 9:30, and Trey still has a fear of thunder in particular and lightning by association. If he was still awake, there was no easy way to get him to sleep.

"I hope Trey's asleep or else he is going to be in our room," I continued as I got up and headed toward the kitchen. I was dead tired myself, as I've been battling a particularly long-lasting insomnia bout.

At exactly that moment I bumped into something warm and furry. It grabbed me and I whirled around and SCREAMED. It was Trey in his flannel robe. I swear I thought I was seeing an apparition. We have very creaky stairs so we always know when our kids are coming up or down. It was like he VAPORIZED there.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I screamed HOLY SHIT! And I'm not sorry.)

"It's storming," he helpfully informed me as I gasped for breath and clutched my heart. "There's thunder and lightning."

I could hear the whine in my voice matching the whine in his. "Yes, it is storming. There's thunder and lightning. But you are fine. You are safe in the house. You know the thunder is just a sound- the sound of hot air and cold air colliding. It isn't going to hurt you."

But it was no use. I could tell that he was freaked out and he wasn't going to be able to go to sleep.

"Just go in your own room and turn on the light and read then," I said in a short tone, "I'm really tired and I want to go to bed."

He went into his room and I went to mine. I got ready for bed, turned on a light, started reading a magazine. I was about ready to nod off when there was a soft knock at the door and Trey appeared. He looked nervous but determined to say his piece.

"With no screen, the rain is hitting my window and it's really loud."

I sighed heavily. This was true but dammit, I'm tired!

"Come on, Trey" I grumbled, "you are almost 13! You've got to get past this. Go tell your Dad about the screen and then just go back to bed. Or go into Kate or Chris' room since they aren't there. They have screens."

He shuffled out, informed his father, collected his various bedtime belongings (alarm clock, night light, pillow, etc) and moved into his sister's room. I laid in bed, stewing.

Come on!  I thought to myself. He's got to move past this.

But as I lay there some more, I pictured him in Kate's room. The big bed, the unfamiliar feel of it, the flashing lighting and rumbling thunder. I pictured him lying there scared, and I couldn't do it.

Yes, he's 12. But he's still a boy.
And he's scared.

He's not going to go off to college afraid of the dark, and lightning and thunder. And if he does, so what? He'll have a room mate and he'll have to deal. But right now he's just a boy and he needs the security I can bring him.

I got up and went into Kate's room. He was just as I imagined him to be- ramrod straight, eyes wide open, scared. I climbed into bed beside him and he curled up against me gratefully.

Yes, I thought to myself, he's still small.
Right now, he is still small.
But time is going fast.. and I held him a little closer.. and he drifted into sleep.

(And I'm not sorry.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Boundaries and Rejection

Today I sat in a final meeting at the high school with Chris. We were learning the last minute details about his mission trip to Costa Rica that he embarks on tomorrow.
It sounded so fun. Their lodging sounded decent, their activities fun (kids! water balloons!) and the recreational activities even more fun (white water rafting! zip lines!)

After the meeting, we went to Walmart to pick up some crayons and such for him to give to the kids on the trip. I was buoyant with excitement for him.

"You are going to have so much fun.. I'm kind of jealous! I wish I were the one going! It would be fun to go white water rafting and zip lining with Mrs. K!"

"I don't think the parents get to do those things, Mom" Chris responded quietly.

"Oh, sure they do! So what do you think? Maybe I'll go some time! You'd be okay with that, right?"


"Um, yeah, maybe after I graduate."


I misstep, momentarily confused. What did he just say? Did he just say 'after I graduate?' As in, 'Mom, I don't want you there with me?'

I had a string of instant reactions, one after the other.

1) WTF?!

2) Oh NO YOU DIDN'T. After you three kids have embarrassed me periodically for 19 years, you are now embarrassed by me? You have got to be kidding.

3) I'm NOT embarrassing.

4) Am I embarrassing?

At this point, I engaged in a mental 'sniffing of the armpits,' in which I calculated all the ways in which I might be embarrassing.

I guess I am kind of brash.
And unpredictable.
And impulsive.
And I dress really crappy. ;)

So here we are in Walmart and I am alternating between being absolutely crushed and furious.

I had promised a stop at the McDonalds at the Walmart after we checked out, to celebrate the last day of school. The boys and I ordered and I stood there, waiting for the food, in a furious, self-righteous silence. Trey roamed between us, aware that something had happened but unsure what.

"Are you mad at me?" Chris sidled up and asked plaintively.
"My feelings are really hurt" I muttered, staring straight ahead.
"Why? What'd I say?"
I gave him a long, hard stare. "Really, Chris? Really?"
Then I turned and walked away.

After a quiet and stony meal, we headed home.
I raced upstairs and changed quickly, then headed out to mow the lawn.

I know myself well enough to know that strong feelings = physical activity and lots of it, lest I say something I will regret. I need time to process this and it is best done alone. I marched up and down the rows, sarcastic retorts and scathing diatribes streaming through my brain with every step.

Yet as I continued to mow the lawn, sweat pouring from my brow and steam blowing from my ears, rational thought began to penetrate the anger.

I constantly rejected my Mom's presence during my childhood and teen years. While I loved her, I needed my space, needed to keep my social life separate from my home life. Her presence at times drove me NUTS.
As I did this, growing up, I seldom remember considering my Mom's feelings. I don't think I necessarily did much of considering her as a person at all, really. It was about me and what I wanted or needed, and not at all about her.

It was not about her.
So, perhaps, this is not about me, but about Chris and about what he needs.

I always thought that when my kid would one day say he didn't want me with him, or sidestepped away from me in public, that I would be totally cool with it. As always in parenting, it is harder to be on the inside looking out, than the outside looking in.

It's also easier to be the one doing the rejecting than the one being rejected.
(So sorry, Mom. I feel like this should just be a permanent tattoo on my body.)

So Chris, now that I have had some time to think, I apologize. My response was to take what you said very personally and as a rejection from you of me as a parent.
I realize now that what you need is what you need, just as when I was a teenager.
You need your space and want to have your own experiences in your own social group, and that is your right.
It is my job to understand and respect the boundary that have set.

That boundary may change at some point in high school, or it may not. I'll wait for your signal or invitation regarding school stuff.

Meanwhile, I'll wait here on the sidelines as my own Mom did, and I will quietly watch and applaud your accomplishments.

(Well, as quietly as I can. It's not my strong suit.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Teenage Boys: Feeding the Endlessly Hungry

As you've all noticed (if you set foot in the market at all)
the cost of food has risen, risen and risen some more.
It is absolutely crazy how expensive things have gotten.

Lucky for me, I've got three "kids" in the house this summer. My 19 year old daughter doesn't eat a whole lot, but I've got 15 year old and 12.5 year old boys and they EAT. CONSTANTLY.

Just as an example, Trey is about to get braces put on. Since his teeth need only a minor adjustment, he was offered either Invisalign or traditional metal braces.
Anyone who has lived through middle school would think this is a no-brainer, right? I mean, middle school is hard enough without sporting metal braces. Who wouldn't choose the invisible option for the same price?

Trey, that's who. Once he found out they had to be worn 20-22 hours per day and that he had to brush his teeth after every time he ate something, he refused them. "Mom, I eat A LOT after school! That would NOT work for me!" And he's right. Smart boy.

While I feed my kids three good solid meals a day, the endless eating does call for some snack type foods to be around the house. Fortunately, I've recently discovered a market called Aldi and it has helped keep the costs down.

Aldi doesn't enjoy a good reputation in the US. People view it as a "poor man's" grocery store. Thing is, those people don't know squat! Aldi is a *different* kind of store, because it is based on a European model. For example, at Aldi you put a quarter in a little slot on your shopping cart to release it from its tether. You will hear people squawking about this: "You even have to pay to use a shopping cart!" Nope, that's incorrect. This (also done in Europe) is done so that the store doesn't have to pay someone to round up all those carts lazy people leave in the parking lot. When you are done shopping, you return your cart and your quarter pops back out for you. Cost to you? None. Savings to you? Yep! Not having to pay someone to get your cart allows them to pass the savings on to you.

Aldi has VERY few store brands. Instead, they have their own store brand. Coincidentally, this is the exact same stuff your local National Brand supermarket is selling, at a higher cost. Literally. You are not paying for the brand name, the store is not paying the advertising, packaging and merchandising costs and the savings? Passed on to you.

No one will bag your groceries at Aldi. They check them out directly into an empty cart. Then, you take your cart and bag your groceries at a long counter just past the checkout line. Again, a European model. Savings? Passed on to you again, of course!

Not open except during prime hours? Savings to you. Hiring fewer checkers but teaching them to check your groceries out really fast? Savings to you. (Cool tip: Aldi products have bar codes on all sides of packaging- checkers can whip things right through without pausing!)

Here's some prices of things I have recently bought:

Milk: 2.89/ gallon (local grocery 3.99/gallon)
French Toast Sticks, double cinnamon: 2.19 (local store: 3.50)
Not from concentrate OJ in carafe 2.49
Good Humor style strawberry shortcake ice cream bars: 1.99 for 6
Double Topping frozen pizza 14"- 2.99
Bacon (16oz): 3.99
Cereal (repackaged General Mills): 1.69
Mac and cheese (blue box): .39
Bag of Gala Apples: 3.59
Peaches .49/ea
Kettle chips: 1.79/bag
Wheat bread: 1.29/loaf
Anjou Pears: 1.39 for 4

They also carry Super Cheap European chocolate and other goodies that are very high quality.

If you've been to Trader Joes, this is the sister store.. the companies are owned by brothers in Europe.

So think about it and if you have one in your area, check it out. The first time you will hate it because you will be confused. That's okay. Give it another try or two before you make up your mind. And rest easy- Aldi has a double guarantee: if you don't like what you try, bring it back. You will get your money back if you don't think it is as good as the name brand, no questions back. And if they can't find something as good as the name brand, then they will also stock the name brand next to theirs.

If you go, let me know! And enjoy your new savings!