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.

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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.

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World’s Very Best Book Club

books-1283866_1280Colin and I like to share books, or rather, he reads a ton, then foists stuff on me and demands I read it right away so we can talk about it.

He’s kind of a book bully.

Our book discussions go something like this:

“Did you read it?”

“Yeah, it was good.”

“You liked it?”

“Yes, you?”

“Um, hmm. Cool, huh?”

At which point he either is dying for me to read the next book in whatever series it is, and biting his tongue over some major plot point he doesn’t want to ruin, or on to some other author he’s then pushing on me to finish so we can have another provocative discussion.

It’s about a scintillating as my adult book group discussions. Significantly less wine. Better material.

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Stress puppies in springtime

cry-62326_1920I told you about my chill child last week, and he is pretty chill most of the time. Except when he’s not. Like those days I pick him up from school and he’s got a scowl on his face and the conversation goes something like this:

“Hey sweetheart, how was your da – “


I swear there was some planet in retrograde for our entire household last week. The same morning started off with the other child slamming doors and books and throwing shoes around on his way downstairs.

“Mom, will you please, just —WHY ARE WE ALWAYS LATE?”

I happened to be waiting, keys in hand, to drive him to school. So I had no answer. At least not one that wasn’t going to get me yelled at.

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Learning to parent with a little more chill

There are people whose mouths write checks their bodies can’t cash, whose bravado is bigger than their brawn. Who can be guaranteed to bristle at the slightest confrontation.

You know ‘em. People for whom the competition is a bigger deal than the actual feat, whose entire psyche is one, big button waiting to be pushed.easy-1030467_1920

You might think this is something with which I’ve gained familiarity by virtue of being surrounded by adolescent boys. Nope. If anyone around here is prone to chest-thumping smack talk, it’s me. I’m a big talker, and without anything in particular to back it up.

There’s something about suggesting I sit something out, or wondering if I have the chops for anything in particular that will inspire my most irrational behavior.

I have two years of high school cross-country as evidence. I slogged my way through the first year, hating every step, to prove my dad wrong when he called me out for volunteering as team manager in order to earn a letter without doing any actual, athletic-ish work. I signed up for the second year to prove I don’t ever do anything to prove anything to anyone.

Then there were two seasons where I umpired my kid’s little league team even though I’d never actually even played baseball, or probably even watched a whole game. That particular behavior brought about by a team manager who shot off his big, dumb man mouth:

“I dunno, I guess a mom could do it.”

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Ten times I overestimated my teenager


Thought he could tell time. We have a big clock in the living room. The kind with a face and Roman numerals. I guess that could be hard to read on the fly. Too bad there are also only two to three additional clocks in pretty much every room in the house.

Our youngest child has apparently never learned how to use them. He’s always asking me what time it is.

Thought he knew how to tie his shoes. Not sure why that same child insists on running around with his laces undone more than half the time. Is it a fashion statement? Did I miss a memo?

Thought sitting outside on a bench in 65 degree, sunny weather for 20 minutes wouldn’t do him any harm. I was wrong. It nearly did him in, poor thing, having to wait while I picked up his brother across town. He got sweaty. He was bored. Things could have escalated before I finally showed. It could have been tragic.

Trusted that no homework on Friday meant no homework on Sunday. How is it that math assignments are always popping up out of the blue, inspiring panic and outrage the day before the school week starts again? I think I remember having a conversation about homework on the ride home from school Friday. There wasn’t any, then. Not a stitch.

I totally get this one. Math usually pops out at me unexpectedly, too. Ruins my day. Damn math.

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Nothing against turtles, really, or hobos

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Future hobos: the early years. Kitchen demolition experts.

I recently subscribed to one of those services that delivers a box of ingredients and instructions for dinner to your door every week because:

True Fact #1: Parenting gurus say if you don’t sit down to a family dinner on a regular basis your children will one day be hobos.

True Fact #2: There are people around here who might not live to see hobo-hood, and the whole dinner process is part of the problem.

First there’s the whole question of what’s for dinner, to which the answer is usually “I dunno,” or “doesn’t matter.” But when we all gather at the table it will inevitably dawn on one or more of these people that it jolly well does matter and I somehow forgot that fish flambé or whatever I’ve fixed is expressly verboten, and that’s when the nightly Pouring Of The Cereal commences.

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A slacker parent’s guide to kids’ sports

umpire_2I talk a lot in this blog about running and skiing, but in the interest of complete disclosure, we’re not really a sporty family. Being a “meh” mom isn’t conducive to raising the next Carl Lewis or Shaun White.

Our experience with kid sports is miles wide and inches deep. This is because, while neither kid shows any phenomenal athletic ability, it feels like good parenting when whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve a screen and/or headphones. When someone shows half a mind to sign up for whatever’s in season, we’re supportive.

Track season just started again for our youngest, just as skiing season winds down. Before I tackle the three-page permission-slash-doctor’s-release-slash-fundraising-agreement Colin just handed me, I thought I’d share my parental perspective on various sports.

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Of futons, farewells, and the virtues of meatloaf

boy-1042683_1280Last week’s list of how to annoy teenagers without even trying was something I almost didn’t publish out of guilt.

My kids are okay people, and by that I mean they give us way less trouble than people want to believe of teenagers. I also mean they inspire a whole bunch of gooshy, happy feelings the expression of which would get me kicked out of the snarky parents club.

I didn’t expect that of parenting. What I expected was to be at a point by now where I was counting the days until our oldest was leaving.

When I was on a business trip in December, there was a woman who got really gloomy toward the end of the week. She didn’t want to leave because she’d be returning to a home recently absented by her grown daughter.

I may have lacked the appropriate amount of empty-nester empathy.

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