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And some parent was pacing in a room with outdated magazines wondering if she should call all the relatives and feeling like she was going to throw up at the same time her throat was constricting and so jumpy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?

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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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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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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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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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“Winging it” sounds the same in any language

Yes, I know he's not Danish. He's also not really speaking Swedish. That's not the point.
Yes, I know he’s not Danish. He’s also not really speaking Swedish. That’s not the point. Art by Max Geiger.

In Danish, the phrase “Good morning, how did you sleep,” looks like this:

God morgen, hvordan har du sover?

It sounds like:

G’morn, vordenardusowah?

As in any language, in Danish, phonetics often have little to do with how words look on paper. While this particular phrase (which Jack needs to learn, along with a short introduction speech by the end of the month), may not be too difficult, there are sounds in that language that don’t even exist in English. Not to mention letters, like: æ, ø, and å.

But when I reminded him last week about putting together his speech, he was unconcerned. He said he’d just use the handy, new Danish dictionary he got for Christmas, and whip out a few phrases.

Oh, honey. Please (er, ahem: vær så venlig).

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If you need me, I’ll be in the yard

I Fought The Lawn ... And The Lawn Won

My lawn care workforce is currently on strike, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Saturday afternoon, I watched Colin struggle to adjust the line on the weed whacker for the hundredth time. Somehow he cannot master the art of gently tapping the thing against the ground just enough to get the line to feed out. Instead, he slams it with the force of a WWF wrestler, and jams it up. Every. Single. Time. Then he has to take the thing apart and put it back together.

He wouldn’t ask for help. He struggled with it for a while before proclaiming trimming an official pointless waste of time of which he’d have none, then moved on to mowing.

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And so we meet again, Summer

FullSizeRender (2)Today is the last day of school. Blessed school. Even though our kids are looking forward to a break, we know it won’t be long before even they miss the structure. The routine. The luxury of lunch every day at the same time. They may even miss music and math and reading and science. Maybe.

I know I will miss teachers, our parenting fall guys. They’re the people in our lives who stay on task and pay attention. The ones who keep us honest with due dates and grades and attendance and tardy slips.

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The thrilling life of parents of teens

The genesis of cowboy violin.

This weekend we took the kids to a symphony. It’s good for all of us to see a concert once in a while that isn’t either (a) in a school gym, or (b) accented by strobe lights.

We’d seen this orchestra before. Not world famous, but they fill a nearly thousand-seat auditorium. They sponsor an annual competition for young musicians, the three winners of which were the featured soloists on this night.

The performances were amazing, and not “that’s really remarkable for a kid,” kind of good, but these young people were fully capable of pulling off outstanding solos in front of a 70-piece orchestra. Two played the piano and one was a violinist. All teenagers.

Mike leaned over during one standing ovation.

“I’ll bet they never get yelled at to practice,” he said.

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No, YOU take a number

DMVThis was the week. I couldn’t put Jack off any longer with the whole driver’s license thing.

It was spring break, so we’d finally be available during the window that the DMV is open for testing. Jack had fulfilled the long list of requirements I had for chauffeuring him to that end of town – very near the Seventh Circle of Hell, otherwise known as The Mall.

I rather thought a trip to that end of town was going to be the worst part about the whole afternoon.

This is the part where you chuckle nervously about my naiveté. 

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