Gone and Gone

Remember the movie, “Cocoon” with Wilford Brimley and Jessica Tandy where they think they discover the fountain of youth in a swimming pool?

These days I feel like I can relate.

I was flipping through a college pamphlet that came in the mail for my son. Inside, young people surrounded by brick buildings and trees turning yellow in autumn were walking happily to class. They looked ready for what life awaits them around the corner.

As I made my way through the campus of my future school (less than three weeks, but who’s counting?!) I came across a dining room filled with what looked like high school cheerleading squads. I remember being a cheerleader in high school and attending USC and Pepperdine University with my squads and thinking how much fun it was to stay the week in dorms. And I watched as these young cheerleaders cried in the hallway on their phones…and boy do I remember THOSE days too. One word: Drama.

Yesterday I went into Walgreens for a few things after getting my haircut. The salesperson checking me out asked, gingerly, if I had any discounts. “Huh?” I responded. “You know, like AARP.” She says.

Oh.

“No.”

Her response: “Well, um, do you qualify for AARP because if you do I can still give you a discount.”

Fuck the discount.

I ask her, “What age do you have to be to get an AARP card?”

“Fifty-Five, I think.” Is her reply.

Fuck. Fuck. And Shit.

I kindly tell her I am many, more than a few several (SEVERAL!!) years away from a stupid AARP card.

A few days ago I am on PinCrackTrest and I stumble onto site after site of mommy ideas. Fun things to do with toddlers. How to get your kids to bed at a decent hour. Cute classroom ideas for kindergarten. Fun kids lunch ideas. Mommy support groups. Images of young mommy’s walking with their strollers.

And I realized I am no longer that mom to really young kids anymore.

I’ve got two teenagers and one twenty year old.

Dammit.

Why does it feel sometimes that youth is just – gone in a split second? Wasn’t I just that cheerleader trying to make my squad get along despite 16 year-old drama? Wasn’t I just that mom of a kindergartener, a toddler, and a newborn struggling with clever ideas for potty training and creating ant logs out of raisins and celery?

I feel sometimes like I am stuck in the middle somewhere. Not a young adult heading to college anymore and not a young mother of young children anymore.

And I think back to that fountain of youth and you bet your sweet ass I would jump right in and splash until I could be young again…

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That Pesky Elf

My kids were already too old by the time this whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon began. I’m not gonna lie: I’m glad this kooky trend came to be when my kids were already in at least middle school. 

My newsfeed on Facebook is inundated with the antics of this little stuffed Elf who apparently does everything else BUT sit on a shelf.

Maybe I don’t get it. What is the point of the elf again? Is he there to keep watch of the young kids and report back to Santa whether they’ve been good or bad? And the one rule is you can’t touch the elf?

For starters, the elves I’ve seen have been mighty naughty themselves. Who is reporting back to Santa on THEIR awful behavior? Leaving peppermint poop in the toilet and getting into the flour and making a fucking mess? I wonder if there is some hair-pulling-talking-back ten year-old out there who is lying in bed one night thinking, “Wait a minute….”

And why can’t kids touch the elf? Oh no, there is nothing frightening about THAT.

Is it just me or does this seem like a future psychiatrist’s dream in about twenty years? (You see doctor, my parents had this elf visit from the North Pole…)Hello little children, welcome to CrazyTown where stuffed Elves get into trouble and then sit in judgment night after night watching YOU!

I can’t even imagine keeping up with this silly elf for the entire month of December. Oh dear gawd, someone hold me. I had a hell of a time remembering to play Tooth Fairy once in a while. If I had to do this every single night I would have either a) strangled the stupid dim-witted elf a few days into December; b) failed terribly causing me to come up with some excuse why the silly elf is still knee deep in toilet papering the house or spelling out words with mini-marshmallows to find more chaos to create (or the always handy ‘the elf/tooth fairy doesn’t work on the weekends’ which was my go to); c) thrown the elf against a wall until the stuffing came out of his arse. (Mother of the Year, that’s me.)

Why do parents (moms) put themselves through MORE craziness during the holidays and the month of December? Isn’t shopping, cooking, baking, crafting, school plays, holiday photos, sending Christmas cards (after you’ve taken the perfect, everyone matches photo), entertaining relatives, wrapping, decorating the house, going to holiday parties, and visiting Santa at the mall – ENOUGH to do?

Come Again?

Sometimes all I can do is scratch my head.

Every year I grow a garden. And every year I must ultimately deal with the influx of harvest vegetables. My goal? To preserve the vegetables a-la-eighteenth-century-like. Well, sorta. I use a freezer.

Anyway.

I grow things that: a) we will eat all summer long. Like fresh green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes and basil and radishes and zucchini and arugula; b) I can turn into actual meals and freeze like leek and potato soup, pesto, pizza and pasta sauces, spicy carrot soup, and pepper dishes; c) I can freeze and can to preserve like relishes, jalapeno ketchup, candy jalapeno, pepper jelly (I grow a lot of peppers), tomato jam, pickles; d) I can simply flash freeze so I can use fresh ingredients in the middle of winter like beets, sliced leeks, grated lemon cucumber, zucchini, and banana peppers, onions, and corn; e) Just simply get dried like my black beans, Italian rose beans, rosemary, and fennel seeds.

I have a large 3-ring notebook (no surprise) that I fill with recipes I collect throughout the year that will use the vegetables either I am growing or that are in season over the summer. Every week when the harvest starts to come in I pull out recipes I want to make.

I’ll be honest here. It is overwhelming. And sometimes I wonder why the hell I grow so much. When there is a pile of zucchini and yellow squash, a huge bowl of tomatoes, dozens of yardlong beans, half a dozen leeks, some cucumbers, herbs, a few beets, a few carrots, and a bowl full of kale…and I go back to scratching my head and suddenly desiring a nap…and that harvest is from one little afternoon…that I can carry in the one bowl I brought out to the garden with me.

Every September-November it is the same thing around here. Weekends full of canning relishes and pickles and jellies. Of making tomato sauces and pesto’s. Of making soups using carrots, leeks, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, peppers. Of thinking of dinners stuffing zucchini or creating salads using heirloom tomatoes and sliced cucumber. Of discovering ways to blanch beets and freeze them for later…

Oh sure, during summer I am preparing things here and there. For instance, early on I may make a batch of salsa from what is coming out of the garden early. Maybe slice a tomato and cucumber in our salad. Or cook up a side of yardlong beans with dinner. But inevitably when September rolls around I am inundated with fresh produce.

It’s a total love-hate. (More love than hate. And perhaps hate is too strong a word. Overwhelming is better.)

Which brings me to the point of this blog. (I know, I was beginning to wonder if I had a point too.)

When I start freezing meals using up the garden harvest sometimes I get a little overzealous. For instance, I decided it would be fun to make things that didn’t necessarily come out of the garden. Like ravioli’s (okay, technically I used kale instead of spinach to fill them). And lentil burgers. And broccoli meatballs. Granted, I used a pepper or herb or onion that came from the garden INSIDE those recipes.

Do my kids love lentil burgers? Are you really asking me that? Hell no, they don’t. However, they eat it if that is what’s for dinner. But it doesn’t stop them from complaining about it.

Recently my mom asked me, “Do the kids even like the vegetables you are growing?”

Come again?

I had grandparents that grew everything in fields behind their Los Angeles home from the time they were married in the early 1920s until the 1970s when they got too old…and even then my grandmother still grew herbs, grapes, and a variety of fruit trees. I asked my mom, “Did nana and papa consult with you and your siblings before they grew a variety of fruit and vegetables during the 1930s when you were all children?”

Give me a break.

Of course my grandmother didn’t. She cooked. They ate. End of story.

Now, did my Italian grandmother whip up lentil burgers? Chances are she didn’t but she was a very creative cook and fed a lot of mouths when there wasn’t a ton of money.

I finally asked my mom, “Are you really giving me shit for feeding my children – fresh ingredients from my garden? And a variety of vegetarian dishes?” (For the record, we are not vegetarians but we eat meatless meals at least twice a week, sometimes more.)

Her response: “Those poor kids. Make them regular meatballs with actual meat!”

My response:  “I guess if the worst thing I do as a parent is give my kids whole foods with ingredients fresh my own garden, then I’ll take it.”

Over the weekend I had a conversation with my brother who sees the pictures of the food I am making on Facebook. He said to me, “Nana and Papa are turning over in their graves! Broccoli meatballs! What is all that shit you are making?”

What?

Are you kidding me?

I told him I can’t believe he is actually complaining about this to me and that I just happen to be maybe a bit more, um, creative with what I take out of my garden or buy from the local growers.

So, let me get this straight. I spend a good six months working on and in my garden. Out there every single day. All summer long we eat fresh vegetables and all through the year we eat fresh ingredients I have either frozen, canned, or cooked into a meal. I never buy boxed up food from the grocery store, my kids don’t eat frozen pizza, and we hardly ever go to a fast food restaurant. And you are giving me shit for making broccoli meatballs? Really?

I’m back to scratching my head.

On Children and Teens, Oh My!

All I can say about parenting teenagers is: Oy. And maybe: It’s rough. And quite possibly: Hold On!

My favorite part about parenting teenagers (and by favorite I mean not really) is how much more they know than me. I mean, really, they know SO MUCH. Way more than this forty-something. How did I ever doubt that a nineteen year old would know so much about the world around him? How confident and self-assured. How worldly. How mature.

Surely I am not the only parent with a teenager who knows so much more than they do?

I have what I think is a good relationship with my teens but they are all so different and requires such different parenting for each.

Take the 19 year-old. He is the one who clearly knows it all. Folks, there isn’t anything this boy doesn’t already know and to prove the point he will roll his eyes, get irritated, and say something like, “Mommmm, I KNOWWWW.” Ah, brings me back to those bratty I-Am-Always-Going-To-Be-Eight-Years-Old days.

Great fun.

No, really.

At nineteen my work is really done. I mean, if he doesn’t have the basics by now, it is way too late. Hopefully the kid knows right from wrong, being responsible and respectful, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and how to be polite and hardworking. We have now moved onto the bigger, adult stuff like paying your bills, how to obtain car insurance, saving money, interviewing for a job, writing a resume, and what it actually costs to live on your own without your parents dropping money into your account on a regular basis. And believe me, he still doesn’t want to hear what his mother has to say because, oops, I forgot, he knows it all already.

Okie dokie.

Then there is the middle child. The one who is almost seventeen. My go-with-the-flow child who is smart and sweet and funny. He is what I call Low Maintenance after the Firstborn (who was and still is very High Maintenance). Sure, I have to remind him to brush his teeth and shower and change his underwear but I figure I have another year or so before he, too, knows it all. So far my biggest challenge with this child is he is one stubborn boy. Always was. Still is.

And then there is the littlest teen. The newly inducted Teen who just left Tweendom a mere three months ago. The difference here is she is a girl. So we have make-up issues, and hair issues, and clothes issues, and shoes issues, and friend issues, and homework issues, and body image issues, and acne issues, and I-Want-My-Room-Repainted-And-I-Need-New-Shoes-And-Can-I-Go-To-The-Mall-With-My-Friend issues. And then there are the teachers who clearly caused her to fail seventh grade world civilizations by not reminding her to study or turn in her homework. Uh huh. And the friends who all have social media and smart phones when she doesn’t. Yep. And the drama with bratty girls and mean girls and mean, bratty drama queen girls. Hold me. We have emotions that are up and down like a roller coaster and hormones that feel like a constant earthquake and we have sensitivities if one looks ever so slightly off center.

Most days we flow. And there is peace (thank god). And everyone is doing what they are doing and the household is harmonious.

Other days we have: a sick nineteen year old that somehow blamed me for being sick or not believing him or not doing enough to make him better (who the hell knows? He did go to the doctor twice in one week and I bought all his medication, but okay, yeah, blame me) and because he is sick and miserable then by golly everyone in the household must a) endure his miserable and nasty attitude; b) be to blame because he has to point the finger somewhere, after all; c) listen to him complain and moan and groan (super fun, trust me). Meanwhile, he just got a brand new job in a hotel as a baker but because he has been sick he hasn’t been able to start and his boss already called once saying, um, you better yet? Oh the stress of it all. Then the middle child who is taking an AP history class which requires more work but somehow the video games are more important and how many times do I really need to remind my almost-straight-A student that he has to do his homework and that we are only a few days into the school year and already I am bloody exhausted by it all. Oh, and have you thrown your dirty clothes down the laundry shoot? And you did brush your teeth before picture day, right? And then the littlest teen who is crying at dinner because she wants to volunteer (gleaned the information, by the way, by a Drama Queen I can’t stand) at an animal shelter which is all the way downtown and because she is only 13 she has to be accompanied by an adult which means me or her father has to suddenly “volunteer” too – and we told her, um, don’t get your hopes up.

Let me say that parenting is nothing that I read about in all those parenting books and magazines with cute pictures of cute kids all playing blocks on the floor in matching, adorable outfits. And when I thought it would get easier when they got older (in some cases, that part is true, they can certainly use the bathroom alone, take their own showers without me washing their hair, and they basically dress themselves and feed themselves too. Whew) but while those things definitely got easier a hundred and twenty-five MORE things just got harder.

Put A Fork In Us

This is my husbands favorite line whenever the subject of children – or rather, more children – come up.

Look, it was cute when we were in our thirties, maybe even our early forties but he is fifty-four and I am in my mid-to-late-forties when childbearing is, um, kinda over. Oh sure, I guess technically I could still have a baby but let’s be real here. It’s over, folks.

And my husband likes to say, “Put a fork in us, we’re done!”

However, he seems to say it all the time, to whomever he is talking to and it is now rather, well, embarrassing.

Take for instance the teachers at the middle school. The same teachers that have also seen both our older boys filter through the same school, same teachers. So naturally they ask, “Oh, is this the last kid?”

What they mean is, “Do you have any other younger kids that we will see filter through the school in the years to come or is she the last of them?”

What my husband says, “Put a fork in us, we’re done!”

Oh. My. Gawd.

Finally I had to tell him to STOP saying that. The algebra teacher is not asking us if we are planning to have any more children!

I endure a lot with that man. I have to walk into Spanish class at the high school with him during conferences and he wants to see how much he can remember from his high school Spanish days by talking to the teacher in all Spanish. (Enter eye roll.) Or the geometry teacher where he boasts about how much he just LOOOVVEESSS math. (Gag.) Or the engineering teacher where he can talk all about, well, engineering stuff. (Yawn.) Or the culinary teacher where he can flex his Food-Network-Watching muscles and ask about mirepoix and mise en place. (Hold me.)

But when he talks about putting a fork in us, that we are all done conceiving children, thankyouverymuch, I am always dying of embarrassment.