Un Poquito

Hal regularly makes bogus claims about his proficiency in speaking Spanish. The older two have slightly stronger claims but only barely.

This weekend, Jane announced she knows a lot of Spanish. To prove her point, she told her Daddy, “You are hombre. That means man.”

“Que?” he asked.

“What’s that?” she responded.

We had been hugging when she approached to show off her knowledge and I was still cuddled up against his chest. I looked up, turning slightly, held my thumb and forefinger a short distance apart, and said dismissively in her direction “Un poquito.”

“What does K mean?!”

“See?” I said, looking up at my husband. “Un poquito.” Then I snuggled back in.

“I know more than a little bit of Spanish!” she said, indignant at my insult.

“No, no you don’t,” I said. “You don’t get to claim any proficiency in Spanish at all if you don’t know what que means. Even people who don’t know any Spanish know that much.”

“But what does it mean?”

“What?” said my husband.

“What does K mean?!”


“Oh.” She paused briefly, slightly embarrassed. “Well, do you know what woman is?”

“Chica,” said my husband with a smile.

“No! It starts with an M,” she said, resuming her place of presumed superiority.

“Senora,” I said, just to be difficult.

“That’s lady! It starts with an M.”

“Muy caliente chica!” said my husband.*

“That’s not woman! And I know what that means!”

“Your mom is a woman and she’s a muy caliente chica.”

“Stop it! Just stop! Don’t talk like that! Oh my gosh, I have to get out of here. That’s so gross.” And with that, she fled the room and we hugged in peace.

*Before any Spanish speakers take it upon themselves to correct our grammar and vocabulary, I will state that, unlike our children, we know full well that we don’t speak Spanish. I will further state that we were simply goading our daughter for fun, without concern for accuracy. Kind of how we used to drive our Latin teacher nuts by announcing “Semper Ubi Sub Ubi!” (Always wear underwear – technically, always where under where). It was guaranteed to get an outraged reaction at our mangling of Latin for a simple pun.

When Mr. Hyde Comes to Visit

I am a mature, responsible, and fully capable almost-adult so I don’t need you to tell me what to do. Even though I’m not actually quite mature enough, responsible enough, nor capable enough for you to never tell me what to do. I leave it to you to guess which mode I’m in right now and if you get it wrong, it’s off with your head because it’s all your fault for not getting it right.

If teenagers could articulate what is going on in that hormone-addled brain of theirs, I suspect it would sound something like that. Living with one is a lot of work. I’m not sure I’d trade it for a newborn crying to be fed in the middle of the night and needing her diaper changed. There’s still more benefits than drawbacks, but sometimes I feel the need for Calgon to take me away.

Take this morning for example. Daryl, who is 10, had asked me to wake him up at 6:15, having misplaced his alarm clock over the Christmas break. I got out of the shower just after 6:15, robed, and then woke him up at 6:20. I told him he needed to hurry to take his shower because his sister, who usually showers at night but hadn’t the night before, would need to take one too.

That’s when I glanced uncertainly at her closed door. Should I wake her? They shoot for leaving at 7:00. She usually sets her alarm for about 6:40. If you go into her room and wake her up before her alarm goes off, you are guaranteed to get yelled at. “Mo-om! Gah! My alarm was going off in 2 minutes! TWO minutes! Why did you wake me up?! I don’t need you to wake me up! I can do it myself!”

On the other hand, she hates for them to run late. That makes her almost as angry as you waking her up. No, probably more angry. If she was planning to take a shower this morning, surely she would have already gotten up? Set her alarm earlier? Since she didn’t, she probably forgot. She needs to be reminded in enough time.

I weighed the benefits and pitfalls of each course of action. Ultimately, I decided to error on the side of assuming she was mature, responsible, and fully capable, even though I knew that in this instance I was wrong. I did not open her door. When I saw Daryl return from the shower to his room, I wondered when she was going to get up. By 6:45, I had still not seen her leave her room.

When I saw the light was on, I opened the door to see her fully clothed, tying her shoe, hair already up in a ponytail.

“Did you take a shower last night?” I asked.

Her face went blank and her shoulders sagged. I was dreading the usual argument where she says she’s going to take one “tonight” and I wearily try to explain again that she had volleyball practice last night and Athletics at school and she absolutely must shower before returning to school every single day. I was prepared to ask why this was so difficult to understand.

But she didn’t go there. She froze in mid-loop of the shoelace, looked down, and sullenly admitted, “No. I forgot.”

Now I don’t know if she really forgot or if she was hoping to get away with it. Regardless, she was resigned to having to shower now.

“You better hurry up and get in the shower then,” I said.

“I know.” She didn’t move.

“And be sure you wash your hair.”

“Ok!” Still, she didn’t move.

I heard Daryl yelling at Hal to hurry up and get dressed. I took a couple of steps toward their room and said, “Why? His sister still has to take a shower.”

“That will take like an hour,” Daryl said.

“I know. So there’s no need to hurry Hal,” I responded.

Jane, who was still sitting on her bed, staring at the floor, snapped her head up at that point. “Guys! You are acting like we don’t need to leave in fifteen minutes!”

“Says the girl still sitting on her bed,” I said.

She popped up and gestured angrily at the wall between her room and theirs. “They need to get ready to go!!”

“And you need to take a shower! Worry about yourself, not them.”

She then stomped off to the shower as I reminded her to wash her hair. I walked to my room where I saw my husband lying across the bed laughing. I spread my arms out wide to my sides and mouthed What the Hell?! Without bothering to raise his head or stop laughing, he pointed out into the hallway and said, “That’s full-bore teenager right there. Full-bore teenager.”

She exited the bathroom a few minutes later, only partially disrobed, to fetch something from her room. I turned back to my husband, “Really? She’s still not in the shower?”

“Full-bore teenager, I’m telling you.”

At that point, we started encouraging Hal, who was still in his underwear, that he really couldn’t delay as long as he had been. “But I need to go potty!”

And there’s where his life intersects with the teenager’s and he’s learned a few lessons of his own. We all walk on eggshells. If he enters, he’ll get yelled at. If he knocks and asks for permission, she’ll probably say no and he’ll likely still get yelled at. Better to hang out in his underwear and risk getting yelled at for not being ready. His 5 year old reasoning skills don’t extend to getting dressed while waiting to go potty.

Jane soon exited the bathroom and hurried into the kitchen. Already in the kitchen, her daddy, sounding surprised, asked, “You didn’t wash your hair?”


“Mommy told you to wash your hair.”


“She didn’t wash her hair!” he called out.

I hurried to the kitchen and chastised her, saying that I had told her to wash it. “You don’t have to act surprised. You could be honest instead and say, ‘I decided to blow Mommy off and not wash my hair’.”

“Ok,” she said, turning to me, her voice dripping with disdain, “Fine. I decided to blow you off and not wash my hair because I thought it’d be nice to get to fix my breakfast. I plan to wash it tonight. Ok?” After a moment of silence, she suddenly reacted angrily, “And how is saying ‘Oh’ dishonest?!”

We then entered a Clintonesque discussion about the meaning of the word “Oh”. I insisted her tone, along with typical usage of the word, indicated surprise and ignorance, implying she didn’t know that I had told her to wash her hair. She insisted that it just meant “Oh”. Oh. I had no idea. Oh, wait. My “oh” didn’t mean “I had no idea”. It just meant “Oh”. Whatever that means.

I long for her sunny side. I enjoy her Dr. Jekyll so much. She is excellent company and a wonderful daughter: funny, thoughtful, smart, beautiful, vibrant. But even though I’ve come to recognize many – but by no means, not all – of the triggers for her Mr. Hyde, I am woefully impotent at averting the transition. And even worse at responding appropriately once it happens.

And so I walk on eggshells. And try to take refuge in my husband’s humored outlook. And wait. And blog. And breathe.

Teenage Priorities… or… What I’d Rather Do Instead of Laundry

Jane is a very busy girl. It sometimes seems impossible for her to get everything done. This should be a great opportunity to learn about setting priorities. For some reason, however, I don’t think the teenage brain has yet developed enough to set reasonable priorities.

Take last night, for example. Jane had a tremendous amount of homework. I reminded her that there was also a lot of laundry waiting to be folded – laundry being her primary household chore. She also needed to clean up her mess on the dining room table from her murder diorama project.

“Ok,” she said. “I also plan to clean my room.”

“That’s a laudable goal since your room is a mess but I don’t think you have time for that tonight. You have a lot of homework, a lot of laundry, and the dining room table to clean. Those need to all be higher priorities for you.”

“I know.”

When I returned from my women’s group at church, the mess was still on the dining room table. The laundry was still waiting in baskets by the couch. And she was in her room.

I tried to open the door but she had shoved a dozen large blankets (previously used as a pallet during a sleepover) up against the door. She tried to wave me off. Instead of leaving, I poked my head in and said, “Don’t forget you’ve still got laundry and the dining room table.”

“Yes, I know. I’m almost done in here.”

“You really didn’t have time for this.”

“Are you saying that I didn’t need to clean my room?”

“Yes, it needed to be cleaned but not tonight. You had other chores you were told to do.”

“Ok. I’m almost done!”

At least half an hour later, I tried again. When I mentioned the laundry, she exclaimed, “Oh! I forgot about that!”

“Ok, so it’s twenty minutes past your bedtime and you said you planned to shower tonight. Daddy will not be happy with you if you don’t clean up your mess in the dining room. And there’s still the laundry.”

She finally went to bed after cleaning up her mess and taking a shower but without touching the laundry. The next morning, she walked into my room in her socked feet and said, “See! This is why I never clean my room. I can’t find my shoes!”

She never cleans her room, she says. I guess she means unless she has other, even less desirable chores to do. I wonder if she even noticed the irony of complaining indignantly about doing a chore she had been told not to do.

At Least She’s Not Texting

I heard the oddest sound coming out of Jane’s room this evening. It was like nothing I had ever heard from there before. I heard her talking. And laughing. And pausing while (presumably) someone else spoke. She was talking on the phone.

I was more than a little surprised. And pleased. This may sound very strange to the generations ahead of me. You spent your time yelling to your teenager to get off the phone. You probably followed the cord around a corner into some secluded area of the house so you could pantomime your desire for them to terminate the phone call.

I’ve been dying for my daughter to talk on the phone. All she does is text. Text. Text. Text. And more Text.

Hey. Are you mad at me?
No. I’m just always in a bad mood.
Why? Is it because of me?
No. I don’t know why. I just am.
So will you talk to me in the halls now?
I guess so.
Am I still one of your best guy friends?
Yes. I only have three.

“Why don’t you tell him you are at dinner and you’ll call him later?” I asked when this important “conversation” was taking place at the restaurant during her birthday dinner.

*eye roll* “Just… Never mind… It’s his mom’s phone anyway… He borrowed it.”

So tonight, when I heard her talking, I did a little happy dance. I paused outside her door to listen. My husband happened to be coming down the hall too so stopped. He reached to open the door.

I grabbed his arm and quietly motioned for him not to. He scrunched his face in confusion. She’s talking! Talking on the phone! Can you believe it?! I mouthed and gestured my excitement.

“Are you sure?” he whispered.

I nodded emphatically, my eyes twinkling with excitement.

“Are you sure it’s not FaceTime?” he asked.

I stopped. Surely not. I reached for the door and poked my head in. She was holding her just-purchased iPod Touch out in front of her. The friend appeared to be on speaker phone. Jane motioned me out of the room. Instead, I stepped in further until I spied the moving image of one of her best friends on the screen.

I sighed. And left the room. And nodded to my husband, who grinned a self-satisfied smile. Oh, well. It’s still better than texting.

Clothes Hunt

Jane was digging through the clean laundry basket. She sat down on the couch with an armful of clothes and asked, “Do you know where my black shorts are?”

On volleyball game days, she’s allowed to wear her team T-shirt to school instead of the required polo shirt, but only if she wears black shorts instead of khaki. She only has one pair.

“I assume you wore them last Thursday?”

“Yes. And Monday too.”

“Oh, well if you wore them Monday then they are either still dirty or in the dryer. They should have been in the load you washed last night.”

“They weren’t! I don’t know where they are!”

“Well you might have wanted to start looking before this morning. Put those clothes back in the basket one at a time to make sure you didn’t miss them.” I then walked into her room to perform the Mommy Search.

I noticed an awful lot of clothes piled up on her desk. Quite a few were the dresses we had bought in Denver. I guess they had finally migrated out of the suitcase but not yet made it to the closet. It was difficult to dig through the clothes since they were interspersed with a dozen magazines, some posterboard, pencils, markers, school papers, cups, even a few breakable objects – just to keep me on my toes.

I found a workout shirt and a school polo, but no black shorts. So I turned to her chest of drawers. The top drawer was hanging open with so much stuff spilling out that I doubted its ability to close. I checked it anyway and then pushed it closed enough to open the second drawer. This one was mostly empty which meant it was very easy to spot the black shorts folded inside. She entered the room about that time so I handed them to her.

“What?! I never put clothes in my drawers so why would I look there?!”

I shrugged and returned to my room, where my husband handed me a pair of Jane’s khaki capri pants with the tags still on them. “Does she need these?”

I didn’t even ask why they were in our room. I just headed back across the hall and asked her if she needed them. As soon as she nodded, I tossed them on her bed and began to leave.

“Wait! They don’t belong there!”

“I know. They belong on your desk.”

I got the look.

“No! I was going to tell you to hand them to me so I could fold them up and put them in my drawer.”

Right. And she wonders why we find her unpredictable.

When The Kids Are Away, The Parents Will Play

The kids are away from home this week and we are making the most of it. We had a great time at a wine tasting party last night. Today, we made plans for the movies.

Checking up on the kids while they are away has always felt like a chore. They sound very shy and not that interested in being on the phone. The conversations go something like this: “Hi, sweetheart!”…”Hi mommy.”…”Are you having fun?”…”Yes.”…”What have you been doing?”…”We went to the zoo.”…”That sounds like fun! What did you see?”…”Animals.”

This time, however, Jane has a cell phone. I decided to take a texting approach. The result was a lot more fun. Many of these messages passed each other, which means like many texting conversations, we were often answering each other out of order. I’ve included the timestamps and rearranged them a little bit so it will make more sense.


Later, I wanted to rub it in that I had been to the movies – a rare treat for me.


That last bit was a reference to a movie date we were supposed to have months ago. Thanks to the power of texting, I went from date to chauffeur with alarming speed. First she gained permission for a friend to accompany us. Then it grew to three or four girls and mom was no longer welcomed to tag along.

The next bit of the conversation saw me go down in auto-correct flames as I was trying to send the texts quickly in order to keep up with her.


I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with my daughter. It spread out across the day and was fun. Her possession of a cell phone is perhaps not all bad.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

It had been a long and intense evening of discussion. Mother, father, daughter all holed up in her room, while the boys waited in another part of the house and wondered if they were going to get to eat dinner.

We discussed her school schedule and our disagreements about it. We discussed priorities, desires, boys, grades, cell phones, behavior, attitude. She got angry, calmed down, cried, tried to distract herself by cleaning her room. Every once in awhile, the dog or the preschooler or the dog and the preschooler made an appearance. Daryl tried to remind us there were other people in the house. The discussion lasted nearly two hours and left us all drained. Drained, but not really at odds with each other. From the parental perspective, the talk had gone well. We had accomplished our objectives.

Per the new cell phone directives, she handed me her phone as she resumed her homework. I looked down at her wall paper and asked who it was.

“Channing Tatum,” she replied, smiling up at me like she dared me to say something. She had recently had a mild argument with her aunt over whether he qualified as “hot”.

After a brief pause for effect, I smiled back and nodded. “You’ve got pretty good taste.”

“I know,” she said. And then under her breath but with a smile, “Unlike you.”

“What did you say?”

“Well… my dad’s really not all that, ya know.”

“What are you talking about?! He is the hottest man on the planet!”

Laughing, she put her hands up in protest. “Okay, you can stop now.”

“No, really. Your dad is hot!”

“That’s enough!”

“You should have seen him in high school…”

“Really! You don’t need to do this!”

“…He was so tall with broad shoulders…” I gazed longingly at him in the other room as she interrupted.

“Enough! Please! I don’t need to hear this!”

I adopted my best imitation of her swooning teenager voice. “I’m telling you. He was a man among boys!”

“Okaaayyy!!” The embarrassed laughter and friendly banter seemed to break through the slightly reserved interaction we had had a few minutes prior. As she laughed and kicked around, the smiley face eraser fell off her pencil and onto the floor. Rose dove in after it.

“Rose! No! Don’t eat my smiley face! Mom! She just ate my eraser!”

Rose certainly appeared to have something in her mouth so I reached down to fish it out while Jane nearly fell over from laughing. That’s when I noticed the eraser tucked behind a chair leg. We laughed some more. It felt good.

I had been down in the dumps all day, dreading the conversation. It is more difficult to parent a preteen/teenager than I ever could have imagined. The previous night, her dad and I had discussed what we needed to talk to Jane about. I was distressed and anxious. I didn’t want to be a parent of a twelve year old anymore. I didn’t want to do the hard work. I didn’t want to take the abuse. I didn’t want to have the arguments that are inevitable when what the parents think is best conflicts with what the child wants.

Then we talked. And it was hard. But not as bad as I had feared. And then we laughed and teased and I was in love with my daughter again. There will be more rough times ahead; but as long as we can find something to laugh about afterwards, maybe it will all be ok.