Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Tip Jar


Listen up, Parents of Graduates. If you haven't yet hosted a party for your matriculating offspring, take 10 seconds and write something along the lines of this on an 8x10 sheet of white paper:

"TIP JAR! Please share some words of wisdom with the graduate." 

Place the instructions along with a few pens next to a sealable glass jar, preferably where the liquor flows during the graduation party, if you're into that kind of thing.

The day after her party, Kahley read her tips over coffee aloud while we all giggled along to the words of encouragement.
She was so smitten with the sage advice that she asked if we could decorate the jar so she can keep it in her dorm room and re-read the tips when she wants a little piece of home. A great mom would have already decorated the jar. But I'm a "just in time" kinda gal, so it's a miracle she got the darned thing at all. We plan on bedazzling it while watching The Bachelorette Monday night. She wants it to match the shades of aqua and coral she's decorating the rest of her dorm room in. 

Here, in no specific order, are her tips:

1. Always steal his shirt and make a quilt post college.

2. Don't be a dumbass.

3. Don't suck at life.  

4. Do things that will make your Mom proud. (thank you - whoever wrote that one)

5. Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear.

6. Enjoy. Take the time to enjoy yourself.

7. GO TO CLASS!

8. St. Louis beats Chicago. (from Grandpa. Isn't he hilarious?)

9. Always smile.

10. Regret nothing. It's a waste of time and energy.

11. Don't believe Senior Guys. THEY LIE!!!

12. Take a deep breath - take it all in. Enjoy, live and love every moment!

13. It's Lit.

14. Drink lots of water!!

15. study hard. party harder.

16. Remember - Madison does not salt their roads (God Forbid they kill the fish). Drive Safe!

17. Don't screw it up

18. Cs get degrees.

19. Don't eat the yellow snow.

20. Remember - future employers can access Facebook.

21. Hug the Keg.

22. Don't reach for the stars - you might burn your fingers.

23. For terrible hangovers - mix 1 Tbsp baking soda with a glass of water.

24. Don't do ANYTHING that I did!

25. Keep your legs together tight!

26. Remember when you're going out: Dress cute, because you never know when you'll do the walk of shame.

Put a Tip Jar out for your Grad. He or she will love it, and your party guests will have a blast sharing their wisdom. Especially after they've downed a few adult beverages. :)

XOXO,
Jen





Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Ride is Over

Just like that, my firstborn finished High School earlier this month.
For the past several years, we've been on the roller coaster ride that bursts out of the shoot only to whiplash you into the interminably long uphill climb. You know the one - where the cars jerk along jaggedly and you fearfully question the capability of the engineers who built the damn thing, only to remember that hundreds of people waited in line ahead of you to head up that bumpy ride, and hundreds wait behind you, anticipating the first drop with limb-numbing anxiety.

Getting through the teenage years is a lot like an unpredictable roller coaster ride. But what people don't often talk about is the joyride in the middle. After the first plunge to your death, when your teen does something really boneheaded and stupid, things kind of right themselves and sail along, at a very fast pace, sometimes smoothly like loop de loops, and sometimes herky jerky like sudden plunges 90 degrees either way, but our experience was fun, for the most part.

A few weeks ago, The Princess asked me if I'd cried yet. I looked at her, a little dumbfounded. "No. Am I supposed to?"

"Well, Taylor's mom cries every day."
Suddenly I felt like a shitty mom. If anything, I'm counting down the days until I'm at the cabin alone for five glorious days.

"No. Can't say I've cried."
"Well, you're really not that emotional."

She got me wondering. Is something wrong with me? Why haven't I cried at the fact that this little runt is leaving us forever this fall?
Maybe it's because we already practiced. She left us every summer for nine years and we all survived. I cried that first summer when the camp director called to tell me that yes, she was homesick, but only at night and she was fully engaged during the day. I cried when she came home after a few years of camp and I had to break the news to her that one of her counselors suddenly died. I cried when she struggled socially, trying so hard to create a social network of friends in middle school, but still felt left out. I cried when I told her Grandpa Ron died. I cried when her sexist teacher told her the only thing she'd ever use Physics for is to vacuum her carpet and mop her floor. I cried when she agonized over boys, not fully realizing or appreciating her remarkable and captivating self.

While I haven't cried when society says I should - out of the blue, on her last day of school, during the graduation ceremony, etc., I have cried along the way - and not just about the sad stuff. Happy tears flowed when she rode a "green" horse at a show this past season. I truly feared for her life, only to see her ride brilliantly and command that horse. She dismounted and I proudly displayed the ugly cry for all to see - snotty nose, raucous hiccups and all.

The day she texted me that UW Madison accepted her as a Direct Admit in their Business program - an honor reserved for a mere 150 students out of thousands who apply - I bawled so hard and so loud it immediately took me back to the day she was born. I cried so hard I could barely speak eighteen years ago, and the same happened that day when I received her text. But they were happy tears, reflecting on the climax of all the hard work over the years, for both her and us, culminating into one thrilling message.

I choose to live in the moment. I cannot tell you how many times over the past four years I stopped and the little voice in my head said, "Drink it up. Savor this. It's a fleeting moment, and it's a really, really good one. Memory-Bank the shit out of her right. this. minute."

And I did. To the parents before me who drove me batty with the cliches: "They grow so fast. In a blink of an eye, she'll be gone. You'll be so sad when it's over. Where does the time go?" I have some words for you.

On the one hand, I call bull. As I've waxed poetic before, you're not that special, and neither are your kids, because that Bitch Known as Mother Time doesn't care about anything but moving the sun around the earth and the second hand around the clock. Time doesn't discriminate, and it's the same for everyone everywhere. But despite your incessant prattling on about time passage, I owe you some thanks. Because of your unsolicited advice, I heeded the words you said, doing my best to truly live in every moment. As a result I have no regrets, and I'm not sad it's over. 

Instead, I'm excited. I cannot wait to see where our ride will take us over the next few years. I'm ready to let go. Dear Lord, PLEASE let me relinquish the controls! I'm ready to sit back and let her drive. Let her make the decisions. Let her mess up, and learn from it. Let her carve her way into the world.

My hard work is done. I'm not naïve - I know I'll get the freakout call this fall before a test that seems impossible, because of a mistake that seems irreparable, or by a flat out homesick girl that wants some of Mama's food, a good glass of red wine, and a cozy spot in front of the fire, all wrapped up in a blanket while we watch The Bachelor. 

Ok - maybe the latter will be just me. But until then, I'm going to stop sweating the fact that I'm not appropriately sad that she's moving on, and I'll just buy a ticket to the new ride.

XOXO,
Jen




Friday, May 6, 2016

Proud of a Quitter

For the past several months, it's been all about The Princess as she applied to colleges, anxiously awaited acceptance letters, prepares for prom and graduation and all of those senior "lasts." The last high school exam. The last day of school. The last morning car ride to PEHS with Brother Jake.

Some of her peers border on the downright ridiculous with the mantra, citing things back in August such as:  "OMG...it's like, the last first day of high school ever for us."

I gag on so many levels.

In all the first lasts and real lasts, it's easy for this guy to get lost in the shuffle.
I went to bed one night, woke up, and bumped into my baby in the hallway to realize he's now a man. A mini one in age and experience, but not in stature.

When I think of Jake, the word 'complex' comes to mind. He's laid back, but passionate. Easy going, but explodes like a firecracker when provoked. Usually kind, but quick with a sarcastic right hook.
I think I know him fairly well, despite the depths of his thoughts and width of his personality.

During parent teacher conferences earlier this Spring, his math teacher raved about him and how well respected he is by his peers. The English teacher confirmed his improvements in her class while sharing how engaging he is in the classroom. His APUSH teacher asked him probing questions about his future, what he does for fun, and what he wants his final two years of high school to look like. I learned at an early age to let my kids answer for themselves - to order their own food in restaurants, to answer the doctor's questions directly, and I just fill in the blanks when they look over at me wide-eyed. This strategy served us well over the years, and listening and watching him interact with his teachers provided me with a revelation.

I don't know my son at all.

He's witty, engaging, and the life of the classroom. At home, Jake is present when appropriate, but retreats often. Meaning, he comes and talks to me when he gets home from school every day, but is comfortable and happy alone in his room. In school he engages in every class discussion, offering insightful and relevant commentary. At home he certainly talks to us and shares his opinions, but he's so easygoing and others in my household can be rather (ahem) dominant, that when his teachers gushed back in March, I was a bit surprised.

After the first two conferences, I stopped dead in my tracks in the hallway and searched my boy's face for answers. "Who are you?" I asked. He slyly smirked and hugged me. He knows so much more than I give him credit for. He let me in - just a little bit - to the real him, and I'm astounded with the potential my son holds.

Mrs. Corcoran, his Chemistry teacher, was next. He warned me as we walked in the room: "Mom, this one loves me."
"OK," I acknowledged.
"No. I mean it. She really likes me a lot. You'll see."

They bantered. They lobbed witticisms back and forth, their Wimbledon match of sarcastic backhands and forehands each accumulating more topspin with every exchange, until Jake's passing shot finally put her away and ended the point.

They looked over to find me mouth agape, pupils enlarged, utterly astounded. We all busted out laughing. I didn't know if I should be appalled with my son's behavior, or admire his ability to shut his chemistry teacher down with an overhead smash. I opted for the latter.

"OH!" he exclaimed. "Mrs. Corcoran. Remember that time you asked us to reflect on first semester, and to write something positive?"

She narrowed her eyes at him, clearly peeved. "Yes, Jake," she hissed. "I remember perfectly. How could I forget?" Oh dear. She was miffed.

They giggled and snorted, and walked over to the whiteboard to show me.
 What a brat.
Anybody who knows my kids will say how remarkably different they are. Ever one to love, adore, and dote on an introvert, I have to confess that I'm thrilled Jake is just that. Their minds rest in the depths of their thoughts, and once you really, really get to know one, the interpersonal relationship is like none other.
He recently came to us declaring he no longer wanted to play hockey. At first we were astounded - mostly because we just assumed it would be his extracurricular activity of choice though high school and maybe even beyond. But we quickly realized that his maturity reaches far beyond his years. If he no longer loves a sport as he once did, and he is astute enough to realize that he won't play that sport for a career, then maybe there are other things he'd like to pursue. Things like getting involved in Student Council. How does an introvert join one of the more extroverted activities around? An enigma, that boy. Perhaps run for an officer position in DECA next year, and persuade more of his friends to join him. Secure a position in a local small business from 3:00-5:00 every day learning some applicable future skills. It doesn't matter. Just like when he decided he was done playing guitar, he found his next niche. He'll find another one after hockey.

The night of parent teacher conferences I drove him to hockey practice. Before he got out of the car, I told him I'm proud of him, for putting himself out there, engaging with teachers and peers, and for just kicking ass in school. I used to think my kids needed to get straight As, or nearly that, to be their best. But I was wrong. There are so many other important skills for them to learn in order to achieve their best self. And he gets it.

As he unloaded his gear from the back of the car, I stepped out with him, as I always did. I hugged him tightly and kissed the hollow of his neck, like I always do, because the parking lot was empty and nobody could see. I looked him in his eyes that night like I have a thousand times over, and I told him I love him.

"I love you too, Mom."

I watched him walk into the hockey rink, my heart busting wide open with love and adoration for that boy. I watched him through the glass doors, pausing before the digital sign to see what rink they were assigned. And I watched him walk away.

I put the car in drive, smiling to myself, overcome with emotion, and suddenly became the cliche.

It was the last time I'd ever drive my son to hockey practice. I pulled into a parking spot and bawled my eyes out, so proud of the man he's becoming, and grateful for the realization that a part of his life was coming to an end only for another door to open. I'm proud of my quitter because he's mature enough to realize when it's the end of the road for him with one endeavor, yet anxiously seeks other opportunities to pursue. With the absence of late night practices and multi-game weekends, we will now have so many more meaningful moments with him over the next two years while we suck every last bit of pleasure having him home with us. I hope he's ready to get spoiled rotten.

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there. And if you're a kid reading this? Don't worry about buying Mom a card or gift for Sunday. Share some nuggets with her instead. She'll fall in love with you all over again.

XOXO,
Jen