Twelve

IMG_4534My baby turns 12 today.  I can’t quite believe it.  We had birthday cake for breakfast and she opened her presents before school.

I tried to cram all my feelings about her into her birthday card.  I told her how much I love her, how she means the world to me, how much my life has changed because of her, how she has made me a better person, how proud I am of the person she is and the young lady she is becoming.

No card is big enough to hold it all but I think she knows how much she’s loved.  And if during those moments when we’re not getting along she forgets a little bit, well, she can re-read the card.

She got a few books for her birthday.  I think she was happy about that.

IMG_4537
She’s growing up, but she’ll always be my baby.

IMG_4543

Goodbye, eleven.  Hello, twelve!

IMG_4547

Homework Hell, part 2

A new day, a new approach.

3:30 pm Tuesday

Me: Ok, better get started on your homework. I don’t want a repeat of last night.

L.: I’m starving. Can I have a snack first? And maybe watch some tv while I eat it?

Me: Snack, yes. TV, no. And if your homework’s not done by 8 pm, you’re not going to the Halloween Dance on Thursday.

L.: WHY? Why do you always have to take stuff away? That’s not fair!

Me: Would you prefer I give you something as a reward rather than take something away as a consequence?

L.: YES! Yes, I would!

Me: Fine. If you finish your homework by 8 pm, your reward is that you will be allowed to go to the Halloween Dance.

L.: But that’s the same thing! Have you been reading those parenting books again???

Me: Maybe! Now go do your homework!

L.: FINE! (storms off)

Homework Hell

The Scene:  Monday night, 9:30 pm, after nearly 4 hours of reminding, suggesting, encouraging, pleading, yelling, and demanding that my 7th grader finish her homework.

Me (yelling up the stairs):  L., are you finished with your homework yet?

L.:  WHAT????

Me:  Your homework.. is it done?

L.:  (garbled)  (something something something) done.

Me:  What?

L.:  I SAID (something something something) done.

Me:  WHAT?  I can’t hear you.  I’m coming up.

L.:  YOU DON’T HAVE TO COME UP!

I go up.  L. is on her bed, painting her nails.

Me:  Honey, it’s time for bed.

L.:  But I still have to do my math.

Me:  What??  I thought you said your homework was done.

L.:  No, I said I only have one more thing and then it’s done.

Me:  Well it sounded like you said it was done.  So if it’s not done, why are you painting your nails?

L.: Because I want them to match my neon green jeans I’m wearing tomorrow.

Me (steam coming out of my ears but trying to be patient):  Ok, but you should have done your homework first.

L.:  Mom, chill.  I’m just taking a break.  I only have math left.  Everything else is done.

Me:  Everything?  How many math problems do you have?  And did you study for your science test?

L.:  1 thru 33, but they’re easy.  And I don’t have to study.  I know everything.

Me.:  Everything, huh?

L.:  You know what I mean!

Me: Ok, your math.  Even if each problem takes only two minutes, we’re talking over an hour.  Get started!  You have to go to bed!

L.:  But I can’t get started!

Me:  Why not?

L.:  My nails are wet!

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

Kids and Cash

Got any money?

Got any money?

I do not want to raise spoiled brats.  I want my kids to understand the value of a buck.

But in the area in which we live, this is tricky.  Rampant consumerism is the norm.  My daughter’s best friend has a flat screen tv in his bedroom, a laptop, and is on his 3rd cell phone.  And he’s 12.  We have friends who vacation in Hawaii every summer, have annual passes to Disney,  and eat out 5 nights a week.  Moms bring their kids carmel macchiatos from Starbucks at lunchtime to the grade school.  7th graders get regular mani/pedis and $200 salon dye jobs.   And the competitive party throwing (each kid’s birthday party must be bigger, cooler, more interesting, and BETTER than the last) starts in preschool.

No matter what type of store we go into, my kids want something.  It could be the hardware store, the drugstore, or Kinkos/Fedex- it doesn’t matter.  If there’s something to buy, they want it.

My kids each have a bank account where they deposit Christmas and birthday money and any other money they get throughout the year from pet sitting, extra chores, etc.  They also get a monthly allowance that they deposit on the first of each month.  It isn’t much, but I want them to learn how to manage money, plus I get tired of being their personal ATM.

The problem comes when they want to spend money.  It’s always, “Buy this for me now and I will pay you back.”  I’ve stopped doing this because they forget, or I forget, or they think they’ve paid me back when they haven’t.

My daughter has been wanting this thing called a Zhu Zhu Pet.  It’s basically a battery-operated hamster.  Unfortunately they are sold out of it in our area.  You can get them online at a MUCH higher price, plus shipping.  My darling daughter wants me to whip out a credit card and pay the inflated price.  She will pay me back.  She thinks it’s perfectly ok to pay $23.98 for a toy that normally sells for about $3. at Walmart.  “It’s not that much, Mom, and I HAVE MY OWN MONEY.”  Why can’t she wait until the store gets another shipment?

We don’t have any set rules about how much money they can spend, how much money they can take out of the bank,  or what their allowance is actually for.  This is the problem, and I’m struggling to come up with the right solution.

I’ve read it’s not wise to tie a child’s allowance to chores, but I have heard myself say in moments of frustration, “If you don’t make your bed, I’m docking your allowance!” Shouldn’t the lesson be- “When you do a job, you get paid”?  Or should chores just be something you do because you’re a part of a family?  But if you don’t tie allowance into chores, the child can be a lazy piglet and do nothing around the house and still get his allowance, right?  Maybe another consequence is better, but I know that if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.  It seems like a natural consequence.

I want to instill fiscal responsibility.  I want my kids to be generous but also thrifty.  I want them to understand they should work for things, have patience, save up, pay their debts.  I want them to think before plunking down cash for things they don’t really need.  I want them to understand that Mom and Dad are not made of money.  In short, I need help.

So I have some questions for all the parents out there.

  1. Do you give your kids an allowance?  If so, how much? At what age did you start giving allowance?
  2. If you give an allowance, what do you expect in return?  Chores?  General respectfulness?
  3. Do you take away a portion of their allowance as a consequence for misbehavior?  For anything?
  4. What is your child’s allowance intended to cover?  Is it just ‘mad money’?  Can they spend it freely, without consulting you?
  5. Do you separate allowance money from other savings your child might have?

Thanks to any wise parents out there willing to help me think this through!

Sunday Salon

Well would you look at that..  it’s been a whole week since I’ve posted anything!  So sorry.

Reading:

Goldengrove-PB-199x300I was about halfway through A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents when I accidentally left it in my husband’s car, leaving me without an ‘in progress’ book.  Thankfully Goldengrove arrived that day.

Actually, Goldengrove TRIED to arrive twice before but the UPS man wouldn’t leave it without a signature.  That just burns my shorts.  Who can be home all day, waiting for books to arrive??  I wrote a note asking UPS to please leave it on the porch, or with a neighbor, so they finally did that on the 3rd day. My neighbor ran it over to me as I was leaving to pick up the kids at school, so I started it in the school parking lot and haven’t put it down since.  The writing is achingly beautiful, and I’m blown away by the author’s ability to paint such vivid mental images with her words.  I’ve inhabited the Goldengrove world entirely and I’m going to finish the book before going back to A Field Guide.. because I just can’t bear to put it aside.

The UPS man had another surprise for me this week.  Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving is a chunkster at 576 pages.  On the back cover it says, “In 1954..in Northern New Hampshire, an anxious 12 year old boy mistakes the local constable’s girlfriend for a bear.  Both the 12 year old and his father become fugitives…”  An unsolicited book of that size might have ended up on the bottom of my TBR pile, but I’m intrigued.. plus, well.. it’s John Irving.

imageDB-3.cgiMy book club meets today to discuss Lottery by Patricia Wood.  Lottery is about a mentally challenged young man who wins 12 million dollars in the Washington State Lottery.  Ms. Wood is working toward her doctorate in a disability and diversity program, and she is also the daughter of a lottery winner, making her uniquely qualified to tell this story!  She lives with her husband on a boat in Hawaii but will take time out of her busy ‘aloha’ schedule to chat with us this afternoon.

My kids have been reading quite a bit.  My youngest, the reluctant reader, found a book she likes.  Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell has captured her imagination.  It’s subtitle is “The Secret Diary of Nikki Maxwell” and it’s set up as the diary of a middle school girl.  It’s kind of the female version of the Wimpy ugliesKid books.  My daughter has to read 20 minutes per day and this book has her reading a little longer, even after the timer goes off.

My oldest is a reading machine.  Her latest obsession is the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.  She plowed through Uglies in a day and a half and begged me to get in the car and drive to the book store for Pretties, the next in the series.  There are four books in the Uglies trilogy (isn’t a trilogy, by definition, 3 things?  Did he get to three and just decide to keep going??)  She’ll probably have them all finished by the end of the week.  Any suggestions on what to feed the raging reading inferno that is my 11 year old?

Kids and Home:

1st day of 5th grade!

1st day of 5th grade!

My 5th grader went back to school on Tuesday.  On Wednesday she tried out for basketball, and on Thursday she found out she made the team!  Which is great, but also adds another layer of chaos to our already hectic lives.  She’ll practice twice a week and have games through mid November.  It’s a travel team with games as far as 30 miles away, mid-week.  I’ll have to use my magical powers to be in two places at once, or rely on other parents at times to drive one of my kids around.

My 7th grader, who has played the trumpet for the last two years, announced this week that she was switching instruments.  She wants to play the baritone.  Having never been in band, I wasn’t even sure what that is.. but I know now that it’s sort of a small tuba.

Her band director thinks that’s great and is totally encouraging the switch, but I’m a little unhappy about it.  Maybe because I’m the one who has been renting the stupid trumpet for two years and paying for lessons all summer!  On the plus side, the fingering is the same on both instruments, so she should pick up the baritone very quickly.  Plus, she can use a school-owned instrument in junior high and high school (if she sticks with it) because not that many kids go out for baritone, and bands need them, so the schools have plenty to lend out.  That means no more instrument rental fees for me.  I should be happy, right?

Football season has started so the hub has checked out of family interaction on weekends in favor of a perpetual tv trance.  He’ll be “watching” the kids today during book club.  Hopefully they won’t burn the house down.

I signed on to chair the Scholastic Book Fair at the junior high, which starts this Friday and runs for a week.  There are a ba-zillion details to attend to in advance of the fair, so if anyone wondered why I haven’t been around the blog-o-sphere much lately, that is why.  It’s a big job, but I love being a book pusher.

Thanks for stopping by Books on the Brain!  Leave me a comment and let me know what’s new with you.  What are you reading this week?

Fresh Meat for the Wolves

IMG_4105

Some of you may know that my daughter has been sick in the last week and I wasn’t sure if she’d start school today.  She’s going to junior high now, which of course is a VERY BIG DEAL.  I just wanted you to know that she has improved tremendously and was able to start 7th grade this morning with the rest of her classmates.

She was nervous and excited.  So was I, but for different reasons.  It felt a little bit like throwing her to the wolves- some of those junior high boys have actual facial hair!  And the makeup on the girls, whew!  Heavy eyeliner, boobs, hair, ugh!!  These kids are 11-13 years old (going on 16, apparently!).  My little girl looked very, very little.  I had to fight the impulse to just scoop her up and take her right back home.

She’ll be fine, right??

Sunday Salon

Weird weekend.  The Hub and my youngest are in Vegas at the Excalibur Hotel for my friend’s 40th birthday party.  My youngest called Friday night..  “Mom!  Mommy!  It’s 100 degrees, at night!  Mom, it was 110 in Baker!  Mom, Mom, I can see the pyramid from my room!  We are in a castle tower.  I’m like a princess, Mom!”  She has never been away from me like this, alone with her dad.  I thought she might miss me, ha ha.  She’s too excited to think about it.  I had to remind The Hub to make sure she wears sunscreen and to not forget that she gets hungry at regular intervals (he is the type of man who would go all day without eating unless someone was there, handing him a sandwich). 

My girls in Yosemite

My girls in Yosemite

My oldest has a serious virus so she and I are home.  The doctor isn’t sure what she has but suspects mono or West Nile Virus.  She could have picked up mono at camp in July.  She could have been bitten by a West Nile-carrying mosquito on our recent trip to Pennsylvania or Yosemite.   It can’t be something normal like a cold, oh no.  That would be too easy, and nothing is easy with this kid.  Not that it’s her fault, but sheesh.  

Through sheer force of will I am going to MAKE her well so that she can attend her first day of junior high on Monday.  She had such high hopes for her first day as a 7th grader- starting off on the right foot, making new friends, finding her way

Did a mosquito get her??

Did a mosquito get her??

around.  If she has mono she could miss a lot of the first two weeks of school and will have to sit out of PE for a couple of months.  There are worse fates in life than missing school and sitting out of PE, but she’s a kid and she’s worried the other kids will think she’s different (of course, we won’t tell them that she actually IS different.. that is our little secret.  Shhhh.)  Junior high is hard enough without being singled out socially. 

The doctor said if she has no fever, is eating, and feels better by Sunday, she could go to school Monday.  Her fever came down yesterday but I’ll have to see how she is today. She’s still sleeping and I am crossing my fingers.  She’s been sick since Tuesday and has eaten nothing more than one or two bites of food at a time all week- which is scary because she’s 11 years old and now weighs 69 pounds (5 lbs lost since Tuesday).  Her body fat is close to zero-she can’t lose any more weight.  Yesterday, even without the fever, she was shaky, pale, and weak.  But maybe after 10 hours of sleep we’ll see a big improvement. 

imagesSo last night, as my daughter sipped Gatorade and I sipped Chardonnay, we watched 17 Again with Zac Ephron and Matthew Perry.  That Zac, he is quite pretty.  A little gay looking, perhaps, but awfully cute.  The movie was ok- I think my girl liked it more than I did.  Even though this wasn’t the way we planned to spend the last weekend of summer, snuggling up and watching a movie together wasn’t too terrible.

Reading update- I am reading when I am not playing nursemaid and wiping things down with Clorox bleach wipes.  I’m about halfway through Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, and so far, so good!  After that I’ll be cracking open either Who By Fire by Diana Spechler or A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer.  And I have a big backlog of reviews to write.  I’ll list them here.. leave a comment to let me know which review you’d like to see first and I’ll try to get to it tonight. 

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

Lottery by Patricia Wood

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Thank you all so much for stopping by my blog.  It means a lot to me that you come by and read my silly thoughts.  Oh, OH!  And (excited!!!!!!!!!) I want to thank whoever was kind enough to nominate me for BBAW!  Books on the Brain got nominated in 4 categories and I’m super grateful and excited to be included!  THANK YOU! 

Have a great week!  And please think healthy thoughts for my incoming 7th grader!

The Period Blog

Like me, Sheri from the super-fabulous blog A Novel Menagerie has two preteen daughters.  Inspired by My Little Red Book, we recently chatted about periods: 

Lisa:  I got mine when I was 11, the summer before 6th grade.  How old were you? 

Sheri:  You know, since my brain fell out of my va-jay-jay after I had the twins, I can’t really recall.  I think I was 13, close to 14. 

Lisa:   So 8th or 9th grade, something like that?  Being a bit younger, I guess I was pretty stupid about things.  I know we saw a movie in 5th grade, but it was more about all the wonderful things you can do when you become a woman- you can go horseback riding!  You can ride a bike!  

I was at summer camp and didn’t connect the rusty streak in my undies to the movie at all.  I thought I was dying.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag (gross!)  My mom discovered what happened when she did my laundry after I came home, and she handed me a book called Growing Up and a box of pads.  There was no discussion, no Q & A, and lots of embarrassment.  What about you? 

Sheri:  In our school, we had the sex-ed classes, so I knew it was coming.  Also, most of my friends had theirs before me.. again, I knew it would arrive.  My mom gave me some mini-pads, told me a bit about them, and set me loose.  It wasn’t at all that big of a deal for me.  I think developing my breasts were a much bigger memory for me.  I really had some difficult cramping in high school and took a lot of Motrin during those years.  Did you know that I’m so old that Motrin was by prescription only back then?  Yes… yes it was! 

Lisa:  Breasts- that was a sad subject for me.  I was skinny and flat as a board.  I had nothing going on upstairs, which caused me great embarrassment in junior high. 

How are you preparing your own daughters for their first period? 

Sheri:  I am the world’s biggest embarrassment to the twins.  Whenever I talk about it, they say, “MOM!  We know! We know!”  They never want to talk about it.  They each have some panty-liners and are prepared to let me know when it happens. (Oh, and our school has had some really great classes over the past couple of years). 

Lisa:  Ours too.  My kids know how their bodies work from me, from the classes at school, and from books.  American Girl has a great book called “The Care and Keeping of You.”  It even has a diagram showing how to insert a tampon.  And I’ll be sharing My Little Red Book with them too.

We’ve discussed everything openly although my youngest would rather not talk about it.  The other day I took them to the drugstore and we purchased some “supplies” and cute little zip-up bags to carry them in so they can take them in their backpacks to school.  I want them to be secure in the knowledge that they will know what to do when the time comes.   

Sheri:  One of my twins does and the other doesn’t.  I guess we’re heading to the drug store before school starts.  Thanks for the head’s up! 

Lisa:  Your girls are a little bit older than mine.  Mine are 10 and 11, and as you know my 11 year old is really tiny.  She’ll probably be carrying pads around in her backpack for the next 3 years before she needs to use them.  Although she is very moody, and her skin is starting to break out a little, so you never know.. 

Sheri:  After her recent physical, the doctor told one of my girls that she will start very soon.  In my best estimation, the other one is probably 2-6 months behind her.  Seeing that they are both in women’s sizes now, have acne problems up the wazoo, have body odor issues, and greasy scalps… it’s just a matter of time.  It’s a challenge to get them to focus on their self-care and proper hygiene.  I actually asked the doctor to talk to them a bit about it.  She did and the twins seemed to take it more seriously coming from her than from me.  In fact, they were much better about the acne care after the doctor’s visit. 

Lisa:  That’s a good idea.  I should have the doctor talk with them about it.  It was almost funny last year, trying to get my 4th grader to start wearing deodorant, and her defensively asking, “Why?”  Um, honey?  I hate to say it, but.. you smell.  

Sheri:  Dude!  It’s bad enough with their hormones now… I can only imagine that cramps are going to turn my world upside down!  EEK!  What I’m really concerned about is having the 3 of us starting to all cycle together at the same time.  It will be total mayhem and grouchiness for 10 days straight.  And that’s like a third of the month!  OMG!  

Lisa:  I know, same here!!  My poor husband!  He is SO outnumbered. 

In My Little Red Book, there are essays about how families mark the occasion of ‘becoming a woman’.  Some celebrate with a special dinner, a cake, or a slap in the face.  One mom gave her daughter a dozen roses in a pretty vase, and the daughter kept the dried rose petals in the vase on her dresser for years- I really liked that idea.  I don’t have any family traditions but I think I may start one with my girls.  How do you plan to handle it with the twins? 

Sheri:  I hadn’t really thought about it until the book.  I think flowers is a lovely idea.  It is the beginning of an entirely new phase of their lives. 

Lisa:  Thanks, Sheri, for talking with me today!  This was fun. 

Sheri:  I appreciate you bringing up some great little reminders and tips.  And, you totally know that I’m going to secretly tell you/my other girlfriends when it happens!  It’s almost like a small rite of passage for us moms, too!  Don’t you think?  THANK YOU, for including me in your amazingly wonderful, always fun blog: BOOKS ON THE BRAIN! 

Lisa:  Oh, you are so sweet.  Believe me, I’ll be calling you too when things start flowing in my house!!  I will need to have someone to commiserate with.  It is a rite of passage, a beginning but also an ending too.  It kind of makes me sad that my babies are growing up so quickly.  Ok, I may start crying now.  Pass the tissues, the Motrin and the chocolate.  

And for a good laugh, watch this!

A Mom’s Guilty Secret: I Don’t Miss My Daughter

imagesIt’s confession time. 

My 11 year old daughter’s been at camp, 100 miles away, for nearly a week, and I DON’T MISS HER. 

Well, maybe I should rephrase that.  I miss HER.  But I don’t miss the drama she creates on a daily basis.  I don’t miss the way she fights with her sister.  I don’t miss the backtalk, the disrespect, the stomping and door slamming, the defiance.  It’s been downright peaceful around here since last Monday. 

And it’s been quite nice to spend a little one on one time with my 10 year old daughter.  We’ve been swimming, taking walks, reading together.  She’s happily showing me her magic tricks, with no one around to spoil the magic and say the trick is ‘stupid’.  I suspect she doesn’t miss her sister much either. 

When I’m trying to sleep at night, I worry about her.  I wish I could call to make sure she’s all right, but of course in this case, no news is good news.  But I still worry.  Is it chilly at night?  Does she have warm enough clothes?  Is she drinking enough water (last year she got dehydrated at camp)?  Wearing sunscreen and chapstick (last year her lips cracked and bled)?  Is she eating (she’s underweight and last year lost 5 lbs at camp)? 

And I can’t wait to see her in a few days.  I can’t wait to hear her stories, listen to all the songs she’s learned, hear about all her adventures.  I can’t wait to see her come off the bus, happy and smiling and missing me.  I hope she has a new appreciation for home and family, for clean clothes and warm beds and sleeping in, but most of all for the people who love her.  And I hope that appreciation lasts a little longer than the 20 minute ride home.

The Film

The paper came home with the fourth grade girls yesterday- the one that says they’ll soon be watching “the film”.

“Mom!  You have to sign this!  We’re going to see a film about growing up and I can’t watch it unless you sign!”  She is excited, of course.  

My 4th grader is immature physically and in every other way.  She watches Spongebob, reads Goosebumps, and believes in the toothfairy.  She is blissfully unaware of fallopian tubes and sperm and fertilized eggs.

On the one occasion I tried to discuss menstruation with her, she did not want to hear it.  She knows a little bit about it from an American Girl Book her sister has shared, but not in great detail.  She’s in denial (just like her mother) and would prefer not to know.

My little girl is 10 years and 4 months old.  Aunt Flo came to visit me for the first time at 11 years and 2 months, the summer after 5th grade.  I was at Girl Scout camp and truly thought I must be dying.  I knew nothing.  I hid my messy underwear in my duffle bag and didn’t tell anyone.  My mother made that lovely discovery when I got home from camp.  We never talked about it, but some ‘supplies’ magically found their way to my bathroom.  I remember she also handed me a book called Growing UP a couple days later, with lots of information about a woman’s cycle, and a single paragraph about intercourse.  I read that paragraph in horror and fascination, checking the dictionary for unfamiliar terms, and discussing it with a neighbor girl who was equally horrified and fascinated.  

I can’t keep my daughter from growing up, but I can spare her the fear and embarrassment of not knowing what is going on when the time comes.  I just didn’t think the time would come so soon.  She may not want to hear it, at least not from me, but she definitely wants to know what’s in this mysterious film that only the girls in her class get to watch (no boys allowed!).  And I’ll take her along to pick out the products she’ll need and answer all her questions.  

At least she won’t ever have to wear a sanitary belt.  Raise your hand if you don’t know what I’m talking about (go ahead, make me feel reeeeeeally old!).