Launch

Kyle(8of53)I busy myself with tasks to avoid the inevitable–my son is leaving for college in less than an hour. I press down the knot of tears just waiting to spring up from my aching heart and will myself into composure.

“Not now. Don’t meltdown now.” I chant as my fight song.

I wade through heaps of clothes by my son’s door headed for Goodwill as he clears out his room. A wool beanie with a cheery pom catches my eye. The hat boasts “D1 Bound” across the side. Kyle was 15 when he bought the beanie in Las Vegas at a football tournament. He was full of nerve and pluck back then–bent on playing Division 1 football in college in spite of the odds.

I pick up the hat and hold it close, breathing in his boyish man smell. Oh no, not this one. This hat is going nowhere. This hat is a symbol of my kid’s tenacity. It might as well be his old bib or binky as tightly as I’m clutching it.

I carry the hat into my bedroom and find Kyle sprawled out on my bed cradling his baby sister in his arms and whispering affirmations softly to her. My heart drops. Oh Jesus, don’t let me forget this moment. He catches my eye and my heart splinters all the more. How is my son such a beast on the turf and yet so tender with the people he loves?

Last night at dinner, Kyle stopped me mid-whirl as I doled out seconds and thirds of steak and potatoes–his favorite meal–and he held me.

Tight.

He forced me to just be with him. And in the stillness of the hug I broke and wept.  My son beamed a wide grin that lit up the room, because if he knows only one thing from his mama, he is loved. My tears confirm this simple truth.

Honestly, I cry all the time in this phase of life.

Babies were incredibly hard, but letting go of those babies is a whole different kind of torture. It’s searing and disruptive. It chases you down at Trader Joe’s when you reach for the kids favorite food and then stop yourself mid-reach.

Because they don’t need it anymore.

Because they will have their own shopping cart now. Because in the blink of an eye they grew up.

And you stand in Trader Joe’s dying a small death and clutch at your chest as tears prick at your eyes, stab at your heart and drip, drip, drip on the floor. And people look at you weird.

And you are like, “shut up, my son is leaving for college tomorrow and I’m losing my spit right here next to the jasmine rice.”

This journey of goodbye for us is a little harsher than most.  It’s more like the military mom. Most kids return for breaks and summer when they go off to college. But with football it’s different. It’s a job. My kid receives only a few weeks off a year and this next season playing for the WolfPack will stretch out for for six long months with no breaks.

That’s a long time in a a mama’s world.

I try to remind myself that his leaving is a blessing! He got a full ride and saved me a fortune. I am so proud of his hard work. I will see my boy on ABC and ESPN. And then I look at the bratwurst he loves and fall to pieces again.

I know my son will return different. Living on his own in an apartment, paying bills and juggling football and college–it will grow him up. He will be forced to discover new discipline and self-reliability. And while I celebrate this transformation and launch, I grieve the treasured years that will never return.  

I think about playing Winnie the Pooh tea-party with my golden haired toddler and using our best British voices to learn manners. I recall his chubby little arms wrapped around me when he scraped his knees (which he did all the time and it’s why his nickname is Boo.) I think of the endless books we read together, his non-stop mischief and energy, the never-ending stinky football pads, practices and games, all the road trips and vacations, skiing along side his snowboard racing down the mountain, and his constant non-stop smile. Kyle is an easygoing, affectionate, unusually bright and determined kid. He is a natural born leader and a lover of people. Not only do I adore my son and revel in the young man God created him to be, I like him as a person. He’s just cool. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with him?

Why do I do this to myself? Can I go to college too?

Finally it’s go time. We carry his bags down to the his truck with the monster Nevada sticker on it and load his life in it one bag at a time. We take pictures and selfies. We hug. We pray as a family and we cry torrents and torrents of tears.

But although Kyle is sad to say goodbye, there is excitement simmering under the surface knowing this new adventure is upon him and it’s exhilarating and terrifying and awesome. I sense his restlessness to hit the road and readiness to move on. And so I finish my last mama duty for this incredibly rewarding season of growing up my boy. I give him him a tight squeeze and then…

…I let go. 

 

How to be an Obnoxious Parent

I wrote this post five years ago and it feels like it needs to be updated.  Because maybe you don’t know how awesome my kids are now in 2015?

Random person-“Wow, your baby is really smart (pretty, adorable…amazing)!”

Me-“I know, right?”

Am I really that obnoxious parent who unashamedly brags on her kids?

Yep. I am. I can’t stop myself. I hear the words slipping out and I want to grab them back, whip out my lasso and coral them in, but it’s too late. Once again, I have over-shared regarding my kid’s total awesomeness.

(2010) Have I told you about Kyle?  We call him six-pack in training, our movie-star handsome, 4.0 GPA, nationally ranked football player, stud pitcher, kindergarten volunteering, gentle, loving, Godly, ridiculously humorous almost thirteen year old son?

lu7a0170Five years later…

(2015) Kyle is a 17 yr old senior in high school at J Serra.  He still loves football–although he is now a linebacker, fullback and tight end, instead of a center. He is in the process of getting recruited for college ball–more on that to come soon. He is a captain of his football team, still movie-star handsome, a good student, not playing baseball now and thinking of playing a little lacrosse in the spring?  He has no girlfriend (heck yeah!), is still soooo funny, even-tempered, hard-working, and is a county music, Jesus loving boy.  He’s building houses in Peru next spring, driving our old gas guzzling Ford truck around, and enjoying every minute of his friends and youth. Strangely enough, he is now violently allergic to his favorite food–sushi?  Suckaroo!  Kyle loves the beach, working out and snowboarding. If he’s not at football practice he is usually hanging out somewhere with Brad and Kelly.

(2010) What about my little beauty Faith? Let me tell you about my sweetheart girl who dances like a fairy, cheers like a maniac, is smart, fun-loving, a talented actress(recently starred in Peter Pan as the Indian Grizzly Bear), is a great big-sis, and leads worship with gusto? Did I mention she is shooting a spec commercial for the Vizio tablet this weekend?

(2015)  Faith is a freshman at J Serra and joins the Lions with her brother.  She is a JV cheerleader and is on the yearbook staff.  She is artistic, fashion-minded and dedicated.  She works hard in the classroom and wants to pursue photography as a career. Faith loves Campus Ministry–mainly because the worship director is “so beautiful mom,” which I totally get, because I think pastor’s are hot too!  Faith’s personality is mostly sunshine with a few storm clouds thrown in for good measure.  She is extroverted to the extreme and so beautiful, inside and out.

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(2010) How about the Kolbster?  Baby Kolby is so freaking cute! She is months beyond her year, crazy clever, reads letters, knows every animal sound (including “hop” for bunny because I don’t know what the heck the bunny says), has killer hair, and talks incessantly about her big brother.

I just love Duck Chili mommy!

(2015)  Yep, Kolby still has killer hair.  I think we are all a little jealous.  Kolby is in kindergarten now–a real big girl–and the joy of our lives. She is clever and silly and smart as a whip.  Kolby plays soccer, does ballet and cheerleading, and is a part of a Daisy Troop.  She still loves her bro Kyle but talks about other boys now too (gasp!) On any given afternoon she rolls with the Claymont Street girls gang of blond beauties. She loves to color, play with Shopkins, read books with mama and play Barbies.  Kisses from Kolby are magical and her snuggles have true healing power.
KolbyK_selects_017I know. I know. Someone stop me from bragging. I have diarrhea of the pompous mouth when it comes to my munchkins. But, I’m guessing most parents feel thisway. They love their kids so, so, so much, they simply can’t help themselves.

But in my defense, even God brags on his boy a bit. “Have you seen my son Job?” he tells Lucifer. “He’s a total stud, blameless, upright and courageous.” (Slightly modified by Sam from Job 1:8)

Sounds like some swagger wagon to me…

So maybe my crazy love for my kids is annoying, boastful, and even bombastic.

But maybe it’s also… sort of a God thing.

Why Dodge Ball Matters

dodgeball-blog-jpg_180529_zps6e2f5270A ball whizzed by my nose. I squealed and jumped out of the way protecting the tiny infant in my arms from the rocking Dodge ball game on my neighbor’s lawn.

Holding my neighbor’s baby in the middle of a pint sized ball war wasn’t safe but it sure was fun.

As both our families fought to gain control of the ball and escape the pounding of hard rubber, my daughter Faith mentions how much fun it is to play the “real” game instead of the watered down version she was forced to play in school.

“What game did you play in Jr. High instead of Dodge ball?” my neighbor and good friend asks.

“Evasion ball.” Faith replied.

(My friend and I subtly give each other the WTF look…)

What’s Evasion Ball?

“It’s like Dodge ball but no one gets out.  Once you get hit you become a goalie.”

We look at each other in disbelief.

Let’s get this straight.

No one gets out.  No one faces the wrath of the ball or the pain of getting picked last.  Everyone wins and no one loses.

Now I certainly don’t like adversity or suffering, no one does at the time, but there are certain rites of passage that help us move into maturity and grow up.  Mastering the rules of the playground and how to survive helps a child navigate the ups and downs of life.

Who doesn’t remember the thump of the red ball on the face?

Why, why, why are we teaching our kids to “evade” reality?

kwdEe4TBy taking away the trials and avoiding the struggles we are raising a generation of kids unprepared for the harsh realities of the world.  When we remove loss and pain and disappointment from our children’s lives we also remove the ability to cope with loss and pain and disappointment.  And when those painful emotions inevitably hit, our kids (overwhelmed and unequipped) turn to drugs and sex and unhealthy self-soothing methods because they can’t process losing and sadness.

As a mom with a senior in high school. One of the recurring themes I hear over and over from colleges is that kids today are not “emotionally prepared” to handle life on their own. 

Well-meaning mama’s, you are not doing your kids any favor by doing all their laundry, dishes and chores.  Stop paying for their speeding tickets, stop doing their homework, and stop rescuing them when they get in trouble.

Be with them when they get their hearts broken.  Don’t call the parent and do an intervention.  Take them to a movie and buy them an ice-cream cone and help them process not avoid the pain.

Ground them when they come in late.  Have the balls to say “no” occasionally.  Also, have the balls to say “yes” even more than “no” and let them screw things up.  It’s far better to let them make a few mistakes under your roof than get hauled off to jail later.

I hear the martyr mom’s brag about their devotion and how spoiled their kids are—as if the mama’s who actually train their kid’s to function as future adults don’t love their kids as much as they do.  I say baloney!

Have we forgotten the goal is to LAUNCH these kids—not enable them to live on our income or sofa?

So I am raising the gauntlet…

Let’s teach our kids how to rebound and get back up after they get smacked by a ball.  Let’s let them suffer a little. (I am not advocating child abuse here, just natural consequences)

Let’s make our kids work for the trophy and for grades and even for relationships. Nothing good ever bloomed from apathy.

A long long time ago in grade school, I got punched by a bully, who then ran away and hid after I smacked him back. It was both traumatic and empowering. Was I scared? Heck yeah!  I cried as I fought back, but, he never messed me with again. Maybe he even respected me?  Gasp!  Thirty-five years later we are friends on Facebook.  That’s the dance of life.  It’s about confrontation and resolution, not evasion.

Sometimes getting whacked by the ball stings.  It hurts our pride and makes us cry.  But finding the courage to get back in the game and play says far more about our kid’s character than avoiding the game altogether.

I think Dodge Ball matters.  Bamm.

—Samantha

The Bucket List

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The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity – Dorothy Parker

Twice a week, for the entire summer, my girls and I drove to the meca of cheer land–OC All Stars–for Faith’s J Serra JV high school practice.

And twice a week, for an hour and a half, little Kolby and I tried to kill time.  We hit up all the chick magnets within the near vicinity–Target, Old Navy, more Target–and then ran out of money.  Eventually we found ourselves back in the giant gymnasium, bored out of our gourd, with no air, forced to listen to a repeating cacophony of Demi Levato, while breathing in the stench of a thousand sweaty girls.

One day, during the endless cheer torture, I had an idea.  I asked Kolby if she wanted to go on a little date with me to Starbucks and write a bucket list of fun things to do over the summer.

“Does Starbucks have air-conditioning mama?” she inquired.

“Yep and chocolate milk.”

“Let’s go!” Kolby proclaimed.

Once we arrived, we ordered drinks and found some barstools.  I pulled out the notes feature on my phone and we got down to business.  I explained the premise of a bucket list and how it worked.  I also explained how sometimes people make these when they are sick or dying, but ours was a list for savoring the goodness of summer.

And, oh by the way, my very last summer with my son at home before he starts college and Kolby starting kinder…tear, sob, hiccup, deep sigh.

Kolby’s and Mommy’s Bucket List 2015

Play in Sprinklers

Water Balloon Fight

Farmers Market

Bubbles, bubbles, and bubbles

Watch Outdoor Movie

IMG_2291Beach

Duffy Boat ride

Flying Kites

Merry go round

Fishing

American Girl Store

Ladera Ranch Bucket Park

Pool and more pool

Ballet Lessons

Aquarium

Sleep in a Hotel

Climbing Trees

Camping

IMG_2154Guitar Lessons

Paddle Boarding

Movie-Inside Out

Vacation Bible School

Mini-Cheer Camp

Mani/Pedi’s

Go to a Play

Make Cookies

Roller Skate

Bowling

Get Ice Cream

Scavenger Hunt

Lemonade Stand

IMG_2295Hang out in a Bookstore

Mother Daughter photo shoot

Go to Jewel Mountain with Daddy (ask Siri for directions)

Finger Paint

Make Mud Pies

Pick Berries

River Rafting

………………….

3 months later

Here’s what I learned after checking off the items one by one.  We completed all but 4!

1. It’s not really about the list–the bucket list is simply an excuse to be together in companionship and relationship. 

 2. The little  things were just as fun as the big-ticket items.  The lemonade stand was a comical riot!  Girls vs boys with the boys terrorizing the girls via go-carts and trying to derail their business.  Girls still won!  Yee haw!

3. Setting intentional time aside to have fun speaks my kids love language.  It shows I am willing to invest all of me in her interests.

4. One on one time matters!  Ironically, the best part of the bucket list was simply making the bucket list week after week at Starbucks.  The twice-weekly date with the most adorable girl in Starbucks was a kick.  Every second basking in her goldilocks and giggles with a grande Americano in hand is a treat for this mama.  Normally she competes for my attention with two other siblings and a daddy.  This time I was all hers.

5.Savor Every Minute!  I have become so wistful and nostalgic as I prepare to release my son into adulthood.  It’s made me deeply appreciate the last days of little with my youngest child, the long days of teenager with my middle daughter and every sacred minute with my boy-man before he launches off to grown-up land.  I can’t stop the clock but I can sure make the most of my days.

Do you need to make a bucket list with someone special?

 And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln

A Dad’s Best Investment

KolbyK_selects_007

About a year ago my husband Tim came home from a soccer meeting bubbling over with plans to join an Adventure Princess tribe with our youngest daughter Kolby.

(FYI…Adventure Princess used to be known as Indian Princess, but apparently “Indian” is politically incorrect now)

All I know is that it’s a daddy daughter group that includes games, monthly meetings, harbor cruises, camping and money invested in the process of all these grand adventures.

I confess I was INITIALLY excited for them, until I saw the schedule of trips and the fees—then a part of me felt slightly resistant and maybe a little jealous.

Where’s my eight trips a year?  Can I spend the same amount of money bonding with our other kids?  Faith and I like to shop—just saying.

So my husband embarks on this new endeavor with Kolby and they join the “Wolfpack” circle.  The first meeting they return home with purple sweatshirts and patches, crafts and fringed vests.  Kolby acquires the ability to howl and Tim seems to truly enjoy time with the other wolf dudes.

Kolby is now known as “Sparkling Unicorn Princess” and Tim is “SOARING FALCON.”

They camp, they bond and I take it all in—mildly skeptical.

It doesn’t help that a friend tells me some gossipy things about the Ladera dads and their excuse to get away and party after the kids go to sleep.  In general, I try not to listen to second-hand-info, but because it’s a group I’m NOT invited to, the juicy tidbits create a little more distrust in my spirit.

I grill my husband when he returns from his first trip but he assures me all is well.

Hmmmmm…

Unfortunately, halfway through the year my husband has emergency spine surgery and the Wolfpack activity is put on hold until daddy recovers.

And now it’s June, and the last meeting of the year. But Tim is out of town on a football trip with my son Kyle, so the pack leader suggests I bring little Kolby to the meeting.

Come again?

The Wolf Dudes want me to bring my five-year-old girl to a pool party meeting with men?

Now I’m really feeling VERY AWKWARD but my baby girl wants to go so I acquiesce.  I bring Faith with me as backup and a good book.  I wear a modest bathing suit and put on my pastor’s wife game face–the “no funny business” one.

I show up at the pool leery.  I have visions of Animal House with the little girls in a corner doings crafts while the dad’s deal cards.

But to my surprise, the first thing I see is a big jolly guy with a huge smile in a neon orange shirt schlepping water toys down to the pool with two adorable little girls.

He introduces himself as the leader and invites me to join them.  This man is like Santa—he’s so good-natured and affable.  The girls run shrieking for the pool and the leader guy jumps in and plays water games with ten little girls attached to him for the next hour.  The other dads stand around quietly talking and catching up.

There is no alcohol.  No crazy stuff.  No strippers.  Just pizza and maybe a little too much sugar with the brownies, juice and otter pops—but that’s the extent of the shenanigans.

After the pool games wrap up, the men and girls gather in a circle and each child introduces herself and her dad and they share a small story.  It’s hard for some kids, but the dad’s encourage and guide them.  I help Kolby and although she is the youngest in the group she is brave and speaks up in a small sweet voice.

Then the girls run off and play—jacked up on sugar—and the dad’s talk “ADULT BUSINESS.”

“OK.  Now it’s coming, I think.  I tense up.  This is the juicy stuff my neighbor warned me of.

Except what happens next is the dad’s get serious about planning the next camping trip.  They talk food and grills and the architecture of sailboats and sandcastles.

And I am left in my seat for a very long hour—both humbled and ashamed—as I watch these kind good men take the time to invest in their daughters and create lasting memories.  

Yes-these man boys are a little competitive and some of the wild stories of paddle board races and stormy nights scare me because of my over-protective mama bear tendencies—but I also know that a little rough and tumble adventure with a dad is what every little girl needs to feel loved and cherished and empowered to believe she can make it in the world all on her own.

I sit in my seat and pray—and ask God to forgive me for judging that which I have no understanding of.  I confess how easy it is to listen to the “bad things” instead of “believing the best” about people.  And a tear runs down my face as I think about my husband and his desire to father and love our children to the best of his ability.

Boy, I can be a real schmuck sometimes—God help me!

Kolby and I Face Timed Daddy that evening night and told him about the meeting.  I apologized for my doubts.  Of coarse, my sweet husband forgave me and I could see his relief that I was now a supporter instead of a skeptic.

Ok, so I was wrong.  (BIG GULP)

The Wolfpack rocks.  And today my husband is camping with our little girl while I write this.  On the sand, with a hurt back–probably dirty and cold.  And those two monkeys are probably loving every minute of it.

As Father’s Day approaches, and I desperately miss my own dad in heaven now, I think about how important the love of a father is.

I think about my own distrust towards men and how is husband is changing my heart AND MY DAUGHTERS one deposit of love at a time.

And I am grateful.

–Samantha

What could you do to create lasting memories with your child?

How to Get Your Teen To Do Hard Stuff

Christmas 2014 10

This might sound a little unconventional–but hear me out.

After three years of begging and pleading and threatening–we have finally found the key to behavior modification with our kid.

Five bucks a day.

Yep, five bucks a day–that’s what it takes to change a habit in my teenage son.

Every day he does the thing I want him to do–which is stretch his hips–and I reward him.

So why the money?

Because, quite frankly, NOTHING else was working.

My son, as many of you know, is an elite athlete.  And don’t get me wrong, Kyle is fast, but he could be even faster.  Even a tiny gain (2/10 of a second) can mean a big deal in football.  Speed equals explosiveness and open hips give him the the ability to change directions fast.  As a linebacker it’s crucial.

It also means less injuries, because a flexible person is bendy and when they get hit hard–they bend.

But Kyle could not, would not be forced into doing anything.  This is what they call a TEENAGER.  And it’s so fun as a parent trying to work with a belligerent donkey.

We were stumped…

A few weeks ago, my husband heard the author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, at a church conference talking about the formation of new habits.  He came home with the book and the information excited to try it out.

So we gamely played along and let Kyle be our first case study in the Keller home.

According to Duhigg, the key to habit change is to:

1. Make it easy to do the thing (for example, set out the yoga mat for him to stretch the night before)

2. Have an instant positive reward ($5 deposit into his high school checking)

Truthfully, Tim and I were doubtful.  Kyle already burns the midnight oil and trains relentlessly along with studying into the wee hours of the night.  It was just “one more thing” we were harping on him to do.  He already stretches every day and now we were asking him to do more.

Kyle, like all of us, wants to have good habits.  His intent is good but he just needed a kick in the pants and a reason that didn’t suck to go above and beyond the ordinary.

I’m here to give the praise of Mr. Duhigg, because his system worked.

Every day our kid gets up 15 minutes early and stretches.  And every day I deposit the money in his bank account.

For all those parents thinking I don’t have an extra $150 to give my kid a month, the reward doesn’t have to be financial.  It just has to be something small and easy to give immediately.

For my five year old it could be reading her favorite book for the hundredth time for five minutes or playing Barbies.

But for us and with this kid, the money made sense. Now that our son can drive, we probably spend that amount on him anyway because he’s always asking for money for gas or to hit Starbucks and Chick-Filet.

According to Duhigg, the best habit changers in the study group were were runners who allowed themselves a small piece of chocolate after each run.  It was an immediate and tangible reward. And for those people who love chocolate…very effective!

The people who wanted to gain a running habit laid out their running shoes the night before and rewarded themselves immediately after.

And presto…new habit formed.

I for one, can’t wait to see all the things we can accomplish with our kids as we put this system to work.

And honestly, I also can’t wait to see all the things I accomplish, because sometimes, I need a kick in the pants too!

(And a little glass of a good Cabernet or a tasty chocolate sounds like a lovely reward to me)

–Samantha

Driving Lessons

car keys

As school budgets shrink and vital programs get axed, I believe we have lost something CRUCIAL to humanity—DRIVERS ED.  Clearly the brilliant superintendant that made this monetary cut had GROWN children.

Parents have now been tasked with a horrifying job—teaching their child to drive.  Sure, if you have an extra thousand dollars or two, you can hire Master Drive to sit next to your kid and freak out—but for the rest of us peasants, we are the sacrificial lambs handing over our keys with fear and trembling.

As my oldest approached sixteen, I closely watched other parents turn co-pilot.  And people I’m here to tell you…it’s not pretty!

I see their faces rolling up at the school drop off—cocky teens and terrified women with mottled red cheeks instructing/shrieking at their freshly permitted kid behind the wheel.  Behind the teen’s back, the moms grumble the charge befallen them and dad suddenly recalls his schedule is slammed for the next six months—or at least until the child is a licensed driver.

So what’s a scared stiff parent to do when their teen get’s a driving permit?

It’s seems we have a choice—view it as an “ordeal” or as an assignment.  Maybe driving can be a rite of passage for both child and parent?

I know I wanted something radically different—a FUN memory—not a “have to” but a “want to.”  I can honestly say I was scared—scared for my car and my personal safety but I was willing to figure it out because I love my kid.

Here’s a snapshot of my journey teaching Kyle to drive.

–Summer 2014

Even before the informal driving education begins I want to know what I’m dealing with.  So, I take Kyle out to an empty high-school parking lot at night.

(And truthfully I mumble many foul words under my breath)

Kyle runs over curbs and goes from zero to forty in 2 seconds flat.  I’m petrified and Kolby screams.

But after a few days, I agree (reluctantly) to try again and he surprises me and catches on pretty quick.  After a few basic lessons, I’m about ready to let him loose on a real road.  Whew!

Getting the Permit

Kyle takes an exhaustive online driving course.  In fact, it takes so long he can’t seem to finish it between school and year-round football training.  It’s an 80 hour class and by his sixteenth birthday he’s only 2/3rd complete.  Then his friend tells him about an app that takes about 2 hours.  In one evening he has passed and is ready for the exam at the DMV.

Lesson Learned—the long class taught Kyle valuable driving knowledge but ultimately wasn’t the best option for my kid with his busy schedule.

–September 2014

My now rather cocky 16 year-old and his dad head to the DMV after booking an online appointment.  The CA DMV is so slammed it took a MONTH to get in.  YOUZA!  We have to pull Kyle out of Mass to go(he goes to a Catholic school).  I feel a little guilty about this, but since we aren’t Catholic it doesn’t last too long.

Sadly, after waiting in the line from hell (with an appointment no less), he misses the cut-off by 1 point.  His dad drives him back to school and he calls me with a gloomy voice.

And I choke back the words, “I told you it was a tricky test” but the laughter in my voice belies my true feelings.  Kyle’s little sisters are not so nice.  They mock him outright.

So…we have to repeat the whole process two weeks later.

This time, thanks to another app his friend tells us about that quizzes him on his iPhone, he PASSES!

I now have a permitted child!

Oct 2014

Kyle wants to drive everywhere.  To school, to church, to run errands he never wanted to go on before. It’s mildly annoying at first, and then I realize I need to take advantage of this situation for as long as I can.  I now have a sober and dedicated driver.

(Woot woot!)

It makes Friday nights at Ruby’s after a football game highly amusing!  I can have a glass of wine (or two) and not worry about checkpoints and DUI’s.

But more importantly, the more Kyle practices the less stressed I actually him.  Kyle is an easy kid.  He actually listens and self-corrects.  I learn to “quietly” coach and let him do his thing.  We make a good team together and my son is becoming an excellent driver.

By November we are ready for the freeway.  We start by driving one exit and we survive.  Then we move on a little further.  One day we drive all the way to South Coast Plaza—about 30 minutes from Ladera.  Kyle is tense but elated to drive the whole family.  We arrive in one piece and  I’m so proud of him I buy him a big frothy Starbucks Frapachino which he promptly tries to drink with one hand on the wheel while driving back on the freeway.  I quickly nix that idea.  We are not yet ready for one handed stunt-driver maneuvers.

Danger, Danger!

One very late night, after a football game and post-game celebration, I follow my husband and son home.  Kyle is driving my car and I follow in Tim’s Expedition.  As we pull up to a light on a deserted road Kyle cautiously turns right.  Out of the corner of my eye I see lights whip up behind me, the speeding car cuts me off and then swerves around Kyle.  Technically, Kyle is in the wrong because he switched lanes on the turn but only because he thought no one was behind him (other than me).  The guy going 80 lays on the horn and scares the hell out of my kid.  I watch helplessly behind.

Lesson learned!  Kyle, stay in your lane and watch your back.  Lesson for Mama—I can’t control other drivers.  So, I pray more!

Favorite Part of this Driving Deal:

Initially, neither Tim nor Kyle’s dad want to drive with him.  (No judgment here) So, it’s just the two of us learning to do this.  Kyle is learning how to grow up and I am learning how to let go.  It’s a beautiful dance of give and take and secret tears (mine) and occasional annoyance (his).  But together we figure it out.

I begin to treasure our time driving.  In fact, sometimes I am so happy I try not to weep.  Kyle has to pay full attention to the road.  He can’t text or call friends.  It’s just the radio and mom.  I revel in the special time knowing how fleeting this moment is.

My days of being his chauffeur are over.

And I will be BOTH ecstatic and heartbroken. 

Where has the time gone?  How can this boy who gave me one of the greatest gifts of all—motherhood—be so grown up?

This boy—my blue-eyed, golden curled toddler who vaulted like a monkey out of his crib at 18 months will pull out of the driveway and wave goodbye.

This young man—a determined leader, a fiercely devoted son and friend, a great athlete and lover of God and family will get his license in 10 weeks—hopefully on the first try—and I will be miserably overjoyed for him.

(Tear, hiccup, another tear…)

Biggest takeaway:

Don’t pay someone else to teach your child to drive (unless you are a suck driver).  Although I was truly frightened, it’s an experience I will stuff in my memory box of priceless treasures.

Here is what I (also) recommend:

  1. Create a safe environment for your kid to learn
  2. Surrender Control
  3. Believe in Your Kid
  4. Enjoy the Drive
  5. And Launch!

Good Luck!

–Samantha

Why Mom’s Can’t Get Sick

Christmas 2014 13

“Are you sick?” my friend inquires.

“Yes,” I squeak out through strained vocal chords.

She gives me the look—hands on hip, waving a spatula with a baby on her hip and toddlers whizzing by her feet. “Mom’s aren’t allowed to get sick. You know that right?”

I weakly smile back and nod, gather my wads of snotty Kleenex and sneeze seven times in a row as she boots my coughing, snurfling self out the door so she doesn’t catch my bug.

I get it. I get it.  I am a mother of three with a husband and a dog.

My life verse is “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you shall reap if you do not lose heart.

Mom’s can’t get sick because mommies take care of everyone else. But what happens when, despite mommies best intentions, her immune system fails her?

All week as I sniffle, my big kid’s joke I have Ebola. Ha Ha. Very funny.

Then my four year-old cries big gulpy tears after pre-school and comes to me in confusion because the kids at school say it’s the plague.

“Mommy, are we all going to die from Ebola?” my little one inquires.

I reassure her and tell my middle daughter to stop telling her it’s Bible Prophecy.

One week in and my cold/flu takes a turn for the worse. My head hurts so bad my teeth ache and my eyes crust over and seal shut. My fever soars and I can’t move my neck. My voice is gone.

So, on Sunday morning (with pastor hubby gone with a full day at church) my teen son drives me to urgent care. Kyle is gentle and sweet. He helps me get settled, laughs at the mask of shame the nurses’ force on me and takes selfies of the two us to post on Instagram.

The doctor says its bronchitis and a bad sinus infection. He prescribes antibiotics and quarantines me to home and bed for 36 hours. (Yippee! Doctor’s orders!)

My son drives me home, tucks me in bed with hot tea and commands me to rest, picks up my meds, goes grocery shopping, comes home, feeds and walks the dog, babysits both his sisters and makes us all lunch and dinner. He also somehow manages to get his middle sister to do the dishes, set the table, do a few loads of laundry and keep the house quiet for mom.

Seriously?

(My husband can’t do this magic)

That evening, over a dinner of homemade chicken soup and crusty rolls, Tim asks Kyle about his day.

“Well, this mom-sitting thing was real tough. I walked one day in her shoes and I am EXHAUSTED. All I did was work and work it never stopped. Boy mom, you do a lot”

Tim and I looked at each and fell over laughing—and then the kids laughed, because my laugh (without my voice) sounds like a dying animal.

And then we affirmed Kyle and the all kids for taking such good care of mama.

I am so proud of this kid and I honestly feel a sense of relief about aging with him around!

So, maybe moms aren’t allowed to get sick with toddlers in the house or even husbands in the house—because sometimes they are as much work as a kid(not mine of coarse!)

But I’ve learned if you train even one of your rug rats well–to be a nurturing and caring person, YOU can get sick when they turn 16!

In due season…you will reap!

Hang in there sick mama’s!

–Samantha

 

a little mischeif

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Giggles erupted from the back seat.  My radar went up.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and watched in amusement as four-year-old Kolby placed a small black cauldron on her head.  The little black “pot-of gold” was intended to hold leprechaun bullion—a gift from pre-school on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Hey guys, look at me…I’m a POT-Head!” my little lamb exclaimed.

And the car exploded in raucous laughter.  My teen and tween gave me THE LOOK while Kolby beamed at the great response to her joke.

“Shhhh…guys, I know it’s funny, but she’ll figure out that it will make people laugh and it will be part of her new shtick,” I warned my older kids who were wiping the drool off their laps in hysteria.

“So, bud, I asked my son, trying to change the subject, “How’s the whole drug thing going on at your school?”

My son smirked.  “Mom the kids who want to do it are still finding ways to do it, despite the drug tests.”

“How do you get around that?” I asked. 

“There are ways,” he said. 

“Really, UMMMM, wow!”  I muttered.

I Googled it later and yes this does exist.  I used my work computer (at home) which I thought about later and regretted.  Probably not a good idea to look up “how to pass a drug test” on the work computer. 

So, I found out you can buy synthetic urine at smoke shops.  They come in little pee bags. 

It’s good to know that our youth is always one step ahead of the curve. 

I thought carrying a flask into prom was bad.  How would you like to walk around with a pee bag in your thong, under your mini-dress and heels?

So, my friends who are parents of teens, if you find a small pouch with something yellow in it, please don’t think it’s a drink and give it a whirl.  It might be time for a discussion with your kid about the perils of weed and brain cell development in teenagers.

I also think it might be time for blood tests although that might open a whole new can of worms (or vampires?).

We pulled up to our house and jumped out the car.  A group of neighbor kids and moms was standing in our yard.

I heard Kolby in the distance yelling as I unloaded the groceries out of the back of my SUV, “Hey guys, look at me!  I’m a Pot Head!”

Yep…I knew that one was coming.

When Your Teen Dates

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No parent knows what their kid will be like once they get into a relationship.

I certainly didn’t.

I hoped my son Kyle would be respectful, but after a series of Jr. High texting relationships which lasted well into high school, I wasn’t sure if any girl would move pass the social media realm and penetrate his heart for more than a ten minute crush.

But I was wrong.

My son has been in a relationship with his girlfriend Grace for about four months.  A few weeks ago they made it official and now they even have their own Instagram hashtag–#Gryle

This is serious people.

Now, my poor son has been the recipient of years of dating advice from his parents.  It’s what we write, speak and blog about.  And Kyle could probably regurgitate our shtick back to us in his sleep.

But I never knew if he truly listened—I mean really heard us—and internalized our message on dating differently.

Fortunately, I have been surprised on a million levels.

First of all, Kyle picked well.  Grace is not only lovely on the outside but on the inside as well.  She is intelligent, light-hearted, and family oriented.  She loves God, respects people and is a fiercely competitive athlete—something they both share.  She’s nice to animals, little sisters and mothers and I think this bodes well for her future.

And I really love her mom to boot.  Could it get any better?

Kyle and Grace have boundaries around school, sports and their own pursuits.  They encourage one another and push each other to excel.  It’s bizarrely mature.  And although they text each other it’s not an all day affair.  It’s after the home work is put away and the workouts are done, or a quick shout-out on the way home from school.

(I counsel thirty-five year olds who haven’t figured this out yet)

Next, Kyle treats Grace like gold. He cherishes her and respects her.  He is interested in her well-being on all levels—not just making out and hanging out (although they do those things a lot too).  But, Kyle cares about her as a person and not as a thing.  And Grace reciprocates.  It is mutual affection based on respect and appreciation.

And here is where I am deeply humbled.

Was I a part of this?  I know it’s a culmination of dad and mom and step-parents and mentors, but in a world where men treat women like objects, my son, despite being assaulted by porn and Victoria’s Secret and the onslaught of an over-sexualized culture is choosing to be different.

I know he will make many mistakes going forward (on top of those in the past) but watching him treat a woman with dignity makes my heart soar!

Especially because at that age I let men treat me badly.  I didn’t understand I was worth more.  My son’s behavior  is redemptive for me as a woman and I thank God for his grace and mercy.

(Now we just have to make sure Faith and Kolby don’t carouse with douche-bags who treat them poorly)

The biggest issue I have is that this whole experience is so wonderful I don’t want it to ever end.

I’ll dream and pray none the less—maybe high school sweethearts can still make it in our crazy world?

–Samantha

 

Just as an update on my parents and a BIG THANKS to all who are praying.  My mom is on hospice now at home.  She has stopped chemo and all treatment for her pancreatic cancer.  We are enjoying the time she has left and pouring out our love on her in abundance.  Most of my days are now spent at their home in La Quinta trying to capture her smile and elegance and etch it into my memory forever.  My step-dad is doing a beautiful job of caring for her, along with family and friends, and hospice is a God-send.

My dad is at a secure Alzheimer’s facility in Beaumont.  He is recovering from three surgeries after he jumped off a ten-foot balcony at Christmas from paranoia due to his brain disease.  Mentally, he is pretty much gone and it’s heart-breaking.  He thought my step-mom was Santa the other day.  Physically, he is still having some complications from the broken back, compound fracture of the tibia and fibula and shattered ankle.  The pin has come loose from the ankle and the hole from the pin is infected.  Please pray for healing and comfort as we journey down this very difficult road with him.  I miss him desperately! 

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