The Agony of Finals Week


It’s Finals week and all the crazed and neurotic mothers have come out of the woodwork.

I know I am not alone.  I can see it in their eyes and Facebook posts.  Mom’s are on the edge.  (It’s when kids secretly text that mom has turned into a big bad word starting with a B)

Somehow we mama’s must make our kids buckle down and STUDY, a challenge not unlike removing a wad of sticky gum plastered to the bottom of the dryer.

Help! How do I channel the vision of a first-class college degree and the impact of a strong GPA onto a fourteen-year-old who just wants to get buff so he can sack quarterbacks and score hot chicks. 

I see him graduating from Stanford.  He imagines himself running out of Autzen Stadium in Oregon.  I see Summa Cum Laude.  He sees Grabba Thigh Beta.

I suggest he is a student/athlete,  while Kyle see’s himself as an athlete/student. 

Don’t get me wrong, my son is a sweet and Godly kid but puberty has hit hard.  He weighs 182 lbs and is just shy of 6 ft.  He looks and smells like a burly man.  And yet he is still an impressionable child in many respects.

Can someone tell me how to get through the layers of muscle and hormones to reach the logical side of the brain?  I’ve heard teenagers are  brain-damaged (AKA immature) until they reach their early twenties.

How do I teach rational thought to Jello? Every nugget of wisdom bounces right off him. 

“Mom, barely any of my friends even study for finals.  Stop stressing.  I’m way ahead of the game,” he says with a laidback smile.

Inside I freak out some more.

Right now I’ve improvised with complete and utter bribery.  I ply him  with food, protein and what we call “party grades.”  This means Kyle has to get good grades to attend all social events.  There is no iPhone this week. FaceBook is off limits.  We force him to make flash cards and actually review them.

So far it’s sort of working although it’s a VERY painful process.

We’ll see how he (and mama) survives Finals week.  Two more days of torture!

How do you motivate your teen to study?



Driving Lessons

Walking out to the car from the grocery store with three kids in tow, I grimaced at the sight of my dirty SUV.

“Uggh! Kyle. When we get home you need to wash my car.”

My son smiled and nodded his head amiably. As we pulled up to the house Kyle noticed my parents’ car parked in the driveway –a temporary resting stop while they vacationed in Cancun. It needed to be moved if he was to hose down my car.

“Hey mom, I’ll wash your car if you let me pull out Mimi and Poppa’s car from the driveway and park it in the street.”

I looked at my son, on the cusp of high school and now suddenly interested in cars and rims and all sorts of manly automobile trivia and chuckled, wrinkling my nose. “No way, my parents would kill me if I let my kid crash their car.”

But the look on his face was pure yearning –a strong desire to grow up, experience life and to feel the roar of an engine under his feet. How could I say no? (Here is where my husband later injects –“What the howdy-doody were you thinking?”)

“How about I move my parent’s car and let you maneuver my car into the driveway?”

Kyle’s eyes rapidly blinked. “Umm sure, I’m cool with that.”

I quickly moved my parent’s vehicle out onto the street and then threw Kyle the keys to my car, motioning him to roll down the window so I could direct him.

Kyle moved the seat to make room for his long legs, adjusted the mirror and then gave me the thumbs up sign.

“Ok, pull it out in reverse and turn the wheel to the left to swing out into the street,” I instructed.

Kyle put my charcoal grey Nissan in reverse and then before I could yell, “NOOOOOOOO!” gunned the car backwards across the street. Just as he hit the curb, he braked and his head lurched forward as he pulled to a stop.

“Wow!’ he yelled. “The gas is pretty sensitive. “

Then he hit the pedal again, still in reverse and jumped the curb. The bumper grazed our neighbor’s tree as the car stopped violently.

“Oops mom, I forgot to put it back in drive,” he yelled in chagrin as I doubled over laughing until the tears ran down my legs.

Kyle shifted into drive, hit the gas and shot toward our long driveway. The right tire clipped the curb and whizzed past the mailbox by an inch as Kyle headed straight towards the garage door at forty miles an hour.

The worst possible scenario flashed through my mind. I imagined Kyle crashing into the garage door and t-boning the Cadillac parked just inside. There would be airbags and blood and worst of all –some serious explaining to do when daddy got home from work.

“Jesus stop him!” I screamed with horror.

Kyle – eyes wide with terror looked over at me.

“Hit the brake.” I yelled.

All of sudden the car jerked to a stop. Kyle threw it in park and climbed out gingerly. The car rested a mere millimeter of an inch from the garage door –about the length of a fingernail or a lady bug.

“Mom, that wasn’t like my video games at all, we might need to practice some more,” Kyle weakly grinned.

I collapsed in a heap –alternating between laughing and yelling, rolling on the grass in a gasping and convulsing dance of gratitude and frustration only a parent of a teen can fully appreciate.

Next time –we are practicing driving in a parking lot in the middle of the desert with no one to hit but a cactus.

Teens, Jell-o, and Why Animals Eat Their Young


I always thought this quote was terrible –“Mothers of Teenagers Know Why Animals Eat Their Young” and yet now I can honestly chuckle and relate.  OK, I’ve never really thought about eating my kids but military school and/or a nunnery might be an option.

It cracks me up when parents of toddlers and small children insinuate because I have two older children –ten and thirteen along with my two-year old, that parenting must be easier.  I nod my head, hold my tongue and silently think, “Oh boy, you are going to eat those words someday oh parenting Yoda of a one-year-old.

I’m not sure which part is easy?  I don’t even get the benefits of my kids dressing themselves.  I still have to check every article of clothing my daughter wears out of the house lest a hoochie mama try to slip by.  Then there is my son who tries to pull his pants halfway down his behind and wears jeans so tight skinny could be defined as the new loose. 

I get wrinkles from being up with a cranky toddler all night and then face a daily mental battle from my tween and teen.  Sick babies might be a pain in the you know what but they don’t even come close to the never-ending onslaught of brain cell destruction that parenting older children requires.  I feel like I need a graduate degree in reverse psychology and teen Latin (AKA kid speak) to get by.

How do I get my kids to not do stupid stuff when we all did stupid stuff at that age? 

I cringe when my kid’s start probing into my past.  “Mom, were you pure?  Did you French kiss?  Did you pray every day? How old were you when you first had sex, smoked, and stole your parent’s car for a joy ride on Balboa Island?” (Thanks dad for sharing that information with them)

Ummmmmm?  Is this a multiple choice question?  WWJD doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore and I can’t repeat the acronym I am really thinking…

Sometimes at night, I hold little Kolby close and breathe in her innocence and thank God she is two.  I smile in delight at her temper tantrums and bossiness and adorable pouty face when she sits in time-out.  And I sing praises every morning because I can still dress her in whatever I want and put girly bows in her baby curls. 

Mostly, I thank God she likes Mommy better than all her friends.  Yeah for me! I appreciate this all the more because I know these moments expire around eleven -give or take a few months.

It’s difficult as a pastor’s wife.  People expect me to do it right and have all the answers.  The truth is, the only thing I have figured out is a reliance on the one who does –Jesus. 

I’m the one in church raising her two wimpy arms high in worship, not because I am spiritual, but because I am begging and pleading for direction.

I literally prostrated myself on the ground of the floor in my closet a few weeks weeping and crying out to for God to guide my family through these difficult years of high school and Jr. High.  Even though I have amazing kids whom I lavishly love and adore, navigating emotions and hormones and temptations is like nailing Jell-O to a tree –pointless and frustrating.

I guess if I am honest, I can thank God for these awkward puberty years too, because it certainly draws me closer to him. 

On my knees close.  Kissing the ground close.  Flat on my face close.

I sure miss the days when a crisis could be resolved with a Hello Kitty band-aid and a kiss.

Do you have teens?  Can you relate?


Why do we say our teens are grounded?  Who came up with this expressive idiom? The true definition has little to do with how American parents apply the word. 

Was it a sixties hipster who got mad at his kids and used some sort of druggie lingo? “Dude, don’t get high like me. You need to be near the ground.” Inhale. Hold. Exhale.

Or maybe it was even earlier, way back when planes first took to the sky and mischievous pilots like Maverick and Goose from Top Gun were grounded from adventure?

Since, I’m pontificating here and have done zero research, besides Googling the word, I think this makes the most sense. 

My little Maverick (Kyle) and his pal, we’ll call him Goose, are the cutest teens on the block, but every now and then, they too need a reality check. 

Now Kyle, if you recall, was restricted from attending the teen dances he deeply treasures (which I’m guessing some hot girls attend) until his Social Studies and Global grades perked back into the A range.

On Friday, he came home and declared, “I aced my finals and I want to go to the dance tonight.”

I looked at him in surprise. “Slow down there tiger. Final grades don’t come out until next week.”

“Mom, it’s in the bag. I’m going to the dance.”

“We’ll see what dad says,” I responded.

Well, dad said “no” to the request and Kyle fell into a melancholy gloom. His usual smile disappeared and for a full twenty-four hours he looked on the verge of tears. 

He claimed we were the strictest and meanest of parents.  In fact, all his friends think we are the worst and no one wants to come over because we don’t have Call of Duty in our home, which is a fate worse than death to a Jr. High Boy.

My parental self-esteem was plummeting, that is, until Monday night when we drove his buddy home and his mom came out of the house with guns blazing. Apparently, Goose had a little explaining to do as well, regarding a certain grade issue. Mmmhhh! 

Maybe, I’m not the meanest and strictest parent alive? Maybe other parents ground their kids too? Gasp! Shock! Horror!

Kyle sat in the car and somberly watched his buddy get zinged while a big smile crossed my husband’s face.  He drove off and heard his friend’s mom say, “You’re grounded,” as he pulled the car out.

I love it when this stuff happens! And, I really loved Kyle’s sincere apology.  So at least for today, I’m not the worst mom ever, now his friend’s mom is!

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