Trying to get the perfect photo of your moody teens? Graduation? Christmas?

My twins who are the oldest of my three kids were entering the really annoying “teen stage” at about 13 years old. They were still very good kids, but one thing in particular became very difficult for about a year: taking family photos with happy faces!

It was November and I wanted to have the three of them in a decent photo for the annual Christmas card. Whenever I was behind the camera that year, trying to get them all to laugh together became a guaranteed upset and complete failure. So, I decided to have the photo taken somewhere else.

I made a few phone calls and found a place that fit my budget and time frame around sports. As I finalized the date, I casually asked, “Can you please arrange for us to have one of your most fun and friendly photographers? Preferably a female?”

Her stuttering response: “Why, ma’am? Are… your… kids… little ones?”

I can hear her shuffling papers through the phone line. “I thought you told me they were teenagers…?” Poor thing, she was confused.

I was embarrassed and felt compelled to explain that “little ones” behavior often accompanies teenage bodies. But, I didn’t waste her time or mine. The truth is, teens will usually (although not always) behave better for strangers (a.k.a. photographer) than family.

The point of the story? When raising teens, shamelessly ask for help when you need it. Yep, even if that includes the photographer at your local JCPenney studio.

Getting Ahead or Enjoying the Moment?

get-aheadThrowback Thursday 8/15/2013

Recently, my daughter had her very first job interview.  After we decided on her outfit and printed a copy of her resume, I wondered if they’d offer a 401K plan.  Although utterly absurd, the thought really did cross my mind.  While I should have been enjoying the moment, I zeroed in on getting her ahead.

I have fallen victim to society’s push that if you’re not ahead, you lose.  Worse yet, if I’m relaxing and enjoying an event, I have sometimes criticized myself for not using that time to “get ahead” on other things!

If you have teenagers in your house, perhaps you saw the Teen Choice Awards this week (8/11/13).  Ashton Kutcher gave an inspirational 4+minute acceptance speech, stating that “opportunity looks a lot like hard work”.  He talked about being a dish washer, a deli worker, and sweeping Cheerio dust off of a factory floor before making it big in acting.  I was inspired for my kids as they embark upon their first jobs.

The next day, inspiration waned as I read a profile in Fortune magazine of a CEO whose first job was interning at major corporation.  This was a chief factor attributed to ‘how she got ahead’.  Seriously, how many teenagers have access to corporate internships at 16?

This always-need-to-get-ahead syndrome is perpetuated by retailers.  On July 1st, I went into Joanne Fabrics to pick up a 4th of July decoration.  As the sliding glass doors closed behind me, I smelled October.  Cinnamon filled my senses, pumpkins greeted me, and my summer yellow shorts just felt wrong.  At 70% off, Independence Day décor was scarce.

Still in need of the decoration, I drove to Target where the BACK TO SCHOOL signs left my youngest squealing in the doorway, refusing to step any further into my normally-beloved Target (2016 update: Target is no longer my beloved store).

Hobby Lobby?  Christmas decorations!  I actually pondered if I should buy something!

This same mentality filters into politics. The GOP was campaigning for 2016 immediately after the re-election of Obama.  That was somewhat understandable, since they have work to do if they hope to regain the White House.  However, two weeks after his re-election, national news claimed that President Obama was “campaigning” on behalf of the Democratic Party to ensure in four years, the Democratic candidate would win.

At what point is there focused, meaningful work being accomplished?  Can it just be ok to actually enjoy SUMMER until August?  If my Christmas isn’t bought, wrapped and baked by Halloween, am I behind?

The economics are easy:  excessive early marketing sells more stuff and panics a 22-year old into hiring a financial planner when they haven’t even paid off student loans.  The psychological aspect however, is much more fascinating.  Why do some teens believe that cleaning the windows at Dunkin Donuts isn’t worth their best effort because they will eventually be “getting ahead” of that lowly job?  Why do we watch the political pundits evaluate for four years?  Why am I thinking about retirement funds for my 16 year old?!

While I do save for retirement and have been known to buy Christmas gifts throughout the year, I have to stop robbing myself of the delight that’s meant for the moment. If I’m worried about my daughter’s financial future, I won’t enjoy the pride on her face.  If I make celebrating Christmas a 4-month long event, it will no longer possess its excitement and specialness.

With more focused intention, I believe we can “get ahead” on critical things without sacrificing “the moment”.  Thus living a much more joyful life!

Enough

The world tells me to just be me

But then it says my shirt isn’t tight enough

My skirt isn’t short enough

My waist isn’t tiny enough.

 

Politicians tell me to vote with my head and my heart

Then they claim I’m not pro-murder enough

I’m not woman-enough

Not tolerant enough; while they are utterly intolerant of me.

 

Public education claims it offers more than enough

While U.S. students rank lower than other developed nations.

We haven’t taught them to think independently or problem solve enough

How much mindless testing is going to satisfy the administrative fools enough?

 

Enough with being able to name every Kardashian

but not one Chief Justice in the Supreme Court.

 

Enough with being able to name 7 reality shows,

but not the 7 natural wonders of our beautiful world.

 

Enough selecting friends and presidents because they are our same color or gender.

Enough accepting and promoting liars, cheaters and those who simply don’t believe the rules apply to them – all the while you are forced to follow them.

Enough television, more books.

Mom, Were You EVER a Kid?!

Whenever I don’t laugh at something my 16-year old son thinks is funny, he asks me if I was EVER a kid.  Just last week he told a friend that he believes Grandma delivered me as a “grown up”.

The truth is, somewhere along the parenting-teens years, I have admittedly grown more serious.

Why my son doesn’t think I was ever a kid:

1.)  I am too much of a deep thinker, and not enough of a laugh-er.

2.)  I am humor-challenged.  This is the residual of my ever-running, analytical mind.

Example: Last December, my daughters and I were at a Christmas craft fair. They told me a joke.  I didn’t get it.  They laughed even harder watching my eyebrows furrow, my head tilt, and my blank stare prevail.  I asked them deep, thoughtful questions, attempting to understand.  They rolled their eyes.  25 minutes later, I burst out laughing in front of several cashiers.  I finally “got it”, and because it took me so long, I laughed even harder, until my daughters were both mortified at how I was carrying on.

3.)  I don’t play like they do.  When my kids were little, I was out the door every summer day by 9am, rollerblading behind a triplet stroller, and days were packed with play time.  For years, I played all sports with them, swam, acted out pretend shows and participated in hours of hide-and-seek.  They don’t remember much of it.  Now that they are older, my kids think my idea of play time is reading a good book or visiting a museum.

4.)  I believe my children should be somewhat-versed in American history and current politics.  I argue that knowledge makes us better citizens, and me a wiser teacher and parent.  History and politics in teen language: BORING.

5.)  I like order.  Labels.  Symmetry.  Clean counters.  This makes my kids crazy.

How I’m becoming a little “lighter” this year, and getting in tune with my “teenage-self”:

1.)  Instead of reaching for a book because “I should” read (when I’m in the mood to watch something mindless on television), I turn on the TV.

2.)  I’m on the lookout for funny:) things and, I purposely began my year in January by going with my family to see Tim Hawkins.  If you have not heard of him, you must follow him on Twitter, look him up on YouTube, and see his comic show asap!

3.) My son dressed up in his street goalie pads the other day and I took shots on net.  We played basketball for an hour (limping around on my bad ankle).  I’ve been playing games and swimming (even after rain cools down the water!).

4.)  I’m watching less national news (I’m an admitted news junkie).  I’m still informed, but I’ve (almost) completely ceased spouting remarks at the screen.

5.)  I close my son’s bedroom door when company is coming.  I tell myself the floor is a great place to keep freshly washed clothes.  Who needs drawers?

Throwback Thursday from 7/29/2013

Stuff Mom’s don’t want to say out loud. Sometimes we do, but many times we don’t… :)

Well, our pre-Mom lives certainly didn’t always look like the photo to the left, and our post-Mom lives certainly don’t always look like the photo to the right. But, wow, sometimes it does get crazy, right?! (Photo courtesy momtastic.com.)

Stuff Moms sometimes say out loud, but more often, we don’t:

Is this what I signed up for?

How did I ever like cooking?

Does my husband seriously think he does more than me in this house?!

Did I really like this guy when I married him?

Who am I?

I don’t like my teenager right now. I hate myself for even thinking that in a bubble thought.

I’m lonely. Yes, I know I’m NEVER alone, but I feel lonely.

I need to get out of this house!

Is anything I’m doing of value at all?

Is this kid absorbing anything of what I’m saying?!

This is freaking hard.

I thought I was more than this.

Cleaning no longer feels like “home-making”. Now I feel like I have a PhD in maid.

What happened to my wardrobe? 😦