Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts...

Today, Sunday, finds Saz lying in an interesting state on a red velvet chaise longue in 'another room', lined with black and cream flock wallpaper... She looks as lovely as she always does, if a little flushed.

Fhina meanwhile, has been breathing into a paperbag for about an hour, pale and sweating like a spring piglet...

No, our Teen Terrorists haven't finally got the better of us. Yes, we'll be fine!

It's just that - Thanks to all of you lovely bloggers and bloggeristas and your tales of torment to match those of the Brothers Grimm (and Enid Blyton - To be fair, your kids are wonderful reading between the beautifully wrought lines!)... this blog has been mentioned in the hallowed (whisper it!) pages of the Sunday Times...


Can you Adam and Eve it?

The article, written by 'an undercover male journalist', but mentioning Justine Roberts of Mumsnet, no less is HERE and Mad Manic Mamas (dads too!) is cited as a top 'Mummy Blog'.

...'Our rock and compass', Saz, and I began this blog because we felt a little left out by the soi-disant Mommy Bloggers... Those who were still changing diapers and nappies, who were juggling tots and tinies... Ahhhhhhhh, bless their little cotton socks!

We had golden memoirs of those days, I can tell you, rocking cribs, burping up wind, and dispensing Calpol by the bucketful, while today we are more likely to be found wrestling like skinnier sumos with our Teen Terrorists - Tormentors and Tormentresses, all...

(We love them dearly, seriously!)

So thank you... From the bottom of our hearts. ...For allowing us to wibble and witter on here, and giving us a space to feel safe from ridicule in. For accepting us, witch's warts and all, Teen-style tantrums, rants and everything else that we happen to be going through.

And for those of you who write like demons to keep the pages alive and throbbing with delight and passion... More than incredible Expat Mum and Auntie Gwen, wise Scriptor Senex, aka John, and fabulous vegemitevix, Super Sink, Sallymandy and Suburbia, clever-clogs Family Affairs and Jo...

Oh, and our feisty fledglings - Brighton Mum Teenage Angst and Trisha...

Your love for your children speaks of all the volumes we should ever wish to read, and we get a lot of comfort from knowing that, Saz and I, well, we're not alone.

...And to our commenters and occasional (usually teen) Tormentors (!)

Merci mille and big hugs from both of us,


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Understanding the Brain

...of teenagers.

There are truly moments when I think that I am living with crazy people.

Well, surprise, surprise - I am.

I heard a report on recent research on a radio program something that I should have already known:

The frontal cortex of the brain is not completely developed until a person is in her mid-twenties.

Ahhh, what an affirmation!

It seems that some very smart scientists have determined through their form of research that teenagers have not fully developed the part of the brain which:

Manages executive functioning and cognitive processing. Keeping organized in thought and in stuff is just plain difficult for them. This explains the number of posts about messy rooms.

Interprets emotions in facial expression! Ah, ha! They can’t tell when I am really disappointed? I DO need to actually say these things out loud.

Manages impulse control! Scientists need a NIMH study to figure this out? And we put these kids behind the wheels of cars?

Now, you may know a couple of theories of mine that has not yet been tested by a scientific study – perhaps I should apply for a grant for research that is also called my everyday life. The following could be considered to be corollaries:

Any teenager is smarter when he is in the household kitchen. All 5 of my current teenagers understand me completely when I am talking to them in the kitchen. Black and White is clear and non-negotiable. Their mother actually makes some sense to them. But as they move further and further out of the kitchen, down the street, off at school, or at a gathering of friends, you know as well as I do, their decision making skills are not quite as sharp.

A single teenager is smarter than a group of them. Yes. There actually seems to be more functioning grey matter in one teenager than there is in a whole group of them getting together. They seem less able to use what they do have in the frontal cortex; reasoning and decision making is more impulsive, less rational. Yup. Can anyone else corroborate these findings?

Being a little crazy helps kids to negotiate the unreal time of life they are experiencing. Don't you think so? Would you want to be 15 years old again?

Teenagers craziness is contagious to mid-lifers in their presence. Have you wondered why certain things came out of your mouth? Why you are acting the way you are? Have you felt a need to see an exorcist to get your own mother out of the words that are coming out of your mouth? I don't think it is completely our fault when we act a little "crazy". It's part of the tense, tizzy time with teens.

It makes perfect sense that they seem a little whack-nuts – they are. There brain is not finished growing.

So I am not the insane one…. At least on a good day.


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming

It's been about four months since we found out that we had to dealing with a teenager using drugs. (Yes, yes, I know it was "only" pot. But we were non-negotiable about this - zero tolerance.)

I thought I'd let you all know how it is going....

Drain (my husband has decided that if I am Sink, he is Drain. His job - he says - is to make sure I don't get too full of myself. Nice.) and I stuck to our original plan. We followed through in every step.

You may remember that I cried when we cut off his curls. His curls started to grow back, and I was thrilled. But he asked me to take him to cut his hair again. He has decided that he likes it short. He has also started wearing his glasses all the time - has found he likes to be able to see after all.

He is still seeing the therapist, although the counselor, right from the start was not concerned about his drug use. The time with the therapist has been a Godsend as we negotiate that stressful last year at home before leaving the nest to go to college. I wish we had done this with the older three! #4 and I talk so much more about the difficulties of transitions in relationships as this year progresses.

We have let him attend some social events - moving very slowing. First we drove him to an event at school and picked him up immediately following, slowly transitioning to last week when we let him go to a friend's house, where I walked him inside and talked to the parents to be certain that they would be home the entire evening.

And, finally, yes, he continues to pass the random drug tests we give him. Sounds a little harsh, I suppose, to some -- infringing on personal rights and all such stuff -- but Drain, and I don't care about that. As liberal as we are politically, we feel pretty secure that this is worth it. He is keeping his nose clean. Former President Reagan's "Trust, but Verify" holds a whole new kind of place in our family.

And the college acceptances have started to come in, complete with considerable scholarship money, because he is a smart kid. He's waiting still, to hear from his first and second choices, but at any rate, he knows that 4 schools want him already.

So, we are still swimming. We are not complacent, can't quite breathe yet, but that's okay. We're beginning to see the sunlight and starting to feel hopeful again. And we give #4 a great deal of the credit. He has made a good choice, this time. We will continue to keep him attached, while letting out the elastic slowly, to keep him on a steady path...a path he chooses, and a steady path.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Just a few words.... my blog seems to have died on me and l can't find a way to resurrect it for now, I hoped that you would indulge me to say a few words regarding my current 'absence' from FFF and MMM. Below is the post I wrote last week for my Fab, feisty and fifty blog and as so many people have asked after me, l felt I owed you guys an explanation, if only a brief one for now.

Last weekend my husband asked for a separation. Our 18 yr old daughter has decided to remain with him in the family home. I am not comfortable talking about it in detail right now. My blogs are not a secret, so I don't feel able to vent my heart out here. Suffice it to say Larry and I are separating and so are the children geographically, if less than a mile apart. This is excruciatingly painful. I am not happy with this outcome, but there it is. 35 years together is a long time.

I do not know how this will pan out, I will just roll with it. We now have to legally separate and I have to find a suitable home for my son and I. We hope the children will come and go freely between them both.

I am trying to be brave and formidable instead of the weak, weepy and needy mush that lay inside me. My hope is that the children come through this whole and that we can steer them through their forthcoming exams with our support and love.

I just have to remember to breathe.

Sunday Times mention

Did anyone see we were mentioned, nay honoured as a top mum blog in the Sunday Times????

Here it is:

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Seventeen Years Ago

About five in the morning I decided it was time. I phoned my mother (six hours ahead in England) and heard her gently crying as I told her the pains were getting stronger and we would phone her from the hospital when we "had news". I remember saying "It's not so bad", which made her cry a bit more, given that she knew what I was in for.

The baby was ten days overdue and an induction was booked for the next day. I was glad not to have to go through that as I'd heard not-so-good things about being induced. (Not true, as I learned next time round.) So off to the hospital we trotted, I was wired up to a fetal monitor and everything looked great. The baby's heartbeat was low and steady, making everyone tell me it was a boy (even though I knew better in my head). I took a long time to dilate and kept stopping in between. At about 4pm I was finally ready to push. Two hours later we were starting to think about Plan B. Apparently the baby was "sunny side up" meaning that she was facing out and her neck was craning backwards to try to get out. That, plus a pelvis that hadn't been given the manual on how to expand a bit, meant that the babe was well and truly stuck. I heard mention of a c-section and begged my doctor to let me keep trying, but I think I already knew that was hopeless.

The c-section was a fairly relaxed affair for the baby, (compared to the one I had ten years later) and a huge warrior-princess came out about 45 minutes later, a shock of jet black hair sticking straight up like a Mohican. Unfortunately, my uterus was bleeding profusely now so there was lots of "irrigation", general shifting around of organs, and a blood trnafusion was at the ready. My main memory of the whole thing was shaking uncontrollably, and my head banging on the table. (You should have seen the black eyes I had the next day.) I stayed in recovery for five hours and then they wheeled me back to my room for what became the worst night of my life. The only "drink" I was allowed was a sponge on a stick with mouth wash. Mouthwash!!! Eventually one of the nurses took pity on my dry mouth and allowed me to rinse with water as long as I spat it out.

I was on heavy duty pain-killers at the time and was supposed to ring when I could feel them wearing off. It was at this time that we learned I have the constitution of an elephant when it comes to pain relief. It was wearing off at about twice the rate of a normal human, and my body went into full convulsions just to prove to the nurses that I wasn't faking.

My insurance coverage allowed me an extra day because of the c-section, although even then none of my docs thought I was ready to be discharged. (A whopping three nights woo-hoo.)

Anyhoo, she's 17 today. Where did the time go? She was a high maintenance baby, but I am guessing that was because I was making up the rules as I went along. She's been a very low maintenance child and teen - have I just jinxed things? I am so proud to have a tall, willowy, happy girl, but more because of the way she's met her dyslexia head on, achieves A grades despite the odds and refuses to let it stand in her way.

You go girl! (But not just yet!)

Expat Mum

Monday, 15 February 2010

Tears Before Bedtime...

My man-child turned 18 last week. I know I've already mentioned it here, there, and bloody well everywhere!

But I wasn't prepared for the really peculiar (albeit short-lived - Fhina finally got a grip of herself) feelings of loss. And grieving...

I know grief. I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and the (tear-) stains!

I think I was, for a few hours, mourning the loss of The Boy. The child within this man who towers gloweringly over me. ...The little imp, chortling away in his little baby walker on wheels, while wringing my chintzy curtains orange through his baked bean-y paws... (I cried when we left those curtains behind when we sold the house... Such memories.)

...And as much as he's riven me inside out with frustration as he can wind me up so easily, I shall probably continue to miss my little boy...

While loving the man he's becoming, for sure...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Son says, 'Jump!'

8.15 this morning, I manage to shove my 13 year old out the door, wave at the window then breathe. I fasten my dressing gown belt a bit tighter, pull up a chair and decide to treat myself to some blog reading. 
Five minutes later my mobile rings. It’s the boy.
Him: “I’m on my way home. It’s non-uniform day for Haiti. Get some clothes ready for me”
Me: “Oh right. Will do”.
I run upstairs, pulling off dressing gown and kicking off slippers as I go, race into his room to find jeans, different socks, suitable T-shirt. Then it dawns on me there is no way he is going to get changed in time to go back out and walk to the bus stop again. So run into my room, yank pyjamas off, find knickers, pull them on, inside out, discover they’re from yesterday. Bugger. Find jeans, jumper, look in mirror, shriek, boy yells up the stairs, changes into clothes. I get car keys, find boots, coat, get car out of garage, yell at boy who is rearranging his hair and deciding which trainers look best. Swear. Order him to the car. Drive to bus-stop. Bus already gone. Swear again. Drive 20 minutes through heavy traffic into town, hoping I’m not recognised. Get to school, late and frazzled.
Me: “So was it really that important for you to change into non-uniform?”
Him: “Yeah….I joined a Facebook group yesterday called ‘Don’t you always laugh at the kid who turns up in uniform on non-uniform day’.

Thank you to our guest contributor Trisha at  Mum's gone to... for this great post!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hot and Cold Teens and a Nod to the Dog!

Why oh why are Teenagers so bloody dramatic?!.....Sheesh!!

TD hates college, this evening she's loving it....huh? what did I miss?
Her Art tutor is "actually, sort of okay", last week she was "the bitch from hell who hates me and a devil woman" (TD's words)...
She hates her hair, last week after bleaching her fringe, it was "awesome!!"...
A month ago she had it cut shorter, now she wants extensions!
She loves her BFF, tonight she vented for an hour about what a pain in the arse one of them is "OMG!"
No worries, they'll be BFF again by Monday...

Of course, me, being the perfect Mum to Teens, that you know and love...*cough..splutter*
did a truly impressive nodding dog impersonation, you'd have all been so proud of me.

"Uh huh....Oh....that's too bad....yes I know....really?...Oh no...Oh dear...Mmmm?...." and nodded my little head off, till it was in danger of dropping off & rolling out the back door...

If you value your relationship with your teen daughter, or even just life as you know it, a word of caution. DO NOT OFFER ADVICE....under ANY circumstances....I promise you, fromexperience, it will come back and bite you in a painful place....

Take the drama on the chin....and just NOD!
Our thanks to guest contributor Karen who blogs as Brighton Mum Teenage Angst - she may be back very soon!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Mother Earth, Mother's Ruin, Motherhood...

This is the day when my son, my Teen Terrorist, my man-child, turns 18.

There were days when I thought we might never get to this point!

...Days when he drove me inside out with rage and grief...

Days when I was so mad with my Teenager that I might have done something I would really regret.

In fact, I have done some things I really regret... I still need to re-glaze that pane of glass in the door...

But through thick and thin, I've always told him, no matter what, that I love him.

And I do. Absolutely. Like a fierce Mother Tiger.

Motherhood is funny. It gets you like that...

We talk about it, don't we? And the words have entered our language, for that very reason...

Rampaging mother-tigers; mother-hen; Mother Goose (good for nursery stories and getting them off the floor at night, for goddess's sake!); mother's milk (and alcohol!); Mother Courage (that'll be the gin, that we call Mother's Ruin!); Mother Earth (that's all the mud I've ever washed out of his trainers and jeans and cleaned out of his ears!); Mother Hubbard (that'll be all the weight I put on with the pregnancy and post-partum, so help me Weight Watchers!); Mother Superior (I'm not giving up this position, I've fought long and hard for it...); Motherwort (for herbal remedies only - Fhina, your Neighbourhood Witch!); Mother's Help (that'll just be me, then!), not to mention motherfe****!

I said I wouldn't mention it.

Happy 18th Birthday Fruit of My Loins!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Reasons My Teens Laugh at Me

Just in case you missed this at Expat Mum:

1. - my sneeze. Admittedly, when it's allergy induced (as opposed to a trifling cold) it can be a bit, erm, dramatic, but at my age, if you try to "control" your sneezes, you end up blowing a sinus and pee-ing a little. So, it will remain - Aye- ya-hoo, with the emphasis on the YA.

2. - my pronunciation of banana, tomato and half. Get over it. I'm English and always have been. This is no surprise, and you both sounded like me until you were about 5 years old. Next time, I am going to post the pre-school video clips on You Tube and then we'll see who sounds "funny". Mwa ha ha!

3. - my jeans. OK, they tend to only sell "stretch" jeans these days. Trouble is, on me at least, they get bigger and bigger all day so that when you come home from school the butt is somewhere around the back of my knees. It's either that or I'll loaf around in sweats all day and get fatter and fatter? Pick one.

4. - my keys. Or lack thereof. The teens actually stand in front of me and do an oh-so-funny impersonation of me with my keys in my hands frantically asking "Where are my keys? Where did I put my keys?" But listen, oh smart ones, when you walk in one of two doors, carrying back packs, violins, food and a million and one other things, and your three (comparatively unencumbered) kids hurtle past you, shedding clothes on their way, it's a bloody miracle you make it in one piece. Yes, there is a hanger for keys at both the front and back doors, but sometimes, just sometimes, I collapse before I get there. (And don't even compare me to the Ball & Chain, who enters in the back, ignores everyone until he has walked through the house, into our study, deposited keys and other accoutrements in their correct place, and then says hello. I don't have that luxury.)

5. - My baking. OK, so I bought those little ready to bake bread rolls the other day and, in front of everyone, followed the directions to a T, and they still came out like hockey pucks - but it's not funny. It's a manufacturing error, or a typo on the directions. You all saw how well I followed the rules, and yet was foiled again. Just be glad I don't try to make your birthday cakes!

6. - I can't understand their texts and end up texting "?????" back. I mean, it's not even short hand is it? A lot of the words have numbers in the middle like L8tr, which seems to mean "later", which in turn is short for "See you later". And of course, I seem to have been the last person on the entire planet who thought LOL was "Lots of Love". I couldn't understand why complete strangers were being quite so friendly.

But I'm having the last laugh. They used to make fun of me for sleeping in till about - gasp- 9am on Saturday mornings. Now? If they make an appearance before 10.30am it's only to complain how tired they are before they lie down on the sofa and nod back off. Tee hee.

Please - add your own versions...


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Ground Control to Major Tom

What's wrong with this picture?

It's 2am. Darling husband is sitting upright with the laptop burning through the duvet. I'm attempting to ignore the light, the click-clack of the keyboard, and the humph noises he makes intermittently. Son is sleeping the sleep of the dead. There's an exam tomorrow, it's not my exam, nor my Englishman's, it's Son's mock GCSE electronics exam. 

Hubby, the professional electronics' engineer is preparing son's notes for him, because he has no notes to study from.

Ever since Son's return from NZ three weeks ago, I've nagged every single day for him to study, to find the notes he's missing, to look it up on the internet, but my efforts have not been rewarded by Son's efforts. Thing is, he's not out chasing girls or drinking. He's been banned from the PS3 and he has dutifully sat on his bed looking at the books and the dog's breakfast notes that litter his bedroom floor. But the real problem is, Son's never here. He's in outer space. He's Major Tom and I'm Ground Control trying to make contact.

I never wanted to be that mum. The one that labours over the magnificent matchstick model castle (complete with drawbridge) for their child's year seven homework. I made my kids go home and fashion something out of bits of tinfoil and paper. 

As I've said so many times before;
'It's not my homework. I've had years of homework. I'm done with it'

Yet, exams at this level are different. They matter. They could be the difference between getting into that academic path that leads to a productive career in aerodynamics or not. It's unfair that they matter and that there should be so much pressure on our 15 and 16 year olds, but that's just the way it is.

We've had the circumlocutory argument that goes like this:

Vegemitevix: You just need to focus for this short period of time.

Son: But then what? So I can get into a course and spend the rest of my life doing what other people tell me?

Vegemitevix: Well, no, so you can get the entrance ticket that leads you to where you can do your own research into things you want to do?

Son: When I'm 40 or so!

Why is the theme song of this generation; 'Am I bovered?'

It frustrates me when I think about how focused I was at his age. Yes I spent days lying on the swing chair on the deck watching the clouds, but when exam time came around I did study and I certainly didn't get any help from Mum and Dad. I did worry about how I'd do. I did concentrate, even when my parents' bitter divorce reached crisis point in the middle of my exams. I don't think I was a girlie swot, but I did put the effort in. 

I'm tearing my hair out with his attitude. He's hurtling through space in the tin can of his own mind and I can't seem to bring him home, from my ineffective Ground Control.

How do you get teenagers to understand that they need to concentrate for this very short period in their life, to pass the exams and get the grades that will enable them to get into the course that will lead to the career they might one day actually want to do?

How do you bring Major Tom back down to earth?

Image by Blue Turban Photography