Category Archives: parenting

On Being Presented with the Same Lesson Over and Over

I’ve never surfed. The closest I have ever come to standing up, balancing on something was when I tried out my son’s skateboard. I balanced for a second and then the skateboard moved forward, leaving me behind, in the air pretty much like Wiley E. Coyote in the air after he has run off the edge of the cliff. I know what that landing feels like. I really don’t know how WEC kept it up. One fall like that was enough for me.

I’ve never surfed. I lived minutes from the Pacific Ocean in Australia, and had many friends who surfed. Why didn’t I try? I doubt if it even occurred to me.

I’ve never surfed, but I realized today that several issues appear as GIANT waves any time I admit them into my consciousness. I’ve been running from the waves. They’re BIG. I cannot hold them BACK. They will knock me DOWN. Is it time for me to see what surfing these waves would be like? Surfing is the process of riding a wave to the shore. Surfers love the waves, don’t they? Avid surfers often say the bigger the wave, the better.

I’m nowhere near the ocean right now. There’s not an ocean wave within 400 miles of here, so I can’t go try it. But maybe I can imagine what it would feel like to ride the wave, to be on top of it, to go with it toward the shore.

What do I see as I imagine this? I feel the powerful movement of the water beneath my board. The sun is out, shining as it does every single day somewhere in the world. I understand the wave is something that is exhilarating. Every wave has its crest and then gets smaller and smaller as it moves toward the shore. Surfing the waves is the opposite of standing on the shore, watching the waves come in, dreading their size, fearing their power.

Same lesson, different day. The School of Life keeps pulling this old chestnut out and presenting it to me. Apparently, I’ve yet to learn it.

Seems like the most important thing in this situation is to keep focusing on what is, rather than what has been. To say yes, and, even if it’s through tears. And to keep getting back up and back on my surfboard and trying again. Dude, I’m a gurfer (girl surfer). Yes, only in my mind, but that’s a start.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

He’s Always Happy, Isn’t He?

Sometimes people who meet Kepler make comments along the lines of “He’s always happy, isn’t he?”

Well, he’s happy a lot of the time, but not always. Case in point:

On the way home from dance class yesterday, he asked me to take him to Wendy’s to get french fries. I said no. I told him the next food he could have was cheerios with milk, and the next drink was going to be water. Dance class is about 12 miles from home. During that drive, he asked for fries at least 20 times, and told me he didn’t want Cheerios another 30 times.

Each time he asked, he heard the same thing: “Next food is Cheerios, next drink is water.” Poor thing wore himself out fighting against these particular goads. By the time he had fallen asleep in the car, then refused to get out, then littered the basement with his coat and shoes, and finally agreed to cereal, there were only a few minutes until his Fine Arts Night at his school.

Ready to sing!

Sees mom and sister in the audience!

Enjoying his classmates

Happy to be here

He loved being in the show, and showing his sister and me around his school. Not to mention, the huge number of people who greeted him, clearly delighted to see him. One of the fourth grade teachers last night called dibs on him for fourth grade (two years from now). He brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.

Kepler’s not always happy, but then, neither is anyone else. But we could probably all take a page from his book about rebounding from stuff that upsets us, and let it go completely when we finally accept what is.

How to Delegate Your Parenting to a Disney Character

Delegate: entrust (a task or responsibility) to another “person,” typically one who is less senior than oneself.

I’m a big fan of animated films, and have been known to be moved to tears in more than one that I’ve seen. I love the clever dialogue, and the colorful visuals. It must be a lot of fun to work on such a project. One of my favorites in recent years is Big Hero 6.

Big Hero 6 was the first movie we took Kepler to see at the theater and he loved it. I loved the movie, but loved even more watching his whole-body response to the movie. He laughed, he cheered, he stood up and danced. We went to see it a second time!

Baymax has got to be one of my favorite characters ever. He is a “nurse bot,” and has the capacity to diagnose and treat humans. His halting, gentle voice is always soothing. And he is bound and determined to heal whatever it is that is bothering his human patients.

For Kepler’s birthday, we bought him a 19″ plush Baymax. Baymax’s arms swivel, so he can be very demonstrative, with the right puppeteer in charge.

After the puberty workshop I attended last week, I was newly inspired to do everything I can to help Kepler be as independent as possible.

Getting on the bus in the morning has been challenging in the past. He hasn’t wanted to put on his socks, refused his shoes, couldn’t find his mittens, and so on. More than once I had a bucking bronco on my hands. We have made a lot of progress in being more organized and utilizing the most excellent Time Timer to have a smoother morning, but I had been resigned to putting on his shoes and socks, pretty much forever, myself, until last Tuesday morning when I had Baymax tell Kepler it was time to put on his socks.

“Kepler… Please put on … your socks.” I placed Baymax in front of my face and he spoke to Kepler,  and Kepler listened. Kepler put on his own socks.

Eureka! I realized I had a solid gold parenting tip right here. Since then, Kepler has listened to Baymax many times and he has obeyed. Not only that, but he LOVES it when Baymax hands him his socks, gives him a fist bump, waves to him from the dining room window as he leaves on the bus, tells him to hang up his coat, and reminds him to wash his hands.

I believe that Mary Poppins was right when she sang about a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down. Baymax is the sweetest spoonful of sugar, and turns all the medicine into empowering fun. Baymax for the win!

Which Disney character might your sweet little one respond happily to?

Book club with the sweet old biddies

Books clubs are ubiquitous in this day and age, right? Meetup groups, branches of the public library, online clubs with Mark Zuckerberg right now, Oprah’s book club, church book studies, etc.

I remember being in a church book study group years ago where we studied Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God, shown here (see left) with its extremely intense front cover, which matched perfectly the intense prose inside. As I was looking for an image of this book for my blog, I discovered the newer version (see right) of this book. I guess the publisher realized that if they were going to publish such an intense and terrifying book, they better at least make the cover look less terrifying. But I digress.

So, what with the all-consuming nature of my parenting experience the first 20 years of being a mother, book clubs were just a fond daydream, something I could maybe pursue one day when I was no longer doing seventeen things at once.

I’ve been wanting to be in a group for awhile now. But the time finally came in 2015 when the stars aligned; my parenting intensity had lessened, the difficulties of 2014 were seemingly in the past, my brain was available to look around for a book club, and voila, there was a club scheduled near me reading a book by an author that I thought I would enjoy at a time I wasn’t already scheduled to be three other places. Sign me up!

My take on library book clubs is the daytime clubs are populated by an older generation of women, and the evening clubs are populated by younger, working mothers, or women who otherwise can’t get free until the evening.

So, after I completed the multiple tasks of signing up, checking out the book, reading the book, going online to discover whether there were book study questions I might prepare, and managing not to double book myself with a doctor visit for one of the kids, I got in my little Camry and drove me and my book to my First Book Club Experience of 2015. It was actually my first experience of this century!

Indeed, the group of ladies there were mostly grandmothers, and were lovely. I tried the mnemonic trick of associating something beginning with the same letter with the names of the participants. I thought Breta was beautiful. Helen had memorable hair. Things got a bit dicey when all I could think of for a rather heavyset woman was Wanda is wide. Rest assured I did not write that one down on my list. I did my best to be open to the different ways of reading the book and characterizing the story and the characters. Helen reads the end of EVERY book before she decides whether or not it is worth reading. Dear, sweet, grandmotherly Mary Carol had a sheaf of papers where she had written down her gentle observations. Patricia had interesting comments to make about quite a few of the characters.

I was mostly quiet, observing. I was practicing not judging the women, a new hobby of mine. Also, the leader had instructed us to go around the circle and give our impression so that everyone could share what they thought, but a number of ladies didn’t like that idea quite as well as a lively cross-chat where there were lots of ideas being tossed around like juggling balls. My reticence to speak was further fueled by the fact that my response to the book seemed to be qualitatively different than the majority of what I was hearing.

The book we read featured a more minor character called Susan, which is my given name. Susan was a divorced mother of a 19yo son who had impulsively carried out an act which had huge political implications. I felt like I could relate to a lot of what she went through because of my own experiences with a 19yo son who recently carried out quite a few impulsive actions which have had huge legal implications. So, my response to the book was just fine, but very different than the rest of the group who were all repulsed by the character, Jim.

Group members were friendly to me, including me in what was a relatively established group. The leader seemed intentional about guiding the discussion and allowing everyone to speak. There weren’t any group-killing members; you know, the ones who dominate the conversation or somehow make the focus of their every comment themselves. (Oops, the Me who Judges slipped in here, I think).

At the end of group, the leader revealed next month’s book. Two long rows of copies sat on a library book cart. I hesitated for only a moment before I picked up a copy and committed myself to another book club experience next month!

In an ideal world, my book club participants would each pause a moment before jumping in to respond to someone else, thereby allowing just a smidgen of space for internal processing of what was just said. But it’s a busy world, and we all have a lot to say.

Tell me about your ideal book club? Who would be in it? What kinds of books would you read? What role would you play?

Small Victories, Baby, Small Victories

Sometimes I think I must be the most obtuse person in the universe.

A little background. Darling daughter started public high school this year, after several years at a 2-days-per-week program 12 miles away. Twice a week, I drove her and picked her up. Had to. No other option. This year, we started by having her ride the bus. School is one mile away. That lasted a week because there wasn’t time to get her stuff after school and get to the bus in time. Without thinking it through, I said, “Hey, I’ll take you and pick you up.”

Here’s what I forgot. Darling husband is rarely here at going to school time, so KEPLER and I take her to school. Does Kepler enjoy this process? No, he most certainly does not. He has shown his displeasure many a morning by refusing to budge. He’s a strong kid, and it takes both me and DD to hold him (gently!) by the upper arms, and perp walk him to the car.

Isn’t it Steven Covey who first emphasized the power of being proactive? I finally got proactive yesterday.

Kepler needed to understand what I was asking him for. I was waiting around for him to catch on, and wake up one morning, and say, “Mother, I now see that it is futile for me to be so obstinate about taking big sister to school. I’ll be right with you as soon as I complete my morning ablutions. It won’t be a problem anymore.” Ooh, good plan there, mom.

See, obvious, like I told you.

But, poor kid, before I got specific and slowed down enough to explain it, he was in a whirlwind of activity every morning, usually me looking for my glasses. And then my keys. And my shoes. And his shoes. (another thing to be proactive about, obviously).

First try had me explaining that I wanted him to cooperate, but I didn’t make it very clear what that meant.

Our first trial run was yesterday afternoon on the way to speech therapy. He was doing well, until he determined that me placing his unfinished cup of milk into the refrigerator was decidedly unwelcome and should not be tolerated. FINALLY we got into the car, but I decided he hadn’t been cooperative enough. Which then made me realize that I had to get really specific.

So, I explained that I wanted him to cooperate and I explained exactly what cooperation is. In this case, it’s simple: put on your shoes, put on your jacket, walk to the car, when asked. Such cooperation earns the privilege of listening to the Frozen soundtrack (for the 87 millionth time).

After speech therapy, he COOPERATED. This morning, he COOPERATED. This afternoon, he COOPERATED. I guess I cooperated, too, by making it possible for him to be successful!

Small victory, but trés, trés sweet.

Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, Thing 4

Small things pack a big punch

Yes, they are upside down in the picture. I don’t care. It just a perfect illustration of something that I find to be exasperating, enraging, unbelievably frustrating.


I believe I have probably written about something like this before, but things have reached a fever pitch lately in the area of electronics and their absolutely maddening help. Please note: this is about the electronics, and not the electronic setter-upper, no matter what the next paragraph says.

While [the wife cat] was away, [the husband mouse] did play, adding some sort of sound system to our already-complicated (to me) television set-up.

We went from having a TV, a cable box, and a DVD player to having a TV, a cable box, a DVD player, a blu-ray DVD player, and a sound system. And somewhere along the way the television because a really big black box of doom and despair to me. And that’s before I even turn it on! I’m not talking about FOX news here! Just the actual appliance!

On/Off has been replaced by Standby. Which means what, exactly. All the remotes have approximately the same configuration of buttons, but they do not work the same, no they do not work the same, no they do not.

Look, I’m already spitting nails this morning because the “simple” task of switching phones with Greg has turned our iMessage accounts into schizophrenic madpeople who send messages to themselves, in the name of being logged into a particular iTunes account.

This morning, Kepler wanted to watch a DVD. He put it into the DVD player, and then looked to me for the rest. I crawled around on all fours, hung from the ceiling to examine the back of the TV, and did a few back handsprings in front of the TV to coax it into action.

First, the remotes are LOST. Stuffed down into the couch cushions or abandoned on a kitchen counter. Except for the one I don’t need. So, first order of business is to find them. Where’s the TV remote, I ask Kepler, over and over. “The tv remote?” he replies. Over. and Over.

Finally, all four remotes are in hand and I begin to peruse the directions Greg has written out for me on how to use the TV. Push THIS on THAT remote, and THAT on THIS remote, and make sure the THING is in THAT position, hold your mouth just right, and press PLAY.  Success.  “Success.” SUCK-CESS.

Because the DVD is not at the PROPER PLACE in the movie, mom, so let’s see the scene selections, and now is good. Me, loathing every minute of this, “This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one?” Him, knowing exactly what he wants: “No! No! No! No! No! No!” Silly me, I gave up before we got all the way through and said, “Just watch this!”

I left the room, done with the process.


Kepler finds me in my hiding place under the bed. (Curses, foiled again.) He comes in, holding the DVD in his hand, effectively telling me that I’ve done it wrong and I must start again. ONLY THIS TIME, THIS TIME, THIS BLEEPING TIME, the TV has a screen within a screen telling me I must set it up, asking me questions written in English but not meaning anything comprehensible to me. (How would you like to get your television signal into your house: A. by elf, B. through the microwave, C. by courier pigeon).  I answer as best I can, then wait as it thinks, then gnash my teeth when it tells me I have alas committed an electronic crime and must start again. After another fun round of this, I rip the DVD out of the player, and tell him the TV doesn’t work and he has to watch it in the laptop. He’s happy as a clam to do so. Should have tried that sooner.

Because indeed the TV DOES NOT WORK (like I want it to, in any way that makes sense, like a normal human being would think it would work, like things worked in the olden days, in any sort of logical manner).

And that’s all I have to say about that.

How Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing got Kepler to Stay with me in the Parking Lot

Look at that little angel face.  Would you ever suspect he’d run away from his mommy in a store, parking lot, park, anywhere-he-needs-to-stay-close? For Kepler, it seems that “Stay with me” is apparently secret code for “Run, Forrest, Run!! Talk about danger!

Taking him places was becoming a huge problem. I dreaded every trip.

Enter Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Or at least their book, The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

Not only did I:
hear about the book, but I also 
reserved it at the library, and I
checked it out and brought it home, and amazingly,
read it from cover to cover, blanketed it with PINK post-it notes, AND
put it into practice
I’m particularly adept at those first three steps, but actually getting around to reading the book is more challenging, putting it into practice is as rare as a two-headed unicorn.
Keller examined the research on multi-tasking and writes on page 44, “Multi-taking is a lie.” We simply cannot FOCUS on two things at once. Narrowing our focus to ONE thing yields extraordinary results, as he says. Let’s see.
With multiple areas in life that simply must be addressed daily, I have tried to do much multi-tasking. Sometimes it works for things that don’t need strong focus, but one where it doesn’t is parenting. Applying Mr. Keller’s thesis I made a list of the essential areas, and then asked myself this question about each area (see The ONE thing, pg. 106). Here’s parenting:
Q:  What is the ONE thing I can do today in regard to parenting that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?
A:  Read and complete the first three chapters of “Without Spanking or Spoiling,” a parenting book I have had since 1996 and have not yet read!
Q: What did I discover in those first three chapters?
A:  To define the problem specifically and behaviorally. Vague problem definition was “Kepler doesn’t obey.” Specific is “Kepler runs away when I tell him to come to me.”
Q: What else did I discover?
A: To brainstorm solutions. I came up with 10. 
  1. Buy and use a child leash.
  2. Take a 3 ft rope along to show him maximum distance he should be from me.
  3. Create a simple rhyme like “Obey means Stay.”
  4. Appeal to his desire to be helpful.
  5. Find books on the topic to read to him.
  6. Create a social story.
  7. Leave him home at all times.
  8. Carry him everywhere.
  9. Allow him to lead and explore occasionally on errands.
  10. Make a leader badge for him to wear where it’s his turn to lead.
Q: What happened when I took him next to the store?
A: We got out of the car and he proceeded to dash out into the parking lot while I was getting the cart. (I hadn’t made my plan yet!) I grabbed him by the arm and his eyes got wide as we got into the backseat and I gently continued. I looked in his face and said words I guess I never really said before: “Kepler, you MUST stay with me for your safety. There are cars and you could get hit by a car if you run away from mommy. If anything happened to you, I would cry forever.” Of COURSE  I had told him bits and pieces of this but not like this; not sitting in the car giving HIM my full attention, focusing on just this ONE thing. 
My words apparently resonated with his sensitive heart, because when we got out of the car, he specifically stood right by me and looked up at me showing me what he was doing. I ended up allowing him to lead part of the time, gave him huge kudos for the good things he was doing — staying with me, helping me, listening, and I used a previous helpful rhyme: OK means Obey, and added, Obey means Stay. 
You probably know Kepler is the youngest of five kids. The other four didn’t run away. Ever. Why? I don’t know. They probably thought about it, but maybe my face was stiffer and sterner back then. So who needed strategies for this back then? 
tl;dr: Gary Keller’s book The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, has practical applications in parenting and made a huge difference in my experience of taking my child on errands with me.
I’ll probably have to review all of this next time, and the time after, and the time after, but he will eventually understand and apply, and so will I. I just have to remember to focus, really focus, on ONE thing.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now — Ten Things I’d Do Differently as a Homeschool Mom

This is not what homeschooling looked like here.

Saw a link on Facebook from a homeschool mom who shared what she would do differently now as a homeschool mom. I could relate to some of it. It was posted by a homeschool mom I rarely see, but care about very much. I often read the comments on blog posts, but decided this time to write about my own list first.

First of all, I didn’t know then what I know now. Part of the journey of homeschooling is the learning that the parent does. So, maybe this is all just a moot point. But, let’s see …

1. I would de-emphasize intelligence and strongly emphasize character. Thing is, I actually thought I was doing this. Truth is, my “students” were all above average. I was constantly amazed by their grasp of concepts, their precociousness, and the joy I felt at just watching them learn. I didn’t realize I was reinforcing intelligence as much as I did. There were multiple times when something they did or said just BLEW ME AWAY. Like Valerie just up and reading the back cover of the Billy Graham autobiography I was reading. What was she, three? Four, at the most. I hadn’t even tried to teach her to read. I didn’t know that kids could learn to read just be being read to.

2. I would understand that no one else was going to be as thrilled about my children as I, and instead of rueing that, I would be affirming and encouraging to every other mother I came into contact with, realizing that she was as excited about her kids as I was about mine. At the time, my hands (and mind!) were full. The kids were born in 93, 94, and 95, and then 98. Kepler came along years after the first four, but I wasn’t just homeschooling one — I had a class!

3. I would be so much kinder to myself. Nothing ever felt like it was enough, and I know MANY homeschool mothers who experience this. Probably just about everyone who homeschools feels this at some point.

4. I would recognize a kid “come-apart” as an opportunity, not a sign that I was failing at my job. This might be the biggest one for me. I had a misunderstanding about my own role and responsibility in the feelings of my children. I needed them to be happy, and that was probably the biggest disservice I did them in my zeal.

5. I would remember that every type of school situation is good for someone, and every type of situation is also less-than-ideal for someone. Now that I’m on this side of things, where the educational methods of our kids include(d) some homeschooling, a bit of public school, years of a two-day-a-week homeschool set-up, an exhausting early grades online school, a poorly-administered online high school online, and the learn-while-you-sleep method we practiced for a few weeks months, I’ve discovered that there are PROS and CONS to every method.

(As an aside, big-time homeschooler mother, Mary Hood, wrote a book (June 1995) called “Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell.” Back when I started homeschooling, there were only a few voices writing about it. Although I never bought into Mary’s philosophy, the title comes to me often when I put my little Kepler on the school bus and send him to school where he is absolutely loved and cherished by his team. From the bus driver, to the school secretary, to the librarian, to the other students, I hear all the time how much joy he brings them. And they, as a group, give him things I simply cannot provide at home. )

6. I would find a balance between the heavy peer pressure of the school setting, and the freedom we had as homeschoolers. Without adequate preparation, going into public school can be (and was) traumatic. Happy-go-lucky kids who were unself-conscious became very self-conscious when they entered the public school system, not because they were deficient, not because the school system was evil, but because there are developmental phases that happen.

7. I would never, ever, ever compare my insides to anyone else’s outsides. Because, you know what? My insides ALWAYS came up lacking, when I looked at someone else and thought I knew ANYTHING about them based on what I saw.

8. I would find a balance between my very laid-back teaching style, and a more directive style. Both styles work in different situations, but some work better than others with young learners.

9. I would get up earlier and get us going and have a routine that we stuck to for more that a few days or weeks. Yes, back then, I was exhausted, dealt with depression, and had several “owies” on my heart. But that would have been a great example to my children, and one less thing to chastise myself about.

10. I would get professional photos taken every year. Well, I think I would. No, this one is that I would take a similarly posed photo in a similar place every year. I still have extra copies of the professional school photos I got of every child from every year. They’re so hard to let go of, even if we have enough for every person in our family! My photos would be all about the heart of the learning, the heart of the family, the heart of the giving, the heart of the love.

Things I am extremely glad I (we) did?
1. Read out loud, nearly every day and evening.
2. Do as much experiential learning as we could.
3. Practiced as best I could, a lifestyle of learning.
4. Enjoyed our children.
5. Made it through.

A Light Bulb Moment about Entitlement

Here I’ve been thinking that the opposite of Entitlement is Gratitude, and what was needed to shift an entitlement mentality was a healthy dose of gratitude. But, noooooo. The opposite of Entitlement is RESPONSIBILITY.

I admit, I do know some people who seem to feel entitled to what they have, and more! And I kept thinking I needed to get them to focus on how much they DO have, how GOOD they have it, how people in so many other countries have it SO much harder. But, I noticed that those efforts weren’t actually shifting that sense for them. How do I know this? I was reading the comics yesterday morning and this comic was written for me, aka She-Who-Takes-on-Responsibility-That-Belongs-To-Others:

I hearkened back to my childhood, something worth hearkening back to, and I remembered how I was expected to contribute to the running of the household and the care of myself. I cleaned house, cleaned my room, kept my car filled with gas, participated in church activities, school activities, and studied for tests. I starting working at age 11, because I had the opportunity to work with my dad, but I was always interested in working, even scrubbing the kitchen floor, on hands and knees with my sisters one time, for the princely sum of $9.00, to be split three ways.

But I wouldn’t say I was grateful. I complained because my mom didn’t want to buy me the same clothes everyone else was wearing. My first Aigner jeans were bought with my own money. I complained because I wasn’t allowed to go places at all hours. It was distinctly unfair that we weren’t allowed to watch MTV. Church morning and night?? OMG, parents.

I would definitely say, though, that I was responsible. And because I was not only responsible, but ultra-super-overly-extra responsible, I did that human thing and ricocheted to the other end of the spectrum as a parent. Tried to say yes whenever I could. Did nice things for my children. And thought they would catch responsibility and gratitude. Au contraire. It is the delegation of responsibility onto a young person which is gradually assumed by that young person and ultimately creates a responsible adult.

Important note: This post is about my understanding of the entitlement mentality and may not reflect the views of others in my home.

Well, well, well. Siouxsie’s back.

SOMEthing got me to thinking this morning about reflecting on the past year.

I remember mentioning awhile back that I’d be happy to see the end of 2011, and that I was looking forward to 2012.

In 2011, I learned a lot about teenagers and all their messiness. At first, I resisted the lesson.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, filled with jagged edges and rock faces to scale.. Looking back at my own teen years, I saw about 3 teaspoons of rebellious behavior in myself. (I actually think my parents would agree with this assessment, and the fact that I include that should prove my point.) So, having bypassed things like going to parties parents didn’t know about, underaged drinking, and the sordid like, I was unprepared for some of the things teenagers do.

Took it all personally at first. “Where did we go wrong?” those sorts of questions. Angry I had spent YEARS homeschooling youngsters who still made decisions I disagreed with. Bewildered that we, as loving parents, as committed and happily married parents, as parents who listened and loved and taught and read out loud and drove kids places, and did all manner of Outstanding Parenting could have kids who wondered if they were really loved. Depressed that I had planned for smooth sailing in the teen years only to discover my three teenagers standing up in the boat, completely disregarding the life jackets I held out to them, perched on the gunwales rocking for all they were worth.

After Taking It Personally came the I AM WOMAN I CAN FIX IT stage. Hunker down, try harder, speak more persuasively, listen mo’ better, give more, ask for less, hold their hearts and hands in mine, find outside help, grit my teeth REAL hard, click my heels, and BELIEVE. Short paragraph, but it seemed like that phase lasted forever.

There may have been other, just as effective, stages, but learning about the creature called “the teenager” and letting go of EITHER/OR thinking were the two experiences that transformed my reality.

Keep in mind I think my teens are wonderful, intelligent, thinking, caring, humorous, growing people. I love them forever, and I like them a lot (well, except for a few days back in February. And a few in March. And April. Maybe a couple in June). But before the big transformation in my understanding, I thought they were doing “it” wrong.

Since I didn’t get the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible memo as a teen or as a parent of babies, toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers in the early honeymoon phase, I was continually taken by surprise, especially this year. It helped to read Bob Meehan’s “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road,” although I’m not sure what I think of him or his methods. I did think his book was helpful. Really helpful. It was the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible (AND THAT IS JUST FINE) memo I had missed. So I started embracing the ride, accepting it for what it was.

And it’s been good. And it’s been hard. And it’s been fun. And I am so grateful for the teens who are in my home. They teach me things. Presumably I teach them things now and again. We laugh a lot and we have some pretty great talks. And I trust the process.

I am thankful for all of it. Now. It took awhile. Here’s to you — Valerie, Joel, Eli, and Anna-Jessie.

And even though this post is centered on the teenage portion of our show, I want to also thank Greg and Kepler for all the great things they bring to our family.

Happy New Year.