Jul 09 2016

Fifty and counting

My entire life I heard “don’t get married in July, it’s so hot.” So, in my ONLY rebellion against my parents, I got married in July. In their defense, on their wedding day it was nearly a hundred degrees, there was no air conditioning, and times were different then.

Times were fifty years ago.

Today my parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage. Think about that. Half a century of putting up with loving the same person, through thick and through thin. Five decades of love and laughter and fart jokes (what, just my family?). Spinning around the sun fifty times in a row, teaching their kids through example how to love and how to live and how to be married.


Yeah, I just hit the big 20 year mark, but that’s piffle compared to FIFTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE. They’re so cute together. Dad is tall, mom is a squirt. Dad is quiet, mom is vivacious. I adore them both, and see the best parts of them in me, and now also in my boys.


When I think of how many times in the last 20 years I’ve wanted to wring my husband’s neck, or how many times I’m sure he’s wanted to wring mine, 50 years is huge. HUUUUUUUUGE.

And yet, he and I are the children of two sets of parents who made it to 50 years, dropped the mic, and kept on going.

Happy Anniversary, dear parents. Fifty is a big deal. Love you guys.

Jul 06 2016

The Big Two-Oh

The big two-ohIt’s kinda cool when you find someone you can be weird with.

It’s kinda awesome when you get to marry that person.

And it’s really a freaking miracle when you look up one summer’s day and realize you’ve been weird with this other person for 20 years.

July 6, 1996. I was a child bride. Young, innocent. No years on me whatsoever. My groom? Some years older but still young and innocent. Married in a maple grove, in a tiny chapel that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Our friends provided the music; it was a wedding and a concert broke out. Full of love and confidence that our lives would be better having the other in it.

Flash forward 20 years.

July 6, 2016. Not so young and innocent any longer. He is silver at the temples (yum), I have an appointment for highlights. Six addresses, five vehicles, four job changes, three states, two sons, and one dog later. Not hardened by life but certainly seasoned. Many peaks and valleys, though the valleys were more numerous and felt eternal. Hard work, full of blood and sweat and many, many tears. Still full of love and confidence that our lives are better having the other in it.

Our first anniversary we ate our cake topper on a train, headed to Colorado to find a place to live.

Our second (or was it third?) anniversary we spent apart, as I was in Vermont studying flute repair.

Our fifth anniversary we didn’t sleep. Neither did the little bugger keeping us awake.

Our eighth anniversary I had food poisoning from our dinner out. Puking while 9 months pregnant is unpleasant, but at least he waited another week to be born.

Our tenth anniversary we went to Disney World, just the two of us.

Our twelfth anniversary we went to Vegas and renewed our vows with friends. And Elvis.

Our fourteenth anniversary found us replacing an HVAC motor. And walls. And doors. Because nothing says love like a/c and having the basement contractor fix an oopsie.

Our fifteenth anniversary was spent in a nearly empty house while we continued to pack for a cross country move. The house we built, the home we loved.

Our eighteenth anniversary had us contemplating the future, in all its various permutations, and realizing we needed to move. Again.

Our twentieth anniversary finds us in our dream home, with a dream career for one and dreams of a dream career for the other (that’d be me, for those of you keeping track). It finds us peeking down the path of life and seeing that The Empty Nest is an actual thing, and might be ours someday. It finds us still together, tempered by the fire of life, and grateful to still be hand in hand.

Happy Anniversary, Tom. I’m grateful to be your wife, and can’t believe you’ve put up with me all these years. May this be only one of many anniversary milestones.

Jul 01 2016

The hardest won victories are the sweetest

The hardest won victories are the sweetestWhen you have a challenging, out of the box, G2e child who has never really fit in anywhere and who has been called “the most complex child I’ve ever seen in my life” by countless teachers and therapists and doctors and counselors…the victories earned in traditional society are so much sweeter. Sweet like that first sip of water that stays down after an all-night stomach flu puke-fest. There is nothing sweeter than that first sip, and there is nothing sweeter than finally seeing my 15 year old challenging, out of the box, G2e son grow into the man he is meant to be.

Last week was summer camp week. For me, that meant I had five glorious days of the boys out of the house. Granted, I gave some flute lessons and had things to do, but gone was the guilt that the boys were glued to screens while I tried to meet deadlines and goals. For the boys, however, it was a week of being out of the house, sans screens. Cue evil maternal laughter. Jack was at a traditional day camp, grumbling all the way, and Andy was an intern with Camp Invention.

Camp Invention. The maker camp that started it all. Nine years ago Andy first attended a Camp Invention and fell in love with the maker culture. Take stuff apart and see how it works and build new stuff and this does that and that does this and this is the best thing EVER!!!!! Fast forward to today and now we have a basement full of half-dead computers, logic boards, cords, zip ties, nuts, bolts, hardware, software, and the Ark of the Covenant. Please refrain from opening it, my homeowners insurance doesn’t cover face-melting.

So from a first grader heading off to a day long camp (where I did do a happy dance, because he would be gone all day and I could get a break from the intensity) to an intern in nine short years. He was excited at first, to get to return to the camp that he loved, and then…not so much. I don’t know what flipped, but suddenly he was worried and resistant and wanted to back out.

I, being the loving and caring mother that I am, said HELL TO THE ABSOLUTE NO.

And I made him follow through.

Tom and I had a laugh at his expense the first night.
“Mom! I’m in charge of nineteen kids (rising 4th-6th graders)! And two counselors-in-training (rising 7th graders)! I just…you have no idea!”
Dear son, you just said this to two former band directors, who had classes starting at 30 and going way, WAY up from there. Nineteen kids and two young assistants? No pity here, just a hearty laugh.

Midweek he had an epiphany thrust upon him.
“Mom! The counselors-in-training just don’t listen or pay attention! They (something something something I wasn’t listening or paying attention because I was trying so, so hard to keep a concerned and straight face…I didn’t make it)!!!”
Uh-huh. Didn’t listen. Didn’t pay attention. Made a mess. Golly gee whillikers sounds like a wee bit of karma returning to you!

At the end of the week he received a Certificate of Completion, a recommendation letter from the local camp director that he can use this year, and signed proof of 40 service hours. He was so proud of himself.
“Mom, thanks for not letting me back out.” <—Words he really and truly did say.
He wants to return next year.

The hardest won victories are the sweetest.

Jun 23 2016

Parenting Teenagers

Don’t you wish there was a magazine all about parenting teenagers? Kinda like the mags you’d read in the middle of the night, nursing an infant?

Fear not! I mocked one up for you! Enjoy.

Parenting Teenagers | July 2016

Jun 15 2016

A dose of Vitamin Get The F*ck Outside

A Dose of Vitamin Get the F*ck OutsideI’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately. Last year we spent the spring and summer just watching to see what would pop out of the ground. Watched to see where the sun would fall during the day and season, watched to see where the water pooled and where it ran off quickly, watched to see what was thriving and what was struggling. I planted four rhubarb slips, because you know, rhubarb. We had one itty bitty harvest last year, but it was a start. I threw a fifth one into the patch a couple weeks ago, and now the Gang of Five is plotting. It’s ok, I’ll have the last laugh. I have rhubarb recipes out the wazoo and a full-size freezer.

Digging in the dirt is my reward for surviving another winter, and on beautiful days I try to get out and see how it’s all growing. I’m not a great gardener, more of a “throw it in the ground and pray nature knows what it’s doing” kind of person, but I enjoy it. It gives me quiet time to think. I usually don’t listen to music while I’m out there, unless I have some heavy exertion in front of me and then it’s The Dropkick Murphys all the way (last week I was digging holes in sod in high heat and humidity, trying to get perennials a friend gave me into the ground before they croaked…”Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” came on and thank god for that boost; my poor neighbors got to hear me sing along and yes, I know ALL THE WORDS to that NSFW song). Quite a bit of “If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?” was written in my head while I tried desperately to do something with the landscaping at our previous house. The language of birds and bugs and frogs and grasses…they calm me.

Which is good, because the world is a pretty messed up place these days. I try to have hope, but it’s tough when every time you turn around there’s another pile of shit being flung at everyone’s fan. It’s far too easy lately to go spinning into an anxiety-riddled vortex of “this hand-basket is heading in a southward manner at an increasing rate of speed and who the hell is driving?” I’ve moved past dystopian novels and straight into alien invasion stories; I’m past wishing for a reset button for my life and now wanting an enormous DO OVER switch for the planet. You could live in a news blackout cave and you’d still feel the stress of the world, simply from interactions with others. Everyone I know is in pain, suffering from a debilitating case of daily life. Hate and fear are everywhere, infusing everything with their sour stench. Some days it’s hard to keep going, knowing that beyond your own personal bubble the world is a giant game of Jenga, and you’re just waiting for that final brick to be removed and it all come tumbling down.

So I open the door and get a dose of Vitamin Get The Fuck Outside.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps. I water my garden in bare feet, feeling the grass scratch my ankles and the dirt work its way into the cracks and crevices of my feet. I revel in the heat from the bricks on the patio, and scrunch my toes into the mud, trying to connect my soul to that of the earth, to something solid and eternal. I sweet-talk the Gang of Five and order the new perennials to GROW, DAMMIT! I cheer when I see fat and happy bumblebees, and curse heartily at the wasps building a nest under my kitchen window; I must remember to obliterate those fuckers ASAP. I get out of my head and out of the chaos of the world and try, try so hard, to find peace in the nature around the house.

I don’t know what I’m going to do this fall and winter, when darkness and cold descend upon northern Illinois just as we enter the final stretch of this hellacious election cycle. I can work off anger by shoveling (again, “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” is a fantastic shoveling ditty), but I can’t do it barefoot and the birdsong will be just a memory. Guess I’ll live under my Happy Lamp…which needs to be replaced because I wore out the old one.

Get the fuck outside, people. Fill your souls with dirt and sun and warmth, not the screams of insanity we hear from our screens. There’s plenty of time for that when it gets cold, and there will be more than enough craziness to go around. But for now, go get a hefty dose of Vitamin GTFO; it will inoculate you against today’s world better than pretty much anything. It poured last night, so no need to water the garden. Instead I will just walk around barefoot, talking to the plants and muddying my feet, filling my tanks with sun and peace. It’s the best I got right now, and I hope you can join me.

Jun 09 2016

gifted and averages

gifted and averagesIt is summer here in Chicago. You wouldn’t know it today, with the cool temperatures and rain, but it’s most definitely summer. Tomorrow it’s expected that the temps will hit the 90s for the first time in many months. It’s unusual to get that high that early in the season, and while I guess I should be concerned with climate change, I’m just so damned happy it’s not several feet of snow that I don’t care right now.

We’re all obsessed with the weather in one way or another, aren’t we? If the temperatures are below average we get all depressed, feeling like we’re being cheated out of the proper temperature for that time of year. If the temperatures are above average we’re thrilled with the warm boon, feeling like somehow we beat the system. If the temps are far below average we worry terribly, and and if temps are far above average we wonder just what the hell is going on.

Sounds a lot like IQ scores, doesn’t it?

BAM smack in the middle of that bell curve we feel safe; everyone is equal. A little tip to either side and we can cope but our emotions are much too involved in the result; some have been cheated and others are “lucky.” A huge tip to either side and we just don’t know what to do with ourselves; some will never live independently and others are uncomfortably quirky, strange, and weird.

Like in Lake Wobegon, we want all children to be above average. Same with temperatures. I know I’d live a long and happy life with temperatures always juuuust above average. Problem is, that skews the average and effectively nullifies it. Some temperatures are above average, some are below; some are so high as to make you seriously consider nudity as a lifestyle choice, and some are so low I could not possibly wear enough clothing to stay warm. It’s the same with IQ scores and intelligence. It’s a range. Some high, some low, some very high, some very low.

Just something I’ve been pondering, as I listen to the weather reports in the morning. It’s amused me for some time how the announcers will always comment on how much above or below average the temps are for that given day.

Enjoy your summer Friday.

Jun 01 2016

The awesome weirdness of gifted kids

The awesome weirdness of gifted kidsGifted kids be weird, yo.

If you have one, or have spent any time around one, or teach one, you know this. They are the quirkiest, funniest, weirdest creatures around. And if you can step away from the challenging behaviors and parental angst, they’re awesome.

It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, to appreciate the weird in giftedness. Yes, I’ve always tried to laugh at it, or at the very least poke fun at it, but appreciate it? Not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re in the thick of one crisis after another trying to deal with it. How are you supposed to appreciate your kids’ quirks and humor, when you’re simultaneously trying to put out the fires those quirks are fanning? Not a job for the faint of heart, not one any of us applied for, and yet here we are. Might as well make some s’mores over those flames.

Here is just a small sample of the tidbits I’ve laughed at over the years. Names have been withheld to protect the innocent.


Do black holes ever close?
Um. I have degrees in music and advanced degrees in parenting that I earned on the job. Inevitably you asked this before I had coffee or after I had wine. Either way, I have no answer for you because the question itself broke my brain. Let’s go with “maybe, but I reserve the right to change my mind when scientists come forth with further information. In the meantime please go research that yourself.”

Heck, MacGyver can make a stretcher wih a couple paper clips and duct tape!
Yes, yes he can. That still doesn’t mean I’m giving you the zip ties, ball bearings, 4 ft of metal conduit, and rubber chicken you requested. And hell to the no on the liquid nitrogen, stevia plant, and rare earth magnets. What are you doing in the basement?

Guy walks into a bar. It was a metal bar. He got hurt.
You’re still working on your jokes. Not bad for a first try, but keep honing your craft. Also, keep your day job.

The future will come. It always does.
When parenting goes meta on you. Thanks child, needed the reminder. Your future is also speeding up on you and 1) you’ll be starving at school tomorrow if you don’t get going on making a lunch or 2) be living in the basement if you don’t acknowledge that college is heading this direction.

The only thing I hate about getting older is the responsibilities.
I let said child live. I also laughed until I fell to the ground and could not breathe. Child was not amused. I cannot wait until I can share this tidbit with this child when he older and has real responsibilities. I saved the name, date, and time of when he popped out this comment, and I may just needle that sucker into a cross-stitch and keep it on hand for proper presentation. I’m thinking college graduation. Been almost three years and I still laugh and laugh and laugh.

Why can’t I take in air through the atmosphere? My head hurts!
Son in question had just had two teeth removed and was still woozy from the laughing gas. This particular child is a freaking laugh riot under anesthesia; we still laugh about the time he was coming to and damned near stuck a popsicle in his eye.

It always comes down to the last level of logic for me.
Aaaand….I have nothing for this. Of course it does, dear son. Because you are wired the way you are, of course it comes down to the last level of logic. You needed to wring every last drop of logic out of all the previous levels. However, I’ve discovered that you always seem to find one last level, so your levels of logic are a lot more like a bottomless pit…or a Highway to Hell for me. You’re exhausting.

Why does my saliva not bounce around in my mouth when I’m bouncing on this ball?
For the same reason a hippopotamus wears a G-string on National Donut Day, kiddo.

What’s wrong with me and my binaries?
What do your binaries have to do with anything? Did I miss a memo? Where are they? Are they inflamed? Do you need to see a doctor or an IT specialist? Are they contagious? I’d hate to be quarantined because of binaries. Do they need watered? My god, what happens if we feed them after midnight?

Flavor doesn’t have copy and paste, MOM!
Dammit I wish I could remember the context here. I want to say it had something to do with chewing gum, but I just don’t know. But you’re right, buddy, flavor doesn’t have copy and paste. If it did, I’d be throwing ⌘-c and ⌘-p around with wild abandon. Bananas that could taste like chocolate peanut butter ice cream instead of hot glue? Cauliflower with the flavor of ripe cherries instead of spicy funk? Zucchini that…never mind, nothing can improve zucchini. Devil’s veggie. A hot pox on that vegetable.

I have a hurt-bump.
I do too, my loves. My head, it is pounding with the effort of understanding half of what you guys say and know. You are far smarter than I, and I’m starting to think you know it. But unlike most physical hurt-bumps, this one will not go away with application of ice and a few ibuprofen. It’s a permanent parenting gifted kids hurt-bump. Thankfully it doesn’t hurt anymore, just gets tender from time to time. It’s a hurt-bump I didn’t expect to be given, but I wear it like a badge of honor.


Today’s post was part of the June Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop, on the mysteries and weird stuff of giftedness. Lots of writers with lots of perspectives, I recommend you take a few minutes and check them out!

June 2016 Hoagies Blog Hop The Weird Stuff

May 27 2016

No title because no brain

It went a little something like this:

“Captain, we’ve had a core breach.”
“What? Scotty, explain!”
“Levels were high but all within normal limits. Engineering was working to bring them lower when BOOM we were hit. Half my team is down, there is matter and anti-matter everywhere, the place is a mess. I blame the Glutens or the Allergens, maybe the Stressors, you can’t trust any of those assh…”
“Keep me inf…”
“She can’t take much more of this, Captain! She’s gonna blow!”
“Dump the core.”
“Captain, are ye sure?”
“You heard me, dump it.”
<stunned silence> “Aye Captain.”




This dramatic Star Trek inspired re-enactment was brought to you by whatever the hell knocked me on my ass this week. It’s bad enough that I finally got over a cold in May, but I’d rather cough and snot all over the place than have an energy core dump like this again. I was the red-shirted ensign of my own life the last few days. Could have been gluten poisoning, could have been allergies run amok, could have been end-of-school-year-I’m-so-done, could have been a migraine as a friend suggested, but dang. I’m a big fan of afternoon naps, but only on the weekends or holidays or when you can luxuriate in the bliss of midday slumber. Passing out in the middle of the day because you’re non-functional from vertigo and feeling like a gutted fish is not blissful, no it is not.

Or maybe I just have teenage boys who delight in tormenting each other, cranking the bickering volume to 11, and generally raising the angst level higher than this emotionally intense mama can absorb. (Reeeeeally kinda done with the two of them and we’re not even at summer break yet.)

Or all of the above.

Regardless of what precipitated the overload and core dump this week I am exhausted and ready for some low-key time. My flute studio is on break until mid-June, school is winding down for the boys, and I plan on spending this weekend as horizontal as possible for as long as possible.

I’ll just avoid red shirts for the foreseeable future.

May 16 2016

Keepin’ it real as a 2e parent

17Admittedly, I got cocky.

Things were going so well. One kid rockin’ it as a homeschooler, the other rolling along in middle school (BRAG ALERT: honor roll every quarter so far, and it is within his grasp to get straight As this quarter). I wrote a love letter to giftedness, I acknowledged that G2e teens/tweens are a challenge but still awesome as hell, I thought I knew what I was doing and had a handle on our lives.

Commence hysterical laughing now. No, really, please go ahead. You have my full permission to engage in a dollop of schadenfreude. I’ll even join in.

I’m going to share a little secret with you. Please don’t spread this around, it’ll totes ruin my rep.

OH MY GOD I HAVE NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT I AM DOING. At all. Ever. I barely know how to style my hair, much less guide my G2e sons into adulthood. (Note: My headshot is woefully out of date. I am no longer sporting the cute little pixie cut, but long waves to my shoulders. The plan is to go even longer and snag some highlights this summer. Because, by god, I may need to lose weight but gold and red highlights don’t care.)

There was no one event that smacked me upside the head and declared, “YO! You be an idjit, woman!!” Just a series of small, intimate panic attacks on my part as 1) I realized that Andy is finishing his first year of high school and I haven’t even started a portfolio or transcript for him, 2) Jack wants to be homeschooled and THAT is just not happening, 3) society is in a woven receptacle heading south and it’s getting warmer and warmer, and 4) I’d really like to no longer be responsible for anything, much less my sons’ education and general moral fiber. I thought I had the flaming batons under control, when in reality they were torching everything around me while I dealt with the spinning plates and glass balls. The temptation to stand in the middle of my life and scream STOP while I physically throw my arms into the air to attempt to halt the progression of time and responsibilities is nearly overwhelming. Unfortunately, it would accomplish nothing other than a scratchy throat and pitying looks from the people around me.

These two boys of mine, that I still see as mah baybees, will be out in the world in the next 3-8 years. I’ve been blogging about them for a decade, so that shortened timeline hits me hard in the feels. And the worry, oh my god the worry. It’s not even that they are two out of the box kids in a world that builds boxes, it’s that the world right now is terrifying. Regardless of your political leanings (and if you can’t tell, I lean so far to the left that sometimes things are at a 90 degree angle) or country of citizenship, you gotta admit that the world today is far more frightening than it was in our youth, and we lived through the Cold War. Think about that. The world today is more frightening than the specter of nuclear war.

How do we prepare our out of the box, creative, march to the beat of their own drummer G2e kids for a world that is changing daily? For a world that doesn’t want to acknowledge or accept them unless they provide high value? For a world that is so screwed up that even adults are left speechless and shaking their heads? My boys are coming of age in a time of great uncertainty, and I don’t know how to guide them to adulthood. I thought I did but I find myself paralyzed by the enormity of the task. Paralysis By Analysis. A decade ago I thought potty training was going to do me in, and truthfully it nearly did, but this is a job for SuperMom and she is long gone. She took one look at the job description, laughed, flipped me off, and flew off into the night, never to appear again. I heard a rumor that she was sighted on a small tropical island, gently swaying in a hammock and sipping on an umbrella drink. Smart woman. Lucky bitch.

Parenting is a hard, often thankless job, and parenting outliers even more so. We have to fight battles others won’t acknowledge, against adversaries others don’t even know exist, all on top of the usual parenting battles which, let’s be honest, are enhanced because of the aforementioned outlier-ness. All this in a world, in a society, that is vastly different and less stable than the one in which we were raised. The best we can do, the best I can do, is to keep it real about the challenges and ignore the outside world as best I can. Teach the Golden Rule (or, in our house, Wheaton’s Law). Teach my boys how to think. They’re already pretty good at questioning authority and persistence, so teach them to put that persistence and questioning to good use and investigate all sides of an issue. Teach them to leave everything better than they found it. Teach them that not replacing the toilet paper roll is going to get them in trouble some day.

I know that kinda sounds like I know what I’m doing but damn it doesn’t feel that way. I just hope SuperMom is keeping a hammock open for me because one of these days I may run off and join her. I’m in the mood for some umbrella drinks; I hear they really help with throats scratchy from screaming at life.


Today’s post is part of GHF’s May blog hop, on preparing G2e teens and tweens for their futures. Go check out some of the other writers; maybe they have more of a clue than I.

Preparing for their future: Parenting gifted teens and tweens

May 11 2016

Real Life Scaffolding

Real Life Scaffolding


That’s a picture of my flute right there. Notice anything unusual? Yes, the headjoint is pretty smeary, I hadn’t wiped it down yet. And the lighting isn’t the best, it’s been foggy all morning. Oh! That white thing snapped onto that bar? What’s that?

That’s my real life scaffolding.

Technically it’s called a c# extension and it’s an expensive piece of molded plastic that snaps onto my flute’s main rod. It allows my left index finger to be less cramped and painful, and I play faster and more cleanly. Not many people use these, or even need them. Most flutists play just fine with the keys set up the way they are, no problem. Others, because of injury or arthritis, have extensive modifications made to their instruments. I fall somewhere in the middle. In grad school my teacher and I experimented with different setups for me, various modifications that would eliminate and prevent hand pain while allowing me to strive for excellence. For awhile there I had all sorts of things clipped and velcroed onto my flute, but now I’m pretty much just down to the c# extension (and only because I’m still searching for a right hand thumb squooshy; Dr. Scholl’s quit manufacturing my perfect solution). Over the years the temporary modifications I’ve tried (including taping my pinkies into curves for several months as an undergrad to break the terrible habit of playing with locked and double-jointed pinkies) eventually fell away, leaving the one remaining that I still need and may need indefinitely. I’m good with that.

Does my c# extension make me better than others? No, not by a long shot. There are still plenty of flutists out there much better than I, that’s for sure. Does it give me an unfair advantage? Nope, it just allows me to play without pain and helps prevent injury to me. Shouldn’t I remove it now, since I’ve improved so much? While I could play without it, and play well, I’d be straining my left hand and index finger well past pain and into injury territory; just because I’ve improved with the assistance doesn’t mean I no longer need it.

So where am I going with this?

Scaffolding is simply assistance. Removed IF deemed no longer necessary by the person using it, kept if needed, given freely and without judgment. It’s not an advantage, it’s not cheating, it’s not unfair.

It would behoove the education system to remember this.

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