And he wanted to quit piano…

What gets my teenager all excited?  Piano sheet music for two of his current favorite shows and the chance to annoy his sisters by playing them.

I’ll admit that the Knight Rider theme song will get on my nerves, too, if he plays it excessively.

But I think the song from The Adventures of Tintin is pretty cool.  And how can I not love the internet that enables me to obtain such an obscure piece?

Better than "Yo, Dude"

Fritz has to write a letter to the bishop as one of his confirmation requirements.  The topic is: how my home life has influenced my religious formation.  I asked him if he had considered what he would write.

“Yeah.  I’m going to say that I’m homeschooled, so my mom’s my teacher, and we have religion class every day.”

“Hm.  Okay.  You know you’re going to have to expand that to about 150 words?”



“I know what the first four words will be: Dear Mr. Bishop, Sir:

Well, at least he nailed politeness and respect.  Only 146 more words to go.

School with a teenager


Teacher: Shakespeare wrote two kinds of plays: comedies, which always have at least one wedding, and tragedies, which always have at least one death.

Teen: What about Henry V?

{brief silence}

Teacher: Shakespeare wrote three kinds of plays: comedies, which always have at least one wedding, and tragedies, which always have at least one death, and histories, which are historical.


Teen: Does anything travel at the speed of darkness?


Teen: Who drank all the coffee?  Mom!  Can you make more coffee?

Elective: Halloween Costume Design

Teen: During lunch, can you sew my cape?

Teacher: You want me to work on my lunch break?

{downcast look}

Teen: Can I sew my cape?

Teacher: Uh, no.

(I definitely see some potential here for him learning to sew on my machine, but I’m expecting more fabric today for two other costumes, and I just can’t afford the learning curve this time.  Maybe I’ll have him, after Halloween, make a cape for Billy and learn that way.)

Thinking Ahead to Advent

“Are you going to blog today?” he asked me.

“I hope so,” I said.

“You know…it’s been a week.”

(sigh)  Yes.  I know.


Last Wednesday, I took Sarah Reinhard’s booklet, Welcome Baby Jesus, to church to show the DRE.  It’s not too early to be thinking about Advent, and I recommend her Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families.  My family used it last year, in text form only, and I think Ligori did a great job with the artwork to make it as visually appealing as it is spiritually appealing.

I go to church on Wednesdays because Fritz has CCD on Wednesday evenings.  Fritz asked about the booklet, and I explained that Mrs. Reinhard, whom he has met more than once, wrote it.  She even signed my copy.  I feel very special.

“Wow.  I know someone who has written a book,” he said.  He’s even breathed the same air.

“I know several people who have written books,” I told him.  I’m not going to even start dropping names now for fear that I will leave somebody out.

Fritz seemed even more impressed.  That’s right, kid, I know people.

“In fact, I would like to write a book.  I have several ideas, but I don’t have any time.  I think I’ll put you all in school so I have all day long to sit and write.  Is that ok with you?”


“What?  Why not?  Shouldn’t I have personal fulfillment?  Shouldn’t I be allowed to pursue my dreams?”

“That’s what Saturdays and Sundays are for.”

(sigh)  Thwarted.  Stymied.  If only I didn’t need sleep.

He still likes me, usually

Last week, there was a mandatory parent-child meeting for 8th grade confirmation students.  We missed it, being in Alabama.

Last night, there was a make-up meeting for the half dozen of us who didn’t make it.  It began at 6:15, 45 minutes before the start of the first class.  Yes, things are in full swing here: football, Scouts, CCD, ballet, piano.  We are back to school.

The meeting covered all the basics that DREs, unfortunately, need to cover: class attendance is required, Mass attendance is required, etc.  We went over the no-electronic-devices policy and the consequence of immediate confiscation until a parent asks for the return if a student is texting or surfing the web during class.  To help keep temptation at bay, they have a basket in which students can place their phones at the beginning of class.

Immediately after the DRE went over the cell phone rules, my cell phone rang.  Small room, and I was right in front of the DRE.  It was Bill, and I was able to quickly “ignore” his call and put my phone on vibrate, which was good because after I failed to answer he called again.  The timing was perfect. 

After the meeting, I called him back, and he was very apologetic having remembered where I was and why I wasn’t answering.  The whole thing was too funny for me to be annoyed.


Class goes until 8:30.  I went to the grocery store and got back a few minutes early.  Like any good Catholic parking lot, cars were backed into spots or lined up ready for a quick getaway.  Since Fritz did not attend CCD last year, we didn’t have a pre-arranged pickup plan.  I decided to go into the parish center where the classrooms are, and wait for him there. 

As he came out of the classroom, the pastor and the teacher were reminding the students: “Don’t forget your phones!”

“Don’t forget your phone,” I said to Fritz.

“I didn’t bring the phone,” he said, looking at me as though I had lost my marbles, since, of course, I knew he didn’t have the “kid phone” we finally broke down and bought.

“Would you like to bring that phone every week so that you can drop it in the basket like everybody else?”

“No.”  Now he was sure I was crazy.  But I moved the conversation along.

“Do you want me to come in when I pick you up?” I asked.

“Into the classroom?”  I detected a note of worry.

“No…into the parish center.  Or would you prefer that we figure out a meeting place in the parking lot?”

“Oh, I don’t care,” he said, relieved that I wasn’t coming into the classroom.

“I’m just asking because lots of kids your age are embarrassed by their parents.  Do I embarrass you?”

“Not all the time,” he said.

Aha.  This is the first time he admitted being embarrassed at all.  I have tried really hard not to be too kissy/huggy at drop offs to camp, but he seriously can’t expect his mother to not tell her son she loves him before he goes away for a whole week, right?

I’m just happy that I only embarrass him some of the time.  I’m also happy I wasn’t the only parent going inside for pickup.

Baby Steps

I’ve sent my oldest son off to week-long Scouts camps three times now, plus a 5 day camp for military kids.  Each time, it has gotten easier to say goodbye.  Of course, the little worrier voice in my head will try hard to remind me of natural disasters striking Scouts, but I’ve not been too concerned with the boy himself having fun or not.

Of course, each of these camps, he went along with kids he knew.  And trusted adults helped him through that first camp that began a few weeks after his dad deployed.  Between homesickness and missing his dad, it was a tough one.

Yesterday, I drove him out to a vocations camp our diocese is having.  Even though he didn’t know anybody else going, I was sure he’d do just fine.  He is a reserved boy, but he is also extremely likeable.  All he needs is the invitation to be included in some activity and he’ll jump in and be a great team player.

But still, not knowing anybody made him nervous.  It would make me nervous too.  I’ve gone to conferences and talks alone, and wondered if I’d have anybody to talk to, if anybody would let me sit at their table during lunch, if anybody would recognize me as that obscure mom-blogger with the stupidest blog name ever…typical middle-school worries, which are appropriate for my 13 year old son, but less understandable in a 40 year old woman.


Poor kid complained of headaches and stomachaches all week long as yesterday approached.  It was a 3 hour drive, and we stopped for lunch.  He ate 2 bites of his sandwich and then put his head down, a sure sign that the kid is full of angst.  After signing him in and dropping off his gear, he was pointed in the direction of the basketball courts where a dozen young men were playing pick up games.  I watched him slowly drag himself in that direction.  I took my time in the van, setting my GPS for home, firmly buckling my seat belt, making sure all the kids were set and had no pressing needs.  I backed up and headed out, watching my son’s progress toward the courts.  I saw him tentatively step onto the surface and wait for a welcome, an invitation to join a group.  5 seconds…10 seconds…15 seconds…and then I had to choose: stop the car like a worried mother hen and make sure that my little boy had playmates before I left for home, or continue down the drive where he was out of sight and trust that somebody would notice him soon and include them in their game.

With a lump in my throat, I drove on, leaving him to make his own niche in that corner of the world.

He’s fine; I know he’s fine.

But with this child, my oldest, I am learning that growing up is as much about me becoming an adult as it is about him maturing.

Convenient inconvenience

Fritz keeps losing pocket knives.  This past summer camp, he lost one of his dad’s.  It was, intentionally, an inexpensive knife, so it’s not a big deal, but for the frustration of having a son who is generally responsible, except in this one area.


Years and years ago, my husband and I had an ongoing argument about joining the NRA.  I was opposed to membership on the grounds that someday NRA membership rosters would become government “most wanted” lists.  I argued that NRA members would be the first ones to have their homes searched when guns were ultimately outlawed.  I preferred to present to the world a “normal” facade while hoarding a stockpile of weapons under the floorboards of my house.  My husband felt that the NRA would be the organization that would work hardest to prevent such a scenario and that membership would aid them in defending 2nd Amendment rights.  At some point, he did join the NRA, because he is a grown man who has a mind of his own and who only goes along with his wife’s paranoid ideas if it suits him.

Hopefully, if things ever get that bad, we’ll have some sort of e-Paul Revere sending texts: “The ATF are coming!  The ATF are coming!”

Anyway, dutiful bill-paying wife that I am, I make sure that his quarterly dues to the NRA are paid in full.  At some point, they were automatically charged to his credit card, but a compromised card led to a new number and the NRA sent us a paper bill when the charge to the old card was declined.  On the paper bill was the suggestion to have the dues automatically charged to a credit card, and the enticement that you could get a free pocketknife and flashlight if you did so.  I did so.  And we got a free pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we received another paper bill with the exact same offer.  Even though last quarter’s dues had been charged to the credit card, they hadn’t set it up as an automatic thing.  I filled the form out again and a few weeks later, we received a package with a pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we got another paper bill.

I can’t even remember how long this has been going on, but I’m mailing out yet another paper bill with the credit card information on it.  I think we have 9 more quarters to go before his Lifetime membership is all paid for.


It’s actually quite amusing to me to see how long this will go on.

My main hope is that Fritz stops losing pocketknives before they figure it out.

Working Vacation

Yesterday’s success story was finally getting my husband to join me in being an official resident of the state of Florida.  He has a driver’s license and both cars now have Florida plates.  So long, New Jersey.

Florida does not have a plate for the front of the car, so Bill said he’d look around and find me something.  The front grill looks very bare.

He suggested something glittery that said “Michelle.”  Can you imagine?

Several weeks ago I was eyeing the camo steering wheels covers at a local store.  I have nothing against camo steering wheel covers, but they are definitely not my husband’s style.  I thought it would make a funny practical joke.  He caught me looking and threatened to pimp my ride with Betty Boop paraphernalia.  I decided the laughs weren’t worth the expense.


Speaking of practical jokes, several weeks ago, Fritz took an empty beer bottle, filled it with water and hammered the cap back on.  He put it in the fridge hours before Bill came home.  I didn’t see him, and didn’t notice anything suspicious when he loitered in the kitchen that evening when Bill came home from work.

It was a well played joke.

It doesn’t bode well for our future if we don’t sharpen our wits.


In order to register the cars in Florida, we had to drive the cars to Florida.  We went to Fernandina Beach, which isn’t too far away.  And there’s a beach.  Bill left an hour before me to take care of his license first.

I was almost to Florida when my car started shimmying very very badly.  I pulled over and expected to see a flat tire, but they all looked fine.  As I sat and texted my husband, who was 25 minutes away, a police officer pulled over to see what was wrong.  He looked at my tires as well, but suggested the problem could be internal.

“You wouldn’t know it until it blew out.”


We agreed I needed to keep it slow (55 mph in a 70 zone), and he left.  After I got back on the road, Bill called and said perhaps the lug nuts were loose.  Since I was near an exit, I took it and checked those.  They seemed fine.  He texted that I should find a service place, but I saw only gas stations at that exit.  I decided to get back on the highway and limp the ten miles or so to the exit closest to Bill and deal with it then.

On the curve to the entrance ramp, the left rear tire blew.

I am very grateful that it was there and at that low speed then at highway speeds with traffic.  One’s car does fishtail when something like that happens.

Safely to the side of the ramp, I called AAA and they promised to send someone to put on the spare tire as soon as possible.  I appraised Bill of the situation and he said he would be over as soon as his license was done.

I thought about changing the tire myself.  I have changed tires before.  Not on this car.  Not in a while.  The last time I started to change a tire, somebody pulled over to help.  It was in my neighborhood, and I knew him.  I wasn’t sure I wanted a random stranger’s help in this situation.  The biggest reason I decided not to do it was that it was the left rear tire, only a few feet away from the edge of the ramp.  I really didn’t want my little kids witnessing mommy being dragged off by a tractor trailer.

So I waited and when the pickup truck showed up, the person who got out to change my tire was…

…a girl.

I texted my sister that fact and she texted back: “Are you sexist?”

“No,” I responded, “just embarrassed.”

I helped by keeping an eye on traffic.  And I’m glad I didn’t have to kneel down in the gravel in my nylon board shorts.  She was wearing jeans which are much better suited for that sort of work.


The rest of the day was calmer.  After the clerk checked my VIN and mileage, I headed to the beach.  We sat and waited a bit for a thunderstorm to pass and then spent a few hours watching the fish jump out of the water. 

This may be our last summer here, so we’re enjoying the ocean as much as possible while we can.

Learning via natural (stinky) consequences

On returning from a three day road trip, the children were instructed to bring their dirty clothing to the laundry room.  They had been swimming in a hotel pool, and the bathing suits, still wet, had been packed up amongst the dirty clothes.  Yuck.

Fritz didn’t get the memo and unpacked his dirty things into the hamper in his bedroom.  I asked him to bring it down, but he moaned about the trip up the stairs again.  I let the matter drop.

Hours later, it was bedtime.  Fritz reappeared downstairs after the goodnights.

“Mom, where’s that spray stuff? My room smells.”

I gave him the Febreze and suggested he bring his dirty laundry down.  But what do I know?