Category Archives: Raising Teenagers

Craving “Constants”

As the oldest child approaches senior year of high school and the youngest breezes through junior high not far behind, a mom can get pretty sentimental, y’ know? It used to be that even when the older child went through big changes, I still felt connected to the “younger child years”, because my kids are four years apart in age.  For example, when Allison became “too mature” to enjoy going to the neighborhood pool every day in the summer, I’d still get to sit at that pool on summer mornings, with other moms of young kids, as Emmie took yearly swim lessons.  When Allison and her friends were old enough to go to the mall by themselves, I’d still accompany Emmie on shopping trips.  I had one foot in kid-land and one foot in teen-land.  But this summer I am acutely aware that I have both feet pretty well planted in teen-land now, and it’s kinda sad. They don’t need me as much.  My oldest had an internship at a local theatre from 10-5:30 every day and used public transportation to get there, and is now in New York City for two weeks taking part in a pre-college program for high school students (yes, I did want to bawl my eyes out after helping set up her dorm room, telling her good-bye, and walking away on the streets of NYC alone, but I also was so excited for her, I held it together).  My youngest has been spending a lot of time away from home by babysitting and being on a swim team, and spending her own money at the mall…without mom in tow.  She recently spent a week in Joplin, Missouri, helping her church youth group repair tornado damage.   Whenever either girl is home and has free time, she usually wants to make plans with friends. 

Some may think I should be doing cartwheels of happiness over their growing independence, and I’ll admit there have definitely been days when I do (well, mental cartwheels at least…I’m a lousy gymnast) but at the same time, summer has called up powerful memories of time spent together, and of me coming up with all sorts of camps and activities for them to do, and there’s an underlying sadness that we’ve passed through a certain point of no return (underscore that with the fact that as this summer began for me, so did hot flashes…)

So with all this change happening, I find myself noticing and taking comfort in “constants”—any place or thing or event or ritual that has been around since the kids were born.  Things that have remained pretty much unchanged over the past 13-17 years.  Which have been hard to find, when I put my mind to it.  We don’t live in the same house…most of the girls’ old clothes and toys and games have been given away (with some exceptions—see my last post)…their first pets have gone to pet heaven… birthdays aren’t celebrated with parties as much anymore (“Mom, I’d rather have the cash instead”) and Christmas and Easter celebrations seem to change every year.  Our annual trips to Grandma’s house in Iowa end this summer, as she’s moving to a retirement community not far from our house here in Texas…heck, even Spongebob has “left the building”, replaced by Tivo’ed episodes of “Dance Moms”. Yes, my husband and I have raised our kids in only one community, but a lot has changed within it as well.  So much of what was a part of our family’s early years has either gone out of business or moved away: Paint ‘n Party; Discovery Zone; favorite restaurants; the shaved ice stand; the neighborhood grocery store, where Allison once fell out of a shopping cart (on Andy’s watch, I might add) and where we knew all the checkers’ names… the neighborhood parks are still there, but the play equipment has been updated with newer, safer, plastic versions, or not replaced at all (no more merry-go-rounds, “jungle gyms”, or rocket ship slides)… I used to find comfort in the fact that the city rec center where Emmie still takes a gymnastic class is the same rec center I took the girls to the splash playground and to “Mommy and Me” classes when they were preschoolers…but the wrecking crews recently set up shop in the parking lot and the facility will soon will be torn down, moved and re-built. 

Geez, isn’t there anything that’s remained the same? I did manage to come up with a few stand-outs, listed here in no particular order:

  1. Luby’s Cafeteria.  Still in the same location, still serving up LuAnn platters. And there are those rolling high-chairs lined up in the corner, just like I remember…
  2. Broadway shows and music.  So glad I introduced Allison to this at around age 2 or 3 in an attempt to expose her to music that both parent and child could enjoy together.  Rock was too adult for toddler ears, Barney was too toddler for adult ears, but selections from “Cats”, “Oliver” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” were the perfect fit.  When little sis came along, she couldn’t help liking them, too.  We still all enjoy going to shows together and listening to the music, and both girls have been in community and/or high school versions of Broadway shows as well. I am so thankful that both high school and community theatre is still thriving in North Texas.
  3. The city library…still there, along with the same librarian and her turtle puppet that still entertains children at “Lapsit” storytime…and there’s still a wonderful  Santa’s Village that’s set up outside the library every holiday season.
  4. Our minivan, still running at almost 214,000 miles.  Purchased before Emmie was born.  And no doubt somewhere in a forgotten crack in that van lurks cookie crumbs from a long ago Happy Meal…
  5. Our church–  though new additions have been built and some staff has changed, many  “constants” remain, like the fall pumpkin patch, Vacation Bible School for kids, Sunday morning pancake breakfasts, and lots of people who have watched the girls grow up.
  6. The 4th of July—Every year we celebrate the 4th of July in the same way: driving to watch a morning parade in the Lakewood neighborhood of Dallas, in the front yard of longtime family friends, and afterwards heading to the park where the parade ends, to endulge in a free snow cone, bottle of water, or cup of beer, depending on preference (and age!) and watch a guy dressed like Uncle Sam hand out awards for the best parade entries.  After that, it’s back to our friends’ home for brisket and a potluck of sides and desserts, alongside many of their other friends and family members.  All their lives, every Independence Day, our kids have sat on the same curb and caught candy thrown from the floats (with the exception of the two times when they were a part of the parade), gathered in the same dining room for lunch, and posed in the same yard for photos.   The same yard where Andy and I sat when we were dating, the same yard where Andy’s late grandmother chuckled as she wore a white straw hat with balloons on top, the same yard where baby Allison and I once wore matching bandana-print dresses.

Yes, amidst all the changes, I’m so glad that some things stay the same.  I don’t know what the experts would say about the value of raising your kids in one to
wn, or keeping the same die-hard car, but plenty has been written and discussed about the importance of traditions, and how if you don’t have any, you should start some.  Traditions “enhance children’s emotional well-being by helping to create feelings of security, continuity and identity,” writes Leah Davies, M.Ed., former Child Development instructor at Auburn University, at her website  I couldn’t agree more. But I would expand that to say that traditions are important to everyone’s well-being…especially menopausal moms of teens.

How To Help Your Teen Be A Successful Babysitter

Now that my 13-year-old, Emmie, is a bona fide, certified, babysitter (she took a course at a local rec center in May), she’s been trying to build her business and get jobs (saving for an iPhone can be a powerful incentive…).  After she created a flier, gathered email addresses and sent out the flier, she has started to get calls. So I thought it was time to pass on to her what my childhood friend, Trisha, passed on to me and what I’d already passed on to Allison: the secret to successful babysitting. Trisha was a very successful babysitter; I took her advice and was booked solid almost every weekend evening (at least a Friday or Saturday night) during my junior high and early high school years , and in summer, some weekdays and evenings as well. 

So what’s the secret?  Bring your own “stuff”.  Yes, that’s it in a nutshell—bring a bag with toys, games and books that you used to play with. And if you have enough stuff, you can bring something different each time, for awhile.    It’s a wonderful thing, and the kids you are babysitting LOVE it. And so do the parents.  It sets you apart from other babysitters, especially the gum-smacking, I-really-don’t-want-to-do-this, I’d-rather-text-or- watch-TV bunch of babysitters.  ‘You care enough to pick out special books and toys from your own closet and bring them along?’ marvel the parents. ‘You’ll share your toys with me and I don’t have to play with the same old stuff?’ marvel the kids. The kids will rave about you to their parents and the parents will call you again.  It happened for me, it happened for Allison and it has already happened for Emmie.

Which is why we parents shouldn’t throw (or give) all of our kids’ childhood stuff away as they get older. Do you have a potential babysitter among your children? I was already saving a few of my kids’ toys for my great-nieces and nephew to play with when they come for a visit, so I saved a little bit extra just in case my kids were babysitters:  some toy cars and a plastic play mat emblazoned with a town and roads; classic board games like Chutes and Ladders; Colorforms; wooden puzzles; some dress-up clothes; lots of books; a tabletop puppet theatre…

There’s also a lot of kidstuff still in the house that I meant to get rid of but haven’t gotten around to purging, that has turned out to be great for babysitting…when Emmie got a job the other day as a mother’s helper and needed to accompany a parent and two kids to a doctor visit, she looked in our old “road trip” cabinet and hit the mother lode of all kinds of magnetic toys– Magnadoodles, magnetic “paper dolls”, and a game called Tickle Bee, to name a few. They were perfect for her to entertain the kids during the long car ride to the doctor’s as well as the waiting room…When she got a job watching a child at a baby pool (while the parent was nearby watching another child), I climbed a ladder in our garage just before she was to leave for the job and found a bag of our old tub toys on the shelf, which thankfully hadn’t been put in a recent garage sale.  Emmie picked out several things which the child (and every other kid in the pool) thoroughly enjoyed: a small inflatable fish, a “whale pitcher” with a “strainer hat”, an empty plastic “Mr. Bubble” bottle that doubles as a boat…

Though one might think that the novelty of “someone else’s toys” wears off, I don’t remember that ever happening, since the toys aren’t stored at the kids’ homes.  You just rotate them to keep things fresh.  Kids start requesting certain favorites. And, hopefully their positive feedback will inspire your teen to find even more creative ways to entertain kids, such as food art (like pepperoni pizza “faces” and cutting lunchmeat and cheese with fun-shaped cookie cutters for open-faced sandwiches), throwing a birthday party for a doll or pet, and photography.  One family still remembers the time I dressed up their kids in wigs and western wear and tried to snap a frowning “tintype” style of Old West photo… It didn’t look so great taken with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic, but it was the thought that counted…

Wake Me Up Before You YOLO: What parents should know about the latest teen trend in risky behavior

Ever heard of YOLO? If you haven’t and you’re a parent of a teen, you need to wise up.  It’s an acronym that means You Only Live Once and it was popularized in a song by Canadian rapper Drake last fall, tattooed on actor Zac Efron’s hand, hashtagged by millions of teens on Twitter and immortalized in their Facebook posts as well.  When I first heard Allison’s friends tease her that she was all about YOLO, I actually thought that was a good thing, like the “Carpe Diem” motto that Robin Willliams implores his students to follow in the movie Dead Poet’s Society, a movie that Andy and I showed to our daughters not too long ago…it also seemed related to my personal favorite movie line, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived” from the movie, Strictly Ballroom… But I guess another motto I should memorize (because I keep forgetting it) is “parents are clueless” because, as Washington Post style writer Maura Judkis put it in an article dated 4-6-12, YOLO is short on the noble idea of living life to its fullest and is more focused on brash decisions and their consequences…it’s used as an excuse for bad or risky behavior, or to play mean pranks. She lists examples of recent YOLO Tweets from kids that include things like “switching seats while the car is going 100” and “peeing off a hotel balcony”.  What she doesn’t write but what has become a scary “sidebar” of this phenomenon is that kids try to copy each other’s YOLO feats and even “out-YOLO” each other.   

We found that out unwittingly a few weeks ago.  Early one Sunday morning, Andy obtained our 17-year-old’s cell phone (while she slept) so he could look at it to properly order a new battery for it online, and decided to check her texts and Tweets while doing so—we were concerned with how late she had been staying out (we’d never had to set a curfew in the past) and he was curious to see if he’d be able to tell what time she’d gotten in the night before.  Not only did he discover her ETA was about 2:30 a.m., he also discovered she’d ridden with friends to Oklahoma and back, about an hour and a half (82 miles) up the highway, to explore the Choctaw Casino Resort and Tweet photos of their adventure, with a YOLO hashtag, of course.   “Words cannot express the good time we’re having,” read one Tweet.  After we gave her a consequence (grounding for a week), tears were shed, and phone calls were made to all the other parents involved (some were concerned, come weren’t), more unnerving details came to light. We found out that, after a pair of Seniors had YOLOed and Tweeted their way up to the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign a week before, that Allison and her Junior and Sophomore friends wanted to do the same…and that on the previous Thursday, the night of the last day of school, they’d attempted to do just that, starting their trip to the Sooner State at the spur-of-the moment time of 2 a.m.  Their plans were thwarted around 3 after a small town Texas cop pulled them over and gave the driver a ticket for going 10 over the speed limit.  He told them to turn around and go home (can you believe he didn’t also ticket them for curfew as well as not having a seatbelt for every passenger?!!), and so they did, possibly hitting a coyote on the way, but vowing to return. Which they did on that infamous Saturday night, after they’d attended a couple graduation parties.   They couldn’t find the welcome sign at the border, but when they saw a sign advertising Choctaw “only 15 more miles” away, they decided to “go for it” and do something better than the Seniors.

“But Mom, you should be happy that nothing bad happened!” I heard.  “We didn’t get hurt! We weren’t drinking or doing drugs! We were just having fun!”  And of course I got an earful of how I probably never had fun so I wouldn’t understand…

Not understand? Of course I can understand how fun and exhilarating and grown up that must have felt. They explored a luxury hotel.  They rode the elevator to the top and looked out the windows at all the neon wonderment below. They chatted and laughed with a wedding party on the elevator.  They walked around the pool.  They drove on the highway for three hours, Broadway music blasting and voices singing (these are theatre kids, keep in mind).  All by themselves.  But it was after midnight, and it’s a FACT that a high percentage of people who are on the highways during that time have alcohol in their systems (or something else), especially in rural Texas and Oklahoma! Who wants their kid sharing the road at night with a bunch of drunks?!

“But we hardly passed any cars,” she said.  “There was no one on the roads”.  Great, that really made me feel better…”What would you have done if the car had engine trouble?” I asked her. “Or gotten a flat tire? Would you have called us? Would some crazed perv have pulled over to help you out?” She didn’t know what to say.

And it wasn’t just the lateness, or the highway driving, that Andy and I were concerned about—but also the lies that several of the kids, including ours, told their parents about where they’d been, and the money that had been given to them for dinner and graduation gifts that had gone instead toward financing the gas.

Yes, kids will be kids, like they always have been., in every decade.  But what this new breed of thrill seekers has that their phonebooth-stuffing, drag-racing counterparts of bygone days didn’t have is an instant way to brag about their escapades, making copy-catting all the more likely, and more widespread.  “Mom, we’re LEGEND now!” Allison explained, as if that might make me think differently.   A few days later, more area teens YOLOed their way to Oklahoma late at night and Tweeted about it. 

And apparently, now the YOLO craze has hooked up with the “bucket list” fad for even more fun (no doubt fueled by the once-popular MTV show The Buried Life and the 2012 NY Times Bestseller of the same name, where four college friends travel across the country checking off a wish list and help others check off theirs).  Just last Thursday morning, Emmie walked into the kitchen and announced, “I want to go cliff diving” and handed me a long list she’d spent at least an hour compiling.  “2012 Summer Bucket List” it said, and listed 101 things, from baking banana dessert in a solar oven (she doesn’t even like bananas!!) to dip dying her hair, to “sending a message in a bottle”, to the aforementioned outdoor diving, all things she wants to accomplish in less than three months.  Apparently Allison is working on a list, too, and had shown little sister some Facebook photos of some of her friends diving into cold, clear blue water on private property in a nearby town. “It looks so fun!” exclaimed Emmie. 

“Cliff diving?!” I asked. “Are you kidding???” I tried to explain the dangers, the possible permanent paralysis, the staggering medical bills that could put us in a homeless shelter…not to mention the fact that going cliff diving would happen only “over my dead body”… 

Maybe I should plaster David McCullough Jr’s now-famous commencement  address on each daughter’s bedroom wall.  The well-crafted speech, given this year by English teacher McCullough to the senior class of Wellesley (MA) High School, went viral recently (you can read a transcript of the speech at this link) and includes a few moments talking about the pitfalls of YOLO.  McCullough says the acronym should be YLOO, or You Live Only Once, to encourage people to follow their passions and live extraordinary lives rather than do rash things that might end it. But would my daughters even “get” it? And how many of those Wellesley seniors even payed attention, or even took his words to heart? Aren’t most kids programmed, especially nowadays, to throw caution to the wind and believe they know more than adults?

Yes, kids will be kids, so parents must be parents, even when things get so exasperating you just want to throw your hands in the air and say, “I give up!”  As much as kids act like they don’t want rules and they extol the virtues of DGF parents (that’s teenage Tweetspeak for “Don’t Give A F–k”), those DGF kids will tell you, once they’re adults, that they’d wished their parents had cared enough and had the guts enough to set some rules.  And ironically, as Andy and I have been setting new rules and limits, we’ve found that the modern technology that has added a whole new dimension in parenting headaches can also be a parents’ best friend, giving them tools Cliff Huxtable could only dream of… Are you away from home but want to make sure your kid makes curfew, or comes home after school when you’re at work? There are nifty door sensors you can stick on your doorframe that can alert your cell phone if someone doesn’t  enter the house by a certain time…or if they do.  Need to take your teen’s phone away as a consequence for bad choices but don’t want a big “hand over your phone” confrontation? We’ve found several apps that enable you to “lock it out” or unlock it at your convenience, from your laptop, computer or phone. Want to know if your kid’s car (or phone) is where they say it is? There are simple tracking devices and apps that can let you know.

Some may think “tracking” is going too far—but tracking doesn’t mean being a control freak. Parents can only do so much…and besides, parents need to allow some freedoms or risk their kids becoming unable to function properly as adults.  At some point, you just have to pray that kids will take your advice and make smart choices.  (And, hope they don’t see the latest issue of Texas Monthly magazine sitting in the rack at the grocery store check-out: FREEDOM! blasts the cover headline, with a photo of a highway unfolding in front of the reader, as far as the eye can see.  The subheads: “16 Summer Drives” “From the MOUNTAINS to the COAST, get off the BEATEN PATH and onto the OPEN ROAD”…)

Are Teen Hang-outs An Endangered Species?

The title of this post is a question that has been on my mind since before I had kids, when I first moved to this suburb almost 19 years ago and was surprised at how early the “sidewalks rolled up” around here.  Whenever Andy and I were out for the evening and wanted a late night dinner or snack, we were hard-pressed to find any eating establishments open past 9 p.m.  And sometimes when we’d head to a little mom and pop restaurant in the neighborhood for an 8 o’clock dinner, by 8:15 we’d be the only patrons there, and even though their closing time was posted as 9, mom and pop would literally sit at a table near the kitchen, turn their chairs in our direction and stare at us until we finished, as if they were saying, ‘hurry up, we want to go home.’  It was weird, not to mention a little creepy (but their food was good, so we kept going back).  I thought of area teens.  ‘Where do they go?’ I wondered.

This question has come up again these past couple of weeks, as both my girls have been spending more and more time out of the house on weekend evenings, with friends.  During that time, Northpark Mall, arguably the nicest, classiest mall in the entire Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex and the mall of choice for many kids in our community, announced that from now on, anyone 17 and younger cannot be at the mall after 6 p.m. unless accompanied by a parent.  Minors are allowed to be there unaccompanied only if they are going to and from the mall movie theater, and they can only enter and exit through a specific door.  Though neither of my girls said they’ve seen teens causing trouble at the mall in the evening, my first thought was that this new rule is no big deal, but then I stepped back and looked at the reality of our bigger picture in North Texas and I didn’t like it at all. 

If kids can only go to movies and can’t hang out strolling at the mall afterwards, where else can they go? To a local restaurant, like we did when I was a teen? Well, even though that afore-mentioned mom, pop and their restaurant are long gone, and restaurant hours in our suburb have improved a bit, there are still quite a few “early closings”, and choices narrow down drastically after 10.  What about a bowling alley/laser tag center? Or a “jump town” (trampoline fun centers that are increasing in popularity)? These are great for younger teens, but the older teens have “been there, done that”. 

There is the “teen rave club” I read about in the local news…but you would NEVER want your teen to be there, a “girls gone wild” atmosphere where drugs and alcohol flow freely to minors… and, since we’re near a college with a large international population, there are also several hookah restaurant/lounges, places where patrons sit around tables with a communal water pipe in the center, filling their lungs with smoke from flavored tobacco, puffed through one of the water pipe’s many tentacles….A recent news story showed that while minors are admitted to hookah lounges, they aren’t supposed to be allowed to smoke, although it’s possible that some do.  But even if they don’t, who would want their teen to be in a SMOKING lounge inhaling second hand smoke anyway?? But the lounges stay open until 2 a.m., hours that have no doubt fueled their increasing popularity.

Should teens just gather at someone’s house? If that can be a house with adult supervision and safe, fun, legal things to do, great—but too often, that’s not the case.  Private homes seem to be the location of some of the worst trouble that kids find themselves in—think about kids recently busted for alcohol possession in our community, or the teenage son of major league outfielder Torji Hunter who recently made the news for a rape allegation.  Where were they when their alleged crimes occurred? At someone’s house, right here in North Texas.  At a house where either parents weren’t home, or parents were home and were encouraging the partying, or they were looking the other way and not staying on top of things.     

The bottom line is, teens, especially older teens, need a place to go at night on weekends, without Mom and Dad at their side.  A place that’s away from home.  A place where they can “see and be seen”.  Because the need to “hang out” with peers away from home is in our DNA; it’s part of the necessary transition from childhood to adulthood that has long been present in our history, from barn dances to soda shops to driving endlessly up and down certain streets to walking the malls.  Even in this age of technology-loving, socially-impaired couch potatoes, teens still like to gather.  They need to gather.  College should not be the first time they learn what it’s like to “go out” on their own. 

But the more we as a society restrict teens from feeling welcome at “decent” places, the more they will go to places that aren’t so decent, or safe.  

Time for a Coffee Brake

When I first noticed the twitching, it didn’t alarm me much.  I was sitting in church and glanced down at my left hand, resting on my leg. My left thumb was moving side to side slightly, without me telling it to do so. Weird, I thought, but we all sometimes get unexplainable twitches, twinges or pains that end up never happening again and not amounting to anything, right? I moved my hand and the twitching stopped. But when the twitching happened again the next day, I took more notice.  I remembered Michael J. Fox talking about his early signs of Parkinson’s disease—didn’t he say it began with hand twitching? I consulted the Internet, which is where we all go to get a good scare whenever we need more medical information, and it confirmed my suspicions. Though Fox’s first twitches were in his pinkie finger, when I Googled “thumb twitching” and “symptoms of Parkinson’s”, it all seemed to fit together. “Twitching stops when you apply pressure to the hand”.  Yep, that’s me.  I started visualizing me breaking the news to my family after the diagnosis…I would have never imagined this particular affliction happening to me…I could see my kids being sad at first, then angry and embarrassed at their twitching mom in public…

I told Andy what was going on.  He was concerned, but lifted my spirits a bit by saying, “Oh, I’ve had that happen before—haven’t you? Sometimes that happens to me for two or three days– my thumb will twitch, and then it goes away.”  He figured it was just stress, or nerves…no big deal…guess he hadn’t consulted the great Google. But I moved on, hoping it would truly be no big deal.

The twitching didn’t stop after 2-3 days. It kept going, and got more frequent. What was once only something I’d notice a couple times a day became constant. Whenever my left hand was at rest, that thumb would start moving, wider and more pronounced, like some alien somewhere was pulling a string and moving it side to side. I’d be at a stoplight, or sitting at my desk, or lying in bed, and I could have been playing a thumb drum at the same time.  Even when I would press my thumb into the steering wheel or press it hard into my mattress so that the twitching would stop, I could still feel a pulsating sensation.  It was SO ANNOYING…not to mention making me more and more worried, and Andy, too.  I’d catch it happening and show him, like some freakish party trick.  “Whoa, there it goes—check it out,” I’d say.  But after a week, just when I was about to make a doctor’s appointment, it stopped.   And boy did it feel good.  My whole arm and hand felt liberated.  A couple days later, it started up again. Why???? I vaguely remembered one of the “other things” mentioned online as a possible cause of thumb twitching—“caffeine”.  Is it possible I didn’t have any coffee on those “twitch-free” days? I went back over what I could remember about the previous weekend…it was possible, but…I’ve been drinking coffee for so long, why wouldn’t I have been twitching all along? I dismissed that notion, and went right on drinking coffee and twitching and worrying for another week, too busy and too scared to make a doctor appointment. 

Just when I had had enough and even Allison was asking me to make the call, I imagined going to the doctor and paying for a visit only to have him ask me, “Have you tried cutting out caffeine?” I thought I better make a concerted effort to do that before tapping into our limited health insurance dollars.  Besides, I hadn’t really stuck to giving up anything for Lent yet, and coffee sounded like a good candidate for self-denial.  Something I really enjoyed but didn’t need…

And so, the next morning I didn’t have any of the pot of Starbucks Ground Breakfast Blend that Andy had brewed.  And the twitching stopped.  And the following day, I denied myself my favorite pastime once again, and still, no twitching.  And I mean none. No half-hearted twitches, no pulsating feeling, not even a slight tingle. Nothing. I haven’t had real coffee since mid-March, and I’ve had zero thumb twitching since then as well.  Even after Easter when I started drinking…wince…DECAF (which still includes a tiny amount of caffeine), no twitching!  So, even though Internet info caused me to worry unnecessarily, it also gave me the information I needed to figure out what was really going on. (I read further, and apparently too much caffeine can be the cause of “twitchy eye” as well!)  It’s hard to be a Decaf Drinker now, and hard for Andy, too, because he’s drinking it right along with me.  Did you know at most coffee shops, there’s only ONE flavor choice for decaf? The indignation! And, it’s harder now to “wake up” in the morning, but I’m just going to have to find another way, like GETTING MORE SLEEP…what a concept…

Meanwhile, around the same time I gave up real coffee, my oldest teen started getting “into” it.  (Well, if you consider “frappes” to be “real” coffee…)  Around here, going to Starbucks before or after school, or after a movie, is “the place to see and be seen” for teens, it’s like the “Peach Pit” or “Arnold’s” of the millennial generation… so naturally I guess many teens are developing an affinity for anything served by the java giant…coffee, tea, cake balls, indie music…Recently Allison was so motivated to try to stay more focused and awake in classes, she made me a grocery list of breakfast items that included more high-protein choices, like “spicy chicken biscuits”, and, bottled Starbucks Mocha Frappucino, “a lowfat, creamy blend of Starbucks coffee and milk”.  Hmmm…I read the Nutrition Facts before placing it in my shopping cart…20% RDA for calcium? I went for it, and soon every morning I’d hear the sound of the  blender as I walked into the kitchen, as she made her own frothy “frappe” with crushed ice and half of the bottled coffee mixture, and poured it into a tall glass.  I was so amazed and thrilled this was motivating her to get up earlier in the morning, I didn’t care that it was also starting her down Espresso Road, just like I did as a teen, first starting with the sweet-yet-wimpy General Foods’ International “Café Vienna” and ending up years later with a twitching left thumb and so loving coffee I even re-heat it after it has sat in Andy’s “Dad Can Fix Anything” mug for several days,  just so I can drink it as soon as possible in the morning and won’t have to take time to make a new batch…

But when Emmie grabbed one of the Frappuccinos the other day and happily downed it, I wondered if I, and our society, have truly hit a new low.  “You actually like it?” I asked my 13-year-old.  I mean, underneath all that sugar and milk, there really is coffee, and your tongue definitely notices it, bitter after-taste and all…she nodded yes as she slurped away, then reminded me of the “Reach” auctions that used to take place when she was in elementary school, where, at the end of the year, they got to use their “workles”, or points they’d earned for good behavior/good ideas throughout the year, and bid on items the kids would bring.  Each kid got to bring three items.   It originally was supposed to be items from home that the kids didn’t want any more, you know, kind of a “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” kind of thing, but over the years, the kids started bringing “new” stuff, like candy and soda, which would earn the seller lots more workles than, say, a used Nerf football.  The kids took note of what items brought in the most workles each year, and those items became, for many, the standard thing to bring to the auction.  Some of the highest bids always went to four-packs of…you guessed it…Starbucks Frappucinos.  “I saw lots of kids use their entire year’s worth of workles, like 2,000, to get Starbucks Frappucinos,” Emmie recalled. 

“How young were the kids who’d win them?” I asked.

“Sometimes, fourth grade,” she said.

Pinterest & Teens: A “Good Thing”?

I heard a sweet sound in the house over the past weekend I haven’t heard in a long time: the whirr of the sewing machine. A sewing machine, I might add, that I bought on a Black Friday years ago, getting up at four in the morning for a “Door Buster Special”.  Allison was 10 at the time, determined to become a fashion designer and learn how to sew, and I was determined to help foster that creativity…

Ah, my daughters and I were once such a crafty bunch.  I’m reminded of that a lot—in the garden, where stepping stones the kids and I made (out of cement mix and pizza boxes) still mark a path behind a rosemary bush; in the kitchen, where a few “cut-out” photo magnets we made (out of extra photos, glue, and flat, promotional magnets from area businesses) still remain on the fridge; in my closet, where once in awhile I’ll run into the formerly white Keds I had the girls paint all over after the shoes got too dingy to remain white; and in my office, which is still decorated with items from the many “art camps” both girls used to attend (a paper mache’ pig, a framed painting of Saturn)…  looking in the family scrapbooks the other day, I was reminded that Emmie’s 4th birthday party was held at a craft store and Allison’s 9th was at a mosaic shop…there are also a few home décor projects still left around the house that I made on my own…

But sadly, we all got too busy with other interests to make time for our crafty sides.  I did hold out hope that we might get inspired, by keeping small bins of art supplies within easy reach–  beads, fun foam, shells, stickers, fabric scraps, popsicle sticks, construction paper, modeling clay (whew-are we done yet?), a glue gun, markers, chalk, crayons, colored pencils, stencils, paint…but, those supplies have mostly sat untouched, with the exception of being used to make football spirit banners and the occasional science fair display board.

Leave it to Pinterest to awaken the “sleeping craft giant”. The now “third most popular social network in the U.S.” which allows people to share ideas and photos of all sorts of things has become a Mecca for those interested in do-it-yourself projects, and Allison has become, (do I dare say it?) a “Pinhead”.  Just when I thought I was going to face a battle over spring clothes, she has inexpensively transformed and repurposed several items in her closet and created new items with a little fabric, rhinestones, and “mambo yarn”.  And this is one mom who is a lot happier saying “yes” to purchasing a new jar of Mod Podge than a new pair of shoes from Urban Outfitters.  I think I’ve made more trips to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, the Wal Mart fabric aisle and Jo-Ann these past few weeks than I did the last few years…

Is this Arts and Crafts Revival going on in our house just another fleeting teen girl obsession? I hope not.  Because not only has it been good for the budget, it’s a much better way for kids to spend free time than watching reality TV.  Also, I love how Pinterest (and another favorite site of hers called P.S.– I Made This) encourages recycling.  Pinterest can be social, too, and not just in an online way— when Allison recently made a maxi dress (using only a tank top, thread, and two yards of fabric) she invited a friend to come over to the house and make one with her.  And, her completed projects have inspired me toward completing a few of my own “shelved” projects, and caused Emmie to say, “I want to take sewing lessons this summer.”

True, Pinterest can be addictive. It was described on comScore as “exceptionally sticky and keeps its users engaged for long periods of time” and by Washington Post writer Petula Dvorak as “digital crack for women”,  “a black hole time suck” and a place where you “advertise only your hopes and dreams, the Stilton Gold style you aspire to, rather than the Velveeta life you live.” And maybe all that is sad and alarming when it’s adult women who are sucking away their time in that way, wishfully staring at their phone screens.  But for teens that are already hooked into their phones/computers almost 24/7, I’d rather have them looking at Pinterest than Facebook, especially when they get off their butts and actually make something as a result.

There has been some “collateral damage” in our house—there is now a long, noticeable scratch on the dining room’s wood floor (from cutting fabric?) and another on the dining room table, straight pins rattling around in the vacuum cleaner (and still hiding in the carpet) and traces of multicolored micro-glitter showing up all over the house, but, I’d rather be a crafty household than a perfect one. 

Maybe it’s time for me to take on the project of transforming an unused room (that once housed our foreign exchange student) into a sewing/craft room.  I’ll bet I know where I can get some ideas…

Many Happy Returns: Some Post Tax Day Humor and Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

Whew- so glad to be done with the taxes! Yep, that’s where I’ve been over the past few days—glued to Turbo Tax and barely coming up for air. I HATE DOING TAXES because I always wait until the last minute.  I used to do them all by myself, but I think Andy was tired of driving to the post office at 11 p.m. on April 15 in a panic (but hey, the postal employees always made it so festive and welcoming and would be standing out there waving signs and holding baskets and you could just drive up and throw in your envelope…) and so a couple years ago we started splitting the tax prep responsibility, so he does half and then hands the file over to me, usually in February or March.  But I’ve always got a million other pressing things to do that keep me from opening that file, and so there I sat on Tax Day, finishing up “under the gun”.  I’m so sick of hearing, “Did you make any progress?” I could scream. (Please God make me do 10 minutes a day of taxes starting Feb. 1 next year!)

But it’s been an interesting tax prep this year.  First off, let me share a laugh with you (and I think everyone needs a laugh after Tax Day, right?) I was sitting here going through “It’s Deductible”, an online service for putting a value on charitable donations, and I was searching for all the stuff we’d donated to Goodwill over the past year…you’re supposed to be able to type in your items, one by one, and it gives you the “value as calculated by ebay” for the “most frequently donated items”.  At first it was a breeze—Girls jeans? It had the value. Women’s sun dress?  Ditto.   Belts?  Yep.  And many other items.  Only it didn’t have flip flops.  (The only thing that came close was “leather sandals”, and we all know flip flops, no matter how blinged up or designer they may be, are not always made of leather.) And, “It’s Deductible” didn’t have tights.  (Hey, ours were in good condition!) And it didn’t have a listing for sheet music.  (Or “piano book”, “fake book” or anything close.)  But it did show a listing for…DANCING HULA GIRL? No, that wasn’t an item I was trying to value, but it kept popping up as a choice every time I typed in the word “Girls”, with a “high value” listed at $7, from the “Automotive” category…huh? Is it some kind of air freshener? I vaguely remembered that it’s one of those bobble heads that sits on a dashboard…or I guess this kind has a “bobble waist”…but who knew there was such a demand to write them off as a charitable donation?!  But a quick online search for “images of dancing dashboard hula girl” came up with a ton of pictures of the wobbly car accessory, with many variations: fat, skinny, with ukelele and without; hula monkeys, turtles, bears, pigs and hippos; skeleton hula dancer; smiley face hula dancer; something that looked like a “Precious Moments” hula dancer; alien hula dancer; and many male versions, including Hula Homer Simpson and one that looked eerily like a certain President… (hmm, I’m thinking any one of those might be the perfect accessory for the aravan, so maybe someday I really will be asking It’s Deductible for the value of my “dashboard hula dancer”!)

Second, it was also a more interesting tax prep this year because we had to deal with, for the first time, a W-2 form from OUR CHILD’s summer job.  Unfortunately for Allison, she didn’t have to declare any of it because it wasn’t much (the threshold for needing to file is $5,800).  But fortunately for her, it got her asking about taxes for the first time and gave me the opportunity to explain why we do this and what some of the tax forms involve.  Sure wish that was still taught in school so that all kids would know what to do (when I was in high school, we did a mock 1040 form as a “Consumer Economics” assignment, so it was very easy and not-scary-at-all the first time I had to fill out a real tax form.  It was a no-brainer, really, at that stage in life.  I felt very prepared, unlike the 20-something intern I once saw crying at one of my past workplaces, because she didn’t like having to do such “grown-up” things like taxes…). 

Once our taxes were finished yesterday (hooray for e-filing!), I did a little web surfing and discovered lots of online resources for teaching kids about, not only taxes, but also how to fill out a W-4, how to write a check and balance a checking account, and how to figure sales tax.  A site called even has a worksheet for figuring how to pay taxes—on money earned doing chores!  (And by the way, if you want to access that worksheet, you can do it for free with their “limited membership”—don’t let that “full membership only” sentence fool you.) Any of these resources would be great for kids just starting in the work world or even those who are starting to make more purchases on their own.

For younger kids, I think another good “money teacher” is to give them one of those blank check ledgers that come in a box of checks (I usually always have an extra one or two left in the box when the checks are gone). It’s a good way for kids to keep up with the cash they may be stashing in a box, purse or “piggy bank”, and record how they spend it, not to mention practice math skills.  I recently gave one to Emmie and she reminded me that she did get a little practice in this at Enterprise City, a very cool, 6,000 square-foot mock city sponsored by our school district and housed in our neighborhood elementary school, where 6th grade kids from all over the district (and other districts) get to spend at least one day living, working, and earning “paychecks”, and getting “breaks” to spend their checks at Enterprise City shops (where the kids are the shopkeepers), like the T-shirt shop, the gift shop, the cafe’ and the newspaper.  (At the end of the day, the kids who aren’t in the negative and who have balanced their checkbooks correctly are recognized, as well as the businesses who turn a profit.  Those kids that have overspent? Well, they have to give back that Chinese yo-yo or mood ring they purchased… see Enterprise City in action and read more about it here).

But, I digress—there was a third reason this year’s tax prep was more interesting: TWO extra days! ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME?’ I thought, when I found out the good news last Friday night. ‘SUH-WEET!’ It was 11 p.m. and I realized I didn’t have to stay up until 3 a.m. that night finishing most of it, like I originally thought!  What a gift! The tax gods must have heard my bleary-eyed cry of “how am I going to do this?”!  Yeah, I know the change of date had to do with April 15th being on a Sunday, and Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C. on Monday—but I’d like to think it was done as a fitting way to end National Procrastination Week. 

Yeah, I know that illustrious week happens each year in early March, but true procrastinators know we don’t celebrate it until mid-April.  

“Spending Quality Time With A Teen” is Not an Oxymoron– When You’re Volunteering Together

When my kids were much younger, I was asked by a friend if I’d like to join The Junior League in our suburban town.  I was flattered she would consider me, but after looking at the membership requirements (i.e. time commitment)  I almost laughed in her face.  Going crazy trying to squeeze in freelance writing work and keep my house managed with two kids under the age of six, I couldn’t imagine also having the pressure of performing  a certain amount of required service hours and getting kicked out if I didn’t.  How did my friend do it with two young children herself? (Um, on second thought, I think having a nanny and housekeeper probably helped her a lot…)

Fast forward about eight years, and another friend is asking if Allison and I might want to join her chapter of National Charities League Inc., a nationwide organization that involves mothers and daughters (in grades 7-12) working side-by-side doing philanthropic work in the community and also being involved in cultural and social activities together as well.  I had balked when we’d been asked a year earlier—there was that phrase “required hours” again, in the membership information, and our schedule seemed busier than ever before.  But this time when we were asked, Allison really wanted to do it, and so I said yes. Not just for the social activities that I knew she wanted to be a part of, but also because she and I had seen organizations on the NCL list of philanthropies for which she had already been interested in volunteering, such as Special Olympics, and so I thought it would be a great way for her to do this, and a learning opportunity.   Oh, I knew I’d learn something, too, and help those in need—I’ve been a volunteer in every community I’ve ever lived in, since I was a teen.  But I had no idea it would provide me with some rare opportunities to spend “sass-free” time with my daughter, really fun quality time, without the usual parent/child tug-of-war.  And now that I’ve got two teen daughters in the organization, I see the benefits of volunteering alongside them even more.

See, doing volunteer work with your child helps each of you see each other in a different light, in different ways.   For example, I knew Emmie had a heart for animals, but to hug and hold a shaking dog who’d just arrived at the animal shelter and talk to him sweetly for an hour until he quit shaking—who knew? And I knew that Allison was interested in helping the disabled, but to actually have a knack for it, to work with all ages and be able to interpret what someone with severe speech impediments was saying when no one else could—who knew?

And, when you volunteer together, while you and your kids are waiting to high-five a Special Olympics runner when he crosses the finish line or while you’re organizing craft supplies to help kids make hats at a local arts festival, you talk. While you’re driving around delivering Meals on Wheels to senior citizens, you talk some more.   And after you’ve stuffed  school supply bags for children from abusive homes or sorted books at a hospital “children’s library”, you go to lunch at that new burger joint you’ve always wanted to try.  Or get some frozen yogurt.   And you talk some more.  And when you get back home and things get back to the routine of “mom’s uncool and unreasonable”, you know that all hope is not lost.

I highly encourage parents to set up regular community volunteer work with their children, either through an organization like NCL (for moms and sons, the equivalent is Young Men’s Service League), or Scouts, or church, or simply on your own or with a group of friends.  Several organizations have volunteering opportunities for kids under 13 and the opportunities expand as kids get older.  And if possible, find an organization that holds you accountable for contributing a certain amount of your time.  Huh? Me endorsing “required hours” for busy parents? Yep, especially when you’re working with teens.   I mean, think about it (and a lot of parents would probably agree): If a parent sets up a volunteer opportunity on their own, it might be pretty tough to get their teen to actually wake up on a Saturday to go and work at a shelter, charity 5k, etc.— especially if it’s with a PARENT.  It could turn into a nag-fest.  And if the teen was asked to set up the volunteer opportunity on their own to have more “skin in the game”, many would not take the first step.  But there is something very motivating about having to check in online and report hours to an Hours Committee, who, in our group, are usually moms we know.  And it’s motivating to commit to a volunteer job by signing up online through our chapter’s web calendar, a calendar that all members can view. For some volunteer work within our chapter, several moms and daughters are needed at one time, and for those jobs, we know that others are expecting us to be there and help out.  They’re helping to hold my teens and me accountable. 

But, not everyone lives in a community with groups like this.  If you do set up something on your own and need a motivator for your child, possibly tying service work to allowance might be good (must do chores and an hour of volunteer work with you every two weeks to receive full allowance?), or certain “extra” privileges at home could be granted for community service work—staying up later on weekends, extra hour of computer time, etc. (but never punishments for not being charitable—you want them to be excited about helping others). Of course, in time, the hope is that the good feeling they will get from helping others (not to mention the fun spent with Mom or Dad) will be inspiration enough to turn them into lifelong volunteers.

As they approach college, there is one more motivator: getting to list community service on college and scholarship applications.  Many older teens scramble to find ways to volunteer and “beef up that resume”.  But parents shouldn’t get lost in the rush– take advantage of this new-found motivation and spend some quality time with a kid who’s leaving home soon.  Try to work side by side with them as they put in these hours.  Don’t look at volunteer work, as I’ve seen some parents approach it, as a way to keep kids busy and “out of the way” so you can concentrate on doing other things.   Yes, I know as well as anybody that being around a teen for any length of time can be an emotional drain and a downer, but if you never volunteer alongside that teen, you’re missing the chance to have an “up” experience with them.  Yes, there have been times when I’ve still had to nag, and yes, there have been times when my oldest has wanted to quit after doing this for almost four years, but she stays with it, probably because she remembers that every experience we’ve had volunteering together has been positive, even when we’ve driven 15 miles in the rain to find that an event was canceled. 

Because when that happened, we still got to talk during the long drive. And since we’d already set aside three hours in our schedules that day, we still ended up spending the time together—at the mall.

Creative Consequences for Teen Behavior: More Independence

Well, you can bet that when I don’t write for over a week that I must have a pretty good excuse. And I sure wish it was a glamorous one like “I was at the Grammys” or “I got invited to the White House”.  It’s not even a dramatic reason like, “I was in the hospital all week.” Nope, usually when you don’t hear from me it’s because I’m wiped out from dealing with kid problems, and that is a mild way to describe what we’ve been going through.

I can never usually write about things in as few words as possible but I’m going to try really hard—maybe if I start by summarizing things in list form it will help:

1.)    Oldest teen gave all sorts of attitude and sass to Mom while riding home from school one day.

2.)    Mom tells teen if that kind of attitude happens again on the ride home tomorrow, teen can get their own transportation back to school at 6 for the school production teen was in (just  a background part, by the way, and several of these dancers have had to miss at least one show so if she’d missed it, the world wouldn’t have come to an end). 

3.)    Teen sasses Mom big time on the way home from school the next day, before the car is even out of the parking lot.

4.)    Mom takes teen home and says she’s not taking teen to school for the show and goes for a walk, but makes sure that the aravan is behind the “teen car” so teen can’t stupidly try to drive that car because she doesn’t have a driver’s license yet.  She could call friends for a ride, walk, or ride her bike.

5.)    When Mom (and Dad) return, they discover teen has miraculously backed the car out of the garage, around the aravan and has driven it to school.  (Later they learn she also went through the Whataburger drive-thru before she got to school.)  After retrieving the car from the school parking lot and bringing it home, Mom and Dad discover that the front end of the car is damaged, the back end, as well as the side of their backyard fence, and that other things have been damaged in daughter’s haste to back out the car, items that were “in the way”.

While it ran through our heads to have the school security guard yank her offstage, Andy chose to be waiting for her in the lobby at the end of the show to deliver the news of her consequences.  Many people thought we should have called the police and had them “pull her over”, but we chose not to go that route.  We chose to make it as close to a jail at home as we possibly could. In-room grounding (even meals eaten in room), cell phone service cut off, iPod taken away, computer on lockdown.  Driving class suspended indefinitely, at least a month, and the online part of the course is about to expire so she’ll have to pay to reinstate it.  Volunteer work in the community and extra jobs around the house; once getting her license, she’ll have to have paid for the damages to the car (and fence) or she won’t be driving it.

And how do you think she took these consequences? Contritely, with head down and profuse apologies? Remember, we have a defiant kid here, and things have not been pretty.  So as a result, we pulled a couple extracurriculars, and things got worse. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!!” has been the mantra coming from her. She doesn’t think what she did was that much of a “big deal”.

Just when we were about to give up and throw our hands up in the air from all the turmoil, I had an “ah-hah” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that if this kid is “bucking the system” so hard, she must want some independence.  So let’s give it to her, I told Andy.  “You don’t like it when we take your extracurriculars away?” we asked her. “Okay, you can have all of them back.  But anything that’s not required for a grade or any part of an activity not required, we’re not going to support, not financially or with transportation.  You get to own them from now on. You have that freedom now.”   

Andy felt like we’d still given up, that she was getting everything handed to her on a plate, but I said, just wait.  If we stick to this, she’ll either get more responsible or get even angrier, and I’m ready for either one.

So far, we’ve seen a mixture of both.   She’s still mad because she’s still not going to be able to enter an upcoming solo and duet dance competition, and she still doesn’t see that what she did was that big of a deal. But I heard her make a phone call on THE LAND LINE for I think the first time ever the other day, as she arranged for transportation to the Sunday performance of the school show.  She stopped demanding that I go buy her supplies to add to her stage makeup because she knew I wouldn’t do it.  She packed her own sack dinner because I refused to “make a special trip to bring takeout dinner to her dressing room “like all the other parents do”.  And for the first time, yesterday she got herself up early enough to actually come in and wake us up, as Andy had told her she needed to do if she wanted a ride to school.

I may be a fool, but I’m not foolish enough to think this new parenting stance is instantly going to make things better.  But at least it is giving us hope.  And it sure feels good to unburden ourselves of some tasks and give them to her, which probably should have been done a long time ago. 

A College (Re)Visit

This past weekend, we took  Allison (and Emmie) on our first “official college visit” as a family.  Allison had already been on another, with her aunt, but this was the first “taking a child to see a college in which they’re interested” for the rest of us.  I thought I would feel really old but at first it didn’t seem like that—a lot of things brought back memories of our own college days for Andy and me and it really did seem like it was yesterday.  It was fun remembering and answering the questions both girls peppered us with as we walked from point to point on our group tour. But we were reminded several times that it really wasn’t yesterday, and I’m surprised the girls would even consider us as a source of reliable college information. 

For example, when Emmie asked me, “What do students do about having  a TV?” I said, “Well, most students don’t bring a TV because there’s not room for one in their dorm room, and if they do bring one, they have to use a “rabbit ears” antenna, like I had to do, because there are no cable hookups.”   Wrong-o.  A few minutes later, Emmie pointed to a line in a brochure – cable TV hookups in every room.  I should have known. And those dorm residents probably bring hi-def flat screen versions with a Blu-ray player to boot.   I mean, a lot has changed in 30 years.  (Dang, has it been that long??) Laptops are an essential school supply of today’s college student and WiFi is everywhere.  Some textbooks are “downloadable”.  The cafeteria has a “vegan bar”.  The students use pre-loaded money cards to pay for laundry (no fishing for quarters—imagine!) and they do not have to share a bathroom with a dozen or more of their peers.   Some dorm rooms even had kitchenettes!  And (shock) they ALL had carpet!!!

But even though I ended up feeling like a dinosaur, the tour was still enjoyable.  I love seeing the “mini-worlds”, the self-contained “bubbles”, created by a college campus. The on-campus stores; the hidden bowling alleys, the bulletin boards everywhere listing nonstop concerts, lectures, and midnight movies ; the green spaces, chapels, and monuments;  the study lounges, rec centers, coffee shops, and cafeterias; the library, career center and clinic. I love thinking about all the possibilities and pathways that can be explored while there.  And I remember how excited I was to be a part of it long ago.

True, people can debate the merits of a college degree. Some of our most successful business leaders in America had little to no college.  But there’s something about college life that to me is nothing but positives.  Even working at a college is energizing—I once worked at a community college for nine years and found it to be a fantastic work environment.   There was always something going on to feed your brain, your body or your soul, from lobby fashion shows from the clothing design students to six-course lunches and dinners prepared by our chef students to even theatre productions that anyone, even non-students, could try out for. (I finally did once, and got a pretty good part!)  

Even if someone never attends college and/or never works at one, if they simply live and work in a “college town”– I wonder if they enjoy the proximity to higher learning.  Surely they do.  In an article by Nancy Smith of CBS MoneyWatch last week called “The Ten Best Places to Retire”, seven of the ten were college towns.  “Retired Americans are flocking to the culture and arts scenes and state-of-the-art medical facilities offered by college campuses,” stated The Huffington Post in Dec. 2011. And college campuses are reaching out to better include the older crowd, according to a a report by the Associated Press.

I sure hope my kids get to experience college life someday.  And I think I want to go back for seconds.