Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Keys to Chaos Reduction

Youngest Son's key ring with BD = Back Door
Being a Commuter Family means trying to find any way possible to reduce the pandemonium. Organizational solutions are not something in which Commuter Husband, Oldest Son and Youngest Son are typically concerned. I apparently did not pass along the right DNA to the boys!

However, disappearing keys was driving Commuter Husband batty. To complicate matters, we had to change out the front door lock so our back door and front door locks are currently out of sync. I am pleasantly surprised to report that Commuter Husband solved this problem brilliantly. He created customized key sets for all parties ...

Oldest Son's set for sure! 
Backdoor set for house

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Commuter Birthdays

I made Oldest Son a Cola cake from scratch and made an attempt to decorate - at least it is colorful!
Today Oldest Son turned 14 years old. Commuter Husband did, of course, want to be here for the day. But Commuter Husband also has to be in Washington D.C. in the morning for a conference. He scheduled an 8pm flight out of Dallas through Denver with a 3 hour hour layover that then arrives in our Capital at 5am Monday morning. This is the route he chose versus an earlier in day direct flight.

Commuter Husband's comment:

"It will be okay. It is just like any other Monday, sleep deprived but at least I don't have to drive."  

This is truly a half full glass from the man who gets up every Monday morning at 3am to drive from Dallas to Houston. Definite emphasis on the Family part of Commuter Family this week ...

Commuter Husband cooked and served Oldest Son the traditional birthday breakfast in bed: french toast and berries with a raunchy, bathroom humor card on the side (unavoidable in this male dominated household.)
The day ended with a traditionally simple and impromptu birthday gathering with our neighbors. A great way to finish the day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sex Ed for Teens
We are parenting a teenage boy who is turning 14 next weekend and will be a freshman in Upper School in six months. Many of our parent to parent conversations are centered around topics typical for this stage of parenting. How will I talk to my child about smoking, drugs, alcohol and sex? Or more specifically, how can I protect my child? We also have an added layer of complication: electronic communications, social media and the Internet. Technological facilitation of access to sexual misinformation, pornography and predators is a giant challenge.

It was easy to teach how our kids to say please, thank you and I'm sorry and we started as soon as they could mumble a sound. Parenting now also means we have to teach texting and email etiquette, how to not bully or not be a victim on social networks that allow anonymous interactions (these are the worst), how to not respond to the predators that lurk in online chat places and on and on. These are lessons that should come 
before they are a possibility and not after they surface.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to control what teenagers access in cyberspace. Our parents dealt with kids looking at a Playboy issue or sneaking behind the X-rated theater. My teenage son can purposely or accidentally land on porn sites with disturbing videos and images anytime. We could put controls on his devices but we cannot control his friends or other Internet sources. And young minds are cognitively not ready to understand what they see is not real and can be dangerous even.

So what do we do? Perhaps the Internet can also help us populate our parenting toolkit. Today I found a couple of websites that will possibly "speak" to my teenager. A hard copy pamphlet or book is not going to cut it with this generation.

Scarleteen, is a great resource for sex education that is geared towards ages 15 to 25. Common Sense Media has a review of Scarleteen,
Parents need to know that Scarleteen is a sexual health site that is educational and medically accurate but sometimes explicit. Parents' comfort level will probably depend on how much they think their teens should know about sexuality. The site includes information that's geared toward younger teens (articles about self-esteem and puberty, for example) as well as more "adult" topics that aren't normally addressed in sex-ed classes (like sexual pleasure). The site identifies as feminist and pro-choice and explains its philosophy as "a nonjudgmental and unbiased attitude of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding for young people, whether they choose to be sexually active or not."

A Naked Notion,, is an interesting collaboration between Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and sex educator Laci Green. It has candid video vignettes meant to encourage open conversations and learning. Topics include "Birth Control Basics: Pulling Out", "Problems with Penises" and "Annual Visit=Happy Vag."

Not all families will be open to sharing these sorts of sites with their teenagers. These types of Internet resources should not be considered the only source of sex education. Classes at school as well as parent and teen conversations are also needed. However, I would like Oldest Son to have a parent approved electronic resource that he can use without fear. Restriction of information is just not realistic in the information age.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

France. Italy. Houston.

Oldest Son checking into his flight with Magister (Latin for Teacher)
"Landed in Marseilles. All is well."
"They have landed in Rome"

These two short updates are the only information we have of Oldest Son's whereabouts sent via text from a parent phone tree.

Oldest Son left for South of France last Saturday morning and arrived in Italy today. He is with his Latin Class on Spring Break. His France itinerary included Thermes de Constantin in Arles and the Roman City of Arausio in Orange. In Nimes, he visited the Roman City of Nemausus, Jardin de la Fontaine, Tour Magne, Maison Carree and Pont du Gard. Today the group flew from Lyon to Rome. They are visiting Ostia Antica, The Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, Colosseum, Lusa Magnus, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Palatine, Imperial Forum, Column of Marcus Aurelius, Palazzo Museum, Via Nazionale and  finally Piazza Navona built on the remains of the stadium of Domitian. Let all that sink in ... just wow.

Youngest Son's Spring Break is not quite as extraordinary but impressive too. He is spending the week in Houston with Commuter Husband. While Commuter Husband works, Youngest Son is attending the NASA 3D Print Art Camp. Their evenings are filled with quality Daddy and Son time.

And Mommy with Commuter Husband? I am spending my week in Dallas working, managing the remodel and even got in a yoga class last night!

Our family values being conscientious world citizens who approach life with an open mind and continuous learning. Oldest Son and Youngest Son are definitely on that path this week.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bye Bye Ford Es

His and Her Prius Vehicles
Cars represent specific phases of life. Who does not remember their first car and then the first auto accident which is usually in said first car (mine was)? Then there is the first new car - mine was a fully loaded Acura Integra that I funded 100% and I loved that car. Love is an odd word to use for an automobile but ...

Yesterday our Commuter Family transitioned from being a Ford SUV "E" family to a Toyota Prius family. And this makes me somewhat sad. Our Ford E trucks represented our parenting years for young children. The Prius cars will reflect our years raising tweeners and teens, being a Commuter Family and prioritizing protection of the earth's natural resources.

We bought our Ford Explorer in 1999 in anticipation of the birth of Oldest Son in 2000. This SUV was a representation of the best thing in our adult lives: becoming parents. Not only did we bring Oldest Son home from the hospital on a Sunday in the Explorer but we also immediately took him back to the hospital in the Explorer five minutes after arriving at home. The hospital called us with the news that our infant had a blood test indicating an infection. Commuter Husband and I rushed back to the hospital to watch as Oldest Son was quarantined and an IV was thrust in his small, bald head. Due to a cesarean birth (Oldest Son was in Frank breech position), I shuffled around slowly while remaining stoic. I was also struggling to breast feed since not enough milk production. I will never forget the tears in Commuter Husband's eyes as he dealt with both a sick baby and an emotional new mother. Commuter Husband and I had our first parenting heartache and we wanted to handle it privately thus our friend "J" thankfully managed all the communications out to friends and family. Within three days, the doctors concluded Oldest Son was the victim of a contaminated test and we loaded Oldest Son in the Explorer once again for his journey home.

Two years later we bought the Ford Expedition when we knew our family would be growing with the addition of Youngest Son in April 2002. Youngest Son was carted home in this Expedition when he was five days old. We put 180,000 miles on the Expedition. A few of our road trips included:

  • Lots of camping trips to Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas (many pulling the pop-up camper)
  • Beach spring breaks in South Padre
  • SeaWorld in San Antonio
  • Family reunion in Minnesota
  • Beach vacations in Fort Meyers, Alabama and Outer Banks, North Carolina
  • Visits to Brother on military bases in Louisiana and Kansas
  • Five Dallas to/from Nayarit, Mexico trips (Puerto Vallarta)
  • Mexico road trips to Tequila, Magdalena, P√°tzcuaro, Paricutin, Janitzio Island, Cuernavaca, Sayulita, San Pancho,  La Manzanilla and entire Pacific coastline from Acapulco to Punta de Mita
  • Caves in Carlsbad, New Mexico and Sonora, Texas
  • Transporting kids to sleep away camps
  • Vacationing in Galveston
  • And numerous other destinations ...
To say I loved the Expedition is an understatement. That truck holds more memories than I can possibly record. Honestly, I should write a book called The Expedition

1999 Explorer with 150K miles ... bye bye ... 
2003 Expedition with 180K miles ... tear drop ... adios ...
When we use the term "love" for a car, we are really reflecting on the stage of life, the places and the adventures experienced in that vehicle. We are feeling the music played from the radio or the CDs or whatever the technology of the moment reflects. Mostly we are thinking of passengers in both the car and in our life. Our Ford Es carried our most precious cargo into our lives: Oldest Son and Youngest Son ... love is exactly the right word.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bathroom Bonding

Commuter Husband's counter which now includes boys' stuff too!
When we bought our mid-century ranch house in 1996, we remodeled about 40% of the house. This included converting a 5th bedroom into master closet and bathroom space. The large master bathroom is set up for servicing two at a time: double sinks, two shower heads and spacious soaking tub. When Oldest Son and Youngest Son were babies and toddlers, our Commuter Family of four did our thing all together in this bathroom. I vividly remember the feel of Youngest Son at five months clinging to my wet hip in the shower with Oldest Son playing under the second spout around my feet.

Commuter Husband and I were able to fully share our bathroom with the boys until Youngest Son started asking about my various body parts. Note Youngest Son became aware of differences far before Oldest Son.

Fast forward to 2014. We are remodeling again. Two of our three bathrooms are gutted. Thus we find ourselves sharing the master bathroom again. While we cannot conduct all types of bathroom business simultaneously as we did before, we are required to share counters and sinks and pass each other frequently. Thus, I am awakened in the middle of the night by the pitter patter sound of feet shuffling by and the tinkling crash of liquid hitting liquid. Our teenager's face cleansing routine is revealed. And I can see first hand if teeth are really brushed and flossing follows. Alas, I am also stepping over twice as many wet towels and scattered shoes.

I would not want this bathroom cohabitation to be permanent. However, I do admit that I enjoy being in close proximity for this slice of time with our little big boys.
BEFORE - Bathroom #1
BEFORE - Bathroom #2
DURING - Bathroom #1