When I was your age . . .

Midlife parents rearing teens

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Boomer: A Dog Like No Other

A few weeks ago, hubby and son brought home 55 pounds of trouble named Boomer.  Boomer is a six months old Labrador/hound mix.

Boomer on bed

Here Boomer is resting comfortably on our bed.

boomer with dog treats

Here Boomer is eating dog treats after pushing over the box.


Here Boomer is digging for moles in our backyard.  He tracks mud all over the house when he comes inside.


Boomer loves to chew things.  Here Boomer is chewing my son’s athletic sock.

But the dog poop really hit the fan when I heard him munching on hard plastic.


This is the mangled remains of my son’s bottom retainer.  Retainers cost about $150 each.  Boomer was very picky about which retainer he chose to chew on.   He passed on the upper one that was already damaged and needed replaced anyway.

“It’s your fault!” my son shouted at me when he got home from school.  (“The Blame Game” is our favorite family game.)  “I shut the door to my room and you left it open!”

In fact, I had left the door open after I went in his room to gather laundry.

“It’s your fault!” declared hubby looking at my son when he came home from work. “You should have put your retainer in the case!”

“It’s your fault!” I said to my husband.  “You wanted the dog, and I told you I did not have time to take care of it during the day!”

In the heat of the argument, Boomer sat calmly chewing a dog toy.

Boomer is our own personal version of Marley.  A dog like no other.



Home, Sweet (but Freezing Cold) Home

photo (1)It snowed all day Sunday.  The heavy kind of snow.  The kind that makes it easy to pack a snowball.

A foot of snow covered our driveway.  Trapped at home.

Hubby repeatedly yanked the snow blower cord.   The motor ran for about two seconds and stopped.   Shoveling would take hours.

The forecast for that night: subzero temperatures.   Wind chills of 30 to 40 below zero.

The phone rang.  School closed on Monday.

I remember thinking, “Could things get any worse?”

Then about 8 PM, we heard it.

That dull, eerie sound.  Power draining from the appliances.  The entire house shutting down.  Total darkness.

Things DID get worse.

First, a fumbling search for the flashlights.

Hubby sat down and looked at the power outage map on his cell phone.  “I guess we will just have to wait,” he said.

“I think we need to get out of here,” I replied.

We looked out the window.  We saw lighted houses across the street.

Hubby texted our friends who live across the street: “We might be staying the night.”

A kind neighbor stopped to check on us and offer his home for a place to sleep.

Hubby tried to get the car out of the driveway.

“It is impossible.  The snow is too deep!”

“I am calling your brother,” I said.  “He and your sister-in-law have a big house, and we can sleep in a bed, not on a couch.  You and son are going to have to shovel the driveway.”

Hubby and son did the “impossible” and finished in an hour.

I called my in-laws.  They quickly offered their home as a refuge.

“Pack for two days!” I yelled to everyone.   Then I shivered.   The house felt cold already.

We left a few faucets running.  We put the entire contents of our freezer on our unheated back porch.

We packed the car.  Everyone got in.  Snoopy (the beagle), Spike (the bearded dragon), hubby, me, daughter and son started our eight-mile journey across snow-covered, treacherous roads.

As we drove away, I looked back at our house and felt a twinge of guilt.  I did not want to abandon it, but I did not want our family to freeze to death either.

We arrived at the in-laws about midnight.  It took two hours for me to fall asleep as fear had kicked in my adrenaline.

The next day we watched the news.  30,000 homes in our Midwestern city lost power.   The heavy snow cracked tree branches.  The falling tree branches snapped power lines.  People stayed with relatives or neighbors, at Red Cross shelters, and hotels.

Our neighbors sent us a text on Monday.  No lights at our house.

Yesterday (Tuesday) hubby and son drove back to the house. The temperature was 40 degrees, but the power was on.  Hurray!

The thermostat read 55 degrees when we all arrived home.  Everything looked the way we left it.  Frozen in time.

We surveyed the house.  Our sole real plant drooped.  Everything else survived the frigid air.

By dinner time, it was up to 60 degrees, but everything still felt cold –  the potatoes, the shampoo, the towels.

Everyone is glad to be home.  Especially Spike, who spent the two days in a plastic box instead of his warm tank.

By bedtime, the thermostat read 72 degrees.

Home, sweet (and warm) home.


Having a baby? Stay Home!

Look at this document!  I mean it seriously.  Look at it!

hospital bill_0001

I know.  I know.  It looks like some boring document typed on one of those ancient machines called typewriters.

Look at the top two lines.  It says: “Statement” and under that:  “St. Elizabeth Hospital”.

Yes.  This is a hospital bill.  My parents received this bill for maternity care for my birth in 1956.  I blacked out all the identifying info, but trust me, it is the actual bill.

My dear mom saved it all these years!  She thought it might be interesting to see someday.  Good call, Mom!

According to Mom, I entered the world kicking and screaming about 2 AM.  No C-section.  No complications.   Mom had one minor complication.  We stayed six days.  The normal stay for maternity care back then was five days.

Look toward the bottom right.  The total bill was $141.45.   Yes.  You read that right.  One hundred forty one dollars and 45 cents for six days in the hospital for a mother and baby.

It cost $5 each day for the five days I spent in the nursery.  Room and board for Mom – $15 each day.  Other costs were: lab work, $5; supplies, $4.50 and drugs, $10 total.

I called Mom to discuss the cost of my birth.

Me: “Did you get a separate bill from the OB/GYN?”

Mom: “Let me go check.”

Me: “What do you mean by: ‘Let me go check?’ Do you have the cancelled checks you wrote all the way back to 1956?”

Mom: “I have the check registers.”

Me: “You’re joking.”

After a 15 minute search, Mom found the check registers but could not find a check to the OB/GYN.

Mom: “I think we paid him about $300.00.”

Me: “So the total bill was about $450?”

Mom: “Yes.”

Me: “So did medical insurance pay the hospital bill?”

Mom: “I found a check to the hospital for $41.45.  So insurance must have paid $100.   But insurance refused to pay for your older brother, because he was born 11 months after we were married.  Back then, insurance would only pay if the parents were married an entire year.”

Me: “Interesting, fact, Mom.  So were you born at home?”

Mom: “Yes. My older brother and sister and I were born at home.  My younger brother was born in a hospital.”

Me: “Did grandma have help?”

Mom: “My aunt, a nurse, and a doctor came.  Doctors used to make house calls.”

Me: “Yes, even I remember a doctor coming to our house once or twice.  Why do you think women started having babies in hospitals instead of staying at home?”

Mom: “Well, lots of babies died at birth back then.  And doctors decided it was more convenient for them to deliver babies in a hospital instead of going to the mother’s home.  Doctors wanted us to be in the hospital in case there was a problem.  It was a precaution.”

Me: “Thanks, Mom!”

Let’s look at the increase in cost for maternity care over the past 57 years.  The average hospital stay today is two days for a vaginal birth and four days for a C-section.

According to this recent CNN article by Eugene Declercq the current cost of maternity care is “outrageous.  Total costs average $18,329 for a vaginal delivery and $27,866 for a C-section, with the bulk of the bill going to insurers.  However, families with insurance still have to pay about $3,400 out of pocket.  What’s ironic is we can’t even claim that the extra expense pays off in healthier mothers and babies. According to a study by the Institute of Medicine, the U.S. ranks at or near the bottom on virtually all maternity care outcomes.”

And there are many other similar articles on the Internet.  So the obvious question is:  How could hospital costs increase from $141.45 to $18,329 in 57 years?  Does it really cost $18,000+ to help a woman push a baby out of her body? Are babies taking a new, more complicated path?

For that much money I hope the hospital is providing breastfeeding and babysitting for an entire year and a gold-plated birth certificate.

And I think it is wrong that doctors have convinced women that giving birth is a medical procedure.  Unless problems arise, I don’t know of any reason that a baby needs to be born in a hospital.  If I were a young, healthy pregnant woman, I would have my child either at home, or in a birthing center as he recommends.

If there is an emergency, an ambulance can quickly get a pregnant woman or baby to the hospital.

That is my opinion.  But I am only 57 years young.

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Our New Pet (sits on) Rocks!

I am anything but delighted to announce we have an addition to our family.

He is gray-green, covered in scales and eats crickets.

He is a lizard.  A bearded dragon to be exact.  I don’t have anything personal against lizards, I just don’t want one in our house.

Hubby and son knew I would not be jumping for joy at the thought of a new pet – especially a slimy, scaly one.  So they had to to develop a strategy to sneak him in.

They used the “Well-I-guess-it-is-too-late-now!” approach.  It was a four-step plan.

Step 1

Do as much preparation as possible behind Mom’s back.  (This involved taking several unexplained trips to the pet store to decide what type of lizard to buy and using the computer to shop on Craig’s List for the tank and supplies).

Step 2

Face the fact that Mom will notice a tank that is the size of a refrigerator.  Wait until the last minute before telling her.  That way it will be too late for her to object.   (Hubby told me on the way out the door they were driving to the south side of town for the tank and supplies).

Step 3

Arrive home to Mom freaking out.  Calm her with lies.  When she demands that you return the tank, say:  “Well, we already paid for it.   So…….. I guess it is too late now!”

This left one last step — purchase the beady-eyed creature.

“How big is this lizard?” I asked hubby.  “Because if it is longer than a foot, I will be afraid of it.”

“Oh, it is only this big,” he answered as he positioned the tips of his index fingers six inches away from each other.

I closed my eyes and took a long deep breath in a failed attempt to stay calm.

“There is no way I am going to allow a lizard to crawl around the house.”

“It will stay in the tank.  I promise.”

Step 4

Purchase the lizard.  (This did not happen for a couple of weeks as they waited for the pet store to have its annual, slimy, scaly, repulsive lizard sale).

My son showed it to me as soon as they brought it home.  It was about twice the size hubby told me it would be.  I guess he forgot to include the length of the tail.

I welcomed him to his new home with the words: “How disgusting!”


Contrary to hubby’s promise, my son takes him out of the tank.  Luckily he keeps him in his room.

Our new pet mainly sits on a pile of rocks and stares at the light positioned above his tank.  He eats carrots and greens and crickets.

I know about the crickets because I met one personally.

While reading to my daughter Monday night, I happened to glance at the side of the book.  There sat a tan colored bug with very long legs and feelers.  I screamed and threw the book across the room.  We never found the cricket.

Before I launched the cricket into the air, I had this weird feeling he was trying to ask me something.  Maybe he hoped I could save him from his eventual lizard-lunch fate.

If any more crickets go AWOL and try to ask for my help, I will explain that I generally am not a fan of bugs, and I am not interested in disrupting the universal food chain.

My son insisted it is impossible for the crickets to escape from their “cricket cage.”

I think that was lie number three, but by then I had lost track.

My son has not named him yet.

I call him Buster.

Actually he seems pretty harmless.  Ugly.  But harmless.

So you other moms who are dreading the day your son (or daughter) says he (or she) wants a lizard for a pet — it is not so bad.  You will survive it!

Buster green lizard


My 14 Year Old Son’s Bedroom (A Better Homes and Garden’s version)

The teenage years are a time for setting life goals, self-discovery and reflecting on a not-so-distant childhood.  The vibrant decor of this 14-year-old boy’s room reflects this tumultuous time while showcasing his creativity and budding artistic talent.

Door Designs

A pencil sketch of an alien adds a humorous and somewhat whimsical touch to the bedroom door.  The drawing was inspired by two spots of chipped paint on the faux mahogany facing.

photo (6)

Engaging looks

A view from the doorway invites the lucky visitor and reveals a eclectic space which mixes bold colors with unusual design elements.  The floor provides a convenient storage area for recently shed clothing and used towels and also functions as an excellent breeding ground for MRSA bacteria.   This can serve as a last minute science experiment for students who tend to procrastinate.

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Dress for Success

As a twist to the mundane and overrated “closed-drawer” appearance, this worn mahogany chest boasts a more natural look with fuchsia colored stockings and other miscellaneous clothing cascading over drawer facings.

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Homework Helper

The “Alice and Wonderland-esque” toadstool (a lucky garage sale find) adds charm to the meticulously organized desk.

The sheets of lined notebook paper prove that white is still that “go-to” color (although they bear an intriguing resemblance to homework due last week).

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Wall Wonders

Orange tipped pellet guns paired with block shaped shelves adorn the north wall.   The shelves create a “minimalist” look and function as handy place for storage.  Here they are used for critical “grab-and-go” items:  two flashdrives, a dismantled Rubic’s Cube and a tube of Chapstick.

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Sweet dreams

The bed is mix of vibrant color and more subdued shades of timeless gray.  The Elmo Snuggie adds a touch of sophistication while the red can of underarm deodorant creates a focal point.

photo (9)a

Corner Critters

A keyboard adds dimension and makes excellent use of that awkward “behind the door” corner.   Disney Dalmatians (playfully climbing a firemen’s ladder against the wall) record the child’s growth spurts — a must for any well-designed children’s space.

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This inviting space is sure to lift the spirits of any teenage boy after a long difficult day of school.

Note to reader: It is important to note this eye-catching custom design did not cost a fortune and is well in the budget of any middle class family.

Also my son is available for a modest fee for anyone interested in using his services as an interior designer.  And my hubby and I will provide handy tips on how to encourage your teenage son to keep his room clean – also for a modest fee.

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When Moms Talk “Baby Talk”


I am 56 years old but talk like a three year old.  I can’t say my R’s correctly.  They sound like W’s.

After a year of speech therapy in elementary school, I learned to say the “R” sound at the end of a word.

But if the “R” is at the beginning or in the middle of a word, it sounds like a “W.”

The problem gets worse when I am upset.  Just when I desperately need to be taken seriously, I start talking like Elmer Fudd.

“This is widiculous! This pwoduct is cwap!   If you don’t we-pay my money,  I will have you awwested!”

A speech therapist identified my problem in second grade back in the early 1960’s.

Once a week, the ST (I can’t remember her name, so I will just call her Karen) pulled me and another student named Angie out of class.   Angie was a year younger, which made my speech problem even more humiliating.

We walked to the gymnasium and spent an hour practicing the “R” sound.

“Angie, you go first.  Try to say ‘run’.”


“Very good, Angie!”

Karen would smile at her star student.

Then Karen would close her eyes briefly, take a deep breath and turn to me.  Her smile would change to a look of concern.

“Now, Jeanne.  Try to say ‘run’.”


“Try again.”


“Did you practice?”

“Yes, I pwacticed.”

Every week Karen assigned a list of “R” words.  Before I doing any of my regular homework, I recited the list.

“Wat.   Wain.   Wecord.  Weach.  Wight.”

It never helped much.

I finally made progress with saying the “R” sound at the beginning of a word.  So we advanced to the more challenging pronunciation of “R” as the second letter of the word.

“Ok,  Jeanne, say ‘prayer.'”


“Are you moving your tongue to the back of your mouth and curling up the edges?”

“I am twying, but it is just too hawd to get it back there fast enough after saying the “P”.

I am pretty sure Karen decided to become a nurse.

The problem did not improve as I grew older and started dating.  I avoided men whose name contained the letter “R” but still ended up dating a Brad, Chris, Roger, Gary, Greg and two Ricks.  Luckily, I married a man whose name does not contain an “R”.

When my children were born, we named them “non-R” names.

My daughter also cannot say the “R” sound.  But, unfortunately, she also mispronounces her “L’s”.  The other day I heard her repeat one of my favorite expressions.

“This is absowootwee weedicuwous!”

She is 13 years old, so I don’t think her problem is going to get any better.

For her sake, I will steer her toward careers that do not involve public speaking.  And I will pray she marries a Tom, David or John.

It could be worse.  We could lisp.  Or even stutter.

We just talk “baby talk.”

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How the Mommy iGrinch Stole the Electronics!


My teenage son has just completed another less than memorable summer of obsessively playing mind-numbing computer games.

Picture this: It is a summer day in July.  I look outside.  The sun is shining.   Birds are singing.  The weatherman says the temperature is 76 degrees with low humidity.

I look in our home office and see my son glued to the computer screen, his body frozen in a bent-over position, with only occasional typing and eye movements to reassure me that he is still alive.

I am seriously afraid I will have to call an ambulance when he keels over from deep-vein thrombosis, which occurs in people who sit motionless for hours.  Then Child Protection Services  will call to tell me he is the first child in the history of mankind who has ever had an attack of this condition and haul me off to jail.

My hubby and I spent about $1,000  (and went into debt doing so) to put my son into a few summer camps. But on the “off” weeks, my son’s activity of choice was to spend hours playing Minecraft with his equally addicted computer buddies.

What has happened to our kids?  Are the electromagnetic fields that connect our devices mysteriously pulling their bodies toward the computers against their will or are they addicted?  I think it is the latter.  Hubby is likewise addicted to electronics and does not share my concern.

I KNOW these games are addicting from personal experience.  When  my daughter was younger we bought her a Nintendo Wii game called “Dora Saves the Snow Princess.”   I helped her manipulate the controller.  Dora and Boots were hot on the trail of the evil witch who was holding the Snow Princess captive, when my daughter got bored with the repetition of the game and got up.


When I was my son’s age (back in the good ole days!), I played outside during the summer.   My mom drove my siblings and me to the swimming pool, or I would sunbath or work in my flower garden.

My sisters and brothers and I would play with mud.  You heard me………MUD.  We lived in the middle of a corn field and if there was one thing there was a lot of (besides corn) it was mud.  We made mud cakes, mud pies, mud everything.

We taught our dog to do tricks.  We played card games and board games.  We read books.

We were normal kids.

So I made a decision.   Two weeks before school started, I morphed into the “Mommy iGrinch”.

“He has been sitting in front of that computer forever!” I snarled.  I MUST find some way to stop this!”

“This iPod”, I said.  “Is the first thing to go!”

I slithered and slunk around the house and took every electronic gadget.

I took the iPad.

I took the laptop.

I took the keyboard for the desktop computer — rendering it useless.

I even took this antenna thing that makes the TY work.

Then I stuffed them in hiding places.  Our house is a cluttered mess, so that was easy.

After a few days without their electronics, my son and husband started to feel dizzy.  They started to shake. The walls started closing in.  They were in serious electronics withdrawal.

They waited anxiously until I left to go to the store.  Then they began their desperate search.  It is amazing that my son who regularly needs help to find his soccer shin guards and his favorite shirt, and my husband who can never find important paperwork or the the critical tool he needs for his current project, are suddenly able to find the most well hidden objects.

I let them feed their additions for the rest of the day.  Then I just I hid them again.  In a different place.  More concealed.

Now “The Summer Vacation of 2013” is over.   My son is back in school.   A freshman in high school.

I think it is time children – at least those in middle and high school — go to school year round.  I don’t want to hear any more lame reasons for summer vacation like: “Kids need to play in the sunshine.”  They don’t.  They spend the precious summer days staring at a computer screen.

Sigh.  I miss the good ole days.