Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Rubber, You're Glue...

I think I'm losing my mind. I just got back from picking up my son from youth group and suddenly I feel like a teen again and just want to get a reaction out of little Koresch. The typical juvenille acts come to mind - trip him as he walks by, mumble a mature insult like "jerk" under my breath (again as he walks by) and my all-time favorite, throw a basketball directly at his huge, ego-inflated head. I'm not well. Honestly, I'm pushing 40 and yet this child has got me feeling like an angry kid again. My son was the more mature one tonight chosing to take the high road and not cave in to the nasty looks and vicious gossip of "the circle". I was proud.

I'll have to see Koresch when I'm at work tomorrow. He'll come in for class, buy a soda and thank me with a smile that doesn't reach his eyes. He knows I'm not fooled anymore. I'm glad to see that there's one teen around me who knows that I am completely on to him. My teen still thinks me to be a bumbling idiot most of the time who doesn't have a clue - about anything. I can't possibly know about teen relationships because I was a teen in the 80's! Gasp! That's practically a hundred years ago! I don't have a clue about music because the groups I liked didn't scream as if in agony - the clear sign, apparently, of 'good' music. I certainly don't know a thing about parenting - if I did, I'd know that most good parents just let their children have whatever they want all the live-long day. I know, my sides hurt from laughing too.

On a positive teen note, one of my son's oldest friends came by today to...hang out with the 8 year old! Willingly! Michael is just absolutely beside himself that his 'best friend' came over to spend the afternoon with him. How cute is that? And yeah to the 16 year old boy who took a free afternoon to spend with a friends brother. Now THAT is a good kid. I'd still like to adopt him (and I think if asked at the right time, his parents would allow it).

Pray for me that I do not throw spit-balls tomorrow or put tacks on anyone's chair. Cross your fingers that there is not super-glue around or 'kick-me' signs lying around just waiting for the chance to be taped on someone's back. Help me to remember who is the grown up and who is the child.

Why don't the grown ups get to have any fun?

But I Already Bought My Bridesmaid Dress...

About a year and a half ago, my dad was dating a woman who I only knew as "crazy Nancy". Seriously. Whenever he'd talk about her (usually after they'd have a fight and break up) he'd say, "Stace! She's crazy!" Of course, none of their fights were ever his faults, he's completely sane, and...please, even I can't lie that much even when I'm writing! So, on one of the occasions that he and crazy Nancy are back together, he gently breaks it to me that they're going to get married. Keep in mind, at the time, I was 37 and he had already been divorced from my mom since I was 10 and had since remarried and divorced wife number 2 by this time. Apparently I'm sensitive.

So the date was set, I was working out travel arrangements even though I felt that the whole thing was a sham; I mean, they had broken up more times than I could count, would they really even make it to their wedding day? We'd planned on driving down to Florida and doing the road trip thing - maybe visit the in-laws on the way. About 2 months before the wedding, I'm talking with my dad and we have a very normal conversation and he mentions nothing at all about the wedding. Odd, but okay. Not much later, I'm on the phone with my sister and she tells me that the wedding was off! I'm a little annoyed that he didn't bother to tell me and share that with my sister. So we decide to wait him out and see how long before dad actually tells me that the wedding is off.

A year and a half later, he still hasn't. Good thing I procrastinated and didn't pick up that yellow chiffon gown I had my eye on!

Two Halves of the Same Whole

We had a rough morning this morning. My husband was out of town last night so it was just me and the boys. I got up on time with the help of the alarm clock, woke both boys up since they both had to come to work with me today, and got on with my morning routine. We were like a fine-tuned machine with taking turns in the bathroom - no one had to stand and wait. I didn't have to remind anyone to do anything - which is a major miracle, believe me.

So I send the boys out to the car to wait for me as I do the final run through the house to make sure everything's turned off and I leave the house with a sense of accomplishment. That is until I hear this angry male roar coming from the car. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn my husband was in the car because it was that loud and that male. So I climb in and ask what in the world is going on. I mean, clearly with the kind of yelling I just heard, someone must have a jagged piece of glass in their eye or something! Thankfully there was no blood shed but merely a minor misunderstanding (and by misunderstanding I mean that the 8 year old made a request, the 16 year old told him no and that it was a stupid request, the 8 year old breathed heavily and rolled his eyes before whining and the 16 year old snapped). In all fairness, my 8 year old is just coming in to his own and thinks that he knows a whole lot more than he does. It seems to be the 16 year old's job to break his spirit and show him how wrong he all the time.

The funny thing about my kids is that they are complete opposites. Now I know that my sister and I were opposites as well but I just never realized how bizarre it makes your home life until I experienced it as a parent. Nick (16) is overly cautious, he takes no physical chances yet mouths off without provocation and sees nothing wrong with telling us (as parents) when he thinks we are wrong. And believe me, we seem to be wrong quite a bit. Michael (8) is completely daring. He broke out of the nursery at 18 months and they found him near Main Street happily running with a Matchbox car. He was always the peace maker and never wanted anyone to be upset. They have no similar interests and just recently have begun to battle all the darn time. One starts to speak, the other huffs, eyes roll, and then the gloves are off. It's not a fun time. What makes them even funnier is the fact that Nick looks exactly like me and mostly has my personality. Michael is all Frank - in looks and interests. Yet Frank and I get along very well. We have an awesome marriage and have a great time together. How come the kids can't get along? If Nick is me and Michael is Frank, and Frank and I get along, what's their problem? I don't get it.

The arguments keep coming, eyes are about to fall out of heads due to all the rolling and someone's going to develop asthma from all of the huffing. I can only hope that someday they will learn to get along for longer periods of time and maybe, just maybe, even enjoy one another's company and be friends.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cult, Charisma or Just Plain Crazy?

For most of my 16 year-old's life, I have adored his friends. Some have been like family to me and I enjoyed having them around. Several years ago he became friends with a boy who was okay (to me) but something was never quite right. I was never really at ease with him around. He was kind of cold to my younger son, he broke a very expensive bracelet of mine and then denied it to my face...things like that just fueled my unease.

With the approach of the teen years, drama started. When one friend was the first to get a girlfriend, his friends did not respond well. Relationships were severed and new bonds made. I went along with it all - all the while remembering what it was like to be 15 and how it felt when your friends started dating before you. With the loss of my son's best friend, a new best friend came on the scene - you guessed it, Mr. Bracelet-breaker. For Nick's sake, I tolerated the friendship and even forced myself to get along with this kid and as time went on, it wasn't so much of a chore. Then I noticed my son becoming more and more moody. He was giving up possessions and stopped listening to music that he loved because this person told him to. Soon, other friends were complaining (to me, might I add) how this person was causing problems with his constant barrage of put-downs on all of them. I'd even had girls come to me complaining of inappropriate touching and how uncomfortable they were with this boy. At 16, I now liken this person to a David Koresch-type personality.

The final straw for me was when I found out that my son's group of friends had formed "The Circle". If you're group needs a name, you're verging on being a cult in my opinion. The point of 'the Circle' was to be a group of Christian friends who lifted one another up and offered spiritual help and prayer and it all sounded like a good thing. That is, until little Koresch started making rules. He would complain about the clothes Nick wore or the pictures Nick would post on his My Space page and even went so far as to show them to me behind Nick's back in hopes of outraging me. I thought they were funny! They weren't vulgar or offensive, it was Nick in make up from the movie "the Crow" with Brandon Lee. Koresch's comments were "See! See what he's doing?" Then came the interventions - again in front of me - where Nick was told that he wasn't right with God because of the music he listened to. Well, guess what? A few weeks later, who has the same music on his i-Pod that he's playing for their book-club teacher? One-hint: NOT NICK. The charasmatic leader of the circle convinced his followers that it was time to kick Nick out of the circle because he was causing too much strife and refused to get right with God. His crime? He argued with said leader. These are 16 year old kids!!!

I met with their youth group leader and then my son and another friend met with him to discuss this problem. I was pleased to see that this man is very wise and has actually witness this crazed behavior and is worried himself. He sees that this boy is using the Bible to hide behind without any theology to back him up and even went so far as to demand - DEMAND - that the church back HIM on what he's doing! This is a 16 year old boy telling a youth pastor what to do! He's not even a member of the church where they go to youth group and he's making demands on them that they follow him! His parents aren't members of this church either. The youth pastor likened him to trying to be the Pope over this group.

I have to admit that for a while, I thought I was just a crazed mom defending my kid and not seeing the big-picture, now I fear that we're not seeing enough! I see the way the other kids 'follow' him and do his bidding. He wanted lunch one day but he only had a few minutes before he was being picked up to go to a class. The rest of the group was deciding what to do for lunch and he sent one of the girls in to demand that the lunch run happen NOW because HE was hungry! And believe me, she was serious. She refused to eat after she was informed that lunch wouldn't be back in time and instead, gave this boy her money so that he could get himself lunch at his class! None of these kids parents seem to realize what is happening because he has charmed them. He knows the right things to say. His own parents believe his lies. His friends are affraid to go against him or disagree with him because of how they will be treated.

He wears a dog collar as if marking himself as "Top Dog". Give me a break. I saw a phrase similar to this in reference to Waco and Koresch and found it appropriate.

"The type of character exhibited manifests the worst sort of evil and wickedness in the guise of virtue. Wickedness as seen in his manipulation and control of people, most of whom do not have the same abilities and will power as he, an exploitation of those weaker for the purpose of fueling his pride and self-importance; yet, all the while, in the mien of piety and truth. What deception!"

I'm venting, I know. I just wish that parents would open their eyes to what is happening right in front of them. How do you think cults get started? Where do you think these leaders begin to fuel their massive egos? It all has to start somewhere and usually when everyone does finally take notice, it's too late.

Do we want our kids to be friends with a person bent on having control over them just for the sake of having friends or do we risk isolating them a bit in order to protect them? I'd rather have my son mad at me now that have him be a statistic later.

Think about it.

Do I look Amish to you?

Some of you have heard this story, but it still makes me laugh. Plus it gives you a little bit more of an understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis. Back in August we drove up to New York for my grandmother's 84th birthday. We were staying with my sister and on our second day there, my 19 year old nephew asked if he could take my 16 year old son to a party with him. I was not thrilled with the idea but reluctantly agreed. His response? "Great! I told everyone that my Amish cousin was coming!"


So I'm like "Um, Justin, we're not Amish." He looks at me like I've grown a second head. "You're not?" He asked, all confused. "Aren't you something with the homeschooling and the living down south?" I'm dumbfounded. "You mean, Christian?" I ask. "Yeah, that's it! I knew you were something." He was all pleased with himself as he walked away.

A couple of months later, I'm on the phone with my sister and we're talking about swapping pictures via e-mail and she couldn't figure out how to do it so she puts her son on the phone to help. I give him my e-mail address and when I say that it's at he asked, "Embarq? Is that some sort of Amish e-mail?" Sigh. "Yes," I say patiently. Because everyone knows that the Amish are famous for their technology and e-mail service. Honestly, it's a good thing that he's pretty because there's not too much going on upstairs, if you know what I mean.

But seriously, what exactly is it about me that screams 'Amish'? Is it the highlights in my hair? The perfectly sculped waxed eyebrows? The fact that I drive a car? My use of cell phones? Take your pick!

I guess when you look at the way that they live and all of the creature comforts that they enjoy, we must look Amish to them. I really don't see anything wrong with us - we like things simple. Now excuse me while I go and harvest some wheat while listening to an i-Pod.

Can only stars dance?

Okay, one of my favorite guilty pleasures to watch on TV is "Dancing with the Stars". I have always loved to dance but never had the guts to really dance. I took a year of jazz, I took dance as a PE elective for a year and a half in high school and when we moved in the middle of my 10th grade year, I danced on that high school's kickline. An event in my life that still causes my sister and I to go in to a fit of giggles over because I still have my pom-poms. She's just jealous! I love watching this show because not only is the dancing decent, but I've watched some of these rather out-of-shape, B-list celebrities dance away the weight. So I watch and I think "Why can't I do that?" I mean, if the stars can dance, why can't I? Quite possibly because while they are out there rehearsing for 8-10 hours a day to get in to those fabulous, shiny, sparkly dresses, I'm watching them while eating a pint of Hagan Daaz and merely tapping my foot to the music. You can see my dilema.

I've watched them have hearing impaired celebrities (go Marlee Matlin!) and wanna-be celebrity amputees (Heather Mills) and botox-impaired celebrities (shame on you Priscilla!), why can't plain old Stace from Wake Forest go out there and dance? Shouldn't that be an option? I mean, we've seen reality shows where they do "celebrity" editions, why not take a celebrity reality show and throw the average guy/gal in there? Honestly, I still have the pom-poms, this could work!

And as if they are just looking to taunt me, tonight on DWTS result show, one of my all-time favorite rock bands from my 80's big-hair days is the guest group! Why, Oh why?? In a perfect world, I'd be as skinny as one of those dancers, Vienese Waltzing all over the bookstore and Joe Elliot (of the infamous rock band) crooning to me tonight! Don't worry, Frank is aware of this secret fantasy.

I guess a good start would be to put the Nestle Crunch bar down and actually make an attempt to get in to shape. My mom and sister bought the DVD for Hip-Hop Abs. I think it got watched once. Hip-hop doesn't appeal to me so I won't ask them for it but I have to admit, when I get up and get on the tread-mill, there is nothing like some 80's disco to get me going. There's something very empowering about strutting to "I Will Survive" while sucking wind on the treadmill in hopes of buring 30 calories!

So, will I dance? Yes, in the privacy of my own home, in my room, with the door closed. Will I wear one of those shiny, sparkly, skimpy outfits, not on your life! No one should have to see that, not even me!

Two Tickets to Paradise - for 4?

Last night at the end of dinner, the family got in to a discussion of vacations. Now if it were up to me, I'd be in Disney World at least once a year. My husband does not share that dream - and yet, our marriage works. So we grab a notebook - I am a big list maker - and decide that we are each going to pick five places that we'd like to go on vacation that are realistic. Damn, there goes my trip to the Great Barrier Reef! We want this to be an attainable list and so I get comfy on the couch and we begin to discuss.

For as much as I want to be in Disney, my 16 year old son want to go to NY. Why? Because he gets treated like a celebrity when we go home to visit our families up there. Every one makes a big deal, he gets to only do the fun things with everyone, we eat good food and sure, for him, it's a sweet deal. What he doesn't understand is that for every "fun" activity he gets to do, somewhere there's a family member lurking with what I'm sure they consider to be "helpful" comments that suck the life out of the trip for me. There was the time dad pulled me aside to tell me how fat I was getting, or when I made one simple food request to my sister and instead of making it for me, she took it to a friends house and fed it to them! While I was still in the darn state!! But back to the list...the rule is that there is to be no Orlando or Long Island anywhere on the list. So, of course, the 16 year old no longer wants to participate because if he can't go to NY then he wants to go international. Honestly, I don't even think he's trying to be difficult, it just comes naturally.

The 8 year old chimes in with his requests and I think that basically, he's just learning state names because he had no real reasons for chosing those states except that they just sounded good. Okay so we add his states to the list. My husband - who constantly complains about my not taking his feelings in to consideration when planning a vacation, comes up with some good choices - the Grand Canyon, Northern California to see the Redwoods, Alaska and perhaps, Nashville. I can work with that. We're all getting in to the groove and my 16 year old finally gives a non-NY input - Washington state. Now, the only people that we even know in that state is one of my husband's sisters. The one that I don't talk to. The one who I've never gotten along with - and it's mutual. Why? Why would the boy even suggest such a thing? He's clearly got some deep rooted issues with me that involve making me as uncomfortable as possible on any vacation. Why else would his only two choices involve me being insulted at every turn? We should talk to someone about that.

So where are we going to go next? Hee, hee! Actually, I am going back to Disney World before any of the "list" locations. I have a trip planned with my sister, mom, aunt and cousin. My sis and I take a trip to "the World" alone (no husbands, no kids) every 2-3 years. Since mom is living with her now, we invited her to join us. She then invited the aunt and cousin. She may not get invited on a trip with us again if she doesn't watch it! Our trip is in September and I really cannot wait. It's four days to relax and be a kid without having to deal with the realities of every day life. I highly recommend a trip like this to all of you moms out there. I know my husband appreciates me so much more when I get back!

If I had my choice of where the family headed to for our next trip, it would definitely not be NY or Washington (sorry, Nick) but maybe something completely different like a road trip to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio! I'll keep you posted!

The case for a phone-free world...

Okay, so it all started last week with a phone call from my dad. "Stace!" he starts in a near frantic voice, "You've got to help me! It's Anthony! He's on the drugs." Let me take a minute to fill you in on why this is so damn funny to me. First of all, Anthony is my step-brother. We've been related for the last 20 years and I've spoken to him maybe a dozen times in all those years. Why dad thinks that I would possibly be helpful in this situation, is way beyond me. The second comical aspect to this conversation is the fact that my father has been know to use a LOT of drugs in his life-time so it's kind of like the pot calling the kettle black. On with the story...

So I ask all of the usual questions, what's he taking? how do you know? have you done an intervention? blah, blah, blah. He begs me to call and so I say that I will. It takes me four days to make the call because in all honesty, I have no clue what to say. Shocking, I know, for those who know me. So I finally cave and make the call and to my surprise, I actually have a GREAT conversation with my bro. I mean, he was making sense, he took responsibility for his use of prescription pain killers and was - in my opinion - sincere in his attempts to get help. Okay, so my job is done. My conscience is clear. As I'm about to get off the phone and pat myself on the back for a job well-done, he asks, "Can you call dad for me? Tell him that I want to come and see him. He won't answer my calls." I don't really want to make the call - the fewer conversations with dad, the better - that's my motto. But I cave and make the call. Plus, now I can get that approval from dad that I'm forever looking for because I've done what he asked and had positive results. Or so I thought... Dad is not ready to talk to Anthony and asks me to call Anthony and tell him not to come around. At this point I'm thankful for that unlimited long-distance calling plan I've got. I mean, I'm in NC they're in Florida, can't they make their own damn calls??? So now I call Anthony and relay the news and after a brief conversation, we're done. I am relieved to be out of picture.

In a perfect world, that would be the end. But the next day I get a call from my sister who is on a cruise to Bermuda with her boyfriend. "Stace! Is daddy dead?" Not a typical greeting, but my curiosity is piqued. "No, why?" I ask. "Because Anthony's called me three times and I refuse to answer it. Why would he be calling me three times unless is was bad news?" Now for the awkward part. In my conversings with Anthony, I let it slip that Karen sometimes takes some prescription "stuff". Now he's concerned that SHE has a drug problem!! Oy! So I explain that to her and she took it rather well. I was shocked. But as our conversation progressed, I realized that she doesn't really care because she's clearly on something RIGHT NOW!! On a deluxe cruise, she's sitting in her room, mid-day, eating spaghetti! Okay, that's normal. While we're talking, my husband calls on my cell-phone from Virginia where he's working complaining of a migraine. I feel bad and all but hey, I've got Bermuda on the line, I'll call you back. So we wrap things up, seriously, the spaghetti was the most exciting part of her cruise story, and her final request? "Hey, can you call Anthony and tell him to stop calling me?" For crying out loud!!! Being a good sister, I make the call - after I check on hubby (who is fine by this point). The conversation with bro goes fine and we actually bond. Who knew? While on the phone with him, my mom calls! She took Grandma to the doctor and there were some problems, please call back. A cold compress for my head, a fist-full of Advil and a strong drink are what I need most right now. Hang up with Anthony, call mom. I get the info on Grandma and it's not as dramatic as she'd made it sound on the answering machine and then she begins an argument with my nephew who she lives with. Actually, she lives with my sister (of the spaghetti/Bermuda cruise) and my nephew. That's a story for another day. They start arguing because he wants to have a party and since mom's away, he thinks he can con Nana into agreeing. His last party ended when one of his friends got thrown through the kitchen window. But I digress... they're fighting and finally mom says, "Stace! Talk to your godchild and tell him that he can't have a party!" I'm feeling pretty powerful at this point because clearly my family thinks that I have some magical powers that I can right all the wrongs in the world with just my voice. Pretty impressive. The boy could care less what his aunt who lives 600 miles away has to say (they're in NY) and he eventually just walks away from the phone. Mom is so disgusted, with him, not me, that we end our conversation with me wishing her good luck. Again, glad to be out of the picture.

Or so you would think. At 10 pm that night, I get a call from mom. "What's wrong?" I ask. "Well," she begins and she does not sound well,"I just had four fully loaded fire engines, three police squad cars and an ambulance leave the front yard!" Right now a body through the window is sounding good. Long story short - because it's just too ridiculous at this point - the boy and his three friends (all of the age of 19) were drinking in the yard and lit the portable fire pit and threw some sort of accelerant on it and the flames shot up higher than they should for about 5 seconds. My sister's soon-to-be-ex-husband (who lives next door and is not happy about his wife being on a cruise to Bermuda with her boyfriend) called the police about an "out of control fire" in the yard! No charges were filed, the boys hid their illegal beer before the fire-fighters stormed the yard (which is a good thing because in NY if you are caught drinking under the legal age in a private residence, the adult at home goes to jail). I think that would have thrown Nana over the edge for sure!

I'd love to meet the person who invented caller ID. I don't know how we've lived so long without it. Now if only I could remember to put it to good use and ignore when the family calls and not just for those pesky telemarketers!