Familiar Family Faces

There are several faces that the women in my family make. None are intended and all are genetic inherited the same way as hand mannerisms and stances. I’m guilty of several of them myself, and have come to recognize them now on my daughter’s faces, particularly when we’re conversing via Skype.

Skype, as amazing as it is, has a tendency to freeze, and who can blame it when it’s transmitting for free across the wide Atlantic Ocean in real time? But, in freezing, I get a long, hard look at some of the more familiar faces my girls tend to pull and, regardless of what they’re typing or saying, can get a real read on what’s going on with them.

Here are five of our more familiar family faces, all generally pulled when nearing exhaustion or frustration:

  1. Cleo Face. Affectionately named after our long, dead cat who stuck out her tongue when she slept.  If your tongue hangs out, we all know you’re exhausted and need to sleep.
  2. Cry Face. Recognizable from age one on and remains with you for life. The face you pull just before bursting into a hard, unending waterfall of tears. If recognized early enough the crying spree can be avoided with the words, “Oh, oh, cry face.”
  3. Bitch Face.  Generally appears around puberty and can stay with you for life. A face pulled inadvertently because you’re uncomfortable and don’t want to be someplace. Strangers misinterpret it as being snotty or haughty, but the face has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. In fact, you’re generally trying hard not to be a bitch and not interacting with them, only leading more to the misinterpretation of snootiness.
  4. Uncle Gary Face. A face that appears largely when you’re sleeping in the car, or commuting and your head goes back. Somehow the family resemblance suddenly becomes clear.
  5. Tropicana Face.  This is the newest one I just made up on Skype for when faces freeze while concentrating on something being said.  Frozen concentrate, get it?










My Speeding Turtle – How Eldest Got a Speeding Ticket

Eldest has always been a turtle.

When she was a tot she was mesmerized by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a passion she kept all the way through high school.

TurtleWhen she learned to drive, she quickly got the nickname turtle, as she was always “turtling along” on the highway. Most parents worry about their kids speeding. We were the only set of parents who pleaded with her to “step on the gas.”  “Peddle to the metal,” her dad would shout, while sitting patiently as the passenger.

The rest of us drive on the faster side, so her caution is odd to come by.  She doesn’t like highways largely because everyone is speeding and forcing her to up her game.

This weekend, my two daughters are driving together roundtrip from Boston to Pittsburgh. It’s a girl’s road trip to support eldest in a job interview and give her highway support, not to mention sharing the driving of a 10-hour jaunt from the Northeast to the almost Midwest.  As they got up early this morning to get a jump start on the long journey back to Beantown, it’s a bit of an irony that a zealous NY State Trooper stopped Eldest for speeding!

She was going in the mid-70s on an empty 65 mile road. How often all of us have done that! How odd that she’d be the one to get stopped and ticketed!

And so, our economy trip letting the girls drive out rather than fly, has been compromised. The good news is that my two are traveling together in support of each other, and arriving safely.  That’s my true mother’s day present today. The ticket is just an annoying  cost.

What Motherhood and Social Media Have in Common

What do social media and motherhood have in common?  I learned the hard way this year. You can never stop – not for a minute, not for day, and certainly not for more than a year.

On the motherhood front – I’m almost an empty nester.  That does not imply the end of motherhood.  It does imply the ongoing state of long-distance motherhood. The rule of thumb is if your child doesn’t call (or instant message, or email), good times are being had by all.  You may want to check in  just for giggles, but no news really is good news.

If your phone is ringing with tweets, messages, video chat requests, or even a call, something is awry.  It can be as small as the need for more vitamins, or as large as what to do in the midst of the ongoing bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh campus. This last one is all too real at the moment. More to come on this when we feel on safer ground.

On the social media front – I now have more blogs, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ accountsthan ever before.  To stay vibrant, they all need care and feeding.  I took almost two years off to attend to my real life, and they all went to hell and a hand basket.  Bringing them back up to health is not easy.  I brought in a professional.

When you’re a harried mother, they tell you to get a babysitter and go out for the night.  I did the same as a harried blogger.  I hired a social sitter (and will be happy to send along the recommendation) and went out to dinner with my husband.

Remembering passwords, user names, logins etc. is similar to trying to keep my children’s friends names straight.  It was easy enough in first grade (or when all I did was Facebook), but by high school it was increasingly difficult, and college is almost impossible. Without a face, how does one remember who’s who?

So, I’m recommitted to straightening out my digital life. I’ve found my real life is now too entwined with my digital life for me to ignore either. Finding time for myself now includes finding time for blogging, tweeting, Facebook posts and the list goes on. Pinterest, like all last born children of large families, suffers the most. I just can’t spend the time nurturing it. At least not until I get the older ones on more solid ground.

Meanwhile, the real kids are really OK. I’m proud to report that I was on LinkedIn and Pinterest first although both have now dabbled in tweets, blogs and are Facebook pros. As they say, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

10 Fingers and 10 Toes

When you’re first expecting a child, some people ask “What do you want?” referring to the child’s sex.  The classic mother-to-be’s response is: “A healthy child with 10 fingers and 10 toes.” And, when the child is first born, those features are quickly checked by the mother before a deep breath of relief is sighed. All is right with the world.

As children grow older we tend to impose new standards on our desires for them – may they play nice with others, not get bullied, go to religious school, whisper in public, and keep family secrets in the family.

As they move through teen years, we hope they don’t get pierced in odd places, join the gay alliance in support rather than in affiliation, don’t become drug addicts, don’t DWI, don’t become a teenage parent, and the list goes on.  Later, we hope they don’t marry out of the religion, or get snipered by terrorists, or travel the world without getting hijacked. We’ll deal with whatever happens, but we hope against hope for only good things to happen. We pray for safety even while preaching “take risks.”

When my brood were in middle school, Columbine happened in Denver. It was akin to when Kent State occurred during my own college years.  A sense of safety was permanently ruptured. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time took on new meaning. Even the hallowed halls of academia were not safe.

Lately, youngest’s college is being attacked with a rash of bomb threats. I won’t say too much about it now. I could bring her home, but hibernation is not an option. It’s only a matter of time before she’ll have a different close encounter with other crazies.

And, perhaps that’s what it’s all about.  At some point we all need to come to terms with the elusiveness of safety.  All we can wish for our kids is that they live as long and safely and happily well adjusted as possible with 10 fingers and 10 toes. And if even if the appendage count is not possible, it’s not the end of the world. One can live without thumbs. It’s the living that’s important. Everything else is just gravy.

Guardian Angels

A good friend/long-time co-worker always had a sign in her office that read: “Never fly faster than your guardian angel can fly.” Good thing then that Eldest is a relatively slow driver and recently wasn’t going more than 55 mph as she was going back to DC this month. The car was side swiped and totaled after flipping off the highway and turning over at least once as it landed down an embankment. She emerged unscathed.

Some are calling it a testament to seat belts and roll bars. Surely it is, but I’m calling it a testament to guardian angels. At least more than one was in attendance that evening.

There’s little you can do when you send your children down the road of life. Once when they were very little, perhaps during Columbine, I remember thinking that I didn’t care if they married out of our religion, or were gay, or decided on any type of alternative lifestyle. Whatever was happening that particular year was scary enough for me that I had only one wish as a mother – that they live. I didn’t want crazy people shooting at them or kidnapping them, or other children taking out their woes on them.

Many parents don’t get that joy. Crazy things happen from horrible diseases, to stupid death defying acts that go awry, to horrible accidents. I can only proffer my continuing thanks to those guardian angels who watch over my children particularly when they are out of my sight and implore both the angels and my children to stay ever diligent. Once again, I can only reaffirm the one true prayer I really have every day – that my children live. If I’m allowed a selfish prayer post script, it’s that they stay safe and sound, hopefully surrounded by peace, prosperity, love, health, and happiness. But, the first priority remains simply the same; Life. All else is truly the small stuff. I’m not sweating it.

Father’s Day Post Script:
In deference to Father’s Day, a shout out to Dads and men everywhere and the skills, objectivity, heroism and passion they bring to the parenting party. When Eldest called in hysterics post-accident, we had to manage short-term long-distance. The good news is that good Samaritans immediately got on the phone to assure us she was OK. It was payback, I felt, for all the times Husband had stopped our car and pulled people out of accidents or picked them up from sidewalks. His calm in the midst of chaotic blood, guts, and tears is a true testament to the value of testosterone and a good soul.

Within an hour of the call and a confirmation of the hospital where Eldest would be taken, an already exhausted Husband was on the road towards DC to be the on-site point person. He calmly took the post-accident pictures the next day at the junk yard, while I resolutely refused to view most of them. This Father’s Day, she sent him a card that admitted how much his on-site assistance meant to her. He remains our Father of the Year and Guardian Angel on the Ground, but it’s a title he’s held for 22 years running. I don’t see either crown being dislodged any time soon.