10 Things Moms of Teen Boys Must Know

My favorite blog post last year came from a kindred spirit, and someone I truly believe is living the same life as me, albeit just a few years behind.  Rita Templeton, also a mom of four boys, and blogger over at Fighting Off Frumpy wrote an absolutely hilarious piece titled "10 Things Boy Moms Must Know"  As I read each point  I literally found myself yelling out “AMEN! Yes! Preach it mama! TRUTH!”  and when it ended at number 10, I slumped in my chair. Keep going! You have only scaled the tip of the testosterone iceberg!   Then it hit me- she hasn’t experienced the teenage boy. Well holy AXE spray, zit cream, and hairy legs, I. AM. THERE.  I am treading water in the teen angst cesspool (also known as their bedroom) desperately gasping for sanity,  in male adolescent hormone infested waters. Waters that run deep, wide, smart-mouthed, and scruffy chinned. Where dirty boxer shorts,  crumbled up and forgotten homework assignments,  lost ear buds, sweaty socks, and junk food wrappers are forever afloat. Unfortunately, these waters do not come with a lifeboat. (Honestly, I don’t need a lifeboat, I need a pressure washer and a bullhorn but we will get to that in a sec.) Don’t get me wrong, my teenagers are great kids, they do well in school, are witty, empathetic, amusing, and are actually growing into really cool adults. But there are minutes, days, sometimes weeks where I -in teen terms-  like, TOTES. CAN’T. EVEN.  wrap my mind around their behavior. 

I wish someone would have told me...........

1. Everything will smell.

Their car. Their closet. Their bathroom. Their bedroom. The hallway that leads to their room. It will be a funky, sweaty, noxious, musty, foul, deodorant soap covered perspiration,  “I am no longer a little boy” type of odor. No candle, plug in, floral spray, or wax melt comes even close to touching it,  so stop trying. When they move out, painting the room and replacing the carpet may help. (MAY.)

2. They will suddenly want to wash their own sheets. 

They will bounce down the stairs with all of their bedding wrapped up in a tiny ball, duck into the laundry room,  and out of nowhere suddenly want to start the washing machine with no help.  Don’t ask. Don’t help. Don’t acknowledge. Move on mom. This doesn’t involve you. Just a boy and his dreams.

3. There is no frustration greater than teaching the male brain how to drive.

I’m almost done teaching my second son how to drive. I’ve got chewed up cuticles, severe hair loss, and a prescription to reduce heart palpitations to prove it. No matter how cautious, careful, and smart of a driver they appear to be, and even with mom riding shotgun, dents will happen. So will things like, “Does yellow happen before or after green?” and "Is 65 the FASTEST I can go?" Shoot. Me. Now.

4. When not sleeping, they are eating.

Ever wake up at 3 am to what sounds like raccoons in your kitchen digging through the garbage for food?  Folks at Costco finally give you your own parking spot up front? Then you get it. I live in  “Never Enough Burritos” land.  Someone please invent a pepperoni pizza patch that I can slap on their arms that will offer 24 hour continuous nourishment. 

5. When not eating, they are sleeping.

Never, ever, EVER did I think when I had a house full of babies that woke everyday before sunrise that I would ever sleep in again.  But teens? They SLEEP THE HELL IN!!  Like until NOON. Comatose almost. Not gonna lie, it’s freakin' awesome. Awesome until they have to wake up at the crack of dawn, like, say, for school. Then you are totally screwed.  Invest in a bullhorn, and pray for Saturdays. 

6. They will take risks.

Big ones. Mind numbing ones.  Risks that your shy, overly cautious, hesitant little boy would never take.  (Personally, I think the part of the brain that kept him wary and watchful is now controlled by images of boobies and butts, but who knows.)  Basically, boy brains are fearless, reckless, and sense zero consequence. If you’ve ever uttered the words  “Not my kid” take it back. Take it back right effing NOW. Trust me.

6. They think they know everything. 

Yes, that cliche is true, and they will actually say this to your  face. I literally recorded mine saying it to me. Even he laughed.  This brazen way of thinking must  somehow be a survival mechanism. Perhaps if they had an authentic grasp of adulthood and what real life will throw at them someday, they may not even want to reach 18. Let’s just allow them to keep thinking they know everything. Why ruin the party?

8.  They will not want to hug much anymore. 

Like ever. But keep trying. You will become the physical form of kryptonite, and when they see you with your arms outstretched they may run away in horror. Keep trying anyway. Because out of the blue one day they will toss their arm around your shoulder and give a squeeze, a grin, and say “I love you mom.” (It may only occur when your trunk is full of Doritos and Cheez-Whiz but hey, take what you can get.) They may seem aloof and un-wanting of your affection, but don’t believe it. They want it. Hug when and if you can.

9.  Showers. All day. Every day.

Go ahead and buy the low flow shower head on their 13th birthday, as it will save you about $500 a year. Kids you previously had to  beg, bribe, and literally chase down and throw into the shower now spend one fourth of their entire day in there. And yet, still #1.  Washing diligently? Probably not, but just don’t be that mom who knocks and cracks an embarrassing joke. Just don’t. 

10. You thought your newborn grew overnight?  You won’t believe these spurts. 

The mere fact that these boys that I have to crane my neck and look UP to now used to fit in the football hold under my arm is mind boggling. But it happens. And it does so at warp speed.  They will go to bed one night with the voice of a Vienna Choir boy and walk out the next morning Pavarotti. Pants that one day you have to roll up will be capris the next. We have skipped three whole shoe sizes at one time. Must have something to do with #4. In the blink of an eye you will go from holding the soft padded hands of a little boy to holding a hand that feels like your husband’s.  Your boys will become men right before your eyes. And if you must know ONE thing, it’s pretty darn cool raising men.  

Husband, Just Live My Life for Mother's Day

Love of my life, father of my four glorious children…….

I want you to wipe down the wall behind the toilet. It’s a lovely shade of maize and smells faintly of Bourbon Street on a Sunday morning. Start about 6 inches from floor, work your way up. Higher. Yea, I didn’t think that was possible either. Wear gloves. Hazmat suit totally optional.

I want you to fill out all the forms for the next 6 months. That’s right. ALL THE FORMS. The 20 pages I will get next month for school registration renewal, the field trip forms, the insurance forms, the athletic forms, the camp forms, the club forms, the order forms, the return forms, the rebate forms, the warranty forms. Man oh man I am so gonna miss doing that.

I want you to memorize four social security numbers, four shoe sizes, four pant sizes, four shirt sizes, and four underwear sizes. Sizes are subject to change spontaneously and without any type of notice What. So. Ever. There is no systemic, equal, or gradual increase in any or all of these sizes. One day you are buying a size 3 shoe, next week a 7. Go with it.

I want you to cut out coupons for the next 6 months. Alphabetize and file by expiration date, store, and food group.  I want you to know, just plain KNOW what coupons to NOT cut out, and you can’t ask me. Hint: I don’t buy pop-tarts,  everything in the house always needs disinfecting, and we don’t have a cat. And you see that stretchy bra like thingie they sell by mail order on the last page of the coupons? It  looks mighty comfy. I like pink.

I want you to make all the well child doctor appointments for the next year.  Go ahead and make appointment for 7:00 am so they don’t miss school. It’s always easy to get people clean and dressed and in the car by 6:30 a.m. A total ball! Don’t worry, there is drive thru coffee on the way. Drink it fast because it will get cold while you sit in the pediatrician’s waiting room for 2 hours watching a new mom try to console a screaming colicky infant. Bring that hazmat suit you used earlier, to defend against the 2 year old with green snot dripping out of his nose hacking up a lung on your lap. The peds office is blast I tell ya! Remember, you’re the one who didn’t buy the  “I have a headache” excuse. See where it got you?

I want you to gain and lose exactly 28 pounds, four times, and over the course of 40 weeks. Oh wait, really only 20 weeks because over the first 20 you will vomit up your small intestine, as well as what is left of any actual fluid left floating in your  wilting veins. Don’t worry, eventually it’s totally awesome packing on 15 pounds in just one month because you realistically haven’t eaten a morsel in five. Sure, the skin on your stomach won’t know what hit it but come on, stretch marks are IN baby! It’s not like bathing suit season is soon or anything.

I want your penis to triple in size.  Stop it. Don’t get too excited. This will not be for yours or my enjoyment. I would like it to triple in size and at the same time I want the feeling of someone touching it to be painful, annoying, and downright horrible.  Oh, and it has to now nourish a person, as in keep them alive, for like, over a year. And I want you to have to wear the ugliest underwear on the planet for your new awesomely large beverage dispensing penis.  Then suddenly, I want it to shrink to 5 sizes smaller than it was before. There. I feel better now.

I want someone to pull a watermelon out of your lower abdomen after a quick slice and dice with their scalpel. No biggie. Then I want them to  hand you the watermelon, a maxi pad the size of a pool raft, a trial size bottle of baby shampoo and say “Now while you recover, don’t lift anything heavy, like say,  a watermelon. Godspeed!”

I want you to meet me on my running route every day and at several different places, with water, holding a poster that says, “You are hauling ASS hunny! I am soooo  making dinner tonight!”
I want you to pick out both the movie and the restaurant. I swear to God I don’t care. I just cannot make one more damn decision or be in control on ONE. MORE. THING. Just pick it. (No place with TV’s hung high playing ESPN.)

I want you to not bring me breakfast in bed. Do not let my kids make and/or bring me breakfast in bed. Do not let anyone make/bring me breakfast in bed unless their name is Ina Garten, and I have awoken to discover I slept at a Four Seasons last night, on Martha’s Vineyard, next to an open window with a cool breeze wafting in smelling of lavender.  Then, by all means…..

I do not want you to draw me a bath. I want you to erase the drawings in the bathtub. Even the one I ‘accidentally’ made last week when I dropped an entire bottle of red nail polish in there. Sorry about that. I had my foot propped up on the side of the tub, and roughly 3 seconds to try to make 4 toenail-less toes look, well, not so horrific. On that note, don’t buy me cute sandals.

I want you to drink English tea and eat scones with me while I watch Downton Abbey. Don’t talk. Don’t frown. Don’t ask questions. Just sit there and sip, nod, and smile gingerly when Violet cracks a good one. Then clean up and ask me, “Will there be anything else this evening my lady?”

I want you to know that being a mom to your 4 boys (reminder again- YOUR swimmers had the AWOL females)  is the most outrageous, most fatiguing, most mentally taxing, mind numbing, non-stop disaster inducing, tear generating, nerve ending,  aggravatingly thrilling, unbelievably herculean thing I have ever or will ever do. EVER. It is the laughing until it hurts and you cry kind of fun that I never want to stop having. EVER. And I really don’t need flowers, cards, candles, or dinner out. I just need you guys. All of you. All the time. Simple.  But if the spirit moves you to, oh, I dunno, empty the dishwasher, or bring me a cup of coffee……please don’t hesitate. I’ll take it.

When the College Acceptance Letter Comes......

My firstborn son received his college acceptance yesterday.

In a matter of a few seconds, I felt all the feels; joy, excitement, worry, anticipation, relief, gratefulness….exuberance to just name a few.

But I also felt something I didn’t expect.

I felt a release.  I felt his release. 

As my husband, myself, and my son all stood around starring at the computer screen reading “Congratulations!” I felt a metaphorical rush of air hit my face, and I imagined it was from my son spreading his wings and finally flying out of our nest.  

And for the first time, I wasn’t sad about it.  I want him to go. 

All I could think about was this thought, “It was all worth it.”

That moment when a childhood becomes adulthood, where your baby’s life dreams are just beginning and their childhood dreams are ending, and as a mom, you get to see it, well, it was all worth it. 

To the moms out there with kids not yet of college age, it’s gonna be worth it.

It was worth the months of puking, the stretch marks, the labor pains, the new body.

It was worth the years of sleepless nights, the red faced cries, the poop explosions.

It was worth the terrible twos, the tantrums, the household disasters, the reading of Good Night Moon 4,876 times, and the hearing the word “NO!” yelled at you for years.

It was worth the skinned knees, the vaccines, the runny noses, the earaches, the head bumps, the cavities, the braces, and the scary loud coughs waking you at night. 

It was worth the thousands of lunches packed, the countless meatloaves made, and the endless trips to the grocery store to feed a boy who is forever hungry.  

It was worth the late nights of spelling word practices, math fact practices, diorama making,  science project fiascos, and  book report writing. 

It was worth being the mom taxi, the 5,000 hours spent in cars going to school, to sports, to the doctor, to anywhere and everywhere you needed to be. Even when I was so tired I could barely see the road.

It was worth the teen years, when hugs were few and far between, when their days were 15 hours long, and my grudges were even longer, when cars were dented, dinners went uneaten, attitudes exploded, and tears fell. It was worth the stress that comes when a kid is expected to be a mature young man, yet still had the heart and playfulness of a young child. 

And last night, as all of those milestones flashed before me, I know the only thing that flashed before my son was the future, not the past. And I’m ok with that. 

In a sense, sure, a lot of my “work” is done, and I do feel like I deserve a moment of “I did it. He’s going to college. Can I have a nap now?” But I know that is not the case. I know my childrearing doesn't end at the age of 18, and I know he still needs his mom. But I am over the moon excited that slowly but surely, he will be making own decisions more and more, and need me less and less. That’s a good thing. 

I’m going to go up to his room later today, and probably stare at an empty bed, and it will hit me that next year I will be staring at an empty bed all the time. But I will not be sad about, because the happiness on his face last night told me everything I need to know. 

He’s gonna be ready. And it truly was all worth it. 

A Librarian's 7 Tips to Get Boys to Read

Before I had my own children and was working as a children’s librarian, one of the most frequent questions I got from parents was “How do I get my boys to read?” This perplexed me, as I had grown up a voracious reader, and simply thought all children were born with a natural curiosity and great appreciation for books. I never imagined there to be such a large disparity between genders when it came to literacy. It wasn’t until I looked deeper that I realized there were always more girls and than boys at my toddler and preschool story times. This disparity continued throughout the elementary years, when little girls heavily outnumbered little boys in after school and summer reading program participation, and continued well into adolescence, when boys all but disappeared from 'tween and teen library programs.

Where did they go and why aren’t boys readers?

Why does study after study continue to show boys score significantly less on reading and writing achievement tests than their female counterparts?

Educational researchers have tried to explain this, and among several of the reasons for the disparity includes the very basic principle that the sexes are simply wired differently for literacy. Cultural and societal influences tend to steer boys toward non-literacy related activities, such as more physical competitive sports, while girls, even at pre-kinder ages, show higher verbal maturation and a much stronger desire to enjoy sitting and reading as their favored recreational activity.

It wasn’t until I had my own children, four BOYS, that I understood all of above, as well as huge differences in how boys and girls view books as a whole, and reading for recreation and pleasure. Let’s face it, boys DO NOT sit still, and not high on the top of their to-do list is to kick back, relax, and tear through 20 chapters of an emotional story about vampires and girl crushes.

So just how am I managing to turn my reluctant boy readers into book lovers?

Well, I’ve taken off my mom hat and put on my librarian hat and come up with these tips for all the boy moms out there with the same question, ”How do I get my boys to read?”

1. Books, Books, Everywhere

And I do mean EVERYWHERE. Keep books all over the house, in all the places your boys will be; by their bedside, on the breakfast table to encourage reading over cereal, on coffee tables, end tables, backseats of cars, and even in the bathroom. I always have a basket of books sitting in the boys’ bathroom at all times, and I switch out titles every few days. Set up a book display corner and highlight seasonal and holiday titles, in the same fashion bookstores do in order to entice readers. Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to purchase cheap books to build up your home’s library. Another great tip is to start a book swap co-op with neighbors and friends. Every week boys can meet to exchange books, and you just might find that this will encourage them to “talk” about what they're reading with their peers- a vital step in keeping their reading interest piqued.

2. Adjust Your Idea of What "Reading" Is

Just because your son isn’t devouring thick fiction chapter books at all times doesn’t mean he isn't reading quality material. For boys, consider many different forms of written word as reading; comic books, manga, joke books, magazines, and even blogs are all excellent forms of “reading.” To put it in terms some boys will grasp, consider non-traditional forms of reading as you would consider “practicing” in sports. Baseball players spend hours at batting practice before they step up to the plate in a game, so even reading atypical non-fiction is preparing them to be better critical fiction readers in the future.

3. Boys Gravitate to the Gross, the How-To, and the Survival/Adventure Genres

Hand a boy a book with the word “fart” in the title and you can almost guarantee that boy will give it a look. Don’t let the fact your boys may spend years in phases of reading only one type of genre- the gross one- bother you. They will outgrow this, and it's developmentally age appropriate for boys to gravitate towards topics they find hilarious and can heavily relate to. Boys also do well with reference and list type books, how-to's, almanacs of all kinds, biographies, and anything adventure and survival related. If this is what they want to read, don’t discourage it and attempt to do their book choosing for them. As a matter of fact, teach them to be independent in the library. Which reminds me…..

4. Go to the Library Early, and Often

Make visits to your local library a family habit, and as common as a regular visit to the grocery store. Introduce your children to the librarian, and reiterate the fact this community helper is more than just the woman or man who does story time, rather, it's their job to be able to know all about every book in the library, and to help you find your next favorite. Boys as young as age four can peruse picture book shelves on their own and can and should make their own book choices, as well as have their own library card. Teach elementary aged boys how to read book summaries on book jackets, as well as how to use the library's catalog to search for books on topics of interest to them. Encourage 'tween and teen boys to be involved in the library’s youth programs, even if it’s only as a volunteer for programs for smaller kids. It will keep them coming to the library, using its resources for high school assignments, and ultimately picking up a novel here or there.

5. Listen to Books

If your son insists on having earbuds in his ears all the time, have him try an audiobook. Audible has an impressive collection of children’s audiobooks, and audiobooks are especially suited to boys who don't do well sitting down for long periods of time. My boys listen to audiobooks while shooting hoops, or riding skateboards or scooters in the driveway. (Don't encourage listening anywhere near traffic, as kids need to be able to hear cars.) Also, continue to read aloud to boys well into the middle school years. You can even do it while they are outside playing catch or doing other physical movement. Often I will offer to read only the first chapter of a book, getting them hooked on the story, and then handing it off.

6. Model, Model, Model

Boys not only need to see their mom reading, it's vitally important that boys see other boys, especially their dads, grandpas, uncles, and other male relatives reading. Since boys thrive on competition, bursts of activity, and physical skill based activities, think of ways dads and sons can enjoy reading time as a compliment to something physical. Read the sports page after little league practice, plan a campfire and books night, and even use reading a how-to or home fix it manual as a chance to practice reading comprehension.

7. Embrace the eReader

If always having a tablet in their hands is your son's thing, install a cloud reading app on it. There are thousands of free downloadable digital titles and ebooks available for children from vendors such as Amazon and Nook, as well downloadable titles available to "check out" to your device free from your public library. Sites such as The International Children's Digital Library offers children ages 3-13 free access to the best available children’s literature in more than 40 languages.

Patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Experience Dream Vacations

St. Jude patient Hannah on a virtual dream vacation under the seas. 

For patients like little Kiara who are battling cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital® in Memphis, TN, there are endless days and nights spent just dreaming about all the wonders of the world outside the four walls of their hospital room. Now, thanks to a partnership with Expedia, St. Jude patients will no longer have to just dream, because the world is being brought to them, virtually.

St. Jude patient and horse lover Kiara on a dream vacation 

The "Dream Adventures" campaign is the brain child of the creative ad agency 180LA who together with Expedia, seeks to give children at St. Jude virtual reality travel adventures as a form of healing power. "We hit on this insight that travel actually does have healing power, and when we were talking to the kids at St. Jude's, one of the things we found out was that a lot of them had dreams of places and adventures they wanted to go on. But sadly, they wouldn't be able to because of their illnesses." said William Geiner, Chief Creative Officer of 180LA.

Expedia and 180LA worked with St. Jude to find patients who had a big travel dream, and set to make that dream come to them with the help of 360 degree virtual reality (VR) cameras and a custom built projection room in the hospital. Expedia Senior Brand Marketing Manager Jessica Eichner said, "One of the great things about St. Jude's is that they're very conscious of how the handle their patients. They're very protective in a good way and helped us to find who would enjoy it, who was feeling well enough and whose families would be on board."

Armed with their patient's travel dreams and a VR camera, employees from Expedia set out to capture in essence what their patient's deepest travel dream was, then send it back to a six sided screen room in Memphis, giving patients an immersive, floor to ceiling travel experience. For patient Kiara, her travel dream was to see wild horses, so Sara, a brain cancer survivor and employee at Expedia, traveled to Argentina to make that happen, and THIS  is the result.

Because the travel experiences with the "Dream Adventures" are happening live and in real time, Kiara was able to talk with Sara, ask questions, even pointing out a horse she wanted to "see" closer. It was the first time 360 degree filming, projection mapping, and live streaming technology have been used together. During each experience, the patient was able to explore and direct the actions of the on site trekker. For Sara, bringing wild horses to Kiara, and whatever else she can do to make her life better, was "an honor" to do.

The "Dream Adventures" is not only a dream for Expedia, but as a long standing partner of St. Jude, it is part of their bigger initiative to bring awareness of the mission of the research hospital.
By offering their travel customers the opportunity to turn their vacation rewards into monetary donations to St. Jude, Expedia has made a commitment to leverage its global reach, while at the same time bringing hope to the families and patients at St. Jude.

It would also like to continue bringing the world to patients at St. Jude, and is committed to making it an experience for more children. Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing for Expedia said, "We are in active discussion with St. Jude about building a permanent installation so that more kids can experience adventures."

For more videos of the "Dream Adventures" initiative, visit Expedia on Youtube

For more information on the Expedia/St. Jude partnership visit https://www.expedia.com/rewards/stjude