Air Conditioning is Life

Every single year our air conditioning unit for the upstairs has to be serviced. It’s like a rite of spring. First the daffodils, then the tulips, then my upstairs AC unit. We hit 85 degrees and that thing freezes up and we’re on a three day wait for service. I’m not sure if you know this, but you need air conditioning to survive in Georgia for about 7 months of the year.

You would think that I would be good with some heat because I grew up in the Northeast, lived in Canada for four years, and I hate cold, but I’m surprisingly fickle about temperature. Especially when I sleep, I need it to be working at approximately 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. My least favorite way to sleep is lying in bed without any covers on while my Big Ass Fan swirls at the speed it takes a Black Hawk helicopter to get off the ground. I was not made for this. I was made for highly developed climate control.

Growing up in Massachusetts, we did not have central air conditioning. It does get pretty hot there most summers, and by summer, I mean 7-8 weeks in July and August. My Mom had screens on all the windows so she could keep them open all day and night. I remember mosquitoes the size of C-130s would hang on those screens like the little vampires they were, hoping to get in and zoom around my ears all night. We ran box fans and oscillating fans in every single room. Sometimes we would sleep in the basement or on the screened porch, but most of the time, you took a cold shower, pointed that fan right at your bed and slept like you lived in a turbine. Some time around 6 am, the day would reach its coolest point and you could pull a sheet up over you, and pretend it was chilly.

But that part of my life is supposed to be over. The Fan Era is gone. I live in the South, dadgummit, and I’mma have me some Air. Our house here has three units to cool it and I’ve been lobbying for a fourth for awhile now. There’s just a lot of open space and high ceilings. The house is 25 years old. She needs a turbo boost. Also, her mistress is a woman Of A Certain Age, and body temperature is not to be trifled with.

Only it appears, she may need more than a boost. The Fan Era has been extended. My Yankee Summer has returned. The service tech just left and we do not have a resolution.

So it looks like we’ll be taking cold showers and sleeping in a wind tunnel.

While we dream of Vampire Mosqiutos trying to kill us.

If the heat doesn’t kill us first.

What Happened To My Chore Charts?

I just want to firmly state, that it was my goal all along to raise responsible humans who contributed to this household. The Almighty knows I have tried. When they were little, we had chores. I had chore charts. I can probably still find the ones I used on Pinterest if you need to see them. I did all the things that were age appropriate to teach them how to care for themselves, their rooms, and this home. And I did it with a color coded chart. There may have even been stickers.

It has all failed. I’m not sure when it all fell apart, but that’s where we are now. They leave clothes all over the floor. The beds are not made. No one ever screws a cap back on the toothpaste. There are currently four pairs of my daughter’s shoes lying haphazardly by the kitchen door. This house looks like the kind of houses you see on HGTV when the family thinks they have to move because there’s no space for them, but you sit there on your couch drinking wine, judging, and think, “Maybe just get your crap together for 5 minutes and you can live in your own dang house.” This is Us.

My mother used to call messy bedrooms “A Disaster Area.” She’d be like Tom Brokaw on the Nightly News standing in front of a natural disaster but it would be our bedroom, and she would wave her arm around and declare, “This bedroom is a Disaster Area.” The best was when she would just shut the door and say, “This is no longer a part of my house.” So, I guess no FEMA assistance?

Maybe teenagers CANNOT EVEN pick up their rooms. Maybe this is a frontal lobe development thing. It’s probably scientific. They cannot pull up the blankets on their bed and throw their pillows on top because they have to focus on taking 45 minute hot showers without use of any soap or shampoo. It’s probably too much for their brains to manage all of that.

All this to say, we may have had a glimmer of a breakthrough this week. At dinner on Sunday, Lindsey was researching ways to make money because she wants an IPhone X. As she was throwing out ideas that included Ponzi schemes and selling a kidney, I stopped her cold with this: “I will give you both $5 every week if you make your bed. I’ll make it $10 if you put your clothes in your hamper.” Both kids stopped and looked right at me, like I was proposing something the likes of which have never been heard of around these parts. Stephen asked, “What if I forget to throw my towel in the hamper one day. Am I still eligible for the bed making money?” (He’s negotiating with me to allow for his forgetfulness, IN ADVANCE. This is 15 years old, folks.) “Yes, bed making money is still in play.” Both kids started running analytics on their calculator app to determine what this would mean for their spending/saving goals.

We’re three days in with beds made and clothes off the floor, and I’m wondering if this is what chore charts are with teenagers? It’s not color coded with stickers and it feels a lot like bribery, but then again so does most of parenting. I’m not sure if bribery trains a child in the way they should go so when they are older they will not depart from it, but it sure does keep the Disaster Areas contained.

Imagine this but with all the stickers. I had so much hope.

Middle School Romance: A Valentine Oxymoron

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought we’d revisit the purest of all the love stories- The Middle School Dating Scene. This timeless phenomenon has made millions of parents the world over wonder why they are not paying for single-gender private school through the ninth grade. I listen to the stories Lindsey tells me every single day about the boyfriends and girlfriends of the seventh grade, and I wonder anew, Were the romantic endeavors this ridiculous when I was in middle school? Well, of course they were, I’ve just invested a lot of time, life experience, and self-help books in an effort to mitigate the awkwardness of my middle school experience.

Lindsey does not have a boyfriend. We’ve been pretty clear with her that it’s completely unnecessary at her age, and she agrees. I periodically check her texts and she’s not on social media, so I’m pretty confident that there are no smoochie shenanigans going on that I am unaware of. Just because she is not engaged in these soap operas, does not mean that she isn’t privy to them playing out around her. I am blessed everyday by the tales of love and loss that occur among her peers.

Every story sounds something like this: 6 thirteen-year-old girls text Tyler because their friend Suzie likes him. Tyler just wants to be friends with Suzie because he actually likes Kylie, one of the 6 girls on the group chat. Tyler finds out that Kylie likes his best friend Jake so he decides to ask Suzie out via text (because any girlfriend is better than none). They agree to officially start dating the next morning (the Official Start Date is a real thing, it’s like establishing an anniversary before the relationship- please don’t spend a lot of time trying to understand this) only she gets to school and dumps him, via text, before first period.

As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, my job is to listen to this and take it somewhat seriously so she will trust and confide in me when the bigger deal stuff comes down the pike. My listening strategy is to be the Empathetic Mom Who Gives Relationship Advice. In reality and from the overflow of my heart, I want to say, “This is all bananas and you aren’t allowed to date until you are married,” but that doesn’t foster a strong Mother-Daughter bond in these turbulent teen years.

We recently had a talk about liking boys and as she talked her way around the whole scenario, she told me, “I think I like the idea of liking a boy, but I don’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend, does that sound crazy?” Nope. You sound like a sane teenage girl confirming what biology has long known, the frontal lobe of the brain is not formed until 25 years of age. Knowledge is power, so remember that when you enter the dating world TWELVE YEARS FROM NOW.

A lot of the power couples in middle school tend to be the same players recycled into new relationships. The boyfriends in this pool are a fascinating group. What 13-year-old boy is ready to meet the emotional needs of a thirteen-year-old girl? Or even throw his hat in the ring and WANT to give it a shot? Paul and I are the parents of a thirteen-year-old. We have a lot of education and relationship experience between us and we struggle to make sense of her emotional needs. Most days we just try and stay out of her way. Are these middle school Casanovas ahead of their time? Peaking early? Doing TED talks on relationships? WHO ARE THESE BOYS EXACTLY? I have a 15-year-old boy living in this house that I still have to remind to flush the toilet, so godpseed entrusting him with romance and emotional intelligence.

Speaking of my son, he is currently reading Romeo and Juliet in English. I am no fan of Shakespeare, but I think the bard captured one universal truth in his tale of the Capulets and Montagues that still rings true today: Adolescent romance will only end in tragedy, therefore avoid it until you are past the age of melodrama.

Or at least until you have your driver’s license.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May it be full of sweets and devoid of group chats.

School Projects: The Thief of Joy and Maker of Memories

This week we completed the African Market project and when I say “we,” I mean all the humans with the last name Carter that reside in this house. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what that actually means is that it takes a village to do their school projects. This particular project is a seventh grade event that has tempted me to home school both times the rubric dropped.

The primary purpose of the African Market Project is to teach the kids economic principles like labor, cost, supply & demand, etc. The secondary purpose of the African Market project is to boost alcohol sales in the county. That’s just my theory, but one could make an argument for it. The children are partnered up and they have to make some kind of “African” craft, track their costs and labor, set a price, and barter with the other groups to exchange their goods. If you think this is a wonderful idea you have either no children or children that are too young to have been assigned group projects. Trying to find time for two thirteen year old girls to get together and make African handicrafts and a trifold of economic data when they are both engaged in sports and extracurriculars is much like negotiating peace in the Middle East. We all WANT it to happen but despite the best intentions and multiple interventions, it’s likely not going to happen.

So Lindsey and her partner decided to divide the labor with one handling the math/economics/trifold and the other making the craft. Guess who got the craft? Hint: The same person who suggested this is a ploy to boost alcohol sales.

When Lindsey came home and told me we were going to make Dreamcatchers for the African Market, I was immediately concerned. I taught Middle School Social Studies for seven years and have a working idea of what is historically and culturally accurate. I asked her if this was approved by the teacher because Dreamcatchers are NATIVE AMERICAN. She assured me this was fine and Stephen (who I made 20 African drums with 2 years ago out of styrofoam and masking tape) assured me that the real lesson was the economics of this and not the historical accuracy of the handicraft. Perfect. A traditional African Market that sells origami and home made slime. These kids are ready for AP History.

We started the planning phase by searching Pinterest for ideas. Lindsey found one tutorial that was in Spanish and took about 100 hours to complete. I found one that looked about 20 minutes long made by the type of Super Crafty Mom who thrives on school projects. Actually that’s not fair, she was quite clear in the video that her four year old desperately wanted a Dreamcatcher. He was having bad dreams and this whimsical craft was sure to bring him “only good dreams, ” which is ironic because I was fairly certain these Dreamcatchers were going to bring me nightmares.

We got our supplies and sat down to begin this project. We were sitting on the couch wrapping sueded cord around the hoops when Lindsey said, “This is kind of fun. It’s almost like pioneer times.” This would be a good time to interject that Lindsey has a very romantic idea of pioneer times. She recently told me she wished she lived in pioneer times because then she would not have to take geometry. I informed her that if she lived in pioneer times she would be married to a 40 year old farmer with 6 kids washing and mending clothes, cooking dinner, milking cows, and making him even more babies. She replied,”Good grief, Mom. Why do you have to be so negative?!” Why? Because historical context matters.

But back to our Native American Dreamcatchers for African Market.

We started the complex part of weaving the twine around these hoops so that the “bad dreams” will have something to be caught in. Super Crafty Mom assured us in the YouTube video that this would be “easy,” which is code for “This is where it all goes horribly wrong.” The one thing I can say about helping my kids do projects is that no one has ever been suspicious that a parent did the work. I am so bad at this kind of stuff and the only fruit that comes of it is that my kids learn “adult vocabulary” words that tumble out of my mouth unbidden.

A grown up made this. It was “easy.”

The process of making these 10 dream catchers took about three days. We needed them done before Paul and I left for a trip and the kids were headed over to my Mom’s (and Nana has paid her dues with school projects). We had a weekend volleyball tournament and volleyball practice so that cut back even further on how much time we could dedicate to this. Paul dabbled on one after he watched the YouTube video that we had playing on a loop. Of course, he had to make a fancy pattern and use complimentary suede cords because it’s important for him to be recognized as the Artist in Residence.

That brought us to Tuesday night or the Final Hour to get these done. Lindsey got home from practice around nine pm, hyper, hungry, and with zero focus. At one point she was wandering around playing the harmonica while Paul and I were fabricating Dream Catchers. I called Stephen over to help, and he said, “No way. I did this project two years ago.” (As if this family has never helped him complete a project.) His refusal was rejected because we are in pioneer times and everyone has to help. He lined out the feathers, string, and beads and we pushed through with the assembly line method. At 10:30, finished and relieved it was done before midnight, Paul suggested we have a glass of wine to celebrate but I overruled that and poured bourbon. Project completion calls for hard liquor. And thus, the secondary purpose of this project was realized.

Here’s the thing about these school projects. I hate them with a passion while we are in the midst of them. I hate the deadlines and rubrics. I hate the mess and space it takes up. Ugh, it stresses me out so much.

But.

The four of us laughed so much during this whole experience and we will talk about the African Market Project fondly 20 years from now. So as much as I hate school projects, dreamcatchers, and crafty Mom YouTube videos… thanks. Thank you all for the memories.

No more bad dreams. I only have good dreams.