72 Degrees

FullSizeRender-4She hurls herself into the front seat, always juggling accessories: phone, backpack, shoes, an open container of yogurt. She turns the radio off, no matter the song, because mom music sucks unconditionally. She then punches the sync button, undoing the setting linking driver and passenger temperatures.

She adjusts her side of the car either all the way up to HI or all the way down to LO. Fiery hot or icy cold; there seems to be no middle ground for a teenager.

I drive in silence, reminding myself that this insistence on autonomy is a necessary part of growing up, and that my music, in fact, does not suck. I’m also confident that someday our settings will be synched again at a pleasant 72 degrees. I only hope we don’t have too many more miles to go before we get there.

Magic

FullSizeRenderI turn the volume up as soon as I hear the opening riff. I match Robert Smith word for word while driving my daughter to volleyball practice:

Show me show me show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream, she said
The one that makes me laugh, she said
And threw her arms around my neck

Show me how you do it
And I promise you, I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you

Wistful, I sigh. Unimpressed, she groans.

“What a stupid song about magic tricks,” she says.

“What? No, it’s a love song. The trick isn’t literally a trick, it’s a kiss or maybe just that butterflies-in-your stomach feeling when you like someone.”

“Nope. It’s about a magic trick. Thanks for the ride. See ya.”

The car door closes with a solid thunk and she runs to the gym, leaving me with memories from long ago and the accompanying soundtrack.

I can hear Belinda Carlisle belting Mad About You as I fall hard for a cute boy in junior high. Unfortunately, I hear Whitesnake questioning Is This Love during my first kiss. (Don’t judge. MTV was on in the background)

I remember panicking as I realize I’m in over my head at my first concert: Oingo Boingo. Sporting a seafoam green turtleneck, a short black skirt and tragically, black and white polka dot suspenders, I spend the bulk of the show worrying about the possibility of getting high from secondhand smoke. Nancy Reagan’s admonition to just say no reached at least one kid in the late eighties.

Fortunately, by the time Depeche Mode’s Violator tour came to town a few years later, my friends and I were seasoned concert veterans, a tight group of high school seniors naïve enough to believe the lyrics as we sang along:

All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms

 At prom, we busted a move to, well, Bust a Move and then later slow danced to Wicked Game. We rebuffed boys who thought whispering the lyrics to More Than Words would be their ticket to getting lucky. And finally, we said goodbye to high school with a rapid-fire sing along in the car to It’s the End of the World as We Know It while driving to graduation.

It’s all there, the entire beautiful, gawky experience of growing up, woven between lyrics and melodies of songs that I will never forget.

And yet my own kid thinks Just Like Heaven is about a magic trick.

Jolted out of my reverie as I pull into the garage, I don’t bother getting out of the car before turning to Google. I read segments of an interview with Robert Smith while still sitting behind the wheel.

The song is about hyperventilating – kissing and fainting to the floor.

Exactly. Feeling relief that love is not dead, I keep reading.

The opening line of the song (show me show me show me how you do that trick) refers to his childhood memories of mastering magic tricks.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

So… I guess we’re both right?

I was fourteen when Just Like Heaven came out, the same age my daughter is now. I suppose there’s a chance that when I first heard the song I, too, thought it was about pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Maybe songs aren’t infused with meaning until we’ve lived with them for a while and they become tangled with memories. The time, place and people around us become as integral to our experience as the tune itself.

Feeling melancholy, I make a Spotify playlist featuring almost four hours of music from back in the day. It’s a nice distraction while attending to the mundane tasks of adult life – cooking, cleaning, errands – but it isn’t necessarily a place I want to linger. Nostalgia has a way of obscuring our view when given enough psychic real estate.

I will, however, revisit songs from high school when I need to muster empathy for my teenage daughter. It’s easy to forget what it’s like to navigate intense joy, heartache and camaraderie all in a single morning, usually while sporting a chin zit. I think listening to The Smiths might make it easier for me to relate.

And while I can’t expect my daughter to like my favorite songs from twenty-five years ago, I can enjoy watching her cue up songs for her own playlist. I just hope the mix contains something similar to Just Like Heaven, paying tribute to both the love and, yes, magic that is part of being a teenager.

Feeling like a moody teenager? I’ve got a playlist for you:

How To Break Your Heart in an Afternoon

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Drag your family to San Francisco’s MOMA for one of your infamous Forced Family Fun Days.

Endure eye rolls from your daughter who is running on two hours of sleep thanks to a slumber party the night before.

Give your son the stink eye as he wanders from gallery to gallery stating loudly, “THAT is not art.”

Gasp as your son mistakes a ledge with a sculpture on it for a bench, and almost sits on the art.

Apologize profusely to the museum security guard.

Snap a photo of your daughter, long legs, waterfall of hair, and realize she is the most radiant piece of art in the room. Feel a lump in your throat as you see her, perhaps for the first time, as the young woman she is becoming instead of the child she once was.

Watch your son masterfully create a photo at the art kiosk and know that, despite complaining, he is enjoying your adventure. Smile as he hands you a printout of his creation for safe keeping. Feel grateful he still trusts you with his treasures.

Convince your kids that the giant rust-colored sculpture on the ground floor is entitled “Cinnamon Roll.” Wander through the spiral labyrinth laughing, losing your family along the way. Remain confident that if you keep going, you all will find a way back to each other. Cross your fingers and hope that’s true forever.

Walk outside and spot the tapas bar that was your old hangout when you lived in the city. Realize that you and your husband started meeting there after work almost 20 years ago. Tell the kids that you’ve changed your lunch plans and lead the way into the restaurant.

Feel a pang of nostalgia when the sangria and patatas bravas are just as good as you remember. Watch your kids adventurously taste everything you order. Feel pride that they like to cook and eat and try new things as much as you do.

Think back 20 years to your old job and your old colleagues who’d gather at the restaurant’s long bar after a long day. Remember the good times you had drinking pitchers of beer while playing darts. Question the wisdom of combining beer and darts.

Remember how much you complained about your job back in the day. Realize that you were lucky to be doing interesting work with great people. Understand that petty annoyances are quickly forgotten while memories of the good times endure.

Acknowledge the same thing is true for parenting.

Forgive the eye rolls, the endless bickering, the declaration that, “I’d rather be shopping.”

Recall how 20 years have passed in the blink of an eye – a blur of exciting days and wasted days and heartbreaking days and joyful days. Fear that the next 20 years will slip away even more quickly. Vow to pay attention, focus on the good, appreciate moments of happiness, write it all down. Smile at the three people you love the most in the world and start planning your next Forced Family Fun Day.

The Sleepy Apple

“No, no, no. God no,” she screamed, as if I’m an ax murder slowly walking towards her while menacingly sharpening my blade.

At first glance, it could be a scene straight out of a cheesy slasher film, complete with a beautiful starlet in distress and a deranged knife-wielding killer.

Except in this case, the distressed starlet is my daughter and I’m the psycho causing terror by slowly walking towards her wielding…wait for it…

…a box of Cheerios.

Welcome to our world. A world in which a mother and daughter, neither of whom are morning people, try to wake up while it’s still dark outside and function at a level high enough to get the daughter out the door in time to catch the bus to middle school. We’d make an entertaining reality show; the Kardashians got nothing on two groggy Davis ladies.

I envy those preternaturally cheery types who greet the day like a Disney princess. Unfortunately, I’m the opposite, starting every morning by cursing the alarm and crawling to the coffee maker. Those who love me know to hold all nonessential communication until the second cup has hit my bloodstream.

Sadly, since the sleepy apple doesn’t fall far from the sleepy tree, our mornings are rough – especially when the sleepy apple decides to go on a cereal boycott.

With only three minutes to ingest something reasonably breakfast-y before running out the door, my daughter requested I quickly whip up a batch of French toast. And since I’m 1) not a morning person and 2) sometimes a little bit of a bitch, I laughed and said, “As if.”

Not my strongest parenting move.

The argument quickly ricocheted from the merits of Cheerios to the classification of yogurt as a breakfast food. For the record, yogurt is unequivocally a breakfast food. Duh.

She stomped out of the house and I still don’t know what she ate for breakfast. I think she tucked a yogurt into her backpack. Maybe she ate it for brunch just to prove me wrong.

After my third cup of coffee finally did its job and cleared the mental cobwebs, I realized how funny this morning’s fight was and hope the sleepy apple agrees when she comes home from school today. I also decided to mix up a batch of overnight waffles as a peace offering and a way to ensure that tomorrow morning goes a little more smoothly.

These are my family’s favorite waffles: crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside and simply delicious. Making them couldn’t be easier – mix 90% of the ingredients together the night before and let the yeast do the work while you snooze. Then in the morning, curse your alarm clock, crawl to the coffee maker, fire up the waffle iron and enjoy an awesome breakfast, not a Cheerio or yogurt container in sight.

The internet is loaded with recipes for yeasted waffles, I like this one by Emma Christiansen over at thekitchn.com It makes a lot of waffles – freeze the leftovers and reheat them in the toaster for an easy breakfast that’s ready even before the first cup of coffee kicks in.

Overnight Yeasted Waffles

Stir 1 tablespoon active dry yeast into 1 cup of warm water, let stand for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved. In a large bowl (like, really large because the batter is going to at least double in size) combine 2 sticks of unsalted butter (melted and cooled a little), 4 cups of milk (whole or low fat is fine) 2 teaspoons of salt and ¼ cup of sugar. Next add the yeast mixture and 6 cups of flour. Stir just enough to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let the batter sit on the counter to rise overnight. If you’re concerned about milk sitting out overnight, you can let the batter rise in the refrigerator instead, but come on, live a little.

The next morning, whisk 4 eggs and 1 teaspoon of baking soda into the batter.

After that, simply fire up the waffle iron and get to work.

This recipe makes about 16 Belgian-style waffles.

Payback

A thank you note I should have written 30 years ago…

Dear Mom,

Thank you for all the times you took me shopping, especially back to school shopping.

Thank you for enduring the underage dance clubs masquerading as clothing stores, complete with nonexistent lighting, migraine-inducing music and sales girls who serve as bouncers deciding if you’re cool enough to wear their employer’s clothes.

Thank you for resisting the urge to say things like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe denim overalls (or MC Hammer pants or crop tops) are back in style. I wore those when I was your age.”

Similarly, thank you for not buying yourself a pair of shoes just like the ones I picked out because they really are both cute and comfortable.

Thank you for enduring hours in dressing rooms buried under piles of rejected clothes that needed to be hung up and put back on the racks.

Thank you for not ordering a shot of tequila when we finally took a lunch break.

Thank you for biting your tongue and letting me choose my “signature look” which unsurprisingly, resembled every other kid hoping to fit in at middle school.

I know that after a day of shopping, I would breezily offer a “thanks mom” while shuttling bags of new loot up to my room, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I fully understood the patience, love and emotional energy that went into a day at the stores – I guess they call it retail therapy for a reason.

So today I say thank you — for everything — as well as start my own 30-year countdown until my daughter can do the same.

Let It Go

I didn’t snap until May, which is damn impressive considering the movie and its earworm of a soundtrack had been out for six months.  Despite the fact that my own kids weren’t that enamored with Frozen, the rest of the country was, and so we suffered.  All of us.  Until inspiration struck during a car ride on Mother’s Day.

We weren’t even listening to the Disney Channel or KidzBop or any other station that panders to pint-sized tyrants with horrible taste in music.  And yet, the familiar opening notes of Let It Go started to fill the car.  I groaned.  And then impulsively blurted out:

“Hey kids, here’s a fun fact.  Did you know that this song is really about farting?”

They looked at me, horrified yet curious.  “Just listen,” I told them.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

I heard giggles from the back seat.

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!

 Bigger laughs fill the car.  By the time we got to the chorus, they were roaring.

 Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door!

The song finished, cementing another bond within our family: a juvenile, gross inside joke.  I made them promise not to repeat it and made my son pinky swear to keep it together when his teacher plays the Frozen soundtrack during free choice time at school.  They agreed, and considering that I didn’t receive any phone calls from the teachers, I think they kept their word.

I frequently lament the fact that time with my kids has passed way too quickly.  I miss the details about life with little ones: footie pajamas, counting to “eleventeen,” the smell of baby shampoo.  Predictably, I’ve turned into the weird lady at Target who grins way too enthusiastically at anyone under the age of two.

But as much as I miss the baby stage, big kids have their advantages.  Aside from the obvious stuff like not pooping on themselves and knowing how to start the coffee maker for me in the morning, it’s also been fun to give them a glimpse of me as a person, not just me as a mom.

They’re old enough to be able to handle (and perhaps even appreciate) that I have a dry sense of humor and a fondness for the occasional, well-placed curse word.  It’s time for them to understand that I cry shamelessly at all happy, sad and sappy occasions. Especially the sappy occasions.  And they need to know that I will never, ever be a morning person.

It’s kind of a relief to outgrow my role of angelic caretaker and become more of a camp counselor – still in charge but also able to bend the rules occasionally.  I don’t think I’ll ever get over longing for the baby days, but when I’m feeling nostalgic I’ll try and remember that toddlers never would have laughed with me about poor flatulent Elsa encouraging little girls everywhere to just let it go.

Whole Hearts

“Artichokes,” she answered, when we wondered what she would like to eat before facing five days of camp food.  “Buy four, so we each can have our own heart.”

Extravagant, sure.  But Sunday’s family dinner would need to hold us until she returned Friday afternoon.  By all means, buy the artichokes.

Perhaps she knew we needed reinforcement – one or two meager artichoke hearts broken into pieces was not enough.  We each needed a whole heart to steel ourselves for the week ahead.

“I can’t do it, I’m not going,” she said as we filled her suitcase, following packing instructions to the letter.  “Of course you can,” I countered, wondering if my heart would be the one to crack first.

At bedtime we whispered tales of adventures and friends and how fast five days would pass.  Both of us agreed this was too big an opportunity to let slip away simply because we were scared.

Sleep arrived reluctantly, lightly.  We could hear each other from across the hall, rustling in beds, hearts racing in anticipation of the morning’s events.

Daylight brought brave faces and forced cheerfulness.  But the bus, looming impossibly huge in the parking lot, cast a shadow over our tenuous sunshine of happy thoughts.

A couple of false starts and then it was truly time.  Kids, suddenly looking like kindergarteners with oversized backpacks, filed past clumps of parents offering casual waves and “see ya laters.”

She runs ahead, straight to me, for one last hug.  Fighting tears but losing the battle, we squeeze tightly.

It isn’t easy living with such a soft shell —  experiencing emotions as if they were distilled and intensified, almost too bitter or too sweet to endure.  But as we held each other I realized that I’m in good company, our small club of sensitive souls.

With a salty kiss planted on her cheek, I send her on her adventure, embarrassed by the misty eyes but also confident that the only way to navigate our world is by feeling every moment with a whole heart.