Fifteen

Sometimes, you blink, and then you have a fifteen-year-old daughter. And as always, both my daughter and I shot awake at exactly the time of her birth, before the birds were singing. For two non-morning people, that’s hysterically funny to me. EVERY STINKING YEAR.

Here we have the 15 year old, standing in the warm ocean on Maui, Snapchatting. As one does.

Her birthday day fell when we were just back from Hawaii, this year, and as we bumbled around in the kitchen, getting her lunch packed and sloshing our tea mugs around, I took a moment to give her a hug (which she received awkwardly because she’s at that age) and checked her face for birthday sparkles. She claims they weren’t there, but I saw a twinkle. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. Although she takes a ton of selfies.

Even underwater.

The day flew by in a hurry, and we celebrated with dinner at her favorite Chinese restaurant with my parents, but we didn’t do a big cake and candles and balloons celebration, because what she asked me for was a trip to Japantown in San Francisco, and money to spend on “merch” from her favorite anime series. Plus, it was a Tuesday, and at 15, you want to celebrate with friends, too, not just your family. So, we made a plan to meet one of her friends in San Francisco, and I took her to school.

I’ve loved every age and stage, but I am slightly stunned to realize that I love having this teen in my life. Aren’t these supposed to be the hard years? Aren’t we supposed to be having tears and slammed doors and eye-rolling and huffing? We really aren’t, all that much. Maybe that’s still to come?

We headed to San Francisco and bought a series of books she wanted, and a bunch of other little things, a few tshirts, stickers, a necklace and some Japanese snacks. The whole time she was appreciative, funny and glad that I was there (maybe because I was buying her things, but maybe not?) We drove home, and she talked and talked about her friends, school, her favorite shows, fashion, and I just breathed it all in, full of joy that things are so easy right now, and appreciating the relationship that I have with my big girl.

She’s always been a funny kid, but I find myself looking forward to picking her up from school each day, so I can hear her spin on school life. She recently shared that gossip in high school was so much different that junior high.

“In middle school, everyone is all ‘OMG did you SEE how he was looking at her and OMG why does she like him and OMG I am so mad that she danced with him and OMG.’ In high school, what you hear is ‘someone rode a cow across campus, and another kid shoved a whole doughnut right into his mouth. No bites. A whole doughnut.”

Glad to see that high school kids are focused on what matters most.

So, yeah. My first baby is 15, and I’m glad.

In the moment

At the beginning of the year, I vowed to take the family to Hawaii for our spring break week.  Since my brother’s wedding in Maui, I’ve wanted to go back, and spend some lazy days with my family.  There’s never enough time, and never enough money, but sometimes, you just have to do it.  So we did.

Paul Newman would be proud.

Saturday morning, I sent my husband and kids out to pick up some burritos at our favorite Mexican restaurant while I stayed at home and puttered around doing some chores. They were going to bring me home some tacos, and my husband noticed we needed milk and bread, so he volunteered to grab that too, while he was out.

When he goes to the store, he usually comes back with a random assortment of extras in addition to the stuff we needed. Shin Ramen was on sale, you know, or it was buy-one-get-one-free on baked beans. This explains why I have enough refried beans to last for the next year.

This time, though, I think he outdid himself, when he walked through the door clutching a case of Cadbury Creme Eggs in his hand. A case. 48 Creme Eggs.

FORTY-EIGHT.

When I asked for an explanation, it appears that they were buy-two-get-one-free, and the packages that were part of that deal were sold out. He talked to a manager, I guess, and somehow that resulted in a screaming deal of some sort on an entire case? Details are a little hazy.

While I was trying to puzzle out why a trip for bread and milk went so astray, my oldest was piling the Creme Eggs, now free from their cardboard, into a giant mixing bowl. I noticed her with her phone over the bowl and asked if she was taking a photo.

“I’ve just snap-chatted my friends and told them I’m going to eat all of these eggs in one sitting.” Already her phone was pinging with return snap-chats from her friends, making horrified faces. She calmly held one up, snapped another selfie with the egg right by her mouth and captioned it “48.”

As we were giggling about this, my husband said “What, are you reenacting Cool Hand Luke?” We both looked at him blankly. Apparently, there’s a famous scene in this classic Paul Newman film where he eats 50 hardboiled eggs on a bet. Super funny, but alas, another instance where the only people who think that reference is awesome are over 40. The joke would be lost on her friends.

Also, 48 Cadbury Creme Eggs = guaranteed puke, followed by sugar coma. Just saying.

Dance Dunce Revolution

Mid-February, my karate kids moved from taking classes at the community center to the official school. That meant switching from a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule to a Monday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule, which also meant that Tuesdays were no longer the back-to-back karate/ballroom dance gauntlet that they used to be.

I mean, sure, that meant I had to be wearing real pants after 5 pm three evenings of the week, but there should have been less fight from the boy about having to do dancing right after fighting.  And basically, it was okay.  But something in my head broke in the last couple of weeks and I basically just stopped caring if we went.  I’m letting him bail on the last three lessons of ballroom dance and I don’t even care and he doesn’t care either.

GIANT WEIGHT LIFTED.  Who knew?  He got what he was going to get out of the experience, and as he told me this week as I gleefully donned my yoga pants with coffee stains and told him we could blow off class, he can always go back in a few years when my youngest is ready to start.  OR NOT.  I have realized that I do not actually care if my kid can do every move and learns the whole routine for tango. Not only don’t I care, I’ve realized that no one cares. Also, his suit was getting too small, and I didn’t want to shop.

ZERO CARES!

(Video) Ree’s 10-Min Shrimp Stir-Fry (in less than ten minutes!)

I didn’t grow up eating seafood often, aside from frozen fish-sticks baked in the oven. Despite living only a few miles from Bodega Bay, fresh fish wasn’t something that my parents prioritized, because with two working parents and three children who preferred hamburgers and hot dogs to salmon or shrimp, making seafood a part of our diet just wasn’t a big deal.

As an adult, though, I’ve really developed a love for seafood. Well, some of it, anyway. One thing I’ve been including more frequently in our rotation is shrimp. The kids aren’t 100% sold yet, and I think that’s possibly because I have overcooked it, turning what should have been delightfully tender morsels into little chunks of chewiness. Clearly, I need some help.

Thank goodness for the internet. And thank goodness for Ree Drummond. As you guys have seen I’m testing out some video players and options for BlogHer lately, and I’m thrilled to be able to share this great recipe from Ree, who may be my family’s Shrimp Savior. Watch Ree whip up this gorgeous stir-fry with corn, zucchini, shrimp and tomatoes with a squirt of lemon, in less than 10 minutes! (I’m not being paid to promote this video, I’m just really excited by it!)

Wired Monkeys

Last Wednesday, we had finally reached the dregs of the pantry and fridge. No, wait, not accurate. We actually had reached the dregs a few days prior, and the kids were getting desperate for things like milk and bread. So spoiled, am I right? Anyway, Wednesday evening at 5pm, I jumped in the van with my youngest, and headed towards Trader Joes. Thinking ahead, I stuck my id and my ATM card in my back pocket, and stuck my keys in my hoodie pocket to keep my hands free from purses, since it was also pouring rain.

We dashed from the car to the store, folded up our umbrellas, filled the cart, checked out, covered the resulting two carts of bagged groceries (seriously, this always happens, and I’m mystified) with our umbrellas and dashed back out to the car. Where I couldn’t find my keys in my pocket, or my pants. Or tangled in an umbrella. As the skies opened up even more, I ran back and forth in the lot, looking for my keys. Nothing. I went back into the store, my youngest and I pushing our loaded carts back through the exit, and we tore them apart, searching bags and developing puddles under our drenched feet. Nothing. 20 minutes of frantically looking, and nothing. Finally, I looked over to the customer service desk, and saw them watching me. I marched over and asked if anyone had turned in keys. They said “oh, like an hour ago. Are these yours?”

They were mine. I narrowly avoided scaling the customer service booth wall and kicking in the teeth of the dude in the Hawaiian shirt who had been calmly watching me search the aisles and unpack $300 worth of groceries and harass multiple cashiers about my missing keys. I’m a bigger person than that (and I’m also a bigger person, literally, than that dude and he would do well to remember that the next time he watches a customer struggling with two carts of wet groceries) so I just left in a huff. I must have dropped them in the lot on my way into the store.

Anyway, despite the fact that my kitchen is actually jammed with food, we took the kids out to eat last night. We ended up at my favorite Thai restaurant – Jhanthong Banbua. The kids were making me nuts all day yesterday. Could be hormonal, could just be that my kids are annoying, but I was all dire threats and low-pitched growls before we even crossed the threshold. You would think with kids in their teens, I would no longer have to say “AND NO ONE IS GOING TO LAY DOWN AT THE RESTAURANT” but you know, sometimes, you just have to cover your bases to get the behavior you expect.

So, we ordered our dinners, and we were all quietly conversing about our upcoming vacation and other benign topics, when my son leaned in towards the center of the table and said:

“Scientists took two monkeys and wired them together and then drugged one of the monkeys and the non-drugged monkey could control the drugged monkey.”

Well. My daughters and I lost our collective minds laughing. My oldest immediately mimed punching herself in the forehead repeatedly, because of course the first thing you can do with mind control is make the other person hit themselves. “Why are you hitting yourself, monkey? Stop hitting your face, monkey!” she gasped between giggles. My youngest was positively fizzing with joy over this conversational turn.

My son, tried to continue the tale.

“No, you guys, they taped a crayon to the drugged monkey’s paw, and the other monkey was able to make the drugged monkey draw a perfect circle like 94% of the time!”

We were all howling at this point, except my husband, who had been checking The Twitter for Comments About Sports People or something. He looked startled, and we tried to catch him up on what was happening, what with the drugged monkey and the non-drugged monkey and the crayon and the punching in the face and all.

My oldest got into the act.

“Scientists once grafted the head of a living monkey onto the body of a dead monkey and it was paralyzed but it would roll its eyes and talk sometimes.”

Seriously, it is clear I need to pay better attention to what my kids are reading/studying/watching on YouTube because OMG. The other day my son was watching a graphic dissection of a Giant Anteater. We also need to work on our dinner conversation topics because ew?

Anyway, it turns out the live monkey head and the dead monkey body only lived a few days, and the live monkey body and dead monkey head (the other half of the experiment) also died quickly, and WHY ARE WE EXPERIMENTING ON MONKEYS? So messed up. I said as much, after making a few jokes about what the live monkey head said when it was attached to the dead monkey body. I imagine it was pretty ticked off.

We settled down for a few minutes, reflecting on the injustices and cruelty of animal testing, but then we quickly started speculating about what would happen if we drugged one family member, taped a crayon into their unwilling fist and wired them to another. Ticked off monkey noises and lots of hitting oneself in the face, no doubt, followed by insulting, simplistic drawing rendered in crayon.

Triumphant Parenting

It took me five times to spell triumphant right, just now, typing the title to this post. What a telling metaphor.

It dawned on me this morning as my kids barked at each other, shoved me out of the way to grab the milk jug and failed to appreciate the lunches I pulled together from the depleted contents of the pantry and fridge that I’m not doing a very good job raising polite, considerate kids. They are when it counts, mostly. They aren’t total rude jerks. But sometimes, when I’ve been treated to a symphony of burps and farts and not a one of them even has the grace to say “excuse me” because they are laughing too hard and high-fiving each other, well, it seems like there might be an indicator of parental laxitude.

My son came home from school yesterday with a quarter-sized bruise on his cheek. He had created suction in a water bottle and stuck it to his cheek for two hours apparently? He’s in eighth grade. I thought he had outgrown that type of thing, but no. So now he has a hickey on his face, and I’m attacking him with arnica every few hours, mostly for my own edification, because he thinks it is funny, mostly.

God help us all.

Resolved

Happy New Year from all of us here at Three Kid Circus! Enjoy our not-very-well-coordinated family photo, where I look less deranged than in most of the shots, but still a bit manic and also everyone with bangs needs a trim:

Tomorrow is the final day of the glorious two weeks off from work. I’m already mourning the lazy mornings, but getting excited about everyone and everything being back into some sort of schedule. Normally, when I have a stretch of time off, I am determined to blast through a bunch of organizational projects or cleaning the house aggressively, but this time, I got us through Christmas morning and just stopped trying to accomplish anything dramatic. That basically continued the whole vacation, with one spontaneous trip to the California Academy of Sciences this week. I have done jack, and loved every second of it.

This is what Science with the Laucks looks like:

New Years Eve, we had one of my oldest’s friends over to spend the night, and I supervised a Very Edited Version of Cards Against Humanity. Then, I sugared ‘em up with cookies, cotton candy and juice, and handed them explosives right at the turn of the clock.

Before midnight:

After midnight:

Nothing burned down, and no one was arrested, so basically, we started the year off auspiciously.

The FitBit hilarity continues, with my husband and I wearing these things and trash talking over things like who got a better night’s sleep. Spoiler: it is always me, because of my CPAP and because I don’t drink liquid an hour before bed. I win at sleeping all night long, sucka.

We’ve both been using my treadmill desk to get our daily steps up – I can’t read if I’m walking with any kind of speed, so I’ve been streaming television shows while I walk. Downton Abbey keeps timing out for me, so I started watching Sons of Anarchy, and holy crap that show is really stressful. Takes my mind off of how long I’ve been on the hamster wheel, but maybe not the most Zen-like approach.

I’d like to publicly share my resolutions (so far) for 2014:

1) Frame all the prints I keep buying from artists on etsy and hang them for the love of God
2) Hem all the pants I keep buying from online stores that just need a few alterations so that I can wear them instead of leaving them in the closet like a dork
3) Take the family to Hawaii over Spring Break
4) Go camping this summer at least one time

I’ve already taken in all the prints to have custom mats cut to fit standard frame sizes. And I’m pulling out all the stupid pants tomorrow, and making an appointment with a seamstress to get these things fixed THIS WEEK. Apparently this is the year of throwing money at my problems, and stupid problems at that.

Symbolic

For Christmas this year, my husband and I gave each other a fitbit – which is, as best as I can tell, a glorified pedometer that comes with a rubbery bracelet that makes my wrist sweaty. How about that for instant results? We’ve been wearing these stupid things for a couple of days and discovered that we basically don’t move very much. The mystery of the extra pounds deepens. Something to contemplate while I eat an entire box of ladyfingers and swill a mocha cappuccino. Which I’ve been doing a lot, over this last week.

I took two whole weeks off this holiday season, and I am telling you, despite a week off at Thanksgiving, and a week off in September, I really truly needed the time to decompress and be slothful. I’ve knitted a bunch of weird projects and watched a bunch of bad TV and stayed in my pajamas for days at a time, and ate snack foods at all hours and went to bed when I was tired and got up when I was rested. I’ve been mostly offline, except for the occasional posting of my knitted weirdnesses on my weechicken.tumblr.com blog.

My parents have finally sold their house after what turned out to be quite an adventure involving multiple realtors, buyers backing out at the last minute, more offers, more reports, more drama. The deal closed before Christmas, and my parents have two months to find their next house to buy, so it was weird to think we’d be gathering for Christmas in that house for the last time… and the house is technically not “ours” anymore.

Things were nutso this year, right up to the day or so before Christmas Eve. What with one thing or another, every single member of my family is economizing, so we decided we weren’t doing the big gift exchange this year. We snuck each other little gifts – I gave everyone little one-line-a-day five-year diaries and a framed photo from this year’s holiday photo shoot, but we really kept things low-key. I made a bunch of snacks and finger foods and took them all over to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and we gathered around the breakfast bar one last time, eating and laughing and teasing my sister and her new boyfriend. After a few raucous rounds of the card game Spit, we headed home to get the kids in bed, get the rest of the presents wrapped and get on with our own Christmas celebration.

Once at home, my youngest wanted to help get the presents wrapped and under the tree. I totally seized the moment to confirm what she already suspected about Santa and why he tends to be erratic when he visits the Lauck house. I gave her a hug, told her that Santa and the magic of Christmas will always have a part of our family celebration, but that it is really about being together, being generous with time and attention and food and love and (sometimes) with gifts, and that the greatest thing about Santa is that ANYONE can be Santa – moms, dads, friends, other kids. She was okay with it. I felt like a jerk blowing the whistle on Christmas Eve, but you know, I just didn’t have it in me to keep living the lie.

Anyway, Christmas morning, I continued living the dream with a 7am wake-up, a cup of coffee with eggnog in it, an illicit fire (damn you, Spare The Air Days!) and three great kids, opening a handful of nice gifts, taking the time to share in each others Christmas triumphs and to be grateful and gracious as they went. They also cleaned up their own wrapping paper this year. It was a Christmas Miracle.

And then, of course, my husband and I strapped on these fitbits and ate a bunch of chocolates, while marching in place.

A few short weeks ago, I was vibrating at a high frequency, close to making shrieking noises or shattering if someone handled me roughly. This time off with my family has been such a needed balm. I’m not quite Baby New Year fresh yet – but I’ve got another 5 days off to smooth the rough edges and plan ahead for a graceful reentry to the busy world.