Author Archives: ellenlit67

About ellenlit67

I am a happily married, mother of three, a part-time reading support teacher, and a brand new blogger. I love reading, yoga, traveling, writing, and dreaming. I want to help my teens and teens everywhere become caring, confident, productive adults....

7 Reasons To Cherish The Teenager(s) In Your Home

Standard

We all know that the teenage years can be some of the most trying years.  But this is Thanksgiving week and people everywhere are adopting an attitude of gratitude.  So I’ve decided to give thanks for the teenagers in my home. You can, too. Here are 7 reasons to cherish your teenagers.

1.  Teenagers eat the food you prepare.

They may not share your love of salmon or mushrooms, but they probably won’t whine and sulk about the dinner menu like they did when they were little.  They’re beginning to appreciate the time and care that goes into preparing a meal.  And if you’re lucky enough to be able to dine together several times a week, research says your teens will perform better in school and resist negative peer pressure.  Family dinners are so hard to pull off with hectic schedules, but most teens will agree they are a welcome departure from fast food and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

2.  Teenagers help out around the house (with less whining and eye rolling each time).

By the time your children are teenagers, it’s no longer necessary for “helping out” to be a fun, game-style activity set to music. It should not require a fun follow-up activity either.  Teens will usually help out when asked because they know (at last!) that it’s the right thing to do.  It lightens the load for us parents, physically and mentally.  Alleluiah!

3.  Teenagers are technology savvy.

I “get” Facebook.  I get email.  I get texting and cable TV.   But apparently I don’t get the“blue” stuff.  I once flagged down a Target salesperson in the technology department to inquire which blue tooth system was rated best in quality for movie viewing.  I thought I was being proactive.  Before the young man could respond, my teen interjected, “Blue ray!  Not blue tooth, Mom!”  How could I have confused the two? And why are they both blue? My teens know way more about technology than I do and yours probably do, too.  Embrace this reality and give thanks for your teens.

4.  Teenagers introduce you to new skills and activities.

I’ve rarely had the opportunity to speak the French language I spent 7 years studying, but I do get to quiz my eighth grader on her Spanish and it makes me long to learn this language.  She is quite skilled at reciting simple sentences that sound sophisticated to my untrained ears.     Te amo, mamá.  Usted es el major!   (I love you, mom.  You’re the best!)

I would rather stick needles in my eyes than perform on stage in an auditorium.  So no one was more proud (or sweating more profusely) than I was, watching our oldest daughter play the role of a singing nun in her high school’s production of The Sound of Music.  And I get another rush from watching ice hockey with some of the most rowdy parents in sports.  I thank God when the game is over and no one is hurt.  I love the game but watching my child play it is completely out of my comfort zone.

Watching your teens develop as students, athletes, artists and friends is a role you only have for a short time.  I try to cherish these days and the lessons they bring.  (Remember those temper tantrums and power struggles from the toddler years?  I don’t. I do remember many of the good times, though).

5.  Teenagers enjoy family time.

It’s now OK to pull out [some of] those fantastic movies that contain more substance. Teenagers will not be scarred by mature language and more mature themes.  And there’s another bonus:  Teenagers may look at you appreciatively for your choices in comedy, drama and documentary.

Some people call gatherings with relatives forced family fun.   But I’m certain most teenagers welcome those infrequent opportunities to spend time with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.  What’s not to like about a full Thanksgiving belly followed by a game of Candyland and/or Scrabble? Or watching football or a classic Disney movie? And how about gathering for a Face Time session with long-distance relatives they love and miss?  Yes, teenagers gravitate toward friends more than family, but they can always count on unconditional love and acceptance of family through the ups and downs of the teenage years. Amen.

sass

6.  Teenagers let you know if you’re about to make a fashion faux pas.  

Or, they let you know at dinner, when it’s a little too late.   But you can still take away the lesson. (Stripes on stripes doesn’t work).

 

 shirt

 

 

7.  Teenagers still need us and (occasionally) come to us for advice.  

Sometimes we forget that our teens are still developing into adults. They make mistakes.  They make poor choices.  We often wonder what’s in store for their futures.  But they all show signs of becoming independent – which is great news!  It is also a reminder to us to cherish them right now while they’re still immersed in our lives.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

 

                                                          kids      blue hills   

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  

You Get What You Get: Helping Our Teens (and Ourselves) Take The High Road

Standard

The-popsicle-was-invented-by-an-11-year-old

You get what you get and you don’t get upset.

We teach this jingle to preschoolers to eliminate envy or any suspicions of favoritism.   A blue Popsicle/crayon/Lego/paper triangle is just as good as a yellow one.  It takes practice and reminders, but eventually this little lesson sinks in and makes life easier for kids and the adults in their lives.

By the teenage years, kids don’t care so much about their Popsicle color, but they do care about circumstances that they think could thwart their success and happiness. And parents care, too.

Sometimes, you get what you get and you don’t get upset seems hard to swallow.

Like when they get the teacher who clearly is more interested in retiring than teaching. Or when the coach is unreasonably critical and short on praise.  Or when they find themselves always sitting on the bench rather than on the field or the ice.  Maybe they never made the team at all.

But I’ve come to realize that no matter what disappointing situation a person finds himself in, if he reacts in mature ways rather than quitting or begrudging others, he can move on and thrive.

I wasn’t always so level-headed about this.

I remember cringing (or was it seething?) when my freshman casually reported that every day, one or two students in her math class would be kicked out of class for talking.  Her seasoned teacher would point to the door and bellow “Get out!” – even if the student was asking to borrow a pencil.  This practice would inevitably make everyone chuckle, even the teacher himself.

That year I lost a lot of sleep wondering how my daughter would learn those important math concepts that weren’t coming easily to her.  I also worried she wouldn’t take school seriously if she continued to be placed in classes reminiscent of Welcome Back Kotter and the sweat hogs..

She recovered.

The next year, her math teacher took the time to review concepts before moving on to a different kind of math. It was a very productive year. Is my child a math whiz now?  No.  Math may never be her area of strength.  But one “off year” (or should I say “off teacher”?) did not ruin her.  In fact, it was good preparation for the real world.

Adults have to deal with challenging people and situations every day.  They may have difficult co-workers or bosses. They may not get the job or the pay raise they hoped for.  Perhaps they didn’t receive credit for a project they worked hard on.  They may have long hours of commuting that take time away from their families.  Maybe they’re laid off.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset. But you can switch gears.

You can stay for extra help.

You can get a tutor.

You can practice more.

You can try something different or new.

You can look for options and make a plan.

You can refuse to quit or point fingers or whine.

You can count all the blessings in your life and focus on the good stuff.

You can be happy for those who succeed and learn to be compassionate toward others who are struggling, because everyone will, sooner or later.

My Teen and I Ran The Color Run: Small Steps Yield Positive Attitudes

Standard

My 13-year old daughter and I are on a mission:  to eat healthier, move our bodies more and focus on what we like about our bodies, instead of what we dislike. 

Okay, I added that last one to our list because a good friend pointed out that I sometimes point out my own flaws within earshot of my kids.  And it’s not helpful to tell my daughter to focus on her long legs and beautiful, thick hair instead of the “man-feet” she thinks she inherited from her dad or the round face she got from me ~ if she hears me complaining about my marionette smile lines and lifeless hair. 

I do have good intentions, however, which is why I decided to sign us both up for a 5K Color Run.  The Color Run is essentially a 3 mile untimed run/walk where participants get splashed with tons of color along the route. Our Color Run was organized by the elementary school PTO where I work, so young, enthusiastic children and their families and teachers would make up the bulk of the runners and spectators. What’s not to like about a Color Run?

My daughter was horrified when I broke the news to her.  You didn’t even ask me!  Why would I want to get up early on a Sunday morning and run a race?  No!

I have two other teenagers and I’ve learned that it helps to remain calm when my kids are being disagreeable.  And so I backed off.  I told her she didn’t have to come.  I told her she was off the hook because her dad agreed to run with me. Then I spotted her eyeing the two pouches of colored powder and the two white t-shirts that I was told we could douse prior to the start of the race. 

Then magically, she was all over the idea of doing the Color Run.  My plan was to walk the entire route. No, she begged, we need to try running. I haven’t run for years, but who am I to complain? She’s into it!

Young children ran around splashing each other with color prior to the start time, and suddenly my 5’7” daughter was throwing fistfuls of green powder at me.  My skin reminded me of Shrek.  I threw my yellow powder back at her.  It was in our hair, under our fingernails, all over our clothes and shoes. We were having fun.

Neither of us would tell you it was an easy 3 mile run.  We’d run the distance of three telephone poles then walk.  Then we’d run until we got to the water stops and take a quick break.  And we both agreed to step it up a notch when we approached the volunteer squads who pelted us with even more color.  At the end, we were greeted by others who felt the same elation at having finished a race.  My daughter even told me right away she was glad she had decided to come. We were a sweaty, colorful, happy mess.

Sarah (on our messy ride home):  We should do the Turkey Trot.   (a popular 5K run in our town).

Me (pleasantly surprised): That would be awesome.

10653829_10204727303451280_6956010989694851426_n

* * * * *

To find a Color Run in your area, click on: http://thecolorrun.com/events/

7 Signs That We’re Ready For Her To Leave (For College)

Standard

Everyone warned us our teenager would push our buttons in the weeks leading up to her departure for college. We have had our share of friction.  What 18 year-old wants to be told she should spend more time with her family?  Or that she really needs to clean up the pigsty she calls her bedroom?  Or that it makes me nervous that she’s heading into the city by train late at night (even if she’s with her boyfriend)?

The truth is, it’s hard for parents like me to completely relinquish control, even though I know I will have to, four days from now.  But as much as I know we will all miss her when she’s gone (and she certainly will miss us), I’ve stumbled upon some clear signs that the time really has come to say buh-bye to our firstborn child.

1.  The obstacle course in her bedroom is making its way into other rooms.  

 

10338237_10204631235609644_5308414575716755271_n

                                                    (Some semblance of order needs to be restored – soon).

 

2.   We rarely see her for dinner anymore.  Instead, we see lots of these:

 

 10626670_10204631064085356_8121084632850422222_n

                                               Money for eating out and take-out has to be running low by now.

 

3.  Clothing that she probably forgot she had is suddenly in the laundry.   

Apparently her roommate is more deserving of seeing these clothes on her and seeing them freshly laundered.

 

4.  She’s restless.

I’m willing to bet August 31st is one of the last college move-in dates in New England.   Most kids have left for college by now.  Most local kids have gone back to school,too.  Summer’s winding down.  Even watching reruns of Friends and One Tree Hill is getting old. 

 

5.   Everything is suddenly a last.   And every last comes with an emotional parting.

…. the last time she’ll see Grammy/Papa/Auntie/her cousins/this friend/that friend/co-workers/her boyfriend’s family/her boyfriend’s dog/this beach/this coffee shop… despite the fact that her college is only a 2-hour drive from home.

 

6.  Her little sister has set a deadline, for any clothes that have been borrowed from her to be returned.

The battle between sisters who wear the same size clothing is fierce and seemingly endless in our house,  even though we all know they love — and will miss  — each other.

 

But there is one sign-that-it’s-time-to-say-good-bye that makes me smile:

 

7.   She’s taking charge of the next phase of her life. 

Alleluia!

At some point, all parents will have to cut the umbilical chord and watch to see if the young adult they’ve raised can successfully fly solo.  

These past few weeks, I’ve witnessed a young lady scheduling her yearly physical, speaking with her adviser, renting books online, buying dorm room and school supplies with her own money, writing thank you notes, and making sure she spends quality time with the friends and relatives she loves so much. 

Yes, even us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruising With Teens: Unplugged and Unfazed By It

Standard

In a couple of weeks we’ll be dropping our first child off for college.  She is ready.  We are ready.  We think we are, anyways.  In anticipation of this major event, we made the decision to take a celebratory/one-more-chance-to-bond, family cruise to Bermuda.  No flights would be necessary as this cruise departs from Boston, just a short drive from our home.  No cell phones would be needed either.  Wait, what?

That’s right.  We (OK, my husband) decided the only way to truly appreciate real-time vacationing as a family would be to do so without any access to our electronic devices.  If, God forbid, our house was burning down, someone could certainly contact us some way.

The challenge in doing this was not that we would be hard to reach in an emergency.  The challenge was that we had never all been unplugged for an extended period of time. Could we last a whole week without sharing with others how much fun we would certainly be having? Could we last, not knowing any drama that might unfold in our little town?

But can’t we take just one cell phone to take pictures?

We will use an old fashioned device called a camera.

My kids claimed that I would have the hardest time separating from my cell phone.  (I really was forced to surrender it last minute — right after I managed to post to my blog, with no means of accessing any feedback).

Any one of us could have snuck down to the “Internet Café” if we felt the need (for a hefty price per minute).  But we didn’t.

What we all discovered was that a week without any connections is not only doable, it is a welcome relief.  The days seemed long, but they were long in a good way. We had time to make all kinds of choices of what to do on the ship but we could also choose to do nothing.  No matter how benign it might seem, checking emails and texts and Facebook eats up large chunks of time.  Time that could be used to develop relationships, enjoy hobbies or learn a new skill.

Our cruise ship was not the latest, greatest ship on the ocean.  In fact, it was older, by cruise ship standards.  There were no bumper cars or pool-side movie theatre screens like the newest ships that are just coming out. Yet it felt good to see our teenagers engaged in real-time experiences and interactions without any complaints of being bored or missing their devices.

Cruising with teens.  How do I love thee?   Let me count the ways:

Entertainment.  On stage.  Starring real people. 

We were surprised when our 13-year old revealed she had never seen a comedy show before.  None of our kids had.  Oh, of course.  Live comedy is usually for adults only…. in clubs or rented halls.  Magic shows are usually at little kids’ birthday parties or on TV.  We all sat, bewildered, watching a woman get sawed in half before our eyes.   One night our 18-year joined us in a piano bar where we played a private game of name that tune as the pianist sang Billy Joel and Elton John songs.  All of these activities are a welcome departure from Call of Duty and reruns of One Tree Hill and Full House, in my opinion.

Books. Yes, books.

Not everyone likes to read.  My teenagers enjoy reading for pleasure, but if they have a choice between picking up a book and surfing on their cell phones or watching a movie on TV, they are more likely to choose screens.  Yet each of them enjoyed stretching out on the sunny pool deck of the ship with their books.  (Note: Were they actually reading the books behind those sunglasses or scoping out the scene on the pool deck?)

A little culture — on board and on land.

We learned that natives of Bermuda are nicknamed onions (after the sweet onion that originated there).  We learned that Bermuda’s drinking water is collected from the rain and is purified as it runs off the special white painted roofs.  We saw that the natives really do wear Bermuda shorts in Bermuda… even the businessmen, with suit jackets and ties.  And we learned that the Bermuda Triangle refers to one point on a triangle that also includes points in Miami and Puerto Rico.  (We viewed the remains of a shipwreck through a glass-bottom boat, at night via floodlight).

The ship has a culture of its own, too.  It’s made up of crew members from around the world who work hard to please their guests.  Often they’re doing mundane jobs like dispensing hand sanitizer to guests in line for the buffet.  But they do so with big smiles on their faces.

My 13-year old likes to cook.  How perfect that one afternoon she could watch the head chefs demonstrate how to make some of their best dishes. (All their prep work was done for them, I pointed out to her).

Two of our kids practiced their Spanish by exchanging greetings with their room steward, Arnold.  He surprised them each night by shaping their bath towels into animals wearing their sunglasses.  They sampled foods that they had never been exposed to at home (and probably never will be).

* * *

After we returned home, a friend contemplating taking the same trip asked if there was enough for the kids to do on the ship.  It’s a very good question.  There’s plenty for kids:  a basketball court, an arcade, a fully equipped gym, a pool for little kids, and a pool for big kids and adults, a library, and a hangout spot for kids and teens.

You may think you know your kids well until you take a cruise.  Ours enjoyed the whole experience, even without their cell phones.  In fact, the activity that became their favorite after dinner each night was none other than….Wait for it….

Shuffleboard.

10498221_10204481671110625_5473089739523288710_o

Wonder is Wonderful

Standard

I miss my mother/daughter book club.   It quietly dispersed when our then sixth grade daughters got busy with activities.  Now that the girls are entering eighth grade — the second year of middle school in our town — I wish our group could meet one more time to talk about a book I absolutely love – Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

This book should be required reading for kids entering middle school.  Its characters and situations are realistic. But the book is ideal for anyone, really, because it invites the reader to question how he or she would react to the main character, August “Auggie” Pullman and the various scenarios he finds himself in.  Auggie was born with severe abnormalities to his face, so people are generally taken aback when they see him for the first time.

Auggie’s mom has home-schooled him since he was born since he has needed numerous surgeries to address his medical concerns.  But she believes he is ready for more of an academic challenge and he is accepted into Beecher Prep School.  Mrs. Pullman believes the timing is ideal, since fifth graders from all over will be starting there for the first time and Auggie won’t be the only nervous kid. Auggie is very perceptive and he gives the reader a detailed analysis of the ways people react to him. Auggie dreads the idea of going to school and leaving his comfort zone provided at home.  It’s clear to the reader this is a highly intelligent kid who wants more than anything for others to look past his physical differences and see him for who he really is.

R.J. Palacio does a superb job of creating complex, believable characters.  Kids can be cruel – in this case, even one of the “role model” students the administrator chooses to help introduce Auggie Pullman to his new school.  But most kids, even those who feel the tug of peer pressure to hang with and act like the cool kids, feel compassion.  What they lack is the courage and ability to express it.

Wonder is easy to read.  It is divided into sections, each of which is told in the point of view of a main character.  Auggie, his sister Via, and a handful of his Beecher Prep peers are the storytellers, giving us an honest look at life in Auggie’s world from their perspective.

Auggie’s pretty sister Via, for example, shares with us that her brother has been the center of her parents’ universe since he was born. She “gets it” that he needs extra attention and protection.  She loves him so much, too.  Yet she’s secretly thrilled that at her new school she won’t immediately be known as the girl whose brother has a deformed face.   Via faces her own, typical adolescent issues but she stays strong.  I have a feeling it is Mr. and Mrs. Pullman’s unconditional love and encouragement that guides their two children to face adversity so graciously.

At times, the reader’s heart will break, but at times it will soar.  Kids will experience this, as will parents.  This is good.  We want our kids to feel compassion.  We want our kids to do the right thing even when it’s not the popular thing to do.

It’s common knowledge that the middle school years are all about kids forming friendships and that sometimes kids choose friends for the wrong reasons.  In the few short middle school years, looking and talking a certain way is, for most kids, more appealing than showing their true selves, including flaws and insecurities. Yet they all have flaws and, like Auggie, they all desperately want to feel loved and accepted by others.  If they could learn to appreciate each other despite their physical differences, imagine the possibilities…..

Wonder could open up much-needed discussions about acceptance and tolerance.  The winners in this story are the students who learned to look past Auggie’s physical differences.  They are the students who see the Auggie who is a good friend, a hard worker, and a funny kid.  I recommend this book to anyone who feels hopeful that some day soon bullying will be one of the few, truly unacceptable flaws.

 

9780375869020