Friday, March 29, 2013

Great Expectations

"Expect nothing and you will not be disappointed." If I had reminded myself of that poignant quote I wouldn't be composing this blog post. However, when I returned home from a 5 day writer's conference, our 16 year old acted as though I'd never left. He handed out his last dose of hugs as if he was sharing his final sip of Red Bull after a raucous sleepover; reluctantly and with few words.

He left our short conversation petting the top of my hand as a final sarcastic act of affection. There was no, "How was your trip?" "What did you learn?" "We were lost without you!" or "Please don't ever go on another trip without us!" He simply left the kitchen with no reassurance of a quick return.

The narcissism of a teenager is often overwhelming for a mother who needs a speck of affection after 5 days away. Thankfully, the gift of a 9, 11, and 19 year old who desperately missed their mother and smothered her in hugs and conversation, was enough to soothe the sting of sixteen year old drowning in a moment of self centeredness.

Seconds later our son's friend who thankfully feels comfortable enough to enter the house without knocking, arrived. He was more talkative. He always is. I listened as he talked, making a point to ask very few questions and to take my ironic position as one who should been seen and not heard. The conversation dance is tricky with teens and often difficult to interpret.

Here is how the dance is performed: I listen and don't give much feedback. I don't dare ask a lot of questions. Nodding and feeding them seems to work well. Freshly made cookies really make them talk. I make them forget that I am  there while they engage with each other and I listen while pretending to not. I don't try and fit in, but absorb instead. If I ask too many questions, or try and join the conversation, they roll they eyes and make me feel like a conversation stalker who ought to be arrested. If they decide to let me participate I know that I must sign in on the sheet and wait for my name to be called. The dance isn't open to just anyone. I need a ticket and the ticket can expire at any time and without warning.

The evening ended with our son sitting at the kitchen counter where I was washing the last stack of dishes. He immediately burst into conversation dolling our sacred information regarding his day. I fed him first. While listening, I continued to remind myself of the dance rules being conscience not to over nod or share my opinion. We chatted for 20 minutes, and although he never asked about my trip or told me that I was missed, he accepted my ticket to the conversation, and that alone, was completely unexpected and utterly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


In spite of the fact that I lack the credentials and maturity, I have recently volunteered to guide the spiritual minds of 12 seventh grade girls from our church and lead them in a small group. I'm in it for the sleepovers and candy. The wrestling and screaming I could do without.

Since snacking is a must, in addition to the Bible teaching and journaling, I inquired with my 9 year old as to what snack I should bring to our first meeting. In addition to my insatiable sense of humor and fashion know how, I was hoping that my reputable and highly creative snack choice would supersede my age factor and make the girls fall in love with me. The disappointed whispers of "Aw, we got the mom and not the teenager" would die quickly when they saw my snacks hence the need to acquire wisdom in the snack area from one who knows snacks well.

"Jello!" was the first suggestion from our youngest child. Although initially skeptical, I knew that expertise was greater than my negative intuition. "And popcorn?" I suggested hesitantly. I wanted to bring popcorn because the last time I saw red Jello it was cut into smallish cubes and spiked heavily with vodka. It's been a while. Popcorn was a good back up if my cooking skills failed.

My popularity hinged on the Jello so I nervously blended two boxes of strawberry Jello with boiling water and dumped the contents into a large metal bowl. The mass of red goo was impressive but I wondered how much would actually leave the bowl.

Before leaving for my small group I grabbed a large can of whipped cream. At least we could do whipped cream shots straight into our mouths if the Jello was a flop. That's fun.

When I arrived to my small group I slipped the bowl into the kitchen quickly before the girls arrived. I couldn't bear any ensuing negativity prior to delving into God's Word.

The group went well. The stifled outbursts of giggling were reaching their peaks and I knew the snacks would need revealing soon. After prayer I unveiled the Jello. The girls jumped up and down like, well, excited 7th grade girls about to get sugared up and sent home for the aftermath. My snack was a success.

As the girls left, throwing out hugs and thanks I was certain of a three things. The bouncy 13 year old middle schoolers have a small group leader who loves them, is dedicated to their spiritual growth, and currently wears the title, "Queen of awesome snacks."