How to Have a Happy 15-Year-Old

These days, there are two guaranteed ways that I can make my teenage son happy.

The first, I practice almost daily. I bring the dog with me when I pick him up from school. No matter how grumpy he looks as he approaches the car, he is transformed if, when he opens the car door, the dog’s face is there ready to give him a good face-licking. Then, instead of sighing about homework or telling me I ask too many questions, he spends the ride home smiling in the rearview mirror and telling me how cute the dog is.

I learned the second way today. The hard way.

The second way I can make him happy is by screwing up… and getting caught.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

Yes, I got a speeding ticket, cop motorcycle lights flashing, my son grinning ear-to-ear in the passenger seat, and the dog wagging her tail. Apparently, this was exciting for both of them.

As the police officer wrote out my $160 fine for going 33 in a 20MPH school zone (ooops!), my fifteen-year-old laughed heartily. “This is absolutely awesome!”

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Ten Years in the Minivan

What’s the matter with the car I’m driving?
“Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”
Should I get a set of white wall tires?
“Are you gonna cruise a miracle mile?

Nowadays you can’t be too sentimental
….’

…but the minivan was my signature. I didn’t need the school sticker on my bumper or my carpool number on the dashboard, because everyone knew the red minivan in carpool line was me.

Yesterday we traded it in, and my husband’s car became mine. It’s a much better, safer, cooler car. But I still feel a little sentimental, a need to record and preserve the memories made during the last ten years. Almost exactly. We bought it a few weeks before our third son was born. “We need a bigger car.” And he turns ten next month.

Remember….

….those early days when I had to pin him down like we were wrestling to get him in his car seat? Him screaming? Writhing? Me wondering if I was going to get arrested for child abuse?

….or the time the car smelled so bad even after we had it detailed, and it ended up that some breakfast sausage links I carried with me for toddler snacks had slid between the seats weeks before?

….the time I drove home from a ski weekend in below zero, snowy weather, and our middle son puked all over the back seat? I pulled over at that abandoned-for-the-winter sleepaway camp and changed him out of his gross wet clothes, both of us crying, sure he was going to get pneumonia.

….or a few years later, when he puked all over his friend on the way up to the mountains?

What about the time our youngest decorated his “happy place” by using a sharpie to draw a pirate scene in the third row seat? And then got mad at me because I scrubbed it off?

….or when his brother’s friends laughed so hard at the story that he did it again?!

….or when one of the few girls to ever get in my car climbed in, and after a quick look stated, “Wow! Your car is dirtier than ours.”

Remember the minivan caravan to Mount Rushmore? The camping trips? The embarrassment of swiping another mom’s car mirror in carpool line? The fights over who had to sit in the seat with goo stuck to it?

The day our oldest first rode in the front seat? Or our dog refusing to give it up?

Her nose smudges and dirty paw scratches on the windows, because, barking in my ear, blocking my view of the road, she tried to get at every truck that passed us by?

What about waiting for dad to pick us up at the airport one night? The boys spotted it in the dark distance because, “Mom, it’s the only minivan in the world that goes 90 miles an hour.”

The racing red minivan. A little sticky in places. A lot of dirt. Stories that make us laugh now. It was “still rock in roll to me.”

The Peppermint Failure

Our dog digs. So, I bought peppermint plants.

I got the idea on the Internet. Then I confirmed that it works with the herb guy at the plant store. “Dogs hate that strong minty smell,” he said. “She definitely won’t dig near it.”

Unless you’re Star, the dog who created a little mulch nest in-between peppermint plants, her nose resting contentedly for hours within an inch of that strong minty smell she is supposed to hate.

Or Star, the dog who I discovered covered in mud, digging madly around one of the sprinklers, which was spraying her directly in the face. The peppermint plant she nestled with all weekend is missing. Not a leaf of evidence that it even existed.

So, onto Plan B. Fill hole. Sprinkle with red hot Cayenne Pepper.

That Was Actually Funny, He Said

My teenager and I were sitting on the steps with the dog. It has been a dry winter, and with more than a week of warm February weather, everyone is watering. At our house, the sprinkler needed a quick fix in the yard after it fell off the hose when my son moved it from one spot to another. “I can’t get it back on.”

I was putting my shoes on to help out and hoping the dog poop had been picked up before he had watered the grass. ”If you don’t pick the poop up first, then it’s gross to pick up when the grass is wet.”

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “Dad started it. Blame Dad.”

So, I belted out a little South Park “Blame Canada!”

He chuckled. “Mom, that was actually funny… and surprising.”

“Didn’t think I had any South Park in me, did ya?”

Neighborhood Sign Posted by New Dog Owner

LOST:

One vial of puppy poop.

Our vet asked us to return with a fresh poop sample from our new puppy, so she could test her for worms and, I assume, other bacteria. So, despite my reluctance to gather the sample, I put some in the tube she gave us. I was so proud of myself!

Then I put it on the hood of my car in the garage to await our departure.

You’ve already guessed what happened. Multi-tasking mom drove off with it still on the hood of my car.

It has now gone missing.

I searched for it in the garage, on the driveway and down our entire street.

So, neighbors – especially the lovely neighbor who picks it up, wondering what it could be – I am sorry.

I am just a bit lost at the moment!

My Mid-December To-Do List

I love Christmas. I love getting gifts for my family. I even love shopping at this time of year. I love making the family calendar of photos to send to the grandparents. I get a kick out of the frenetic, insane energy in my children. I can’t wait to read their letters to Santa, which this year included nearly every item in the Lego catalogue.

Lego, you timed that mailing perfectly.

What gets me is the to-do list still hanging over my head. Most must be done in the next two days:

• Wrap and deliver gifts for adopted family in need
• 7 teacher gifts (and wrap)
• Piano teacher gift (just remembered that one!)
• Help third grader make homemade ornament
• Help second grader make homemade Secret Santa gift
• Make holiday cookies individually wrapped for third grade cookie exchange
• Drop off Character Power letter on Justice for second grade parents
• Get birthday gift for Friday’s birthday party
• Purchase team gift cards for basketball coach gifts (almost forgot that one)
• Blog
• Clean the house
• Make the extra beds for visiting family
• Grocery shop
• Get gifts for two sisters and finish the boys
• Get stocking stuffers
• Get bagels for tomorrow’s PA meeting
• Go to tomorrow’s PA meeting
• Go to last basketball game and post-season pizza party with second grader

And then…there’s the new dog. Just arrived last night. Stronger than me. Just rolled herself in poop. Keeps trying to eat the ornaments off the tree. Desperate for a holiday dog trainer.

I love Christmas. I love the feeling of excitement that fills the house. I love reading Christmas stories to the boys. I love the “is Santa real?” question. I love seeing they believe.

And I really love the dog.