Pressed or Pressured

"This is ourselves
Under pressure" - Queen

When I was a younger parent, I often compared myself and my ability to that of other parents. It seemed as though other mothers could do what I did, and then some, and do it all ten times better.

When I felt happy that I'd been able to find matching socks for one of the four, another mother would show up with six kids in matching, IRONED outfits. While one friend's child was involved in four sports, two kinds of music lessons and on the honor roll, we had a hard time just getting through homework. I'd be over in the corner threatening to beat my child with my flip-flop while some kid sat quietly knitting doilies under his mother's doting gaze.

Yes, I used to feel inferior to these "Perfect Parents." But now that I've grown older and wiser, I think I just feel sorry for them.

You see, when you're "Perfect" to begin with, then there is no room for error. A mom like me can show up at a kid's band concert in mis-matched shoes or realize that she's forgotten her checkbook in the car after scanning two hundred dollars-worth of groceries with a screaming baby on her hip and no one gives it a second thought. For a guy like me, there is no pressure of expectation. Things can only get better.

Occasionally, I'll run into one of my "perfect" friends and catch up. "How are the kids?" I'll ask, then nod politely when I hear that they're attending an Ivy-league school in the Fall on a full scholarship for being the "best-pressed." And while you can't help but be impressed you know that the first wrinkle they encounter could be their undoing, which is really depressing.

And my kids?

Well, they're all happy and healthy, a little wrinkled, but under no pressure. And the imprints from the flip-flop have faded nicely.

Have fun!


Won't You Be My Neighbor

"Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference!"

This little gem serves as my mantra. I am still stubborn enough that I want to change everything, occasionally scared to tackle certain issues, and not always smart enough to know when I get in over my head. . .but I'm learning.

For years, I have fretted over traffic issues in my neighborhood. We are blessed with a variety of lovely parks, wide avenues, nice schools - but we are also a cut-through between major arteries and that has contributed to a dangerous situation for children and pedestrians.

I've tried writing letters to the Editor of the PNJ. I've put signs in my yard. I've stood outside and waved at people to slow down. Nothing seems to have helped. I've watched the situation deteriorate over the twelve years I've lived here to the point where even the flashing lights of the school zone and the presence of kids walking to school or riding bikes to the park are not enough to inspire some drivers to decrease their speed through the neighborhood.

My latest "rant" involved writing a letter to the Mayor and members of the City Council. Mayor Wiggins and Councilwoman Pratt encouraged me to contact the city's Community Development Department and tonight, we're holding an organizational meeting to look into forming a Neighborhood Association. This will enable us to secure matching grants that we can use toward making improvements in our neighborhood.

Who knew?? (Well, I guess the Mayor. . .and the City Council. . .)

For more information on establishing your own neighborhood association, contact the City of Pensacola Community Development at 436-5655.

I know that my teens roll their eyes sometimes when they see Mom embarking upon another matter of contention. I've won some and lost some over the years, but I hope I've shown them that sitting around griping about a problem doesn't accomplish anything.

Although, they DO get tired of hearing me gripe about the condition of their bedrooms. . .sometimes enough so that they actually clean them!

Have fun!

Teen Driver Safety Week

Drivers rejoice!

It's National Teen Driver Safety Week. That means teenagers everywhere will have their eyes on the road and their hands upon the wheel. . .cell phones will be stored, radios turned down, passengers kept to a minimum of a single, silent individual. . .

Yeah, right.

With car accidents the leading cause of death among people ages 15-20, parents should think twice before just handing the keys over. Talk with your teens and explain to them that driving is a privelege, not a right. Limit the number of passengers that new drivers can take with them. Insist that they stay off of their cell phones while driving. Remind them that distracted driving practices like eating, applying makeup and texting can have deadly consequences.

And set a good example with your own habits.

With a little luck, and a lot of patience, we may make it through the teen years relatively unscathed. The Mombus, on the other hand, well. . .we just like to say that those "learning to drive" dings give her "Character."

For suggestions on ways you can help keep your teen driver safe, including suggestions for setting rules, check out http://www.ridelikeafriend.com/

You'd Think. . .

I do my best to encourage respect, self-sufficiency and responsibility in my children. I encourage them to seek out role-models in our family and our community, and to learn from them.

I sent the Edge down to deliver a letter to the Escambia County School District's Office of School Choice yesterday. An angry, gum-chewing woman refused to take the letter from her. "You have to have your parent with you."

So, today, I accompanied the Edge down to the same office and stood next to her while she handed the same gum-chewer (the way she was smacking, it may have been yesterday's gum, too!) the same letter. The woman took it from her, stamped it, copied it, and handed it back to her.

While I was there, I had some questions. The lady we needed to see was not in. Nor was anyone else who could help us. "You'll have to come back Monday, " smack, smack, smack.

"What would be a good time on Monday?" I asked. "Can I make an appointment? I don't want to miss them all again."

"Well, " smack, smack, "they're here EVERY day from 7:30 until 4:30. . ." she said, as though my question irritated her.

I looked at my watch. 11:30. Smack, smack.

"She was even ruder to me yesterday, " the Edge commented once we were back in the car. "People think that they can just be as rude as they want to teenagers and no one is going to do anything."

"Yep, life's not fair. As long as you keep doing the right thing, though, that's all that matters."

"But you would think that the people who work for the school system, where they deal with kids, would show a little respect!"

"Yeah," I relplied, "You'd think. . ."

The conversation continued and drifted into the subject of texting while driving. She was telling me that her friend thinks because she has her keypad "memorized" that she is safe to text and drive.

"Which probably explains the inordinate number of 'dings' on her car!"

About that time, we looked over at the sheriff's deputy in the car next to us at the stoplight. "OMG!" the Edge exclaimed, "MOM! She's TEXTING!"

The light changed, and the deputy pulled ahead a little, still texting. She continued along Davis Highway driving thirty miles an hour and swerving from one side of the lane to the other - driving with her elbows while concentrating on her flying thumbs.

Yes, it's a difficult thing to teach your children about the importance of self-sufficiency, respect and responsibility. We parents have to set the example for them - those "role-models" are becoming harder to find.

Have fun!

Liberal Parenting

I have a friend who likes to use the expression in her blog, "Don't judge me, learn from me." ( http://momspeacebites.blogspot.com/ )

I believe that most parents try to do what they feel is right. Personally, I've had times where I've looked back with my 20/20 hindsight and realized that I made a bad call. Other times I've patted myself on the back when things turned out right.

Today's PNJ article discusses the untimely death of a seventeen year-old who was run over by a police car as he was allegedly attempting to elude the officer. http://www.pnj.com/article/20091015/NEWS01/910150315. Much controversy has been generated by this incident, from protests of "police brutality" to questions as to why the young man didn't just stop for the officer.

One portion of the article really resonated with me. "Cassandra admits that she was liberal with her son. . . She allowed him to stay out late on weekends and to divide his time between home and his friends' and family's homes. It was not unusual for him to be out at 2 a.m., she said."

Without passing judgement on this woman, I believe that there is a lesson here. Many of us have heard our own parents, maybe even our grandparents tell us, "Nothing good happens after midnight." We usually followed that affirmation with the obligatory eye-roll, as my children do today. However, I stand firmly by the call and do not allow my children free reign to wander late at night.

Parents are sometimes under the impression that, when their kids become teens, the job is done. It's my opinion that this is the time to pull them closer, to keep a hand in what they are doing. It doesn't mean that I am with them at all times, but I do want to know where they are, who they are with - and I do expect them to be at home at a time that is reasonable and safe. They call and check-in on a regular basis, whether they are fifteen, seventeen. . .or even twenty-one (although now the fiancée has replaced Mom for much of that, but I still know that someone knows where he is!)

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, and my heart goes out to this mother. I hope that we will take the information that she has shared about her choices, process it, and learn from it. It is not up to us to judge the way others choose to parent, but it IS our task to try to make the best choices we can for our own children based on the information we have.


Your Turn

Unfortunately for my readers in blog-land, my kids have been pretty well-behaved lately.

I'm just biding my time as I'm sure that the condition is temporary and subject to swift and devestating change. In the meantime, what are some issues that you're dealing with? What are some situations you'd like to see addressed? There aren't many areas of teen angst that we have not delved into over the last eight years of parenting our little darlings. . .you've heard about my controversies, now I'd like to hear about some of yours.

Erma Bombeck once said, " Somewhere it is written that parents who are critical of other people's children and publicly admit that they can do better are asking for it!" So you'll get no grief from me, to be sure. But perhaps I can offer you some free advice (always worth what you pay for it) that has worked for us, or at least the knowledge that you are not alone in your struggles.

Okay parents of teens, let's hear it. . .



It was late, I was flipping the channels and I got sucked in by the show "Intervention."

I guess we all have a fascination with taking a peek into the lives of others (oh, Hello, dear reader!) Sometimes it is nice to see that we are not alone in our daily craziness. Other times, it makes us thank our lucky stars that our biggest problem with our kids is an occasional lapse in judgement rather than a consuming addiction.

It's hard to grasp how parents can get to the point where they allow their child to run the show. I know we all have baggage that we bring to our parenting gig - perhaps guilt over some real or imagined situation that leads us to "go lightly" when it comes to discipline. Maybe a desire to make things "better" for our kids than they were for us. Or perhaps, after awhile, you just get tired of fussing all the time. I've been there/done that on all counts.

I have yet to see a situation, though, where erasing the consequences for a young person has served them well. In last night's show, a young woman was addicted to pain killers and her family was so afraid that she would run off that they would actually take her to prostitue herself in order to get drugs. Her mother didn't want to tell her "No." It was tearing apart their entire family.

The other day I talked about the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with your kids - but that's a two-way street. As much as you need to be there to listen to them, to support them, you also have to step in and put your foot down when you feel that they are endangering themselves or others. And you have to pick and choose which situations you're going to help them with and allow them to suffer the consequences of their actions from time to time.

I thought it was tough to clean up after them all the time when they were little, but the hardest part of being a parent is knowing when to tell them that they have to clean it up themselves.

It's a balancing act, for sure. But I think that learning to dole out your "interventions" early-on, in small ways, can prevent the need for a big dramatic "intervention" down the road.


It's A Gift

I saw a commercial the other day where a cartoon Dad is feeling a little stressed by a screaming baby. Then his teenaged daughter walks in and and introduces her new friend, "Dad, meet 'Snake!'"

I have to be honest, everyone who comes home with one of my children gets the Eyeball. It's a little gift I picked up from my Dad. . .the simple closing of the left eye and harsh stare from the right sends the message: Don't make me hurt you. When it's coupled with a crooked grin it's doubly intimidating (according to my dear husband. . .and my brothers-in-law. . .)

Maybe it's because I realize that each of these "intruders" wields a certain amount of power over MY baby, who heretofore has been guided by MY suggestions and demands.

"Son, you need to shave that scraggly chin. . ."

"But Mom, she thinks it's sexy!"

I often "joke" with the friends who dare to cross the threshold of Chez McKnight. . .threatening their person with severe bodily harm and adding a little chuckle at the end constitutes a "joke," right? But now a few of them are beginning to get wise to my tactics. One brave soul now comes bearing food: chocolate pie and bagels! Others laugh heartily at my jokes, even the stupid ones! I think they're "on" to me.

And now, the Pièce de résistance - Black Jack's fiancée, a dang ALABAMA fan, crocheted me a beautiful purple and gold purse. (Excuse me, does anyone have a tissue??)

What am I supposed to do now?? Like these people??

I guess I'll just have to invite them to spend a good amount of time in my presence, regaling them with entertaining stories of those thrilling days of yesteryear, when I was the center of my childrens' world.

My kids love it when it do that. . .those fond memories are my little gift to them.

Have fun!


This is Our Time to Dance

"Ecclesiastes assures us... that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh... and a time to weep. A time to mourn... and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It's the way it was in the beginning. It's the way it's always been. It's the way it should be now." - Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack, Footloose

I still get a little verklempt when I envision a young Kevin delivering this line in the movie that taught us all as teenagers that real Heroes don't play Tractor Chicken. Sigh. . .

Tonight, Halfway Between (10 & 20) will attend his first high school dance.

He's had lots of practice over the years. From the time he was two-feet tall he was wowing crowds at the Scenic Hills Country Club's Annual Christmas Party with his rendition of "Play That Funky Music, White Boy!" During this Spring's "Wedding Season," he was a fixture on the dance floor pretending to have no prior knowledge of such "lame" dances as the "Electric Slide" and the "ChaCha." And he can frequently be spotted around Chez McKnight doing his version of the "Stanky Leg."

Although he'd never admit it, I think he's pretty excited. He's going with a nice young lady that he really likes, he's wearing the dreaded suit (no tuxedo t-shirt tonight!), he asked for a new razor blade AND he cut the grass yesterday without being reminded a dozen times. . .and didn't miss any spots!

I've been through two rounds of dancing teenagers already, but I can't help but feel a little heavy-hearted seeing my second "Last Child" move on into the real-world version of the High School Musical. There's a part of me that wishes that I could keep him with me forever, but I know that this is his time to dance.

I think I'm going to go wake him up early, so that I can show him how to do the "Footloose!" Oooh, maybe I'll get all dolled up and go with him tonight, just to make sure he does it right. After all, I wouldn't want him to be embarrassed. . .

Have fun. . .LET'S DANCE!!!!


If you have teenagers, and have not given in to the pressure and bought them their own cell phones, then your home telephone may ring on occasion.

The rule around here is that, if you want a cell phone, you'll need to get a job and pay for it yourself. Otherwise, we have graciously provided a land-line for your convenience. Halfway Between (10 & 20) remains off the hook because he is unemployed, so his friends call the house.

"Is there?" They ask, sometimes clearly. . .

"Yes." I'll answer. Then I'll wait.

'Oh, um, can I speak to him?"

"Well, what's it worth to you?"


"You've gone to the trouble to call him, so surely it must be worth something to you to talk to him. . .how about five bucks?"

"I don't have five dollars. . ."

"Well, that's too bad. I will take a credit card, do you have a credit card?"

"Um, I'll just call back. . ."

"Oh, hang on, he's right here waving some money at me. . .okay, well, nice talking with you. . .whoever you are!"

I've started working with my seven year-old already. "When I make a call, I say, 'Hello, this is Lara. May I please speak to so-and-so?'"

"Mooom, that sounds stupid!"

"No it doesn't, you are telling them who you are, and asking to speak to the person you want to talk to."

"Why can't I just say, 'Hello, is Mady there?'"

Because, dear, you're liable to get a parent like me, who is a stickler for good manners. . .and that's a scary proposition!

Have fun!


Truth In Advertising

"Hey Mom!" Halfway Between (10 & 20) called me in as he started his schoolwork this morning.

"Whatcha need, buddy?"

"So, yesterday, Jack and I went to Circle K. I was wearing a Mountain Dew shirt and he was wearing a Dr. Pepper shirt. . ."

"Okay. . ."

"So, I bought a Mountain Dew, and he bought a Dr. Pepper."

I gave him the "look."

For a full thirty seconds.

"Isn't that cool?" He asked.

"Well, it IS truth in advertising. . ."


He just slid into the living room on his sock feet, sporting a black curly afro.

"See, Mom, you can write about this in your blog." He switched to his narrator voice. "'He entered the room wearing an enormous afro, my favorite son, who plays the guitar like Jimi Hendrix and may be the coolest kid ever. I am just so fortunate to have such an amazing son with such an amazing afro. . .'"

And now, he has retreated to his room to play something groovy to accompany the show.

Somebody help me. . .


Gray Thinking

This weekend, an article appeared in the PNJ that hit home with many of our Moms. The nineteen year-old who gave birth to a stillborn child and then buried him in the woods near her home has generated a good bit of talk at our Momslikeme website.


There are some who feel little sympathy for the young woman.

"Sorry but at her age she knew she could have gone to the hospital or done more then sit in the woods and have a baby and then leave it there for the dogs."

"I got pregnant when I was 21, only 2 years older than her... so that's no excuse."

Others use words like "heartbreaking" to describe the plight of the 19 year-old, and offer a more compassionate and empathetic viewpoint.

"We all panic ya know."

While some see "right and wrong" as being in very black and white terms, others view them in a variety of shades of gray. When it comes to opinions, everyone has them, and most people probably believe that theirs is the right one, so arguing the point either way won't make much difference. And, regardless of the opinions of a group of moms on a website, what is done is done.

However you choose to view the actions of a young mother giving birth alone outside of her parents home, I would hope that awareness of this situation would lead each of us to work harder to foster open lines of communication with our children. Teenagers need rules, they need black and white guidelines, but they also need an open door to come to us for guidance when they get into those gray areas.

"They KNOW they can come to me with anything. . ." you may think.

What if they think whatever kerfluffle they've gotten themselves into is too awful to share with their parents? Every teenager has secrets, things that they believe Mom and Dad "wouldn't understand." In the process of growing up and becoming an independent young adult that privacy is sometimes somewhat necessary. But there are also times when a teenager can get in over their head and feel they've nowhere to turn.

That's why I offer my children this out: "I hope that you feel that you can come to me with anything. I will do my best not to judge you, but it is also my job to guide you, so don't expect me to like what you have to tell me. If you ever feel like you are over your head, and can't bring yourself to talk to me about it, remember that you have grandparents, aunts and uncles, adult family friends who love you and will help you. You are never alone."

Lucky me, mine seem to feel free to come to me with all variety of craziness. We've already had to navigate a few hum-dingers around here as it is. . .but so far, we've managed to come through it all okay. It's not easy to let-go of your parental view of the way things "should" be, but it's a lot better to help guide them through an imperfect situation than to beat yourself up later with "if only I had known."

I don't know anything more about the mother of "Baby Milton" than I've read in the News Journal. But I DO know what it feels like to be pregnant at 19, scared, insecure, embarrassed. I was fortunate to have had a great deal of support and love from my family and my extended family. I knew that I had people I could go to who loved me unconditionally and would help me make good choices. I don't know that her family's support could have made any difference in the outcome of this situation, but I hope that I can make a difference when it comes to my own kids and their lives.

After all, the desired end here is NOT to raise a bunch of mini-mes. I'm just hoping to grow them up with enough guilt about all the gray they've given me (gray hairs, that is!) that they set me up nicely. So far, I figure I'm looking at a lovely condo on the beach. . .with my own cabana boy. . .and yes, I'll make room for my own parents, too.

Have fun!

Power Steering

Mom Lecture #457:

"Don't forget, you're responsible for the lives of every passenger in your vehicle. Don't expect other drivers to use courtesy or common sense - you have to remain on the defensive when you drive. Wear your seat-belts, drive the speed limit, stay off the cell phone, and keep the radio turned down. If you get a ticket, I will remove you from my policy and you'll have to locate your own - at about twice what it costs you now. Okay, well, have fun. I love you!"

A little harsh? Perhaps, but (knock on wood) so far, so good. If I make my expectations very clear, then there can never be any question.

This does not mean that accidents don't happen. We've already had one minor bumper-bump in a merge situation, and it wound up costing the Edge about $600 of her hard-earned money. A taught lesson is better than a bought lesson.

When it comes to extending the privilege of driving to your teenager, it's important to stress the weight of the responsibility that comes with it. Every day I see teens racing down my street, cell phones in hand, oblivious to the risk they are creating for themselves and their fellow drivers.

What is sad is that I see adults doing the same thing.

And that brings me to another lecture - to myself. I have to practice what I preach, otherwise, it's just a bunch of blather. So, no matter if I'm running late or need to get that call, I'm making it a point watch my speed and stay off the phone when I drive. It's not always easy, but if I expect it of my teenager, then certainly I can do it myself.

They may think that we're driving them crazy, but we know that we're steering them in the right direction.


Call Your Mother

"I'm just a girl, I'd rather not be
'Cause they won't let me drive late at night!" - No Doubt

The Edge (of 17) has been working late . . .yawn!. . .for the past few days.

So, why am I yawning? Well, I can't very well go to sleep until they're all tucked in safely, so I've been waiting up for her.

"Mom, you don't HAVE to wait for me. I am perfectly capable of making it home. . ." she said as she was leaving yesterday.

"Of course you are, Dear. Call me when you're on the way."

She sounds like I did at that age, before I had the "parental perspective" going on. As a young person, you tend to see reminders to check-in as another way that "THEY" are trying to control you. I knew exactly what Gwen was singing about when she lamented "Take this pink ribbon off my eyes!" It seemed like my parents, grandparents, even my husband saw me as "just a girl in the world. . ."

However, some seventeen or so years later, I completely get the reasoning behind what "they" see. It's not me, it's life.

Cognizance of both sides of the issue can be a curse sometimes and leave a parent confused on making a judgement call. On the one hand, I consider that she is a young, strong woman who is completely capable of kicking butt in this crazy world. On the other, she's pretty and petite and would be viewed by some crazy as an easy target. If I choose to err on the side of caution, does she interpret it as a lack of confidence or a lack of trust?

I was talking to my own Mom about this subject yesterday. She's been on her own for almost two years now, and is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. . .but I still call to check on her. "You know," she said, "Grandma used to call me and tell me she was going up on a ladder to clean her ceiling fan. It's not about 'control,' it's about 'common sense!' I think you're very smart to have her check-in with you."

"Well, we all know where I get it from. . ." I said, and we both laughed.

When it comes to "Because I said so!" I have been there, done that, and yes, I actually DO have a t-shirt. But I also feel that she is smart enough to understand that "checking-in" makes sense. So the next time I encounter the eye roll or allegations of being "all-up" in someone's life, I am prepared with my sensible comeback:

"Well, when I checked in with MY Mommy, she said it was okay!"

Have fun!


Move Along, There's Nothing to See Here

"When all you gotta keep is strong,
Move along, move along. . ." - All American Rejects

The Edge (of 17) gave us hasty smooches before bob-bob-bobbing out the door to work. "Loveyoubye!"

"When did that happen?" Hubbalicious asked.

I knew what he meant as I watched the young woman snatch up her car keys and swing her new hairdo. I've been asking myself that question a lot lately.

"Yep, they're heading up and soon they'll be moving out. . .Rawhide!" I walked over and sat next to him looking for consolation and he gave a gratuitous chuckle. Think what you like, but the true secret to a happy marriage is laughing at each other's jokes, even the stupid ones.

Between Black Jack (21) and his impending generational elevation, the Edge saving her money so that she can move out as soon as she graduates. . . even the heretofore nonchalant Halfway Between (10 & 20) is making plans for his "Sweet 16!" It is beginning to sink in that this "Hey MOM!" gig is a temporary thing.

"Hey MOM!" Halfway called on cue.

"We're out back, baby!"

"I'm heading out. . ." he announced, sticking his head out the door and blowing a few random kisses.

The Hubster put his arm around me and gave me a little squeeze, prompting Halfway to make a face and mutter, "EWWWWW! 'Old People Cuddling!' I'm outta here!"

You know, there are some we will miss less than others. . .

Have fun!


Feed 'Em. . .

"Fish head, fish heads.
Roly-poly fish heads. . .
Fish heads, fish heads,
Eat them up, Yum!" - Dr. Demento

Ah, the good old days. . .when we were young and skinny and could eat our weight in Mr. Gatti's Pizza and Hot Fries. . .

Why is it that a high metabolism is wasted on the young? They load up on Mountain Dew and Food Court offerings, hardly tasting the junk they're swallowing, then expostulate theirinability to squeeze into their Aeropostale size zeroes. . .

In the last year or so, I've lost a good bit of weight. This is not easy for a woman whose life revolves around people who constantly scream "Feed ME!" My first though in the morning (well, after COFFEE. . .and who put that glass in the sink!?) is what to fix for dinner that night. Not that MY tastes or cravings have much to do with it (A block of cheese and a Margarita. . .it's what's for dinner. . .) as I generally have a dime-sized portion of whatever they're having and a frisbee-sized salad.

I must plan a feast that can be smothered in Ranch to appease the ladies and yet meets the exacting freshness criteria of our resident food snob. (Is this fresh rosemary on these potatoes, Mother? Halfway Between and his sensitive palate. . .)

Yes, gone are the days when I could eat as many tacos as my Dad and brother combined while cheering for the 'Aints on a Sunday afternoon. Then later, I'd work it off by dancing around alone in my room and listening to the Dr. Demento show. . .

Boy, was I a nerd or what? Where was I??

Oh, yes, what's for dinner? The nagging question that troubles every mother at six-fifty-five in the a.m. and will continue to beleaguer my brain until about five-fifty-five in the p.m.

Sigh. . .

I wonder if they make a "Fish Head Helper?"

Have fun!

I Speak Teen

"So, Mom. . ." the Edge (of 17) began telling me about her friend's crisis.

"He's talking to his girlfriend on Skype, then he says he'll call her back in a few minutes. Somehow, she left her video on and he sees her scratching at her wrists. . ."

I raised my eyebrows.

"That's what IIIII was thinking, too!" she said.

Her powers of clairvoyance are simply amazing. . .

She took a breath, then continued, "I just don't know whether she's playing a game with him or if she really has a problem. If he tells her parents, then they may go crazy or something. . ."

"Well. . ." I began.

"I know, I know. But if there IS a problem, they probably need to get her some help. He really likes her a lot, and it's really bothering him. I told him he should probably just talk to you, you're the one with the good answers! Thanks, Mom. I love you."

And then she kissed me and went back into her room.

I'm just glad I could be of help. . .

No Pressure

I was in the produce section at Wally World when my cell phone rang.

It was "Home" calling.

"Hey!" I answered.

"Mom, I just wanted to tell you. . .good luck. We're all counting on you." Halfway Between didn't wait for my response before he hung up the phone.

I knew I never should have let him watch "Airplane!" Surely he has something better to do with his time.

Ah, probably not.

And don't call me "Shirley."


Splitting Hairs

What one subject remains a constant source of contention in the McKnight household?

A difference in political views? Varying tastes in music? Less filling versus tastes great?

Oh, no, it is nothing so significant as all that. . .

Nope, we don't argue over money or who does the chores or even whose turn it is to make the coffee.

Instead, we choose to split hairs over - hairs.

Specifically the ones that comprise the glorious mane sprouting atop Halfway Between's head.

"Why can't he just go down to the barber shop with me?" Hubbalicious demands to know. "He's too good for a ten-dollar buzz cut?!"

"But Dad, the chicks dig my flowing locks. . ."

So today, I took him to see my hairdresser in the hopes that we could reach a happy compromise between his rock n' roll do and looking like someone loves him.

When we got home, I called him in to show his Dad. He entered the room with the neck of his shirt pulled over his eyebrows, making a sort of t-shirt habit. "Yes, Mother?"

"Come on, show Dad your hair. . ." I coaxed him.

He lifted his arm, exposing his scraggly pit-hairs. "There you go, Dad. Stylish, isn't it?"

Uhhhhhh. . .I looked over at Hubbalicious in all his clean-cut grandeur. Considering that when we met, he was still sporting his "Flock of Seagulls" look, I'm thinking that the joke will be on hair-do boy in another twenty years anyway.

Hair today, gone tomorrow. . .

Have fun!

They Call it "Love" I Call it "Leverage"

I've learned a little secret to getting my teens to get things done - it's called "having a person of interest."

In the old days, when I needed some leverage, I used to threaten to take away the Playstation, ground them from TV or try to impose some other form of tortuous discomfort. It never seemed to have quite the desired effect.

But once they "like" someone, you know, THAT way. . .threaten to keep them from going to the big party this weekend, or tell them they can't talk to "them" on the phone and watch how quickly the room gets cleaned or the schoolwork is finished!!

It's amazing! If I'd have known this was the answer, I'd have let them start dating when they were six!!

Have fun!


Red Light, Green Light

When we received the notice last May that the Mombus had run a red-light in Gulf Breeze, there was no doubt as to who was going to pay the $100 fine.

Most of the family had been at my sis-in-law's wedding, with the exception of a certain prom attendee who had use of the aforementioned vehicle and had taken her friends to the beach for pictures.

Whatever my feelings are about the legality of red-light cameras (I understand the idea behind using them, but feel they are a little too "big brother" for my taste), after listening to the Edge's reasoning and explanation I suggested that she appeal the violation and ask for a hearing.

We scanned the city codes and found the basis of our appeal: "The permissible grounds for a motor vehicle owner to contest a notice of code violation are: (4) The motor vehicle driver was required to violate the steady red traffic control signal in order to reasonably protect the property or person of another. . ."

She and I prepared her statement and waited. . .and waited. . .and waited. She finally got her night in court on Tuesday.

The first two "offenders" received little compassion - one asking to be provided with maintenance and reliability records of the equipment only to be shot down by a smirky attorney, the second using the same appeal we were planning to use, but stating that he was doing about 40 mph and going with the flow of traffic. They were both sent off to the cashier's window.

Next, they called the Edge's case. I could see her knees shaking even though she held her head high while she explained that she was travelling the speed limit. When the light changed, she had to make a split-second decision to proceed or slam on her brakes and possibly stop the large vehicle the intersection, putting her passengers at risk. The officer indicated that the light had been red for 0.23 seconds when she crossed the line.

The judge asked her to look at the indicated speed in the corner of the shadowy photo of the Mombus. It said 44mph. She insisted that she was only travelling 35 as she began to tear up with anger. She wiped her watery eyes in frustration and stood her ground.

"Sir, with all due respect, I KNOW I was going 35. I go to the beach all the time, and I ALWAYS drive 35 through Gulf Breeze. I usually drive my little red car, but this time I was in my parents' vehicle, so I was being extra cautious." I wanted her to also explain to him that we would take her off our insurance if she got a speeding ticket, and she knows better.

Instead, he asked to see the video tape.

The quality of the tape was much clearer. It was not dark, and it was evident that, not only was she telling the truth about her speed, she had her brakes on as she went through the light, supporting her claim that she contemplated stopping, but chose to continue through.

He found that the city could not prove its case, and dismissed the violation.

She could have easily paid the hundred bucks and been done with it, but she chose to stand up for herself and what she felt was right. Instead of punishing her, we listened to what she had to say, and felt very comfortable in supporting her.

I hope that this lesson makes has taught her that, as far as her Dad and I are concerned, she has the green light to make her own judgment calls without us always seeing red.

Have fun!


Fifteen Seconds at my Dinner Table

I was minding my own business, eating my salad, when the Edge turned to her Dad and said, "Were you watching that disgusting show today?"

"You mean the one about the. . ." The Hubster mouthed something behind his baked beans.

"Yeah!" She nodded. "And they had the. . .well. . ." she looked at me. "I don't want to say it in front of Mom, she'll gag on her salad."

"Oh, yeah, the. . ."

I interrupted. "Y'all just wait, I'm almost done here. You people and your inappropriate dinner conversation!" I shoveled a few flurried fitful forkfulls.

"I'll tell you in a minute," the Edge leaned conspiratorally toward Hubbalicious and gave him a wink.

Halfway Between waved his hands and rolled his eyes, "I hate it when y'all do that!" He grabbed his sister by the arm, and pulled her close to him. "Just whisper it to me. . .and then I'll blurt it out in Amazement!"

And that's when I got up and made my way in here to the computer. You can't make this stuff up. . .

Have fun!

Auntie Social

We held hands and blessed our food, all the troops and their families, all the babies on the way, and the families who were struggling in the economic crisis.

Then everyone dug in, except for Halfway Between. "It's so weird that I'm going to be an uncle!"

"Where's your food, Son?" Hubbalicious asked, as the Teen Wonder gingerly sipped his tea.

"I'm not hungry."

"Not hungry? Your Mother slaved over that stove for ten whole minutes. . .you better get your butt up there and fix a plate."

"Ah, no thanks. . .." he leaned back in his chair.

"What, are you just feeling anti-social?"

"Maybe he's 'Uncle Social,'" I suggested.

"I'm just not real hungry!" he said again, but then he got up and prepared a sampling of dirty rice and a smattering of peas. He returned to the table with his meager portions.

"What, are you anorexic?" The Edge asked him.

"Maybe he's 'Uncle Rexic!'"

Don't forget to tip your bartender. I'll be here all week. . .

Mind Your Mayonnaise

What do Political Pundits, the Congressman from South Carolina, Serena Williams, online forum posters and Kanye West have in common?

They all need a bar of lava soap and a lesson in good manners.

Do you allow your child to make fun of you if he disagrees with you? Do you allow her to call you a liar when you're speaking to a group of people? If you tell them that they did something wrong, can they threaten to shove an "effin" tennis ball down your throat?

Of course not, and yet we tolerate and even celebrate bad behavior in our celebrities, politicians and sports figures. And what about our own behavior?

Despite the occasional crass body noise, I think my children have pretty good manners. They hold doors for people, speak to others (siblings excluded) with respect, and accept respectful criticism. They use "yes ma'am" as a sign of respect, say "please" and "thank you" and clean up after themselves at fast-food restaurants. (Well, I do remind them to "Mind your mayonnaise. . .")

But I must set the example. If they see me acting with a lack of class or dignity, it doesn't do me much good to insist that they hold themselves to a higher standard. I never post anything online that I wouldn't stand behind, I "agree to disagree" when I don't see eye-to-eye with others, and I try to afford common courtesy to everyone I encounter.

I'm not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. . .but I have to walk the walk if I'm going to talk the talk.

So, what do you think? Have you had enough of bad manners?


Wait For It. . .

It was nice to have a majority of my kids at dinner last night.

The Edge invited her friend to fill out the seating - the girl brought chocolate pie, so we had to make a spot for her!

Halfway Between kept commenting on how good the pork roast was. I commended myself for having done such a good job.

He asked his sister, "Don't you just LOVE this roast??"

"Yeah, it's pretty good," she replied.

"But don't you find the seasoning to be delightful?" he prodded.

"Uh, yeah, it's. . .delightful."

"Don't you want to know what it's seasoned with?" he continued.

"Okay. . .what is it seasond with?"


"You say you're a WHAT?" she backfired, and so did the joke.

Have fun!

Good Grief

"Summer has come and passed.
The innocent can never last.
Wake me up when September ends. . ." - Green Day

I had a charmed childhood. Although my grandfather Jake had passed away when I was very young, I did not have to deal with the understanding of what loss meant.

It wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that my great-Grandparents passed away, within ten hours of each other. We took great comfort that they had gone together. They'd lived a full life in ninety years, held their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

In recent years, I've lost three grandmothers. I knew those were coming and handled them with due dignity. It's normal for old people to pass away - it's going to happen to all of us, hopefully waaaaaay down the road.

When my beloved stepDad died in 2007, I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. But I watched my Mother and followed her example of strength, and I passed it on to my kids. I still miss him every day, especially on this one, when I could really really use his practical advice.

This morning, I woke the Edge (of 17) so that she would have time to get ready for the funeral. While she knew the 15 year-old, they were not close. She is, however, close to some of his friends. "They're too young to even drive themselves, Mom. I'm going to take a bunch of fifteen year-olds to a fifteen year -old's funeral. That sucks."

What words of comfort do I offer her? What can I say that can heal the wound caused by a young life cut way too short?

Muddling through, I could only tell her that it would make this young man's parents feel good to see all the people there, that she was a good person for being there for her friends. I asked her if she wanted me to go with her, and must admit that I was relieved that she said "no."

I reminded her of one of my Mom's favorite quotes: the deeper sorrow carves into one's being, the more joy it can contain.

"You know what I just realized, Mom. It's 9/11."

"Yep, it sure is. But you know what, Baby, we all got up on 9/12 and kept on going. . . " she walked over to me and I opened my arms.

Days like this can sure make a parent feel lame (teen word! I know, I'm so hip!) But even in our lame-ness, we can still offer the one thing that makes everyone feel better - a hug from Momma.


Just Dance

Our Labor Day Weekend Vacation was an exciting trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Pep Boys 500.

So, we're crusing into Atlanta the other day when traffic on I-85 came to a complete standstill.

Unfortunately, the mouths of our backseat passengers did not.

"Look, that guy's eatin' a HONEYBUN! I wish I had a HONEYBUN!" Halfway Between served up in his Mr. Haney voice. (Think "Green Acres. . .")

"Hey Mom!" 7th Heaven called out for the hundreth time. "Hey Mom!"

"Yes?" I asked.

"Ooh, I forgot what I was going to say. . ."

The Edge was mumbling into her cell phone. "Mmm. . . muph womp foo. . .ha ha ha!"

We ooched up past Honeybun Boy. . .

"See!" Halfway squealed. "That Honeybun sure looks good! Hey! How's that Honeybun??"

"Y'all hush! Dad's getting anxious. . . " I said, trying to regain control of the situation.

"Oh, yeah, hey Mom. . ." Seventh Heaven began.

"Mom just said to be quiet!" The Edge offered in mock defense, then resumed her mumbling.

"Who farted?!" Seventh Heaven exclaimed.

"It smells like Honeybun!" Mr. Haney squealed again.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHH! Enough!" Our poor driver was teetering on the brink. "What am I gonna DO with y'all?!"

It got very quiet. And then I decided that I had the answer. . .

"Just DANCE, dance, dance!"

And then, on cue, the backup singers piped in from the back seat

"Da-da doo-doo, mmmm. . .Just d-d-dance!"

It was at this point that Hubbalicious went totally Ga-ga and exited the vehicle. . .in the middle of I-85. . .and began dancing.

Well, at least our road trips are never boring! Although I think that poor guy choked on his Honeybun. . .

Have fun!

Lazy Parenting

Last night, I was in bed reading when Halfway Between stuck his head in the door.

"'Night Mom, 'night Dad. . ."

"Love you, Son!" I replied.

"ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. . ." my husband injected thoughtfully.

A chapter later, I realized that the Edge had yet to drop in for smoochage. I was all warm and comfortable, so I didn't really want to get up. Hubbalicious was snoozing blissfully, and I didn't want to wake him by hollering for her. I picked up my cell phone.

"Come tell me goodnight! XOXO" I texted, knowing that was the most direct route.

Her smiling face popped in the door seconds later. "Really, Mom?"

If only cell phones could wash clothes and cook dinner, Mothers would never have to leave their beds!

Have fun!

My Worst Nightmare

Another of the Edge's acquaintances has lost his life.


This time the young man was spending the night with a friend, as my kids have done many times. According to his father, who posted in the comments following the story, TC attended a party without permission and was killed on the way back to his friend's house. He was riding in a car with a young adult his father did not know.

This family is living my worst nightmare.

Some of the other commenters have asked the question, "What was a 15 year old doing out so late?" The father cleared that up, too, with a familiar scenario: he had no idea that his son was even out.

A couple of my kids have been caught sneaking out at night when they were supposed to be sleeping in their beds. Black Jack (21) enjoys sharing stories of his exploits now that he thinks he's beyond suffering a good beating. Short of chaining them to my leg, there is only so much that a parent can do when young person gets it into their heads that they are going to break the rules.

Of course, they probably don't see it as breaking the rules - the teens I know usually justify their behavior with "My parents are too strict, they don't let me do anything!" "They just don't understand." "I can take care of myself!" It doesn't matter how many times you attempt to cover the "what ifs. . ." although stories like this one help to drive the point home.

There are no words I could offer to this family to convey the depth of my sympathy for them.

I'll continue to discuss this story with my own children. . .and hug them a little tighter. . .and just keep praying. . .


Wake Me Up!

"Wake me up, before you go-go!" - Wham

Okay, I'm no George Michael. . .or that other guy from Wham, either. Much to the delight of my children, it doesn't stop me from singing, though!!

We're heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the big race this weekend. 3/5 of the kids will be with us (see, I'm remembering to count her Fiancee-ness!) The "adult" children have school and work obligations, but the ones too small to run away are trapped in a travel-trailer for three nights.

We had such a great time on our last adventure to Daytona, I'm hoping that this will measure up. Halfway Between (10 & 20) has already baited his fishing pole with the dollar (he calls it "Fishing for Rednecks.) The Edge (of 17) has gathered all of her "88" National Guard t-shirts. And 7th Heaven purchased a pink hat with #9 on it. . .and can tell you who number nine is!

I'm wondering what celebrity we'll be able to stalk this go-around. Since we're camping outside of the track this time, I don't envision another McDreamy sighting. . .but you neva know!

I was up at four this morning, going over my "packed items" in my mind again. Don't want to forget anything important, like a kid or something. I really wish that Black Jack (21) was coming with us - that's the weirdest thing about daily life and even after all this time, I still feel "askew" without them having all within slapping distance.

I reckon I need to peel myself away from the computer and start final preparations. I've been doing housework all week with the hopes that we could come home to "clean" this time. I've gone over the list twelve times, the laundry is caught-up, the sunscreen, beans and kosher hot dogs are stowed safely in the camper. . .

Now I have to go wake up the kids before we go-go. Y'all stand back, you don't want to miss it when I hit that high (note!)

Have fun!

All Washed Up!

I have discovered the trick to getting teenagers to do their own laundry.

When I was doing the majority of sorting, washing, drying and folding, anything that I found that didn't pass muster would find its way to the trash can. That included holey t-shirts, ripped up shorts, questionable unmentionables, anything too small, too tight, or just too "too" - call it "editorial privilege" if you will.

Halfway Between (15 & 20) asked me a while back, "Hey Mom? Have you seen my favorite camo shorts?"

"You mean the ones with the big holes in them? I threw those out!"

"But I sewed them up!"

"I'm not having you running around in 'Frankenpants,' it makes you look like nobody loves you. . ."

Since then, he's been vigilant about washing his own things. He still makes it out the door in his Mt. Dew Peek-a-boo T on occasion, but at least I don't have to see it up close!

Have fun!


New World Mom

I'm a rebel and a runner. . .okay, well, more of a griper and a jogger. . .but hey, there's no Rush!

I dropped off 7th Heaven at the door of her second grade class and then went for my little bop and stop through the neighborhood. I was thinking that I should have gotten Halfway Between (10 & 20) up before I left - he's supposed to begin his first week of virtual school this week and he really needs to get on track.

I arrived home and checked my watch. "I'll let him have fifteen more minutes," I thought to myself. "I'll go ahead and get a quick blog in before he takes over the computer."

I grabbed a glass of ice water, threw a leg over the chair and hit "Enter." The screen flashed to life, displaying this message:

Mom, I went to WH - my favorite place to eat !

I'm not sure whether I was more surprised at the method he'd used to make sure I got the note, that my kitchen was not his favorite place to eat, or that he was up and awake of his own accord! It's a brave new world. . .

Have fun!


Six Feet From the Edge

"I'm six feet from the edge, and I'm thinkin'
Maybe six feet ain't so far down. . ." - Creed

A few months ago, the Edge (of 17) attended a memorial service for an elementary and middle school acquaintance who had committed suicide. This weekend, another aquaintance of her's took her own life.

My friend and I were talking about it this morning. "My son is really taking it hard. He's never had anyone close to him die before. They had several classes together." She said. "He keeps saying he wished he'd said something. . ."

What could he have said or done? He didn't know what she was thinking. Hindsight is always 20/20 in these situations. What I suggested was that it was a good time to get a dialog going.

"I tell my kids that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." I said, using one of my stepDad-isms.

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child to suicide. I cannot imagine the pain that would drive a child to suicide. My heart is breaking for this girl, her family, her friends. . .

These horriffic circumstances have lead to several dinner-table discussions with my teens. I reminded them that they have a mile-long list of people that they can talk to if they feel overwhelmed. Starting with me.

I've had to hear some things and deal with some stuff that, frankly, I could have lived a whole lifetime without ever having to hear about! But it's made all the difference when it comes to keeping a hand in their lives and helping them navigate. It doesn't mean that I haven't injected my own opinions and values, but I've had to learn to be open-minded and choose my battles.

We've also discussed the "Huckleberry Finn" scenario that I think many teens have - as though they could pop back in to their own funerals and say, "See! I knew you'd miss me." It doesn't happen that way. That's where the concept of permanence needs to be reinforced.

One of the best "weapons" that we have in raising kids in an "us vs. the world" climate is talking. Spend time with your kids and get to know them for who they really are, not who you think they should be. Be honest about who you are, too. Talk to them about struggles you've had to overcome, times when you felt overwhelmed and ways that you learned to deal with your own circumstances.

One of the parental cliche`s is that of "the talk" - and it's usually relating to the context of sexuality. But "the talk" should start when you pop them out and should never end (at least it hasn't yet for me. . .Black Jack (21) and I are STILL talking. . .and I'm still talking with my own Mom. . .)

I don't know if there are any clear answers when it comes to suicide. I don't know anything about the circumstances of these two tragic souls or their families. What I DO know is that I do my best every day to keep my kids close and to listen to them let them know that I love them unconditionally.


I Want to Ride My Bicycle

"I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.
I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like. . ." - Queen

I've often wondered that four children who were raised by the same parents can be so different.

From the moment that my two oldest children turned fourteen, they were making preparations to get their driving permits on their fifteenth birthdays. They were not deterred by grades, grounding, employment - they met whatever criteria thier Dad and I laid out and had that piece of plastic in hand tout de suite! Sweet!

Halfway Between (10 & 20) finds himself in no rush. He's actually halfway between 15 & 16 nowadays, and is quite nonchalant about the whole issue of driving.

We've made suggestions: "Yep, it's about time you get a job so that you can start paying your car insurance. . ."

We've made observations: "Not much room for a date there on your skateboard. . ."

We've offered bribes: "The Mombus could be yours someday soon. . ."

He just shrugs, tossles his hippie hair and says, "Ahh, I don't need a license. I have a sister with a license. And I have a bike."

He actually has several. He saved up a few summers ago to purchase his $300 Hoffman Bike, which he still spit-shines every now and then. He also rescues bikes from junk piles and garage sales - leaving my garage floor looking like "Dr. Frankenbike's Mad Labratory."

I suppose someday he'll have to break down and enter the world of the gainfully employed and licensed to kill. In the meantime, he leaves me scratching my head and pondering whether he was switched at birth.

It's a good thing he's so good-looking, otherwise I'd really start to wonder. . .

Have fun!

Free Advice

Free advice is always worth what you pay for it. . .

That's one of my Mom's favorite things to say, just before she offers me some free advice.

My friend called me while I was having lunch in the school cafeteria with the second-graders. Her daughter was the Edge's best bud until a few days ago (see "It's Not You, It's Me. . .)


"Mwa mwa mwa mwa, mfff fwula?" She said, as the kid across from me showed me how to suck blue jello through a straw.

"Hello! I'll have to call you back!

Thirty minutes later, we were fully-involved. My friend's daughter is lying to her parents, can't hold a job, hanging out with friends of ill repute, basically heading down the wrong path.

"Take her car, her phone, her computer. Make her earn them back. . ."

There were reasons that they couldn't take her to school. "Make her ride the bus."

There were reasons that they wanted her to have the cell phone. "Put restrictions on it so she can only call you."

What about the job? "Help her find one, and tell her if she loses it, then she loses the car!"

I spent the next hour offering suggestions, answering questions, and just listening.

"I feel like I'm losing my mind!" my friend began to cry. . .

I suddenly felt surprisingly competent, but I was humbled, too. The only reason I felt like I had so many of the answers was because there was a time when I didn't. I'd made similar mistakes, made similar excuses, had similar feelings of parental helplessness and hopelessness. I shared this with my friend.

"Smooth seas don't make skillful sailors. Whatever you're doing now isn't working, but don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it and go on! You've got to take charge here - you're the parent, it's your job to guide your child, not give her everything she wants."

The table busser at Pirate's Cove once told me that raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a tree. (I don't get ALL my good sayings from my Mom. . .) Sometimes it can feel that way. But one thing that I believe has helped us is to recognize that , yes, we are preparing to turn them loose on the real world, but sometimes we have to reel them back in first.

My advice to my friend was to ground her daughter. "I don't mean that you should lock her in her room, either. Make her your constant companion. Spend time together and get to know each other again. Talk, talk and talk some more. Make your rules and expectations clear. Her actions need to have consistent consequences. It's not about being mean, it's about saving your child! Hey, it worked for us!"

I hung up and called the Edge, who had come through her own set of trials and tribulations. I told her what advice I'd offered. "Yep, " she said. "I told her the same things. . ."

I laughed. "So, now I guess you can see the other side of things, huh?"

"Uh, yeah. . ."

"Are you just saying that so I'll hang up the phone and let you get back to your Mallin'?"


Well, at least we've got that honesty thing down.

Have fun!


It's Not You, It's Me!

The Edge (of 17) has this friend whom she celebrates on her MySpace as "the friend who, if I was in jail, would be sitting in the cell next to me."

Charming, ain't it?

When things are good, they are the best of buds. But when things are not. . .

Their tumultuous relationship began in middle school, and has survived other best-friends, boyfriends, dances, family outings, multiple groundings and numerous instances of proclaiming "I know I've said it before, but this is really it!"

According to the Edge, the latest fall-out involves excruciating self-centeredness on the part of said offending friend. I listened to her familiar rant, read the scathing letter she had written to her friend, and watched as she gathered what seemed like an entire wardrobe of her friend's clothing (which explains where all the clothes I bought must be!) I hugged her, and then told her something she didn't really want to hear:

"I can see by this letter that you're really hurt, and you've made your point, but it will most likely continue to fall on deaf ears. She is who she is. In fact, she hasn't changed a great deal since middle school. The problem here is not her, dear. . .YOU are the one who continues to put up with it!"

She gave me that, "whachewtalkinboutwillis?" look.

"How many times have we had this conversation over the last five years, Baby? Do you think that I would remain friends with an adult woman who was jealous of the time I spent with my husband? Who griped at me if I ran into another friend at the mall and invited them to join us? Who demanded to know where I was every second of the day? She treats you and your other friends this way because YOU allow her to."

"You're right, Mom." She grabbed a pen and paper and started writing again. Then she handed it to me for approval. "Here, how about this?"

Her girlie handwriting is even more difficult to decipher when it's hasty.

"You are a witch. You have always been a witch and you will always be a witch! I don't want to be your friend anymore. It's not you, though, it's me."

Sigh. Not necessarily what I had in mind, dear.

I give it two weeks, three at the most.

Have fun!


Haunted, I Scream

The ghosts of "first days" past are haunting me.

When I had three children in school, "first days" were always the culmination of a mad frenzy of shopping and haircuts and intense preparation. They always started with a few tears, and ended with ice cream. It's been a long-standing tradition.

This year, with Black Jack (21) in college, and The Edge (of 17) and Halfway Between (10 & 20) both homeschooled, the "frenzy" was relegated to a quick shopping trip with 7th Heaven for ten dollars' worth of school supplies and a new t-shirt for her first day. Her dad and I walked her to class yesterday, snapped a picture. . .and that was it.

The Edge had joined her friends at the K-Mart parking lot for the "Senior Parade." She came bopping in an hour later, her poor girl-car covered in shoe polish, and announced how great it was to be homeschooled. "I'm going to get to do all the fun stuff, without all the drama!"

Oh, really? We've come a long way from "You've ruined my life!"

A few moments later, Black Jack and his affianced showed up. "Why is it so quiet?"

"First day of school. . ."


Then Halfway Between meandered in from his late sleep, "Ahhhhh, this is the best 'first day of school' ever. . ." he said. He starts his lessons in September.

I sat, surrounded by my young-adult children, and was struck by the weirdness of the moment. I tend to get very wrapped-up in the "Mommy" aspect of my life, and 7th Heaven is such a powerhouse in her singular kidness, that I still lump them all into the "kid" category. But I guess that's really not the case anymore.

I spent the next hour or so just listening to my "babies" discuss movies, funny commercials, work, plans, physics and two or three more references to how quiet it was. . .and then the Edge exclaimed, "Ice cream!"

"Oh, yeah. . .first day ice cream!" Her brother chimed in.

"We ALWAYS have ice cream on the first day. . .let's go!"

"That's it?" I asked. "Y'all are just going to leave me alone? Okay. . .well, don't you have anything to say to me?"

"Oh, yeah. . .Uh, Mom, can we have some money?"

Yep, I'm definitely haunted. . .pay no attention should you hear me as I scream (or is it ice cream . . .)

Have fun!


A Pill in Capsule Form

"If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day 'til eternity passes away, just to spend them with you. . ." - Jim Croce

Tonight we'll be attending the festivities at the celebration of Pensacola's 450th Anniversary. Of course the music and fireworks will be fun, but I am really looking forward to making a contribution to the time capsule, which will be opened in another 50 years.

I can only imagine what the future holds.

In the brief forty-one years that I've been alive, I've witnessed everything from people taking off to go to the moon to the mind-consumption of the internet, where we can do it all without ever leaving our living room. Our tvs have gotten bigger and flatter and our vehicles smaller and rounder. We've gone from living simple lives to having everything we desired and now back to the basics again.

Last night we stood in our back yard and looked at the stars. Halfway Between (10 & 20) and Hubbalicious debated which clump of heavenly bodies comprised the scorpion while 7th Heaven and I just stood and took in the beauty of the twinkling lights. . .the same lights that people have looked at and wondered about since there have been people. Maybe in fifty years, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be out there somewhere, seeing them close-up.

I've got to get to work on my time capsule entry. I like to imagine being at the opening in 2059. . .

"And our honored guest today is world-renowned author and humorist, 91-year-old Lara McKnight, who has beamed in from her Island Retreat with her twenty-seven obnoxious grandchildren to read her time-capsule submission. Doesn't she look stunning in that bikini? Let's give her a hand, folks. . ."

It could happen.

Hope to see you at the party tonight! Have fun.

Seems Like Ole' Times. . .

When you go fishing, it's important to use the right bait.

Last night, it was tacos.

Under threat of certain death, all four of my children (plus one, and a half) managed to make it for dinner. The seven of us crowded around the table which seems to keep getting smaller and smaller, and joined hands. We said our blessing, thankful for the moment, then the salsa commenced to flyin'!

I'd forgotten how nice (and noisy) it was to have the whole gang in one place at one time. It seems like one or the other is always working or otherwise occupied, and dinner time at our house is now usually a much quieter affair.

When you find yourself in the midst of your family fracas, wishing for a little peace and quiet. . .well, be careful what you wish for. It isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Have fun. . .ole'!


Really? Really!

"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." - Thomas Merton

Okay, here's a little dose of "real" for today. . .

When Black Jack turned 21, I secretly gave myself a little pat on the back. There's ONE who made it all the way to adulthood. . .without getting pregnant!

He's a boy, but you know what I mean. I was pretty darn proud of myself for accomplishing this feat. I wore it like a little secret badge of honor - ha!

You also know what they say about pride going before a fall.

I was sitting at the dinner table one night when the phone rang. It was Black Jack calling. "Hey Mom. Guess what! I'm going to have a baby!"

"I'm eating dinner right now, Son. . .I'll have to call you back." I'm always known for my wisdom and grace under pressure. . .I thought I was going to fall out of my chair.

In the days that followed, all I could think about was where I had gone wrong. I'd worked so hard to "set him up" for life, trying to keep him between the navigational beacons when he began drifting out of the channel, jerking a knot or two in his little neck when called for.

I'd even gone and had that fourth kid - I figured that had cured ALL of them from ever wanting to have one of their own.

His teen years had left me punch-drunk, to say the least. Somehow (intensive praying) he'd graduated from High School with honors, moved out on his own, survived a brief "party phase," secured a scholarship, and had arrived at "almost finished with college." And now he's going to be a DAD!?

I turned to my friends for support. "I am NOT a Maw-maw!" I cried indignantly. They suggested a variety of "hip" Grandmother names that just did not fit.

I called my Dad. He laughed at me.

Soon, I began to feel like my impending generational elevation was the proverbial "elephant in the room." I'd run into old friends at Wally World and say, "Hey! Good-to-see-you-I'm-gonna-be-a-Grandma!"

I even joked with one friend about having a t-shirt made up: "Too Young to be a G-Maw!"

I've known for a couple of months, but haven't even been able to blog about it until now. After all, what is everyone going to think of me and my parenting abilities?

It has occurred to me, however, that this is NOT all about me and how it affects my life. I've done my job in preparing this young man, now it's up to him to use the tools he's been given and to make the most of it. He can plot his own course and follow it.

I'm just here to love him unconditionally. . .and maybe babysit occasionally.

As for my "wounded pride. . ." Well, he's certainly buckled down and handled himself like a man thus far. Although, that's nothing I've had to tell him to do, he's just done it. And while I am doing the "payback dance," I also believe he's going to be a wonderful father.

And THAT makes me very proud.

What Will the Neighbors Think?

"I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation!" - Joan Jett

Oh, but someday you will. . .that's what my parents and grandparents tried to tell me during those "what will the neighbors think?" speeches. I would roll my eyes and lament the absolute "fogey-ness" of their sentiments. I didn't care what the neighbors thought.

As time has passed, I've learned to appreciate what they were trying to tell me. It wasn't really about the peering eyes of the Venetian peekers that I needed to worry about. The manner in which I conducted myself in all things would become my "advertising" when it became necessary to "sell" myself in an important situation.

Those who know me are aware that I am far from perfect, but I do believe that my good points outweigh my bad ones in the big scheme of things. Halfway Between (10 & 20) and I were talking about this last night at dinner. We'd listened to one of the Town Hall meetings on the ride home yesterday, where an angry man was chastising Arlen Specter and telling him that he and his cronies on the Hill would face God's judgement.

"Do you think he was right to bring God into it?" Halfway asked.

"Well, in my opinion, he might have been more 'appropriate' in suggesting that the Senator look in the mirror and judge himself. I don't like make assumptions about anyone's religious convictions. . ."

The conversation continued about politicians' reputations, the choices we make and why it is important to try and do the right things. I pointed out to Halfway that he has established a trusting relationship with his father and me by following the rules and making wise choices. "Because you have a reputation for being honest and responsible, we extend you certain freedoms. But if you ever do anything to tarnish it. . ." I drew my finger across my neck.

His older brother and sister have been useful tools in teaching him that lesson. They've had to test the waters and learn their own lessons, in their own ways, about trust and the importance of conducting oneself with integrity. They've encountered some stormy seas, but I think the end result is that they've learned to become skillful sailors.

If you've been following along, you know that I've made some mistakes as a parent. I share them with you, dear reader, in the hopes that maybe we can all learn from them. I have a reputation for being a wee bit overprotective, marginally inconsistent, perhaps even a little crazy. But part of the process is to learn from my mistakes and to live with the knowledge that someone IS watching me, taking note of my behavior, ever-mindful of my reputation . . .and it's not the neighbors (actually, we're usually watching THEM!)

It's my children.

Poor guys. . .they've certainly gotten an eye-full! Maybe they'll turn out okay anyway.

Have fun!


Rollin' on the River. . .

"And we'll go rollin' on the river of love. . ." - George Strait

"Oh, great, Mom. Now I've got that song stuck in my head!" Halfway Between (10 & 20) commented on his way to the shower.

"It's a good song!" I replied.

"Pshhhhhh. . ." he said, and closed the door.

I was thinking about blog material this morning and it got stuck in mine, so I figured I'd share. We now resume our regular blog.

The other day the Edge (of 17) asked if she could go tubing on the river with her friends. I pulled out "Mom Speech #34."

"Who all's going?" She named the usual suspects.

"Where are you going tubing." The usual place.

"Who's driving?" She was.

"Are your friends planning on drinking?" No, she didn't think so.

"Are you planning on drinking?" Of course not.

"Well, just remember, if you're driving, you're responsible for the life of every person in that vehicle. Don't have your radio too loud, don't be carrying on and giggling, or talking on your cell phone. I know you've said there wouldn't be alcohol, but for God's sake, if there is, you have a list of people you can call who will come and pick you up, no questions asked."

She pulled out eye roll #15.

"Hey, I just want to make sure that we are absolutely clear. Now you don't have to give it much more thought. I love you."

"I love you, too."

About that time, Dad walked into the kitchen. "What's up?"

The Edge hugged him. "I'm going tubing at the river, Daddy!"

He looked at her, then commenced to deliver "Dad Speech #2."

"Who all's going. . ."

We may be redundant, but I think her Dad and I have got a good flow going.

Have fun!


I Know You're In There!

Unlike my other teens past and present, Halfway Between (10 & 20) is not prone to dramatic outbursts.

At first, that seems like a blessing. But it also leaves me at a loss to figure out what is going on in there. At least with the others, I know exactly where I stand, even if it is usually in their way.

The other morning, he SET HIS ALARM (I know!) and woke himself to go say goodbye to a friend who is moving to another state.

(This "alarming" development will not stop me from coming into his room and singing, "OH! What a beautiful morning!" But at least now I know he has an adult skill under his belt. When he wears a belt.)

He returned a few hours later with a monotone greeting, "Hey mom."

"You okay, Pal? Are you sad?"

"Ah, a little. But there's always MySpace. . .and me and the guys are going to chip him in and buy him a plane ticket back down."

"The 'Mean guys?'"

"Sorry, Mother. . .'The Neighborhood Gentlemen and IIIIIII. . .'" Why does his proper English always have to be delivered with an English accent?

"Well, that's a good idea."

"And his Mom said I was welcome to come up and visit them any time."

"That's sweet. Do you want a hug?"

He looked at me as if I'd offered him a pink bow for his hair. The disappointment must have shown on my face, because he smiled and stretched out his arms. "Okay, Mom, if YOU need a hug. . ."

The truth is, I DID need a hug.

He may be six-feet-tall, but I know my little man is still in there somewhere.


Jury Duty

Dun, dun, dun. . .This is the defendant, The Edge (of 17).

Dun, dun, dun, dun. . .She's accused of a bad merge, and has been offered a bailout. . .

In lieu of forking over $158.00, she has performed eight hours of community service, paid a small fine to the scholarship fund and has agreed to serve on a jury, in our courtroom, Teen Court!

(Cue dramatic crescendo. . .and cut to commercial.)

Hey, look, isn't that Judge Wapner??

The Edge called around 6:30 while she was on a break.

"So, what are y'all doing?" I asked.

"I can't tell you, Mom. . .I'm under oath!" She sounded so responsible. Who knew?

She arrived home an hour and a half later, and I cross-examined her. She gave me a brief overview of the evening. The cases she heard involved shoplifting.

"Some of the other jurors wanted to 'stick it' to the defendants like they'd had it 'stuck' to them," she said, her voice welling with compassion.

"Well, the idea is that it's supposed to be a deterrent. Do you think it helped?"

"I'd like to."

She said she'd questioned one young lady about why she made the choice to steal.

"A lot of my friends do it." The girl had responded.

"Well, maybe you need to get some new friends!" Was my daughter's response.

Hmmmmm, now why did that sound familiar?

I'm glad that she was offered this opportunity to resolve her fine, and hope that the experience reinforced some of the things her Dad and I have been pounding into her little rock head for the last seventeen years.

Yep, she MAY turn out okay. Of course, the jury's still out on that one. . .

Have fun!


Ticket to Ride

"Before she gets to saying goodbye,
She ought to think twice,
She ought to do right by me." - The Beatles

The Mombus, currently held together with duct tape and melted crayons, is having a tough time. Even with 210,000 miles, blown speakers from teen thumpers, intermittent a/c and carpeting in some shade of spilled soda, I still love to drive her - there's something about the way that ”paid for" handles that I just can't describe. I have resolved that she WILL last until the youngest teen passes the "learning to drive" phase. Then, I'm totally getting a two-seater.

The issue du jour is battery-related (last week it was the brakes), so while the man of the house tackles the problem, I am using the Edge's vehicle for quick grocery runs. I've noticed a different driving experience when I am at the wheel of the zippy little vehicle.

For one thing, people follow me a lot more closely. That may be due, in part, to their trying to read the shoe polish notes on the back window.

At the bank, the teller looks down on me, and addresses me by my first name. When I am perched proudly at the regal wheel of my Mombus, I am Mrs. McKnight.

Men check me out in the little zippy car. Until they get close enough to see the gray hair and wrinkles. Sorry, dude, but you shouldn't be looking at little girls in cars anyway!

There are lots of shiny trinkets and colorful geegaws hanging from the rearview mirror. They dance to the music and fly dangerously close to my eyes when I turn. I'd remove them, but the BFF chain is twisted into the rainbow lei, her nametag from work and the air freshener and I don't have time to unravel the mess.

So, if you see what appears at first glance to be a teenager's vehicle tooling around town at the posted speed limit while blaring 80's tunes, just give me a little room. I'm simply looking for the brake pedal amid the soda bottles and beach towels.

Have fun!


Lighten Up!

"I'm gonna tell everyone to lighten up. . ." - Cheryl Crow

The Edge (of 17) and I were talking about body image the other day.

"I've noticed that, lately, you kind of CARE how you look," she said.

"I've always cared how I look!"

"Annnnnnnnhhhhh. . .not really."

Well, I THOUGHT I HAD. I guess the "lifestyle changes" I've made over the last nine months really have changed me. She continued, "You've always cared how IIII looked!"

"What do you mean?"

"Remember when I was in eighth grade, and you and Dad were always fussing at me for getting a second helping after dinner. . ."

Oh, THAT again? My kids will probably hit me up for their therapists' bills . . ."Yeah. Parents aren't perfect. And I may have made a mistake in the way I approached that."

The school had sent home a note indicating that she was "at risk" for obesity. The pediatrician had mentioned she was on the high end of the "curve." And I, not being as smart as I am now, decided to obsess over her weight. We'd gone through the same thing with her brother, and made the same errors with him, too. Only, at the time, we honestly thought we were doing the right thing.

Looking back, though, I now realize that kids' bodies change a great deal between eleven and fifteen. Sometimes they have more "outus" than "uppus" - that is normal. The answer is not to criticize or nag, but to help guide them into making healthy choices and to keep them physically active. Turn off the computer and take them for a walk around the block.

And remember, you have to set the example. While I was busy fussing at them, I rarely exercised and was a regular at many local drive-thru eateries.

We all make mistakes. Today I take her little sister with me for walks and bike rides, we avoid fast-food (except for occasional treats) and purchase very little "junk" food. We drink lots of water and eat plenty of veggies. The difference between where I am now and other "diets" I've attempted in the past is that I've learned to control what I put in to my body and I have incorporated fitness into my life. I do some sort of physical activity every day, and I've cut back on the "whine" and cheese. The results have been good for all of us.

I can't go back and "undo" the baloney we all went through, but perhaps our experiences can help other parents and teens struggling with these same issues.

When it comes to worrying about childhood obesity, we could all "lighten up" a little.

Have fun!


A New Standard


The above tidbit was obscured between the murder headlines and mention of assorted vehicular catastrophes, however, I am surprised that more folks are not finding themselves in the midst of an "AH-HAH!" moment.

A few years back, I dragged my kids, my husband, and a family friend we call "Moochie" to Tallahassee to address the House Education Committee on the drawbacks of the current use of standardized testing as a sole measure of ability and accountablity for our students.

The partisan brick wall was difficult to breach, and I was left with "The Governor is Committed to His Education Plan" as though it were some sort of psychotic mantra reverberating in my head. Our own Representative Murzin offered me a sip of the magic Kool-aid while Rapheal Arza (of racist-remark fame) tried to statistic me into oblivion.

One of our Moms pointed out the following phrase: " Education officials are not sure why."


And who is to blame?

Not the teachers, they're just doing their jobs. . .their livelihood depends on test scores. The mandates come from administrators nervous about funding who demand that our children acheive the desired numbers. And those demands come straight from THEIR bosses at the DOE.

Come on, DOE. . .POOF! You wanted "standard" students, POOF! You've got 'em.


Welcome to the effects of No Child Left WIth Any Creative Initiative. . .



Teen Talk - Energize Me!
Posted 7/20/2009 11:21 AM EDT on pnj.com Prod

"E-lec-tri-cit-y! Energize me!" - Midnight Star

Halfway Between starts his secondary robotics camp at UWF today.

A friend arrived for carpooling, and I mentioned that I was glad that Halfway would have a dancing partner.

"Dancing?" He asked.

"Yeah. I never could do 'the robot' myself. Maybe you can teach it to me when you're done. . ."

His friend looked perplexed. . .then offered, "Mrs. McKnight, I think we're going to BUILD a robot."


I keep thinking about all those Disney movies where the kids develop a robot and antics ensue, then things go awry and the crazy parents come in and save the day.

Of course, Disney movies aren't "real life." We've never actually developed a robot.

However, the crazy parent thing is covered.

I escorted them to the classroom and checked them in. Before I left, I couldn't help but offer Halfway Between a discreet air kiss so as not to embarrass him. It's important to be aware of that kind of stuff.

I turned and walked to the door, and added, "You boys look so grown-up and collegiate!"

I'm sure they appreciated my thoughtfulness.

So, now that I'm thinking about doing the robot, I feel energized. . .anybody want to dance with me??


Have fun!

Aren't You Missing a Year, Here??

When Pcolamoms.com changed to Pensacola.Momslikeme.com in March of 08, the technical guys said, "Eh, just start posting your stuff at the News Journal website."

They had no respect for my "body of work" - and the early contents of this blog hung in editing limbo for quite some time.

I have FINALLY figured out how to make these old posts magically reappear. It's amazing to me to see how many things have changed during the time between March of 08 and July of 09. . .and how many things are still the same (yes, L, I still hide out in the closet!)

If you're following along without a program, "Hey Nineteen" went "Double Decades" and is now "Black Jack" because he is 21. "Fifteen for a Moment" suffered her stint as "Sweet Sixteen" and now resides on "The Edge of Seventeen." "The Fourteener" rests "Halfway Between (10 & 20)". . .and that baby "Sixshooter" has elevated her status to "7th Heaven."

So, dear reader, if you happen to be looking for the stuff in-between, check out PNJ.com and locate me in the blog section under "Staff/Reader Blogs."

I realize there's a little jumping around involved to catch up, but it never stopped Paul Harvey from finding "the rest of the story. . ."

Have fun!



"I want to have control.
I want a perfect body,
I want a perfect soul. . ." - Radiohead

In my mind, Fifteen for a Moment is physically perfect. Ah, perhaps a little bony of the hip and yappy of the lip, but still durn near. ANd yet, she still wants to look like someone else - tannner, curvier, trendier.

When I was her age, I was fifteen, too. And I was always worried about how I looked compared to the other girls. I look at pictures of myself now and wonder why I wasted all that time worrying. But I did.

Now that I am just days away from 20/20, I catch myself considering that I am not, nor will I ever be Perfect. Of course, who am I trying to please? My husband? My friends? My kids? They all love me just the way I am.

Frankly, perfect is an unattainable goal - even for those who, from the outside, would appear to us to be so. At one time, I know my daughter considered someone like Britney or Paris or Lindsay to be perfect. . .while I hate to celebrate someone's demise, at least they've let a few seekers of perfection off the hook!

Wouldn't it be a wonderful gift to give our daughters to release them from their need to be perfect? I guess we start with ourselves. Enjoy who you are, flaws and all!

Have fun!


Maybe I'm the One

"Maybe I'm the one. . .
Maybe I'm the one. . .
Maybe I'm the one who is
A schizophrenic psycho, yeah. . " - Puddle of Mudd

Is it just me?

Oh, knock it off, will you? There's no room for self-doubt in the melee of parenthood. Gotta hike up the britches, set the jaw and challenge them to bring it on. You can handle it. You are one mean mother, let me tell you!

Okay, okay. I'll leave the comfort of the back of the closet. Hang on, I have to stop here at the bathroom mirror for a sec, first.

Okay, Lara, you can DO this. You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggonit, people like you. . .well, people who aren't your children. Hey, it's YOUR fault for thinking they are people in the first place. . .

Have fun.

(okay, I will. . .)