Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving turkey from my 10 year old. He is thankful for ocean, skimboard, boogie board, school, dog and house, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, vollyball, food, family, friends, sports, and Mom's home cooking.

I made the list!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Picture!

Is this new picture too fashion/glamorous for my blog? Maybe. I just couldn't add a new picture complete with the pimples that have appeared. Photoshop is a wondrous thing. In fact, this turned out so glam that I think I'm going to do one of myself!

Porn: What's a Mom to Do?

Pick one:
It’s inevitable.
It will never happen.
I don’t want to know.

Personally I was hoping to avoid the whole thing.

But in the flash of a screen, a fraction of a second, and the unmistakable form of a naked woman . . . I discovered my son surfing a porn website.

Oh shit oh shit oh shit what do I do? Why me, why did I have to catch him, why didn’t my husband? My emotions raced from shock to panic to anger, while my brain was telling me, “However you react, whatever you do right now, he will remember and retell his entire life.” I realized instantly that this was a seminal moment of parenting. I had to stop freaking out. So I went in the bathroom and texted my husband, who was not home, with this simple message: 911. He didn’t answer so I texted him five more times with the same message.

Then I went to talk to my son. First he tried to deny what he was looking at, then he claimed it was a pop-up he couldn’t get rid of. I let the irony of that melt away. Then I’m not exactly sure what I said, but it was something like, “This is inappropriate, you are not allowed to be on these websites, it is not OK.” In case he was starting to feel ashamed, I added, “It’s OK to be curious, but this is not OK.” I added that he needed to talk to us about it. I don’t know, it didn’t make sense to me either, I just threw it in.

I went back in the bathroom to voice my frustration with my husband by texting him a few swear words for not being there and not calling me back.

When he did call me back and I blurted something incoherent out in a hostile whisper, he was maddingly quiet. Once he got the gist of what was happening, he had the nerve to sigh in relief. And even start to chuckle. I hung up on him.

A public location for the computer, an internet filter you think is up to date, a trust you place in a boy to know what is “appropriate,” it is all no match for the powerful cocktail of emerging hormones and curiosity. They want to know, they need to know, and it is so easy. Images and videos are everywhere online. He will be told or even shown exactly where to find them by a more knowing friend.

Now I happen to believe that surfing internet porn is not at all appropriate for a boy of this age. I feel I have a responsibility to protect him and shield him from it at least until he is older. Obviously my precautions were not adequate.

I was able to determine by viewing his computer’s browser history (and that of all the other computers in the house) that this was the first time he had surfed porn sites. My husband and I spent the better part of the next day installing and updating better filtering software (we chose K9 by BlueCoat which is free).

After taking care of the immediate need for better internet filtering, my mind began to go back over the incident. I thought about the boy at school who had so kindly given my son the exact website to check out. I felt sure his mother had no idea he was so knowledgeable in this kind of information. It was a mom I don’t know very well, but I pondered telling her, or at the very least suggesting she check where he son goes online. I would want to know. Wouldn’t she? I tried to come up with scenarios in my mind, running into her in the carpool line, rolling down the window, and saying, “Excuse me, I think your son is a regular on,” or calling her up and inviting her over for coffee and broaching the topic, “So what are your philosophical beliefs about pornography?”

I sought input from other people. My mom was shocked and dismayed about the whole thing. My dad, who has been trying to warn me about how horny young boys can be, while I try not to hear this message from him, said “I told you so.” The very kind school administrator said, “Go with your gut and don’t be too hard on him.” A good friend said, “Buy him a subscription to Playboy magazine.” I heard “boys will be boys” more than once. I decided I had enough of input from other people. The range of opinions among parents about pornography is staggeringly wide.

According to one article I read, boys ages 12-17 are among the biggest consumers of pornography. If parents don’t monitor their children’s internet use, and if they don’t have filters in place and check that they operate as expected, then I have to assume they are not concerned about pornography. And just to be clear, every variety of sexual activity is available online; group sex, violent sex, much much more than enough to satisfy your basic curiosity.

I’m not going to tell that mom about her son’s expansive knowledge of porn. Maybe she doesn’t care. But mental note: no sleepovers for my son at that house.

Articles I found useful:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Patterns of Importance

My youngest son is having some difficulty with spelling. He seems to struggle with recognizing the patterns letters form to spell words, and applying those patterns to spelling other words.

This can be something very worrying to a parent.

Am I worried about it?

Absolutely not.

Because last night he told me he noticed a pattern. All the light blue PG&E trucks that he has ever seen are Ford F-550s. Which is weird, because every other Ford truck he sees is a Ford F-150, 250, etc. But he's never seen a F-550 unless it's a PG&E truck.

He announces the makes and models of trucks he sees as we drive around every day. I thought this was solely to irritate his brothers. But he noticed a pattern that no one else in our family did.

I guess this means that he is a perfectly normal boy who is much more interested in trucks than learning how to spell. And I'm a perfectly normal mom who is much more interested in him learning how to spell than checking out Ford trucks.

While I am confident that he will learn to spell eventually, I know he is not so optimistic about me. I'm pretty sure he knows I am never going to be very good at identifying trucks.

Maybe painting his spelling words on the truck would help?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Age Homework

Gone are the days when homework was sitting down and reading a boring science book to learn about inertia. At least at my boys' school. But this was a first: an assignment to make a video. My 5th grade son had to learn about inertia, demonstrate how it works, and then try to articulate what he learned. A much richer learning experience than simply reading a book. And what did I have to do? Dig out the video camera, film him, transfer the video to my computer, edit it, and then (for fun) figure out how to post it on Youtube. We both learned something and it was a fun project. But we didn't have anything to eat for dinner that night because I was doing my homework!

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Sunday, November 9, 2008


The mohawk is gone. My middle son now has a nohawk.

Noticing that he has lost interest in styling it, I asked at dinner if it was time to buzz it off.

"Yeah, I think so," he said.

My husband pounced on this moment with decisive action. Within minutes the two of them were outside in the cold and dark and the mohawk was no more.

I must admit I will not miss it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Adolescence is Here

OK adolescence has probably been here for a while. But a visible sign of it has appeared.

The pimple.

And it's friend, another pimple.

All of a sudden, my one-month-away-from-twelve-years-old son looks like a teenager.

And the really unfair part is that I have a pimple too. It's not from adolescence but from 40-something hormone changes. However, I don't feel like I have to suffer through acne again in my life so I got myself to the dermatologist. There are great treatments for acne and damn it I'm not going to put up with pimples vying for space with graceful aging.

As we know, independently performed personal hygiene is not the adolescent boy's strong point. But this is the very first step in the treatment of acne. We have to try it before we go for medical intervention. So he is going to have to wash his face morning and night with cleanser. To him, this is an almost impossible imposition on his time, and a hassle too. And too taxing on his hormone-deranged memory. So this means I will be reminding him twice a day to wash his face.

Now I really feel like the nagging mother of a teenager. Ick.

The other interesting point is that my son is not at all concerned about the appearance of pimples on his nose and chin. He really doesn't care. Could this be a boy's lack of concern or obsession about his appearance? Because when I started getting pimples at his age, I FREAKED OUT. I hid in the bathroom and tried to arrange my hair to cover my face. I felt that everyone stared at the pimples. I angrily picked at them until they turned into something less like a pimple and more like a scab.

My memories of adolescence are something I don't visit very often, as it was not my favorite time in life. It was an uncomfortable rollercoaster of a time that was necessary to endure. But now there is a very obvious symbol of the changes occurring attached to my son's face. Every time I see that pimple, some memory of my adolescence surfaces and I shudder. I really hope what my friends tell me is true, that boys have an easier, less turbulent journey through these changes. I also feel a little sadness that the smooth soft skin of my little boy is gone. It has been replaced by bumps and hair, bruises, scrapes, blisters and sweat.

At least I don't have that particular look of dazed concern, sheepish confusion and heightened frustration that seems to be more common on the faces of my friends with daughters.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Why I Hate Halloween II

Once again, Halloween is not my favorite holiday.

This year's take: 31 pounds of candy.
And there is nothing cute about these costumes. And the trip to the Halloween superstore was horrible; there should restrictions on the aisles that kids can go down. I don't enjoy laughing with my eight year old over the snake charmer costume which would be perfectly fantastic for a fraternity party. Just imagine the reaction if he got his way and wore it to school. I'm pretty certain his snake is too small to be charmed, but the phone call home would be very entertaining. Uh no.