Thirteen!

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Bug turns thirteen tomorrow and she won’t let me take her picture. She’s just as obstinate at thirteen as she was when she was three days old. Remember that story about the lactation nurse telling me I have a stubborn child? Remember how I couldn’t believe the nurse could judge the character of a baby when she was only three days old? Turns out that nurse was right and I have a feeling it’s not going to get any better from here on out.

I can take her picture tomorrow, she says, when she’s all dressed up in her birthday outfit that we don’t know what is yet. It will probably be leggings, an over-sized sweatshirt and her Hunter rain boots. That’s been her uniform as of late. She promises that we can do a photoshoot tomorrow and I can blog the whole thing. I’m excited about that but not getting my hopes up. In the meantime, I thought I’d just jot some things down about this age so that I can look back and remember it.

Bug is going through an adorable awkward stage. Sometimes it’s hard for me to see her struggle with acne and ever-changing pant sizes but I know it’s all part of life and she will be stronger for going through it. She’s kind of lead a charmed life in the looks department up until now so I think this recent difficult time will give her depth and strengthen her character, which really is all a mother wants for her child. I want her to be beautiful inside and out and sometimes being too pretty on the outside can make for really ugly and selfish on the inside.

Of course I am the one who sees the worst in Bug because she can really let it all out and be herself around me. I am thankful for that. I am glad she has me for that. But when I make fun of her moods and her extremes, I’m sure there will be someone on the fringes of her life who will look aghast and say, What? How could you say such a thing about sweet innocent Bug?! Believe me, she can be a pill and a half. But she can also be really really sweet.

We’ve been struggling with eating these days. Poor Bug is bombarded by of conflicting ideas when it comes to health and wellness. Between me attempting to be vegan (unsuccessfully), Payam trying to eat a low-carb diet for diabetics and Joon who lives on cheese pizza and pasta with ketchup, it has been mayhem trying to get Bug to eat properly. She is filled with mixed messages and suffering.  It doesn’t help that she has a science teacher that has been feeding her class information constantly about health and nutrition like she’s trying to right the American diet one seventh grader at a time. Smaller portions! No gluten! Don’t combine carbs with protein! And then there’s Toby’s girlfriend who takes her to holistic doctors and has her opinions too: Eat your blood type! No avocados! Eat red meat! Poor Bug is so overwhelmed by diet choices that sometimes she just doesn’t eat at all. And then after a day of starving and getting the shakes in math class she will drink a giant decaf venti latte, eat a full-fat, two-portion-size Starbucks brownie AND a bag of chips. Her poor body is freaking out.

I had to call her dad up and get to the bottom of this. We are going to create an eating disorder if we don’t calm this mess down. But these are the things that happen when your kid switches households every other week, watches her idols on youtube obsess over diets and disorders and is influenced by everyone. I think we are all suffering from this. I’m glad that we are getting healthier as a whole but in the meantime it’s really hard to figure out what is best. Starving yourself because you are crippled with indecision (and pickiness) is worse than just eating like a regular kid. So that’s thirteen.

I’m sure she will get through it. She loves food too much to stick to anything too drastic for too long. I just hope she sorts it out sooner than later.

You know what else is thirteen? Grossness.  Have I talked about Bug’s talon-like nails yet? It’s an on-going battle between us. I rue the day I decided to let her have gel nails. They are the gateway drug to dragon-lady disgustingness. I hate long nails, as anyone who knows me will attest. I have the shortest nails ever. I can’t stand a millimeter of fingernail pushing past my fingers because I was cursed with paper-thin nails that bend backwards which is bone-chillingly awful. So short is the only way to go for me. And because I have been so pro-short for so long, I have developed a phobia of long nails. To me, long nails are gross. They are bacteria scrapers. I cannot stand to look at the backside of a long nail. It’s that awful dirty color and looks like a claw…Shudder…

So you can see where this is going. Bug has the longest nails ever and loves to tap them on things while whispering “A.S.M.R” sensually. This gets on my nerves like well, fingernails on a chalk board. And it’s not like Bug is the cleanest person on the planet since she also subscribes to the once-a-week shower schedule that smelly teens seem to be so fond of. You get my drift. I don’t usually like to embarrass her on the internet but this has been an ongoing argument between us for months so I’m hoping there will be some family members out there reading this that might get on my side of the argument.

Thirteen dudes! It’s good times!

But thirteen is also long conversations in the car about everything under the sun. I remember talking to my dad about deep topics on the way to middle school and here I am doing the same thing with my middle-schooler and she’s even deeper than I ever was. She loves to visit my parents. She loves cats and puppies. We bond over just about every cute thing the dogs do. She sends me Pinterest pins of cute outfits and funny t-shirt sayings she knows I’ll like. She saves memes for me and includes me in stories to her friends on instagram. I know you are not supposed to be “friends” with your kid but I really feel like we are anyway. She’s everything I ever wanted in a daughter and then some. I know everyone says that. But it really is true and I hope we keep bonding over cats and puppies and coffee and cute outfits…and maybe someday short nails. Heh.

I wonder what fourteen will be like.

We are very excited about her birthday party this weekend. (If it ever stops raining!!) We’ve planned a succulent-themed party and plan to serve hamburgers with guacamole (her favorite) outside on a table decorated with succulents. We’re also bringing back the green food bar (from her Great Big Green Puppet Show Birthday). We’ll paint planters and have a succulent planting craft and then eat cupcakes for dessert that look like succulents planted in terra cotta pots. It’s no where near the crazy over-the-toppedness of all her other parties but it’s nice because she is really doing all the work herself. She made her own invitations. She shopped for decorations and has dictated pretty much everything down to the “no gifts please” policy. I’m sure I will be reporting on this later.

So happy birthday, Bug, you complicated beautiful stubborn half grown-up!

We’ll see you tomorrow for a full photoshoot. You promised!

 

Finding My Aesthetic

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I’ve been singing the phrase “finding my aesthetic” to the tune of REM’s Losing My Religion for days. It’s silly. It’s just a funny thing that resonated with me. Let me explain.

A while back I was snooping through Bug’s secret “spam” instagram account (that I have reluctantly let her have like the overly-indulgent parent that I am) where she communicates with her friends and I came across one of her buddy’s accounts. It was a series of nine photos from a rainy day. Each photo was gray and minimalistic but completely beautiful and artfully taken. A vase of dead flowers on a windowsill. Raindrops on a windowpane with soft pastel foliage in the background, a cup of tea steaming… it was moody and amazing.  I couldn’t believe a twelve year-old captured them. And then on top of that the captions were even better.They were riddled with cuss words that I don’t want my kids saying at all but I had to admire their succinctness and the hilarious juxtaposition to the zen-like photos they accompanied. It was cute and brilliant.

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Of course I had to have a talk with Bug about her friend and how much they cuss. Done and done.

But I had to admit I admired her friend’s aesthetic. That’s a thing these days: aesthetics. They talk about their “aesthetic” all the time like it’s their personal brand and style guide. These kids use their instagram accounts like I used to sell graphic design to corporations. They have distinct styles and rules and they stick to them like they were launching a company. It’s kind of amazing.

The kids use their instagram accounts completely differently than I do. I take a ton of pictures and document my life. They use it as a personal portfolio to hold their place on the internet and share their brand with their friends or maybe even sponsors if they blow up and become influencers someday. They curate nine photos with a color scheme and mood and then delete those photos and replace them with new when they are ready to move on to the next theme. Instagram is more of a visual place holder to advertise who they are and then everything else is done through stories and instant messages. It’s funny and weird but probably pretty smart since the real meat of what they are doing on the internet is hard for a parent like me to track and control because it automatically disappears after 12 hours or so. Kids man. Always outsmarting their parents.

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Anyway. I think there is a positive to every negative. I know there are a zillion things wrong with letting your kids have social media and I am fighting a war with mine. Believe me, I am in it and involved and fighting my head off.  If I could go back in time and take back my decision to give them phones I would. Phones are ruining our brains.

But on the other hand I am pretty impressed with their skills both creativity and socially. They adapt so quickly.  They create amazing things!  Will this someday help them in a world that is getting more and more virtual? I have no idea. What I do know is that I am impressed. More and more I am letting go of control and often I’m pleasantly surprised with their actions. They do remember the values I’ve tried to instill in them. They do use the internet with respect and draw boundaries where they should. Who knew! Kids aren’t always trying to be bad!! Not that I’m going to make great claims but I don’t want to judge too early either.

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Anyway I’ve been singing “Finding my Aesthetic” and thinking about curating my nine photos. Of course I’m not going to do that fully because I don’t really care that much AND I like to take a million photos AND NOT delete them but it is fun to play around with. Since my background is in graphic design and art it’s something I’ve always done on some level anyway. It’s just been fun to talk about out loud with my kids and they don’t even laugh at me.

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Bug has been wearing this gold sweatshirt for days (too many and not showering—ew!) and borrowing my old red knitted hat. Then I got a new gold knitted hat myself and I’ve been wearing this really old but warm red flannel quilted jacket. We visited my parents and went on a hike with my dad in the early morning hours and Bug and I joked about how our new *aesthetic* was gold and red. And it is! I love gold and red right now. Add in a little early morning blue sky and the graphic designer in me is jumping up and down for joy.

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Pretty, right?

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And of course you have your minor notes of blue and gray chiming in. I love this old owl lantern that my mom has had forever. I remember playing with it when I was a kid so it made me super happy to see it in their new home in the desert. Have I mentioned how much I love their new place? Yes, I have. It’s very much *my aesthetic* as the kids say. (insert eye-rolling here)

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Bug and I had a great time hiking and taking pictures. I love that I have an artistic child who gets me. Sometimes I miss the crazy eccentric artistic-ness of my ex (that was something I really admired about him) but guess, what? It showed up in my kid! So that is really nice. And she doesn’t smoke or get grumpy when I chew too loudly so win, win!

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My dad took us to see the maze stone that is nearby his house. It’s a landmark protected by the state. It’s this really cool maze carved into rock by the Native Americans who used to live there. Sadly, because people are idiots and like to spray paint rocks it has to be protected with a bunch of ugly fences.

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But it was definitely worth the hike in the early morning air. I love that there are still places to explore.

I’ve explored my own neighborhood to exhaustion and I’m starting to get bored of it. Lately, I haven’t been able to take the dogs on walks on the nature trail by my house because Whiskey is allergic to something on the path (Wheatens are allergic to everything). He keeps licking his paws until they are infected and it’s become a very expensive problem. So we’ve had to stay inside and it’s the pits. When he gets better we’ll be able to walk again but we might have to stay away from the nature trail. And invest in some fragrance-free baby wipes to clean his feet after every walk. Note to self: never get a Wheaten again. They are so so so loveable but high high high maintenance!

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But back to my kid. That’s her hat now. She’s stealing more and more of my clothes lately which I take as a compliment.  She looks pretty good in gold and red. I guess she can stay in my nine curated photos. Just kidding! I’m not kicking anybody out of my instagram feed if they don’t match.

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But I’ll definitely take more photos of you if you do!

(skips away humming REM)