I passed! I passed the tricky "taking your tween to a movie" test. For the last two to three weeks, Elise has been telling us daily about big plans that a group of her friends had to go see Divergent this past Friday night. "Everyone" was going to be there. This was a BIG deal. (Side note: The whole event was organized through Instagram which I find fascinating.) I made the classic dorky mom move by saying, "Oh! I want to see Divergent too. Can I go if I don't sit with you and don't talk to you?" I got a "NO! NO WAY, MOM! Absolutely not." response. I said, "I'll walk in separately from you. Nobody will even know I'm there. I promise not to talk to you." Again, I got, "Mommmm. <major eye rolls> You'll EMBARRASS me!" OK. I get it. I was twelve once. I told her I wouldn't go. Then, Friday rolled around. She said, "Um, Mom... S's mom won't let her go unless an adult is there. Can you go?" What? After all the grief she gave me, she now WANTS me to go? I'm not too proud though. I didn't turn down the offer.
We arrived at the movie theater. We bought tickets, and I told her, "I'll be sitting at those tables whenever you are done." Then, she was gone. She speed walked away from me and caught up with friends at the snack counter. She never gave me a second glance. I kept my promise of not talking to her and pretending I didn't know her. I got in line for popcorn, and she went on her way. When I turned toward the theaters, there were two theaters directly across from each other showing Divergent at the same time. I looked at my ticket stub and headed into the appropriate one. I didn't see a gaggle of sixth graders in my theater, so I correctly guessed they were in the other one. I'm sure Elise was thrilled that she didn't have to worry about somebody recognizing my profile in the dark theater.
When the movie was over, I waited patiently at the tables. I waited. I waited. I waited some more. I could see groups of kids socializing out in front of the theater. I didn't dare go out there and risk being spotted though. I just hoped she remembered where I said I would be. Eventually, she came running in, and said, "Mom! Can you come out and take a picture of us?"
This is when I knew I officially passed the test. I had remained invisible enough that she was willing to out me to her friends for a photo. She trusted that I would not be a complete embarrassment, so she brought me out of hiding.
After the picture, I said, "Do you want me to just wait in the car until you are done?" A big smile crept across her face, and she said, "Yeah. That would be great!"
I can remember being twelve. I remember that moms were a necessary evil. You couldn't drive, so they had to take you everywhere, but you didn't want anyone to actually know that. Moms were to be invisible chauffeurs only.
Navigating the waters of parenting a middle schooler is new territory for us, but I think I pulled off this particular test pretty well. Although, now that I think about it, blogging about it after the fact probably counteracts any progress I had made in the "not being an embarrassing mom" department. Oh well. Maybe I'll figure out how to do this whole parenting a tween thing by the time Addie hits middle school.
This past Christmas, Nina asked for a backyard zipline. J.C. and I talked it over, scoped out a location in the backyard and decided it would work. We knew we would need to take down a few small trees in the yard, but that shouldn't have been a problem. About a month before Christmas, a tree man knocked on our door saying that he was in the neighborhood taking down a tree for a neighbor and wondered if we had any trees that needed work. Without thinking much about it, J.C. told him no and sent him on his way. A few minutes later, it dawned on us, "the zipline!" We brought the tree guy over and asked him to cut down the one tree that J.C. was a little nervous about felling himself. It was leaning toward the house a little, so J.C. thought it was best to have a professional do it. Of course, the tree guy recommended a bit more work when he pointed out some trees that were brushing up against our roof. Five hundred dollars later, we were missing two trees and a bunch of limbs. Talk about an impulse buy. Anyway, Nina wanted the zipline, and we had been convinced the other work was necessary, so good-bye five hundred dollars. She better love that zipline.
Two days later, we received this email from our neighborhood HOA.
Good afternoon! The Architectural Committee of REDACTED wanted to reach out to you and get a little more information on a tree or trees you recently had removed.Could you please provide more information on the removal, such as how many, why they were removed, do you plan to remove any more, etc., and I will forward to the Committee.I have also attached the architectural guidelines. Tree removal is referenced on page 23.
While I appreciate that the architectural committee has a job to do to keep our neighborhood looking neat and tidy, I do not appreciate the "Big Brother is watching over you" email two days after we had some work done.My front yard is landscaped, and we keep the grass trimmed. My garbage cans are adequately hidden from view of the street. When the tree in our side yard was threatening to fall on our neighbor's driveway, we removed it and replaced it with a more suitable tree for that location. My backyard is woodsy and will continue to be so. I believe that my house and yard fit in with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. The goal of the architectural committee is to maintain the overall aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood and to protect the value of our homes. The work done Monday did nothing to change that.I should not have to justify the removal of two trees on my own property. Anyone driving past my house would notice nothing different from the way it looked a week ago. If the neighbor who turned us in would like to come talk to us directly, I'm usually home in the evenings to talk with my neighbors and answer any questions they may have. I've always thought of REDACTED as a friendly neighborhood where neighbors would reach out and talk to each other when they have questions or concerns, but apparently I was wrong. The architectural committee's response to seeing a tree removal truck in front of my house is overblown and unnecessary.
After much aggravation and many emails back and forth with the architectural committee, we got approval to remove the last few trees we needed to take out to make safe passage for the zipline. It turns out any tree over 4 feet tall that you want to remove needs approval. Really? Isn't anything under 4 feet tall a shrub? I understand the HOA's policies of approving paint colors before you paint your house fluorescent pink, and I understand why they have a rule against broken down cars in your front yard. I will never understand the amount of red tape we had to go through to remove a few small trees. We had to get approval from every neighbor whose property touches ours. One poor guy had just moved in that week. "Welcome to the neighborhood! Will you sign this form saying I can cut down a couple small trees in my own backyard?"
Needless to say, had we known ahead of time the expense, aggravation, and time suck that this Christmas gift was going to be, we never would have gone for it. Now that it is here, THE KIDS BETTER ENJOY IT. Daily. With friends. Without friends. During all their free time. For years. When they are home from college over Christmas break.
Fortunately, they are loving it. If it had been one of those gifts that is played with Christmas morning and then tossed aside, we might have tossed Nina out with it. It is now almost April though, and it still sees play time every weekend and during the week too.
The entire neighborhood seems to be enjoying it, so I'm expecting to be cited with noise complaints any day now. Surely I am breaking some HOA rule by having this many kids in my backyard without pre-approval.
Want to come over and ride the zipline?
If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that this time of year, I disappear off the face of the Internet. The $*&^# cookies are here, and that is all you need to know. For lack of ANYTHING else to blog about because there is NOTHING else in my brain besides cookies, I thought I would share a few facts, thoughts, and otherwise useless bits of information about Girl Scout cookies.
So there you go. Maybe you have learned something today. Want to buy some Girl Scout cookies?
I have written previously about elementary school talent shows. I have all the respect in the world for the kids who choose to perform, but that doesn't change the fact that watching group after group lip sync to Taylor Swift gets a little monotonous. Now that Elise has moved on to middle school, I was anxious to see what sort of talent one finds at a middle school talent show. There were certainly a few squeaky, off-key performances, but overall, there was quite a lot of genuine talent. There were a couple of singers who looked ready to hop on stage at American Idol. It was fun to watch how the kids (along with their talent show acts) grow and change from elementary to middle. The hit of the night was a kid who danced to a Michael Jackson medley. He was amazing. He WAS Michael Jackson - the hair, the sparkley glove, the moon walking, the crotch grabbing, the signature dance moves. It blew me away. He was committed and nailed it.
I don't think anybody could upstage the Michael Jackson act, but Elise did a great job in her own right. She even got a bit of a standing ovation at the end. She made this mamma proud!