We were at T.Puzzle’s thirteen year wellness check. He was sailing through, crushing milestones and checking all the boxes landing him in healthy ranges for almost everything (screen time average was the only number in question).
The nurse turned to me and said, “Any concerns?”
“No. Unless you have a magic formula for getting a thirteen year old boy to articulate his thoughts,” I said.
The nurse could empathize. She experienced a similar phenomenon with her now seventeen year old son. Every question she asked him was met with an, “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
How is it possible that once boys reach the age of thirteen they don’t know anything? Where does all their knowledge go? How do they make it through the day not knowing anything?
As we waited in the exam room for the doctor to appear, I decided to investigate this communication/knowledge block.
“So, T.Puzzle. Do you talk to your friends at school?” I said.
“What do you talk about?” I said.
Wow. I could sense I was really getting somewhere. I continued my sure-be-successful line of questioning:
“What else do you talk about?”
“Sometimes, we talk about things.”
Oh, the stuff and sometimes the things. It all makes sense to me now.
“Why are you able to talk to them but not me?”
“Because they don’t ask me questions,” he said.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. Oh no! It’s happening.
Like me, you may have mixed emotions about being called up for jury duty. It may not be the happiest way to spend your day, but you can’t deny it is a privilege to be part of the justice system. Yet, as I was packed in a room with a thousand other people who seemed to not really want to be there, I started to pay extra close attention to the information video describing exemptions from service.
Are you under 18 years of age?
Shoot. Definitely not me. In fact, my boys are laughing so hard after reading that, it’s best to move on.
Are you not a citizen of the United States?
Born and raised. Next, please.
Do you live outside of county lines?
Darn it. Smack dab in the middle.
Do you have kids 12 and under that require your supervision?
Please don’t bring attention to the fact that I AM A MOM OF TEENAGERS. Onward.
Do you have a family member whose care is dependent on you and this care would suffer if you had to serve as a jury member?
Does six rounds of daily eye meds and a desperate need to be near me at all hours of the day count?
They technically never stated the family member had to be human…
In case you were wondering, I was dismissed from duty by 11am. Next time, I’ll be ready though, just in case.
I love that teenage boys think parents have no idea on how to beat the system.
T.Puzzle was in a world of hurt. He did not like what was served for dinner (trust us, no one in our house found this shocking) and he tried to slyly dump its remainders from his bowl. Mad Dog called him out but Lil’ T.P. took it even further. He lied about it. Said he had finished everything.
He was almost sent straight to bed. Instead, Mad Dog determined the best course of action was to let him stay up but he would allow T.Puzzle zero snacks. While zero snacks does not seem that extreme, to a growing boy who barely touched his dinner, this felt rather catastrophic (which is kind of the point if we are being honest).
The boys went back to their game room. It is set in the furthest reach of our home, tucked away but still a few steps from the kitchen.
Always the kitchen with these guys! In and out, snacks upon snacks. I sometimes marvel they both haven’t turned into potato chips by the sheer volume of snack foods they consume.
So, when Full Speed comes meandering into the kitchen, he decides for the first time in ages he is going to have Oatmeal Squares. While this seems like a normal, teenagery snack, and it is, it also happens to be one of T.Puzzle’s regular favorites.
“You’re planning to give your brother some aren’t you?” said Mad Dog.
“Maybe.” said Full Speed.
Boy, you can’t beat the system when your Mom and Dad invented the system.
I dedicate this post to all the siblings out there fighting parental oppression. It is real and causes so many problems like learning, growing and developing into normal, human adults.
2019 will forever be known as the year Mad Dog and I became the parents of teenagers!
How did we go from this:
Somehow our boys became young men in less than a year’s time! No one tells you that when you become a parent. That in an instant your children vanish and are replaced by grown-up versions of themselves. Naively, I thought it would be more gradual. How do I feel about this? If I am to take a cue from T.Puzzle and his extreme articulation abilities which are common to thirteen year old boys around the world I’d say this:
“I don’t care.” (my personal favorite)
In general, despite some family growing pains due to the realm of the teenager, both boys are successfully finding their way in the world. Academic success is part of that, and even this isn’t always smooth (A Humble Hero’s Journey), but it’s the intangibles that make them so awesome. Like Mad Dog, our boys get better with age.
2019 was the year of dreams realized. First and foremost, Mad Dog and I ventured to Africa (My Heart Belongs to Africa). The magic of the African bushveld and all our adventures there have pushed me to keep writing. I never know where it might lead, but I am learning to love the process and am grateful for any chance I am afforded to be published.
Full Speed continues his basketball coaching journey by managing his high school’s freshman teams. He takes great pride in this role making sure to dress the part on game days. The freshman coach has expressed his appreciation for Full Speed’s strategical support and his positive leadership contributions. Something tells me this is only the beginning in what could be a life-long commitment to coaching for Full Speed. He truly is in his element out on that court and we could not be more proud of him.
If coaching is Full Speed’s element, giving is mine. Thankfully, I married someone who supports this life vision. Mad Dog and I were able to start our DeVaul Family Great Day Foundation this year. Each month we are able to give to the causes we care about. I am excited to see how it grows and where it goes.
And while some dreams were realized, 2019 was not without challenges. Mad Dog and I continue to navigate the strain of ‘third-party’ influences on our marriage. This has shown up in the fluffiest of forms:
The only way I make peace with Nora ‘stealing’ my man’s attention, is that she allows me to dress her up like a Disney Princess:
As I do my best to navigate ‘sharing’ Mad Dog, I am reminded that I, too, apparently have some boundary issues when it comes to Max. When he came into our house over six years ago at the age of ten, I never thought he would live to see so many holiday seasons with us. He is a reminder of all that is good in the world. He may be cranky on occasion but he is a living, breathing form of what unconditional love looks like.
Even though we are blessed with the most incredible boys and perfect dogs, we are happy to announce a new addition to our family!
Please welcome Roho the baby elephant! (yeah, I kind of freaked out my sister, too. All she heard was ‘baby’ and thought I had lost my mind)
We are fostering Roho for the next several years in the hopes he will learn the needed skills to successfully return to the wild after losing his mom to poachers. I will be getting my first pictures and official updates of his progress as Christmas arrives. He, by far, is my most well-behaved child.
Welcome to the family, Roho!
While we are so grateful to all the wonder 2019 supplied us, we are even more excited for what the future will bring. Yes, some of it may be unexpected and yes, it may not always look the way we imagined, but we have to be willing to let go of the life we wanted to live the life we are given. In my experience, the life we are given always far exceeds anything we believe we could want.
Happy Holidays to All.
Thank you for reading and may 2020 bring all your dreams alive!
Having survived a four-month long master bathroom renovation at the beginning of 2019, I was dragging my feet when it came time to dismantle our kitchen. While it looked nice enough, it struggled to keep up with our family. The appliances appeared to enjoy malfunctioning, the cabinets and drawers were worn and uneven and the overall look did not reflect our style. Yet, it was hard to give the green-light because I knew ‘4 weeks’ in contractor-speak really meant ‘4-ever’. I attempted at first, to add to my renovation denial thinking we could reface the cabinets we already had.
Mad Dog had other ideas.
He wanted a full tear-out. I agreed that a tear-out was certain but it would only consist of all my hair.
He kept pushing.
He researched and found a highly-lauded cabinet designer. Within a few short weeks the date of doom was set. Goodbye old kitchen and hello weeks of construction chaos.
Within that first week our ‘4-week’ project quickly went off the rails. Underneath our sink, pipes had been leaking causing rotted wood. The pony wall connecting to this area was rotted out as well and the surrounding flooring needed to be tore-up, reinforced and replaced.
It was an ugly time for all.
As the weeks dragged on and the hiccups continued, I started to see this process as a life metaphor. If we hadn’t taken the time to deconstruct the entirety of the kitchen, we never would have known the rotted wood existed. Sometimes in life we have to go deep beyond the surface to clear away what no longer serves us. This is harder than a simple resurface, but it opens us up to living more aligned with our truth and our values.
As the finish line drew near, I had another paradigm-shifting insight thanks to our kitchen counters. My design choice is unique to say the least. In a world of white subway tile and trending white countertops, my bold, sea-glass themed recycled glass-tops are unexpected to put it mildly. It took courage and a ton of encouragement from Mad Dog, but I went with what my heart wanted.
At the end of the day I know it will not be loved by all, but it most likely will inspire a reaction. Isn’t that kind of the point of innovative design? To make you feel something? And isn’t it kind of the point to follow your heart even if what you love defies the norms of larger society.
But for me, the ultimate kicker is that Mad Dog championed my choice a thousand percent from start to finish. He could care less what anyone else thinks because all that matters to him is what I think.
Every time I sit at my turquoise-speckled counter enjoying a cup of my favorite tea, I not only immerse myself in ocean-minded daydreams, I am reminded how loved I am.
These are the most beautiful countertops in the whole world.