Tag Archive: school

Living with a Teenage Werewolf

I have never been a big fan of parenting books but then again I have been pretty lucky in the parenting role with kids who were fairly well-adjusted. 

When we have had problems, I remind myself to look at things from their side but that in the end, I have to be a parent – not a buddy or friend. However, I have mostly boys. That works for boys but for girls it is totally different.

Wait a minute, you say. Your daughter is a lovely thing that bakes and cooks and does fun stuff. She doesn’t have any issues. I would reply that this is true however, Sara is 10. She could change.

When I was asked if I was interested in reading a book about one mom’s journey towards understanding her teen daughter with mood swings and nasty attitude, I knew I had to read this. My sons are just emotional enough to make life rocky but manageable. I am wondering where my daughter will wind up.

Then I started reading My Teenage Werewolf  by Lauren Kessler. I was prepared to be bored out of my mind. Really, If you need to fall asleep there is nothing better than a parenting book. My head swirls unless the narrative is good and the information actually helpful.

Guess what, I stayed up to read this book. I avoided house work (despite having a party last friday) and lazed away part of my Saturday (without a soccer game). I enjoyed this book because the writing was superb. I loved the snarky asides, the quick lessons learned and the longer ones that took time and reflection to finally create a lightbulb moment of massive proportions.

Kessler writes about her relationship with her daughter, Lizzie and how it has plummeted down a deep ravine. It is hell to deal with because Kessler is never sure which Lizzie she is going to deal with this moment – the loving daughter or the smart-aleck-smack-down-artist.

So Kessler does what any academian would do, she shadows her daughter in various venues for the next year and a half in order to get a grasp on her daughter – what her life is in school, in sports, with friends. Kessler will shadow her in classes, in the hallway between classes and on the sports field. One memorable chapter has mother and daughter in a wrestling match.

While doing all this Kessler is reading and researching  about parental relationships and teenage brain development. She talks to therapists and her pediatrician and friends who happen to be therapists or parents of teenage daughters or both.

Kessler is also carrying around the baggage of her own relationship with her mother – what went right and what went horribly wrong so that the two women barely had a relationship until the older woman slipped away into Alzheimer’s Disease. Part of Kessler’s desire for this project is to find a way not to repeat that same pattern with her own daughter.

What Kessler gives the rest of us is a wonderful tale of how she figured it out – for the most part – and why teens act the way that they do. There are some wonderful bits as she shares the wrong moves she has done with her daughter. There are nostalgic moments as she remembers her days of teenage wrong doings. And then there are the moments when everything works.

What I like most about this book is how Kessler admits her mistakes, admits her envy of a friend’s great relationship with her own daughter, and how Kessler realizes history does not have to repeat itself.

So I have hope for the future with my daughter. I have some tactics to remember when things go bad. And when things are really bad, maybe it is best to simply take in a movie with the child.

How is your relationship with your teenage daughter?

My Teenage Werewolf  is available in paperback at the cost of $15.00 starting on August 30, 2011. This book was sent to me by Penguin Books to review. Their hope is that I would enjoy it as well. Mission accomplished. I have one copy to giveaway. Comment below with your most hair-raising tale of teenage behavior. The most needy (as determined by me) will receive my copy.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As the end of the school year gets closer, so does the thought of all of those parties and gatherings and fun times.

I know the kids are anxious for that day to get here. I believe there is a count down going on in my house for the end of school as eighth grade comes to a close.

This time period is so hard on kids (and teachers) that it reminded me of a great movie from when I was a teen.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off stars Matthew Broderick as that one cool kid who can get away with just about anything. He is the guy who is friends with everyone in high school. The one kids who has charmed various people so that he can get his way every day.

But this day, he decides to take the day off to go to Chicago for one of the first glorious days of summer. Along for the ride is his beautiful girlfriend, Mia Sara, and best bud, the morose Alan Ruck. They take Ruck’s father’s prized red convertible to make the day that much better.

It is one adventure after another with close calls and tough emotional decisions that must be made. Jennifer Gray also stars as Broderick’s sister who is always trying to bust him. Perhaps the best scene is the parade segment, maybe it is when Ferris is introducing himself or maybe it is the denouement when all is discovered and only a miracle can save Ferris.

I think it is the whole package that makes this movie magical and wonderful.

That is what makes The Breakfast Club wonderful as well. It is a movie filled with stereotypes. Each student being forced to serve a Saturday detention represents a group in high school. The nerd, the jock, the popular girl, the goth, the insolent troublemaker. Even the principal is a stereotype of a guy who wanted life to be different.

These five people do something that no one expects. They talk to each other and bond. They find what they have in common and what separates them from others. It is a movie that shakes school life down to the bare roots, exposes and replants them – changing our thinking along with these five kids.

John Hughes took his troupe featuring Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson and made real kids out of them. He created a classic that remains true about high school life through the years. Plus, there is a kick butt theme song. No movie about high school should be without one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to P.O. Box 306, St. Anne, IL 60964 or become my friend on Facebook.

Family Movie Night

I read that article in the Daily Journal about Mr. Palin leaving our school district and going to Grant Park to be their superintendent.

Honestly, I almost broke down crying when I saw it. I feel as if Mr. Palin has done so well by our kids and it will be a shame to see him go.

On the other hand, I understand his reasoning for moving on to Grant Park and being there as his own kids go through their school life. I really do as I have tried to have jobs that allowed me to be home more than away.

Which is not to say that I want to be understanding.  Or losing Mr. Palin is, in no way shape or form, easy. It is there and we have to deal. That’s life sometimes. That is what happens in schools. Changes happen and we as parents have to deal with those changes.

Waiting For Superman movie poster; Picture from IMDb.com.

I was thinking about this issue this week because Waiting For Superman is coming out on DVD.

This documentary was directed by David Guggenheim who also directed An Inconvenient Truth. What this movie does is to explore what is working and not working in American school systems.

There have been many criticisms about this movie – such as that Guggenheim is going after bad teachers and the unions that protect them. That Guggenheim does not address the class size issue or parental involvement. It is noted that in this movie, parents are requesting conferences which does not happen in real life.

On the other hand, it is necessary to have this discussion. We are told in study after study that American school children are falling behind other developed countries. No Child Left Behind was supposed to help but I am not sure if it ever did. Did any school ever get taken over by the feds after years on the watch list? What have we done for the last few years beyond teach our kids to have the knowledge to take tests? Was there a worth beyond those tests.

Perhaps what I expect when I will see this movie is to have some questions, to wonder and think. I hope to see where some solutions may come in, to make things better. Not all teachers are phoning it in; not all parents care about their kid’s school work. But that doesn’t mean we give up. It means we find a way to teach our kids better. So let’s open the floor for discussion.

I am starting by watching this documentary and see where it takes me. 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and leave a favorite pick below. You never know, I might use it in the future.

Are you the bully or the bullied?

I know this topic has been big in the news lately. A father got on a bus to confront his child’s bully. A college kid committed suicide after being outed in the internet. Then a few more of these were reported.

I started seeing postings on this topic everywhere. I saw an excellent essay on this topic at They Call Me Jane. I watched the Ellen clip, read the Newsweek article about Phoebe Prince.

Book Cover from Barnes and Noble.com

Book Cover from Barnes and Noble.com

But before any of those events I had been reading 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It was a book chosen by my book group set in New Hampshire before, during and after a school shooting. The culprit is a 17-year-old boy who has been bullied since the moment he stepped on the school bus for kindergarten.

The situation doesn’t end, ever. Not when his parents try to bolster him, not when he develops one friend and another deserts him. He is the object the ‘cool’ kids choose to grind down into nothingness. Until one day he strikes back in the most terrifying way possible.

Our point of view comes from his mother, his former best friend, her mother and him. Occasionally, we hear from his brother,  father and a detective on the case as well as the lawyer for the boy.  For me, the most heartbreaking was that of his mother. She saw the problems but never did enough. It wasn’t until the event was over that she began to understand how bad it was and that even their own home was not welcoming to him.

I cried for a week after reading this book. I wondered if my kids went through or go through this stuff now. Why do I send them to school? Would I sit back and ‘let’ it happen to this degree?

You would think that once kids get to college that life would get better. But we have seen news stories that tell the truth. People still need to be bullies no matter how old they are. Worse yet, it can go viral with no place to hide.

What really bothered me most was the story in Newsweek that seemed to give the opinion that it is wrong to punish the bullies, especially in cases where the victim commits suicide. After all, the kids we are punishing are ‘good kids.’ They are smart, privileged and going to college. These will be future leaders.

I used to work for an adult bully; I worked for several. And I am willing to bet all of these people acted the same in high school and college. They were happy to pick on anyone who was different from them, be it talent or emotional sensitivity or sexual orientation.

I do not want these type of people to be leaders. Didn’t we see enough of this behavior during the Karl Rove era? This is a man who crafted political campaigns that called opponents who were military veterans, including a Vietnam prison camp prison survivor, unpatriotic and won those contests. This is a man who secretly outed a CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak because her husband dared speak out against President Bush and his policies.

Bullies do not stop being bullies just because they grow up and pretend to mature. They just use their tactics on the playing field to which they propel themselves. In some ways, high school never ends. Never!

So while I wring my hands and wonder what I would do, I applaud those parents who do something. I applaud that dad who got on the bus and had his special needs child identify her bullies. He lectured and yelled. He let those kids know that their behavior is stupid and hurtful and NOT OK.

I applaud a mother who posted on the Newsweek article about how she took it to the principal, then the superintendent and then the school board when her daughter was bullied and it would not stop. She kept a log and noted every phone call and every bullying incident. Finally, she sued the school district to get the bullying to stop. Her daughter called her a warrior mom.

The sad part about all of this is that after Columbine, we all vowed to stop bully behavior. Rules and laws were put in to place. Life was going to be better, we were going to find a Nirvana where peaceful co-existence would be the law of the land.

I am still waiting for that to happen. And if I want that to happen, I guess in my corner of the world, I have to make it happen.

TV Comfort with Glee

Family Movie Night

This past week was open house night at schools across the country. My friends on Facebook have all talked about meeting teachers and seeing classrooms.

Picture by K. Conners

I love this part of open house night. I like peeking into the rooms where my kids spend most of their day, seeing the special areas for reading. The science room had the new smart board which can print off what the teacher writes up on the board. Very cool.

Learning and finding out new factoids is one of my joys in life and I am glad that my kids get excited about doing that everyday. It is something that I wish more adults felt excited about as well. There is always something cool happening in the world and maybe knowing that little thing doesn’t change your whole world. But it can expand your thinking and how you do things on a daily basis.

That is what teachers do for our kids everyday.

I could talk about Mr. Holland’s Opus or Three Cheers for Miss Bishop or Goodbye, Mr. Chips or Music of The Heart as movies that honor and applaud teachers. I might have forgotten other good movies about teachers who strongly touch kids and make them better.

However, on September 14th the complete first season of Glee comes out on DVD and Blue Ray. Man oh man there is going to be a Glee marathon at my house. Every episode has a show stopping number that takes your breathe away while running chills up and down the spine.

When it comes to television that is like comfort foods, this is it for me this year. One of my favorite talk show hosts talked about how a Leave It to Beaver marathon on Nickelodeon got him through 9/11 in 2001. For me, it doesn’t get any better that seeing Sue Sylvester work her magic of evil and win or get burned. Jane Lynch deserves every accolade in the book for her performance.

But there is more than that to my love of Glee. I will admit to getting into the baby drama created by Finn, Puck and Quinn. I am glad that the focus is not always on Rachel and Mercedes knows how to push back. I am watching Kurt and hope that life doesn’t turn him into an evil manipulator. The love between Will and Emma is developing, showing the kids that life is messy no matter how old you are.

I am enjoying seeing Mike O’Malley and Charlotte Ross as parents who are making mistakes and trying to fix them. The guest stars have been great. Neil Patrick Harris, Molly Shannon, Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth were FAb-u-lous.

At this point I have two favorite perfomance pieces. Amber Riley was awesome when she performed “You’re Going to Love Me.” But the group performance that rocks beyond anything is “Bad Romance.” I can watch it over and over and over again.

Now the big sticking point in our house is just how appropriate is this show for kids under the age of 12 or 13. At first I let my 9-year-old watch it. But now, I am beginning to think that there is just enough adult drama and sexuality to ban it from that younger age group. Let me know what you think on the subject.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a suggestion below. Become my friend on Facebook.

She has 325,000 miles. Perhaps it is time to say goodbye.

It has been a rough few weeks in our house. There have been a lot of changes. Our big blue minivan has finally died. Our 18-year-old no longer lives at home. The youngest child does not want me to walk with him to kindergarten. Adding insult to injury, my favorite radio station has moved my favorite talk host around. And it only leads to ostrich-like behavior on my part.

I have felt so sad and blue and unable to do the simple things I must do. Putting out the blog, going to work and doing the regular writing jobs help me focus and keep busy. Can’t go crazy when you are trying to write 500 words of perfection on a daily basis.

I have been you-tubing singers and bands I like. I was listening to REM, each song feeling more personal than the last. And then I remembered that

Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog statues, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA; Photographed by Charles M. Wrenn III.

they did Shiny Happy People with the Muppets. I had to hunt that down and was rewarded with a big smile. That’s when I noticed a bunch of other Sesame Street videos on the queue. How can you be sad when monsters and kids are dancing?

Well, there are plenty of reasons for me to be sad lately. We made our 18 year-old son move to his father’s house at the end of July. It is a decision that makes me wonder about my parenting abilities and the mistakes I have made. On the other hand, I know I have made the right decision, especially when it came down to the rest of our kids being able to live in a calm house. The difference is dramatic.

For right now I feel awful. I keep hoping I did the right thing and that the lessons he will learn in the next few years will propel him to a better place. In truth, I am not sure and have days, hours, minutes in which I believe I have made a huge mistake. Yet my friend, Lois, assures me that sometimes you have to be tough and follow through on that decision. Then the trick is making them live with your boundaries once they come back, she says.

Harry Ron And Hermione in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Picture from IMDB.com

To not think about all of this stuff I have been back on my Harry Potter reading task. After the 18 y.o. left I began to clean his room he shared with the other boys. I threw out at least two bags of garbage that included packaging for socks and underwear.  I found the fourth book so I’ve read that and book five. I cried when Sirius died and everything changed. I felt happy for Harry when Moody and Lupin came to tell off the Dursleys.  Now I am working on the sixth book, realizing once again how Harry can get obsessed and stubborn.

As I work up to the seventh book, I wonder what I will do when that is over. My friend, Heather, returned Jane Bites Back to me and I have already read it through. Heather also returned my old fashioned 35 mm camera so I might take the canisters of film we found in the refrigerator and have a little fun.

Picture by Ladyheart

Maybe it will take my mind off of the fact my 5-year-old has asserted his independence by telling me in no uncertain terms that I am not to walk him to school. No way, no how. Today as they walked to school, I took the time to take spent bloom heads off of my petunia basket, which looks to having a ton of blooms in the next week or so. I watched as far as the trees would allow and had to hope no bullies would dare mess with my littlest guy.

Then again, they do not know about his right hook.

Morning Flowers in the Late Summer

The kids started school this week, the youngest going for full day kindergarten.  

I thought about crying a little. I got a little teary. I did my best on the second day to not hold his hand all the way into the gymnasium where they line up. When he seemed a little lost I did my best not to go in and direct him. I let him figure it out and go from there.  

Well, you have to, it says so in the parenting manual no one gives you. Sooner or later they grow up and leave. More on that come Friday.  

So I went home and took a few pictures to distract myself. Really, morning was the only time I was going to get two of these plants at their best anyway.  

You can see variations of yellow and pink Four O'Clocks mixed together.


This first picture comes from my Four O’Clock patch. Four O’Clocks were given that name because they show their blooms when the sun goes down. They do not like full sun and generally prefer late afternoon light.  

They would do the same at my house IF the area where I have them planted didn’t go into full sun late in the afternoon. By 4:00 in the afternoon these babies have shut tight. My colors started off being yellow and pink. Thanks to cross-pollination, I am now getting a yellow that is streaked with pink.  

Morning Glories Up Close


Next is a definite morning time only flower. Some might define the Morning Glory as a weed. It can grow anywhere. And it will. I haven’t found a spot in my garden where it will not grow.  But I have planted this annual vine on the east side of the porch. It twirls and winds pretty darn quickly but usually waits till the end of summer to really start blooming.  

The plant started coming in on its own at the beginning of summer. But in the last month is when it started climbing higher and higher.  

Morning Glories taking over


I have a large wooden stick placed on the right hand side to give the vines another place to crawl up. The flowers on my vines tend to be deep blue and pink. I am happy to give out seeds. After that you will never, ever, need to plant this one again.  

Finally, the last plant in bloom is the Obedience Plant. This stalky plant is great for attracting butterflies. Their trumpet shape is great feeding for the flutterbies. They can also take a rest on the stalk if needed.In the past I had white, light purple and a pink hybrid.  

Obedience Plant


The majority of my white Obedience Plant patch got lost in the sunflowers this year. The heat took out the purple ones. I am hoping enough seeds are left in the ground to bring back more of the purple next year. The white ones have enough seeds coming to be able to re-seed that color.  

By the way, I know that is a Bachelor Button in the background and I know it is considered a weed in the Midwest.  I love and so it stays in the garden. A weed is really only a flower looking for a home. Sometimes they find it and sometimes they are removed.   

It is all a matter of perspective, I guess.

 One of the most popular books in the last few years for middle school children has been “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney.

 I am sure it is because some parents feel this will help their awkward child deal with some of the day-to-day struggles of middle school. Or

Robert Capron, Zachary Gordon and Chloe Moretz from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, picture from IMDb.com

maybe it gives people a chance to truly laugh at the antics of a kid trying not to be the butt of jokes. Whatever the reasons, the sales warranted the need for a movie to be made based on the series of books.

 The movie came out last spring and now the DVD arrives this week. For those who loved this movie be aware that the second movie – Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Roderick Rules – comes out in 2011.

There are other movies in this same type of story. One of my personal favorites is Harriet The Spy starring Michelle Trachtenberg. Here we have a pre-teen girl who is on the verge of discovery.

Picture from IMDb.com

Harriet spies around the neighborhood to make great discoveries and write about them. However, her long time nanny leaves and suddenly her world is turned upside down.

Life gets even worse when her biggest enemy steals her diary and reads it out loud. Now she has to figure out how to regain her friendships and make life feel normal again.

This movie stands out in my mind for the bright colors, lively music and how it always talks to its audience. We are with Harriet every wonderful messy step of the way. Keep an eye out for Eartha Kitt who makes a delightful cameo appearance.

Billy gets ready to eat another worm in 'How to Eat Fried Worms,' picture from IMDb.com

Now if this movie seems a bit too … girly, you can try How to Eat Fried Worms. Luke Benward stars as the new kid in town who is picked on by the bully almost immediately. However, he is also befriended by the weird girl (Hallie Kate Eisenberg)) in the class. This becomes an important friendship.

Things turn for the worse when the bully dares the new boy to eat worms in any way that his gang can think of to fix them. But wait, there is more. New boy cannot throw up at all when he eats these gourmet offerings. The fly in the ointment is that new boy has a very queasy stomach and can throw up at the thought of bad stuff.

This may not be the greatest movie in the world but it is fun and seems to get that boys can be terrible to each other.

Any of these movies can make great viewing as we all get ready to go back to school and back into those social settings.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and leave a comment below or become my friend on Facebook.