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sunny with a chance of robins…and teenagers

2019 April 17
by Rachel Turiel

*not sure why photos aren’t showing up; it’s kind of distracting. Try back later? But I love that you’re here, and love every comment you leave (hint hint). xo

First, the robins came, descending on our crabapple trees like an efficient crew dispatched to pluck every last dangling, winter-shriveled, red orb. Next came the cedar waxwings with their black, comic book hero eye masks and inexplicable yellow-dipped tails, so lovely and uncommon that I wondered how to make up the guest bed of our yard and entice them to stay awhile. By the time the evening grosbeaks showed up, I thought the tree was picked clean, and yet, like the clown car of the vegetative world, the crabapple trees renewed themselves daily. There’s something wondrous about the orchestration of it all; the elegance and simplicity of resources flowing towards needs.


Snowy robin.

In other news, there are apparently teenaged people in the house. Col’s voice just dropped a few octaves, and both kids come home from school requiring an afternoon snack that lasts right into dinner. I find myself saying antiquated things like, “save your appetite for dinner,” while Col growls like a wolf at the kill of his cereal bowl, urging me to back off. And secretly I love all this feeding of children; how I can hand them a plate of cheese and apple slices like a tangible manifestation of my love. Whew.

Where does she keep finding these longer sets of legs to snap on?

Last week Col’s buddy Cedar was here, both of them gulping cereal before soccer practice. I was milling around, always interested to eavesdrop get a sense of who Col is with his adolescent friends, listening in on what’s important in their lives.

Col: I hate it when I pour too much milk in my cereal bowl.

Cedar: Yeah. You want just enough milk so that your cereal floats.

Pause for chewing.

Col: I’m really happy with how my Hero’s Journey comic is coming out for Humanities.

Cedar: You should see mine, it’s so cool. Super Homer Simpson Duck.

Col: I’ve seen it. It doesn’t look like Homer Simpson. Or a Duck.

Pause for unrelated beatboxing.

Col: My comic has ten panels leading up to the Call to Action.

Cedar: That’s so dumb.

Col: Why?

Cedar: Because you should have less, like me.

While they are loading granola into their mouths you can almost smell strange hormonal processes happening. Their bodies must constantly tingle with growth; bones and tendons knitting into larger versions of themselves like little factories operating around the clock. Frontal lobes are scribbling out pathways titled “what’s cool now” and “that’s so dumb” while perhaps other trajectories like “discernment” or “caring over-much” get pruned.

Sometimes we’re all gathered at dinner, chatting and eating, and Col lets out a string of beatboxes, almost as if he’s re-organizing his brain, or issuing a neural placeholder as he moves from “gory comics I wanna draw” into “conversation with parents.” Then he tells us, “I just love our house.” When we press him on details, he looks around and says, “Just, you know, where the bathroom is placed. It’s just perfect.”

Is he meditating? Pausing for a mini growth spurt? Re-routing neural pathways into “family appropriate humor?”

We took a trip to the Sonoran Desert over spring break. These are Rosie’s photos:

And yet, connection is just as important to the tween/teen set as when they were little. This morning Rose e-mailed me from school saying, simply: “I want you to e-mail me.” Fair enough. And when I’m not parenting via food, I like to give Col long back rubs on the couch while we chat about potential summer jobs for him (the other option is to install retractable spikes on the couch). Here, he can unload bits of his mind with me. He tells me he appreciates the friends he can have actual conversations with. “It’s a sort of maturity thing,” he explains (and then the next morning, 35F, takes off for school on his bike without a jacket).

Rose is two feet away, making another batch of slime while sharing her current grievances. And it’s so strangely Pavlovian, how I’m primed to want to respond with my great, logical advice when she’s hunkered down in her amygdala. I can help! says the well-intentioned heroine, Supermom. Yet, if Rose is swamped with jealousy, anxiety, sadness, all my wisdom will land as tangibly and helpfully as if I just responded in French. i.e. this never equates to a good teaching moment. All I can do is meet her where she’s at, surrounding her emotions with love and care while checking to see if she’s ready to move into her upper brain, where she can access choice, logic, planning and empathy.

******

I’ve read two excellent books. Both of them heartbreaking. This is a novel about a Nigerian immigrant family trying to find success on America’s terms, and the pain that fundamentalism can wreak on a teenager’s expression of sexuality. And this non-fiction book was written by an undercover reporter who spent four months working as a guard in a Louisiana prison, and who found the system so inherently inhospitable to anyone’s humanity, it became disturbingly and increasingly more challenging for him to treat the inmates with respect over time. More cheery reading!

Oh, and the kids and I just finished another Carl Hiaasen book. We love how he always provides an adventurous plot through which to show that teenagers are mostly well intentioned and misunderstood and adults are often buffoons doing various levels of damage to the earth and society.

*******

There are a few crabapples left on the trees, and every day a couple robins touch down to wrestle one off with their long beaks. The vultures have returned, and the apricots are at various stages of bursting into bloom. The mornings are cold questions, answered by deliciously warm afternoons. We are harvesting chard from the greenhouse and stealthing it into dinner as we watch from our big windows, life transform, inside and out.



25 Responses leave one →
  1. Nancy Marion permalink
    April 17, 2019

    No pictures yet, though I had to laugh at the caption of the first missing picture, “snowy robin”! Indeed!
    Always look forward to reading the next installment of life at 6512. Thank you!

  2. Sara Parks permalink
    April 17, 2019

    Rachel, I love it. I am lucky to have found a writer living and writing in the same time of life with her kids as I am in. Whoopee! Because I can’t do it (the writing), but I know exactly what you sayin’.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 17, 2019

      So glad for the solidarity, Sara. I feel less alone just reading your comment.

  3. Solyssa permalink
    April 17, 2019

    I look forward to the cedar waxwings and the grosbeaks making their way to our hood, they are also some of my favorite spring visitors, loud and boisterous, emptying the feeders in a day.
    Your conversations with Col are fabulous, I love the moments of pause (or beatboxing), it’s like when you are waiting for your computer to process something.
    And thank you for the book recommendations, those both look heavy but amazing.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 17, 2019

      Ha ! Yes. You can almost read “System processing” on his face. Thank you, dear Solyssa. I always enjoy your comments. xo

  4. Grace permalink
    April 17, 2019

    Don’t have children, and haven’t been a teenage for a bit now, but I love your writing and always learn something here and always always check in for a new post!

    We had a late (but not unusual) snow dump here last week right as the first butterflies hatched and there was a short day of snow and butterflies before it all melted and gave over to real spring.

    <3

  5. April 17, 2019
  6. Mollie permalink
    April 18, 2019

    “The mornings are cold questions, answered by deliciously warm afternoons.”

  7. April 18, 2019

    I always look forward to your posts and this one made me laugh out loud, literally!

  8. Sheri permalink
    April 18, 2019

    I always feel recharged after one of your posts. My youngest is dealing with some “mean girl” dynamics with some kids in neighborhood. I have definitely been trying to “fix” when she shares her feelings. Will listen and love more (and fix less!). Thank you!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 18, 2019

      It’s so hard, isn’t it? We just want to swoop in and help when our children feel pain. And it’s ironic that we can help better when we say less. :)

  9. Kier Fullmer permalink
    April 18, 2019

    I so love your writing! Always so intuitive, authentic and “LOL “ producing.
    Just yesterday I was thinking how truly heartbreaking it is to be a mama. How when Kaia graduates in June, I am actually going to begin a grieving process. Not that there won’t be new growth to appreciate and be delighted about, but just the ending of a long and wonderful and hard and fantastic and painful and amazing part of of life. Trying to remember to be thankful for what has been and open to what will come. Love to you all.
    Life

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 18, 2019

      Amen, Mama Kier. That is a new frontier. Almost unimaginable until you are there.

  10. shadymama permalink
    April 18, 2019

    you such a sage. xo

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 18, 2019

      My favorite shady lady.

  11. Jane permalink
    April 18, 2019

    ….all I can do is meet her where she’s at… I’ll have to share that paragraph with Mr Jaber, to perhaps bring some clarity when Emma barks …..” and I DONT need the LESSON DAD!”

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      April 18, 2019

      Because Emma’s here to give *us* the lesson! Duh!

  12. Barbara Platt permalink
    April 18, 2019

    ok, old lady here, WTF is beat boxing? Miss you guys xoxo all around.

  13. Pamela J Marshall permalink
    April 20, 2019

    Your words and stories paint the pictures well enough. Your blog never disappoints, with or w/o photos.
    xox

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