I hate the Xbox. Really, I do. It is the most violent entertainment for kids, and causes numerous arguments between our youngest, Jack, and me.

Before you say, “Well why’d you buy it?” let me explain: I didn’t. The judge and I got the kids a Wii, as it seemed the nicest, most family-friendly system available. Only our oldest never stopped grumbling about the “baby games” and the “crummy graphics” and how “completely lame” it was. Soon he had his little brother agreeing with him. The issue came to a head when the judge and I were out of town and the boys collected the Wii, and its paraphernalia (including my Jillian Michaels fitness stuff) and had their grandmother drive to the local game place to trade it in.

So that’s how an Xbox came to be the center point of our living room. And while 16 year old Michael plays it occasionally, it is 11 year old Jack who is obsessed. He begs and cries for M-rated games. (“NO”). He borrows them from friends (“Give them back”). He points out that the T-rated game I let him play is way bloodier than the M-game he wants, until I start to ask if maybe I should take away that T-one he has, at which point he’ll launch into some other argument. I hate that Xbox.

As I left in the morning yesterday, I told him he had one hour to play. I took my daughter and a friend to a mall 80 miles away, and around lunchtime, sent the judge a text asking him how things were going. He had come home to eat and found Jack “happily killing people.” When the girls and I got home around 3:00, he was on again/still. A little yelling ensued: …I can’t trust you… blah blah, …need a baby sitter…blah, blah. My heart wasn’t really into it.

As I lay down for a few minutes (I was shopping with 13 year old girls, you know), Jack came in and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry for playing so much, Mom.” He was contrite. What a sweet little fella. With that thought, I fell asleep.

Imagine my surprise when I emerged about a half hour later only to find Jack on the Xbox! My heart was into it now.

“Well I was bored… there was nothing to do!” he tried to reason. I didn’t even buy into the argument. Little liar.

Today, when I headed to work, I took the Xbox with me.

Yes! I know! What took me so long? I am a bit thrilled with myself! Apparently, unplugging it has messed up our phones, which would explain why Jack hasn’t called me asking me about the abduction. But who really needs landlines anyway? Take that, Xbox! I’m takin’ back my boy!

Remember that Veruca girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

“I want an Oompa-Loompa and I WANT IT NOW!”

You can’t help but dislike her conceited, demanding, snotty little self. For me, it’s not so much the wanting that bothers me, it’s the refusal to wait, to delay gratification.

I’ve ranted a bit about this before. In an effort to make sure our kids feel loved and are well-liked and that no one is better than them—it seems that many of us parents buy our children way too much stuff, way before they need/want it.

You know what I mean. You’re shopping with your 12 year old daughter and she spies the cutest scarf and there are only two left and it’s on sale.

“Oh, Mama! Please?” she begs.

Attempting to teach responsibility you reply, “Well, do you have money?”

“Well, no. But I’ll clean my room as soon as we get home. And you can give me some now, then not pay me my allowance. And I will clean the cat box and empty the little garbage cans in everyone’s room too!” (Because those are her chores, and she hasn’t done them).

Oh, and did I mention there are only two left and they’re on sale? Tears ensue…”I promise, promise promise…”

I cave.

I remember—bear with me now—when I was a kid and we had to wait for stuff. We waited a long time for big things…like until Christmas or a birthday. Or, if we really wanted something badly enough, we worked and saved up to buy the coveted item ourselves.

When I was about 12, I wanted an English saddle. It was nearly $200, an unattainable amount for a 12 year old making three or four dollars a week. So my dad, bless him, said he’s go “halfers” with me. He figured if I really wanted something bad enough I’d be willing to work for it, and he would match me.

Well, halfers made the saddle seem attainable, and in about three or four months, we drove to Seattle and got the thing. I was flat out broke afterwards, but I had something I’d really wanted and I’d worked for it.

I think all children have a little bit of the burning pocket syndrome when they’ve got a little cash, but my 10 year old Jack is a prime example. He will get a card from an auntie in the mail with a nice crisp $20 in it. “Can we go to the store?” he’ll ask as it flutters to the floor.

“Why? What do you want to buy? I query.

“Oh, I don’t know. I need to look around and decide.”

This is typical. We’ve had the discussions about saving for a rainy day. His brother, and even his sister have shared about the great things they’ve bought after saving a while.

No go for Jack. “Well there is something I’ve been wanting…” he’ll tell us and then think of something he’s passed in a store at sometime. That money’s not just a burning in his pocket…it’s a real torch!

Anyway, we’ve been trying to address this issue, making Jack pay for things on occasion, which he does cheerfully if he happens to have money. So the other day, when Jack announced that his xbox mic was broken and he needed a ride to the store to get a new one, I asked if he had any money.

Instantly, he was on the verge of tears. “Well no! But I NEED it! I can’t play with my friends without it!”

I suggested he do some yard work with me. I figured two hours would be fair for a $20 reward. I outlined up the tasks needing to be done.

“All that?” he looked incredulous.

It wasn’t that much, and I figured if he really wanted the xbox thing, he could work for it, right?

Well, long story short, it took about 48 hours to get those two hours out of him. I didn’t nag, I just kept pointing at unfinished tasks when he’d come up and ask, “Am I done yet?”

There were tears… and stomping… and milk breaks and rests. Eventually, I figured he’d done his two hours. We had another nice chat about saving for times like these when something breaks.

This weekend, he asked to go to the game store.
“Do you have money?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said, emptying his pockets of about $25 cash.
“Where’d you get that?” Dad asked.

“I’ve been saving,” he proudly replied.

After just one night, as the second evening approached, the camp called. It was the nurse.

“Jack has a stomach ache. Is this normal?”

“Well, maybe?”

Jack is our baby. He’s 11. He’s a mama’s boy. And he’s at sleep away camp.
My heart is aching.

She has me talk to him.

“What is it, Jacko?” I ask.

He’s crying. “My stomach really, really hurts.”

“Did you poop yesterday… today?” I ask.

“No. It just hurts.”

Then he mumbles something.

“What?” I ask.

“Never mind,” he says. “Nothing.”

My heart is breaking. I want to go get him. That would make me feel better. But it’s probably not what’s good for him.

I put on my big girl/big mama panties. “Well, how ‘bout you lay low tonight, and if you still have a stomach ache in the morning, have the nurse call me back.”

“With a wavering voice, he says, “Okay.”

I talk to the nurse again. He has no fever. No tenderness anywhere. She’ll call if needed, in the morning. Otherwise, no news is good news.

Oh, this hurts.

As I returned from a quick 3 miler this evening, I got caught in a downpour. In an area that averages about 6 inches of rain a year, I found the deluge rather refreshing, and reminiscent of my youth, growing up outside of Seattle.

I did hustle home though, after becoming thoroughly drenched. As I approached my house, from about a half mile off, I could see two bodies moving across the road, presumably to get the mail from the box. I watched, as the figures paused, then twirled and stomped. They shook their wet heads at one another and looked to the sky. I quickly deduced it was the neighbor girl and a friend, dancing in the rain.

How refreshing it was to see a couple of 14 year old high school students acting their age. In a world of “hurry up” everything, in a society where padded bikinis are sold in the children’s section, it was a treasure to see two girls being silly and playing in the rain.

Over the weekend, I headed off to bed while my own daughter, age 13, and her friend, stayed up to watch Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. Not Johnny Depp’s new one, but the old, manually animated version. Amongst the giggling and text messages and digital pictures they took of one another, they followed the movie, and I believe, thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

In this hurry up world, it’s important that kids still get the opportunities to be kids. It’s crucial that we parents allow (and encourage) our big kids to do kid things… To be silly, and laugh, and make forts with chairs and blankets, to make messes in the kitchen as they “invent new recipes,” to stomp in puddles and get wet on an unexpected rainy day.

Thank you, Life, for the unexpected reminders.

With all the angst I experience watching my youngest shoot people on his T-rated xbox games (it’s just a game, Mom. Sheesh!), I had this ridiculous idea: what if we went electronic free for the summer?

Not electricity free… we could still watch the four crappy stations that we get sporadically on the television. We could still use the lights and hairdryers and such. But what if we gave up on the xbox and World of Warcraft and posting and Twittering? What if we quit texting inane conversations (“So he’s like, “What did she say he said?” “So he goes, “OMG Really?!” “That’s so like stupid LOL.” “JK :-P”), and saved texting for truly important stuff (“movie is dun. pick me up”).

Imagine the time we would have to do fun stuff together! We could go places like the hands on art shop. We could walk the dogs (all four of them) together. We could play board games and work in the yard, and oh yeah… spend lots of time at the neighbor’s pool.

We could visit the library then come home and pile onto the hammock to read. We could create new recipes. We might even have big, family-style sit down breakfasts featuring pancakes and hash browns and sausage. It would be okay to start the day with such a big meal, because we’d have so much more time to go outside and play and work off those calories!

Unplug for the Summer could go viral! I could post it, and if the right back-to-nature, organic, recycling parents spread the word, we could have a nation of kids and parents playing in their yards and hiking nature trails and sitting on curbs licking ice cream cone drips from their wrists.

But right there lies the rub. I could post it. Clearly, the biggest issue in this great idea of mine is that I too would have to unplug… from facebook, twitter and reading blogs. And really, that’s not gonna happen.

I gave up facebooking and twittering for Lent this past spring. I missed my friends. I got behind on current events (Okay, yeah, I’m usually behind on current events, but I got even behinder). I began stretching the rules—Well, I’ll just read a few updates and won’t comment on anything, I reasoned. My 16 year old son gave up social media and the entire internet (except for homework research) and did a much better job than I did.

We won’t be unplugging for the summer at our house. Instead, I think we’ll try to enforce the actual screen time limits that often get mentioned, but never get followed. Jack will get his daily xbox hour. He’ll have an additional hour somewhere… either on the TV or computer. Michael, who is 16, working a part time job and playing football daily, can set his own limits if they are reasonable, though he cannot bring friends to dinner via texting. If he wants to visit them at dinner time, he can just invite them to come eat with us.

Kennedy, who has her own computer (purchased with her own money), tends to lie in her room watching reruns A LOT. We’ll have to enforce some kind of time limit for that, but as with most 13 year old girls, social time will pretty much override the importance of anything else, so I just need to get her to someone’s house.

So if you drive by the house this summer, and notice The Judge and I working in the yard sans kids, rest assured, they are safe in the house, each plugged in to something. Honk your horn and give me a wave, and I’ll send you a tweet when I’m finished.

Alright, really truly, it’s not okay. I mean for right now, anyway. Because I, and her brothers, and Mr. McC, have to live and deal with her every day.

She’s 13 and she THINKS she is the sun, and we all revolve around her. When she’s grouchy (and boy can she be grouchy!) we all steer clear. When I know making a perfectly respectable request will incite a major rage, I often don’t… Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to deal with it!

Yes, of course we love her, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that. She’s family, and often times she’s giggly and laughing and oh-so-smart it just knocks my socks off. She’s truly beautiful and can be kind-hearted and compassionate too. She’s wonderful, really.

But she has her moments—and it seems they occur much more frequently than anyone else’s moments. And she’s slow to forgive, and she doesn’t really care if you’re so pissed you can hardly see straight. So sometimes, life in the McC household is a little…hard.

But in the big picture—you know, like, her whole life—it seems to me this selfishness, this doing what she wants when she wants—will turn into a good thing.
Knowing her like I do, I can’t imagine anyone ever taking advantage of her. Boys who want more from a relationship than she does? She IS that Avril Lavigne song: “Don't think that your charm, and the fact that your arm is now around my neck, Will get you in my pants, I'll have to kick your ass, and make you never forget…” That is so her.

Just as she has since she was a baby, she’ll always make sure her needs are met. She will call it like she sees it. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat. If she doesn’t want to go camping, she’ll stay home and her husband will go without her—if he wants—and that will be okay with her. She won’t fret about him or worry if his feelings are hurt, because since they met they will have been honest and open. It meant they had a few (maybe more than a few?) loud arguments, but they say what they feel and its all real.

Yes, really, I’m probably writing about myself. My thirteen year old self-important daughter will be the things I’m not. She’ll be strong and self sufficient. While she’ll love her children, she’ll take pretty good care of herself too. If her needs—perhaps even just her WANTS—conflict with those of her kids’, a good share of the time, it will probably be the kids that miss out.
She will be the antithesis to the supermom that so many of us older moms tried to be (um, yeah, I so failed). What looks so much like selfishness to me now will look like very healthy self care when she’s older. Here children will witness and learn that taking care of oneself is every bit as important as taking care of others. “Woman” doesn’t mean sacrifice or martyr, and there really is nothing wrong with saying “No.”

So in the McC household, we’ll keep on pushing responsibility and compassion, because those are the things that will temper my daughter’s selfishness into a healthy sense of self-ness. And in the long run, I’m confident she’ll be okay.

Our son, Jack, got two geckos for Christmas. They're cute, one girl and one boy, and I find myself often wandering into his room to say hello or watch them eat (poor crickets).

Tonight, just before a buddy went home, Jack went in to feed Lizzie and Geico. Then the friend's dad came and we visited for a few minutes and they left and I moved back to the computer and Jack went into his room and suddenly let out a howl. My Oggie, one of the best cats who ever lived, was sitting in the tank. The top had been left off!

Amidst crying kids--Jack and his sister Kennedy--I frantically searched the cage. There aren't many hiding places. One hollow rock, a few fake leaves, and a half log. The male, Geico, was missing.

Quickly I cleared the floor of a week of laundry, many, many legos, and several shoes. No gecko. I looked under the RockBand drums, around the Nerf multi-shooter assault weapon. Nothing. Meanwhile, Jack sobbed on the couch.

Oggie ate him. Probably in one wild bite. There was no blood, nothing.

In the mean time, Dad had gone to pick up the pizza and had returned. He thought the cat should have thrown up or something. "Maybe it's in there," he suggests. "Did you check the shoes in the closet?"

So I go back in, with a flashlight, and check, like, 50 pairs of shoes. Nothing. I look FURTHER under Jack's bed, and behind the toy chest again. Big sigh.

I look at Lizzy, hiding in the leaves, and decide to look in the cage again. Nothing. Hmmmm. Without hope, I lift the edge of the green astro turf stuff that cover the floor of the cage and yell as I see a frightened Geico. He's so small he didn't even make a lump.

"Jack! JACK!" He runs in, and sees the little guy in my hand. More tears. More hugs.

Tragedy averted--thank you God.

I just got home from taking my 13-year-old daughter to have her hair done. It's the second time she's gotten highlights, as the school has just begun allowing haircoloring this year. She's too beautiful.

Anyway, $70 later, we arrive home to find the oldest on a computer, and the youngest (11), sprawled in a chair playing xbox. Then I see he's wearing this nerdy little headset and appears to be talking to himself.

Ah, this is the "live" thing he's been telling me about.

I sit down to watch a few minutes. Yes, it's a horrible game I hate, but since he's killing mutants instead of humans, it has somehow managed to make its way into the game library. "Mom, that's Jacob!" he says, swinging the view of his droid or whatever it is toward a red humanoid thing.

"Hi Jacob," I say. And then it hits me.

This is the playdate of the future.

No need to get in the car and drive to the park to meet up. Ride a bike ride over to a friends house? Forget it!

These are the... what do we call these years? The Tens? The Teens? Well, it's a new decade, and it's in the 21st century. Cell phones and ipods and $200 handheld personal games are the norm, even for 11-year-olds. My own little guy continually reminds me that all his buddies have their own phone, their own email, and I don't know... I think one even has a car a waiting for him.

So as I write this, I'm listening to one side of Jack's conversation. It's almost as disturbing as overhearing people in the grocery store having a loud and animated conversation with the little bluetooth thingy in their ears.

"So yeah, Lisa. I just got out of the hospital." (Silence.) "Yeah, yeah... two days! The infection had moved and my toe was like the size of an elephant! (Silence.) No really! The doctor said he's never seen so much... Hey have you tried that new digestive yogurt?"

Someone help me... please...

Well, Jack's conversation isn't quite as bad. I heard him announce that he had to pee and to wait for him (mad dash down hall, 5 second delay, mad dash back--clearly no handwashing involved). And there seems to be some conversation about who's on the bottom and whose on top... but I don't think it's anything naughty because those comments were followed by, "Watch out! There's a chopper coming down!"

The details are a digression, really. The point is, Jack is having a great time "playing with a friend" but there's no one here. There's nobody asking, "Do you guys have any cookies?" No doors being left wide open so that I can yell, "Hey! Shut the door!" No red-cheeked, cold faces asking for hot cocoa. No wet shoes piled by the door. No legos... nothing.

I couldn't live very well with out my mac and iphone and unlimited access to the internet, so I don't really have much room to talk. But I like my friends best face to face, hugging and laughing and right there IN FRONT OF ME. And for all their messes and hungries and rides that need to be taken care of, I like Jack's friends that way too, messing up the house, raiding the fridge and banging through the back door.

There is something gratifying--even more than the paycheck--about seeing one's name on a byline.
Thank you to Yakima Magazine for this opportunity!



I know I said I had turned over that new leaf. That I would begin to write in earnest. Frequently. At least a couple times a week. Then it got really busy at work, and i did write--a lot--but it wasn't writing writing, it was work writing. And so I didn't--write--again.

So perhaps it should be a new year's resolution. It's been one before. Alas...Loser.

It's so personal. So... honest. To really write, you have to not worry about hurting anyone else's feelings. That's an issue for me.

So maybe if I wrote for a purpose, instead of just to write? I've been following Gwen Bell a bit. She seams to write to inspire, though it is her job to help others in their business.

I could write for parents... moms. But I think there are probably already a million doing that. I need to find out what I have to say that might matter to someone else--to a lot of some one elses. Any suggestions?