The Best Valentine’s Day (So Far)

Nothing says romance quite like taking a tween boy shopping for new pants because he’s grown 2.5 inches since Christmas Day.


We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators. That’s true. But taking a tween shopping felt like maybe the antithesis of love. Tween parenting is odd in and of itself. One day we’re the coolest, the next we’re the worst. I remember that, but being on the flip side feels like someone poking at the soft parts of my heart.

But the kid needed pants. Our schedules have been a little bit crazy as of late, so getting out of town and to an actual shopping plaza has been more of a challenge than usual. I couldn’t just order him clothing online either as I legit had no idea what size to order the quickly growing kid. I needed him to try pieces on and provide actual feedback for fit and length.

While I’m on the topic: Clothing boys is the worst. Not only is it all ugly and virtually impossible to find, but the sizing across brands is RI.DIC.U.LOUS. RIDICULOUS. Old Navy XL is too short. Nike L is too tight but long enough. Kohls’ tech brand L fits length wise but falls off his waist. Brands, please get your act together. It would be great if one size matched across all brands. Not only would it be life-changing for parents but it would result in more money in brands’ pockets as I could easily log on and buy, buy, buy.

Anyway, hanging out in the boys’ department on Valentine’s Day wasn’t all that bad.

I got some really great deals, even though we had to visit a total of three stores. While I felt aggravated at the lack of overall selection, I found some things we all liked. Additionally, I was greeted with a very grateful man-child who thanked me a number of times over the night.

Afterward, we hit up the new IHOP, stopped in at GameStop to let them spend some of their money, and finished it off with evening coffees for the grownups at Starbucks. Maybe someday my husband and I will go out again—alone—on Valentine’s Day like that first date after our youngest son was born. I consumed my first alcoholic drink since prior to getting pregnant and that margarita nearly put me under the table. In the meantime, an evening of laughs and waffles and smiling boys feels like a good deal to me.

Quite honestly, this ranks as the best Valentine’s Day in a long time. Winning.

Halloween Will Always Be Halloween

I sent my husband, my mother-in-law, and my sons off down the road last night as I sat on the porch, candy bucket in hand. Last year I walked the boys around our neighborhood, so it was his turn this year. I watched them walk away, squinting into the setting sun, and sighed.

My mom-friends with sixth grade children, specifically boys, lamented this being their sons’ last year trick-or-treating. My husband can’t remember if his last year was in sixth or seventh grade. Anectdotally, the only seventh grade boy in the neighborhood did not trick-or-treat this year.

I filled candy bags and pumpkins and pillow cases with some of my favorite candies as the sun dipped lower and the air got colder. Elsa. Some unicorns. A gum ball machine. Lots of super heroes—and specifically, lots of Wonder Woman. A flower. A very small It clown, which nope. Two gorillas. Two fire puppies. A lumberjack.

I loved them all, big and small, candy-grabbing and thanking. There’s really nothing more purely childhood than Halloween trick-or-treating.

The boys returned to the house, stole some of the candy from my bowl, and went inside. They asked to watch scary movies (no) and eat candy (yes). I continued handing out candy and a feeling settled over me.

He may not want to dress up and traipse around the neighborhood with his brother next year. He might though. I’m not going to lead his decision either way. It’s his. Just like it was the younger kid’s decision to be Indiana Jones and the older kid’s to be some kind of Skull solider thing. I used to be able to dress them as I wanted for Halloween. Those days are over.

Halloween 2017

And it’s okay. They make good choices that fit them well. I wish them that in all aspects of their lives.

Something New

Something New; Life with Tweens

Tweens are unique creatures, no?

My husband argues that the age of ten does not qualify one as a tween. The attitudes and actions taking place in this house by one BigBrother would beg to differ. But he’s also a Big Kid in that he likes to play things Big Kids play.

It’s just a weird in between phase for them. Hence that whole “tween” name that didn’t exist back when we were pre-teens. Before, not between.

There’s a picture of me sitting on the floor in the playroom in my parent’s basement. Seated in front of the giant Barbie house my grandfather made for me, my long hair—permed and brushed—is a wild mess down my back. I’m wearing a pink shirt from some vacation, a sunset splattered across it in the puffy style of 90s vacation shirts. And I’m playing with my Barbies.

When my mother developed those photos, I asked her not to show anyone. In fact, I confiscated it from my parents’ possession. I didn’t want any of my cool friends to know I still liked to escape to a world in which the brunette Barbie became queen of her own domain. She was a business woman. Our lone Ken doll and an errant Aladdin made dinner, cleaned the bathrooms, and took care of everything at home. Babies? My Barbies didn’t have babies. No time.

I don’t know where that photo lives now. I fear I might have thrown it out in a fit of tween self-hate rage. I searched through many pictures looking for it recently, coming across all kinds of tween angst and bad clothing choices. But one thing was evident in every single bad hair, grimacing, giant glasses, be-braced non-smile photo of me from the ages of 10-12.

I was me.

I didn’t know what to do with my new longer legs (which are still not very long). I didn’t like the fact that I was the first of my peers to start my period, and there’s even one picture of me on a friend’s porch in which I can physically remember how bad those first cramps were—and remained for decades. I didn’t know how to do hair or makeup or dress myself. But in those candid photos, the ones in which a friend took the camera instead of a parent, there’s a glint in my eye. There’s joy underneath the confusion of hormones and becoming something new inside the same being.

There’s Jenna, underneath it all.

I need to remind myself of this very fact as we continue our way through the tween phase with not one but two boys. They’re there. I see it in the way they rush up to me when I show up to at camp after spending a day back home. I hear it in their “I love yous.” I feel it in their hugs, given in front of their friends—still and in spite.

They’re there. One is just going through the process of becoming something new inside the same being. It’s important for me to remember that as a mom right now. And for the next one, too.

We’re all going to make it.