Category Archives: teens

2015: The Year in Random Thoughts and Obsessions

For my yearly wrap up of 2013, I wrote, “All hail the return of the king – David Bowie – and the art of the music video.” And I included a link to his surreal collaboration with Tilda Swinton for ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’. Two years later and RIP, we’re talking and posting about how much we’ll miss Bowie. (My thoughts can be found here.)

Yes, the last year has been especially tough. I’ve lost friends and heard of marriages dissolving, read helplessly of terrorist attacks in France and the continuing assault on women’s rights in the U.S. Not to mention the masses of refugees desperate for safe havens and the innocent lives struck down by gun violence.

“Day In Day Out

Stay In Fade Out”

Yet, in the midst of everyday upheaval, small glories continue to reveal themselves. Glimmers of hope to remind us that we are not alone, that quite simply, wonders never cease. Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite things from the world of popular culture:

lady story

Yes please! More stories about strong females. (photo taken at a shopping center in Sha Tin, by therockmom)

  1. Serena Williams tops my list for consistent awesomeness. What a joy to watch her match against Heather Watson at Wimbledon. I was with my daughters and nephews on a sunny summer morning, trying to explain the arcane scoring system. All of us cheered on Williams yet at the same time felt inexplicably proud that Watson could stretch her to three sets. Later in the year, the girls and I watched the marvelous doc, Venus and Serena, and although Williams didn’t get her Grand Slam at the US Open, we still knew: she is the greatest.
  1. In movies and television, we sought out strong girls and women and, even in the midst of the industry’s glaring inequalities, still found a few to shout about, namely: Kate (Emily Blunt/Sicario), Riley and Joy (Inside Out), Alex (Priyanka Chopra/Quantico), Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw/Beyond the Lights), Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska/Ida) and of course Rey (Daisy Ridley/Star Wars Ep VII). Recently I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my kids to The X-Files Season One and the complex relationship between Scully the scientist and Mulder the believer. As the new episodes remind us, the X-Files is just great storytelling.
  1. While I still can’t convince EO and YO of the wonders of Jane Austen, school assignments and various recommendations (not quite me shoving a book in to their hands and saying: read this! but close, lol.) have introduced them to classics by Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Golding along with plenty of Judy Blume.
  1. And in the Department of Obsessions, I still can’t get enough of Castle, Mesut Ozil (COYG!), Maneki Nekos and Justin Beiber’s (lack of) facial hair. Say what you want, go on, I can take it 😉

    Imagine Dragons & phones

    The lights! The sounds! The… phones. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. (photo taken at Imagine Dragons’ HK show, by therockmom)

  1. Last but certainly not least, music! Live highlights of the year were Clockenflap in Hong Kong and Taylor Swift in Washington DC. For Swift, it was the girls, Grandma plus me and my dear friend and her daughter. We sat (and stood) in awe at Swift’s seemingly effortless command of the stage. She is a Force, thankfully using her powers for good, not evil. However, due to her dissatisfaction with Spotify, she’s not on my playlist of the year’s best. Instead I’ve included Ryan Adams’ version of ‘Wildest Dreams’, which was my favorite song of hers from 1989. His cover is just okay, kind of standard, sensitive RA. As I listen I realize that his whole take on 1989 has missed the point entirely. The point is that these songs were written by and about a young woman and her very specific experiences with the push and pull of desire. So a guy in his ‘40s? I don’t think he can quite capture what she’s feeling, that moment in time. As much as I love Ryan Adams, he could have given this project a miss.

I’ll finish here with the playlist – 25 songs from fantastic recent releases and a few new-to-me-this-year discoveries (KING, Sun Kil Moon). Interestingly, over half the songs are from female singers/bands and women-fronted bands. Not that I was aiming for that gender balance, it just happened, but I’m pleased nonetheless.

So much good music out there – listen, discover, enjoy!



The Existential Boy Band: One Direction in Hong Kong

“The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Zayn has left the building.

UPDATE: just as I was about to post today, I read that Zayn Malik has left the One Direction Asia tour. The BBC is reporting Zayn “has returned to the UK after being signed off with stress.” I think most of the audience noticed on Wednesday night that he was a bit distracted. He was also struggling mightily with his earpiece for most of the show. YO and her friends said Zayn’s the ‘shy’ one. We were fortunate to hear him sing and wish him well.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blog:

Let’s disregard those two Moms dancing the Macarena as we waited for the concert to start. Let’s get right past the ridiculous amounts of money I paid for tickets and how I didn’t even get to sit with EO and YO (long story but yes that was me and two other mums, on our own). Let’s also forget how I didn’t make time for the beer line, and let’s move right on to the show, The Show, THE SHOW!

An acoustic break at the One Direction show. (photo by rockmom-in-crime, Janet)

An acoustic break at the One Direction show. (photo by Janet, my rockmom-in-crime)

One Direction in Hong Kong, finally! Liam, Louis, Harry, Zayn, Niall and several thousand screaming girls, of all ages. Some boys, too.

EMOTICON interlude: 🙂 😀 😛 ❤ 😎

I’ve been waiting months and months to write about this show. What would the boys be like? Would the girls enjoy the spectacle? Would I know any songs other than those two hits from 2012?

Well, rockmom readers, it was a fun show. I’m glad I went. It was both entertaining and educational. Here’s what I learned:

1. Hong Kong’s live music venues truly suck. Truly. There is no getting around how inadequate the AsiaWorld Expo is. The sound system is muddy; the acoustics even worse; there is zero atmosphere and you get a choice of Starbucks and 7-11 for pre-show snackage. It’s embarrassing frankly and it made me realize we’ll never be able to boast of a homegrown live album that’s the equivalent of Cheap Trick At Budokan! or U2 Live at Red Rocks or (insert famous band) at The Royal Albert Hall. Never. Why can’t Asia’s Fricking World City do better for one of the globe’s most popular bands?

Someone hire the Clockenflap folks to fix this mess, STAT!

2. The bloom fades quickly on boy bands. This you already know, but still it was surprising and a little sad to see so many empty seats at the concert. We sat at the back and peered down on the standing-only floor area, which was only half, maybe two-thirds, full. Always looking on the bright side, the band kept saying how lovely it was to play such an ‘intimate’ venue after a mostly-stadium tour. But I’m wondering if they priced themselves out of the market. The audience was by and large expats, yet surely they have a local following?

3. Speaking of audience members, fully-grown, childless men can also be One Direction fans.

It's the lights, it's the sound, it's the 'Hello Hong Kong' that brings us round! (photo by rockmom-in-crime Janet)

It’s the lights, it’s the sound, it’s the ‘Hello Hong Kong’ that brings us round! (photo by Janet, my rockmom-in-crime)

4. If you’re cute enough and sincere and have a nice voice, it doesn’t really matter that you have zero stage presence. Young girls still scream! I, on the other hand, wished those boys had been sent to the Jon Bon Jovi school of stagecraft. Own it, man! You’re a cowboy, on a steel horse you ride!

Is it a generational thing? A British quirk? (No, that can’t be because – Jagger.) I know 1D is proud of the fact that they don’t dance, but they could use some lessons in performing a song as opposed to just singing it. Zayn, Louis, even Harry – yeah, you three.

But having said that and because EO is going to be mad if I rag on them too much, shout out to Liam and Niall for cuteness and personality and guitar-playing and strong voices. Zayn, too, has a wonderful voice, probably the best of the group. But at this venue (which I won’t mention anymore, promise), their vocal gifts were by and large neutralized. Shame that.

5. And lastly, for the existential lesson, which says that the authentic human cannot exist without The Crowd* i.e. the being of others. Explaining every band ever. One Direction has carved out a huge following by presumably being themselves (authentic) – we sing well, we dress how we want, we don’t dance. We are the anti-boy band. The Crowd (tweens and teens) loves us for it.

And yet, as I sat there and my mind wandered during yet another song I didn’t recognize I couldn’t help but feel an existential angst for their futures. A certain inevitability looming on the horizon. Who’s going to end up on drugs or a reality show (not Dancing With The Stars of course)? Who’s going to show the world how talented he is by going solo? The next George Michael or Justin Timberlake? Who’s going to lose his hair? Or marry well (the Posh Spice playbook)? And who btw IS the Andrew Ridgeley** of the band (ahem, I’m afraid it’s my favorite, Louis) because there’s always an Andrew Ridgeley?

Maybe it’s the mom in me, but dammit I want those 1D boys to succeed! They seem really nice. I also want them to be charismatic performers and rethink the tattoos, but you can’t have everything.

Heck, I’m happy they’re still together.

*Camus was here:
**You’ll be pleased to know that Andrew Ridgeley is still happily married to Keren Woodward from Bananarama. They live on the Cornwall coast where Andrew enjoys surfing and golf and doesn’t worry about Wham! reunion rumors. 🙄


This is what happens when you take the blue pills and play with matches. (photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

This is what happens when you take the blue pills and play with matches.
(photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

In the midst of an exhaustive and ongoing tween & teen bedroom clean out this summer, I thought I was well placed to offer you, dear reader, some organizational advice on busting clutter for good. I’d gathered lists from ‘Uncluttering Your Space’, culled suggestions from ‘The Organized Home’ and collected every clear out tip from Martha Stewart and her team of experts. I was ready to be a fountain of wisdom. To help each and every one of you start the school year with hard-working, well-organized spaces.

I anticipated some battles with the kids: me wanting to purge, baby, purge and the girls, EO in particular, wanting to keep everything. I was prepared for budding hoarders and collectors.

I told you to go before we left Reno! (photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

I told you to go before we left Reno!
(photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

But then YO wanted to throw out these really great toys (all of her Legos! Seriously!), and my heart shrank. I’m not a sentimental person by any means – more prone to minimalism and insensitivity actually – but the clean out started to evoke strange sensations and reflections in me. I think you know what I’m talking about. All those bittersweet, strangled emotions unique to parenthood; feelings that continually surprise, beguile, frustrate and shadow us on our journeys as moms and dads.

What helped me through, and what I want to share with you now, is the idea of a clutter clear out as a great, big festival in the desert. An experiential project of togetherness, celebration and mind expansion, but without the sand storms, port-a-potties and painted, naked people.

Thus, in the spirit of the Burning Man festival, which kicks off in Nevada this Monday (25 August – 1 Sept), I give you:





1. Radical Inclusion

Burning Man states: we welcome and respect the stranger.

Yes, you might think this applies to the smells emanating from underneath your son’s bed. But what I’m saying is: during this emotional time of purging, if your child’s dolls or toy animals start talking to you, don’t be afraid. You might want to take pictures of them, as I’ve done. Maybe even keep them. In brightly colored storage boxes or pretty baskets if possible.

2. Gifting

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving.

As is Grandma, whose favorite saying while visiting Stanley Market is known to be: ‘You can’t not buy it.’ This well-meaning shopaholic, often cursed but always loved, can be very tricky to deal with. After wading through EO’s 50 different purses and sleepover bags plus innumerable souvenir t-shirts, soft toys and pieces of costume jewelry, I say, as only a Hong Kong mom can: I’m sure our helper’s church will be happy to take them off our hands.

3. Decommodification

Burning Man is unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions or advertising.

Translated simply as: do not let those Rugby Sevens corporate freebies even leave the damn stadium.

4. Radical Self-Reliance

Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

But you can take that as: If you choose the loft bed, that’s going to be you up there making the bed and changing the sheets. Just sayin’.

Embarrassed child realizes Mom has raided the dress-up box for Tutu Tuesday. (photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

Embarrassed child realizes Mom has raided the dress-up box for Tutu Tuesday.
(photo used with kind permission of Patrick Roddie*)

5. Radical Self-Expression

At the festival, radical self-expression (Burning Man code for public nudity) arises from the unique gifts (= body parts) of the individual.

But for our purposes, I like to think it means: I am down with that uber-creative Austin & Ally poster montage blue-tacked to your wall, if that’s your thing.

6. Communal Effort

The Burning Man community values creative cooperation and collaboration.

Use, as needed, while cleaning:

  1. Stop making your sister do all the work.
  2. Put the device down, now.
  3. I said now.
  4. Clean out your &*#@)+% closet or there’s going to be no trampoline park!
  5. Okay, I’ll just get rid of everything.

7. Civic Responsibility

We value civil society.

Mommy will stop yelling now. You can keep the American Girl accessories, all 1,001 of them, and I’ll open this bottle of wine.

8. Leaving No Trace

We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather.

Ha ha ha. Okay, that’s not gonna happen. Next.

9. Participation

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic.

Crazy, I know, but EVERYONE has to help tidy up. This ain’t no free ride.

Say you'll remember. (photo by therockmom)

Say you’ll remember.
(photo by therockmom)

10. Immediacy

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture.

This I get. The time is always now. You dig? Because as much as we love the fun, young people our children are now and wish with all of our hearts that they could stay 11 or 13 for a few more years, we can’t stop them from growing up, and giving away their entire Finding Nemo toy collection (still struggling with that one).

We will never get these years back. Ever. So don’t stress the clutter. Keep what’s important, donate and recycle the rest. Tell your daughter you have no idea what happened to that crossbow-and-arrow set that Gran brought back from Papua New Guinea. And, if you need a cleansing, cathartic bonfire, please make sure you’re about 50 miles out in the American desert. Upwind.

Now go, be with your kids.

And trust me when I say: save the wombats for your grandchildren.

Please don't forsake us. (photo by therockmom)

Please don’t forsake us.
(photo by therockmom)



*San Francisco-based photographer Patrick Roddie has been documenting Burning Man for over 15 years, and he very kindly let me use a few of his wonderful photos.

You can find all of his work at

Monday Morning Music: ’80s ALL WEEK

Hi all, how’s your summer going? It’s EIGHTIES WEEK at therockmom as I revisit and revise one of my most popular posts: Can It Really Be Summer Without ’80s Music? New! Improved! Now with Spotify playlists!

maneaterIt’s a funny thing, nostalgia. Recently, I found myself sitting in the way back of my stepmom’s minivan listening to her Best of Hall & Oates CD as we drove to dinner. Now if that’s not a recipe for summertime teen regression I don’t know what is. But there I was, YO sitting next to me, both of us enjoying ‘Maneater’. See a cover version of that track (by Grace Mitchell) was used in the recent Ben Stiller movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. YO’s good pal likes the new, cover song while YO is partial to the original. Me too. That groovy rhythm section to begin, then the sneaky guitar line, a hint of sax and… oh oh here she comes. We sang the chorus together – a small but sweet mother-daughter bonding moment – and I wondered: is it weird to be proud of my child’s taste in music?

On a slightly more musi-cophical note, I don’t know why bands/singers/artists insist on covering ’80s songs because it’s extremely difficult to improve on the original. I’m talking specifically about Moby’s recent ‘Rio’ cover as well as London Grammar’s take on the INXS tune, ‘Devil Inside’ – used for a Game of Thrones trailer. While I’m a big fan of both acts, I have to say these cover tunes were overly serious, dreary and well, just plain boring.

Eighties music is supposed to be fun!* So don’t forget the lightness, the slinky-ness, the insouciance. Guys in deconstructed linen blazers on the bow of a sailboat in the tropics!

I’ll leave you with that image as well as the first of FIVE ’80s playlists – all killer, no filler – to get you through the week. Enjoy!

*Unless of course you’re Morrissey.



There was a time when I thought ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ was an H&O original.

We grow, we learn…

Monday Morning Music – Chromeo

School’s out this week! That means this expat family will be packing up and hitting the long-haul soon, so I thought I’d post this summer jam – Frequent Flyer – by the funky Montreal duo, Chromeo. It’s from their recent release, White Women, and it is fun (and clean) so play it for the kids and drop that bass like you mean it.

Oh, and don’t forget your travel pillow 😉



THE TEENAGE MIND: a rockmom comic

My first comic! A collaboration with artist/illustrator Bonnie Wong:







page7(no gun)(doctor)




Story & Text: Jennifer S. Deayton
All Artwork: Bonnie Wong
For reprints & permissions, please contact:

About the Artist:

Bonnie Wong is a Hong Kong-based Illustrator. She is now pursuing her Illustration degree in Savannah College of Art and Design(Hong Kong). She works with analog materials and digital. She loves to observe and explore the world. She transforms her everyday thoughts into forms of art as a way to react to the world. They are artworks that communicate.
For more info and artwork, please go to: