Mom Gets Trippy

As I looked at the registration page, I mulled over the opportunity I was considering as much as the logistics it would take to pull it off. It was a two-day event, after all, which meant I’d need a full team in place to manage home base in my absence. I ran it by my husband:

“Hey, what do you think about covering me so I can go to a communications conference in May?”

Eric was watching TV at the time, admittedly not my best opportunity to engage, but I decided to take his momentary shrug of acknowledgement as a heartfelt “Go for it, honey!” I signed up.

You might not think that planning a two day trip, one state away, could have a person feeling giddy with anticipation, but there I was, excitedly tapping away as I filled in my registration information. This was, after all, no ordinary getaway – it was my first business trip in twelve years.

Although it seems a fuzzy memory at times, I was a media marketing executive in a former, child-free life. I didn’t travel a lot, but there were a few highlights. New Orleans comes to mind (oh the Hurricanes!), as does Chicago (a veritable Mecca for a blues fan like myself).

Now here I was, a dozen years later, a bounce in my step as I made arrangements to drive to Rhode Island.

I was actually booking a hotel room for myself. Just me. I would drive there alone, interact with other professionals for two days, enjoy an awards gala filled with marketing talent, sleep in a quiet room after having only myself to put to bed… Glorious.

I was leaving on a Sunday evening, and would be back in time to get my son off the bus on Tuesday afternoon. Not long, right? Honestly, at a few points along the planning road, I thought I might have to call in the National Guard to swing it.

Jumping on the logistics a good sixty days out, I arranged to have my father-in-law, Russell, come to the house that Monday afternoon to get both kids off of their buses, and to stay with them until Eric got home from work. Eric would get both kids on their buses Monday and Tuesday morning (he usually sleeps past my 6:30 alarm, so it would be a literal rude awakening). Then, I’d be back. All seemed set.

The Saturday before my departure, I began preparations around the house; making sure the laundry was caught up so no one ran out of undies (can’t have that on my conscience), grocery shopping to stock the cabinets, and typing up one of the two-page instructional memos for which I have become legendary (I am a Virgo, people, we can’t help ourselves).

But a new development had popped up. Once every few months, Eric’s company holds live events on Sunday nights which require him to be onsite at the office from about 5p until the wee hours of the morning. As luck would have it, this was one of those times. Now, instead of rolling happily out of town Sunday evening, I would have to find kid coverage to free me up. Admittedly a stress point, but my awesome in-laws immediately came to the rescue, offering to come by Sunday evening after my father-in-law’s weekly Bridge tournament. Russell also offered to stay over and help get the kids out the door in the morning, as Eric would be running on about three hours sleep at that point. (Not an ideal kick off to two days of single parenting.)

On Sunday, as I was preparing a meatloaf to feed whomever needed feeding over the next couple of days, I called my mother-in-law Harriet to talk logistics. Given the fact that they were now going to cover Sunday evening, I asked if she thought Russell would prefer I book a sitter for Monday afternoon. Eric tends to work late, after all, so it would make for quite a long day, especially for a grandparent who doesn’t regularly experience the after school joy of homework struggles and sibling scuffles. As it turned out, I was taken up on my offer because apparently my in-laws had double-booked, also promising to take care of my niece when my sister-in-law left for a business trip that Monday morning. My preemptive organizational efforts seemingly under attack, I fought off actual dizziness.

What did this mean for my kid coverage? I should say here that my in-laws are the best, and they would easily wrangle all three kids between three towns if need be; but I put my next call in to the babysitter just the same. She was available, and would come Monday afternoon and stay until Eric returned home from work. Monday nights are also late nights for him, I warned her, but she was game. As for his ability to function Tuesday morning after another brief night’s sleep, he was on his own to figure that one out.

I spent the rest of Sunday getting myself ready to go, pre-packing the kids’ lunches (dry food in the packs, cold stuff in the fridge, appropriately labeled by yours-anal-truly), adjusting my instructional memo to reflect the logistical shifts, and trying not to have a stress induced heart attack. When Harriet arrived at dinnertime, I learned that Russell’s Bridge tournament was running unusually late; he wouldn’t be there until after the kids were in bed. I immediately felt badly. My kids are, shall we say, a bit of a handful at bedtime, and I choose who to pass that mayhem off to with great care. I didn’t want to leave my wonderfully relaxed mother-in-law in a sea of mind-crushing chaos, and told her as much, but she waved me off. No big deal, she said, just go.

So I went. And whatdya know, everyone lived. The conference was fantastic and fruitful, I received triumphant texts from Eric as the kids’ schedules stayed on track, and everyone seemed to enjoy the time together. It wasn’t always pretty, but we all pulled it off.

Now that I know it’s possible, I’m ready. Hmm – where to go next…

Control issues? Me??

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Of Dizzy Masses & Summer Spew

In our blended family, another spring holiday season has come and gone in a flurry of Passover readings and matzo ball soup, chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. My sister-in-law put together a beautiful Seder, and I hosted an Easter brunch. The commonality, of course, is that although we enjoy the cultural aspects of the season, religious services are not part of this or any other time of year.

Raised Catholic until my confirmation, I felt I had too many doubts to pass my religion on to my children; similarly, my husband didn’t feel a strong urge to incorporate Judaism into our family. At this time of year, however, I must admit the sight of a church bustling with well dressed children and families can bring back memories…

Easter was always festive at our church. Everything was draped in pink and purple – what could be better for a young girl? Though it was always hard to be on our best behavior throughout mass, my sisters and I knew that on that day, we were only an hour or so away from the Easter egg hunt waiting for us at home – something we developed into a full contact sport as we grew older and stronger. (One year, Stacey and I nearly took out our parents’ snazzy new stand-up stereo console diving after a tie-breaking chocolate egg.)

The week prior to Easter, however, was not as jubilant for me. In fact, the words “Palm Sunday” still strike a note of dread in my heart.

For anyone not familiar, Palm Sunday is the mass celebrated the week before Easter. I could go into it’s history and significance to the story of Christ (admittedly with a lot of help from Google), but instead let me boil it down to this: it is the longest flipping service we ever had to sit through. And by sit, of course, I mean sit, kneel, and stand. A lot. The standing is what killed me every time.

Demonstrating my best posture, I would rise along with the congregation when prompted. Then, as the minutes ticked by, and by…and by some more, the inevitable would happen. I would feel my legs weaken and sense the color draining from my face. When the clamminess set in, I would nervously shift my weight, trying not to slam the clunky heels of my patent leather shoes into the wooden kneeler in front of me. (Talk about echo – it would sound like a gun shot).

As I silently unraveled, my mother would glance sideways, immediately recognizing my pale and panicked look.

“Don’t lock your knees!” she would whisper in an effort to get my blood flowing again. Locked or not, it was by then too late. With a glazed look, I would find myself briskly escorted to the family car.

As so it goes that many of my Palm Sunday memories rest within the back seat of my father’s prized Toronado, where I would lay down on the maroon upholstered seats, using my crisp white cardigan as a pillow. The dizziness would slowly pass while I watched the clouds roll by in the sky outside the window. (You could leave a kid in a car back then – even for the duration of a marathon mass.) Later, when the congregation was blessed and sent off in peace, my family would emerge to hand me my unearned palms, arranged neatly in a cross to be tacked to the wall above my bed upon our return home.

Truth be told (and what recovering Catholic doesn’t love a little confession), it wasn’t just Palm Sunday. My lack of ceremonial stamina was problematic during the summer, too.

When I was young, my family rented a lakeside summer cottage in New Hampshire. Vacation was void of schedules, and we were free to roam…except on Sunday mornings, and except if you were me. Somehow, my mother was able to skip mass during those summer months. I’m guessing there was a tee time involved. My teenage sisters also got a pass, presumably to head to their summer jobs or spend time stirring up mischief with the other big kids in the neighborhood.

For me, Sunday mornings meant being picked up by my godmother, Aunt Carolyn, whose cottage was just down the road, to attend Sunday service at the local Catholic church along with any combination of her five children. Void of air conditioning, Immaculate Conception was not the most welcoming of venues, especially to a Heat Wimp like myself (a title I carry to this day).

On one particular July morning, my locked knees rebelled against me in a major way. Per tradition, I tried to tough it out as the familiar wave of dizziness set in; ignoring the leg wobbles and clammies, I reached the point at which I had finally hung in too long. Shooting my Aunt Carolyn a bug-eyed glance, I ran for the back of the church, pushing open the enormous carved wooden doors without a moment to spare. The trouble was already brewing by the time I reached daylight; I hit the open air and unceremoniously vomited all over the church steps.

Well, that’s it, I thought in my 7-year-old mind. I’m going straight to hell.

While I was eyeing my ejected stomach contents and contemplating my future in purgatory, Aunt Carolyn had apparently been busy gathering my cousins. She appeared in the doorway just long enough to take my hand and whisk us all to the car, the morning clearly cut short. I was dropped back off at the cottage under the care of my sister Chris, who was quite sympathetic until she heard I had spewed. (Chris’s vomit phobia is legendary; she has never thrown up, and I’m fairly certain there is no record of her spitting up as a baby.) She prepared me toast, gave me ginger ale, inspected me from a distance as if I had brought the bubonic plague into the house, and left me to lie on the couch until our mother returned home.

Ah, the sacred memories from my religious upbringing. With the benefit of adult hindsight, I’m fairly certain that despite upchucking on the house of the Lord, and spending a good portion of the holiest season lying semi-conscious in the church parking lot, I’m not going to hell. Maybe for some other stuff. But not that.

Luckily I made it through 1st Communion upright.

Categories: Lessons, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Week of Failures…and One Small Miracle

It’s official. Now that I am working more than ever, I have hit an inevitable mom slump.

Feeling right on top of things last Monday, I achieved record turnaround time in filling out two permission slips for my son’s upcoming field trips. Sounds simple, but wait – multitasking expertly, I completed them while reading a client email and listening to Noah tell an incredibly involved story surrounding his upcoming Spanish presentation. Man, I thought, I’m good.

Later that evening, I received school emails announcing “PJ Day” in my daughter’s class on Thursday, and “Crazy Hat Day” in my son’s school on Friday. Check! I got this! I commended myself as I made dinner and simultaneously added some new water to our fish’s bowl; poor Pimiento had been circulating in cloudy, scummed surroundings for at least two weeks.

It was Thursday when things started to unravel.

As my daughter made the rounds that morning – “feeding the herd” we call it as she doles out breakfast to the dog, hamster, and fish – she asked if I had remembered to add the conditioning drops to Pimiento’s water. Oops.

She, the calmer one of us, assured me it was no problem – “It’s okay, Mommy, we all make mistakes.” Whew. Thank goodness I hammered that one home when they were little – who knew I’d need it applied to myself almost daily. She diligently added a few drops as I noticed, but did not mention, that Pimiento was not rushing up to the surface to feed as he normally did. Uh-oh.

I should say here that Pimiento is a strange fish, prone to drama. His home is an extra large flower vase, and his favorite activity seems to be flapping about flamboyantly and then slowly descending to lie draped like a fainting southern belle on a glass ball which rests at its bottom. I’ve honestly never seen a fish who likes to lounge, but with this guy it’s all energy at feeding time, then back to being an aquatic couch potato. On this day, not even food got his attention.

Both kids went off to school and I filed away in my mind the lovely thought that we might have a deceased pet conversation in our future. The day picked up speed from there as it normally does, and before I knew it, my son’s bus arrived back home.

During the ceremonial unloading of the backpack, I got my first ding. His annoyance was clear.

“Mom, you gave me the permission slips – but not the checks.”

My natural defensiveness spiked internally, but I set it aside. One little mistake – I can take it. I reached for the checkbook for a do-over. There. All set.

Ninety minutes later, my daughter’s bus arrived. I knew something was up the minute she walked in.

“Mom, today was a special day at school -” she began, and it hit me immediately.

“PJ Day!” I yelled, smacking my hand to my forehead and clearly remembering picking out her outfit that morning without so much as a spark of remembrance. “I totally forgot! Oh, Alyssa, I am so sorry.” She is naturally quick to forgive and was easy on me, pointing out that she happened to have a stuffed animal in her backpack so that prerequisite had at least been covered. Grasping, I asked, “Did any of the other kids forget?” Out of a class of twenty-two, surely I wasn’t the only lame mom.

Silence as she looked up, searching her memory.

“Umm, no,” she replied. “And we were supposed to have a special snack. I had a banana and a carrot.”

Do I get points for being healthy? Maybe?? Nope. Not on PJ Day.

Needless to say I didn’t think this was the time to announce Pimiento’s untimely death. Luckily we had an extended family get together in the evening to fill the time, after which everyone went straight to bed. Later, as I glanced at the fish’s lifeless body, I accepted the fact that my Mother of the Year award would not be arriving anytime soon.

Friday morning, however, I witnessed a miracle. Jesus didn’t appear in the swirls of my yogurt or anything, but still – it was up there.

As any true coward would, I avoided any discussion of the fish situation, and didn’t remind Alyssa to feed the herd before she shuffled off to school. Once the coast was clear, I went into CSI mode to determine whether we really had a watery corpse on our hands. Using a plastic spoon, I slowly tried to lift Pimiento from his position slumped on the glass ball.

In a flash, he jerked to life, thrashing about as I yelped and whipped the spoon out of the water. “Holy F*ck!! I thought you were dead!” I exclaimed to the empty kitchen. It was like something out of a horror movie when the killer, still and seemingly done for, rises for one last slash, setting off shrieks and strewn popcorn in the theater.

Fish water had sprayed everywhere, including on my husband’s papers, wallet, and two cell phones, all of which were positioned right next to the vase. Recalling that I killed my previous cell phone with a pea sized drop of coffee just last year, I immediately grabbed a paper towel to soak up the evidence. Eric was still in the shower, and I knew the last thing I needed was to get caught, wet-handed, having killed the mechanisms that are his very lifeline during the week. My batting average and family popularity were already tanking enough.

While I was feverishly cleaning up, I noticed Pimiento, his brief flutter of activity having passed as he sank back to his position at the bottom of the vase. With a steadier hand and more preparedness this time, I sprinkled some food into his water and reached in again with the spoon, hoping to gently guide him to a lifesaving meal. Once again his theatrics kicked in, and he put on a fabulous display, flipping himself away from the spoon and around the vase but never taking a bite before sliding back downward.

Satisfied that he was off kilter but alive, I chucked the spoon and left it at that. Pimiento’s ultimate fate still remains to be seen, but for me, well – sometimes we just have to quit while we’re ahead. After striking out on everything else last week, I decided that not having a fish murder on my hands as good as it was going to get. Small victories.


Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Did you say something?

Back when I knew all about how to be the perfect mother – you know, before I had actual kids – I used to see parents out and about with their children and remark how they would barely be listening as their adorable little mini-me’s would be chattering away, excitedly sharing tales about this and that. “How awful!” I would think, “They aren’t even tuning in! They are missing golden moments in their child’s lives! I will never do that to my kids.”

A classic example of why I occasionally need to travel back in time to smack pre-parenthood me in the head. Another would be when I recall myself saying “I’ll never let myself go when I have kids like some people do! I’ll make sure I always stay as fit as I am now!” Insert loathsome eye roll here.

The fact is that I really love talking to my kids – they are great conversationalists. But they are also master monologuists…and sometimes those tales can put the old attention span to the test. If they take place at a time when we are rushing out the door, or I am trying to juggle multiple tasks at once, I try to be considerate by interrupting politely…only to find that a child mid-story will not be derailed by such attempts.


Me: Okay, guys I really really need to you to put your shoes on now. We have to go.

Daughter: Mommy, yesterday my friend fell at recess and bumped her head. But she was okay. She ripped a hole in her hat and –

Me: Sweetie, I’m glad she was okay. But please listen. I need you to put on your shoes now. Okay?

Daughter: Okay. Hey this morning I was playing kitty and I forgot I put my pretend collar on so I wore it to Ava’s birthday party, but I turned it around so no one could see the bell. But they still heard the bell and were like “What was that?” Ha ha ha!

And so on and so on, until I project enough volume to fully bulldoze the story  - earning a dejected look from the small storyteller – and make it very clear that I will absolutely lose it unless a shoe goes on a foot in the next five seconds.

Other times I have to mentally fight the glaze I feel enveloping my brain, or the heaviness of my eyelids around 3pm (which happens daily regardless of input) when my son recounts every thought process behind every story he’s written in one of his dozens of notebooks, sharing the additions he’s made to them by starting each one from the beginning – again.

Is it all great info? Of course it is! Do I want to hear about my daughter’s lighthearted shenanigans or my son’s creative inspirations? Of course I do! Truth be told, I agree with 20-something single me that this is all fantastic stuff, not to be missed. But the reality is that 40-something me is running on all cylinders – and quite often on empty – every single day. Sometimes, adding more input to my overtaxed brain is simply an impossibility.

So, if you see me in the grocery store, appearing to have a vacant stare as I push a cart next to a child enthusiastically chatting away to the side of my head, try not to judge. On another day, when I’ve had enough sleep – or enough caffeine to make up for its non-existence – chances are I’ll be tuned in, all smiles and interaction. Just not today.


Categories: General Mayhem, Kid Mayhem, Moms, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Slightly Out of Focus…

When I was a kid, I remember hearing my mother remark to someone about my amazing concentration skills. “She has such focus,” she said. “She can really tune everything else out.”

Today I wouldn’t be able to hear her speak that whole sentence without being distracted by something that needed – or just plain snatched – my attention.

Take, for example, a recent evening at home:

The kids were showered and ready for bed, so I sat down for a solo dinner. As I sat at the table, it occurred to me that I still needed to do the bills. As I reached for the computer I use to do the bills, I noticed my daughter’s notebook and pens were still on the table from the afternoon. As I cleared them off and brought them into the dining room to put in a drawer, I realized her homework folder was still on the dining room table. As I took it off the table and put it in her backpack, I realized I had never taken her lunch pack out of her backpack, which meant  I hadn’t taken out my son’s, either. As I was clearing out both lunch packs I realized there were still dishes in the sink. As I loaded the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher, I realized I still had dinner on the table. But then I realized that all of this would make a great blog post. So I went upstairs to get my other computer, the one I work on. And thus I sat, eating cold meatloaf and peas, with two computers humming away in front of me.

And that was a random day. Throw in a clogged toilet, a dog who’s eaten someone’s favorite stuffed animal, or a vomiting child, and boy howdy you’ve practically got yourself a game show. Concentration? Certainly not. Beat the Clock? You’re on.






Categories: General Mayhem, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cue the Surfaris

Please know that it is something I am powerless to control. And while you are hopefully accepting my apology, understand that I am much better than I used to be. Because the fact of the matter is, if you wipeout, or trip, or even slightly stumble, there is a good chance I will crack up.

It’s been a natural reaction for me as long as I can remember. As a kid, it was much worse. Having no understanding of the potential for injury, I would literally burst into hysterics at the sight of someone falling;  if I got a scowling glare in response, I would have to run around a corner to hide, unable to stop myself.

When my mom and I would ski one of our favorite mountains, I would make sure we sat at the same lunch table in the lodge every time because it had the best view of the people trying to make their way downstairs from the second floor. The wooden steps of that era were no match for wet ski boots, allowing for countless slips. Most people would stay on their feet, but the “clunk, clunk, clunkclunkclunk” sound of a sudden slide would send me into fits of giggles every time. My mother would tell me I was terrible…with a grin on her face.

To be fair, I have always laughed at myself, too. Take, for example, the day in junior high when I was making my way down a crowded stairwell between periods. In a blink, I had fallen and was sliding down an entire flight of stairs on my shins, my vision literally blurring from the vibrations as I left a trail of books and papers in my wake. Once at the bottom, I tried to put myself back together, completely dazed and trying desperately to convince myself that it hadn’t been as grand a display as I knew it had been.  A lowly 7th grader at the time, my final mortifying moment came when a 9th grade boy handed me my shoe, which had been left behind during the catastrophe:  ”Uh, here’s your clog.”

I slumped off to class, willing myself to be invisible. A short time later, though, as I sat in health class half listening to a lecture on blood types, I started picturing my wipeout, grayed vision, flying books and all. I felt a grin on my face and then I started to giggle. Uncontrollably. The type of laughter I was highly prone to in those days – the stifled kind that turned my face bright red as I grasped my stomach trying to stop it. My confused teacher could only look puzzled as I finally burst out, releasing the hysterics before I suffocated.

Nowadays, I still enjoy a good wipeout, but see them with the filter of an adult eye. When my son’s recent and spectacular ski blowout ended in a cloud of white, followed by the sight of him literally spitting out snow, we both howled. When I saw one of my fellow 40-something downhill racing teammates blow out on the course last winter, however, my first thought was not “What a riot!” but rather, “Oh god please not a knee injury!”

My husband, of course, will dispute the suggestion that I have matured on this topic. Whenever I am waiting for him in the car and he passes in front of it, he’ll fake trip and disappear beyond the hood, amazed that even though I know it’s coming, I’ll bust out laughing every time. He truly thinks I am sick.

Thankfully, I know there are others out there like me. During a recent trip to the park with my dog Dexter, I was taken out in amazing fashion as he ran by with a similarly speedy new friend. I barely passed physics in high school, but I can honestly say that even if I had aced it, I still couldn’t tell you how two dogs running across the ground could clip the back of my legs and send me straight up into the air, but that’s exactly what happened. Thanks to my puffy winter jacket and the fact that Dexter broke my fall with his body (he was like a giant squeaky toy letting out a YELP! when my back pinned him momentarily) I was dirty, but fine. Once the two men standing near me finished peppering me with concerned questions (Are you okay?? Did you hit your head?? Are you dizzy??), one of them burst out laughing, bending in half and clutching his midsection. He couldn’t have stopped if he tried; I immediately felt a kinship.

Later, as I retold the story of my glorious dog park collision to my kids, they too howled with laughter; then my son took it one step further. Squealing through his hysterics that he needed to get into the bathroom – quick! – he laughed so hard he peed. The gene has passed on; I couldn’t be prouder.


Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Can I Get an A-Choo

I’m taking a mom sick day today. Which is to say that I’m handling everything I juggle on a normal day, except heavily drugged and leaving a trail of wadded up tissues in my path.

There’s no stopping the presses when a mom gets sick. The trains still need to run, after all, even if the head engineer has been in her sweats for two days with a ponytail that looks at this point like it could stand up on it’s own without a holder of any kind.

Despite my feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck, however, I am thankful that both kids are so far in the clear. I remember hearing from a friend last year who barely survived a stomach bug which ripped through her household in a matter of days. At one point, she recounted, she had literally run to the bathroom, lost a few organs, cleaned herself up, then sprinted to her daughter’s room in time to get her to the toilet for her own Linda Blair moment. Sort of like a relay race, but with more bile.

Knock on wood, too, that the hubby is also seemingly germ-free, and determined to stay that way. Upon hearing of anyone coming down with so much as the sniffles in our household, his response usually runs along the lines of  ”Really? Well, let’s just hope I don’t catch it. Where’s the Purel?” after which the kids will receive air kisses at bed time for the next several days.

A case of reflexive self preservation? Maybe. But the truth is that if he does catch it, we will be subjected to daily updates, given in great detail and in solemn tones normally reserved for soap opera hospital scenes. “It’s in my chest now. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.” Close up to concerned stare. Fade to commercial.

Not his fault, of course.  Illness drama is a universal trait that has come with the Y chromosome for generations.  My mom always said she knew she was in for at least two days of theatrics once my dad pulled on The Robe. “He’d start shuffling around in it,” she says with an eye roll. “And I’d think, Oh here we go.” And that was a six-foot tall former Marine.

Things certainly haven’t changed. Recently, I heard from one woman about how she fought through her own miserable cold to make a tissue-and-OJ run to the store for her husband…only to be sent back because she unknowingly purchased juice with pulp. Yes, pulp. Another friend was summoned to the bathroom sink to note the color of her husband’s ejected phlegm. Apparently it was an odd hue, and he needed a second opinion. I’m not trying to gross you out folks – only my 9-year-old finds this talk hilariously entertaining – just sharing a little reality.

And so, I go back to my own sick day, thankful upon reflection that it’s not all that bad. Heck, there are even advantages if I really think about it. This morning, for example, shouts of “Mommy! He took that and it’s mine!!” sounded beautifully dulled down thanks to the gallons of fluid in my head.  Sort of like hearing a TV through a wall. And that run I was supposed to take sometime today? Postponed indefinitely, guilt-free. (As long as I don’t think about all the runs I skipped last week and the entire month before that). Fair trade.

Not a bad day at all, actually. You know what? Pass the tissues and fire up the Keurig. I got this.

Categories: Moms, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Boy oh Boy

I wasn’t what anyone would call “boy crazy” in my youth, but since having my son nine years ago, I find myself living the double entendre.

Crazy about boys? Yes. There is something about the little goofballs that warms my heart. I love seeing my son’s skinny little body running around the pool in the summer, positioning for the perfect cannonball, or tussling the spiky, crazed bed head that strikes him every morning.

Driven crazy by boys? Also yes. They are innately kinetic, hilariously flatulent (that’s how they see it anyway), ridiculously loud, and often seemingly determined to end up in the emergency room. A tough combination which can fray the nerves on a daily basis, to say the least.

I grew up one of three daughters, and though our household had its challenges (kudos to my dad for sharing the only full bathroom with four females), there is simply nothing that compares to the eye-bugging chaos of throwing a young, developing Y chromosome type into the mix.

My sister Stacey was the first of us to find that out when she had her son in 1997. Bowen kicked things into gear early, helping himself to a taste of the dog food (if the dog liked it, he would too, right?), sledding down the stairs in a laundry basket without regard for the perfectly kid-sized window on the landing, and later figuring out how to jump from the shed roof onto the trampoline for added bounce. Today, at nearly 15, he is the reason that I – a fairly unhip 40-something – am familiar with parkour (look it up – and if you have a son, brace yourself).

Needless to say, these antics never went over well with our mom, who was forever cringing, bracing, and letting out exasperated sighs at what she saw as bad behavior condoned.  Luckily for my sister, my son came along in 2002 and has since given her some relief, proving that there really is a certain universal insanity that comes with young testosterone.  After leaving a restaurant one evening, my mother let me know quite clearly that she “never would have allowed you girls to do that at the table” (to be honest, I really didn’t know what he had done, but didn’t want to seem completely oblivious by admitting it).  Instead, I clarified:  “Mom, we girls wouldn’t have even considered attempting to do half the things he does! He’s a BOY!”

In discussing this predicament with a good friend  – who, after being blessed with a quiet, intellectual, poetry-writing daughter, now has her own blur of boy joy running about the house – I found out I’m not alone.

“I know,” she once said to me. “That’s why I don’t leave Alex with my mother unless….well, I don’t. I just don’t leave him with her.”

I don’t mean to engage the overly dismissive “boys will be boys” brush-off, and to be honest, I actually think my son is more tame than most (despite the fact that we’ve already been to the emergency room to have his head stapled back together – twice). But to a large extent, off-the-wall, completely irrational and borderline idiotic shenanigans really are part of every day life with a mini-male.

So do me a favor. The next time you see a little boy putting a straw up his nose for no reason, jumping off something he’s been told to stay away from countless times, or laughing hysterically at his own belch, try not to roll your eyes at the irresponsible mother who claims him as her own.  Unbelievable as it sounds, she may actually be doing her best. Instead, give her a knowing smile, a pat on the back, and a glass of wine if there’s one within reach. She’s going to need it.

Sweaty, dirty, and happy as a clam. Boyhood personified.

Categories: Kid Mayhem, Moms, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

What Santa Doesn’t Know

Last week, my son Noah was nearly busting with the news that he had spent his own money at the school store to buy a Christmas gift for his little sister. I was sworn to secrecy…for an hour, at which point he cracked and gave it to her, much to her delight.

It was one of those sweet brother-sister moments I like to lock into my brain, write into my journal, or somehow keep archived to offset other, less touching scenes. The scenarios where, at this time of year, I am quick to loudly pronounce:  ”Santa is watching!” barely stopping myself in time to leave off the “dammit!” for emphasis.

Take, for instance, the recent afternoon when an argument erupted between the two of them upstairs. As Alyssa was fleeing the scene, she was only able to yell “MOOOMMMM –” from the hallway before she was whacked in the back of the head by a toy Despicable Me minion which had been fired down the stairs at her from behind. The accuracy was spectacular, and I made a mental note to be sure Noah got some pitching time in during the next little league season. Athletic admiration aside, I had to be parental. Ever try scolding a 9-year-old with a one-eyed stuffed yellow capsule staring up at you from the floor?

Then of course there was the day a couple of years ago when we were getting ready to visit our friends at their lake cottage and were detained by the type of dramatics only siblings can muster. As usual, I had to tell the kids ten times to get dressed while I single-handedly loaded everything into the car. Finally packed up, I went again to check on them, and found Alyssa sobbing in hysterics while her brother sat quietly across the hall in his room, smiling contentedly (never a good sign). Alyssa had her bathing suit on, but was refusing to put on her cover up because her brother – in her words – farted on it on purpose. Creative, I’ll give him that. Extra points for targeted body control.

This past summer, however, big brother outdid himself. After a typical run-in, Noah was sent to his room to chill out and reflect on his behavior (that’s the eloquent version – the actual instructions were bellowed by yours truly at full exasperated parent volume). After some time, he emerged a calm, smiling version of his former self. He said hello to Alyssa with a grin and a pat on the back, and acted the perfect gentleman for the rest of the day. I smelled a rat.

That afternoon, while dropping some laundry off in the kids’ rooms, I noticed something white peeking out from under Alyssa’s comforter.  Pulling back the covers, I saw her brother’s final stand. A small sheet of paper, featuring snarling, teeth-bearing monster faces drawn in red crayon, was accompanied by a scratchy message: “When it is night and the lights are off, look at those.” And there it was. Yes, he had reeled in his temper earlier that day…only to switch to a more stealth form of psychological warfare.

Of course I removed the note from her pillow. After all, the only real victims of a child’s nightmares are the parents she’ll awaken as a result of them. When I showed them to my husband later, laughing, he had a definite “holy crap, call a therapist” look on his face. Neither of us ever had a big brother, I reassured him, but I’m pretty sure this is all just part of the job description.

the evidence


Categories: Kid Mayhem, Sibling mayhem, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Beware the MomOlympians

So there I was, watching my daughter and all of her little buddies file into their classroom, visibly excited for the traditional first grade Thanksgiving feast. Beyond adorable, they were all decked out in handmade construction paper pilgrim hats and indian headbands, a few of them sporting fancy dresses for the occasion. Several moms, myself included, were eagerly snapping pictures, waiting for all the kids to be seated before we began dishing out the homemade food we and others had provided.

One woman, obviously dressed for work, took a few pictures, dropped off some mashed potatoes, kissed her pilgrim on the head, and gave a smile and a wave before heading out the door.

That’s when I noticed one of the mothers smirking, obviously waiting for mashed potato mom to leave. When the coast was clear, she leaned in to whisper to a co-conspirator nearby.

“She’s the one who called me last night,” she said, changing to a mimicking tone, ” ‘I don’t have time to make the potatoes, is it okay to use the ones from a box?’ ” (Eye roll, slight huff of a chuckle) “Can you believe?”

Boxed potatoes? The balls on that woman! Chase her down and strip her of her Costco card, she has gone too far.

I couldn’t help but to comment.

“Oh I make them all the time. Pretty darned tasty, actually, and super quick!”

Greeted by a strained smile and thinly veiled wave of pity, I was clearly categorized as just another sad excuse for a mother. So be it.

A couple of years back, I was in charge of baking cookies for the YMCA youth basketball end-of-season party. I completely forgot (gasp). It wasn’t until I pulled into the Y parking lot that my stomach clenched at the realization. But, a quick u-turn and a few blown yellow lights later, the kids and I were at the grocery store, where I swiped about five boxes of Chip Ahoys off the shelf, checked out, and called it a success.

Here was the exchange when we arrived:

Me:  ”Here coach, I was up all night baking these.”

Coach:  ”Your grandmother’s recipe, right?”

Me:  ”Yup. I’d give it to you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

He laughed. See? That guy got it. All the real people do.

Because the fact is, (brace yourself, scratch-or-nothing mom) there is no MomOlympics. No medals, no corporate sponsors (otherwise I’d be knocking on Beringer’s door right now), no celebrity status or the unfortunate bong photos that follow. We just have to pull it off as best we can and hope that in the end, we have intelligent, confident, resourceful young adults to show for it. That, and keep a therapy account handy just in case.

If you have a story about a time when you goofed up, winged it, or simply punted, I invite you to share it – here or anywhere. For every mom who would see you as a horrifying parental failure, I and countless others will feel a sincere kinship.

Do it for mashed potato mom.

Categories: Moms, Uncategorized | 3 Comments