Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I've got a bad case of it...

Caroline was sick this morning, after a three-day weekend filled with pools, friends, cookouts, cake and ice cream. By sick I mean “sick” – she said, “I think I’m going to barf and my head hurts and my throat hurts and my left pinky toe is tingly.” (Okay, I threw in the pinky toe part, but the rest is true.) It was so clearly a case of summer-itis I didn’t even need to google the symptoms to diagnose it.

So I took Jack to school and sent Caroline back to bed. After about 45 minutes of staring at her walls, she decided she felt better and I took her to school.

But want to know what was so pathetic? During that 45 minutes, when I knew she wasn’t sick but didn’t know whether she’d go to school, I actually planned our day. First we’d walk the dog since it gets too hot later. Then we’d get pedicures. Then we could go to the pool, maybe we’d eat lunch there and get ice cream afterwards. Then I could take her to get a haircut. We could walk together to pick up Jack then maybe head back to the pool and Whit could come meet us after work.

Seriously, I planned the day like a complicit little third grader, not a mother. I had to give myself a good mental shake and remember that I am, in fact, the responsible adult in this relationship, and that, by law, Caroline had to go to school and couldn’t stay home to have (yet another) play date with me.

And I realized that we ALL have summer-itis. School, at this point, is cruel and unusual punishment. Summer is here, so it’s time for lemonade stands and pancakes and fireflies and s’mores and pools and sunscreen, not spelling tests and math assessments. It’s not for packing lunches and saying, “Hurry or we’ll be late” or arranging one more end-of-year/season gift.

And as I thought, “It’s just not FAIR!” I realized my children are basically being raised by a mother who is completely emotionally stunted and trapped in mental elementary school herself.

But then I thought, “DAMN it’s fun to be a kid!”

So, summer-itis, bring it on. We’re armed to the teeth with water balloons and at the ready. And by “we” I do mean all of us, grownups included.

Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Shed Day...can I get an "Amen!"???

So I now have absolute, irrefutable proof that any silver spoon once residing in my mouth (which would have been years and years and years ago anyway) is long since tarnished, bent and tossed to the bottom of the junk drawer.

Because I am wildly excited about a big purchase being delivered today.

Obscenely excited.

It is going to change my life.

What is it, you ask? A car, a boat?


Plane tickets to a lavish and remote destination?

No, you silly thing, it’s a shed.

Yes, you heard me right, a shed. Like a little house in your yard that holds your lawn mower and stuff.

We had a garage, you see, but it was torn down in favor of a (killer) kitchen and sitting room. (Wouldn’t trade them for a dusty garage.) But that addition didn’t leave too much extra money for, well, anything.

Rather, it opened up a whole new list of expenses…and yessiree, I’d rather have my dining room curtains than a shed. And furniture for the cute sitting room. And, kind of, food on the table. Sheds cost thousands of dollars…did you know that? I didn’t, and when I learned it, the shed got pushed to the bottom of the list.

But finally, Whit got fed up with me and ordered a shed. With a window box, as a little nod to me.

I complained. I had a zillion other things to spend money on. But since he earns it, he kind of holds the trump card, which he never plays, but he did, and the trump card was a shed.

Once it was ordered, though, I got so excited.

No more bikes in the house! Woo hoo! No more weed whacker in the closet. No more paying the (slightly unreliable) neighbor kid to mow our lawn. No more storing chemicals next to crackers (okay, kidding, but we really do put a lot of crap inside).

So it’s coming today. Our yard is marked with little flags and I’m so excited that I may just pour myself a margarita and sit on the patio and watch them build it. (And maybe they’ll be young and cute. Ooooh, and shirtless, since it’s so hot. But okay, that’s a tangent.)

It’s not just me. The kids are calling it Shed Day. My neighbor, who can really crack me up, emailed me that she can’t wait to meet the new shed. Maybe she’s funny, maybe she’s sick of the back yard looking like a yard sale.

And guess what? It’s big. I could hide in it when the kids drive me crazy. I could send Whit out there when he drives me crazy. My in-laws could SLEEP out there!! (Totally kidding, we know you like hotels. Go figure.)

Ah, it’s the first day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

At least he's got a clean mouth

Yesterday I walked up to pick up Jack after school, and his (adorable, young, funny) teacher was walking toward me with a stern look on her face.

"Um, what?" I said, removing my sunglasses. Jack sidled up next to me.

She looked down at him. "It's okay to have Purell at school, right, Jack?"

Jack nodded, eyes downcast.

"But what can we never, ever do with Purell?"

He spoke so quietly I had to lean down to hear him.

"Eat it."

Seriously? "I licked it."

Why the HELL were you licking Purell?

"It's tasty."

"Shhhh...." said his teacher, glancing around. "Don't tell anyone."

"Come on," I said to her, "it's weird, but it won't kill him."

"No," she agreed. "But it's not good for him. There's a case of a kid getting DRUNK from licking hand sanitizer. Can you imagine if Jack came home from kindergarten TIPSY??"

I laughed and thanked her. Leave it to my kid to find the alcohol.

As we walked away, Jack confided, "Mommy, it actually really did taste pretty good."

Oh, Jack. Bless your little soul. It's not your fault. You've got my genes, through and through.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parenting: the mother of all jobs

Parenting rules used to be so clear. So simple. Taking care of kids was like taking care of guinea pigs: feed them. Make sure they have enough water and healthy snacks to eat. Give them equipment to play on and pet them once a day so they feel loved. Train them to poop in one spot.

And I turned out fine, right? I’m a good climber, a healthy eater, a reliable pooper. So why did everything have to change? Why did parenting have to get so hard?

Now we worry about self esteem and all the conflicting ways to inspire it. From the moment they’re born, we’ve got rules to follow…look them right in the eye. But not too close or they can’t focus. Breastfeed. Don’t breastfeed or they’ll be fixated on boobs forever. Sing, but only if you’ve got a good voice. Read, but only appropriate books. Fairy tales are completely and totally out, what with the violence and cannibalism and such. The Giving Tree? Wow, that’s a tricky one.

Then they get older. What to do if they fall down? Is comforting them really a mortal sin that will lead us all into social decay? Can your daughter get her ears pierced or is that encouraging self-mutilation? If your son wears a princess dress when he’s two, does that mean he’s gay FOR SURE??

To room parent or not to room parent? Their independence teeters precariously on that decision. And by all means, monitor their friendships. Do you want some little girl to have power over your little girl? I think not. And unless you’re the lunchroom monitor, she might. After all, that little girl is the one with the Twinkie.

Oh, and sibling relationships. Let them argue, or is that akin to allowing pit bulls to fight in an arena? Put your kid in therapy the first time you hear, “I’m a failure” or wait it out and accept it as normal childhood angst? Use a depilatory on your kid’s face or tell her the teasing will make her stronger?

Yeah, I haven’t got a clue.

You want to know how I think (hope) you become a fabulous parent? You just do it. You slog through it every day and you tap into your village for help and you make mistakes anyway and sometimes you cry yourself to sleep but you just do it. And you get through it. And it’s almost guaranteed that you will end up liking your kids, and you will realize they’re okay, and that you’re okay, and you’ll realize you did it right all along.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do we really die a little every day?

When Jack was in preschool, a very young mother – a pediatrician – died on her treadmill the week before Christmas. She had an undiagnosed heart problem, even though she exercised all the time.

A few weeks ago, one of Caroline’s friends took up a collection for their family friend, diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer when she was five months pregnant. Caroline cleaned out her piggy bank. The baby was just born and seems okay, but now the mom has to fight for her life.

Last weekend, the mother of children in both their classes died after a 15-month battle with rare adrenal cancer. Whit and I thought it was best to tell the kids, knowing they’d hear about it at school. Caroline said she would say a prayer for the little boys, and Jack said, “Wow, I’m glad you’re not dead.”

Me too, and BOY this has scared me and so many of my friends. You spend so, so long worrying that every bruise on your kids is leukemia, or that every wet bed is diabetes, or that every headache is a brain tumor (okay, SOME of us worry. Some of us don’t. You know who you are, and I remain green with jealousy that you don’t have the worrying gene).

But then, once you’re out of the woods and you can begin to let down your guard and accept that okay, you are blessed, and you really do have pretty healthy kids, EVERYONE YOUR OWN AGE STARTS GETTING SICK. And your “own age” isn’t 80, it’s 40.

And the worst part is the benign, benign symptoms – that end up being malignant. A stomach ache. A hard spot on your skin. A bruise. A mole. A headache. Nothing you’d make an emergency appointment to check.

My friend and I were saying that it’s all women who are sick because men are such babies and run to the doctor constantly, while women are too busy to schedule appointments, and then just can’t muster up the energy to park and pay and wait and then (pain in the ass) go somewhere else to get labs then repeat tests…we just can’t find the time, and our pain threshold is so raised after childbirth anyway that stage IV cancer can go completely unnoticed.

Is this just the age at which maternal mortality hits? Am I just a worrywart, or do I know too many stories?

Yes, yes, and yes. But it does seem, not just anecdotally, as though a horrifying diagnosis could be just a lightning strike away.

Carpe diem, right? More hugs, more love, more laughs. We never know how long we’ll have to do those things.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Star-struck, but for MTV or NBC?

I’m a cool mom, but I’m not a hip mom. No surprise; I’ve never really been hip in my entire life, and I actually still enjoy watching people stare when I wear Lilly Pulitzer pants outside the safe grounds of a country club.

Cutting edge? No. Avant-garde? Nope. Trendy? Ha!! Noooo….one of my life goals is still to learn how to accessorize. It shouldn’t be hard, but I am a dismal failure at it.

So when my sister-in-law texted me Friday to invite me to a fashion show and book-signing by Kelly Cutrone, I heard “open bar!” and “VIP seats!” and “goody bags!” more than I heard “totally cool MTV fashionista!”

So yes, I blew right by the famous chick (yes, she has her own Wikipedia entry) signing books and made a beeline for the pomitinis at the bar. In fact, it was only later (time-later and number-of-pomitinis-later) that I looked around and saw that it was just me and Kelly, as everyone was leaving to go sit down for the fashion show.

Okay, so now I’ve googled her, and it turns out she’s a controversial, sometimes (often?) bitchy piece of work. And she’s got a new book out that is laced with sex talk and expletives. On paper, she looks like a mean biker who will eat a suburban mother alive and mock her inexpensive, albeit cute, Maggy London shift within seconds.

But I’ll tell you the truth, if you’re trendier than I am and already have an opinion about her: she’s nice. She’s funny. She’s conversational and approachable and kind. She laughed with me about raising daughters and how her eight-year-old has this living monument to being your own person around all the time and yet still writes “My name is Ava Bieber” in her notebook.

We left for our seats and we all loved the fashion show.

Side note: I do have to say I’ve never seen a man wear pants as tight as those models wore. Many of the women (and some of the men) in the audience literally went into heat.

(Second side note: Someone needs to tell the clothing sponsors of fashion shows that if the women were allowed to wear bras and the men could wear pants that don’t fit like shrink wrap, we’d pay more attention to the actual clothes.)

The whole long, late night was fun. I lost count of the number of bars we entered and the number of drinks we downed, but I think I really, truly earned my Saturday-morning headache. Whit looked at me and shook his head and said, “Yup, you howled at the moon. It’s good for the soul AND the sales of aspirin.”

But the funniest thing to me was that I was uber-cool and chatty with Kelly Cutrone. I was calmly appreciative during the fashion show. I held my pinky elegantly crooked with every drink.

But then I met a local newscaster, and I was like a bubbling teenager. I think I scared her, but it was really, really exciting to meet her. She was laughing at me bypassing Kelly Cutrone to go talk to her and I finally said, “Look, I have two kids. I don’t have time to watch MTV. I already know people who dress head-to-toe in black. Plenty of people make fun of my clothes. But YOU! I watch YOU every morning!!” (By the way, I did note and compliment her very trendy shoes. I don’t have my head TOTALLY up my butt.)

Pathetic, huh? But I bet there are plenty of like-minded moms out there who get a little thrill out of meeting the face that tells them about gas prices and school closings every morning…you know, the things that really count.

Because really – what’s more important, knowing whether it’s okay for your underwear to show on the red carpet, or knowing whether a soccer game is going to get rained out? Which is more common in your life, a black tie event where even your shoes will be photographed, or the rainy sidelines where your sneakers will surely get soaked?

No contest. You can tell who my heroes are.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Little Peter Cottontail

Whit found this little baby bunny hiding in the grass. He's only about four inches long. I had to take a picture so I could show the kids this afternoon...Jack will not believe the coincidence as I was actually reading the story of Peter Cottontail to him last night.

If you read this, you might throw up. Seriously. Consider yourself warned.

Caroline’s third grade class performed a Mexican fiesta this morning. It really pushed the upper limits of adorable-ness…between all the little interesting facts and the Mexican hat dance and Don Gato and the huge fake flowers the girls put in their hair, it was very cute and the parents were rapt.

Caroline looked a little uncomfortable throughout the performance, so I went up to her after, congratulated her, then asked what was up.

Oh, the indignities of parenting.

She looked at me very seriously and told me the wart on her heel that had been treated by the dermatologist was falling off and she didn’t know what to do with it, so she was holding it on to her foot.

She asked me to throw it away.

I nearly barfed.

I offered her glue. She didn’t think that was funny.

A thumb tack?

A staple gun?

The kid has no sense of humor, so I just got her a band aid.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Of tomato note -- reposted from last Thursday after Blogger lost it

My husband is mortified that I am (hopefully) growing tomatoes on my driveway. Mortified. My HUSBAND who is from GEORGIA and dreams of driving a PICKUP TRUCK and FISHING for a living thinks I’m a little rednecky.

Oh, the irony. If you knew him and you knew me, you’d say, “Oh, the irony.”

“Can’t we just move it to the side yard?” he asked.

“No,” I patiently replied, “I have logged the hours of sunlight received by various locations for a week, and this four-foot-square area gets maximum sunlight. Which I need if I am to grow even one tomato.”

Which I am clearly so fixated on doing I will throw my self-respect under a bus and grow a garden on my driveway.

I cleared my throat. “And I will need to put chicken wire around it to keep the rabbits out.”

He handed me a piece of grass to stick between my teeth, shook his head and walked inside.

A culture of kindness

So the job I was offered involved teaching, and it made me realize that those who taught my children in preschool certainly didn’t do it for the money. And, as a good friend pointed out, it made me so thankful for every time one of those teachers was especially kind to my children.

Caroline’s preschool teacher would start every day with a quiet Caroline on her lap, reading a story. Jack’s kindergarten teacher would have him email me in those first few days of school when he missed me so much his “heart hurt.” (Yes, it totally killed me, and I would’ve home schooled but the kids like recess.)

And then I realized that if one is to shift their paradigm a little bit, there is still a culture of kindness alive, even with all the war and terrorism and crime and unemployment and crazy gas prices and competition for everything.

I see it when Caroline races to catch up with the girl in her class who has Down’s Syndrome, and as I watch her invent silly songs to make the little girl giggle.

I see it when a neighbor yells “Thanks!” to the guys hauling away her trash and is rewarded with a huge smile.

I see it when someone drops off an unexpected treat, or sends a flower home with one of my kids after a play date.

I see it when I go out of town and my neighbor checks on my dad every day, or someone else brings in my trash cans so it doesn’t look like no one’s home.

I see it when a little kindergartener tells his mom he fell out of his chair and everyone laughed at him, except Jack.

I see it when someone I’m not allowed to mention in my blog secretly takes a very sick little boy and his dad to a hockey playoff game, knowing they’d love it but that they couldn’t afford the tickets because of their insane medical bills.

I see it when a local computer guy comes over to fix my dad’s computer for free, accepting only my thanks and the bottle of wine I make him take home for his wife.

I see it when Whit very quietly transfers his unused vacation days to the empty account of one of his employees who really needs a break.

I see it when a dear friend fights the downtown crowds so she can try to cheer me on as I run a race. Or sends her handy husband over to fix something I can’t figure out.

I see it when Whit’s out of town and it’s late and I need something, like Motrin for a sick kid, and one call has it delivered to my door.

I see it when someone could be critical or gossipy and consciously chooses to say something nice instead.

I see it when anyone does something thoughtful without a single expectation of recognition or thanks.

It’s so easy for me to focus on the stress. (There's so much of it.) Or the to-do’s. (There are so many of them.) It’s so easy for me to say something unkind because it’s funny or I need to vent.

But. (Yes, I am about to sound like a dork.)

But it’s just as easy to focus on all the little kindnesses around me every single day.

And it’s really amazing to me that it’s contagious, and that focusing on those kindnesses sparks kindness in me, and I pay it forward without even thinking about it.

I guess I’ll always be a work in progress, and I’ll always have a long list of things about myself that must be improved.

But I'm going to try to pay attention.

Because baby steps are good, right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jack's perfect day

The assignment was to write how you'd spend your perfect day.

This is what Jack wrote:

I would like to run.
I would want to get a flashlight.
Next I would want to eat pancakes.
Then I would like to score a goal.
Next I would like to plant.
I would like to buy something.
I would like to spend time with my dad.
I would like to swim.

Wouldn't you love to be in kindergarten again, for just one day? Doesn't this remind us of how simple life used to be, before we made it so difficult, or it made us so difficult? This is seriously all the stuff Jack ever thinks about. He's either very happy or just a complete moron. I'll assume he's happy.

P.S. And WOW what serendipity -- I posted this and the ad right next to it was for 50% off flashlights!! Is it a conflict of interest if I click on my own ad???

Mike Mulligan, role model

Whit’s parents came in town last week. To give you an idea of what they’re like, they didn’t tell Jack they were coming. Rather, Dave, my father-in-law, showed up as a kindergarten Mystery Reader. This adorable kindergarten tradition lasts throughout the year, and parents surprise the kids by showing up in costume and reading a book to the class. I’ve been an elf (Polar Express) and Fancy Nancy, Whit has been Horton and Snoopy. It’s always fun, but Jack realizing that Mike Mulligan was actually Gramps, who lives eight hours away, was really special.

This is what Mike Mulligan looked like:

Anyway, they’re in their seventies, and they’re very active and healthy. Age is never an excuse for anything, unless it’s an afternoon nap or the right to drink as much wine as they want and then sleep in. They’re a lot like me and Whit (and by that I mean they’re pretty young old folks…not that we’re pretty old young folks). (But sometimes people say Whit was born at age 40. And they’re right.)

So on Friday, Whit had the great idea of taking them on a hike. We have a nice little mountain near us; it’s got trails the kids can handle as well as some dicier ones. Once you get to the top, there’s a great view. Whit told them it was basically a walk in the woods; I told them I remembered some spots that could be tricky. Either way, we packed a picnic, leashed the dog and set off.

None of us had too much trouble getting to the top. But the rocks were slippery, and it was foggy. There were also some loose rocks, so we had to watch where we stepped, and I even had Whit hold Bo’s leash so I could pay attention to where I was climbing. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the woods. It was a hike. His parents seemed to love it.

Later, Whit’s mom said to me, “Dave and I are so flattered you thought we could do that hike."

It never, ever occurred to me they couldn’t.

And they did it, although the memory will probably be of the time Whit and Julie dragged them up a mountain meant for billy goats, not senior citizens.

And I realized that’s who I want to be.

I feel very invincible in my (gulp) 40’s and I want to be that invincible in my 70’s. My mother-in-law has a mantra for me, one she started when my mother died: Sunscreen. Calcium. Sleep. Exercise. Wine. She swears that if you liberally incorporate all those things into your life from your 30’s on, you’ll pretty much remain vibrant until you drop dead of old age. (By the way, my mother dropped dead very early, from cancer, and the only one of those things she incorporated liberally was the wine. I’m guessing one needs a little balance.)

My seventies are far, far away from me right now. I can’t even wrap my head around what my life will look like then. But I do know that I look at my mother-in-law, and I want to be a lot like her. I look at my father-in-law, and I want Whit to be just as healthy and strong. And, in all honesty, I want Jack and Caroline to look at us, even now, and think getting older isn’t so bad.

So I’ll go take my calcium and get a little zen to calm my hyperactive brain. And try to remember that I’ve got to be a role model for years and years to come.

Geesh. Now we can't even just relax and get old without trying to do it well.

No pressure, right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My very unhappy hour

Had a good blog post but it got censored/axed by my husband, who is my editor-in-chief. While I am generally happy to push buttons, these were not the right buttons to push, so he wanted to save me from myself.

I have a problem with my back – a ruptured disc that miraculously felt better so I could run a ten-mile race last fall and keep up with all my running and spinning and body pumping over the winter. It was really hurting last night, so I rooted through all the painkillers the back doctor gave me last year and found a Vicodin (which, ironically, I took at the same time Dr. House was popping his pills on television). It kept me up all night, itching. I literally saw every hour pass. What a unique form of hell, and how sad to realize I might make an excellent wino but I’d make a terrible druggie.

I was offered a job – seriously – that would pay me less than I pay the middle-school babysitter and would take away all my mommy duties, like room parent or coach or field trip chaperone. In my own twisted, tired way, I couldn’t help but pray all my mothering is worth more than minimum wage.

Caroline got the engine to a small car – errr, I mean an expander – put in her mouth, and WOW you should hear the complaining. And the speech impediment. Note to self: leave the country when she eventually has to give birth. She’s not so good with discomfort.

And Jack, who, bless his sweet little soul, is aggressively rubbing my sore back so relentlessly I almost sat on him three times today. He’s so strung out (see yesterday) that he’s just crying for no reason. This does not get on my nerves AT ALL, I promise.

And Whit is booking summer golf tournaments as fast as he can dial.

I think I’ll just go to bed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is it Armageddon, or just the month of May??

The sun is (usually) shining. The birds are chirping. My tomatoes are growing (woo hoo!). Up and down the street, one can hear the sound of children playing outside.

It must be May.

I don’t need any of that, though. I’d be able to tell by other signs.

For example, Caroline having a nonsensical meltdown because she can’t prepare properly for the third grade’s Mexican fiesta: “MOM!! How can I be the only kid in my school who doesn’t have any Mexican clothes??? It’s SO UNFAIR.”

(Um, because we’re not Mexican, and we’re not going to Mexico any time soon? You don’t have any Russian clothes, either. Duh.)

Or a sign could be Jack, my always-agreeable Jack. The other night I said, “Okay, buddy, time to get in the shower!” He looked at me and said, conversationally, “No.” And went back to playing.

Seriously? YOU are talking back to me? The world’s gone to hell.

Maybe I’d know it’s May because of Whit, who will spend a gorgeous Saturday playing (horribly) in a golf tournament. He then comes home tired and pissed. Really, dude, just go to work. You come home from there tired and pissed, too, and at least you’re getting paid for it.

Maybe I’d know because all my friends are complaining about everything. Really…every friend I’ve seen in the past 48 hours has started a conversation like this: “Can I just TELL you what yesterday was like? First I drove to soccer then I drove to baseball then there was a birthday party then I had to go to the grocery store then my in-laws came in town then I had to return overdue library books then it was Cub Scouts then a Brownie meeting…it was INSANE!” I always expect that litany to end with, “And then I ducked out of the phone booth and fluffed my cape and saved the universe! Bin Laden? Yeah, that was me, with my car keys in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.”

(Because that’s truly how we feel, this population of strung-out mothers. Seal Team 6 has got nothing on an efficient mom with a smart phone.)

But the surest sign I have that it’s May is the nagging thought I have when I go for an early morning run and turn onto the sidewalk of a busy street. “If I leaned into the traffic and a car just nicked me…I’d be just a little hurt, maybe a broken leg, no vital organs injured, no internal bleeding…they’d take me to the hospital...I don't have any identification on my body…I could pretend like I have amnesia...no one could find me for say, oh, two days, and I could just lie in bed and relax, all by myself. I wouldn’t be able to volunteer for anything or help anyone or take care of anyone. I wouldn’t have to go to a single meeting or pack a single lunch or do a single spelling quiz. No emails, no phone calls, no errands.” (Come on, admit it. You pretend like I'm nuts, but the idea of hiding out on bedrest is pretty appealing.)

I push the thought away, knowing it’s rather twisted and sick, but it creeps right back in.

When a medically induced coma sounds like a vacation, I know it’s May.

There is something about this month that just sucks the life out of you. The schools are cramming every last possible activity into this month, right when the kids want to put their homework down the garbage disposal and play outside. There are at least 500,000 things that NEED volunteers RIGHT NOW. Or require material donations. Which require me to go to a store. Which is a to-do. Which is already a list so long even Santa feels sorry for me.

Anyone who works in an office is chafing at their four walls, knowing it’s 75 degrees and sunny and they could be golfing/fishing/running/drinking margaritas on a patio. There’s a significant and miserable part of the population, the people who look stoned all the time, so overcome by seasonal allergies that they sneeze on you a lot. Which is gross. And irritating.

Literally, to a person, no one is happy right now.

We’re all just ready. Ready for summer. Ready for that beach trip or camp or s’mores or fireflies. Ready to read, because it’s all repeats on TV during the summer so your nights are wide open. Ready to leave the office early for golfing/fishing/running/drinking margaritas on a patio. I know the kids and I are ready for a change of scenery; we’re all tired of the elementary school. I love the people there but I never intended to sell my soul to them.

Whether you’re a mom or a dad or a single person or a kid, whether you work or stay home (and yes, I know, staying home IS work, trust me, I’m with you on that one), you’re just antsy. We’re all done.

I guess we can’t do a darn thing about it but plow through it. We’ll just have to suck it up now and then get our revenge next month.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger issues today

Blogger hasn't been working since last night, so many posts are missing and random posts are being emailed. Please be patient while they fix whatever the problem is...I'm trying to be patient as well!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lunch, and then some

Jack keeps asking me to come in and have lunch with him. This month has been crazy busy and today is the first chance I have to do it. He’s very excited.

I thought I’d surprise him and bring in brownies for the whole class. I was feeling pretty good – he was happy I was coming in, and I was happy I had a surprise for him.

Until this morning.

"You'll be there for lunch, right? As soon as I walk in?"

Yup. I promise.

A heartbeat of silence. Then:

“Mom, can you play soccer pretty well?”

“Um, maybe, depending on the shoes I’m wearing.” I looked at my feet. “I can’t play soccer in flip flops. Why?”

“Well, it would be really great if you came a little before lunch and played soccer with me.”

Okay, Jack, I’ll try. I’ll change my shoes.

“Well, and you know what, Mommy? It would be particularly great if you would sneak up on me. I like it when you do that.”

Okay, yeah, right, change shoes, sneak up on you, then play soccer. Got it. Then have lunch with you, then surprise you with the brownies.

"Maybe while I'm standing by the blue slide. That's a good time to sneak up on me, right?"

(This is getting a little stressful. Lots of to-dos, and they have to be in the right order.)

“Oh, and Mommy?”

WHAT, Jack?

“So, if you came even before recess, you could sit with me in Writer’s Center. Maybe you could help me spell some of the big words.”

Yes, Jack, and if we keep going, you can crawl right back into my womb. Isn’t that what you’re ultimately going for?

Freud would have a flippin’ field day with this child.

And yes, he’d probably decide I’m nuts, too. After all, it’s kind of odd I have one child who can’t let go while the other one is mentally decorating her college dorm room.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

(Wo)man vs. Nature

Many times, my friends who read this blog (love you love you love you) will mention that I’ve posted something to which they can really relate. Many moms I know go through some of the same struggles I go through, and when I can write about them I feel better, and when fellow moms can laugh about them they feel better. Win/win.

But today, I’m going to tell you something you can’t possibly understand. It’s just too stupid. But it’s a big deal to me.


I can’t grow tomatoes.

Literally. I have tried to grow tomatoes for six years and have never actually consumed anything more than a single cherry tomato in an entire season.

The problems are simple but seemingly insurmountable: shady yard. Hungry squirrels.

My neighbor planted a huge tomato garden that was wildly successful, and I think she did it just to taunt me. She probably doesn’t even like tomatoes. She probably shot the squirrels.

One would think that a logical, educated woman would say, “Okay, I’ll grow something else.”

Not me.

No. I am now on a mission.

FOR SIX YEARS I’ve tried to overcome the shady yard AND the hungry squirrels. The squirrels I can outsmart, thank God. The shady yard’s got me beat. I even had my trees aggressively trimmed just so I could grow a tomato, but it wasn’t enough. I should just admit defeat.

But sometimes I am like a stubborn, irrational tick on a dog. And I’m afraid my self-worth has gotten wrapped up in this. “Tomatoes are easier to grow than weeds!” announced one website. “So simple, a child can grow a bountiful crop!” Yeah, well, bite me.

So I have a two-pronged attack this year. One, Jack gave me a Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter for Mother’s Day. (Caroline gave me a cookie bouquet. Who loves me more, I ask?) That contraption is in the back yard, in the square foot of sunshine I get in the middle of my patio, in the morning.

And then…I have just returned from Home Depot, where I bought a gigantic raised planting bed and 5,000 cubic feet of soil. That sucker is going right on my driveway, even if it makes me look like a redneck. I don’t care. It's a sunny driveway, and sun is what I need.

I WILL grow one single stupid large edible tomato this year.

And I will eat it.

And then I will have won.

And next year I can try cucumbers.

Monday, May 9, 2011

They call this happy hour??

Once again, I just made an emergency trip to the store because the dog ate the damn raw pork chops off the counter before I could cook them.

Jack put on my rollerblades from college, flew down the sidewalk and immediately fell and "broke his butt." He's now lying on the couch, with his tushie up in the air, shrieking, "I NEED A BAND AID!" Seriously? For WHAT? He's in kindergarten. He thinks a band aid cures everything.

Caroline hasn't spoken one word to me since 8:00 this morning. I think it's because I accidentally brushed through a knot when I was putting her hair up in a ponytail, but it could just as easily have been that the cadence of my breathing was irritating her. Doesn't take much these days.

And then there's Whit. "Long day, meetings until late, I won't be home anytime soon." Great.

I had decided to not drink wine on week nights, but screw it.

A post-mortem on the Dinner Party

I needn’t have worried; it was a really great night. My brother’s wines were a huge hit (if you’re a wino, he recommended a Justin cabernet as a cocktail wine and a Catena Alta Reserva Cabernet as a dinner wine. Both are light and very yummy). The food turned out well and the PITA dessert was devoured. The company was terrific and the conversation was excellent.

Only two things happened that gave me a moment’s pause. One was my husband. I’d asked him to come up with a thoughtful, articulate toast to the mothers at the table, since it was Mother’s Day Eve. He appeared to have forgotten his duty and so, when prompted, just raised his glass and said, “To all the mothers.” We thought that was his opening remark and kept our glasses raised, but he just started drinking his wine. I glared and him and he shrugged and said, “Better than saying ‘to all the motherf***ers.’” Okay, thanks, now be quiet and drink your wine.

The second problem occurred right around dessert. Bo had made his way into the dining room, and under the table, but I don’t think he was flirting with anyone’s crotch. He seemed to be lying there quietly. And, we quickly discovered, FARTING. I think it was a strategic plan to asphyxiate the guests, clear the room and eat all the food. It was a pretty disruptive sneak attack, because you can’t actually remove a 90 lb. dog from a room containing steak. So we just had to suffer. And hold our breaths.

Other than those two things, it was perfect. I’d have a dinner party every weekend if I could afford it.

But I’d give the dog Beano and do the toast myself.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Certain champagne, potential catastrophe

So there I was, late last night, manically whisking egg yolks for (what felt like) four hours to make the champagne sabayon for tonight’s dinner party. (Note to self: don’t take a body pump class on the morning you will be whisking for any extended period of time. Your arm might literally fall off. And your left-hand whisking isn’t nearly as effective.)

This dessert is insanely time-consuming to make, but I am proud to report that I did make perfectly wavy, elegant tuile bowls. (Ten of them. In almost three hours. And that’s not an exaggeration.)

All of this was mitigated by the fact that the sabayon didn’t require all of the champagne.

Anyway, this crazy work is really just very, very fun for me. I love an excuse to throw a party. I’d put this much effort into any capital-D Dinner capital P-Party, but now you see why I can’t capitalize many of them. I just don’t have the stamina.

But I’ve done my part. Now the rest of the universe just needs to cooperate with me so it’s a success.

What could go wrong, you ask? I have a list:

1. I could drink too much wine and talk too much and forget that I’m the one responsible for getting the food on the table.

2. The kids could refuse to go to bed. Remember the beach trip? Yes, that same friend will be here – we DO NOT need a repeat.

3. The dog could get under the table, sidle up to one of my male guests and plant his head firmly in the guest’s crotch, waiting for food.

4. The guest could like it.

5. Because there will be women here, and women are really just grown-up third grade girls, someone could say something bitchy and hurt someone’s feelings. Not on purpose, but it could happen.

6. I could drop a platter of anything between the kitchen and the dining room. Even – dare I say it? – the dessert.

7. Red wine could be spilled on my new, cream-colored dining room rug. Because I love it so much, I couldn’t brightly say, “It’s okay! I’ll clean it up later!” No, I would probably fall to my knees crying and screaming, “Out, damn spot!” just for the effect.

8. Caroline could sneak down and sit on the stairs and listen to our entire conversation, which, in the end, always ends up being inappropriate. For once, I want her to go have a sleepover, but no one’s biting.

9. My muscles could literally seize up from yesterday’s class and render me incapable of doing anything other than sitting at the table and letting people wait on me. (Hey…..hmmm.…)

10. I could crack a joke that’s not funny. One that makes my husband mad. Shocking, I know, but it happens.

11. Any sort of natural disaster could occur. Hurricane, flood, tornado, brush fire, they’ve all crossed my mind.

So, universe, listen up. Don’t screw with me. I don’t do this very often, and I make it the best it can be, and so I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me a pass tonight and let everything just run smoothly.


If you listen, there’s a killer dessert and some good wine in it for you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A party by any other name...is easier.

I love to entertain. In fact, when we did a renovation of our 1950’s cape cod, all I said to the contractor was, “I want FLOW!!!”

Now, because I am prone to stress (the good kind – the buzzing that makes me really productive), I have different levels of stress for different types of entertaining. And each type has its own protocol, because I am completely neurotic.

So. Bottom of the barrel is happy hour. That’s pita chips and hummus and my kitchen table. No big deal.

A family cookout – no stress. Paper plates are okay. It’s a call to my sister (“I need salsa, stat!”) or an appreciation for the wine I always know my brother’s wife brings. (Don’t worry, brother-who-I have-been-forbidden-to-mention-in-my-blog, it’s not you.) (Thank God for big families. My sister doesn’t care if I talk about her and other two brothers don’t know the blog exists.)

Then, some of our favorite neighbors over for dinner…very minimal stress. Tidy up the house; use the kitchen plates and real napkins. Mainly that stress is remembering what I served them the last time so I don’t repeat it. These are the friends who once made their way over here in a snowstorm and sat on the floor in their pajamas eating chicken-noodle soup in front of the fire, so they’re pretty low-maintenance.

Then, a small party for any reason. Kid’s birthday, Father’s Day, Whit’s birthday, that’s a little more stress. That’s bring out the party plates I got in large quantities for larger crowds, have more appetizers, possibly have several different drink options. Use the cute cocktail napkins. But mainly, it’s just a bigger guest list so more to-do’s. This isn’t mach-10 planning, but it’s a lot of lists and several trips to the grocery store.

The mac daddy of all stress is my annual Christmas Eve party. It’s carrying on a tradition of my mom’s, and it gets bigger and more expensive and more complicated every year. Last year I had 75 guests. I stress and stress and call my caterer friend and call my interior decorator friend and work my ass off for a month, sweating and cursing and swearing I will NEVER do it again. (By March, I’m planning my menu for the next year. I’m totally all bark and no bite.)

Anyway, past small party but before Christmas Eve is a Dinner Party, which I am having on Saturday, and which must be capitalized. When capitalized, it means good china and crystal, dining room, meticulously planned menu and fabulous wines. (The latter resulted in me racing through the wine store a few days ago screaming into the cell phone to my oenophile, out-of-town brother, “I KNOW you’re working! But spell that! Alta or alto? Isn’t that singing?? Did you say PROSECCO?” I irritated the hell out of him but I got good wine. He really knows his wine and he’s pretty patient with me.)

Oh, but as Whit will tell you, I always make my life ten times harder than it has to be.

So when it’s called a capital-D Dinner capital P-Party, it means I have to pick one seemingly impossible thing to do so that I will be appropriately rewarded if it works out well.

This time, it’s trying to make a dessert that looks really complicated. But I got a new cookbook for my birthday and I am determined to make (drumroll please) ginger tuile cups with champagne sabayon and fresh berries.

The stress-o-meter is inching higher.

I feel like I’m preparing for a major sporting event. I made a list. I double checked it. I went to the grocery store. I got all the ingredients; I’ve triple checked to make sure I have all the right utensils. I’ve gone over the recipe in my head so many times I’ve almost committed it to memory. I’m prepared to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow and transform cookie dough into delicately and elegantly shaped wavy bowls.

I'm armed. I'm ready.

Oh, crap, this is just too much. Maybe I should just call it a cookout and crack open the wine.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Orthodontic update

After looking at the molds of Caroline's teeth and saying, "Whoa, buddy, we've got BIG issues here!!" the orthodontist decided to start with an expander, for which he had to fit her today. So no braces yet. But she's cracking me up because he put two tiny spacers in her top back teeth and she's been moaning about it and demanding Motrin all day.

Boy, sister, buckle up. If this hurts, you're in for a world of pain when I start cranking that expander. Eat now, because life as you know it is going to really stink in about a week!

A very bad four-letter word

Betcha I can make you scratch your head.

Because that’s what happens whenever someone starts talking about lice.
Really, what an awful concept. It’s not enough that you literally have BUGS laying EGGS on your HEAD…it’s that they infest couches and carpets and pillows and hats and car seats and YUCK a control freak like me would just lose her mind. They’re resilient and they multiply and they burrow and they suck blood and they bite and they are just evil little critters.

No. We haven’t had lice. Yet. (Knock on wood, throw salt, say a prayer.)

And, in my control-freak way, I am convinced it has to do with the all-out preventive lice assault I launch every time I hear the word.

Jack and Caroline know the drill.

Short hair for boys, pony tails for girls. Don’t share hats. Don’t share pillows. Don’t share brushes. Don’t hug anyone who’s itchy (because, even if it’s not lice, excessive itchiness is never a good sign).

And then my products…a full lice-prevention system. Lice repellent shampoo. Lice repellent conditioner. Lice repellent spray I put on the dog, even though dogs can’t get lice. Not taking any chances, even with Bo.

(Jack: “Mommy, really, I’m a boy. I don’t want hairspray.” “Heard of Donald Trump, Jack? The man is sprayed within an inch of his life and he’s not complaining. So just close your eyes and don’t breathe for a minute.”)

Once Caroline had a friend come home with her and she was scratching her head like crazy, so I wouldn’t let her in the house – I took them to a park, even though it was 50 degrees and drizzly. Sure enough, the next day her mom told me she had lice. (And a cold. Oops.)

Yesterday, a kindergarten mom told me her daughter had lice, and she wanted me to tell the other parents but not mention her daughter’s name. I told the teacher, who subconsciously pulled her long hair into a lice-repellent ponytail while we were talking. I emailed the parents, and a mini witch hunt ensued: “Who has it?” “Boy or girl?” “Long or short hair?” “Was it up in pigtails or down at school today?” “Does (my kid) play with the kid who has it?”

Yes, it’s the plague of elementary school. And I know the universe is going to laugh like crazy some day and give us a whopping, crawling case of lice, but at least I’ll go down fighting.

And itching.

So are you scratching your head yet?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I love these teeth.

(Yes. I also insanely adore the girl attached to them, but for today, I’m focusing on the teeth.)

(Cue the violin. I’m getting maudlin about teeth.)

But come on…this is a perfect nine-year-old mouth. (Okay, maybe she needed braces at eight and her teeth should be straight by now, but that just seemed too early to me. And she’s just barely nine.)

If you think about it, through the blessings of modern orthodontia, kids these days have these crazy teeth for such a short time. There’s something about Caroline and her teeth that broadcast to me that she’s still a little girl. She hasn’t gotten old enough to get self-conscious and fixed and all metal-y.

Tomorrow, she’ll get all metal-y.

And I, in my sappy, sentimental way, will be sad, because it will age her just a little bit, and she’ll LOOK like a bigger kid than she probably is.

Yes, I want my kids to grow up.

And yes, I want my kids to stay young forever.

And yes, I am thrilled we’ll be yanking those sky-high teeth down to be in line with the others, and yes, she is pretty, and she deserves nice, straight teeth, but a big part of me remembers how I’d rub those gums when the little baby teeth were breaking through, or how I’d search high and low for silver dollars so the Tooth Fairy could do her job well. I can't forget the Christmas those two front teeth had fallen out and we so appropriately sang, "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" over and over and over. And over.

I miss that little girl with pigtails, and I miss those days when life revolved around the Wiggles and ice cream. It just gets more complicated when they get older, and the braces tell me it’s about to get a heck of a lot more complicated, and I love that little girl, who really, in the end, wasn’t that complicated at all. And I love the bigger girl just as much, and I’m excited as I watch her change and grow, but there’s a very dysfunctional part of me that can look at a picture of her at three years old with all her little chiclet baby teeth intact and burst into tears.

Dramatic? Perhaps. I don’t really believe she’ll get braces and then ask for the keys to the car, or sneak beer, or (I can barely say it) date.

But braces offer undeniable proof that she’s getting older. Which is good. And bad. And happy. And sad. Which makes me a certifiable nut. Or just a mom.

They’re going to have to sedate ME tomorrow.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An addendum

Yikes...apparently that blog post was read by some as snotty, judgmental, and critical of how other people parent.

You missed the point. Maybe I talked too much.

I parent like a 1950's mother. I believe the way I parent my children is best for my children, no one else's. My question was simply whether I am putting my old-fashioned values above my kids' happiness. Literally everyone else seems to do things differently than I do, and I am hardly so arrogant as to think I'm right and they're wrong. Rather, I was positing that perhaps I am wrong, and the ubiquitous "everyone else" is right.

Do I judge bad parenting? Yes. If you abuse your child, I judge you. If you sell your children for crack, I judge you. If you neglect to feed your children, I judge you. If you simply let them stay up to watch “Glee,” it doesn’t occur to me to judge you. If they eat Big Macs, I don’t judge you. Even if your kid is allowed to say “Shut up,” it’s not bad parenting, it’s different parenting. It’s not for me but it might work for you.


ISO my village. Are you out there??

It’s true. It takes a village to raise children. I think I have been a village for my family and friends; I’ve diagnosed dehydration or croup over the phone, I’ve made emergency trips to elementary schools to help the children of friends, I’ve offered sleeping strategies to strung-out moms. But now I need a village.

I am old-fashioned. I know that. So things that may seem antiquated or ridiculous to other parents are important to me.

My children go to bed early. Jack goes to bed at 7:30 and Caroline goes to bed between 8:00 and 8:30. I know preschoolers who don’t go to bed until 10:00, so Caroline (correctly) tells me she has an earlier bedtime than anyone she knows. Well, guess what? Those are the times when my kids are tired. If they stay up later, they’re pretty much disasters the next day. If they stay up later, they’re still up at the crack of dawn the next day, and then they’re miserable and falling asleep at the table.

I hate sleepovers. See the previous item on the list.

I think food groups are important. I want my kids to have learned that protein and fruits and calcium matter. I want them to know they can eat sweets after they’ve filled up on the healthy stuff. I want them to know that almost anything in moderation is okay. I think I am dooming them to a life of bad eating habits if I don’t consistently focus on good eating habits now.

I think it’s important to give my children the gift of faith and then practice it. In our family, that means going to church. In some families, it means taking a walk and appreciating nature. Whatever it is, it instills a sense of comfort that can be monumental as they get older and life gets harder.

My kids aren’t allowed to watch the news. They don’t know who Osama Bin Laden is, even today. They don’t need to hear about war and rape and fires and murder and economic upheaval. I believe they’ll learn about those things in time, but they’re too young to see the dirty underbelly of the world right now.

I think respect is crucial. My children call my friends Mrs. Smith or Mr. Hall. They don’t call them “Annie” or “Mr. Matt.” They don’t call my pediatrician friend by her first name, despite the eye-rolling she gives me when they address her as “Dr. Collins.” I think respect, gratitude and good manners are all such important lessons that need to be taught.

I flatly refuse to spoil my children with anything other than love. For Jack, it’s hard that I won’t run through the grocery store buying him toys because they’re there and they’ve caught his eye. Caroline has figured out you have to save money to buy the things you really want, particularly when you’re caught right between your birthday and Christmas. I don’t want them to grow up with a sense of entitlement because they get everything they want as soon as they want it. I want them to work for things, or appreciate things when they are given to them.

I won’t pay my children, or buy them things, for good grades. I will hug and kiss and congratulate them and talk about how proud they must be and I am, but I won’t equate grades with money or presents. I think that screws up their motivation.

I think grammar is important. I don’t do LOL or OMG or LMFAO. I know what they mean, and I know they’re part of our lexicon now, but I hate those acronyms. If you use the words right, you don’t need emoticons or acronyms to drive home your point.

I don’t think elementary-age kids should be allowed to say “shut up” and “you suck.” I also heartily disagree with the third grader who likes to play beer pong (with water) when she has friends over. I am not happy with the third grader who looked up the f-word and asked Jack to read it out loud to give her a laugh. I don’t want my kids to be like any of those kids.

I don’t like the Wii and the DSi and the tween tv shows and the obsession kids have with anything on a screen. Jack was excited to watch Caroline’s class presentation because there was a Powerpoint element and she told him he’d get to see a movie...he wasn't excited to learn about blue fairy whales and komodo dragons, he was sold on the idea of a movie. Yuck. I think these things pull kids into solitary little bubbles and take away from imaginative play, reading, fresh air and human beings.

Okay, so now you understand why I felt sort of sorry for Amy Chua. We are all doing the best we can. We are all parenting the way we think is right. And then (some of us are) getting criticized. Because, frankly, some of us are wrong. Some of us are making mistakes that we refuse to see.

For every item on my list, I could relate at least two snarky and critical comments I’ve received from my friends. They do roll their eyes and probably whisper about me behind my back, and I get plenty of digs to my face. My own husband thinks I make the kids go to bed too early, based solely on the fact we're usually the first to leave family dinner parties. I’m starting to be a little concerned that I should be paying attention to all of them.

So here’s my question, and I’d seriously like an answer. Am I harming my kids, socially, by making them so different from their peers? Should I let Caroline stay up as late as she wants when she’s with her friends and just suck it up when she’s a crying mess? Should I let Jack forgo a game of tag outside with the neighbors to play a video game? Should I embrace McDonalds because they’re the only kids on the planet who have never had a Happy Meal?

Can I parent the way I want to, or is the way I want so out-of-touch and old-fashioned that it’s not what’s best for my children?

If you have an answer, or an opinion, please leave me a comment. I’d really like to know what you think!