Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The boys on the bus

My preschooler on the bus

This morning my youngest needed to be at school before 8:00 a.m. because he had a field trip and would be riding "the big school bus." He was very excited about this, so much so that putting his clothes on and eating breakfast seemed to be a challenge. I don't know how many times I asked him if he had his socks on yet. Then he told me he needed to wear a specific shirt, the one with the name of his school on it. God help me, why didn't I think of that last night? It's not like I haven't done this before! (In fact, the specific shirt had been handed down from either or both of The Bigs.) After tearing through his bureau and his bin of summer clothes, I could not find it. But I did find Curious George and Nemo-Disneyland shirts that were the same color, so I could offer him a choice. Fortunately, I did not have any trouble finding his raincoat and rain boots. It is pouring here, so much so that I was concerned we would not be able to find a way to get him to school (roads closed due to flooding), and I knew I had to keep my eye on the river conditions to ensure I did not do another three-hour tour of duty on the back end during kid roundup, since I was planning a dinner party and Easter egg hunt. Prior to sending him off with his dad, I asked him if he'd gone potty since he got up. "Oh. No." "Well, you're probably going to want to do that before you get on the big school bus, honey." "Oh. Right." Finally, I sent him off with his dad and his breakfast to go.

The Bigs on the bus

There has been some name calling on our school bus lately. One of my neighbors brought this up yesterday and it turns out that one of my sons isn't spotless. After discussing it with him and his brother a couple of times, he first enlightened me to the bigger picture of the specific episode where he repeated the name someone else had called his friend (his friend was stabbing my son with his Nintendo DS stylus -- yes, friends (and brothers) do sometimes do things like this) and then to an ongoing trend with a particular kid who's calling a lot of people names, including calling him "fat." (My son is large like a St. Bernard puppy and sensitive about it.) His brother chimed in with, "Yeah, he called so-and-so's brother "$$&%~~ *&%!!"

"Well, what did so-and-so do?"

"He told him, 'Stop calling my brother names!' "

" you think you could say the same to him about your own brother?"

"Well, I didn't hear him say it."

"It doesn't matter if you heard it or not. You know he's calling names. Perhaps you and so-and-so together, as the oldest kids on the bus, could talk to him about it. I don't mean gang up on him; I don't mean be aggressive. Just tell him it's not cool."

This particular name-calling kid was on my middle son's basketball team. I went to get the team photo, which I had recently framed and placed on our mantle.

"Look. He looks like a nice boy. He's just doing a not-nice thing. Do you boys think either of you could just tell him to stop calling people names?"

They seemed uncomfortable with the idea, but neither of them wants to "tattle" to the bus driver. I asked them if they wanted me to do it. They said that would be okay. But this particular morning, I was still writing out the check to accompany an order form when the school bus pulled up. I thrust the order envelope and check at my oldest, "Here, honey, can you take care of this, please?" as the school bus was waiting, and exchanged smiles with the bus driver. No chance to talk to her about the name calling.

It's probably a blessing that I didn't talk to the busdriver, though. First of all, I can't imagine it's all this one kids' fault. I know how kids can be; I was one once (as I often have to remind my sons; they seem to think I was born a mom) and it was in the very "politically incorrect" 1970's and '80's when parents didn't wait at the bus stops with their kids or even walk them to school (since people who lived within a mile of our school were not bussed!). Secondly, I think the kids need to figure out a good way to solve this problem themselves. They are only in elementary school. They still have to get through Jr. High, High School, before arriving in Real Life, ideally without excessive name calling or hitting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My son asked me this morning while I was waking up his brother, "Mom, did you see the note I wrote you?"

"Not yet, honey, where did you put it?" wondering when he might have written a note; it was first thing in the morning.

"Right, here. I wrote it on a Pokemon card...with a pencil. "

I glanced over at his side of the room, which was strewn with an array of Pokemon cards (with a few Duel Master and probably Yu Gi Oh! mixed in ) as well as Nerf gun bullets.

I looked up at him blankly. "Well, what did you write?"

He selected a card out of what seemed to me to be a morass, but apparently he had some sort of strategic arrangement going on; there was order to his chaos.

He apologized in advance for not writing please. "There wasn't enough room."

"When did you write it?"

"Last night, when I heard you in the bathroom. I wanted a drink of water."

"Well, honey, why didn't you just ask me? I was right around the corner." Fuming and stomping because I had noticed the dog pee on the floor after I traipsed through it (fortunately with flip flops on). The only reason I was up was because the dog let me know he wanted to go out after he peed on the floor.

I looked at the note, squinted, and thought about how I wished I made coffee before waking up my offspring. "get me water." "to mom," was added as an afterthought along the side. I guess he had to get realistic: who else besides Mom would cater to such a whim?

But, what I don't get is, if this child could get up, find a pencil, write a note, and place it somewhere strategic so I'd find it (which in all honestly was unlikely, even if I had done anything more than a visual scan to ensure everyone was still tucked in, since I don't normally turn on lights when I'm strolling through the house at midnight; if I had, I would have seen the dog pee in the bathroom before I stepped in it), why can't he get his own cup of water?

What I said was, "Oh, honey...uhmmm, now that you're up, do you think you can get your own drink?"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ode to my middle son

This morning the dark cloud was over my middle son's head, but just for a few minutes. He tried to get everyone on the grumpy-wagon with some sort of comment about Monday (didn't even mention the rain) but I told him "this is the day the Lord has made, just rejoice and be glad in it and help me get the trash out." So, he did. Somewhere along the line he got the giggles and instigated a lot of roughousing with this brothers and there was happy chaos in my house, but I can't say I wasn't counting the minutes until the bus came.

He decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt today because he said he had no clean pants. I told him, "Wear whatever you want, but you do have clean pants in your drawer -- the dining room table does not represent your entire wardrobe!"

When I picked him and his brother up from extended day, they were sitting on couches opposite each other, mirror images of exhaustion. Apparently they had just had a "smokin' basketball game" with one of their friends and his dad. (My youngest wanted to know if anyone was smoking anything.)

When we arrived home, I noticed he had an enormous bandage on his shin. "Honey, what happened to your leg?" He launched into a detailed discussion about scabs, scab removal and blood gushing enough that scabs can't form, and told me in all he had been to the nurse's office three times today.

He bargained with me to let him eat some of the cookies I had made before dinner (I wound up making 8 dozen cookies in all today, for scouts, my kids, and the "neighborhood supper.")

We went to scouts after having a quick candle light dinner (I lit a stubby candle to dress up the fact that they were having "the usual"). My middle son asked me to turn off all the other lights.

My younger two hung out with the sibling club at scouts and when it was time for snack, ate more cookies.

I found out tonight that my middle son made the baseball division that he tried out for last week. He was very happy.

When we got home (after stopping at the supermarket for more cookie dough, which necessitated a little scolding and eye rolling and my apologizing to the clerk for coming in at 8 minutes before closing), he read Diary of a Wimpy Kid to his younger brother. It was sweet.

But then things started going downhill. In addition to our nightly argument about whose turn it is to go first in the shower, my younger two began arguing about a DS game. My middle son shoved his brother, threw the stylus and thrust the DS and game at him carelessly so that it landed on the floor. My oldest and I intervened. Oldest helped youngest find the stylus and told him, much to my middle son's chagrin, that he could borrow his Mario Hoops game. I told my middle son he wouldn't be playing any DS at all after that behavior and he stalked off to sulk.

My oldest went first in the shower. I quizzed him on his spelling words. Soon my middle son was waiting at the bathroom door with his spelling words. He needs work on a few of the challenge words and was down on himself. "Don't be ridiculous, honey! You got all the regular words right!" The dark cloud was back. (I think he was just tired after a long day.) His moods run the gamut from wretched to joyful, with a detour through mischievous and a pitstop in silly. He's generous and helpful and loving, but he can also be shy and his perfectionism makes him hesitate sometimes.

"Tomorrow is a new day!" It was nearly 10:00 by the time I chased him and his brothers up to bed. And now I am tired after a long day. Would it be a better investment of my time to work or sleep...?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Girls, girls, girls

Today we went to a family comedy-hypnotist show in the afternoon and when we got home, even after goofing off quite a bit with a bunch of other kids outside the performing arts center, there was plenty of daylight left for hanging out in the back yard. For my older two, anyway. My youngest wanted to finish the movie that I made him pause in order to go to the event in the first place.

The Bigs and their friend who had come over were talking to (taunting and teasing) girls over the back fence. The girls were their friend's sister (in the same class as my oldest), and her two friends (a year and maybe two older). I had to yell out the kitchen window a few times, "Put that bat down!" "Don't climb on the fence." "Get off the shed." These were all admonitions while they were in our yard.

Then they migrated next door with their friend. I was cleaning up the kitchen, washing dishes and such, and I could see into the neighbors yard. My oldest was hanging on something that looked like a dog run, which was attached to the railing of the porch on one end, and my middle son was "high sticking" a rake.

I yelled out the window again. "Don't hang on that!" "Put that rake down!"

One of the older girls said to me, "Your son has really soft hair!"

Fortunately they all moved over to the trampoline, where my two and their friend proceeded to show off for the girls. God help me, was all I could think. My Bigs think they won't be ready to have a girlfriend until they're in sixth grade, at least. Sixth grade! We were still going on group dates in high school!

Anyway, the kids came back to our house with their friend and I fed them chicken nuggets and smiley fries and they played wii.


My boys asked me after the show, "Mom, how come you didn't want to get hypnotized?"

"I couldn't imagine leaving the three of you sitting alone in the audience while I was up on stage." (Especially after the way they behaved in church this morning. Actually, my oldest is okay, but my younger two are very busy, and it's my middle son who can't stay on the pew, but still rolls around under them and in the aisle.)

Actually, after the show, I couldn't imagine myself singing, dancing, or talking gibberish like the people up on stage. I had tried being hypnotized once, and it didn't work. I was considerably younger, I think high-school age. Is it because the young are not easily hypnotized that the hypnotist preferred older candidates? Otherwise I would have sent my sons up to see if they could be hypnotized into doing chores or their homework, or taking showers without arguing. One of the other parents and I shared a chuckle over this at the end of the show.


My sons' friend's sister came over after dinner with cookies and joined us for egg coloring. It was impromptu and I hadn't even boiled the eggs yet. I hadn't even bought all the eggs yet (I only had a dozen), and I pressed another neighbor into service while I dashed across the street to the convenient supermarket. I let all the boys play wii in the basement as long as possible while this lovely young lady helped me measure out all the food coloring and vinegar (she counted drops and used a teaspoon). We discussed her friend's comment about my oldest's hair. She agreed that it was soft. I told her he uses conditioning shampoo. She said most boys don't have soft hair. I told her I didn't think most boys had long hair.

My middle son came up a few times to help. First he wanted to drop the pellets in. I told him we didn't have pellets, we were doing it the old fashioned way, with food coloring. Then he called doing the red so he could pretend he was bleeding and freak out the other boys. He wanted to be first to use the clear crayon. I told him there was no clear crayon, we were doing it the old fashioned way, with Crayolas, but he could be first with the white one. I think he suesequently drew war scenes on his eggs with crayon before he dyed

When we were all done, we broke out the Easter candy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


My oldest was standing in the kitchen, about to put on his black sneakers, the ones that I have been asking him -- for - what seems like - ever -- to stop wearing (or at least rotate with other shoes so I can "misplace" them for him).

"Stop. You can't. We've talked about this. There are at least two other pairs of sneakers you could be wearing right now -- that you should be wearing -- before you outgrow them."

"But I like these sneakers."

"I like them, too, but I can see your socks through them." I had told him this the night before when he had his feet up on the console in between the front seats of the car. The bottoms were completely worn though on the sides.

"Put your feet down, honey, it's safe to sit slouched down like that while I'm driving." Truthfully, I wanted to put my elbow there, and I think his feet smelled kind of ripe.

This brought up the conversation again that he hates his turn in the middle.

"Then sit in the wayback." That is always the option for the one whose turn it is in the middle.

"Why can't I sit in the front?"

"You know why. Because you're not old enough. You have to be 12. I mean 13."

Thirteen is what the doctor told us when my son sought a second opinion to my edict last week when he was at his annual check up. The doctor had asked him if he had any questions, and my son glanced at me before he asked, "Am I old enough to sit in the front of the car?"

Then the doctor launched into an even better lecture than I could have delivered about if there's a choice, the safest place is in the back seat -- how he'd rather be in the back seat if there was an accident -- and how he really shouldn't plan to sit in the front seat until he was 13."

"But my mom said..."

I cut him off. "Apparently Mommy was wrong!" And I smiled and thanked the doctor. I thought the age was 12, though I do imagine it has to do with size, so it's likely my 8 year old will be eligible by the time he is 10 because he already outweighs my 10 year old by 25-30 pounds easily, and is taller.

Either way, I can enjoy another 2-3 years without them in the "grownup space."

"You really need to throw those shoes out," I continued.

He groaned and then literally threw the shoes at the trash can. One of them bounced off, but the other swooshed in, as the lid swung in circles and the trash can banged against the stove.

"Hmmm. Nice shot. Why don't you wear your basketball sneakers? There's no point in saving them for next year; I'm sure they'll no longer fit by then."

Momentarily, he emerged wearing the pristine sneakers, which had never been worn outside of the school gym. I wondered if he would purposely try to "dirty them up a bit," since they were in such stark contrast to the familiar black ones.
(I had to get a pic of the sneakers before I took the trash out!)

Friday, March 26, 2010 last!

As I double checked the locks on the doors and turned the lights off, I thought about how happy I was that the kids were FINALLY tucked into bed with the lights dimmed, but not all the way off...that they'd bathed and brushed their teeth (I asked them to do this, anyway -- but I didn't check to see if their toothbrushes were wet) and that their laundry was all in the washing machine, and I had actually done the dishes (well, the dishwasher is doing most of them; I just did the ones that wouldn't fit). Even the dog had a bath.

It reminded me of a parenting humor book I read called 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime -- the title itself says so much. Who among us hasn't counted the hours until bedtime?

Today felt like the longest day, and then tonight we had my oldest's chess club meeting. Usually I drop him off, since no one else in the family plays (though next year at least one of his brothers will), but it was the grand finale where they gave out trophies and had a beautiful cake shaped like a chess board, complete with white and dark chocolate chess pieces. It was a good time, but I probably would have fared better at home with my feet up.

My older two were picking on their younger brother. This is one of their behaviors that I absolutely have no patience for. My oldest is "six years older, you should know better! Set a good example for your brother, would you!?" and my middle son, "weighs easily more than three times as much as he does; you're far too big to rough house with him like that." The worst is their psychological torture, which basically is increasingly sophisticated ways of calling him a baby and otherwise attempting to make him feel inadequate. My youngest was in tears more than once and I growled at my older two like a mad mama bear.

In all fairness to my kids, they were helpful at the supermarket tonight.

So, here I am with precious time to myself and it's almost 11:30 p.m. and there are so many things I could do, like finish moving the winter clothes into storage (since the boxes are in abeyance in my room), editing my manuscript, working (I did send a few emails), catching up on reading anything in the stack of books and magazines I've got set aside...but what will I do? Probably nothing. Maybe channel surf. Likely fall asleep.

I told all of my kids, "Don't get up early! We don't have to go anywhere right away tomorrow -- let's sleep in." We'll see. (I hope I didn't jinx myself by saying that. This morning they were up before it was light out.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The surprise

When the boys got off the bus today I told them I had a surprise for them.

They asked, "What!?" "What is it!?" "Tell us!"

I said, "Well, what would be the most happy piece of news you could get today?"

Without hesitation, "We're going to the movies?"

"Yes! How's you guess?"

"You're the awesome-est mom in the whole world!" (Not to be confused with "the worst mommy ever," which I have also been called.)

I ushered them into the house and told them we'd be picking up their brother at the normal time and then head straight to the movies from preschool, "so please go amuse yourselves constructively -- yes, you can have some cookies -- while I go take my 4:00 call and wrap up my work day."

Just that morning my middle son had told me he really wanted to see this particular movie, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I knew he did because his classmates had started seeing it. Both of the Bigs have read all the books on which the movie is based. I saw part of an interview on TV and thought they'd like it, as well as having seen the preview to the movie itself. So, I wondered when during the weekend we could squeeze it in. My youngest had a birthday party on Saturday afternoon, and our Sunday was booked, so I figured Saturday morning might work, but then realized that's probably what everyone else would think, too. And then come to find out the movie wasn't playing in our theater-of-choice until Saturday afternoon.

So, while I was disappointed to find out this morning that my regular Thursday night engagement was cancelled, and very worried about the reason why, I knew right off the bat what we could do instead. Not that we actually had to do anything (we had already been out all of the previous nights this week, but fortunately since it's MCAS week, no one has homework), but I had coupons for our favorite theater for two free admissions and three free popcorns that could only be used on week nights.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare, and the theater was sparsely populated. The kids tried to lure me over to the video games but I made a beeline for the ticket-taker, who happened to have this enormous binder -- it had to be six inches thick -- full of Duel Master cards. I think they were Duel Master, anyway. They weren't Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokemon: he assured me he had grown out of those in elementary school. I asked him what grade he's in now and he said he's been out of school two years. I wondered if my kids would still be interested in these types of cards when they're that age. Currently their collection of Japanime cards is displayed on my younger two's bedroom floor (I am happy to say that our baseball cards are safe and secure). I have been wading through it for days, maybe even a week. I muttered at them the other day, "I think I'll just throw out everything on this floor -- what a pit." But if I actually did that, I'd have to pick it all up first.

The movie place where we go is actually a dinner theater with big comfortable reclining chairs, so we had dinner in addition to the show tonight. Or, my youngest and I had dinner and The Bigs picked at their food because they had eaten too many cookies after school. They were so apologetic I didn't even need to deliver the lecture about wasting food and money.

The movie was good but I can tell it stirred up a considerable amount of angst for The Bigs who are on the verge of middle school. In fact, my oldest's orientation is in two weeks. We talked about the importance of being true to yourself and how stuff that happens in Jr. High and High School seems so important at the time, but once you graduate, it's a whole new ball game.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Natural consequences of forgetfulness

My youngest's preschool called shortly after he arrived and informed me that my son showed up without his lunchbox today. I was five nines (99.999%) certain that I had sent him off with it, so I called his dad who had taken him to school this morning. No answer. I texted him. No answer. Well, what difference would it make, anyway, I thought to myself. It was going to work with his dad.

The school director mentioned that it was pizza day, but since we both know he doesn't like pizza, he could eat Froot Loops, and that he said he was okay with that.

Two thoughts about this: I wish my son liked pizza. I wish my son wouldjust try pizza. I mentioned that to him one night recently and told him, "Normal kids eat pizza!" He informed me that he was normal and he did not like pizza. I asked him how he knew that, since he has never tried it, while admitting, "you are right, you are normal, except for the fact that you don't like pizza." He told me he knew because he had tried ketchup once (and I do remember this monumental event) and that it was too spicy for his mouth.

He doesn't like ice cream, either. I don't think that's "normal" but I don't want to be responsible for undermining his confidence and creating "issues." And anyway, what is normal, besides one of the settings on the washing machine? Which reminds me...

But the more important thought is, I couldn't bear the idea of my son sitting at the little lunch tables with all his friends, when they all had their lunch boxes and maybe a slice or two of pizza (since I am fairly certain most kids his age eat pizza) and he was eating dry cereal with a side of Goldfish crackers. Oh, and he'd probably have some juice, because even if they had milk to offer, he would not drink it as that is not on his list of acceptable things to consume either. (He gave up milk when he gave up his baba.) So therefore, he would be eating sugar and carbs all day, unless I delivered a lunch box that included all the food groups in acceptable forms, e.g., yogurt, apple sauce, pretzels, and orange juice.

So, I did. I figured I'd move around my schedule a little and I'd have just enough time to drive to preschool and back before my next call. The natural consequences of his forgetting his lunch box were simply far too undesirable.

Fast forward to this evening. We were on our way home from a pizza party (where my youngest son did not partake) to celebrate our team's successful Destination Imagination event last weekend. It was a lovely evening where we didn't have to do any projects or work or planning or discussing anything besides normal kid and mom things. Our team leader has an awesome apartment over her family's garage, and the grownups had secured the downstairs while the kids were upstairs via a spiral staircase. Much thumping, giggling, and music was heard overhead -- normal kid noises that apparently girls make, too, since the team was 2/3 girls -- while the moms talked about kids, health, diets, exercise, aging, the school play, teachers, and homework.

When we had bid our host adieu and were at the end of the long, rocky driveway, I asked my youngest, "Honey, do you have your lovey (teddy bear/blanket combo)?"

His was focused intently on his Nintendo DS.

"Honey, you have your lovey, right?"

No answer as I turned out of the driveway onto the street.

"Do you care?"

"What, mom?"

"Did you bring your lovey into the house?"


There had been much shuffling and jockeying for position in the car as we were packing up and leaving, so I really wasn't sure.

Later this evening after showers, my son asked me, "Where's my lovey."

I said, "Wherever you left it."

"Oh, great! Now I'm never going to find it!" Oh, woe -- the drama!

I didn't bite. "You left it at so-and-so's, didn't you."

"Yes, I think so," he said in a small voice, muffled because his thumb was in his mouth. His shoulders slumped. He looked up at me and I could see the half moons under his teary eyes. He was tired and he wanted his lovey. But it was past 9:00, too late for me to even call our friends.

"Good thing you have two other loveys you can use..."

"But I don't like..."

" get you through the night."

I am certain he was very disappointed, devastated even, but he did not argue with me. Whether it was because he was too tired, or he had accepted responsibility for the fact that he left his lovey behind, I do not yet know. The natural consequences were painful even for me, as I have gone through great lengths in the past almost-five years to ensure that he does not have to go without his preferred lovey for any great length of time (sometimes it is the lovey I have delivered to school), usually only long enough for it to go through the wash. Which reminds me...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do your best

Tonight was my middle son's baseball evaluations. He is trying to play up a division (to the first level of kid-pitch) because his birthday is so close to the cut-off date. I really hope he makes it -- he's already had two seasons of T-ball and a season of coach-pitch) and he's in 3rd grade and most of his friends are already in the division he's trying out for.

Originally I thought all the eight-year-olds who wanted to could play up, but then I learned that there were a limited number of spots. I spoke to one of the dads in the beginning of the "try outs" and we agreed it was a lot of pressure for young kids.

My sons and I talked about this on the way over to the school where the evaluations were held. I told my middle son, "I know you're a good baseball player, and I am sure you'd do fine in D1, but there are only so many spots. There may be a lot of other good players, too..."

"Did you hear that, honey?" I said to my oldest who had his nose in a book. "The same goes for you. You did great last night, and at the same time, you were one of the youngest kids there. Some kids at your evaluations were 12." I had also exchanged emails today with his division coordinator and the bit about how you didn't finish the season last year came up (he had broken his arm).

"Awwww! I really wanted to play in this division." (I was actually imagining both boys on the same team -- this would be my dream come true!)

"I know, honey, I haven't heard either way yet. I'm just letting you know, there's a possibility that because of the population that tried out, you might not. It wouldn't be a bad thing; I am sure there are other kids you know playing at this level."

"I stink," he moped and slumped in his seat.

"Don't be ridiculous! Of course you don't stink. You did your best. You did a good job. Just leave it in God's hands." (We had actually put it in God's hands prior to the evaluations when we prayed, and we did the same tonight for my middle son.)

We were early for evaluations tonight and my son took his assigned pinny and joined a mob of kids who were throwing a ball back and forth. It didn't look like there was any rhyme or reason to this game, but I am sure there is because I have seen kids do this with footballs, too.

They did all the same drills as my oldest did last night, except for the baserunning. I followed my son around from station to station, sometimes with my other two by my side, and sometimes not (depending upon if they were running around with the sibling club). I am fairly certain my middle son was happy that I was watching, because he checked to be sure I was from time to time. Yes, I see you, I indicated with a thumbs up or a wave. It reminded me of basketball season when he wanted me to actually watch his practice, even though he is old enough to be dropped off while I run to the supermarket. So, I would spend the hour watching, as I did tonight. I am sure it won't be long before he prefers me to watch from a distance, and then maybe not at all.

When we were done and on the way to Boy Scouts, he said, "Mom, I think I made it!"

I told him, "Well, you never know. We didn't see how everyone else did. But you did a good job. You did your best. That's the most important thing. Let's leave it in God's hands."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sports psychology

Tonight we had my oldest's baseball evaluation. His younger brother hung out with the "sibling club" in the school where tryouts were held. This just means he ran around loose with a bunch of other kids who tagged along, until he met up with my youngest and me, who were watching the first part of the evaluations from an elevated track-balcony that overlooked all the stations. I had brought dinner in a cooler, since we were planning to go straight to Boy Scouts after, but as it turned out, it was cancelled because some kids were sick, we were going to be late, and actually everyone has MCAS tomorrow. My youngest played his DS and I did a little editing, and then I timed the kids (my middle son had sought us about by then) running around the track a few times. No wonder everyone's tired tonight (well, actually, I don't know why I am...could it be a rainy Monday?).

On the way home, my middle son and I were talking with my oldest about how he did, since we watched all of the drills. I told him I was amazed at what a good pitcher he is, and how he hit just about every ball. My middle son said, "Yeah, you were like the only one pitching right," (which I am sure is an exaggeration, but they've both been attending a pitching clinic and have learned some very specific things). I said, "Oh, and I noticed how fast you are." (Baserunning drill.) My oldest said, "I didn't do so great at catcher..." I hadn't actually seen that drill, but added, "And you were better at infield than outfield -- but that's why they have evaluations, so they know what your strengths and weaknesses are." My youngest, wanting to participate in the conversation, said, "Yeah, you're just really awe SOME!"

We'll be repeating this scenario tomorrow night for my middle son's evaluations. He is trying to play up in a new division; his birthday is so close that he doesn't automatically qualify.

Because we didn't go to Boy Scouts, we had a little extra time this evening to hang out. My oldest and I were in the kitchen and his brothers were off doing who knows what -- but it wasn't showering, because it was a full hour later before I could convince anyone to do that ("I'm not going first!" "Well, I'm not, I went first last time!" "I always go first!") -- and we talked about all the good things you learn in sports: teamwork, taking turns, how to handle winning and losing (some members of our family need a little more practice with the losing half of that aspect)...and my son said something about not being afraid to get dirty or hurt. I suppose those are important lessons as well, and though I don't like to think of my boys getting hurt (which reminds me, I need to register them for football), though the dirty part is old hat. We have been coexisting quite nicely with laundry all over the dining room table for the past week or more (I am trying to decide if I should put winter clothes away yet; I have already begun getting out the summer clothes.). I actually said to one of my sons (who saved his weekend homework for this morning), "Does it bother you to have all that laundry all over the place, or are you grateful for clean clothes?"

Quickly he replied, "I'm grateful for clean clothes." (Thus ensuring I wouldn't ask him to carry his share up to his room.)

I've also adapted the "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes" song to address the parts of the body that must be washed in the shower, and I do sometimes sing it to the boys from the other side of the curtain, and remind them to "use soap!"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Phone manners

My youngest snuck up on me this afternoon when I was on the phone. I didn't hear him until he was right behind me and I turned around with a start. I had been sitting at my desk, so he figured I must be working. Apparently the time he spent at home last week when I couldn't get him to school because of the closed roads was not for naught. He began whispering to me. I asked my friend to hang on a sec and put my hand over the phone, as I whispered back, "honey, you don't have to whisper..." So why was I whispering? And then in a normal voice, "I'm not really working right now; what do you need?"

I took him by the hand and told my friend that she was taking a walk with me while we went to find the red sweatshirt instead of the blue and gray striped one.

The ironic thing is, I was really working. It was a beautiful, sunny early spring day...and I was downloading materials from a vendor site that I would later need to publish elsewhere. I trudged back up to my office after I sent my youngest off with his dad and thought about the saying, "why put off til tomorrow what you can do today?" and weighed the fact that it was Sunday against the fact that I had already put this project off for quite a while.

Sometimes work permeates my life and sometimes life permeates my work. I have given up on trying to achieve work-life balance. The boundaries have become blurry thus it's more like work-life blending. Last week when I had children home for three of the five days, it was occasionally work-life battle. But, like how do we learn to practice patience if we never have opportunities to test it, how are kids going to learn their phone manners if they don't have a chance to use them?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Free play

Today was our day-long Destination Imagination tournament, the grand finale of all of the boys' hard work along with their team since the team-based, problem-solving challenge began in last fall. The Bigs and four girls, plus two siblings (including my youngest) met on a weekly basis to create a skit that showcased the their chosen challenge (robotic technology). Grown ups aren't allowed to help at all. They built scenery, wrote the scene, planned their costumes, and practiced, practiced, practiced.

I could tell both of the boys at times during the season felt like they had signed up for more than they could handle. My oldest had basketball practice for that overlapped with DI for the first couple of months. My middle would sometimes gripe and complain that "you always sign me up for things I don't want to do!" This is the farthest from the truth. We were sitting at the orientation meeting with one of his best friends who also participated, but just wound up on a different team. My sons were initially the ones that wanted to do this; I was concerned about the commitment (especially because we met on the night when we used to have Pasta Night!). As of this morning, neither was sure he wanted to participate again next year but both could honestly say they were glad for the experience.

The event began at 7:00 a.m. and we arrived right about on time. Come to find out, that is just when registration actually began. We had a lot of time to "kill" before our first mandatory activity at 10:45. By the grace of God, it was a sunny and warm first day of spring. We still had all of our baseball equipment in the car, and the basketball. We had a blanket. We signed in, read the rules, got our tee shirts, and then made a beeline for the baseball diamond. We claimed our spot as though we were on a beach. Our team leader and her daughter joined us. Soon thereafter the rest of the team convened.

We wound up watching a few other teams' skits and our team had to participate in an "instant challenge," which we adults had nothing to do with and were not allowed to discuss. But other than those events, and getting some pizza in the cafeteria, we spent the entire day outside.

When I first saw the agenda, I was dreading all the downtime in between mandatory activities, but it wound up being a wonderful blessing. I brought the manuscript I am working on so I could steal a few moments here and there to edit. The kids brought their Nintend DSLites but they didn't use them much: it was too sunny!

Our team all had the same shirts on; and our school all had the same color, so when the kids took off inside the fenced-in track area, I was not at all concerned, in fact I was rather relieved since some of the other kids had been forbidden to play baseball -- some other team-manager-moms didn't want anyone to get whacked with a ball or a bat. True, the area behind the plate was teeming with children, but the actual baseball diamond was pretty much free and clear.

The kids made up some sort of game that involved a very large mat (probably used for pole vault or high jump). A few moms were in attendance; they admonished the kids a few times about not jumping on top of each other ("One person on the mat at a time!") .

I thought about how structured kids' lives had become and how having this free time built into the schedule was actually quite liberating. Time to do nothing in particular. What would you do on a sunny and warm first day of spring if you had seven hours free? (We weren't at home so no one had to think about any chores.) Now go right ahead and do it.

I consciously chose to let the boys run free. I remembered how it was when I was a kid and could go outside and just hang around. I was right nearby in case anyone needed something to eat or a bandage. But otherwise, I knew the boys could use a good dose of downtime built into their schedule for free play. They had earned it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Basketball: the cure for the baseball blues

Late this afternoon, the Bigs and I went to the town field to play our little family version of baseball. (The promise of this excursion was what finally motivated to pick their toys up from the back yard -- it was done before they came in from the school bus.)

Even after all the rain we had, the front field wasn't swampy, and that's my personal favorite field because the other one abuts the woods and is usually marshy and buggy. Plus, the nearby field has the pitching screen.

My youngest was still at preschool, so we were down a man. Today's version of the game started out with me as catcher and my oldest pitching to his younger brother, who had already complained that it was too bright. I informed him, "No, you cannot have my sunglasses. They're prescription."

His grouchy demeanor was mere foreshadowing. After his brother threw two pitches that nearly clocked him, he, griped, "You stink! I don't want you pitching to me!" As he dramatically launched himself out of the imaginary batters' box.

"He doesn't stink. No one in this family stinks. Just go to first base then," I told him. "Pitch to me, honey," I said to my oldest.

I swung and missed three times. True, I'll swing at just about anything, which we do when there's no catcher and we have two novice pitchers (and me who never even aspired to be a pitcher until pressed into service last year by my sons) and only three baseballs...but even still didn't feel so great about my inability to hit the ball. My middle son out-hit me several weeks ago when we went to the batting cages, too. And I can try to convince myself that I have better aim than he does with the pitching machine, but I don't know...

"Never mind pitching, let me just hit balls to you guys. Fielding drill."

We did some scenarios where we had plays at first and then at second, ground balls, fly balls, pop ups. Then we talked about whether anyone should try to throw the ball all the way from second (I don't think so) or use a cut-off man. And whether it makes sense to throw the ball high into the air or straight like an arrow. And how far should you go to catch a foul ball? And just how far away from the plate is the catcher supposed to go, anyway? (I was "at bat" and catching; the Bigs were alternating between first, second and infield/outfield).

Then they both wanted to hit and this is where things went downhill. Middle son insisted he wanted to use 2nd base as home (which we started doing last year when playing on the swampy back field, rather than stand in a mudpuddle at home plate) so the sun wouldn't be shining at him. My rules-based oldest wanted to do it the right way, at home plate. So, they each took their bases on opposite sides of the pitchers mound. I was stuck in between the two of them with three balls. (Granted, we all saw the tennis ball on the field that someone had left behind, but we all knew that it was not the same and none of us even bothered to pick it up. Not once even just to look at it or toss it off the field.) If I threw a good pitch to one and not the other, it's not fair. If one hit the ball farther than the other, it's not fair! If I caught one ball and missed the other, it's not fair! If one of them had to wait and the other didn't, it's not fair! Three balls, two WOULD NEVER BE FAIR!

It wasn't long before my middle son was stomping around and pitching a fit, as well as his bat and glove.

"Alright, boys... I can see it's time to go."

Much complaining and a small pity party ensued, with my middle son dragging his feet morosely. My oldest was compliant, and that rubbed his brother the wrong way. He moped all the way to preschool. I dreaded taking them into the supermarket on the way to our friends' house for dinner, but I did anyway, because I had told my friend I'd bring salad (and we picked out some cookies, too).

Fortunately, when we arrived at our friends' house, I pointed out that there was a basketball hoop in their extended driveway area and propelled them towards it with the ball that someone had left in the car two nights ago. The misery of the baseball diamond was quickly forgotten.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back to normal

For some of us, it was business as usual today. For example, my middle son told me at 8 a.m. that he had homework.

"Whaddaya mean you have homework? Homework from when!?" I asked. We haven't had school in two days! Come to find out, he had saved this homework since Monday night.

I suggested -- strongly -- that he sit himself down and get started while eating (he could not afford the luxury of monotasking this morning) while I went upstairs to drag the kids' summer clothes out of the attic, since the temperature was supposed to be 70+ degrees.

I had an offsite appointment at 9:00, so that necessitated that the Bigs take the bus. I had packed their lunches and delivered their clothes and told them I'd be right back, I was going up to get dressed. But I got sidetracked with their younger brother trying to find the D.S. games (that I had confiscated, because while I can tolerate Nerf gun bullets and the like all over the couches and floor, I do not like finding $30 DS games).

When I came back downstairs and flew out the door, they were gone. I felt kind of bad about that because I normally wait with them, or at least usher them out the door as the bus is rounding the corner of our street. No matter what, waving goodbye is part of the deal. But today, a day when the town was still in an uproar about roads being closed to all but the buses, it was not. I consoled myself with the thought that certainly even though there were reports of fish swimming across the roads, that the buses would drive safely over them and deliver the kids to school, as they do every other day.

For the others of us, it was not business as usual. My youngest could not go to preschool because the roads were still closed until later in the morning, but I was booked pretty much solid with calls from 10:00 to 1:00 (I guess that part is usual) so unless I wanted to bring him in right in the middle of naptime, what was the point? I wasn't going to risk another end-of-day fiasco.

He was my constant companion all day: he accompanied me to my appointment and was by my side during all five of my conference calls. At one time, shortly after he had come over to me to ask me which of the five construction machines on his shirt was my favorite (I chose the bull dozer), I had to explain to one of my colleagues that he was "still learning how to respect Mommy's job," while giving him the eye. He nodded silently. I realized that the disadvantage of having just one at home is that he doesn't have anyone else but me to hang around with.

Hanging around with one or more of my kids is a heck of a lot more fun when I'm not trying to hang around with my colleagues at the same time!

When The Bigs got off the school bus, I asked our bus driver how were the roads. "Awful," she said. My middle son told me that he'd had to hold the bus for his brother this morning; that indeed the bus driver was early, and about the unusual route they'd had to take to get to school. Then I sent them all out to play in the backyard (and asked them yet again, to make sure they picked up all their toys -- the ones that are still there from Tuesday night!). Of course they were in my office within minutes (and the toys are still on the lawn. My middle son looked at me with angelic blue eyes after he took his shower, "do you want me to go get them now, mom?" knowing full well I wouldn't make him do it in the dark!) (Is this like reverse emotional blackmail?)

There's always tomorrow... when I expect we'll all be back to normal! Routine is good!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


School was closed again today. This time I knew ahead of time. I found out during my three-hour tour through the detour from my house to the Bigs' baseball clinic to my youngest son's preschool -- right when I didn't think things could possibly get worse. I saw the number on my cell phone, and I thought, Oh no! I take it back, it can get worse. Please don't let it get worse! before I answered.

Today, again, I only had four meetings. I chased the kids out of my office a few times and suggested they go outside because it was warm. My youngest was home, too. His preschool wasn't closed, but as the saying goes, "you can't get there from here." Two out of the three roads that I could take are closed and the third still has water all over it and the going is very slow (according to local lore on the town newslist). There was absolutely no way I was going to even take the chance of repeating what I went through last night.

No matter how many times I suggested things for the kids to do in other parts of the house or yard, they ended up back in my office. I had been dodging bullets (literally, there are Nerf gun projectiles all over the downstairs), bakugan, and Play-doh wads. As soon as the dishes were cleaned up from one meal, someone was hungry or thirsty again. Cups, plates, wrappers, chip bags littered numerous surfaces.

Midday the boys tagged along with me to my hair appointment. I had tried to reschedule it last night after I got the call from school, but my hairdresser convinced me that she could see me in the backroom and the kids could hang out there. "Hmmm." I knew it would be no picnic, but I really needed to have my hair done so I agreed. Fortunately my hairdresser is also my friend, and she has two kids near the ages of mine, so she mothered them while I was under the dryer and couldn't hear anything (it would have been a more blissful experience if it weren't so hot!). My oldest also got his hair cut, though I doubt anyone will be able to tell -- he's wearing it long like 1970's-David-Cassidy-long ("Who's that, Mom?"). All in all they were very cooperative so I took them to Dunkin Donuts afterwards.

Back to my office to work for a few more hours and then to our Destination Imagination meeting, which was held outside on the school playground because the school was closed today, but we really needed to meet one more time before the competition this weekend. We went to the supermarket on the way home to get things for dinner and everyone showered in the downstairs bathroom adjacent to the kitchen while I cooked.

After dinner, I left the dishes in the sink and went upstairs to watch a movie with the boys in my room. We spent a lot of time together today; our house is very "lived in." (The dishes remain where I left them.)

Supposedly there's school tomorrow, but I don't know how that's going to work if the buses can't travel into entire neighborhoods...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Schtick and tired -- reprise

I got the call very early this morning. School was cancelled because of flooding. My youngest's preschool is never closed so I had to get him up, but when my other two stirred as I passed their rooms, I went in to whisper to them, "You don't have to get up, there's no school today."

Of course, my middle son shot up in bed like a bolt of lightning. "No school!? Yessssss!" I probably shouldn't have said anything. If he thought there was school, he wouldn't have got out of bed!

My oldest said, "Thank you, Lord! Now I can sleep!" I covered him back up and closed the shade on the window next to his bed.

Yeah, right, I thought to myself. True, it wasn't the "buttcrack of dawn" (as it has been called in our home, "snicker-snort-heh-heh-heh"), but I knew they'd be up early anyway.

I shuffled downstairs with my youngest after helping him dress. I packed his lunch, made a coffee, and ventured into the basement to see the state of affairs (not bad, thank God the sump pump works fine when it's plugged in, even though it smells kind of dusty, likely from lack of use -- we haven't had this much rain in I can't remember how long). After I'd sent my youngest off to school with his dad, I checked in with work. Hmmm, not a lot of action overnight. Then I remembered that it's a holiday in India today, so it's no wonder I didn't hear from many of my colleagues.

Thankfully, I only had four meetings on my calendar, and my the Bigs have learned to be relatively respectful of my job...and of course, there's always the mute button!

Because of the irony of everyone getting up early when they don't have to, I wanted to share one of my favorite columns today. This is one that will be included in my upcoming book, Snakes, Snails and Puppy Dog Tales, due out this spring.

Schtick and Tired: Comic Themes Related to Sleeping – Or Not

In the morning, on a school day

“Rise and shine boys, it’s already 6:30!”
“Is it a school day?”
“Yes! Time to get up, get going, get your spirit showing!” (I was a cheerleader at one time in my life).
“If it’s a school day, I’m still tired!”

In the morning, on a weekend

“Mommy.” Poke, poke, nudge. “It’s time to get up!”
“No, it isn’t honey,” I whisper. “We’re all still sleeping.”
Urgently: “Mommy! It’s five-four-four.”
“That’s okay, honey. It’s Sunday. We don’t have to go anywhere until church.”
Silence. Then, “But I want to get up.”
“Mom-mee-ee-ee!” he nudges me again.
“Get up then. Go ahead, honey.”
“But I want you to come with me!”

In the afternoon, any day

From the second-floor bedroom: “Mah-ahm…”

“Oh, dear God. Why isn’t that kid asleep?” I dread the idea that he won’t nap, because that means he’ll be really cranky in the evening. Or else, he’ll have a late nap, be cranky when I wake him up for dinner, be up too late (making me cranky), and thus be cranky the next morning.

“Mommy?” he calls again tentatively.
I consider ignoring him, praying that he’ll give up, roll over, and snooze.

I consider too long.

He’s increasingly impatient that I have not yet arrived.

“What is it, honey? You can’t be yelling like that! What is it!?” I ask, somewhere between a whisper and a hiss, so as not to wake the sleeping brother in the next bed.

“I’m hungry. No, I’m thirsty. No, I’m…”
Right. He’s probably just tired.

At night, on a weekend

“Can we stay up as late as we want?”
“Sure, boys! Why don’t you see if you can stay up until midnight?”
“Awright! Thanks, Mom!”
Both are asleep before 8:30.

At night, on a weeknight

“Boys, time for bed.”
“Awwww. Ten more minutes?”
“No, it’ll be ten minutes by the time you’re ready for bed.”
“But we’re not tired.”
“You still need to go potty and brush. So, let’s go.”
“We don’t wanna!”
“Yeah, we’re NOT going.”
“Boys, if you don’t go willingly, there will be a consequence. You know the deal. It’s the same every night. Get up off the couch. Go in the bathroom. One of you go potty while the other brushes. Then switch.”
“We can’t.”
“Why not?”
“We’re too tired!”

Later, on a weeknight

Mommeeeeeeee! Calling from upstairs.
“What? what is it!?” Me running up quickly, thinking there’s something dire going on / not wanting the baby to wake up.
“Can you turn the light on more?”

“Mommeeeeeeee!” Repeat the drill three more times.
Insert: “I’m thirsty.” “Can you cover me up?” “What are you doing down there?”
“That’s it. You.Must.Go.To.Sleep.Now.Tomorrow.Is.A.School.Day. If I have to come up here again…”

The next morning, my son asks, “Is it a school day?”
“Yes! Time to get up, get going…”
“If it’s a school day, I’m still tired!”

Sticky notes, rain, embarassing moments

"Hi hows it goin," the sticky note on my printer said. One of The Bigs must have written it, youngest can't spell yet. I bet it was my middle son who used a pad of sticky notes the other day to write and illustrate a story. He stuck them all over my desk area and restuck them as he "edited" the story.

That's kind of like my to-do list. I used to write it and rewrite it on a new piece of notebook paper when the existing list got too messy from cross outs and additions and highlights. Then I realized that I wouldn't have to rewrite anything if I just used sticky notes and restuck them. Plus there's something satisfying about crumpling them and tossing them in the trash can.

Today was a particularly wretched Monday given all the rain. I realized my sump pump wasn't plugged in when I saw the water all over the floor in the basement. It was trash day and I couldn't bring myself to haul in the barrel or recycling bins all day, nor did I even go out to get the mail. But just yesterday, I made a point to remind many of my friends that there's always a bright side. Okay, so...the bright side is, I have electricity. My colleagues in New York and New Jersey don't. One of the people I talked to today told me about a battery back up source he has for his house, that uses 12 or 13 batteries the size of cars' batteries. Then he has a generator if the batteries lose their charge. He said his wife called the system his "folly" for the past two years but for the past two days, she's calling it his "foresight." He said they have two refrigerators in the garage in addition to the one in their house; his wife does a lot of entertaining. Imagine having to throw out all that food because it spoiled?

There are three streets closed in town today. The river has consumed the road on our normal route and was threatening to on the detour we had to take to pick up my youngest in the next town over. On the way, we noticed a road on the kids' bus route was closed. I had said when my oldest and I picked up my middle son (oldest had an after school project with a couple of his Destination Imagination teammates), "Honey, why are all the buses parked here at school?" "Idano, mom," he mumbled. Well, come to find out, it was because the place where they are normally parked is flooded. We didn't realize that until we were rerouted. My oldest commented, "the rain gods must be angry." (He has read the Percy Jackson series; he's not really a pagan.)

Another fabulous thing that happened today is that my older two packed their own lunches. They were actually cheerful and cooperative this morning and they rode the bus. (No one wanted to walk, and I hope it clears up for tomorrow because I have to do the greeting job at school and I do NOT want to stand out in the rain!).

My middle son informed me that he had a horrible day (but didn't say it was the worst day of his life). It was because he embarassed himself in a spelling bee. He said when he started spelling a word that began with a "y," with a "u," everyone laughed at him. "Imagine, Mom, 24 people laughing all at once," I could hear in his voice that he was reliving the pain and humiliation (he, who usually gets 100's on his spelling tests). His older brother was kind. "That could happen to anyone; it doesn't mean anything. Don't even worry about it!" Apparently my middle son didn't feel that he had the support of his teacher. He told me, "I would NOT have laughed if someone else did that, but she said I would have!" (Regardless if he would have or wouldn't have, I certainly hope he won't going forward.)

We went to McDonald's for dinner. The boys were relatively civilized. We finished the rest of a book of fables that my youngest had been reading with the director at daycare while he was waiting for us. He was the last one to be picked up but I don't think we were the only ones who were late. McDonald's is one of our training grounds for restaurant behavior. Though, I wonder if the boys would wipe their hands on their shirts no matter where they are?

I exposed the boys to a classic rock station on the way home in order to expand their music repertoire beyond Kids' Bop and the equivalent. Now they have heard Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Police, and Boston. I feel this is my duty. They must listen to music with real instruments. (I don't want to be one of those parents who tells them I can't stand their music...but I can't.)

Since I sat at my desk all day today without getting up except for more coffee or similar bio breaks, I did an exercise show on Fit TV when we got home, even though I was not all that highly motivated. Everyone migrated up to my room before the end of the show. My oldest asked me if I was going to wear a bikini this summer. I told him I doubted it. "Did you used to wear one?" "Yeah, before you were born." "Oh, sorry..." he told me. "It's okay, honey, it was worth it."

I washed the dog in the bathtub after the kids were done. I had hoped to wait until it wasn't so damp out, but he was getting kind of stinky -- he really needs a hair cut and I do not have the patience to blow dry him (I do not have the patience to blow dry my own hair either)...I hope he is actually dry by morning. If he is not I will know it's a sign that I have to make an appointment for him to be groomed (e.g., doggy-buzz cut).

I read stories to my youngest; my middle looked at an I Spy book, and then I helped my oldest multiply fractions and do some long division. We also did some copy-editing on some sentences about the White House. Or the White house (prior to corrections). He was momentarily stumped on where to put the apostrophe in "All the presidents wives." I reminded him it was "presidents plural possissive...that the president does NOT practice polygamy, and giggled to myself when he said, "huh?" He told me he's found grammatical/spelling errors in a book he's reading and asked if they have people who do that kind of correcting. I told him I certainly hoped so! Later I found out it was he who wrote the "Hi hows it goin" note (a study in grammatical and spelling errors in itself.)

Now I have to send emails to people who work in time zones where they will be starting tomorrow's business day in the next hour or so.

And I hope and pray that when I wake up tomorrow, the cold dark cloud is gone!

Monday, March 15, 2010

What to do on a rainy day/weekend

Church, bowling/shopping (I bought a new raincoat), lunch at the bowling alley "diner" and then home for a movie/nap, which is why I am up late now.

I think tomorrow morning might hit like a ton of bricks (my kids were up too late, too).

We ventured out in the rain to our school play last night with some friends. It was an amazing production -- the sets, the music, the choreography, and the acting...who would believe these kids are in 3rd and 4th grade?

My boys like seeing their friends on stage, and one of my Bigs told me he wants to try out next year, but can't be a "girl play." It will be fine with me as long as he isn't too busy with other activities. With scouts, sports, and maybe band, can he (we) cram one more thing in? (You can have it all, just not all at once!). He was the one working the room before the play started: I can imagine him as a politician when he grows up, but he thinks he wants to be a professional athlete.

At "halftime" we wove our way through the masses to get refreshments. It reminded me of a frat party in a way, except there were no kegs and people actually said "excuse me." The line for the bathroom was only three deep, too.

I have a column due (technically tomorrow, but I will feel good if I deliver it any time before my editor has to ask for it!) and obviously am not writing it. I wonder if daily blogging is actually a good warm up for writing publishable pieces or if it diverts energy that would be better directed elsewhere, i.e., said publishable pieces. Maybe I'll finish "The 15-minute rule." Though yesterday I witnessed my son pick up a Tic Tac off the floor and the time between his realization that it was actually something edible and inserting it into his mouth was too short for me to stop him, so maybe I will retitle it "The 15-day rule." Gross. But at least it was in our own house...

Thinking about the column is progress anyway.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lock up

Well, it's been three days since the break in and we are all a little less paranoid. No one wants to be downstairs by himself when it's dark out, but they're okay with it in the day time. They don't all need to shower at the same time either.

The boys all fell asleep in my bed while watching Scooby Doo, so I'll be carrying them to their own beds one at a time. Morning will come fast since we have to change our clocks tonight.

Today we had some additional locks installed in our house so we're back to thanking God for our snug, cozy home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fiscally fit

"Can I ask your advice about something?" my oldest asked me as he tugged my sleeve.

We were in Wal Mart.

"Of course, honey."

"I need your help figuring out what's a good deal."


"I don't know if I should get a D.S. game or a wii game." (He has a lot of money left over from his birthday.)

We decided we'd go over and look at the wii controllers since we need another one, if not two. I wondered if we should get the motion plus version or the regular version. Turns out it would depend on whether or not he got the game he was thinking about. But the game itself was $50. And then a $40 controller. My son thought he'd pass on the game. I said, "well, maybe we should get at least one regular controller..." but it turned out they were out of stock.

So that solved that.

Meanwhile, my younger two were ricocheting between the toy aisle and us showing off their discoveries -- mostly Hot Wheels- and bakugan-related.

My oldest chose a DS game.

His younger brother had asked for an advance on his allowance so he could buy something really cool. He didn't know what it would be, but it would be really cool. What he chose was actually three dollars less than all he had, so he was then focused on what he could find to buy that was $3.00. After seeing him waving around a six pack of squirt guns I told him, "You don't have to spend all of it -- remember, you won't be getting any more money for two more Saturdays." (Like we need squirt guns.) He made it out of the store with $2.00. By bed time, he was down to $1.oo because he chose to purchase a drink in a vending machine at the middle school tonight.

His older brother -- I have no idea how much money he has left, but he seems to be wise in managing it. On the way home in the car from Wal Mart, I told him, "oh, I haven't heard that song in a long time!" It was a Mario jingle. He told me, "that's because I haven't played this game in a long time."

"Aren't you playing your new game?"

" Yes, but I used to have it and lost it, so, it's not really new."

"Oh, hmmm. Well, maybe you will be more careful with this one, especially since you spent your own money on it."

May be. We'll see.

My youngest doesn't really get money yet and thus does not get allowance so I bought him a relatively in expensive (compared to everything else he was looking at) Hot Wheels toy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Book discussion group

Today was my "literature circle" in my oldest son's class. On my way in, I saw my middle son in the hallway on my way in and was greeted with, "Mom, what are you doing here?" I caught up to him and we walked together until the hall way split and he continued to the boys room and I got off on the exit to his brother's class. He let me hug and kiss him (no one else was around) -- I would have settled for an elbow touch!

My reading group has six kids. They were a tough crowd today. My own was a bit clingy, the boy on my left didn't like the book. (I told him that's okay as long as he can articulate a reason.) Then there was a boy who forgot his book and didn't feel like sitting in a chair, another boy who wanted to draw pictures of horses with girl next to him (the only girl in the group) and lastly, a boy who is obsessed with Revolutionary War heros. We had to talk about six chapters. I had read the entire book weeks ago and was supposed to reread these six chapters, but truthfully, I had only re read one of them. I had planned to do it last night, but I spent last night trying to catch up on work after not accomplishing as much as I hoped during the afternoon given the big excitement in our neighborhood. The kids were all agog because they'd had a field trip yesterday, the weather is warmer, and it's right before lunch and recess and they were hungry and antsy. I consoled myself by thinking "I can handle this for 45 minutes." And I did. I don"t know how teachers can do it all day, though. And with four times that many kids!

I like asserting my presence at the kids' school. Their friends often talk to me in the hall. Many of them have been on sports teams with my kids or are in boy scouts together, or were in their classes last year or the year before. I have to enjoy this while I can because it's not likely that my oldest will want me to volunteer in middle school next year!

Crime doesn't pay today

I interruped a burglary at my house today.

When I called the police, I told them "someone just tried to break into my house" but as it turned out later, I realized they had been in the house and stolen some jewelry that I had left on the breakfast bar.

Long story short, after much ado with many police (God bless them) ultimately I was able to make a positive ID and the person was arrested, is spending the night in jail, and will be arraigned tomorrow.

Why a person would break into a house with a car in the driveway is beyond me.

I had to tell the kids. I didn't really want to, but when their school bus went by there were three police cars near my house and the suspect was being interrogated down the street in front of my neighbors' house. My kids weren't on the bus today, but one of the neighbor kids was, and all their friends on the bus could have easily looked out the window to see the cruisers and commotion. I wouldn't have wanted my kids to hear it from their friends.

They were freaked out. They wanted to discuss it at great length. I suggested they not let their minds go down dark paths. My oldest followed me around the house to make sure all the windows and doors were now locked. We had a "party" in the bathroom while all the boys took turns showering and then they all followed me around like little ducklings. Before they fell asleep in my bed, we all prayed. We thanked God that we are all safe, and we asked God to let the criminal have a good night's sleep in jail and to stay away from our house.

It feels creepy, but not as creepy as if the police didn't have someone in custody. And they said they'd spend extra time in our neighborhood tonight. My neighbors, whose house was also burglarized (they were not home), and I will get all our stuff back after it's used as evidence in court. As the lieutenant said, "All's well that ends well."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sick day

My youngest stayed home from school today.

Last night at 2:00 a.m. he woke up crying and I bolted out of bed. I had fallen asleep early with the TV watching me, and my room was illuminated by this. I met him at the bottom of the stairs just in time to see him hurl on the rug (why is it that whatever it is that is nasty seems to end up on the upholstery or carpet, when I have mostly wood floors in this house? Literally, only two rooms have wall to wall, and someday I will budget for leather furniture!).

I ushered him into the bathroom where he finished emptying the contents of his dinner into the toilet. Poor little guy. He was sobbing and sniffing but didn't want to blow his nose, which made me cringe. "I hate throwing up," he wailed. "We all do, honey!" When he told his older brother that this morning, his brother told him, "sometimes you feel better afterwards, though..." which is so true, and must have been the case this time around, because it did not happen again.

I thought he might be okay to go to school, but he didn't want to eat, so I wasn't really sure, which is why he stayed home, even though I had a grand total of 8 meetings (some of them overlapping) on my calendar, as well as it being my day to be a greeter at the elementary school.

One of my Bigs took the bus, the other was going to walk with me, but between him and my youngest, they weren't ready in time and we wound up driving. I didn't want to be late because I wasn't sure if there was going to be a replacement for my fellow greeter who was not able to join me today. Both of the Bigs ignored me once we got to school, and my oldest acted embarassed when I dashed in to the lobby to confirm that his field trip was "tomorrow, not today, right?" (I was sure I had paid and signed the permission slip, but I do like to know on any given day where exactly my kids are!) I did manage to elbow touch my middle son when he walked by me after getting off the bus.

I skipped one of my meetings, but miraculously made it to all the others, including the one where I did a live web demo, which was amazing. (Thank you, God!) My son really wasn't his usual self; hardly a peep all day. He was sleeping when it was time to pick up the Bigs for pitching clinic and I carried him out wrapped in a blanket. He slept for the ensuing half hour in the car. Oh, something funny...with all the snow melting lately, the missing baseball gloves from last year were revealed! I can't imagine WHEN the kids had taken them outside (since they would have had soccer balls and footballs out in the fall)...and I thought for sure everything had been picked up from the yard before the snow fell. I also found a hat and two mismatched gloves and a bunch of random balls. And dog poop.

I wound up doing three loads of laundry and cleaning the carpet, too. The dog helped a little with that; I won't go into detail.

My youngest and I remade his bed with fresh sheets and blankets and apparently it looked so appealing that his brother wanted to sleep in it with him. I squeezed in beside them and read a chapter of Percy Jackson and then "A Fish out of Water" to my youngest after his older brother was softly snoring. (I wonder if they will sleep all night like that, and why do I have the dog in my room?)

Happy Monday

It really was a happy Monday in our house. Both older boys took the bus so there were no issues with my 9:00 a.m. call (last Friday, my middle son told me at 8:30 he had homework, which meant I had to take my 9:00 a.m. call on my cell as we walked to school -- no, I was not going to let them off the hook and drive them; if they want motorized transportation, they can take the bus).

My middle son got up at 6:30 and wanted my help with the breakfasts, or actually, I think he just wanted some guidance (I confirmed it was okay to pick the bagel up off the floor and put it back on the plate; "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt" as the saying goes). He really did make everyone's breakfast and then serve it.

I don't know why he did this. One of my friends told me don't question it, just enjoy it. Everyone was agreeable about going to the supermarket in the early evening, too. Maybe it is because I let them pick out things they liked, and no one ran around like a screaming banshee, either. My older two had done their homework, so after dinner we watched Sandlot 3 (because our scout meeting had been postponed).

That was about it -- a very happy Monday, indeed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A very merry un-birthday!

It's not anyone's birthday, but I put presents in gift bags for my kids anyway. I had gone shopping at Target last night and they had an unusally good selection of items in the dollar section. So tonight I told them we could have an un-birthday party after they'd showered.

There were no arguments about showering.

We got out the treat bucket (which I had also filled with candy from my foray to Target) and a short movie about Easter week called The Lamb of God. It is a really well-made movie from the LDS church that is suitable for all ages with no really outright scary or gross parts, but my boys couldn't look when they showed the hammer and nails, nor could they listen. As soon as the movie concluded, my middle son doled out the gift bags that had 4-5 items each for his brothers and we sang the "Very Merry Un-birthday" song from Alice in Wonderland. No one complained that he had a piece of pink tissue paper mixed in with the silver, yellow, and blue. No one thought his brothers presents were better than his own. There was considerable harmony and goodwill in our home tonight, until I went into the basement to move laundry around and when I came back upstairs I heard my youngest crying. Apparently he had decided he would start a swordfight with his older brother. I am not sure what the whole story is, but as I said to my middle son, "he's crying, you're not, I think what you did to him probably matters a heck of a lot more than what he did to you." I made them apologize to each other and by the end of it all, my middle son was taking orders for breakfast tomorrow from his brothers.

"You'll come downstairs with me mom while I make breakfast, won't you?"

"Of course I will, honey!"

Tomorrow's trash day so there's always considerable hustle and bustle in the morning. Plus someone usually complains about school and Monday, and things could go downhill: If I am not careful to interject a few comments, everyone will be walking around with a dark cloud over his head before 8:00 a.m.

I watched Joel Osteen today and the main message was about looking on the bright side (which is often the gist of his messages) and at one point he suggested we look at every day and thank God (not just on Fridays). "This is the day the Lord has made," not "Friday's the day the Lord has made." Every day can be as good as Friday. "I have to work today" could be "I get to work today." "I have to drive in traffic" could be "I have a car to drive." "I have to clean this house" could be "I'm lucky to have a house to clean."

Along those lines, any day (except your birthday) can be your un-birthday!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Sometimes I get so caught up in doing-doing-doing that I don't even know what I would do if I didn't HAVE TO do something else.

Today I had some unstructured time: three whole hours between yoga and a church commitment.

I didn't do anything hugely spectacular or out of the ordinary except read a couple of chapters in a book (which was not the one for the 4th grade literature circle that I am leading). Otherwise it was shower, clean the bathroom, straighten up a few areas of the house, and two loads of laundry. That's about it. Normal stuff that I have to cram into a typical weekday. It was nice to be able to do them in an unhurried way (and without having little people barging into the bathroom).

And now I can no longer avoid the leftover work I have from the week. Well, I can avoid most of it til Monday but one thing that was due "this week" which probably meant the business week, but technically, a new week starts tomorrow (except in the other hemisphere where it's already tomorrow).


My youngest and I had special time last night and went to a paint-your-own pottery place. I was feeling burnt out and not too creative so initially we just picked something for him to make for his dad (an "I love Dad" mug). I am sure he won't be able to keep it a surprise until Father's Day, and it probably won't be much of a surprise anyway since both my son and I said, "Don't look!" the minute his dad walked through the door to pick him up. And of course, what is the first thing people do when someone says, "don't look?" Of course, they look! It reminds me of a story one of my friends in Jr. High told me about her classmate that slipped in the locker room on the way to the shower and her towel fell off -- I cringe at the excruciating memory of Jr. High gym and the fact that we had to shower (I don't know why; we never had to in high school!). Anyway, I tried to shield the objet d'art but didn't want to touch it because it was wet with glaze, so I am sure my attempt was futile. I am also sure, though, that Dad will be "surprise" when he receives the gift.

After my youngest left, it was grown up time (a friend had met us at the studio). I was having a creative block though. The studio walls and shelves are covered with pictures and actual samples of other peoples' work illustrating various techniques and I was overwhelmed. Should I use stencils or stamps, or puffy or sparkly glaze? I decided I would paint freehand and layered multiple complementary colors of glaze on a little frog with its mouth open that is meant to sit next to the kitchen sink and hold sponges. I've wanted one of those for a while. Just sitting around and painting without having to think about business for a while was a good way to free my mind from a long week.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

With great privilege comes great responsibility

"Do you think I am old?" we were driving in the car and I was poking buttons on the car radio.

"No, you're only like, 15," my middle son answered.

"Well, I just wondered if you thought I had 'old' taste in music." I was listening to a classic rock station in the car. A song by Boston was on. I thought about a conversation I had earlier in the day and wondered if anyone under 30 knows who Led Zeppelin is. I think they must. My friend said no way. I didn't figure I'd ask my kids, because I'm pretty sure they don't. But I am going to have to do something about that, and Aersosmith, too. And so on.

My oldest said, "funny how grownups always want to be younger, but kids always want to be older."

"Well, how older? Old to you is like 20, right?

"No, mom, old is in your 60's!" my middle son said.

"Well, I don't know, I think it's all relative. You're only as old as you feel anyway."

"I just want to be 16," said my oldest. "So I can drive." (I refrained from reminding him that when he gets his license, I am planning on sitting in the back seat and thrashing and shrieking with uncle. And maybe I'll kick his seat a few times, too.)

"With great privilege comes great responsibility," I told him.

"No, mom, it's 'with great power, comes great responsibility.' " My middle son corrected me.

"I'm pretty sure the saying is 'privilege,' honey."

"No, mom, it's 'power.' " my oldest confirmed. "That's what they say in Spiderman."

"Oh, well, either way, the responsibility part is the same. If you get your license, you'll want a car. If you have a car, you'll need a job, so you can pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance. That's the responsibility part. Don't be in too much of a hurry..."

My oldest just turned 10. When I was tucking him in tonight, he stated, "I'm a tween. I wish I was a teen."

"Well, you will be before you know it. Don't rush it. You're a good age," I said, remembering where I was at age 10. I lived in Rhode Island and had my own pony. And we played outside in the neighborhood until the streetlights came on every day. "I'll see if I can find some pictures of myself at your age."

A friend of mine who I haven't seen in a while emailed me tonight and said, "I'm glad the boys are doing well. They must be getting so big!! They'll be taller than you before you know it!"

I wonder if I'll feel old then?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Channeling sports

I got a bill from the cable company yesterday that was past due. This was a surprise because I thought I had automatic payments set up...well, I did have them set up, so I imagine the credit card must have expired. (I try to run all my expenses through my credit cards to earn rewards points.)

I figured this would be a good time to call the company and deal with some things I had been avoiding, such as changing my TV service and negotiating a deal for phone service. We don't need all the movie channels we have. I just didn't feel like navigating an auto attendant, and then discussing all of this with a customer service rep for God-only-knows how long.

After spending way too long on the phone, I had reduced my bill by more than $30 and eliminated the movie channels while adding some sort of Sports channel extravaganza, all while adding phone service. I got 37 channels worth of sports. My boys were in sports coma tonight. "Oh, by the way boys, I got you some new channels on cable..." They were glued to the TV.

Best of all, it includes FitTV which I have wanted, like, forever! (I wonder if the fact that I only have to use one remote to turn on an exercise show as opposed to dealing with DVDs and using two remotes will make a difference?)

Brotherly love

This morning my oldest was incredibly disappointed that his youngest brother "erased all" on his Yoshi's Island DS game. I don't really know exactly what that means, but I can guess that it means his pre-reading brother deleted all the levels his brother had achieved in the game over who knows how long. I am sure my youngest would not have done that on purpose. To my oldest's credit, he did not yell at his brother or scold him or try to lay the guilt trip on him. I pointed this out to my youngest, who I am sure was very relieved. I told my oldest I could see how disappointed he was and that his brother didn't mean to do that. But I am not sure I made a big enough deal out of the fact that he didn't blow up.

This evening, the Bigs had a baseball clinic and my middle son was reluctant, to put it mildly. He had forgotten I was picking them up early at extended day and was upset that he wouldn't get time in the gym that he had been waiting for. I pointed out, "well, you just came from Games, Games, Games (an enrichment program he goes to on Tuesdays) and we're on our way to baseball." So? Then he didn't like the glove he was going to use (since he can't find his regular glove...again!). When I dropped him off he was grouchy. Apparently he held it together in the land of testosterone, though. I am sure they wouldn't tolerate the whining for a minute.

So, I went to get my youngest at daycare while the Bigs were pitching. He was thrilled that his book order had come. And appreciative. We got back to the baseball place in time to watch the boys for a while and talk with another of the parents we know who was actually my oldest's coach last season. When we left, my middle son's attitude was adjusted. He read books to his younger brother the whole way home.

We made cupcakes tonight. I delighted in the family harmony. It is not always this way. In fact, it is not usually this way! But as I have mentioned previously, I could either focus on SOS DD or look for moments like these. My oldest fell asleep on the couch tonight and I carried him up to bed and tucked him in, just because I still can.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Headaches and bandages

Tonight I have a headache (probably a combination of yoga and chirporactic treatment today) so everyone is in bed already (9:00 p.m.). It's a miracle and probably what time everyone should go to bed every night anyway. But tonight was one of the rare nights that we didn't have any obligations so we came home and the boys had bath and dinner and then watched a baseball movie while I came upstairs to try to work after discussing the importance of how to encourage players who aren't the best (rather than criticize them) but ultimately wound up lying down with my eyes closed until they came bombing up the stairs.

We can't seem to keep track of our baseball gloves and the Bigs' pitching clinic starts tomorrow night. I thought my middle son would make a good catcher, and that is what my oldest thought, too, but perhaps he'll be like Rocket Roger Clemens, one of my fave Red Sox from the 80s. He's built like him anyway.

Tonight on the way home we had a fascinating conversation about blood blisters and scabs and why they exist and the importance of leaving them alone. One of my boys got an amazing blood blister the other day while playing air hockey and thankfully one of the moms had what must've been a first aid kit in her purse -- I think she doled out not one, not two, but three bandages. I asked tonight if he needed his wound cleaned and bandaged after he had confessed to eradicating the blister, "oh, no, Mom, look! There's nothing left of it but ..." "Hang on, honey, I'm driving..."

But no one will see it

I set up the nativity in the back yard again this year. In the past it has been out front near the fire hydrant that is on our property, and...