All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Letter to My Jersey Diva MomMom

Dear MomMom:

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you. I mean, on here, where I usually highlight my daily shortcomings as a parent. And you, in Heaven, where they may not even have wifi.

Let me take a step back, actually, since we never had the chance to meet in person. I’m your second of three granddaughters. My mom was pregnant with me when you passed away, 42 years ago today. I’ve muttered to you and prayed to you and put flowers on your grave, but we’ve never chatted. You met my cousins, your first granddaughter and grandson. You met your second grandson, my Bro1. But I’ve only gotten to hear relayed memories. I’ve always been incredibly frustrated by that, very saddened by that. It may sound odd to say about someone I never met, but I can honestly say you are one of the people who had the greatest impact on the person I am, yet I missed seeing you with my own eyes by seven months. 

First let me say, if you haven’t heard all of them all these years, NO ONE has had a bad word to say about you. From my youngest days, there were people in our family who sang your praises who never had a kind word about anyone else. I won’t name names, ‘cause, ya know I don’t have to— you know.

I’ve heard the family stories for years about the year you passed away just two days after Christmas from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Mom was so young to deal with that, with one toddler already, me on the way, and your loss all at 25. That seems crazy to me now as I think about it, so young for such a rollercoaster.

But you should know that your daughter is an amazing woman. She gave Bro1 and me great Christmases all through our childhood. As I think back, knowing what I know now about the stress build up of over-stimulated kids at Christmas, I can’t get my head around the pain she must have felt remembering the anniversary of your death while watching us whale each other with Weebles. And, I mean, I know you could see everything so you know he started it. When your third granddaughter and third grandson joined the fracas several years later, she never missed a beat either… even while they were beating each other.

Not to brag, but I have supernatural maternal detection skills. I am CSI Mom, as you may have heard. I know I learned this behavior from the warden, pardon me, mother who raised me. I can only go by the word I have heard that she got it from you. I didn’t really get all of your height, but I got these genes, so thank you. I carry these cross-examination skills with me with pride.

Were you funny? Is that where mom got her sense of humor? I’ve been told I sound a lot like her, which is a good thing. She can wing good a one liner like nobody’s business. If that was from you, thanks. If not, please pass along the kudos to whoever is up there with you who is the actual party responsible.

I have to ask: Was Mom always late? Were you? Mom is in her own time zone. We were raised in Jersey with a mother on Denver time. Was she like this as a child? Is that why there was 12 years between your two kids? Was she actually due in 9 years but stopped to do “just one more thing” before delivery?

I also have to ask: Was Mom ever wrong as a child? I don’t mean in the annoying way Son1 is “always right.” I mean truly right. From friends to teachers to relationships, she has great intuition. At times I have so wanted her to be wrong, she’s been right. Did she get that from you? Or have you been boosting her intuition from above for the last 40 years. If that is the case I want to declare “interference” and demand a do-over of my teen years. Do you see ANY of those genes in me? God knows I feel like I second guess myself as a mom all – the -- time. Could you give my instincts a little boost from beyond? Thanks much.

You’d think since I’ve had all this time, decades really, to work on this letter it would be a lot more polished, right? I really just wanted to say hi, to say thank you for your daughter, for all that she means to me, my brothers & sister, my sons. She is a very active grandmother. I cherish that since I know how precious it is, having missed you. Know that you have never been forgotten and will always be cherished, even by those of us who were still twinkles in the eye when you went home to our Lord.
December 27 has never been and will never be just another winter’s day in our family. It says a lot about you as a person that 42 years later, thoughts still turn to you. I hope you knew while here how loved you were. I hope you know now much love you generated in others. You must really have been as fabulous as everyone has always said. From now on, to me anyway, you shall be “Jersey Diva MomMom.”

Xoxox- Your granddaughter

PS: please say hi to Grandpa for me. I did get to spend a lot of time with him, enough to make me miss him still.

Friday, December 24, 2010

When Joseph Overacts

God love my sons, they are nothing if not dramatic. For little kids, there are few outlets to stretch acting muscles as much as the Christmas pagaent. Every year, around the world, kids don costumes to pretend to be a carpenter, his pregnant wife, a wise man, or a donkey. We all know the story, and we know how it will end. We also know 3 shepherds will take longer to move from sacristry to main aisle than the actual Magi took to migrate. But that's the beauty of it. The childish improvisation (intended or not) brings a sweetness that sucks us all in, every time.

But much like the singers who insist upon scatting their way through the National Anthem at the World Series... sometimes personalization can go a little too far. While Son2 was content, even drawn to non-speaking roles in which he could hide (the donkey, FOUR times), Son1 has always tried to grab the limelight. Maybe it's partially our own fault, since he sees hubs and I prep each year for the Murder Mystery play we co-write and perform. Maybe I should have reigned him in the first year when he finagled a dual role. Maybe he was inspired to learn Cecil B. DeMille grew up in our church (and then learn who he was). All I know is, Joseph was never delivered with such zeal. And volume.

Year one, Son1 was Caesar. But being a small parish with a Christmas cold whipping thru, we were down a Magi. Enter Son1, assuming the duel role of Caesar Augustus AND Balthasar. He was elated he'd have a costume change and two crowns. He still tried to worm his way into the shepherd corps, and was miffed that Joseph went to another boy. "How do you plan on being Joseph and being a wise man coming to visit Joseph/you?" I asked. "I'd figure it out. Special effects. Like in the movies" Right. George Lucas on line one for you, bud. At some point in the play, he started speaking as Caesar, which was funny since his Caesar had no speech. Still early in the speech therapy game, his sweeping call to his "wo-man  soldiers" to enforce the census was a stirring ad lib.

The first year Son1 was cast as Joseph, he was a little frustrated to learn he was to sit in tableau. When told he would have no lines to recite, no props per se, and no actual livestock he pitched a wee fit. I should have been a little suspicious when he tried to clarify six times if it was 100% certain he was not to move at all. Perpetual Motion-Son1 has a tendency to rock side to side, so I use the phrase "two feet" as a cue to plant both when it would be distracting. My direction gaffe for that performance was blurting out "TWO FEET and NO FIDGETING!" That left the door open for all other movement. And you have never seen a more melodramatic Joseph, silent or not. Through slow, sweeping arm gestures, bowed head, panicked expressions, and exaggerated attempts to "hear what I hear," the tableau fell apart to the point the Virgin Mother punched him. While holding baby Jesus.

The second year as Joseph went more smoothly, since they wised up and gave him actual lines. I guess they figured it would be better to control his speech. Silly, silly people. When all was said and done, apart from a few scrapes trying to defend the baby Jesus when the drummer boy came over it worked out. No domestic violence was had in the manger. All was calm, all was bright.

The following year, he was Herod. Herod is historically important in the Nativity story, but kind of a bit part in Christmas pagaents. Well, traditionally. Son1 delivered all 6 of his words with passion. Then, when the narrator announced that it came to pass Herod had died, Son1 (to the alarm of the assembled congregation) played his death scene in true style. He stumbled up the steps to the choir loft that fronts our altar, grasping pews along the way. He gasped and choked. It looked like Herod was mugged. He then reached his "mark" where he (to the best of my knowledge) was simply supposed to fall, and threw himself up in the air, crashing to the ground with a thud. It was a tour de force collapse that nearly landed him in the ER with a concussion. The angel Gabriel cum stage hand laughed and dragged him out by his feet, whacking his head twice on steps. To his credit, he never broke character, never had his Harvey Korman-Carol Burnett show laughter break.

But Son1 is older now, and doesn't want to be in the pagaent. Pushing 13, I see his point. The time has come to pass the torch, crowns, and baby Jesus doll to the younger cherubs so they may make their mark. Stage shy Son2 lapsed into the stage crew the year immediately following his breakout (yet silent) role as the star. Son1 now sits in his altar boy vestments and watches the little ones perform. I had the chance to take part in the service last week, so I was sitting next him. I was watching him watching them and it was a bittersweet moment. My boy was now beyond his dramatic Nativity days. He's now all gangly legs and crazy long feet. But I found myself stealing glances, enjoying his reactions as much as I enjoyed his turns in the same roles. There's something really sweet about watching your kids reach a point when they support the younger ones, and we are now at that point. We'll continue to watch the pagaent each year and applaud the efforts, but I can guarantee it will not hold the level of action it has in more recent years... at least not until the Sunday School teachers allow Son1 to direct.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Will I Wear?

I sometimes lie awake at night, in a near panic wondering, "WTH am I going to wear for such a huge day?" I wonder whether my flights will be on time, if I will have enough batteries for the camera, if I will have packed for hot enough/cold enough weather, and if we'll maybe get an invite to the White House as parents of a distinguished American. Part of the panic and insomnia is caused by just not knowing... I mean, I know the day is coming, I just don't know when. Which year will Son1 be awarded the Nobel Prize for Saving Mankind? Oh God, where's my passport?

You see, I've written repeatedly how intelligent my son is (in his delusions). What you may not realize is that he is a godsend to all of us. He knows everything. Everything. He has that dizzying, awe-inspiring gift that all children develop, 'round about 12-13, that renders them omnipotent. But even among tweens and teens, he is in an echelon of knowledge beyond my wildest dreams. Certainly beyond what my meager Penn State degree can hope to reflect, which is why I have planned its return.

This week's agenda included completion of another Social Studies project. Is it me, or are these kids the most Socially Studious generation? I feel like all my kids ever do is Social Studies projects. But I digress. His current teacher, a 30+year veteran of middle school education must thank his lucky stars after all these years to have a pupil like Son1 sitting in his class, first row, center chair. They say it's because of his IEP, and that it helps them monitor my ADHD boy. Now now, silly teacher. I know it is merely so you can be in closer proximity to the glow of his aura. Does he correct you too at every turn, or challenge your knowledge based upon actual decades of experience instead of what Sean's cousin's girlfriend's neighbor's babysitter's boyfriend's cousin said? While I do hope he does not consider me the only jackass in dire need of his insight, I certainly hope he is polite to you.

He is now 2 months away from 13. We're not even Jewish but I feel like giving him a bar mitzvah to welcome him to adulthood, as a distinguished elder of the tribe. Clearly, he has it all figured out, whether it be the secrets of the universe, reducing the national debt, tackling cancer cures, or how to get all Madden 2010 football players to do victory dances. Even I draw the line at calling him the "second coming of the Messiah"... but- if you have ever heard the passionate fervor of a teen fired up to contradict you, well, you may know why I think he could at least be a harbinger from above that big things are coming. He doesn't actually have to be right, and in fact, rarely is he, but I think that's just trivial. He puts forth all facts with such teen-conviction he can sway anyone to do anything (again, in his mind).

Son1, I truly love you more than life itself. Average student or super genius, you are a large part of my reason for being. And yet, each day, you remind me (over breakfast, homework, dinner, laundry, schlepping to swimming, you name it) just how superior you are in knowledge held. You are always right, whereas I never can be when in your presence. Not since Moses was pulled from a floating basket, or maybe at least not since Faith Hill first began singing has an adoptive parent sat in such awe at the genius God placed in her lap.

Now the Nobel Committee may be a little thrown by how soon to award you the medal, but since they snubbed Ghandi in his lifetime, I think they've learned a lesson about the hazards of delaying the obvious. For this reason, I think they very well may phone any day to tell us you are nominated and the votes will of course be unanimous. I'm sure they will not wait until you have actually accumulated the knowledge you now think you should wield over your little brother. I'm sure they won't wait until you've hit maybe 22 and begin to see how little you really do know about the world. No, no... I'm certain, since you are ALWAYS right, they will pick you, a shining example of know-it-all youth of your generation, and am equally sure it will be soon.

So good Lord, what does one wear to watch such momentous event? I'd better get shopping. And dieting. And where is that passport? Ugh, so much do when one parents an omnipotent child, so very much to do. No wonder I lie awake at night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas: A Study in Contrasts

It’s fairly evident on any given day how different Son1 and Son2 are. Musical taste, activities, clothing preferences… the list can go on. The way they manage money is an extreme study in contrasts.

Son1 was a rap star in a past life, or maybe a pro basketball player oozing street cred. In his mind, he is a god when it comes to creating hip hop, sweet talking the ladies, and livin’ large. We have a hard time getting through his head that, “Peace homes… chill” is not the appropriate way to sign off the phone with one's grandmother. And you know how many home boys kick it in STX lacrosse T-Shirts or Umbra soccer cleats.

Son2 need only be placed on an island with six fellow castaways and a coconut radio for it to be clear he is the Professor. He also must deck the house out for every occasion with such zeal I call him Marcus Stewart. We are continually stuck in a dizzying array of elaborately engineered seasonal displays. I don’t mean just the biggies like Christmas or Easter. St Patrick’s Day is a festival in the playroom, and I think he’s planning Summer Solstice 2011 décor 6 months ahead.

But of all the times of the year that I marvel at the differences of two children raised under the same set of rules, there is nothing quite like Christmas to spotlight the chasm. Here are but a few conversational highlights to show Son1 and Son2 are about as in synch as Nancy Pelosi and Anne Coulter:

On the subject of presents for their older sisters… Where do you want to go for Christmas shopping?

The highly-frugal, crazy-methodical, and intensely-crafty 10yr old (Son2):
Can I have $20 and go to 5 below? Or maybe a craft fair. I can always find something there and can really stretch my money. Or if you take me to Michael’s, I can spend the money on supplies to make twice as much. I can make them earrings, or a necklace. How much do I have? I’ll need a lot.

Money you mean?

No, time. I’ll need a lot of time in the store to find the perfect item. You may need to take me to the other Michael’s too. We’ll have all afternoon, right?

(You see, Son2 has to look at EVERYthing. Every item in inventory at least twice to be sure he doesn’t miss a thing. Tomorrow is shopping day. Just shoot me now)

The high rolling generous to the brink of insane 12 yr old (Son1):
Well, I want to get them sapphire diamonds. BIG ones.

Um, honey, they are 2 different stones. That’s very generous.

Ok, well one necklace or whatever for them both that has a really big sapphire and some diamonds. Then I want to get T an Xbox360 and for A, a flat screen TV. For (her husband) L, flat screen too.

Again, very generous. Ya know T’s 40 next month, and I think her kids have Xbox already, but very nice. Nice of you too on the flat screen for A&L.

No- one for A and one for L. He should have his own.

Ok, what about D, your sister T’s husband?

Oh yeah, I may have to borrow some money.

NOW? NOW you think you may be over budget?

I really need to start the Christmas baking…

Cake Boss meets Nate Berkus Son2:
Oh can I help? I want to decorate the cookies! Can we get that white icing stuff in the bag to draw those really neat lines? I want to draw snowflakes on cookies. But they all need to be different.

And then we can do some with that sugar in the colors. Maybe like 2 dozen of red, and then green, and then blue. Some chocolate chips would be good, and then some peanut butter ones. And then we can make those rolled up cookies you made last year.

OF COURSE he wants me to make those rolled up cookies. They’re from a Hungarian recipe from my mother in law and take like 16 hours to make, back from the days when peasant women had days and days to cook and bake. And massive arms apparently to obliterate 10lbs of walnuts into dust.

And I always wanted to bake and build a real gingerbread house. Should we make it open on one side so we can decorate all the rooms with candy?

Aim high, kid, aim high.

Attention span of Flea Son1:
Can’t we just use that plastic tub of dough? Or go to Kings?

Of course, even in convenience he picks Kings or Whole Foods where the same cookie dough is five times the price.

At least the schedule isn’t as crazy this year. Last year was a zoo with meetings for Daddy or me each night …

All about a ferstive and cozy home Son2:
I was thinking, we should light a fire every night and you can make real hot cocoa. Do you know how to make marshmallows? That lady on TV did. We can put a different movie on each night.

Sorry kid, your mom’s not the Barefoot Contessa. You notice he’s a little fixated on from scratch?

All I want is PlayStation Son1:
Can we just get pizza one night and watch a movie. Like Transformers?

That’s not a holiday movie.

Alright, what about that one where the kid wants the rifle but he’ll shoot his eye out, and the mom is super stressed and the dad yells and the crazy dogs take the food?

A Christmas Story? Or are we simply talking home movies?

And our final example: It’ll be nice to be home for Christmas, then visit your sisters …

Always up for decorating Son2:
That’ll be so cool! Do you think they’ll each let me decorate some stuff at their houses? You know you have to get ready for the Three Kings. A lot of people don’t realize you should make the place look festive for them too.

What have done for me lately Son1:
Why can’t we all go down to Florida and rent big houses next to each other and hang out and swim all day then go to restaurants at night so you don’t have to cook?

Well for starters, I do like to cook, but more to your point, flying 11 people to Florida and renting homes isn’t in the cards this year. Maybe I can try to get some tickets from points for a trip next year.

Fine. Then we’ll do it next year. But make sure you book at least me in first class.

You aim high too, Son1. Aim for the Christmas you so richly think you deserve.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Shindig That Almost Wasn't

Every so often, as a wife or mother you have the chance to plan an event so cool, you’re beside yourself with all the possibilities (if you’re a creative control freak like me, anyway). A few years ago, my hubs was set to hit 60, a landmark that clearly deserved a full on surprise bash. Sure, he didn’t want one. Why would that matter? After years of planning superhero parties, I was going to plan a big ole shindig for an adult. There’d be martinis, and oysters, and no goodie bags. Little did I know, it would nearly be foiled by the most unlikely of pairs… Simon and Garfunkel.

The key to a surprise is the ruse. I started before even booking the hotel. His bday was the first Saturday of December, but since we each own our businesses, I couldn’t chalk it up to an office party. It had to be something I had no control over…hhhmmmm… A wedding! But who was engaged? or even serious that we knew? Answer- no one. So I made one up. I called a friend with two daughters and congratulated her on her 21 year old’s impending (albeit imaginary) nuptials this Dec 2 to a phantom boyfriend I created. And she went along with it like any logical mother would. So as early as February, I dropped a “oh, guess who got engaged for Valentine’s Day?!” In March, “yeah, Janet said her daughter’s engagement will be short-- maybe by the end of the year.” In May, I griped routinely that she was getting married the day of his bday and I’d look like a schlub if we didn’t go. He bought it all. The surprise shindig trap was set.

I continued with my imaginary wedding relaying gossip that never happened about the couple that never was. I was so into it, I was almost believing it myself. I designed an invitation and RSVP set and drove to the “bride’s” town for the proper postmark. When I needed time to shop for a dress, I created a shower, with another fake invite. I had a quiet lunch, sorted lists, sketched out the cake, and then stopped at Macy’s to pick up a cheapie, favorish looking candle so I wouldn’t return empty handed. (If you ever need a day, I highly recommend fabricating a shower.)

I followed a martini theme, and planned to make a Kettle One bottle-shaped cake with a Tahitian vanilla recipe I found. I was surprised to see it was actually imported from Tahiti, so you can imagine the cost per bean. But hey, not like I was actually giving a wedding present, right? I baked while he was out, then lit vanilla candles to which I attributed the scent. I decorated the cake and display at my office. I was getting a little carried away by the time fondant pimento-stuffed fondant olives were sculpted. I was teetering on the ledge of overachievement where you can suck your own joy out of the most joyous event. But it would be worth it that night, I knew. Mentally, I was full frontal surprise mode.

It occurred to me by November that I had omitted planning anything he was aware of. He knew I wouldn’t forget, so NO hooplah would have been suspicious. Shit, now I had to plan a pseudo shindig. I told him I was doing a long weekend in MD closer to Christmas with his daughters and sister. I hinted there would be more then, to create a red herring party. Ok, so now we have real-but-secret party, a fake wedding, a fake shower, and now fake-but-supposed-to-be-real party. My head was spinning with where I was supposed to be when. Little cracks of stress (or psyche) were emerging.

I never told the boys what was happening. At 8 and 6, Son1 and Son2 were as discreet as Julian Assange, but I had other cohorts to help on the big day. My stepdaughters would be in town from PA and MD, Dad from MS, and my conspiratorial mom close by. Our church’s Santa Breakfast was announced for that morning which meant hubs would be tied up flipping pancakes all morning (whew!). Mom could whisk the kids away right from there under the guise of watching them overnight while we toasted Michele and her faux beau.

It was all going so smoothly. That morning he even offered to take Son1 to church for set up help. The kids were divided. (whew!) The second he left, I loaded the car with 57 bags of clothes sorted in the days preceding. Ok, maybe it was only 3. I had outfits for the trip to Picture People the girls were taking with the boys for the first ever formal portrait of all 4 of the hub’s kids. I had their suits for the party. I had the cover-story overnight backpacks for their trip to grandma’s that wasn’t happening. She would take the boys to hotel to meet up with their sisters, they would all take pics, and then my dad would get them into suits that night by preset schedule.

I loaded Son2 and stopped by my office to load boxes filled with centerpieces I made while at the school committee meetings I also fabricated to give myself free nights to assemble the cake and décor. I would drop them at the hotel on the way home from church, then head to back to my office for the cake which I would drop off on a 2nd trip. I would then head home with the wedding card I picked up for the check I would write in route to the “wedding” the way I always do at the last minute much to his chagrin. In route that evening, I’d get a call from another friend and wedding guest suggesting we meet at the bar for a drink, to get him unsuspectingly to the lounge where the party was is rather than the banquet rooms the wedding would be in... you know, were there a wedding. A few more stress cracks in the psyche, but if I stayed close to timing, a year’s planning would be golden.

But then, I went one step too far. For reasons still beyond me, I caved to Son2’s prodding for balloons so he could surprise Daddy when we showed up at church. We picked the big 3ft tall “6” and “0” but of course the credit card machine froze, then a fender bender blocked traffic. Every second on B-Day was critical, and I was just screwed out of 30! I needed to make up time. Enter Route 287, NJ’s Autobahn. I was now hyper-stressed, so figured, ok, let’s crank some tunes. My mood lifted; Son2 sang along with me. The bulbous 6 and 0 glinted in the sunlight (and obscured the view I’d later take note). When the theme from The Graduate came on, I was getting stress-giddy. And so as Son2 and I belted out our longing for Joltin’ Joe, I did not notice the NJ State Trooper in the rearview. So distracted replicating Simon and Garfunkel's harmonies with my then 6 yr old, I was oblivious to the officer. A good two verses later, he caught my eye coming up next to me, waving me over. Uh oh. Ok, speeding, right? Turn down Paul and Art, plead mea culpa, shed a tear or two and drive off. Um, no. For when the trooper approached, he proceeded to rattle off all of my offenses from excessive speed, to reckless driving, (3 foot metallic balloons are frowned upon in cars, FYI), and failure to yield to his request to pull over for 3 miles. Really? 3 miles? How long is that song?

Knowing I had one hell of a ticket coming and insurance surcharges tripping through my head, I was then informed my registration was not one, two, or even three months expired. It was SIX months late. I later sorted out that I sent our boat reg in twice rather than my car, but it mattered little then. I was recklessly operating a non-registered vehicle with a minor within… and I was told it was being impounded. I was to call for a ride, and prepare to be relieved of my car momentarily.

And that my good friends, is where I lost it. Simon and Garfunkel got me into this mess of driving with distraction, but could not bring me back. All the drugs of their generation could not have calmed me from my implosion. I begged. I pleaded. I. lost. it. I wailed about the party stuff in the car, the cake I needed to transport with Tahitian vanilla—FROM TAHITI. Good God, man! Ta-F’IN-HITI!!!! I was sobbing-RANTING, and blaming it all on Mrs. Robinson and the hypnotic effect of singing along with my son. Son2, heretofore unaware of the party was panicking and yelling “What party? We’re under-arrested?? I’m too little to be under-arrested! What party? You’re having a party?! You didn't invite me?! Oh who cares?!! We’re going to jail!”

I can only imagine that may have made the cop feel like hell. Maybe he was confounded by my Simon and Garfunkel defense. Who wouldn’t be? Or maybe he was afraid to be trapped in his own car with me ranting about Tahiti, because the next thing I knew, he was back telling me to calm down (easy for him to say), and please to proceed with caution. He handed me a court summons. I was still blubbering and kind of clueless what was happening really, until Son2 shouted, “no see Mom, he’s letting us off! We’re free! We’re not under-arrested! GO- but don’t speed! What party?!”

I had to come clean to hubs why I was so upset when I got to church, without ever letting on WHY it would have been so disastrous. I also had to keep Son2's mouth jammed with pancakes non stop lest he spill the beans. The day did improve, and all got back on track. The party was awesome, and hubs was truly surprised. The ticket (THANK GOD) was pled down with some counsel by a trooper-friend. Son2 is still vigilant on speed, and to this day, I can break out in hives when I hear Mrs. Robinson while behind the wheel. The hubs admitted my acting troubled him because I lied over and over again for a year. Well.

But the whole near-fiasco taught me the valuable (expensive) lesson of what happens when you get so fixated on one item in your life. In the drive for the perfect shindig, I nearly drove myself into an accident by reckless behavior, with my son in tow. It taught me to mellow some, take things with a grain of salt and take off the blinders. Slow down (literally), and chill. As wives and moms, we sometimes try and make things so perfect we can easily go beyond reason. While I still may cross the line of logic, I do try to keep some perspective. I should be a much calmer planner by the time 2016 rolls around and it’s time to gear up for the hub's big 7-0 shindig. (Shhhh) Simon and Garfunkel~ please keep your distance. I'll need my focus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

If I organized parent teacher conferences

Every fall, parents across the country wait to be assigned some mutually inconvenient time for parent and teacher to conference regarding the academic progress (all 8 weeks of it) for each child. Now I'm sure for the parents of the gifted & talented students, there is a certain joy of expectation. For the parents of kids with IEP’s (Individual Education Plans for those not in the know), these autumn-fests are not the highlight of the social calendar. I will admit to a certain "oy vey" feeling in my stomach heading off to hear how my ADHD Son1 likes to shout out in class (MY Son?), talks in class-- a lot (no WAY?!), and needs to work to curb his impulses. (REALLY? Wow- I hadn't noticed he was impulsive, seriously?). I will hear that Son2 has issues transitioning from one task to another (GET OUT) and may, at times, simply close his books, push them to the side and have a good long day dream. That is the inevitable point at which I, year after year, suppress what would be a very poorly-timed giggle and try to rein in my own attention.

I don't mean to diminish in any way what the teachers do with my kids. But they're in 5th and 7th grades now. I want to hear something new. Since that would mean going to some other kid's conference which is frowned upon, I think we need to rethink the way we have parents and teachers meet. How 'bout we just cut the pedantic pleasantries and we cut to the heart of the matter. You would like, in no particular order, for me to enforce with my sons that they need to:

1) Give homework at least a passing glance
2) Stop shouting out every answer, every time, every day
3) Attempt to walk a semi-straight line to transition to class on time
4) Remember books, at least every so often
5) Chain the homework planner to their persons to ensure ready access when it counts, like say, when planning homework.

Ok? We're good to go? Pedantic pleasantries and filial formalities resolved, here's what I think we should be doing. We should be having wine. Yes, I know it's not allowed on school property, but maybe just this once we'll sort that out. What we have here are stilted interviews with parents wanting so badly to hear good news, while conditioned to one teacher after another telling them what the issues are. I can barely get through a holiday dinner without valium so I am well aware that their behaviors can be disruptive in group settings. I'm not being negative. I'm being honest. I'm their mom. I know Son1 & Son2 are scatter-brained, talk a lot, and lose important stuff. No sense wasting tax payer time telling me again. The mood's all wrong. We need to work as partners; we need to break the first marking period ice. We need... to toast.

The wrong mood all started back just a few weeks into the year, with Back to School Night. I know you need to run down the budget crisis, the NJ ASK (or whatever standardized state test du jour you respectively have), and shock and awe us with your enthusiasm for our kids. But I'm a middle school parent, and looking around the not so crowded gym, I'd say the bloom is off the rose in the parent interest level by middle school. Our kids don't leave us cute pictures on their desks and nice letters to Mommy. The novelty of sitting in their little desks is gone. The "fun" has passed. Hell, Son1 won't even tell me his locker# and combo for fear of snooping. But yes, parents should be more engaged in the education. I whole heartedly agree when I hear that. So draw us back in, with wine.

Trust me, if you uncork it- they will come. If I ran back to school nights, they would have been open house style cocktail parties to kick off the year ahead, rather than stilted, marginally attended PowerPoint displays that the teachers clearly put a lot of work in to for no where near the parent showing that they should get. We could have had punch in Phys-Ed, Oktoberfest in Social Studies (it's kind of cultural), and studied fermentation in Science. A little intro by the 6th grade Jazz band would have been nice. Can ya dig it? I knew thatcha would.

If I ran Parent-Teacher conferences, they would be very intimate little tête-à-têtes. We'd discuss test scores over brie. Perhaps some crostini would be shared as you encouraged me and I encouraged you. As these are small gatherings, one more one on one, I'd suggest we serve by the glass. Those little airline bottles may be ideal too. Ooooh I know! Set up a mini bar in the corner. While I cracked it open for some Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies that seem to invade all mini-bars, I'd grab a Chivas or two. By mini-bar rates that would be about $52. Doesn't seem so hard to raise the moolah to send the 8th grade to Washington DC now, does it? Think about it.

These are just my humble suggestions, for you to find some ways to build parent interest during these tween years when our own kids drive us to drink. I may submit this to the Superintendent. It's too late for this year, but maybe they could take some action for next year. I wish I thought of this sooner. This afternoon, we have Son1's Social Studies, Science, and Math teachers all in a 45 minute span. Without advance warning, they'd probably think it a little odd if I showed up with a baguette and Bordeaux. Ah well, it’s their loss.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I'm elated for Prince William

Why do I care about Prince William's engagement? Well, apart from the fact that I feel the world could just use some happy news right now, it gives me hope. Sure, there's all the joy and hope surrounding any newly engaged couple. But that's not what I mean. It gives me hope because in this world filled with trashy reality stars and crazy drunk celebs, he opted for... a lady. I know, I know. Don't jump on my apparent lapse of royal protocol.. Technically, she's not a "Lady," but a commoner. What I mean is, she's not a skank. PRAISE GOD.

I watch TV, check out magazines, catch some YouTube clips, and each and every time I am left with this skin-crawling feeling of what my sons may bring home one day. It starts at a frightening age, this skankamorphosis of young girls. Our house is adjacent to an elementary and middle school. Those cute little outfits of first grade become a little too sparse by sixth grade. It's well reported that sixth grade girls are more highly developed than previous generations. (It's absolutely true. Dr. Oz even said so.) Couple that with the shrinking clothes and the role models of Rihanna with her F*** You necklace and Snooki with her... well, her entire self- I'd freeze blogger embedding all the links... and girls are being shown that skank is the new black.

In this day and age, it seems like every young woman in the public eye must have fake boobs, fake tan, fake hair extensions, and be, in the immortal words of Bill to Russell on Fat Albert, "like summer vacation... no class." Along comes Prince William, son of one of the most glamorous women ever, with his bride to be. And she's n-o-r-m-a-l looking. She's beautiful, yes. She is gifted with a tall, slender figure and yet she looks, dare I say, "human." Don't think they don't have skanks in the UK. They brought us Big Brother after all. He just didn't pick one of them! Kate Middleton has already been photographed for years, and always appears very tastefully dressed. Good God, how I hope she'll be plastered on every magazine for that alone. Team her with a young man who wears suits, while we've deluded ourselves into thinking argyle sweater vests are "boys formal dress wear" and pajamas (on adults) in restaurants are ok, and it gives me hope.

I remember getting up really, really early in the morning to watch his parents' wedding while out in California that summer. All of us, even the non-Anglophiles, feel like we've watched him grow up from hyper, mischievous little boy to the now betrothed 6'3" man. So then, I look at my Son1 and Son2 (my own heir and the spare) and I think, "ok, there's hope." There's hope that boys settle down in to articulate gentlemen. There's hope that young men may learn once again how to dress well, and not look they are always heading off to play basketball. There's hope that my prospective daughters-in-law need not be hoochies.

So this evening, I'm tucking in to some cozy time with  the TV, getting my WASP on with all the media fanfare and contemplating where I can find a kick ass hat to wear to the church service to which I will assuredly be invited. William, on behalf of your beloved late mother, and on behalf of all mothers everywhere~ thank you for picking a nice young lady. Not a skank.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Day My Name Changed to Mom

Today is one of the most specials day of the year in our house. It's "Family Day." Family Day is what we call the day our adoption papers were finalized in the Russian court, and we became parents to Son1 and Son2. For the rest of my days, my name would be changed to Mom. In honor of the day upon which my descent into madness kicked off, I've been reflecting upon the things I wish I knew then. For all the Home Studies and parenting classes, there's a lot that falls through the cracks.

I don't think many of these are exclusive to adoption, really. Deep down, I think we all could have used some practical guidance on the following:

Parenting ages you at a rate once reserved for US Presidents.
Did you every notice how fast the President ages over a four year term? Did you ever stop and look at your old DMV photo when the license expires and the new one is taken? Eight years ago I looked like Janet Leigh, now, Mrs. Bates. Knowing this in advance would have enabled me to stockpile face creams, massages... maybe a vial or ten of botox.

Washable red markers are, alas, not fully washable.
Just as new red tshirts wreak laundry havoc and Hawaiian Punch will ruin any garment, the red markers will stay with you.My advice- remove them at once from all Crayola boxes. Lose them, toss them, crush them, shred them... whatever it takes.

Your parents really did live to embarass you.
How do I know? Because I DO live some days to make Son1 squirm into a near-teen sweat. Treat me like a jerk in front of your friends just because you think it's more cool, and I assure you, every girl you date will learn I call you Cocoa Bear, be tipped off you will be 30 and still playing video games with a Dath Vader helmet on, and hear about your incessant need to run around naked as a jaybird still. So don't push me, Cocoa Bear. ; )

Kids smell.
Really, they do. They start out with that powdery baby smell and any stray odors are blamed on the diapers. This is only so you can bond with them. And then when they realize they smell, the overcompensate with toxic fumes like Axe. Had they smelled at 2 and 4 the way my laundry does now, I would have gagged and done a rethink.

And lastly... You will suck as a mom, and that's ok.
Whenever I come clean on some massive parenting fail point, I'm always amazed at the kind responses. I'm assured (ok, sometimes astounded) by the volume of equally bad flashes of judgment confessed by you all. It does my heart good to know we all suck at this at times, and that life goes on.

Boys, we love you and adore you more than you could ever know. You make my heart soar. My blood pressure could use a break. But even with all the madness, noise and mayhem, I am so thankful to God for each day you're in my life, for each day I am blessed to call you "sons."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Speak Up or Shut Up Time

There are so many reasons to vote, and so few really good excuses not to. Here are some of my favorite things about going full frontal 19th Amendment!

You’ll have every right to bitch
If you vote, you have a certain ownership stake. You can gripe. Non voters should not pass judgment, much in the same way we as parents are entitled to bitch and moan about things our kids do, but would never want a stranger saying a peep.

Cool flag stickers
Even in my 40’s, I can still rock an “I Voted!” flag sticker like all get out.

On site bake sales
Sure, I should avoid muffins, brownies or(and) cupcakes at 8:00am. But these lovely treats are on display outside the middle school polling place each election to raise money to send our 8th graders on their DC trip. I am not giving in to sugar lust, I am helping send our borough’s youth to the epicenter of democracy.

I’ve seen other states that have these lame little tables w/ stations for privacy. In my town, we still get the magic curtain. Aside from trips into the lockable ATM alcove, how many other times is total privacy mandated? You want no one scoping your actions, and your actions can change the world. I’m thing of putting a voting curtain around my shower to see if my kids will leave me alone then.

The silence of the booth
Under the guise of re-reading the public questions 27 times, I’ve been known to linger in some cases to enjoy the peace of the booth. Heaven. They must think I’m the least decisive person on the planet.

Use of something I learned in school(house rock)
A few times each year (if I count primaries, school board and budget votes), I go through the motions of something we learned in history and civics. Do they even still teach these things in school? I kind of feel like my kids can rattle off gobs about other cultures but would trip over the term lengths of a senator vs. congressional rep. Maybe I’ll plop them down in front of some School House Rock, which, let’s be honest, can be credited as much as our schools for teaching us about adverbs, conjunctions, lonely old bills here on Capitol Hill, nouns (you know- a person, place, or thing), and the preamble to the Constitution.

This election day, I say thanks to all the amazing service people who have given years of their lives, and sadly, in some cases, life itself, all to protect my freedoms. I’d also like to thank faithful fan Jenifer in LA for reminding me of the suffragettes, who traipsed around for hours in those crazy big hats and bustles in wind, rain, and searing heat protesting to win me this right… all I do is haul my ass out of a Lexus in the parking lot. Suffragettes, I tip my parasol to you historic divas!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nothing good ever comes from the full name

Nothing good ever comes from answering my phone and hearing my formal name. Professionally I use my maiden name, so the second I pick up the phone to, "Uh, hello, Mrs. L... ," I know, no good awaits. It could be a discipline issue. It could be the umpteenth request for a volunteer gig. Sometimes it's the school nurse reporting that someone's braces broke. It's not that I wish orthodontic ill on my kids, it's just the nurse's voice doesn't raise hair on my neck like the principal's.

The boys changed schools this year and all appears to be going swimmingly. The IEP's seem to be adhered to as best as any school I've heard of, friendships are being forged, grades have been good. "WOW!" I thought last night when looking at the upcoming teacher conference schedule, "I'm kinda looking forward to this for once." And then this morning, it happened. "Mrs L....? Uh, good morning." Groooaaan. Why don't I keep a flask at work?

"Oh alright. What did Son1 do now," I fretted. My 12 year old is a continuing source for school calls, so his Social Studies teacher on my phone was unwelcome, but not a surprise. Five minutes into telling me how many homework assignments he's been skipping, I blurted out, "but we just met with his IEP case manager and none of this came up? How could (Son1) have 5 zeros and we're just hearing it?" (insert confused labrador head turn) "Um, no, I do not teach him. I teach (Son2)." This was about the point where I felt like Mother of the Year AGAIN. For not only did I jump to the conclusion one child pulled a stunt only to be surprised, it was clear to the Social Studies teacher that I didn't know my kid's teachers' names.

I could hear his mental tsk tsk through phone line. Give me a break pal, we're all getting used to the new school, and the hubs saw you on back to school night. We were among the massive group of 10 parents in the room. I'm involved. It's just Son1 has been the source of over 70% of this blog. The mind leaps. I tried to chalk it up to that annoying habit of flipping kids' names while speaking, the way I always call Son2 by Son1's name, or my husband reverses his daughters' names. I even chuckled about calling Son2 by the dog's name. He either didn't care, didn't think it was funny, or had 13 other parent calls to make. Or all three. After I got off the phone and reflected, I had two valuable takeaways:

1) Trust no one
2) Learn caller ID for individual classrooms vs. the office

WTH do those have to do with the above? Well, for starters, Son2's been skating I realized. He bats those big blue eyes at me and I'm so mesmerized by the lashes I would never have that I believe what he says. I'm much more skeptical of his brother who has the iffy reputation from school years past. "Is your homework done?" "Yes" (So I check, and it is.) But that only works if the homework planner is written out. It seems Son2 has decided homework on elections, is, in and of itself, elective. NO. Trust no one to fess up to selective homework, even when so cute you'd think they'd never lie.

And what of the fancy schmancy online interface the school has to post everything from lunch menus for the next six years to tonight's homework? Trust no one when it comes to schools actually enforcing procedures. In an attempt to show this man I was not a totally detached mom, I went on line while talking and saw, YET AGAIN, there was no homework posted. Nothing entered = nothing displayed (does not) = no homework. No, it just equals a teacher who shared with me "yeah, I don't really use the homework page. I've been teaching a long time, and my students have always had it posted on the board, so I don't use it. I wouldn't bother looking there." Can you think of EVER saying this to a boss, a client, a colleague? Thanks to NJ's teacher tenure laws, the district stands zero chance of enforcing that teachers use the tools. But I digress. Son2 has no tenure protection. And for this morning's "trick or treat" phone call, Son2, be afraid.

As to the caller ID... There's a pecking order in parent phone calls. Had I known the number was not the office number, I may have eased a bit. When you go from teacher call to Vice Principal, there's an uptick in subject matter. Bump to Principal, and you have a definite escalation. Get a call from the Superintendent, and you're at parental DEFCON 5, war game buzzers tripping on your cell phone. I think there's an app for that. Had I known it was but a lowly classroom, I would have felt a little better. I would have listened, but without the palpitations. Homework lapse or test bombs may be waiting, but generally, nothing that ends with the phrase, "in the next occurrence, law enforcement may be called."

So from now through, oh, the end of college I suppose, I will not assume poor effort from Son1 and great effort from Son2. I'll be on guard for Mr. Social Studies-skipper. And I have a plan for the phone # screening. Election day is coming next week, and I'll have the chance to be in the school. I wonder if they'd notice me going room to room to test call my cell? Armed with all those incoming numbers, I could easily prioritize the calls to take. Maybe I'll bring donuts and pretend to hand them out to the teacher, VP and principal to get to their desks. You know, I'd be all, "job well done, Mr. Whoever the Hell you are!"- then quick stealth call. It could work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What to Expect When Expecting (a Mammogram)

I’ve done the 3Day Breast Cancer Walks twice, run fund drives, and bought countless pink ribbon t-shirts, pens, candles, etc. I've truly tied one on. The ribbon I mean. So why did it take me 3 months from the time the OB/GYN gave me the referral slip to actually set the date? No good reason. Just that mom-stall we seem to do when we get everyone to the doctor before ourselves. This wasn’t my first time. At 39, my doctor sent me for one as the base-line recommended for women “40 and over.” I was traumatized not by the mammography itself, but by him rushing me to 40. “It’s only two months early, so may as well.” That was easy for him to say, the wicked bastard.

So, anywhooo… it got me to thinking that many may not know what's going to happen when the girls are ready for their close-up. As a public service, I would like to prepare any of you who have not had one yet, and remind any of you who may be due. Male readers, I ask only for laughs with us, not at us. Imagine someone ghoulishly doing this to your man parts. Without further delay, here is Jersey Diva Mom’s What to Expect: Mammography Edition:

1) They will tell you no deodorant. This will seem like no big deal until you instantly become self conscious and convince yourself you now smell like the gym bag of a 13 year old boy. You will eye the courtesy cans of Secret on the shelf like frat guys eyeing kegs. Just breath. At least, until they tell you to stop.

2) Shave. For the love of God, think of the tech staff doing these all day.

In Process:
1) They will squish you this way and that, all while surreally chatting about the weather and traffic, as if every day, your chest is grabbed, fondled, pulled, and pushed accompanied by mundane chatter. Perhaps it’s good you don’t really start these until 40. Were this done to my 20yr old girls, there would have been more resistance. At 40, there’s a little more pancake-ability. Well, that’s at least a little silver lining.

2) Just when you think an appendage could not be any flatter and still be attached, it will get flatter.

3) Let’s touch upon the imaging plates. They are ice cold slabs that leave you feeling like a gummi bear under the metal spatula wrath of a Coldstone Creamery worker with anger issues. Is it the worst pain ever? No. But you’ll think twice before manhandling the chipmunk cheeks of a cute 3 year old next time.

4) They will tell you, “don’t breath.” Really? I was so busy trying not to yelp like when someone steps on the dog’s tail that I forgot to breath.

5) When they say don’t move, don’t. I laughed at that because it seemed so impossible. I couldn’t really double over laughing seeing as how I was intimately attached to something that looks like it’s used to assemble Chryslers in its spare time. However, my painful outburst caused a retake. Oh joy.

1) Know what you don’t know. I, for one, can not read imaging pics to save my life. In utero sonograms are like optical illusions to me, so I’m not sure what I thought I’d decipher in my mammo pics. As fate would have it, I appear to have a Rorschach test in my breast. It looked like a squirrel with a big nut. Or maybe a witch leaning over a cauldron. How very Halloween of you, left breast. I had no bloody clue what I was looking for, and nearly worked myself into a panic at the solid rounded spot on the tip. My brain cleared, and it occurred to me that was supposed to be there. Whew.

2) Treat yourself (or the girls at least) to something nice. Just as you would reward a child for a brave trip for shots, show some love to your body parts as they desperately try to bounce back into shape. Mine were treated to Victoria’s Secret and a pumpkin spice latte (for nurturing inside and out).

3) Be honest when people ask you how it feels, but don’t be a drama queen who scares friends away. Bottom line, mammograms are super important. In the scheme of things, they’re just uncomfortable, and over in a jiff.

Don't believe me it's not so bad? Compare it to some of the other things we do, VOLUNTARILY. It took less time than getting my nails done, and seriously I sit there like a zombie while some woman cackling away in a language I don’t understand comes at me with a Dremel sander for that. There are no noxious fumes or chemicals to overwhelm you, like we do to our hair each month. And when it comes to pain, it’s not even a fraction of the ever-frightful Brazilian bikini wax. I still shudder at the thought of the howling emanating from that room at the salon last time.

And really, when was last time you heard of a Brazilian saving a life?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Divide and Conquer

Nothing brings peace and tranquility to a house like the removal of children. What I have recently seen though is totally removing all children may not be necessary to achieve peace. That may be overkill. It appears merely reducing the number of the herd does the trick, or so I am finding out. Son1 is off for 4 days for a retreat, rendering us an only child household. We've divided the melee, and for fleeting hours conquered the overwhelming volume boy households seem to generate. It     was   sooooo    quiet. At first it was like Buddha overtook my home, and he was carting xanax.

The big thing that runs through your brain is, "Holy Toledo- there's no bickering." It's not like Son2 is going to start bickering with his stuffed animals. At least I hope to God not.  There's no "stop touching/pushing/kicking/stealing the Wii/making fun of me/making faces/breathing more than your share of oxygen than critically needed." No tattle has been relayed. No fights over who got to pick which show last night, the night before, the night before that etc etc all the way to prime time of January 1, 2003. Breakfast was so much easier without syrup "somehow" working itself into a sibling's hair. There is no stereotypical older sibling bossiness/ younger sibling narking going on. For the first weekday in months (summer camp week to be exact), the hubs and I looked at each other and smiled between the hours of 7:00 and 9:00 AM.

Man- the whole power balance from 1 kid to 2 does this to a household?

But then, there are some other things creeping into the home that are as disquieting as the usual racket. It seems our blissful partial respite has a definite, "be careful what you wish for" thing going on. While we love the lack of commotion, Son2 is crawling the walls. He thinks we're here to entertain him 24/7. What the hell? Is Son1 a circus monkey that he occupies his brother so much?

Having suddenly found himself in solo status, and craving all sorts of attention, Son2 is also showing his unease in being alone. So, whatever room in which you happen to find yourself, you will soon find Son2. If you've ever had a labrador, you know they have a tendency to ALWAYS stay within a pace of you, making it easy to trip over them. That's Son2. Kid- seriously- I need some breathing room. I'm used to you ignoring every word I say not clinging to them like misplaced Easter basket grass.

In a frightening development, he's now just begun chattering. And he makes you feel like DIRT, lower than dirt, when you try and nip it. Don't you see I'm busy working from home? making dinner? or watching 80's music videos on Youtube wondering where my life went from 16 Candles to 30 days of Crock Pot recipes?  I love the munchkin, I do... but there is a point in conversation where there is a lull. He lets no lull lapse without chiming in, even if just to say "huh, guess I'm talking a lot." He's gone to the old standby of "ok, I'll just sit here. Not saying a word. Nope. Won't hear anything from me." I'm not sure but I think he may have been talking in his sleep all night long.

The funny thing is that when Son1 is back on the scene, Son2 will lapse back to being the more quiet one. I think the absence of incessant, goofy, 12 yr old brother chatter is causing him to fill the void by himself, and for himself. I have no frame of reference, having been raised in house with 4 kids... Are all only children like this? Or is this his attempt to make up for the sudden lack of bossy/loud/whirling dervish of a companion that he has in his older brother? Man, if this is what life would have been like had we only adopted 1 child, I'm glad we went for the two-fer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In My Ideal World...

I would sound more like June Cleaver, less like Yosemite Sam when speaking to my kids.

Cheerios would have the same calming effect as wine, or...

Wine would be socially acceptable over breakfast.

My sons’ ADHD would, for even just a day, become ADhD.

7th grade Math would seem easier the second time around.

Eminem could record a song without the F word, and my son could be drawn to that one.

I would have a dime for each text message chime in the house.

My credit card companies would realize I’m far too nice a person to be charged loan-shark rates.

I could travel outside of NJ and still avoid pumping gas.

Women in their 40’s would get the same amazing, totally natural highlights as kids under 10.

Santa would make a comeback for me.

Politicians, physicians, and school principals would not all suddenly seem younger than me.

At least one of the 70 billion cellulite products marketed would work at all.

My kids would be as tuned to my moods or migraines as my dogs seem to be.

My 12 yr old would go from Point A directly to Point B- ever- without one of those Family Circus cartoon map routes.

Fade-proof lipstick wouldn’t fade.

My 10 yr old would listen to me.

Ok, my 10 yr old would at least acknowledge me.

I could spend a day with the wonderful cherubs teachers, neighbors, and friends tell me about.

I wouldn’t have to leave the room my kids are in sometimes to avoid losing my mind.

…. And lastly… In my ideal world, Dr. Oz would feature Snickers as a cure-all for breast cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers. And maybe cellulite.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beyond Bamboozled Babysitters

We’re at a tricky parenting crossroads, at which our kids are a little too old for most local babysitters (Son1 tries to get their cell #’s), and too goofy to be left alone. It’s not that they’re too young to be home alone. As wonderful as they can be when out from  all reports I hear, at home they’re morons who would destroy my house. I literally would trust Son1 more with the infant next door than I would with his own 10 yr old brother. Our search for current viable options has caused me to look down memory lane at child care options past. It’s not easy finding coverage for 2 hyper wolves in sheep’s clothing.

You can only go to Grandma so many times before you feel like you’re imposing. She may not have felt that way, but I often did. There are also times my parents have a social life, so it’s not like she was sitting around waiting for my call. The boys LOVE it, but I just feel badly hitting her up all the time. Soooooo, off to the competent caregiver search we went time and again. The odd thing is that we found the recently-minted teens were solid, while their adult counterparts seem more prone to the con artists lurking inside every five year old.

We went the referral route. The snag there is people guard the name of a good babysitter like gold, and the ones you learn about are already working for 6 other families who must book 10 weeks ahead.

We went the internet match site route, and found a good one here or there. But the good ones are like free agents who always seemed wooed to houses with one bookish, craft-loving 6 year old girl. The one we ended up with seemed way more interested in our flat screen TV, had car problems every other week (which always happened COMING to our house rather than going?), had zip control over the kids, and nearly left in tears one night when I told her she should have questioned why the boys were playing with duct tape. 

We went the uncle route. My younger brother is 10 years my junior, and falls into the “cool young uncle” category. Sons1 & 2 were all hepped up to spend some quality time with him while he was home on leave once. One brisk autumn Saturday with my two probably had him Mapquesting his return to Fort Drum. Of course, they had floated the idea that they love hiking and climbing in the woods by Grandma’s where he was staying. He fell for it, but I think they regretted it later, for their bluff had been called. The fun loving uncle from Easter and Christmas was then seen to be a disciplined, highly organized fitness fanatic who ran their butts off for eight hours, with out a video game in sight. They were whipped. For his part, he seemed stunned- STUNNED- that Son2 would swear, letting the then 6 yr old blurt out multiple F bombs before realizing Son2 was saying what he thought he was saying. He assured me he handled it swiftly and with time outs as we would. I then learned he doled out one hour timeouts to the kids. I’m sure Son2 spent most of it dozing or plotting the demise of this once favorite uncle.

The biggest coup by my kids was when we went the aunt route. My sister, bless her heart, was a made mark the second she walked in the door. I’m not sure how the boys knew a push over was to be had, but at 3 and 5 they did. I think she gets the award for Most Bamboozled Babysitter. Now what you have to know is my sister is a successful attorney with litigation experience. Show her contaminated drinking water and she is ON it. Show her a preschooler and all bets are off. I guess she thinks dishonesty is the domain of adults alone, and saw only goodness and light in her nephews. Excuse me while I devolve into laughter.

My sister once watched the boys while we went to a wedding. We came home just after 12 and were assured the boys went to bed by their summer bed time. Since they were in preschool, there really was no summer vacation or adjusted time. But of course, the little ones had assured her there was… about an hour and a half after the norm. She did comment they may have been in bed about 10 minutes late, as she hadn’t planned enough time for their 2 books each (2? what?), nightly bubble baths, and ice cream. “Huh?” was my only reaction. Son1 had announced that Mommy always gave them plenty of time to play, "like a half hour" in the tub each and every night. “With bubbles!” chimed a then 3 yr old Son 2. Still, the ice cream comment intrigued me, so I inquired. Her answer had me questioning her NY & NJ Bar approval. “Well, right before bed, (Son1) said I forgot their bedtime snack they have every night- ice cream. (Son2) was upset about skipping it also. They said you gave them ice cream every night.” And with that acceptance of the conniving words of a 3 and 5 yr old, she took the crown of Bamboozlement.

Hopefully, within another year or so, there will be some clarity to the “when to leave them/ when not to” debate. For now, I’ll at least take comfort in knowing how much time, money, and energy I’ll be saving soon in the great babysitter hunt. They’ll probably end up babysitting themselves. They should. They’d probably see right through their charges’ stories. God knows they’ll already know every trick in the book.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Shut Up, Suck It Up, and Move Along

In my unending effort to toughen up my sons and eliminate as much whining as possible, I'm going to admit I probably cross the line. I probably pole vault right over said line, actually. Before I became a mom, I used to picture myself trying cure every painful little scrape with a gentle mother's kiss. I saw myself hugging and holding, chasing tears away. Can I tell you, these kids are drama kings? I'm spent. I'll gladly come back on duty when true crisis strikes, but boys, for all these minor papercut level ouches, from now on, it's time to shut up, suck it up and move along.

As a mother to sons, I have spent my fair share of time in the ER. I've looked into frequent shopper cards, and recognize the night admission desk staff. Mostly, this is Son2's doing. While Son1 is a 12yr old tornado at every turn, he somehow stops short of pushing the injury limit. Son2 is agile, though. He's quick. He's quiet. I've said before, he's like a 10 yr old Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. He also tends to get a little ahead of himself. There was the time he raced around the playground and monkey bars in the dark. He met the low bar, and subsequently was met by 6 stiches to the eyebrow. He decided to shimmy up the armoire. Why? Well to see what was on top of course. Then it tipped over. He flung himself sideways and thank GOD had it hit his foot only. Eight weeks of pediatric orthopedics ensued for that poor foot. A year later, same ER, same foot, same xray machine. The list goes on. Each time, he has screamed, then nearly hyperventillated the way kids do (and grown women), and been a trooper.

But see, so in lies the problem. If an armoire can nearly crush your toe and you're playing kickball on crutches the next day-- I'm not really buying the sympathy plea for day ten of the orthodontics. No, you're not having McD's milk shakes every meal for the month of October. No, I'm not getting you ice cream every six hours because "it helps your mouth" and, lastly, no, I am not going 3 towns over to the high end market/caterer and calling you with what soup selections they have.  E-NOUGH. I'm done. I'm gaining 20 pounds on the impulse ice for myself (pumpkin soft serve? yum). The McD's drive thru guy knows me by name now. I'm going need the tires rotated after non-stop schlepping for soup. And that noise you keep making that you say you can't stop? STOP. For all that is holy, STOP.

I really do sound like a heartless witch I'm sure. But has a child just ever abused your caring side to the point you see a pillow and think "smother" not "fluff?" The child has just worn me down, and I was a willing participant all along. Son2 is blessed with these cherubic features, and gets away with murder for it. He sucks everyone into his cuteness orbit, from grandparent to teacher to store clerk. And then he goes in for the kill. Because though he's small for his age, he's a crafty little bugger, like Benjamin Button on a sugar kick. A Sunday school teacher once said to me, "He is such a little angel." She was a little put off when I reminded her that was Lucifer's first gig.

Because I felt sorry for little imp, I started blurting out offers for every ice cream retailer I could think of in Northern NJ when the tears started rolling at the orthodontist. He has a contraption now that is expanding his palette, straightening teeth and realigning his bite all at once. It's got a lot of moving parts, I know. I also know they were making his mouth tender. But in between hitting me up for more ice cream and specialty soup, I spied him scarfing a piece of apple pie and candy. Funny~ no mouth pain. Huh. Cut back to our family dinner scene that night, and quiche was too "hard to chew." Uh huh. Busted, wee one. So busted.

At that point, once I saw that was absolutely being played, I absolutely had it. The overexaggerated breathing noise now grates on my nerves every time I hear it. My blond hair/ blue eyed child sounds straight out of a Fantasy Casting Star Wars search with the incessant suction/ rush of air routine. I feel like waking him each morn with the words, "Lord Vader, rise!" But that will give him a title with power. After being strung along on emotional heartstrings the last 10 days, I'm done with deference.

Son2 is now going to find out what happens when you get nabbed tricking Mommy. I fight dirty, and hold immense power over your daily life. Ah, Grasshopper, so much to learn you have. So until I find my optimal payback opportunity, please do not rush to me with minor or imaginary pains and drama. Unless it's bleeding, broken, or boasts impact of nuclear-scale, shut up, suck it up, and move along.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Guess Passing Notes is Passé

You'll recall just a few weeks ago, I was worrying about Son1's entrance into the hormonal Shark Week that is the 7th grade dating scene. I honestly, truly, and naively thought he was driving headlong into his first crush, first romance, and sadly, first heartbreak. What a jackass I was. I forgot. I'm raising a boy. I'm coaching for the other team now, and seeing 7th grade through the head of a 12 yr old boy. You know what? They're goddamn idiots. This only sounds harsh to those of you who have not had a 12 yr old son. To my horror, I'm not watching a replay of my adolescent heart break in my son. Hell no. I'm watching it as a replay BY my son.

To an outsider, Son1 may seem as cold as any boy my friends and I agonized over every school day through sleepover night. That would imply an ounce of forethought, or any thought. But they just don't think. In hindsight, I wish I knew all along that all boys weren't cold, heartless pricks. Nope. Just clueless, emotionally-immature, morons. They're tall children. They're not young men, not fully teens even. I now see them as the children they are, merely strecthed by a couple of good growth spurts under their belts. They weren't methodical adults trying to hurt feelings, if Son1 is any indication. They were just bulls in acne-rich china shops. They'd still whale each other with light sabers in a heartbeat. But these poor girls won't see this for many years to come.

While this makes me feel better about my own past boyfriends, it makes me feel horrible for the girls cast off before they knew what hit them. Boys used to have to call you (on *gasp* your parents' phone), wait for you after school, or send a note through a friend. As bad as it was when we were kids, today's crew is used to an immediacy that it startling. It renders teen heartache with a steely efficiency of a CIA drone over Taliban strongholds. Today's teen boy has a weapon of ice so fast, so decisive, so stinging, it would make Dr. Evil drool. He has texting. And this, my friends, is where all hell broke loose for us this weekend.

It is with head hung low and heavy heart that I report that my beloved Son1 crushed a girl BY TEXT this weekend. I was horrified that I am morally and legally responsible for a person who would do this. Break up by text? In 3-three word phrases? Hello- Paging Mr. Cold Miser. I am in charge of raising one of the clueless baffoons that thinks, "yup" and "kk" are acceptable, well-parsed replies to any query.Yes, I am raising a cold-ass-text-breaker-upper. Go ahead, take my mother of the year tiara, and un-follow me now.

I did not exactly come off as a super supportive mom advocating for him. He seemed a little taken aback by that.  It all goes back to: they just don't think. To the girl in question, if she would like any comfort, she should know I read his text, went off the deep end reading how hurt she was and seeing his quick one-syllable-only bursts. She should know I then laced in to him for her... for me... for my jr high, high school, college, and post grad friends... for female family members... and for any woman who was ever a smitten pre-teen. Fear not, sweetie, when all is said and done, Hell really has no fury like a woman scorned, 30 years removed. I had your back.

While I know this is very much about this girl, who articulately and in language much more PG than I mustered gave him a piece of her mind, this is also about me. I don't mean the heartbreak part. I've come to terms with my childhood breakups and put the voodoo dolls away years ago. Mostly. But there is the thought about how it reflects on me as a mom. It raised that fear as moms that we will be judged by the crappy things our impulsive tall children do. (BTW-If I keep calling him tall child I will not affix every horrid ex-boyrfriend tag on him, so humor me.) Yet, I know my son, and I know the bubble of unseen consequences that he travels in, and I know he wouldn't willfully hurt someone. I'll readily admit to having visions of her parents watching her cry thinking, "What people would raise a boy to do this?"

Son1 is now intertwined in a love triangle spanning the 6th and 7th grade, and has gotten himself into quite the sticky mess. While trying to woo this girl to a dance for his friend who liked her, he truncated and abbreviated one word too many. He kept asking her if she was going to the dance, and in the digital crossfire, she accepted going with him. Not the friend. Oops. It could have been like every Three's Company episode, based on an overheard/misheard/misunderstood snippet. But then he was a little flattered she wanted to go with him, so he double checked (ok, quintupled checked) with his buddy if he really really really liked her. "Ya know bro i mean like like hr." "Uh yeah." (Shakespearean, isn't it?) So then not wanting to hurt his friend (see he really is a good boy), he came up with the hot idea to tell her they had been joking all along. Because each girl wants an older boy to ask her out as a joke. That went over well. Package this all with the incessant need of Son1 to sound like JayZ in text messages, and it did not play out well. The whacky sitcom morphed instead into a "very special Full House."

So now, we've laid out some thorough ground rules for the use of text, like don't ask out OR break up via text. They each deserve a voice. Don't assume the role of gangsta when chatting up girls. You're a lacrosse-playing child in a Lily Pulitzer-laden section of Morris County, NJ. It just looks stupid, like when Ralph Lauren tried selling saggy jeans and puffy jackets. And lastly, keep out of someone else's relationship. Fiascos are assured.

I think for now we've put the kibosh on text break ups. Young ladies (and their protective parents) of NJ, rest assured, one clueless guy habit at a time, I've got your back, and I'm trying to put the kibosh on those too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Somewhere between Ward Cleaver and Billy Ray Cyrus....

While we do limit TV time, it is watched. Think of me what you will. I grew up on it, and feel as adjusted as my peers who were denied it. My two are past the little kid shows with their mind numbing sing alongs and are now into the “tween/teen” shows heavily rotated on Disney and Nickelodeon. At 10 and 12, Sons1 and 2 have hit the demographic for this huge wave of kids programming out there filled with creative, ingenious, and at times flat out sneaky and obnoxious kids. Primetime TV is overrun with idiotic reality shows. Truly crackling, scripted dialogue appears the domain of 13 year olds now. There must be over a hundred shows. Employment in the youth acting marketing has got to be like 99%.

Mine are big fans of shows like Suite Life, iCarly, I’m in the Band, etc. It’s fairly easy for me to monitor the programs since our laundry room is on the same level as the rec room. (I’ve been told by the 10 yr old they are now too old to have a “play room.”). As if unceasing laundry weren’t penance enough for my desire to parent, I get to do it listening to Alex cast spells on Wizards of Waverly Place, Zach demean his twin Cody on Suite Life, and Carly and her buds create their web show. Um… kids of TV land… where the hell are your parents?

Remember when parents seemed to have brains on TV? While it disturbed me the kids never mentioned their deceased parents, I will say Mike and Carol Brady were bastions of calm logic. Donna Reed and June Cleaver were overly ideal, but seriously Wilma Flintstone had a better grip on Pebbles than these MIA parents. Lucy Ricardo showed crazy judgment, but you got the impression Little Ricky saw her, or at least thought about her, from time to time. The shows my kids watch, though, are filled with absent-minded or totally absentee parents. I know divorce rates are high, but they have a disproportionate number of single moms who are all painted as easily bamboozled morons. By and large, parents are either never mentioned, or shown as complete buffoons. TV Producers- could you cut us a LITTLE slack?

If you’re not up on your programming for 9-14 year olds, let me help:

Zack & Cody lived the “Suite Life” with their on-site hotel manager mother. It was weird enough they never ever mentioned a dad. Then one day, the gurus at Disney TV decided they shouldn’t live in a hotel with just their mom. Right. They should live on a cruise ship WITHOUT their mom. See that right there is better TV.

“I’m in the Band” follows the travails of a 15 year old boy who convinces his single mom to take in an aging, faded trio of heavy metal musicians from the band “Iron Weasel.” I don’t know about you, but I have just a wee bit of a hard time picturing single moms I know opening their home to three washed up musicians as “role models” for their sons. Has this woman never seen VH1’s Behind the Music?

“Hannah Montana” lives with her father, and to their credit they did address more than once that her mom is deceased. The bad news is she’s supervised by her father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Moving right along…

Not to be outdone by their mouse eared colleagues, the fine folks at Nickelodeon bring you their own unchaperoned programming for pre through high school. Good luck scaring up some parents there. And they start their characters off on the solo path at a tender age. Case in point, Dora wanders off with her backpack and inane singing map. They call it “exploring” but she’s a bigger flight risk than a mob kingpin or the dementia patients with whom I volunteer. Perhaps if she stayed with adults, she wouldn’t be perpetually lost? I think los padres de Dora need one of those kid leashes. And can someone please call the cops on the sticky-fingered fox?

Fast forward to teen years, and over on “Zoey 101,” Zoey goes to the boarding school Pacific Coast Academy. In this case, they rarely encounter any adult supervision unless entering a classroom. No one seems to remind them about being respectful, calling their parents, or even that they have parents. What would Mrs. Garrett think? The remaining “Facts of Life” jokes are just too easy, as they were learned by the marginally-supervised teen star, Jamie Lynn Spears. Cancelled, the show lives on in chaperone-less reruns.

And iCarly… where to begin? If you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a teen girl who lives with her brother in a gaping loft apartment creating webisodes of her online show all afternoon. Because each teen girl should be up in her bedroom-turned-web-studio with lights, a mic, a green screen, and way too much free time. And have you noticed the bar? I know we are supposed to suspend reality, and that cartoons in our impressionable youth were violent blah blah blah. Cry me a river. Did any of you actually try to move an anvil off a cliff to squash a neighbor? I’m thinking no. I am thinking there are a lot of kids who think it’s perfectly normally to shoot TV shows from your room. And what says youth safety like web cams in a bedroom?

I’m sure to my kids, I will sound lame; so be it. I simply think there has to be some happy medium between Father Knows Best and Bill Ray Cyrus. There has to be. If not as a civilization, we’re screwed. Until such scripted examples for the kids, I guess I’ll steer them toward Wizards of Waverly Place, where the parents are only half-moronic and shown as hardworking in the restaurant they own. A mom tired from managing a family business that lets her kids out of sight maybe five minutes longer than she should, but sends thunderbolts when crossed? Yeah, there’s one who’s real to me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things Adoptive Moms Want To Say

I was very excited when Our Mommyhood asked me to write a guest post! This great site has such a wide range of content. I was asked to write about adoption or being an adoptive mom, so thought I'd take a chance to set some records straight. Big thanks to editors Liz and Betsy!

While I’m an adoptive mom, and would gladly extol its virtues, I wouldn’t say I’m expert material. A passing glance at my blog would call key parenting skills into question. So while “expert” is beyond reach, “adoptive mom who lost it a couple of times on strangers” is pretty accurate. “What is there to lose it about after adopting?” you rightfully ask. Well, apart from all the lovely stressors parenting brings, there are some comments you field that are unique to your situation. Sometimes, they just get rub you the wrong way. I really don’t think people mean any harm. They just don’t think or realize. My plan here isn’t to make you feel uncomfortable, but rather to help you see some things through the eyes of an adoptive parent. One less foot in a mouth… that’s what I’m all about here.

I’ll start out with the biggie:
Loving them as much as children by birth
My husband had two daughters when we married. I asked him repeatedly if he’d feel differently about his new sons vs. his daughters. After weeks of denial, he cracked. “Of course I’ll have a different relationship with them!” That saddened me, until he quickly clarified, “I was in my 30’s to 40’s for the girls but will be in my 50’s to 60’s for the boys. I don’t have the same career demands now. I probably won’t need to sit by a Barbie playhouse much.” It was really that simple to him, a question of lifestyle and gender play preferences. When I hear people talk about different feelings toward adopted kids, I go back to him since he’s poised to know the truth. He doesn’t get people who can’t believe you feel the same toward an adoptive child as one by birth. He’s really baffled by men’s reactions. “It’s not like you’d be breastfeeding yourself.” They’re just “his kids,” and by “they” I mean all four, all viewed the same way.

We clean up after kids who get the flu at 2:00am. We cry when we open hand drawn Mother’s Day cards. We stare at our sleeping kids, awed by their beauty, and befuddled that they can look so angelic in sleep while being so devilish when awake. We leave the house at 6:00am to schlep to gymnastics meets 100 miles away. Yep, we’re absolute idiots for our kids too.

“Real” Kids:
This was the phrase that put me over the edge on several occasions. I finally gave up, sarcasm taking over. To the woman in McDonald’s, the mom at my son’s preschool, the family friend at a party, and anyone else my flip tone offended at the time, I’m kinda sorta sorry. Eventually to comments such as, “They look just like your real kids,” I replied:
  • "He’s not go strings to hold him down."
  • "And yet, faux really is more humane."
  • "We decided real was best since the holograms were too expensive.
  • "Nope, he’s real. I lost the Nerf one years ago. The hubs was so pissed." 
  • "Madame Tussaud’s mail order~ what can’t they do?!" 
  • "Yeah, but the replacement parts are a bitch to find."
When you become a parent, God gives you the kids you’re meant to have. Everyone in our family believes this. My stepdaughters have repeatedly said it to me. Physical similarities, personality traits, talents, crazy flash temper (huh? who said that?)… my sons share some of these with me, and I love it. But it’s not what makes them “real” to me. Love alone does that.

“Bet you’re happy you missed that!”
This usually refers to morning sickness, swollen ankles, insomnia, labor pain. The paper pregnancy has its own set of challenges. There are things adoptive moms go through that can tear you down emotionally, then in turn, physically. For starters, births have a due date. You knew, much like a road construction warning, that “on or about January 10…” you would be a parent. In the majority of cases, adoption has no due date. Even when couples are working with a birthmother, there are legal milestones of equal significance, or an undying fear that minds could be changed. When you give birth, there’s no real fear the baby’s going to change his mind.
Adoption brings all kinds of chances for uncertainty until final court approval. Don’t get me wrong- I’m ok with skipping some of the less than fun pregnancy highlights. Anxiety and doubt, though, can torment your stomach and sleep for months on end. Trust me, in the long run, the roller coasters of birth and adoption even out to a dead heat. One other snag I’ll mention that can hurt feelings is the issue that many women who have adopted REALLY wanted those experiences you’re joking about. You never know, so least said, best said sometimes.

“They’re so lucky to have you”
No. Not really. I feel very blessed that I was approved by the caretakers, judge, Russian Education Ministry, and above all, God, to be their mom. But no one walks around thinking, “WOW are my kids suuuuuuuper lucky that I’m their mom! I mean, I am FABULOUS” Whether you gave birth or adopted, you simply don’t think in those terms. Ok, maybe you do. No really, you don’t. I hope.

And while I’m on a roll
The last little tidbit I have is something I wish I could scream at every reporter everywhere. I don’t walk around calling my sons my “adopted sons.” They’re just “sons.” Did you ever notice that in a story about any celeb who’s adopted, the kids are always labeled? Read an article about the Jolie-Pitts, Sandra Bullock, Sheryl Crowe, etc and their children are labeled when adopted. Curiously, the genetic Jolie-Pitts are not labeled. They are simply their kids. All of them are “their kids.” Period. If you happen to be a journalist, please keep that in mind. If you know one, please share this. Feel free to message stories. Lord knows I do.

At the end of the day, however they ended up in our arms, they are our children. They imprinted in our hearts, like the werewolves do in Twilight. God sent me to them and them to me, not via a stork, but via Boeing. The humorist Art Buchwald was a parent via adoption. He once said, “You’ll know they’re your kids when you want to kill them.” On any given day, laundry, noise, and bickering floating through my home, I’m with him. I love them more than life itself, yet want to murder them in frustration at times. So I assure, you see, we are all the same. We are moms.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Get back in your own season!

There’s a reliable cadence during any given year as the seasons change. NJ is one of the states where we really get bang for the change-of-season buck. From blizzards to heat stroke, and every temperate temp in between, our lives are set to weather rhythms. Well, they used to be. Apparently the whole, “to everything (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn)” memo was not read by all. The tried and true markers of seasons are a-changing themselves, and our body clocks are sure to suffer in generations to come. Like many fast moving trends with unintended consequences, it seems spurred by well meaning parents and coaches we seem unable to refuse. Behold the days of winter lacrosse, fall baseball, and summer hockey. Cue the apocalypse!

Maybe astroturf is to blame, because actual grass growth cycles became irrelevant? Was it Under Armour? Has that flexi tech apparel marvel that clogs my laundry bins made warm weather sports comfy at odd times? Did global warming cause this? Is it simply warm enough to play summer sports year round, even without the body gear? But then how do you account for ice hockey in August? Our mastery of artificial climates is totally screwing with our sports seasons. Our kids’ seasonal reference will be more jumbled than mall shoppers faced with Christmas decorations in October.

Have the year round baseball advocates never heard of “spring training?” That’s when the whole shebang kicks off- not November! Did Don Henley sing of “The Boys of Winter?” I think not. Youth baseball has its place on the calendar. Please put it back there. And tell it to take softball with it, because the girls in town in their visors and knee socks look really out of place at the bagel store next to the football players.

It’s one thing when seasons overlap. Sentences like “I want to go snowboarding but I have lacrosse,” are perfectly fine in months that straddle seasons like March. Son1’s lacrosse vs. snowboarding debate was in December though last year. NO NO NO. For the love of God, I can’t even change out the Thule cases and sports gear racks on my car that quickly. You get one sport’s worth of gear smelling up my car at a time, Son1. Uno. I’ll give a pass to sports like swimming, karate, and gymnastics. They just never seem to end, you poor parents.

I’m always surprised how many kids do multiple team sports at the same time, and this seems to be escalating as the seasonal mash up continues. The 7th grader on Son1’s soccer team playing football and soccer has a busy schedule. He also has a friend though playing football AND baseball this Fall. To my seasonally-anchored-sports mind, that’s like surfing and skiing on the same day. Apart from that, when can they possibly be doing homework, and when do their parents ever get to stay home? I’ll be honest and say flat out I’m too frazzled and too selfish to spend every waking moment in carpools and on bleachers. Pick one, play hard, and then come home.

There is another category of concern in all of this sports jumble. It probably bears as much of the blame as superior HVAC systems. In an effort to foster what many parents see as a talent, they also think they see a way to fight rising college costs. Let me say clearly that if half of the kids on my sons’ soccer team think college bucks are coming, they’d better get cracking on a Plan B. (Lest you think I too share the delusions, I am totally including my own two in the Plan B planning team.)

Visions of financial aid have forced many parents into the delusion that honing their children’s abilities year-long will render them thoroughbreds worthy of NCAA nods and the scholarships that follow. So now we’ve messed up the natural rhythms of sporting goods retail AND deluded our children. Dick’s Sporting Goods’ merchandising team can adjust. The egos of some of these young athletes may take some more time when the light bulb flicks on that they’re not Division I, I-A, or even XIV-Z material.

Tonight, soccer practice is on the schedule, then ditto for tomorrow since both sons play. At some point, homework that is being brought home will be completed, and various household and family activities will ensue. It’ll be a busy autumn weekend, but it’ll be just an autumn weekend. It’s warm still, so some summer activities may resurface for the open slots, but spring and winter sports need not apply. You’ll have your turns soon enough, in your own season.