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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Laundry Angel

As a business owner and a mom, even when super sick I feel like a slacker taking a sick day. Nearly a week into a cold that is surely morphing into more, a bright spot has emerged more vibrant than the glow of my netbook on my lap when I conked out at 2pm, stronger than the smell of Vicks. Who knew child labor could have such an upside?

It all started way back yesterday when hubs and I were racking our brains over the way our kids blow through money. I know this is a common problem, not unique to our two. If you know any child with ADHD though, you know the impulsivity can wreak havoc on a child's cash flow and a parent's patience. Our 13yr old is beyond impulsive. If you give Son1 $10 he'll spend $12 in five minutes. He smuggled tons of cash to daycamp one time to buy a round of ice cream for him and 80 of his closest campers.

Though Son2 has ADHD also, his impulse control is fairly strong with money. By which I mean he's cheap. Really cheap. To his credit, he is industrious too. He's the child who wanted to move his lemonade stand to the neighbor's driveway for 5 cents of every cup sold when he saw more cars passing there. As a result he's a great saver. Here's the conundrum. He's a great saver with HIS money. Like most kids, he sees his bounty as his, and his parents as the means to cover basic needs like food, clothing, and sour patch-laced Coldstone Creamery.

We decided that we would increase their allowances since we hadn't since 2006. (How time flies!) But instead of a flat raise, we told them we thought they're old enough to take on more responsibility and that it was time they learned to do some things without being asked, nudged, cajoled, or screamed at. To that end, they would receive their allowances, and then if they did other things that they see hubs and I doing we would bonus them.

Son1 quickly calculated how many times he'd need to vacuum dog hair off the stairs to buy a Mustang GT when he drives. (Aim high!) Son2 asked if they would be taught to use any machines. I was coughing and sneezing already and just muttered, "sure." He then spent the next 3 hours asking hubs to show him the dishwasher since he said he already is tasked with emptying it, he might as well earn more. Son1 retreated to the playroom to play video games and dream of his windfall that would come if he ever gets off his butt. Son2 wandered through the house mysteriously for an hour muttering to himself about what he could do. "I'm too short to dust all the shelves... the dogs would drag me across the yard if I walked them (they've each got 30 lbs on him.)... I need an idea..."

And then, inspiration struck him and he came to me with words I never thought I'd hear, "Mom, can you show me the detergent amount and temperature setting for whites and darks. And for the dryer?" When you break this query down, there are several peaks. 1) He was taking out the big guns of chore-swiping, the laundry. 2) He knew he could reach all the components. 3) He already got that there were different temp settings for things (from where I've no idea) to expedite his learning curve. 4) He is fastidious so my things would be folded like an Old Navy training site opened downstairs.

He spent last night reading the detergent bottle for measurements. He asked me the ins and outs of stain removal. And then, he took over. And the best 24 congested hours of my life had begun.

He washed two loads and folded everything including the two unfolded ones I left. He ate his breakfast, got the backpack ready for school and scurried downstairs to do a quick load before school. After homework, he went right downstairs to the laundry room. I kept hearing his little feet scampering up and down the stairs as he emptied hampers, sorted, and cleaned. He asked about sheet stripping time lines. Like Harry Potter, I have a house elf.

Shortly before dinner time, I dosed off again into a cough syrup haze to be brought back to consciousness by a very soft voice leaning over me asking, "Do I use hot/cold or hot/warm or warm/warm for whites?" I was in a fog with an angelic voice offering to do laundry. Was I dreaming? There was a bright light emanating from his blond hair. "My God," I thought, "What's happened to me? I thought it was just a cold!" Then I realized it was just Son2 with the sconce lit behind his head. But seriously, taking over laundry so I can flop on the couch in my cold stupor classifies him as cherubim to me, quite possibly seraphim.

I know the novelty will wear off shortly, though with his entrepreneurial bent I give Son2 a better chance at keeping up with task-for-cash than a lot of kids. The upside is for today, and hopefully the next 36 hours, I do not need to see the laundry room and yet the clothes are not piling up. It's magical. I'm chalking the buzz up to that and not the Nyquil.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Privacy at Any Cost

Everyone knows that kids have a catastrophic effect on privacy. It comes with the territory. I see first time moms walking along in late term pregnancies and think two things: "Awww, God Bless;" and "Kiss peeing uninterrupted goodbye for 19-21 years."

For all the joy my sons bring me (and they do, really, that's just not a juicy blog fodder), there are times I feel like running out the front door just hear myself think. Their keen sense of timing would make the most seasoned comic green with envy. Going to bathroom? Major crisis will strike the playroom. Disrobed and one foot in the shower? Nope. You must stop and explain the logisitics of how Santa can monitor every child in evey house, regardless of location. Benevolent gift-giver, or tech-savy voyeur? We'll discuss that at another time. Think you can actually get through a phone call with a major client or close family member? BAH! Funny how the dog opens the door himself at exactly that point to tour the neighborhood.

Today I'm heading off on what is veiled as retrivieing Son1 from his Sea Cadet camp. Sure, he needs to be picked up, but that's only part of it. He's in Norfolk, seven hours from our NJ abode. Each way. With I95 in my future. Alone. And I'm willingly hopping in to the car and will  bask in the glow of "Do you see what lengths your father and I go through for you two?"

And why will I do this to myself? P-R-I-V-A-C-Y. Solitude. Quiet. Phone conversations without little ears tuning in like CIA agents. Complete ownership of the radio with its recently loaded satellite 80's New Wave Channel. This is what life has come to for me. I'm willing to send my sons (because 11yr old Son2 had his Norfolk excursion last week) seven hours away simply so I have some peace and quiet. Oh, quit judging me!

I'm getting ready to pack the car, and still need to get Son2 off to his day camp before heading off, but am already kind of psyched for the quiet enclosure of my Volkswagon for today's trek. There are even stretches where the cell coverage is spotty, so that may not be chiming away. True, unmitigated quiet. Ahhhhh. Can you hear that? Hear what, you ask? Hear- NOTHING. That will be me. No one to whine when I stop for gas. No one to rapid fire sixteen questions while I shower. No one to knock on the bathroom door every time nature calls me. Hell, I might stop to use the restroom when I don't have to just to enjoy the silence. Then tonight, I'll stay in a hotel and fully control the remote, have dinner where I choose, and enjoy a leisurely shower. Dear Hampton Inn of Smithfield: Please do not be alarmed if you hear room 232's shower running 6.25 hours. Really, it's all good.

In the end, this is really a continuation of the chapter that starts when the kids are very young and parents drive for hours around their own block just to help a crying baby in a car seat fall asleep. The car is still a refuge. For today, it's my private, quiet space with my beloved 80's music and six cup holders.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Et tu, Son2? Et tu?

It’s no secret Son1 has been in a race to adulthood since he was 5. At every age, he has tried to act beyond his years. Or at least what he thinks people beyond his years should act like. Even now at 13, he’s often oblivious to the fact that he looks as close to an 18 year old as two kids stacked on each other’s shoulders with a trench coat covering the “lower” part of the giant.  His mouth and whining give away his true age. He outright refuses to show any affection in public lest society or the alpha male of  8th grade brand him a mommy’s boy. It’s ok. I gave up long ago on a public hug or kiss good-bye from Son1. I always had Son2 to pick up the slack. Did you catch that? H-a-d.

 *really wistful, pathetic sigh like when I look at pics of myself from college and realize how skinny I was when I thought I was fat*

It was a pleasant enough day. Not more than a few weeks prior had Son2 strolled through the crowded mall, stopped to hug me, and declared, “Of course I hug my mom. That’s just the kind of man I am.”  

 *wistful sigh #2, like oh-that-Hagen-Das-would-be-awesome-were-it-not-75,000-calories wistful*

A few short days before, he ran up to me during a church service at the exchange of peace, gave me a big hug and kiss and said “love you, Mommy!”

*tear, quivering lip*

And now, I find myself a victim of the ultimate sting an adolescent child can render upon his mother. I’ve been shunned. In public. By him. With the eye roll. With exasperated gritted teeth “Mo-OM, NO!” *chardonnay, anyone?*

 I had suddenly become the most loathsome thing a tween boy can have in public: a clinging mother. But how? All I was doing was dropping him at a party at a park? I wasn’t going to see him until the next day since he was getting picked up by Grandma for a wild night of grandma-type fun. I bet Grandma didn’t get the eye roll! *where’s the scotch?*

I’m conditioned to Son1 treating me like a bubonic-plague-carrying rat in public. It’s been his schtick for more years than I can remember. And trying to embarrass him in (over)reaction with things like, “Good job, SWEETIE PIE,” or “you’re the BEST, Cocoa Bear!” has been mine. We have a tacit understanding that we will push each other’s buttons in public settings. It’s its own dysfunctional display of affection, an inside joke of sorts.

But now Son2, my sweet, cherubic-faced, still-cuddly Son2 has flipped the mental switch at age 11. Getting out of the car, still concealed from his friends by trees, he turned to me, opened his arms, and actually said, “Um, ok, can we do this here?” Not really understanding, I asked, “what, hug & kiss good bye? Like, away from ‘the guys’?” (I actually chuckled in my naïveté!) “Uh, yeah, come on Mom? PLEASE!?!”  So there we stood next the park that sits right next to our town’s police station. “Excuse me, Officer. Is breaking your mother’s heart a form of elder-abuse,” I wanted to ask. The look of desperation on his face was heart-wrenching when he thought I was going to push the issue.

It’s ok, Son2, I understand your need to feel cool, and not to look like you cling to Mom. I get it, I really do. I just hate to see it happen. : (     *waterproof mascara- STAT!*

Friday, July 15, 2011

Last Man/ Dog/ Hermit Crab Standing

Well, it’s coming down the wire here. Hubs heads out of town tomorrow for a five day ride with a group of buds to New England. This will leave me in charge of the home front, encompassing Sons 1 and 2, two dogs, two hermit crabs, a turtle (I think we still have a turtle?), and three elaborate tropical fish tanks. I can’t really say who or what will be left standing (or swimming) by the time he returns. My bets are on the crafty, survival-savvy Son2, the 7 yr old labradoodle, and at least one hermit crab.

As crazy-hectic as the afternoons or evenings can be with activities and the random late night of work thrown in, the part of the day I most dread will be the mornings. Hubs is simply superb in the morning. He was made to rise with the sun. I was made to rise when the sun was two time zones past my own and someone else had started the coffee and walked the dogs. I know this makes me sound lazy. It’s not the doing I mind, I just mind doing them each first thing out of bed. I’m going to be playing a man down against a really skilled, super conniving, dare I say hostile, team in a match that drags on longer than cricket.

It’s really hard to say if 13yr old teen angst will afford both Son1 and me the opportunity to survive five days without the hubs as a buffer. Hubs hasn’t even fired up the bike yet, and I’ve already gotten two rounds of, “so wait, it’s just you with us? Or can we go to Grandma’s?” Um, yeah, just me. Thanks. The boy opens his eyes and the complaints fly in quick succession. He is not a morning person, and any of you whose lives are touched by ADHD know it takes a wee bit for all systems to be a pharmaceutical go. This would be OK were I a morning person. But I am so not. And so in lies the rub. If Son1 and I can successfully survive five mornings of “Rise and Shine and quit giving me that obnoxious attitude and speak to me like a human being not a slave or hard-of-hearing ATM, or you’re on your bed for five afternoons,” we’re golden. If he mouths off too much while I am in my pre-caffeinated state Armageddon may come to our town.  On the flip side, afternoons on the bed will provide solid blocks of summer reading time. Hmmmm….

Son2 can be just as annoying in the mornings, but for reverse reasons. At 11, he’s still a natural early riser, and wakes up like a jolt of energy. It’s like someone pours Red Bull down his throat thirty minutes prior to waking, so he is inherently on a higher energy arc than I could hope to be. And he is the worst thing a morning person could be to a non-morning person upon waking: he’s chipper. He expects chipper back. Are you crazy? Please just go watch TV while I curse a blue streak at the toaster, ok? I do want to see your artwork and hear the songs you’ve made up, but I’m not equipped to appreciate their subtle nuances at 6:45am. Be a dear and go watch Tom & Jerry beat the hell out of each other. Thanks.

I’m clueless with the fish. I can’t even tell you when we got so many fish. The people at PetSmart must love hubs as much as I do. The fish department manager surely must. Hubs probably earned this guy a company car or sales trip to Hawaii. When he goes away (hubs I mean, not the overly-reward PetSmart guy), I am left with very detailed instructions on food amounts, water treatments, lights on lights out, pump checking blah blah blah. In reality I stare blankly at the tank and mutter, “um, ok, pinch of this, pinch of that, please don’t die.” And then I wait to see if any are floating at the top the next day. No floaters= successful fish parenting in my book. I wonder if he’s taking inventory before he goes away? I should really slip the 11 yr old some extra coin this week to watch the fish, now that I think about it. He’s kind of bonded with the hubs over their care, while Son1 and I get caught up bickering over whether the introduction of the eel has skirted my “NO snakes!” rule.

At least one hermit crab will survive, but only due to Son2’s intervention and observation. His detail orientation has helped them survive and thrive a whopping 3.5 weeks now. Now that I think of it, they’ll probably each survive thanks to his diligence.

So, all this brings us to the dogs. The lab is a goofy, 4yr old, 90lb hulk who works himself into panic attack every time a threatening, ninja-like chipmunk scampers up the drive. Heaven forbid a truly ferocious looking squirrel runs along the patio. You’d think we were being invaded. I’m pretty sure he’ll make it through the five days, but probably a little hungry since hubs feeds him as part of the morning routine. I’ll delegate it Son1, who, in true Son1 fashion, will forget to feed the dog. At times I think he forgets we have a dog even when said dog is sitting right in front of him. The labradoodle will survive very nicely. She’s the brains of the outfit among all household dependents, and will have the foresight to escape the house early on, meander to the elderly couple across the street, Ralph and Alice, who adore her sweet nature, and live the high life in their backyard. Yes, they really are “Ralph and Alice.”

I’ve been to the Ralph and Alice’s house. She’d be pretty clever to hide there till hubs returns. It’s quiet with lots of booze. One or two mornings of teen attitude, and I think I’ll join her!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Difference Between Tomboys and (Real) Boys

When I was but a wee diva growing up in Jersey, I used to shrink back in horror from all things pink and feminine. It may surprise those who know of my current love of stilettos to learn I was the tomboy of the century. Ok, the 70's at least. The first 10-12 years of my life, I wanted GI Joe's instead of Barbies. I wanted football gear, and cringed when directed to the cheerleading tryouts. Through my teens and twenties, while I learned to appreciate makeup and kick ass hair products that fueled the 80's, I still looked at tarted up little girls at dance recitals with total detachment. I was such a tomboy, I felt I was missing a "dress up" chip or something when thinking of traditional little girl activities. I was sure when the time came to be a mom, I would fall right in line with all the boy things. I would totally "get" them, since as a tomboy, I'd been more like them, right?

I now see as clear as day that there's a major difference between a girl who is a tomboy and an actual boy. She's still a girl. Oh shut up, it's not as basic as it seems. Ok, maybe it is. I love my sons to pieces, really I do, but they're boys and I am loathe to admit they simply do... not... think. They don't think things through from one minute to the next. As a girl trapped (willingly) in a baseball jersey, I still possessed the more mature verbal skills and what psychologists call "executive functioning skills" (what the rest of us call basic common f'ing sense) that girls laud over their male peers. Each day, I am faced with the horrifying reality that I am responsible for two young people who can not think of a consequence were it to shine as brightly as neon, or say, a siren.

You see, for years I thought my older brother had a screw loose or was a little slow on the uptake. I thought that was why I was always the one pushed forward to "do the talking" should a window happen to break, or vase happen to come crashing down. I thought he and all of his buds two years my senior were just shoving me to the forefront like some sacrificial lamb in a Dutch Boy haircut. NO! They were just too goofy to come up with plausible storylines, so they turned to the girl in the group. They didn't think, they were just all motion. They were boys and I was just a pretender. NOW I get it.

So fast forward to the present and I see that for decades I was living under a false assumption that I understood boys. I never did. I was like a person who learns a foreign language, but can never think in that language. I was so clearly a girl in boys' clothes and nothing more. Hell, would a boy even use a metaphor like that foreign language one? Now, when I try to figure out what would possess my sons to do 1/2 of what they do, I have to stop and throw away so much of what I remember from my childhood. I need to, because it holds no bearing. I used my brain; they don't. There are days I question if they possess them. To figure them out, I need to stop thinking. Then I will truly be more like an 11 or 13 year old boy.

Now you can sit back and think this is a ridiculously sexist post. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. I think it's like any of the cliches we see that are cliches because they are based on years and years of example. Bad News Bears- who did the talking? Who was the brains of the outfit? The adult in charge? NO- Tatum O'Neil's character! Harry Potter is supposed to be the most powerful wizard ever, and yet who gets him and his male chum out of jam after jam? Uh huh. Hermoine. Who's the one who packs the proper supplies, takes the time to think through a ripple effect of an action, and talks them out of sticky situations? Uh huh, the girl. Hollywood has been trying to tell me for years: Girls who hang out with boys think; boys hanging out with boys don't. Plain and simple.

It's taken me 42 years of life to finally accept that I was so much closer to the girls on the playground cheering the game than I ever was to the boys lined up to blitz right over me. I thought. Boys don't. Ok, now that that's solved... : )

Friday, July 1, 2011

It Just Doesn't Need to Be This Long

I was trying to run a webinar from the comfort of my new office today, when who should come stumbling in but Son1 and Son2. Hubs had a lunch meeting, and for no reason I understand, the town’s summer program was not running this morning “for the holiday.” Sorry? Did we move to Canada last night? July Fourth is our day. MONDAY. They day I don't have a webinar scheduled with an overseas crew. So in the door they stroll (loudly), sent in by hubs with lunch to enjoy before heading to the lake, which is open for afternoon. Thank you, God.

While fumbling left and right with mute buttons and timing synchs, we also had a Mountain Dew explode on the conference table (“all by itself”) and then topple over onto a chair (“by accidentally”). Note to self: grammar tutor for the 13 year old, STAT. I’ve long bemoaned the insanely long summer vacation our kids get. If we’re falling behind every industrialized country in math and science, why the hell are my kids not IN SCHOOL.

To really grasp how long this crazy educational hiatus is, all 110640 minutes/ 1844 hours/ 76 days/ 10.857142857143 weeks of it, I will share with you the scale of what you could accomplish in this span were your kids not driving you insane:

Select your preferred activty:
  • Mix, bake, cool, and ice 31,239 cupcakes
  • Jetski from San Diego, California to Papua New Guinea 9.346 times
  • Welp a litter of puppies, and have 2 ½ weeks to spare
  • Walk the Appalachian Trail 2.27657 times. Go for 3.3891 times if you choose not to sleep.
  • Listen to the song American Pie 12,815 times
  • Watch 5,029 episodes of Sex and The City. I don’t know, I really think the Samantha character could get a little stale by episode 3,210, but that’s just me.
  • Ride “It’s A Small World” 10,537 times
  • Be arrested, arraigned, sentenced, serve 5 days and 1,000 community service after the violent spree that many rounds of “It’s A Small World” would trigger… and STILL have a week left
  • Read “War and Peace” 12.3 times.
  • Order Rosetta Stone, learn fundamental Russian, and read it in native language 1.7 times.
  • Get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop 3,951 times by licking only
  • Perform 1,053 liposuction procedures. Hey wait a minute, we may be on to something after all.
  • Create 623 really amazing dioramas, thus seeing your child and every child in your community through from Kindergarten through 5th grade.

And my personal summer vacation favorite:
  • Blend and drink 2,688 margaritas. I’ve adjusted this down from 3,688 to allow “sleep off time.” Without it the blender may get a little hazardous. Safety first!

Yet in reality, my 11 and 13 year old will be lucky to simply get through 2-3 summer reading books a piece, and avoid being trampled in a fit of rage by my Roomba-vacuum-wielding hubs, crazed at the sand in the house again from the lake’s beach. And it’s only July 1.

Now, again, I ask you…. Why the hell do they get ALL this time off???

Friday, June 10, 2011

What doesn't hit my sons' radar

It's been nearly a month since I last wrote. Life got crazy busy with events planned (office relocation/ new tenant hunt/ client events) and unplanned (major roof failure/ major IT failures/ major fridge failure). Now, in the blink of the eye that was May, I find myself 1/3 of way thru June and looking at a startling number of things that have not seemed to hit my sons' collective radar enough to warrant communication. They're 11 and 13, so this may seem par for the course, and to an extent it is. What never ceases to amaze, however, are the things that DO cross their minds with enough repetition that they are blurted out to Dustin-Hoffman-in-Rainman levels.

Here is a glimpse of what they have felt compelled to harass and harangue the hubs and I with over the past 30 days: (btw, it is much more realistic if you repeat Mom, Mom... Mom! before each item as if you weren't sitting but 2 feet away, separated only by car seats)
  • Sal/Dylan/Patrick/James etc etc etc want to sleep over.
  • The Wii controller needs new batteries.
  • The TV remote needs new batteries.
  • The LR remote needs new batteries.
  • Your bedroom TV remote needs new batteries.
  • Did you know all the remotes work all TV's in our house?
  • We should really buy more batteries.
  • We're out of Gatorade.
  • I'm going to need a costume to dress up as Ronald Reagan for a project
  • Can you get me a monkey so I can be like him in that movie?
  • This kid, yeah, at school, he said we can wear whatever we want even T-Shirts w/ curse words for the summer rec program.
  • My basketball got lost.
  • My goggles got lost.
  • The 8th graders went to DC for their field trip. I go next year for 3 days.
  • My lacrosse stick got lost.
  • Antarctica is the cleanest place on Earth because no humans have cities there.
  • The Wii controller now got lost.
So if you repeat these things OVER AND OVER AND OVER to mind-splitting levels, and pepper it with the occasional "nuthin'" and "I dunno" reply to every question, you kind of have the standard chatter of the last few weeks. We seem to live in a magical land driven by highly inefficient AA & AAA batteries in which apparently inanimate objects can get up and walk themselves out the door or off the front yard.

What things that I would deem important did not hit the conversation path until I had a second to breath and dug into the backpacks last night?

  • Son2 is required to get a meningitis vaccine in the next 90 days or can not attend 6th grade.
  • Son1 had a Spanish test, the last of the year, yesterday. (To call his Spanish asi asi would be muy generous.)
  • Son1 has a Language Arts Final Exam this Monday (goodbye Sunday plans)
  • The 2 kids now out for the school year due to illness and a "last minute" trip to Poland were 2 of the 4 on Son1's Social Studies project team. The notes went to Poland and may not be available for the project due date.
  • Son2 has a 3 page biography report due TODAY on Ronald Reagan. (Thankfully mostly done, but his typing pace will not win any awards, so a long night ensued.)
  • Son2 has a 100 word summary due TODAY for a current event article. (3 guesses what we did over breakfast this AM)
  • Son1 had his Science Final Exam yesterday. (Science only slightly stronger than Spanish grade was at progress report)
  • Son1 could have had additional time today per his IEP to review and complete Science Final, but instead figured he was done, why drag it out? Why not just turn it in early?
Now at SOME point, don't some of those things seem worth your time or attention? Maybe at least as much as the economic development of Antarctica?

It bears stating at this point that I was greeted with these investigative findings while in the throws of PMS. The only bright spot to that being it means I haven't hit menopause yet.  The office move is Tuesday/Wednesday. I have this weekend to sort out what studying can still be done if any, and locate a stuffed monkey for my 11yr who possesses a plush toy of every creature of the animal kingdom except a monkey. My mind can not even process the fact that I'm looking down the barrel of summer vacation yet for these two goofballs. With my luck, menopause will start this weekend after all.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Story of Sebashka

Wrote this for an iVillage submission request for stories of your kid's favorite stuffed animal. Hope you enjoy!

Sebashka is one of the dearest members of our family, even if I'm not entirely sure how to spell his name. My older son is 13 years old now, and Sebashka has been in his life for almost nine ... as long as we have. Sebashka was the first present I brought my son, at a point when he wasn't yet mine legally. (My son legally, I mean. Sebashka was legally mine. Ask American Express.) Sebashka was one of the two bright white & tan stuffed dogs I schlepped from New Jersey, 1/2 across the world to Novorossiysk, Russia, to the orphanages in which a certain precious 4 yr old  and his equally precious 2 yr old brother were living. I was told to bring a toy or treat to play with when meeting the boys who were our adoption "referrals." I was cautioned that the toys would not be theirs alone but rather property of the orphanages in which they resided, for all the kids.

My younger son, Son2, was a little overwhelmed at first meeting. He enjoyed the dog I brought him, while I simply fell in love. We then drove on to meet his brother, my Son1, with dog2 in tow. He loved it. Loved loved loved loved it. He starting screeching like I thought only 13yr old girls could, "SEBASHKA!!!" I was told by the translator he has yelling "DOG! DOG!" When we left I hoped the boys remembered me when they saw the dogs. I hoped they were able to play with them after that day, but never expected to see the plush pups again. My heart was sealed in love for these two boys, and we counted the days until they would be "ours."

Fast forward two months, to the date we went back to pick up our sons after our court hearing. We picked up the younger Son2, and then went on to pick up Son1. Imagine our surprise when down the hall came a little boy escorted by two adults, grinning ear to ear, with this gray, drab, squashed bit of fuzz under his arm. It wasn't some random dingy, matted stuffed toy. It was so loved, it was literally having the stuffing squished out. It was the Velveteen Sebashka. And it was coming to Jersey! My son somehow managed to do the impossible. He had hung on to that dog for two months. He played with it and slept with it and did Lord knows what to keep it near him. He had taken possession of something in a place in which the kids had no possessions. Now, he was bringing it home. They were each getting a home, for the first time, together.

As the years and countless other stuffed animals have come and gone, Sebashka has stood the test of time. At some point, to protect this special memento, Sebashka was moved from the bed to the dresser. A few months ago, we split our sons' bedrooms and my oldest now has his teen lair. But, no matter how much lacrosse gear lays strewn all over the floor, now matter how many texts are sent from the cell smuggled up at bedtime, Sebashka sits and watches from its favored perch on the top shelf. On occasion, I've walked in and found it sitting on the bed and I know it's still loved by my son. To this ratty-looking little dog, I say thank you for all the comfort you've given to him. Thank you, собака, for becoming so much more than a stuffed dog.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Schizophrenia of the American Tween

I don't remember ever being referred to as a tween. I think it's a marketing term that emerged when kids started growing up at hyper speed. When I was a kid we were allowed to play flashlight tag and run around and (GASP!) have actual free time instead of highly choreographed afternoon schedules. Now the term is everywhere, and it really is amazingly accurate. These kids are straddling two developmental groups. There are some easy signs aside from the number of candles on a cake to tip you off. I'm watching my "little" one, 11 yr old Son2 enter the phase and it is like watching Jekyll and Hyde, were Hyde like 4.5' tall. The tastes of the age group are truly schizophrenic, flaunting the confusion that lies in the divide between childhood and adulthood.

These poor kids are so heavily marketed to (Abercrombie push-up bikini, girls size 10 anyone?) that there is pressure on them we never faced to grow up fast. Son2 always seems to be hurtling into teen years too soon, overstimulated and confused, and then left reeling back to childhood comfort. We hear classic assertions like, "I'm in 5th grade. I'm a man now." And then he cuddles up to his stuffed German Shephard that "just happens" to show up on the bed.

On the off chance you're living in denial that this age is upon your (not so) little one, or in the event you'll soon be visiting with a family member who up until two months ago was fine with Scooby Doo pajamas,  I've put together some warning signs/shopping tips for you to face tween-dom in all its glory.

At the movies:
Within the same month, you'll be asked to see the cinematic triumphs "Hop" and "Prom." The King's Speech they are not. Moving along....

Night time entertainment:
Make sure you have MTV blocked, and prepare for full on tantrum that you are the most evil person ever for not allowing Jersey Shore as bedtime viewing. As the crying subsides, you then be transported back to childhood and asked to read Shel Silverstein.

Being alone:
Your child will beg you to go to sleepaway camp, yet not want to be sent upstairs alone without every light imaginable turned on. We started calling Son2 Garbo, with his moody "I want to be alone" brood up to his bedroom. But then he gets up there and just shouts down the stairs to us. He's bored to tears being by himself, but in his mind, shaped by countless hours of Disney Channel & Nick shows, kids hang out alone without their parents. God help me if he tries a webshow like iCarly.

Family Guy will pop up on your TV, in the same 24 hour span as Tom & Jerry. Did you ever listen to Family Guy? It's funny, but proof "cartoon" does not = "kid show."

This one is boy related only, since this is my only frame of reference. I've noticed that my son went from soccer printed Old Navy briefs or underwear with spaceships and dinosaurs on to manly-man looking boxer briefs. They are preferrably solid color so they do not look to "stupid little kid stuff." (his words) Son1, being a whopping 13, and into the American Eagle/ Aeropostale/ Hollister/They-all-look -so-friggin'-the-same attire now whines for boxers with space ships, dinosaurs, and sports prints.  (huh?) Apparently, once a teen and emulating what you think guys dress like, cute prints are ironic or hipster. But when you are a tween trying to dress like what you think a teen would, there is no place for hipster sartorial irony. Shoot me now.

So these are my big highlights this week from the Land of the Tween. I would love to hear the girl-family perspective as I'm sure there is fodder galore. I've been told the hormones already start creeping in with girls in tween years too. Boys have hormones and mood swings, but not on par I don't think. Well at least not on par with my own mood swings but I digress really. From Son1 at 12 while singing Eminem while wearring his Darth Vader costume to Son2 assuring me he could ride to QuikCheck alone just before asking for a bedtime story, I always get a chuckle out of the attempts to be so very grown up while still clinging to the childlike reality they always knew. So what was the funniest tween moment you saw?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rihanna: Please, just go away. Now.

As the mom of two boys, part of my role is guiding two young men into the world of friendships and relationships. They will learn by watching, and thank God I have an amazing hubs to serve as a prime example. Unfortunately, they are also growing up in a world in which the media cards seemed stacked against healthy examples. I know parents have bemoaned influences around their kids, well, probably as long as there have been parents and kids. The difference now seems to be how truly out there the female stars are. It's not the scandal of a lone husband-swiping Elizabeth Taylor or burgeoning Madonna trading on sex appeal. It's EVERYwhere. And the most out there and nasally voiced of them all is Rihanna. And she drives me in-sane.

For those of you who don't know, or need a primer, Rihanna brought us that started-as-catchy-then-morphed-to-sensory-torture song "Umbrella" (-ella ella ella yeah ella). She also was in a car with her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, when all hell broke loose. According to reports, they had a rocky relationship and each had hit the other before. In his car after an awards show one night, he pummeled her beautiful face. TMZ floated pics which you can Google if you choose. It was all over the news, and quite the talk of the young middle school set apparently at the time. Faced with the topic of domestic violence and a young son who has always gravitated to hip hop, we used it as a chance to talk about all the horrid parts of the situation. In conversations, we covered hitting girls (and NOT hitting), what to do when you start to get so angry you can't control yourself, and ways to handle it if you are hit by a girl. We used Rihanna as a teaching point because she was inescapable.

Rihanna next surfaced in our house, once again with the domestic violence topic, when she released the song "Love the Way You Lie" with Eminem. I'm not going to lie, I can't stand Eminem. Aside from the checkered past toward women, he always sounds so mean and angry and miserable. In that song, she sings the haunting line "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, that's alright because I like the way it hurts." It's not metaphorical. They sing and rap about abusing each other, tying her to the bed, and setting the house on fire. What boggled me was Rihanna's choice to do the song BUT not do a single PSA I've been able to find about violence. I thought, "ok, it's awareness" and no, Son1 (then 12) you're not getting that on your iPod. Meghan Fox signed on to do the video with salary going to charity. A helpline appeared at the end. But, from Rihanna? (insert chirping crickets).... not a peep in her own words I could use to talk to my son about the horrifying things he was humming walking around the house.

I do not expect Rihanna to live every moment thinking about the effect her choices have on 13yr olds, but hey, it would be super nice if she did just once since she shows up at the Kids Choice awards. Hearing her say so little after releasing (and HEAVILY promoting) such a track was frustrating. When your kids and teens idolize these morons, and when dufuses like Snooki are plastered all over the place, you kind of lose your own mind discussing how unacceptable it all is. However, even in the "reality show" universe partying is one thing; violence is another. "When you treat people like that, there are consequences," was met with 12yo boy logic of, "yeah she showed him by making a cool song and being really famous so she's ok with it now." UGH. No, not the message I was going for. Back to the parental drawing board.

Over and over again, I hoped her nasally-auto-tuned voice would shimy its way back to Barbados and take that song that blared everywhere with her. In the trajectory of Top40 radio, I knew it would fade. Just as her song "Rude Boy" did, which had my sons singing "Rude boy, is ya man enough... is ya big enough? Is ya hard enough?" And it did fade, just in time for the song-fiasco in which we are now mired... and yet again, I say big thanks to Rihanna.

If you have a very well publicized romance laced with violence, would YOU of all people release a song about S&M? Does my 13 year old REALLY need to know what S&M is? You know I so love hearing my 11 year old Son2 walking around singing , "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me!" When I hoped the whole thing was way over their heads, Son2 chimed in with some confusion "So I guess she liked it when she got hit? That's what she's saying." Thanks Rihanna, on behalf of parents of young men who are your fans, and parents of the young girls who they will be dating and the good Lord willing, NOT treating so violently. Thanks for all the lovely conversations we get to have about it NOT being ok to hit, about it NOT being the norm for girls to like being whipped when with a guy (call me a prude). Please, just go away. You've had your 15 minutes and then some. The shock value worked and got you airplay, but it's getting old. You've made some money. Just go. Britney Spears just sang about threesomes with her parent-driving-to-soccer-cringe-inducing hit last year, so that's done. I shudder to think what you could possible sing about that would have greater shock value. Just please, go away.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Darth Mother

In trying to find some bright spot, some silver lining to the waaaaaaay long Jersey winter this year, I wracked my brains for some saving grace to all these layers and the fact that on April 1st, I'm still wearing gloves. And then it struck me... the gloves. the leather.

I've seized upon the intimidating yet polished look presented by swaggering winter coat and high black leather boots. This may seem an odd choice, like a bit of a stretch. Perhaps. But it's the effect this ensemble has upon young children with which I am most enamored. You see I am sure that each edict I issue to the adolescent Son1&2 is made all the more resonant by the fact that I resemble Lord Vader in all his boot wearing, cape tossing, asthmatic-sounding (it's allergy season) glory. The message is perfectly clear: Don't mess with me.  I'll kick your ass and squeeze the force right outta ya.

"I SAID: BRUSH ---YOUR----TEETH!" Squeeze leather clad fist around Colgate tube. Cue dramatic, coat swinging turn.  And then this plays in the background. By the 27th "brush your teeth" I probably look more like the Emperor actually.

While I adore a good peep toe as much as the next girl, you don't get this sort of gravitas in a sundress.

Yes, you can look authoritative and grab attention in lighter weight clothes, but the houndstooth, chalk stripe and deep jewel tones of winter-wear really do beg to be taken more seriously than, say, polka dots or lavender. You didn't see Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada oozing ice from her veins while sporting a baby pink cardi. She played the cold weather-wear card for a uniform befitting the tyrant she was. And that's what we all are, frankly, in our kids eyes: tyrants. Our kids are not members of a democracy. While I strive for "benevolent dictator," I know they see our house as a fascist regime escaped only by college, boarding school, or a week alone with Daddy.

This Winter has been exceptionally insane in duration, so I've gotten my fair share of DarthMother moments. I am ready to pack away the long coats and give the boots a rest for the next, say, 4-72 months. Maybe before I do, I'll relish one last menacing directive in "uniform."

The week has come to end, but yet another email has been received by a Son1 teacher. And it's not a love note or request for guest blogging. Mommy's not happy. She is, in fact, on the war path. (So much so she's speaking of "her"self in third person?)

I must go make my entrance, convey the sentencing, and take my dramatic coat/cape swinging leave, leather-clad boots stomping in my retreat. Cue the music, DJSon1, and kiss your PSP goodbye for a few days:

Friday, March 25, 2011

And occassionally, there really is a wolf

We've all heard the story about the boy who cried wolf. Ten bucks says, the people ignoring him the most were his actual parents. I say this because of all in the village, they would have heard his panic-stricken yet fake calls for help from the very start. His poor mother probably threw out her shoulder untying her peasant dress to breastfeed when the little twit wasn't even hungry. But then, one day, burned by all the drama-king moments, everyone tuned him out. And so the final score was Villagers: 0/ Wolf 1.

Having just left the podiatrist and seen xray's of Son1's so-flat-they-may-well-be-convex feet, I am feeling horrible for all the years of telling him to stop stomping around the house, and stop whining after your hideously cruel parents made you walk around Disney World for the day. We knew he needed arch supports. We knew he needed orthotics. However we also knew (still know) that he is the Laurence Olivier of teen drama kings. But to see the xrays of bones that are still growing look as stressed as me smack in the middle of school-morning-mayhem, and then hear things like "surgery" and "arthritis" bantered about for my 13 yr old child who I had not just poo poo'd but told to stop whining? Well, I hit a new low.

And here's the REALLY pathetic part-- the old low was just 3 weeks ago. It was 3 weeks ago I sat in a specialist's office hearing that Son2 may have some measurable deficiencies in rods affecting his vision. I mean, gee, it only took me, mother of the year, like 4 years from the first comment to get him in for a pediatric opthamologist's check which resulted in the knowledge his vision was about 20/100 or worse. He had gone through many optometrist visits, but fidgeted and futzed and ADHD'd his way (yes, I just made a new verb) into inconclusive results. But then, in urgently scheduled and elaborate successive exams of his retinas, we saw he WASN'T crying "wolf" for years. He couldn't focus on the haze the world presented and he was crying "waaaay blurry wolf, mom!"

Ugghhh. I've posted items before about some lovely parent fail moments and you all have been amazingly supportive in sharing your lapses... your moments of being non-psychic humans. That feedback does wonders for my delusion that I can pull off this mom thing after all. I really don't like to second guess God, but I wonder at times if he made a tactical error entrusting the care of the most vunerable mortals into the hands of merely older mortals. With limited patience. (Sigh)

In time, these young ones somehow make it to adulthood, and we will sit back and watch as they, in turn, complain about THEIR kids' whining... and the circle of life and the continuum of ignoring children until faced with concrete evidence they're actually impaired will be complete. Ahhhh... all in good time, the products of all my parenting fails will, in fact, generate their own. Circle of life, indeed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Will you PLEASE put on some pants?!

Son2 has developed a disquieting habit of late. I don't mean talking with his mouth full or leaving the seat down while peeing. Lord knows he's done those for years. He's always been the more eccentric of the two kids. We've chalked it up to his "artistic nature" and referred to him as quirky. But now, at 11, Son2 is surpassing even, well, Son2, in the weirdness arena. Son2 has decided pants are optional. And with warmer weather here, I'm living in fear he's going to take his show into the great outdoors of the backyard.

Nudity not withstanding, as I mentioned, he's always had some quirks. Wardrobe has been an issue before. There was his love affair through the second grade with pajamas. He had a school uniform, so it's not like we had to worry about him wearing them to school. But first I found flannel pj's tucked into his backpack. Then finally, one day I picked him up at aftercare and was greeted with his flannel-clad gams. Turns out the weasel was slipping into clean pj's THEN his school pants. Not sure what he would have done once warmer weather hit. He may have passed out in library from overheating. Not quite sure if he had a plan once the spring uniform of walking shorts came out of the drawers. He probably did since he planned out sneaking a clean pair into the bathroom to put on under his uniform that very day. "Well, Mommy, I knew you guys would wonder where my pajamas were if you didn't see them in the hamper, so I knew I had to get changed when I got up. So I just had a different pair for school." It was a little diabolical for 2nd grader.

Ahh... the good old days... when he wore not one but two pairs of pants. One would be kind of nice right about now.

I first noticed this new trend a few days ago. Well, "noticed" may not be accurate. "Forced to stop living in denial" is maybe a little more to the point. That was when I went into the kitchen to find Son1 doing nothing. Not getting food (shocking in and of itself), not drinking the 3rd gallon of milk that day. Just standing, inviting the question "why are you in the kitchen, not the rec room?" Answer: "Because my brother's not wearing any pants. AGAIN!" Hhhhhmmm. Again, eh? "He's always taking his pants off, then he sits in the chair like nothing's wrong and I'm sick of it. It's weird. I'm not going back down there until he puts his pants on." A) That's the most logical set of thoughts I've ever heard from you. B) I'd have to agree. C) Can you please back up to the stress on the word "again" for me?

Sure, I'd noticed there were constantly socks strewn around the rec room. A sneaker here, a sneaker there. But ya know you come in and you take your shoes off so I could see that. But it's really not a common reflex to walk in the house, put down your keys, check the mail, and drop your pants (and not replace them with another garment) before sitting at the dinner table. So when I first saw the pants down there, I just figured he raided the clean laundry pile to put on pj's and the dirty clothes never made it to the bin. Or maybe he was getting his snowpants on to go out the backdoor to play and left his other pants there. I mean, I know it hasn't snowed in 4 weeks and it's all melted but it sounded sort of plausible. Or maybe I just needed to face facts that Son2's next "quirk" was surfacing and flying free was the way he wanted to be.

But then the Great Pants Caper became more obvious. Sitting at the table eating, I looked down and saw bare leg. "Aren't you forgetting something, on your legs?" Answer: "Oooh! napkin on my lap, I forgot." FORGOT?! Your NAPKIN? JUST your napkin???? Then tonight, while watching TV with him, I happened to glance away from my super important work (Pathwords) and glance toward the hub's easy chair in which Son2 was perched. And there, on the floor, in a trail like a soap opera bedroom scene was a line of shoe, shoe, sock, sock, and (of course) shorts winding to a cuddled up Son2 in a blanket. "Why are you not wearing pants?" Answer: "Don't you think it's so much more comfortable? Besides, I left my underpants on this time." Oh, ok. Gee, thanks for that, "this time." Excuse me while I go wash the blankets down in the rec room though.

Had this habit developed when he was 3 or 4, it may have been cute. If any of you have ever been faced with a middle schooler who has suddenly decided au natural is the way to be I'd LOVE to hear your parenting advice for getting the pants back on, because in my house I'd prefer children eat with mouths closed, with napkins on laps, OVER fabric. Call me a dreamer. For now I'm going to Google things like "sudden nudity" and "son refusing pants" to see if I can find any advice. I should just ask Son1 to help, since now we're both huddled in the kitchen, one avoiding the playroom until it's gotten Clorox wipe treatment, the other wondering where she went wrong, and praying her younger son would just put on his goddamn pants so our house can get back to the fully clothed 3ring circus it's always been.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tony Award? Oh Yeah, It's In The Bag!

Last night was Spring Parent-Teacher conference time. I was going to write a list of 5 things you should never do the day of teacher conferences. But yesterday, I opened and read a letter from the IRS telling me my business is being audited and thought, well, my list was simply one entry: “Never open and read any letter from the IRS that same day.” So with the wired call to my CPA a fresh memory, and the realization that I was now fully awake and probably did NOT need the 5Hour Energy sample I’d ingested just minutes before said-letter, I was ready to head to the school. I really couldn’t tell why my heart was racing… the letter or the vita-shot or the fact that I was lined up for 4 teacher meetings in a row. In any event, I tried my best Lamaze breathing, which was tricky since I haven’t been pregnant ever. I adopted, so my whole Lamaze knowledge is from TV, like the way I kind of know the Miranda warning because I have my doctorate in Law &Order.

My teacher meetings last night were pure exercises in acting. In the midst of it all, I took solace that a career change into acting just may work, because I could clearly pull off emotions in front of a live audience that I was in no way feeling. Were I on Candid Camera, I would have been cut as the boring clip in which the woman was presumed comatose and showed no reaction. Don’t get me wrong~ on the inside I was 110% verklempt and ready to string my son up by his Chuck Taylors. But on the outside, I was cool, composed, and well, maybe talking just a wee bit faster that norm which is scary really since I already have the rapid fire Jersey-pace known and loved by Joe Pesci fans everywhere. But enough about Joe. This is about me. Joe can get his own blog. What follows is “Parent-Teacher Time: An Evening in Four Acts.” I’m submitting my performance for consideration next awards season. I’m so nominating myself for a Tony Award. I was that good.

Act One: Son2's Language Arts, Room 115
Have some small chat with teacher, and prepare to be handed “The Green Folder.” The Green Folder was its own artistic triumph, so much more than a mere prop or paper container. You see Son2 is highly artistic, so when faced with a green folder into which he was to place his papers this close to St Patrick’s Day, The Green Folder had to be crafted into a work of art on par with all great Irish creations… like the simplicity of St Brigid’s Cross, the beauty of Waterford, Guinness. And so my eyes were bright as I beheld it’s splendor and was then faced with page after page of jaw dropppingly bad grades hidden in the locker since Christmas. I wanted to drop The Green Folder like toxic waste, but that would tip off the teacher that I had NO clue he had these grades. What kind of parent doesn’t know her 5th grader is harboring these scores in his locker for 6 weeks, sharing only the 90’s. Son2~ your night was now in peril… not for the grades themselves, but rather for sweet talking me through the past few weeks and trying once again, as you did in 2nd grade, to sign the papers “for me.” As we said to you then: A) DON’T forge, and B) Don’t use crayon. It’s a big tip off. And yet I did not scream out “WTF!!!!” I remained calm, to maintain the appearance of a woman better informed, thus better aware. Did you see Helen Mirren in “The Queen”? I was that contained. Maybe just a touch of Pesci.

It was now time for the Son1 Teacher Trifecta…

Act Two: Son1's Social Studies, Room 105
This was the one I had dreaded. Knowing Son1 has been less than successful on his research for a large term paper, I was ready to discuss with/ pepper the teacher with questions about the lack of IEP adherence such as supply of written study guides and other supports leading to his grade unraveling from 95 to 60 in 2 months. Son1 clearly told me over and over again that all work was being done in school, none of this was take home, and he was right on top of things. The Child Study Leader was a little concerned since she had gotten radio silence from the teacher. How could you leave a kid with off the charts ADHD out to dry with nothing supplied in writing? So channeling Helen/Queen Elizabeth, I took my place. But this teacher had an ace up his sleeve for our meeting that threw me the minute I sat. He had Son1’s signature on form after form acknowledging he A) had the assignment instructions and B) hadn’t done the night’s homework. And Son1 really did sign them, not Son2 in crayon for him so I couldn’t even have the evidence thrown out. Right there, in print, proof Son1 was scamming me with every “uh, no Mr. W didn’t say we had any homework.” Or “uh, yeah, I’ve like got everything like in.” Uh~ like hell no! Do you know the dramatic skills required to look like Dame Helen when you really feel like Sigourney Weaver with the alien ripping out of her?!??! Tony, baby. I’m winning that puppy.

With a very hush-toned, “yes, of course, we’ll speak with Son1 regarding his homework,” I took my leave. Poker face in tact, 5Hour Energy in full heart-racing swing, documented proof I had 2 little weasels at home. And yet, we were only ½ way through the teacher meetings.

Act Three: Son1's Language Arts Room 106
The second stop on my Son1 tour brought me to the other teacher involved with the aforementioned way-past-deadline research term paper. To this teacher’s credit he has been very communicative so surprises were few. Not that they weren’t big. They were just smaller in number. I think it was somewhere in Room 106 I first felt my right eye twitching. Again, grace under fire was called for, and I rallied. I am of English-descent after all. We do that very well. Tossing aside my eye twitch to the teacher as “just some contact trouble,” I pushed on. He may have seen right through me, as he stared perplexed at my eyeglasses. I tried to do everything in my power to move calmly through the meeting, knowing the Math teacher was still looming.
I was so embarrassed to admit how much B.S. my sons had been throwing my way, I wanted to screech. How could this be happening? How could both of my kids so blatantly lie about why they were after school like I had done for years until my parents found out I had actually racked up in excess of 60 detentions the first 3 years of high school? (BTW, Mom, if you read that… just a little hyperbole on my part. I assure you, it really was just 10 like I copped to in 1986. Ahem) This is the crux of what was pissing me off: I was being PLAYED! And for the love of God, I of all people should have known the signs!

Act Four: Son1's Math, Room 107
Wishing they at least built 60 seconds between the conferences so I could run outside, scream, and run back in, I went on to my final stop. Another Lamaze breath series (at least the way Rachel did when she had Ross’s baby), and I sat down. I was greeted with, “Yes, Son1 can be a challenge and we do need to talk...” (Dear God, is that my left eye twitching now?) “…but by and large he’s doing well and there are no real surprises.” Au contraire, mon amie, for that alone was a surprise. For the final time that night, I was forced into the acting craft. You see, to indicate relief would have tipped my hand there that I expected anything other good news.
I stood, politely thanked the Math teacher taking the deepest yet most subtle cleansing breathes I could and took my leave. While jonesing to peel back my own face in anger, my icy performance only needed to extend until I was out of ear shot. I held it together until off school grounds to serve as my encore. And then, it was complete. (drop curtain, enjoy applause)

This Pesci-paced, eye twitching, livid mother returned home to the comfort of my home. What was all that noise and shouting you heard coming from my home after I entered, you ask? I assure you, just the cheers and screams of my adoring fans. Really. I promise.

Friday, February 18, 2011

13 Now vs 13 Then

Everyone talks about how different the world is, and it’s true enough. This is really being hit home for me as I think about Son1’s big 1-3 birthday next week. I’ll officially have a teen (insert Vincent Price “Thriller” video laugh), I’ll be exploring all the shades of white (wine) for the next 10 years, and I will now be provided, most assuredly, at least one opportunity a day to be reminded how old I am. How ancient I am. How clueless I am.

Scanning over his wish list, I’m beginning to feel like all of the adjectives he envisions. I started thinking of my 13yr old wish list and it seemed like something dug up by an archeologist compared to the presents & such he’s angling for:

Son1: Xbox 360. Super fancy controller needed for Kinect to supposedly make controllers obsolete. Special board for balance games. Elaborate arsenal for Call of Duty.
Me: Atari. One low-rent joystick style sold. Multi-function use as Frogger steering device, PacMan navigation, Asteroid demolisher

Son1: Droid or Iphone w/4G connectivity, wifi for hi-speed access to Youtube via The Cloud.
Me: A “Bell Telephone” streamline model, or maybe phone in shape of lips with 2 distinct (giant) parts and a (fingers crossed) SUPER long cord so I could take the phone to any part of my room. If truly blessed, this will be my own phone line, as opposed to simply another extension.

As to videos, we got ours the way God and the cable company intended, from MTV, back when they still honored the M in their name. “4G?” Connect Four maybe, but never heard of 4G when I was 13. And what the hell is The Cloud?

Son1: Pocket Flip Video Camera
Me: Kodak Disc Camera. Would never in my wildest dreams ask for video camera, which was big honking VHS thing that looks like current broadcast TV cameras. I will take my phot disc and feel like THE SHIT when I only have to wait 1 hour for processing at the mall. No namby-pamby one week service for me. HA!

Son1: Gift card to Abercrombie & Fitch
Me: Paper gift certificate to Macy’s, though probably not Macy’s at the time. Maybe it was Alexander’s- Let’s see how many Northern NJ readers remember that. Said certificate would represent an accounting nightmare to keep track of store credit until finally the clerks threw in the towel at $5 or below remaining and gave you cash back. Abercrombie was some weird fly fishing outfitter or something. Who the hell would have wanted their stuff as a 13 yr old back then?

Son1: Night at the movies with some friends with drinks and snacks.
Me: Similar, actually. Only I know such a night out did not hit my parents’ bank account to the same level as remodeling the kitchen.

Son1: Cooler, less lame looking bike helmet if I’m going to insist he wears one.
Me: Bike helmet? Huh? We didn’t wear no stinkin’ helmets. By the by… have I ever mentioned I suffered 4 concussions before the age of 18?

The times they are a changing aren’t they? It’s always kind of crazy to think about things that seems so basic- so critical- to our kids’ lives that never even existed 10, 20, 30 years ago. It’s ok, rest assured it’ll happen to them someday. It has for every generation known to man, ever. As to me, by this time next week, I’ll be wondering what happened to the intellect I used to have, back in the day, before my kids made it clear to me I’m an utter jackass. Maybe there is some validity to bike helmets after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Volkswagens, Darth Vader, and true mayhem captured

Every once in a while some viral video hits and you hit play and play and play to the point you may crash YouTube's server. The Susan Boyle video did it for me when I first saw it, as I emphathized with this "past her prime" looking former-lass. Guys skateboarding off cliffs and piano playing dogs... you can watch them and go numb. But my latest love is nothing "accidental" or homemade. In fact it's quite deliberate. It's the Darth Vader Volkswagen SuperBowl commercial. If you've been under a rock and haven't seen it (or are one of the deprived masses who saw only the 30 sec mini version) here ya go.  I love this. I crack up each time. I'm kind of mesmerized by it. I went out and bought a Passat. Really. (Ok, I actually bought it 3 weeks before the ad, so I'm not fully insane.)

What sets this apart for me (beyond Tucker the piano-playing pooch, talented as he may be), is that this spot is SO spot on. Every one I know who has seen this and has sons, brothers, or nephews etc cracks up because we've all seen this in our lives. I can not count the number of times I've walked down to find Son1 sitting in his Darth Vader helmet playing video games, watching TV, or texting people. Yes, I said texting... because though on the edge of 13, he STILL loves to sport the Vader-wear. Son2 is partial to a clone trooper helmet though has been known to work his inner Vader, voice distortion and all.

You have not lived until you've watched (undetected) children totally succumb to their own imaginations. They'll do it in backyards, in playrooms, and in any public place to which you drag them.You smile at the creativity, wince at the hazards, and feel a bit envious that it's no longer socially acceptable for you to waltz around Costco as if the leader of the Dark Side. Or Sabrina Duncan or Kelly Garrett. Who's getting 16 cheescake samples now, Mr. Costco dude? That's what I'm talking 'bout.

Like in the commercial, kids do leverage family pets as props, straight men, and accomplices. Over the years, our family has seen dogs and cats dressed up, coerced, cajoled, sat upon, WWE body-slammed, and even stuffed in a lunch box. Man oh man, of all the times for the lunch box latch to get stuck. Poor Patches, once sprung, wanted no human contact for weeks... but I digress.

As in the commercial, kids will expect you to understand when they have assumed a new identity. You are not to question the moral character of their choice, or how well said character may assimilate into the neighborhood or corps of altar boys.You are not to blink an eye when Lord Vader joins the table, sitting where your 8yr old usually does. You may be puzzled how he will eat with the helmet on. Did Darth actually consume food or drink? This was never addressed in movies. It's been addressed by cases of Clorox wipes in our house.

There's another aspect to the Darth Vader commercial fixation that I'm beginning to see though. While Son1 will still escape into his imagination and drag Son2 with him (without a choice since he'll be in a headlock), it is a fleeting time in their lives. Sitting here trying to remember if the much-beloved-MUST-wear red Aeropostale shirt  is clean for tonight's middle school Valentine's Dance, I can see this phase will be passing soon in our home. I'm becoming more and more aware of this. When fully garbed, my Dark Lords tower over the commercial one by a good foot. They still love the trappings of the costumes but their sense of reality is creeping in to the scene, unlike the little boy awed by his own car starting powers.

I'm probably closer than I realize to owning a home in which the light sabers have all been extinguished. So I guess for this weekend, I'll embrace the imaginary worlds that still swirl in our playroom and try not to let the volume fracture my sanity. And then in a quiet post-bedtime moment, I'll sneak back on YouTube for the Volkswagen deleted-scene clips, then sit back and think about all the treats my poor Ewoks/dogs have earned over the years. It's going to be a big weekend at PetSmart.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Letter to Our School Superintendent

So one snowpocalypse too may, and I feel like I’m seeing more of my kids around the house than we do during summer vacation. This is a bit of a challenge since A) hubs and I work; B) they can’t really go out to play as much in ice storms; C) my kids are wicked-hyper stir crazy; D) Division of Youth and Family Services I’m sure would frown up me me making some side change televising an epic yet-ill advised Ultimate Fighting Championship Pay Per View event in which light sabers, Wii controllers, and dog treats (don’t ask) are the weapons of choice.

But I figure I’m far from alone in this descent to madness. I see the maps of the country, and it looks like NJ is far from isolated in our iceolation. (See what I did there? Ice – olation.) Clever, eh? Proof I need spring. But as much, if not more, than we need spring, we need our kids IN SCHOOL. All of us. Even with standard school schedules, our country is falling behind Asian and European schools each year in math and science, and I’m whipping through what’s left of savings for on-demand movies and merlot. Hell in a hand basket is just a stone’s throw away. We need these kids in school! For the good of us all, they need to be THERE- weather be damned. Below is a letter which I have prepared for our superintendent. It occurred to me many of you may choose to write to your districts, so I have tried to make it somewhat flexible so you can personalize and use yourselves. I’m a giver, truly. Simply select the parenthesized phrase(s) that best sum up your feelings, and off it goes!

Dear (Mr./Mrs./Dr.) School Superintendent:

I am writing today to (implore you/ scream at you/ pleadingly beseech you) to consider keeping school in session the next time there is a (snow/ ice) event. While we respect your desire to (keep our children safe/ stay snug in your own bed), the disruption to (their education/ my mind) is becoming worrisome. 

I am aware that logistically, opening a school in inclement weather is a strain. Our state requires students attend (180/ your number) days a year. Many states are also stressing the need for physical education, in spite of trimmed budgets. I have a solution to propose which may (address these/ be totally selfish yet effective/ tap dance upon child labor laws). Have you considered having the children dress warmly and shovel the sidewalks and driveway? Snow shoveling is a highly effective aerobic activity as evidenced by (numerous studies/ the spike in cardiac care cases during snow). Under the combined mentorship of the Physical Education staff and town DPW, I’m sure they would do an excellent job. Sure, they may be a little tired when it comes to school work but (they will bounce back/ I could care less because they’ll be out of my now-trashed house and I’ll be at work).

In these days of tight budgets, I think we need to (get these ****ing kids out of my house/ get creative). Imagine the learning opportunities the music teacher would have if given multi-hour access to students to “whistle while they work” or sing chants like (well-trained athletes/ POW’s). Once cleared and cornered, snow mounds can be sculpted into a veritable Mt Rushmore by each class, thus combining History and Art. The lessons of inertia, mass and force, and the biology behind contusions are very easily demonstrated by students in your parking lot everyday. Snow fights may expand this learning. “In school snow days” would be the staycation of field trips. (Think outside the box./ Take my kids.)

While you may be (concerned parents may not want to drive/ appalled how readily we would drive) to the drop off for an in-school snow day, I am confident that as this winter drags on, parental support would be strong. Our country can not continue to slide internationally in educational comparisons to the industrious German and Japanese children. I think it’s time we realize that keeping kids home because of an inch or sixteen of snow is (disruptive to our position as a world leader/ making me want to stab my own eardrum at every robocall of the phone chain.)

Lastly, I was wondering if the school board would consider alternative solutions for our area which is prone to (snow/ ice/ wild boar infestations). While some room would need to be phased into the budget for any capital expenditures, I think public boarding school is perhaps an option that should be put on the table.

Hug and kisses~
A (deeply concerned/ completely fed up) parent

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You?

I can't believe it's been 25 years since the Challenger accident. I remember as a kid hearing my parents talk about where they were when JFK was shot. I was struck by how they all remember exactly how they heard the news. And then, when I was a senior in high school, I experienced that horrible type of imprinting event. A little change of style today, and a question posed to you each. Where were you?

I was going from one class to another and stopped in to the guidance office. The radio was on, and I thought, "Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Did the shuttle just explode?" There were murmurs and then a reminder to get to class. I had gym, where we assembled in our rows on the floor and the principal came on with the news I had known for the last 10 minutes, but thought I'd misheard... wanted to think I'd misheard since it didn't seem to be spreading. Over the coming days, we learned a family friend lost her nephew, Ronald McNair. For those of us too young or not born when other brave souls were lost in the space race, it was a total shock. The shuttle just "worked." It was, dare I say, routine.

I've copied the text of one of the most beautifully written speeches below, President Reagan's address to the nation the night of the accident. I remember seeing it, but the words are powerful to read, and worth a look. Then, after, please add your answer to the original question, "Where were you?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

"For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

"And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

"I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: 'Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.'
"There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dante's Vision of Hell: Disney?

First things first, thanks to Shannon at Milk and Cuddles for inspiring this trip down memory lane. Shannon, and assuredly hundreds of thousands of people, are thrilled to learn they are expanding Disneyworld. So I have a parenting confession here: To me, that would be like Dante writing The Inferno~ Part Deux. But then I realized, maybe he DID write the sequel already. It was typified in the short foray our family took there several years ago. We left NJ and landed in Dante’s hideaway for this millenium, DisneyWorld.

We took a 3 night cruise and then after disembarking, surprised the kids with the news we were going to Disney for 4 days. So hindsight do-over #1, for starters, would be to stay on the cruise ship. Though my surprise seemed like a good idea at the time, when the cat was out of the bag where we were going, I’d secured myself two insanely excited kids with ADHD, which is like giving Red Bull to someone already on speed. Do-over #2 would have been to slug some wine before telling them, just to steel myself.

Within the first 30 minutes it was plain to see everyone on property was going to be happy and insist upon us being happy – DAMNIT. We had two kids trying to climb into the Polynesian gardens while some poor overheated woman (?) in a Lilo suit was trying to lei us up. Hey Li- how’s about greeting moms & dads with some tropical drinks instead?

Once checked in and having scoped out all amenities, it was off to the parks. We did a different park each day, but in a way in didn’t matter. We could have just as easily driven to our local mall and walked in and out of the Disney Store 50 times. This is because EVERY ride exited through a gift shop. You have now been warned. The shops feature (of course) the ride’s theme or characters. But wait, there’s more! Because if perchance your child is not in to that particular theme, they will scatter other characters sure to catch your over-stimulated child’s eye. We thought we could breath easy leaving the Toy Story ride-cum-strip mall, only to be met head on by a pleading Son1 in a Darth Vader mask with light saber. Huh? Son 2 found at least one stuffed Winnie the Pooh everywhere we went for 3 days. And whatever you do, do NOT try the excuse the things are too big to carry around or fly with. Some perky little jit is ready to breathlessly assure you in front of your child that you can buy it and send it right to the hotel, or even ship it straight home. Fabulous!

I think the bathrooms had gift shops. I think the gift shops had gift shops. And then there were the fixed and the mobile kiosks, so we could dodge the same Pirate firearm stand every 90 minutes.

If you are planning a trip, I suggest you get a heads up on photo opp times for the character(s) your child adores. They publish it ahead, but we found it not always accurate. Disney, if you say “Tigger” I do not expect to see Belle, got me? Tell Belle to scoot her Beast-loving behind back to the “cast area” and don the Tigger garb. Maybe Tigger was hung over or something. He did surface but two hours after planned. And wham bam 30 minutes and they’re GONE. Why? Why so short, why so soon? Why not just encircle us unsuspecting parents in souvenir kiosks for the character in question and then make us cool our jets? Oh wait- you do that. You just pull the character once we’re trapped.

Next, you may want to look at websites that review rides to see what to avoid. Unbeknownst to me at the time, there are apparently some rides with a reputation for downtime. I don’t mean they don’t open. I mean they open, you wait and wait and wait with everyone’s blood sugar dropping, you get on, your car pulls out, and the ride breaks down. The Toy Story one seemed to be going through a rough season the year we went. It stopped 3 times while we were on it. THREE. The Haunted House ride had several issues. One hour into the Dinosaur ride wait, after being herded into an enclosed “prep”space where they play this recording to kick off the ride (all the rage on attraction rides there), they lost power. So there we were stuck deep inside a spiraling maze of crowd control, having invested all of this time and spent the “in case of emergency break glass” ½ xanax in my bag. We waited the 20 minutes for it to resume simply out of laziness.

Once the “sketchy reputation ride search” is completed, I suggest you scope out in parallel: 1) the location of any child care or playroom to which you can exile the cherubs 2) all bars and convenience stores that sell wine. Day 1 we caught sight of the “Peter Pan Room.” Day 1 we also noticed Florida (happily) had different laws regarding the sale of wine and beer than NJ did. This was very handy knowledge to have. By the end of Day 3 which felt like Day 3,333, after being badgered for the umpteenth time for a souvenir purchase, I did not lose it. The hubs did not lose it. Before we had a chance to say a word, my mid 20’s stepdaughter whirled around on her little brother, the stunned Son1, finger pointing into his wee chest and shouted, “I thought I was the most spoiled child on the face of the Earth. UNTIL I MET YOU!!” He was motionless, passersby uncomfortably watched, we kind of snickered, and she merely walked past hubs and me to announce we were sending them to Peter Pan-land ASAP and getting a bottle of wine. It was touching really. Son1 was put in his place by someone other than me, and the hubs from then on looked at his little girl as a grown up. Who likes white.

My final bit of awareness has to do with the safety measurements for “how tall you need to be.” Disney- yours are completely inconsistent. Whatever the number, it should equal the same height all the time. 40” should be 40,” not more not less. At Busch Gardens, they measure kids once and issue a corresponding wristband for what kids are cleared to ride. This is genius. But Disney had them at the start of the line, the midpoint (in event of growth spurt? Or osteoporosis collapse?), and at the ride entry. We learned the hard way they just don’t match.

With an early afternoon flight, we figured we’d try to cram a few hours at the Magic Kingdom before heading out. Never can get too much magic, eh? After 2 out of 6 attempted rides with mechanical issues, we thought, ok, we’ll do Space Mountain and then go. We measured Son2 at the start, all clear. We measured Son2 at the midpoint. Still clear. Close, but clear. We got up to the actual entrance, 2 back from departure and BAM the ride stopped. They ended up turning the lights on, which really killed the “magic” of Space Mountain, but still we waited. In the glare of the now illuminated space, a “cast member” spied Son2. The ride resumed, the lights went out, and we nearly boarded. But then she stopped us and said she had noticed him in line and wanted to measure him. (You couldn’t have done this with the lights on? 10 minutes ago?) Well you know where this was heading. He was too short. He was too short by like 2 inches. TWO INCHES? WTH? We told them we had used their own height guide and it had been fine. After trying to make us feel like parents unconcerned with our child’s safety, her hot idea to calm us was to offer one parent a ride w/Son1 and then on the very next run, allow the other parent to board and ride with Son1 again. Well, Son1 loved that idea. How she envisioned that helping Son2’s tantrum, I’ve no idea.

At some point, and I don’t know exactly when it was because I was trying to calm Son2, magic finally did occur. The magic that occurred had to do with taking my normally calm and composed hubs and turning him into a yelling, cursing, madman. It was like he was me for a few brief, albeit very public, moments. The last few minutes of our Disney vacation were spent listening to my overtired, over stressed, father-of-a-sobbing-7 yr-old hubs unleash on all things Disney to the Disney employees present. It was lyrical. It was epic. It ended with, “If I NEVER see that F’IN mouse again, it’ll be too soon!” And then he stormed out, leaving me with Son 1 and 2, amid dumbfounded Space Mountain workers and some shocked teens waiting to board. And I really wish he had used the abbreviated “F’in.”

Yes, it will be quite some time before we attempt another Disney trip. Maybe in a few years after they’ve added some new attractions, we’ll work up the desire to head back… if they let us back in the “magical” f’in place.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What We Say vs. What They Hear

I've always thought my kids really needed a hearing test. It seems at times they don't catch a thing the hubs and I say. But I've noticed the issue is not really hearing, it's processing. For two young kids, Son1 and Son2 seem highly advanced at "inferences." Drawing inferences is that much sought after decoding skill in 2rd grade reading class used to gauge if a child gets what's going to happen next. My kids must have gotten our money's worth out of Sylvan, because they've haven't stopped at the written word. They've expanded into oral instruction, drawing (self-serving) inferences for every thing we say.

They appear to have some processing fixation which causes clever attachments with additional meaning to our words. They end up completing a task, but always with some horrid loophole based upon them tacking their own desired meaning on to our instructions. Here are just a few. I'm sure your kids have their own and I would love for your to share (mainly so I can learn from your fiascos and see where I need to specify more).

We say: Take a shower
They hear: you can run the water for 30 minutes with your smelly AXE while the liner is outside the tub letting water escape creating a lagoon on the bathroom floor which comes down through the kitchen lights below.

We say: If you ask me one more time to take you to Target today I will implode.
They hear: ... so you'd better flip to whining for Walmart so I implode.

We say: You need to put your clean laundry away.
They hear: ... in the hamper, without even bothering to unfold it, mixed in with really muddy clothes so I have to rewash them --simply to say you're done.

We say: Check and make sure you have your bathing suit for swimming.
They hear: ... just as you're walking into the Y after the twenty minute rush hour ride.

We say: Don't toss that football near the fish tank.
They hear: ...when in it, displacing five gallons and five clownfish, is so much more exciting.

We say: Don't wear your soccer cleats on the wood floor in the kitchen.
They hear: ...only. Walk through the entire house. Four times. Unless the field didn't drain from the rainstorm and they're coated with mud. Then make it five times.

And, the most apparent example of language processing issues if you have sons:
We say: Don't punch your brother in the stomach first thing in the morning!
They hear: ...wait until he's just eaten dinner.

Are my kids the only ones using hyper-inference abilities to creak their own loopholes? And will I ever be prepared for the exteneded interpretations of mine own instructions? I fear not, I truly fear not.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Years Resolutions: Day 11

It’s not that I try to torture my self esteem, I just find every year that optimistic side of me creeps out and says, “HELL YEAH! Let’s make some changes!” So, without further excuse (kind of), let’s have a status check on 2011’s New Year’s Resolutions:

1) Re-learn Spanish:
Watched 2 minutes of Dora the Explorer and don't even have a preschooler. I also listened to Enrique Iglesias/Pit Bull duet. This is a huge step up in effort from last year and 2009, since this is a carry over resolution.

2) Exercise every day:
The beauty of this was I left myself a loophole. I never committed (to me) to do 30 min, 60 min… one push up and I’m technically done. And yet, I’m still only 9 for 11. Good grief.

3) Blog at least twice per week
Well, let’s see—it’s the 11th and this is post #1. Okie dokie.

4) Clean up my mouth around the house
Sh*t.- Oh, just STFU.

5) Complete my first sprint triathlon
I’m actually getting somewhere with this, though I’ve had repeated nightmares that I’m being forced into the Atlantic Ocean and it’s January and I have no wetsuit and my family is cheering me on, not seeing that I’m really shivering to death not laughing really, really hard.

5B) Check the average water temp for Long Branch, NJ for August and check out wet suits
This wasn’t a resolution until the nightmares started, but I added it.

6) Keep the mail pile up off of the Dining Room table
DONE! I bought a WonderFile. That thing holds EVERYTHING. By September, I’m probably going to need a second. Or, maybe I’ll actually sort the piles I toss in there each night.

7) Avoid being sucked in to Son1’s “I’m a teenager and must have last word” challenge
Do eye rolls count? I’m not really sure how to self-assess on this one.

8) Be more patient with Son1 and Son2 in the morning
Moving right along…

9) Be more patient with Son1 and Son2 during homework time

10) Stop screaming like a banshee over their volume
Wait, what?

Oh, just STFU. I’m trying, ok. I need to go shop for a wetsuit, do two sit ups, and make sure there’s a corkscrew in the WonderFile.