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.