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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sweet. Shoeless. Surrender.

I have to laugh whenever anyone asks me how I manage to keep up with my two sons.  
The answer is:  don't. 
You have no idea.
Take this morning for instance. 
All I had to do was wake, feed and dress two boys, not to mention tangle with a sleeping teenager who opts to stay in bed whenever a school project is due.  Yet, anyone that could peer inside the clothing and food-strewn battlefield of my house this morning, could plainly see that I lost all battles on all fronts...again.
Seriously, the school morning task is a monumental one.  It gives me nightmares.  
Plus, I think I am developing panic-attacks as I find myself panting about halfway through the breakfast mantra of "eat your pancakes, eat your pancakes, eat your pancakes."  
I just do not understand how the once sane woman I used to be was ever able to timely present innumerable witnesses and exhibits for trial. Today, I can't even get my three kids out the door and halfway dressed in time for school in the morning.  
That said, I am glad for the one simple task of my chaotic mornings:  Getting boys dressed in school uniforms is a no-brainer. However, since today is the last day of school before their holiday break, I quickly scanned school e-mails to see whether I needed to pack and make lunches, ie., throw some cereal in a baggy. 
Instead I was dismayed to learn that Paul must be dressed in all-white clothing today for some goddamned holiday thing.  He is even expected to wear white shoes. 
What 8-year-old child owns white anything? 
Furthermore, does anyone even make white shoes since Pee Wee Herman paid due homage to such in Tequila? 

Uh, excuse my daydream.
Anyway, I read the next week-old email.  
This one directed me to dress my kindergartener in holiday attire.  And I was instructed to "be creative about it."  
As if there were any other choice.
See, I just moved across the country and have not unpacked any holiday stuff except for half of my nine pet holiday stockings. So I grabbed these and quickly stapled four and a half of the hairy and slightly chewed stockings to Ben's uniform shirt. 
Because ripping off Christmas tree branches to weave a crown of pine thorns was too formidable a project for me. 
My poor kid. 
He looked like a Salvation Army ragamuffin. 
When Paul asked him what exactly he was dressed as, Ben looked down at his droopy staplings and sorrowfully said "I just don't know." 
I had to pump the little guy up and tell him he was dressed Christmas expectations? 

That was enough to get him in the car at least
So, you see, I do not keep up with my sons. 
Or myself for that matter. 
At any rate, I am now sitting in my car decompressing after the frenzied school drop-off.  Of interest, I am wearing no shoes in our 50-degree weather.  I am looking at the five forlorn teacher gifts that I forgot to throw in the boys' backpacks.  
Or backpack, I should say.  
I have an uneasy feeling that I left Ben's pack on top of the car as we lurched toward school, chanting another morning mantra:  "buckle-up, buckle-up, buckle up." 
Okay, time to take a deep breath and head home to make another attempt to rouse the comatose teenager....
On second thought, I am instead going out for a coffee.  Any other frazzled moms care to join me for a cup of joe? 
Shoes optional.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Trouble! A Brief Study of Complex Reasoning in the Developing Male Brain

Shown here rejecting both the voices of motherly reason and basic Newtonian theories.
In the car tonight, there was one of those classic boy-to-boy exchanges that leave a parent feeling quite poorly equipped for child-rearing. And considering that this particular parent has been legally trained in the finer points of argument, this is a significant and humbling realization.  
And speaking of humility, I should have long ago given up on trying to instill any concept of reason into any member of the male species.
Back to tonight's drive. 
The winter holidays were approaching, and the boys and I were delivering a load of toys we had collected through a school-wide toy drive. Both boys were absolutely buried up to their necks in piles of new toys, which I admit, may have been an over-stimulating environment for any four-year-old boy--let alone one who had been kindly referred for a "Temperament Assessment" by his pediatrician at the ripe-old age of three. (Can you think of a nicer way to say "anger-management for toddlers"?) 
But I digress.
As the parent bestowed with the responsibility of safely transporting the generous collection of toys, I winced at the sound of anything that hinted that the highly vulnerable packages were being violated  in the back seat. 
Ben sneaking rats into the grocery store against better advice.
In due course, Benjamin cracked.  It was too much to bear.
With lightning speed, he grabbed and forcefully clasped a large board game to his chest. As his big brother sounded a shrill wail, Benjamin screeched that the game was "MINE!"
An eery silence followed.
I glanced behind me.
It was clear that Ben would not be relinquishing that toy while there was still breath left in his little body. 
And believe me, I know; I have been on the losing end of that death-grip before.
Contemplating my next move, I warily eyed the crime scene from my rear-view mirror. While I calculated the length and effectiveness of my reach, I noted with despair that the pirated board game was called "Trouble!"
Not wanting to engage in open warfare amidst rush-hour traffic, I reverted to reasoning.  A waste of time.  A big waste of time.
Alas, Benjamin did not care much for my tiresome explanation that the toys had been donated by Paul's classmates for the migrant workers' children. 
As usual, he rejected all my efforts to teach empathy. He sullenly ignored my well-calculated appeals for the "poor migrant children...who may not get much else for Christmas... other than the very toys...we were delivering... in this car... at this moment.... Like, right now?"
Instead, Benjamin bellowed that the game was "MINE... because...because... we never had one before!" 
Now I was beginning to understand the depths of the skewed sense of male logic I was up against. Considering this and still looking for a painless resolution, I actually contemplated whether anyone would really notice that one board game was missing from the holiday cache. 
This dangerous reverie was abruptly halted by my older son. 
A hard to break habit of sitting in the freezer at two.

Awash in all the wisdom his seventh year of life afforded, big brother Paul expressed his disgust with the whole exchange. 
He loudly retorted: 
"So?! We never had an octopus before. 
We never had an atom bomb before. 
That doesn't mean we get to keep one!"
Quiet ensued.
Another furtive glance into my rear-view mirror detected a sort of softening in Benjamin's demeanor. 
Slowly and quietly, Benjamin released his grip on the game. He turned away to silently gaze out the window.
At this point, one might like to think that my little hellion was deciding it was, after all, better to give than receive. 
Perhaps, he was finally learning the thus-far wholly elusive concept of sharing?
Not a chance. 
I am quite certain he was instead wondering how to spell "atom bomb" so he could add it to his Christmas wish list....

See above for rare footage of male primate courtship practices.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Halloween Sluts and One Bare-Legged Moth

Halloween is over, and the boys are gnawing away.  As I helplessly overlook the conglomeration of colored powders, chocolates, and random goo they ingest by the handful, I can practically hear the sound of their overwhelmed tooth enamel surrendering.  Their little nippers will undoubtedly resemble one porous sponge by the end of the week. 
Of note, Halloween is traditionally our annual dental check-up week.  I deliberately schedule it this way so the boys will become terrified when the dentist has them chew those tasty but tricky "scum-identifier" tablets.  
Oh, there will be scum this year all right.  
Of course, I will bear the brunt of the dental scolding, but that is easy enough to deflect...once the dentist is out of hearing range.* 
Anyway, I think Benjamin's bare legs jutting out of the moth-suit really makes for a fetching costume.  What do you think?  
The suit came with little black leggings, but he opted for the fleshier look.  Could this be the kindergarten version of the slut costumes that every single female trick-or-treater over the age of one seems to wear these days? 
And what is THAT about anyway? Do they really get more stuff when they dress like mini Paris drag? 
And if so, how come no one ever told me about turning that trick when I was a kid?
Regardless, I too had to throw together a last-minute costume to appease my two (already jacked-up) candy addicts.  So I joined my sons while wearing a robe and huge red curlers.  
Okay, so maybe I was already wearing the robe and curlers.,
Anyway, I carried one of those reusable cloth grocery bags.  You know, the one with the six empty wine compartments.  And in case that was not obvious enough, I even carried an empty wine glass. 
Well, why should kids be the only ones who come home with treasures on Halloween night?
Sure, the boys scored big, as you can see in the photo.  As for me, I did not fare so well.  Not one neighbor filled my six gaping, empty wine bag slots with a bottle of wine.  Not one offered to pour so-much as a drop of hootch in my empty wine glass.  
Worse, no one seemed to "get" what my costume was all about.  Even after I explained in detail that I was not exactly looking for candy, they simply stared blankly at my get-up.  
By the end of the night, my eight-year-old was telling the confused neighbors that I was dressed as "an embarrassment." 
Right in front of me.
Later, as I dejectedly watched the boys count, sort, switch, and fight over their huge trove of candy, a brilliant thought occurred to me: Next year, I get to wear the slutty bare-legged moth suit for Halloween.  

*Note, for other tooth-preservation strategies, please consult Lesson 2 at the following post:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rigorous Family Entertainment for all at Fishing Hall of Fame

A picture of mommy and daddy enthusiastically enjoying the Fishing Hall of Fame.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slugfest: Insurgent Infiltrates Local Prep School

Al-Pokemon camp broken up; Paul captured

Yesterday my phone rang mid-day. It was the director of the boys' new school asking me to pick up my son...promptly. He explained that Paul had been suspended because he had been in a "fist-fight." 
I told him he must have the wrong number. My eight-year-old? A fist-fight?
As I sped toward the school, many questions raced through my mind: 
  • Was he hurt? 
  • Does Paul really know how to make a fist? 
  • Were there steroids in those organic pop-tarts I packed in his lunch? 
  • Does the word "fist-fight" still get a hyphen?
I could not begin to imagine my mild-mannered son in a physical fight. In fact, I could not even imagine him spitting on an adversary. 
Unless... it was very, very dark... 
and the other child's back was turned, 
and the other child was in handcuffs, 
and the other child was already completely surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team.
I raced over to the school to find my dejected, tear-streaked boy softly crying on a lonely school yard bench. He confessed that he had indeed punched a classmate in the stomach. 
When I asked him why, he explained that the classmate had grabbed his finger and twisted it backward because Paul had not listened to him. 
I noted with interest that the incident had occurred during lunch right before the school's peace day celebration.
I carefully and thoroughly thought this one through before responding to my forlorn son as he sat there looking tinier and more frail than ever on that bench. I wanted to make sure that whatever I said to him at this crucial moment did not undermine the school's legitimate interest in ensuring that neither the lives nor limbs of its third-graders were in jeopardy. I wanted my son to grow up to become a good world citizen and learn that impulses must be controlled. 
But I also wanted my gentle son to know it was okay to defend himself. Especially in a dangerous world of third-grade finger-twisters.
After duly considering how critical my next words were going to be, I took a deep breath and plunged right in. I looked into Paul's sorrowful eyes, and said that I was taking him in for his first tattoo. It would say: "Twist my finger, and I'll kick your ass."
Paul was not remotely amused. 
In fact, he blushed and threw up his arms as if to say that this world of intermeddling adults was just too much to bear. Then he thought a bit and quietly muttered to himself: "I have a strange mom."
End of conversation.

That night, I spoke to Paul's father about the details of the brawl and the school's swift and certain response. 
And did I fail to mention here exactly what that response entailed? Well, not only did they send both boys home in tears, the two boys had to do the following: 

  1. Hug and apologize to each other. 
  2. Then they had to apologize to their entire class, the headmaster, and the elementary school director. 
  3. Then they had to visit the school counselor to write and sign a behavior contract promising to never hit again. 
  4. And, worst of all, they had to ask their parents to also sign the contract... and I did not even get to hit anyone first!
So, as I said, I told my husband about the day's events and the consequences imposed. His response? He said they should have just tasered the two boys.
Above, Paul shown watching insurgency training videos at Al-Pokemon camp, circa June 2010.


Shown in cave hideout shortly before his capture.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dick and Jane Don't Make the Cut

So the boys and I went to the library today.
My custom is to allow Ben to check out as many books as his little arms can manage to carry. He is able to self-check his books with the scanner on his library card, so he is pretty much on his own once he hits the children's section.
Before today, he was content to review and collect a hefty pile of children's books to lug home with him. However, this time he joined Paul and I in the main stacks where we were looking for books on stingrays. Busy with Paul, I did not notice what Ben had collected and checked out on his electronic library card until we had returned home.
Well....The bedtime reading this week should be quite challenging for my four-year-old. Here are Ben's top selections of the week:
  • 10 Steps to Successful International Adoption
  • Every Dog's Legal Guide
  • What is Economics?
  • Parenting Magazine (back issue)
  • Tic & Tac.
Should I make him return Tic & Tac?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paul's excuses for not doing his homework

1. My rat ate it. [See, Exhibit A.]
Exhibit A
2. There isn't any. Oh that? We are not supposed to do it at home.
3. I have rabies.
4. I work better in groups.
5. My butt itches. [Exhibit declined.]
6. My room isn't quiet enough. [See, Exhibit B.]
Exhibit B

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boys, Power Tools and other Dangerous Things

Introducing the "E-Racer" and the "I-Racer"

As the kid-bearing half of a bi-coastal marriage, I am heavily engaged in the business of independently running my household between (and especially during) my husband's visits. This role is not as taxing as you may think as I have a tendency to reserve the most undesirable parenting projects for dad's visits. However, due to some poor planning on my part, I was unable to punt responsibility for the boys' Pinewood Derby Cub Scouts event.
For me, this was a most formidable and dreaded venture on many grounds:
First, I do not own a power tool. Nor do I want to own one. Not even the pink one that comes in the Big Momma Toolbox.
Second, I have serious reservations about all things "scout" and suspect that under this well-orchestrated front, we have unwittingly signed our boys up for some Idaho branch of the militia movement.
Third, at every pack meeting, I am waiting to get "outed" in front of my sons. No, not exposed for what you are thinking but for the even greater sin against nature--you know--serving those seven years on the ACLU Legal Panel.
With these fears in mind, I embarked on the derby project after first buying a junior hand saw, sand paper and paint. I even rented the scouting movie "Down and Derby" to inspire the boys. Of course, this backfired as it only made the boys suspicious; they worried that I would take over their car projects as did the obsessed fathers in the movie.... If they only knew.
Instead, after seeing those slick-shined movie cars, I worried that my sons would be humiliated at the big event with crummy mom-made derby cars. I even went on-line to see what a finished derby car might cost me. Alas, it was not the $200 price tag that deterred me so much as the illegality of this option. Apparently, the Scout is supposed to make his own car.
Although violating the Scout's honor code was not exactly a felony in my book, it was not one of the seven virtues I had hoped to instill in my boys. I briefly wondered whether any sociologists had yet undertaken a study of the percentage of scout-honor-code violators on death row...
Thus, a frenzied week of intermittent sawing of seemingly impenetrable blocks of wood followed. I noted that the boys' brief sawing efforts were interspersed with many, many Wii breaks. Slowly, the cars began taking shape, albeit not quite the shape the boys had in mind. Although they had downloaded some mighty fancy figure-eight car designs, my veto power had been silently exercised in favor of the humble doorstop design.
So, once each block of wood was finally cut into a simple wedge, the boys tried sanding the now splintered and spiky edges. After a nanosecond of this nonsense, they entirely gave up on the concept of sanding. For life.
Painting presented as a much more appealing activity. Fortunately, the boys did not seem to regret their earlier color choices of Pepto-Bismol pink and traffic-cone orange for their racers. They globbed on rivers of paint. Some landed on the cars.
So Derby weigh-in day finally arrived. In their cockpit preparations, the boys carefully peeled off the newspaper that stuck to their splinter-sticky cars. Then, the boys hammered on the wheels. Next, they affixed decals. Then, they affixed more decals. Then, a few more. And WA-LA! They were now the proud owners of the only cars in scouting history that resembled rolling Chia pets. With decals.
The orange one, covered in I-Phone apps, was dubbed the
"I-Racer" by Paul. The pink one was named the "E-Racer" by Ben.
On racing day, the line-up was intimidating. The man-made racers shimmered with the white-hot promise of speed beneath their layers of high-gloss car wax. There was not a trace of a scout fingerprint to be found on these beauties as they had apparently been buffed into oblivion--along with any concept of their children's input. I briefly wondered whether there was a derby car assembly line hidden somewhere in the Mercedes factory. How did all those scout dads have the time to create those perfectly smooth and aerodynamic speedsters?
I looked at my sons faces and wished I had at least splurged on the Big Momma toolkit. It was too late to back out. My kids turned over their sticky Pintos. I just prayed they would not be humiliated....
No time for regrets. The race was on.
Caution: actual racing footage follows. Hang on.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rat Showing

So we have been trying to sell our home in the Heights for over a year now. Living in a "staged" home with kids and pets in the interim has not been easy, as you can imagine.
Last night we had a home showing scheduled by some prospective buyers who wanted to visit the house for a second look...this time with their mother.
For obvious reasons, this impelled me to clean twice as thoroughly as normal. I aired out the house and went into combat mode against the tumbleweeds of dog hair, imbedded wads of marshmallow bits and the mysterious lumps of unspeakables hiding under every rug.
After that, I did not want kids or dogs to even breathe in our home. I quickly loaded up the car with my sons, a permanent play-date, the frogs, two large dogs and six massive cinnamon rolls. And a bag of dirty dishes.
We spent the next five hours away from home at the science museum. When that closed, we invaded a neighbor's house, raided her refrigerator and messed up her home for the remaining two hours.
When we finally returned to our own home last night, I walked into the basement and immediately saw the one item I had overlooked in my panic to evacuate. Well, actually two items...the boys' pet rats. There they were, sitting on the gleaming basement kitchen counter as if they had been tenderly placed there as some sort of urban living decor. In my haste, I had forgotten to grab them and throw them in the car with the kids, frogs and dogs before we left.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Unenchanted Evening

My sitter canceled today, and I had a hair coloring appointment at a new salon scheduled at five. I desperately needed professional help as the results from my last three home-dye jobs were conjuring up intrusive images of a calico cat. (I always forget what color I used the time before.)
So, I took both of my sons with me--against my better judgment. Peering into my back seat on the drive over, I started to give up hope long before the salon manager was summoned to look our scruffy three-some up and down. Predictably, after one look at my savages, she informed me that children were simply not allowed.
I pleaded. After she warily scrutinized my skunk-stripe of gray hair which was probably widening before her very eyes, she relented. It must have been a slow day at the salon.
Now that we were in, all I had to do was avoid getting thrown out before the dye was applied. Not a likely scenario for success. Really. Just imagine a four and seven-year-old trapped in a hair salon for two and a half hours while their mother is immobilized in a black straight-jacket of sorts. It is not a pretty sight, no matter how you look at it.
Luckily, the boys found my I-phone. Unluckily, they quickly burned out its feeble charge. (If they managed to e-mail or text you with those stupid emoticons in the interim, I apologize, but it was for a good cause.)
Next, they took turns roasting their hands and butts on a floor heater, played catch with a wadded up sweatshirt and tried to unscrew some faux-ancient window cranks that were probably installed to make the new space look like the warehouse it never was.
Then, the boys dumped the contents of my purse. And ate everything that had a fragrance to it.
Finally, they found my mini video camera.
Now, just stop and contemplate this: two unwelcome boys roaming through a hair salon filming unsuspecting patrons who were looking...uh, let's say...sub-optimal? Just imagine getting YOUR lip waxed while pint-sized Michael Moores aim a video camera at your horrified face as if it were some type of a corporate crime scene.
At this point, I reverted to the "pretend those are not my kids" mode. (Unfortunately, this is something to which my boys are getting quite accustomed.) As I surreptitiously supervised, I tried not to cringe when the boys manuevered around hairdressers' behinds for their close-ups but admit to flinching when I heard a distinctive "Shoo!" directed at my particularly tenacious seven-year-old.
As I watched the horror scene unfolding before me, the boys ultimately decided to aim their documentary efforts at the project of my own head. I could now catch snippets of their testimony and immediately worried about what they had said while filming the other hapless guests.
My debut consisted of a close-up of my scowling lips. Then the producers panned back to display my lovely scalp crowned with wads of heavily pasted hair and, what appeared to be, miniature aluminum window treatments. The dialogue went something like this.
Paul: "Mommy turned her hair black. Hideous, I would say."
Ben: "Ooh. Shiny. Mommy looks like a princess."
Tape is for sale.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"The Perpetrators"

Perp 1
Description: male, age 7, brown eyes, tall, lean, sweet, the thinker.
Aliases: Crazytown, Buzzworth, Paul, Digi
Unlawful activity: Interference with prospective economic advantage, breaking and entry, cyber-crimes, obstruction of justice

Perp 2
Description: male, age 4, blue eyes, short, feisty, the ass-kicker.
Aliases: BamBam, Chewbacca, Benjamin
Unlawful activities: High risk escapee, pre-school dropout, felonious battery, crimes against Nature Eco-Friendly Babycare pull-ups--still.

Perp 3
[Strictly confidential data; Any disclosure of personal information about Perp 3 may result in the punitive wrath of a teenager.]
Description: female, age 15, blue eyes, tall, blonde, gorgeous, brainy, athletic, Vegan tendencies.
Unlawful activities: Cheats at Scrabble. Uh, I mean CENSORED.

Fila, Nuff
Aliases: Stinkin' Rats
Description: Stinking rats. No, really, they are stinking rats.