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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tug of War – Mommy vs Mommy

It’s 8:30pm. I’m lying with my five year-old at bedtime. After a few minutes of snuggling, I try to leave, but he begs, “One more minute!” So I stay a minute more, growing restless. Again, I kiss him goodnight, and he pleads for more time. I leave, but five minutes later, I return for one more minute.

It’s 9:15pm. My 8 year-old wants tickle back, which I do, but then he wants longer, which I do, but when he whines for more, I kiss his head, and say, “That’s it babe, time for bed.” Immediately he squeals his offense and huddles under his blanket to ward off any of my gentle advances for a good night. I sigh, pat his blanketed back and leave. Five minutes later I return for one last minute of tickles.

It’s 9:45pm. My 11 year-old in bed declares he’s starving.

“Mommy has closed up shop for the night.” I say firmly.

“But I’m hungry,” he whines.

“Baby, I asked you an hour ago.” I whine.

He looks down at his belly and gives me a cock-eyed grin. “It’s rumbling, mommy.”

I go down and cut him an apple.

Finally, I get to the couch where my husband rests comfortably, baseball on the TV, laptop on the lap. I sit my tired ass down and begin to speak, probably for the first time of the day to my husband, but we’re interrupted by a small voice from upstairs.

“Mama.” We hear, and both roll our eyes.

“Mommy’s busy!” My husband calls up. “Go to sleep.”

It’s quiet for a minute, but then we hear it again. “Mama.”

“Go on,” my husband says, as annoyed by their constant need of me as my babying, “You know you have to.”

I take a deep breath. He’s right. There’s no way I can ignore him, even though I really want to. I race upstairs and into the room calling Mama. Tonight it’s my 11 year-old but it could have easily been any of them.

“One more hug.” He says, sleepily, and I melt into his warm body for a sweet moment.

I leave and head back downstairs, exhausted from the constant push and pull, both physically and emotionally. I wonder why I can’t stick to my guns without shooting myself in the foot? Why I must always soften any tough talk with a batch of fresh cookies? I am a jumble of contradictions and the biggest one is that I often complain that I’m not everyone’s bitch, when clearly I willingly am.

“I could really use some pretzels.” My husband hints, not at all subtly.


He lifts his brows to give me a pleading, goofy look, not so unlike his son’s.

“Arrgh! Get it yourself!” I yell as I make my way to the kitchen, grab the bag from the closet, stomp back into the living room and toss them at his chest.

“Thank you.” I hear as I head upstairs, hoping not to feel another tug at my heart to do anything for anyone. This rope is going to bed, before it strangles someone.

rope 2

Linking up with YW, then taking a couple of weeks off.

Can you tell I need them? 😉

See youuuuu in Septemberrrrr….  xo

A review of books and parenting

Okay, so I’m a week or two, or three, over deadline, but the last challenge in the 31 days to a Better Blog over at Yeah Write was to write a review. Even though I’ve never written a review, I’ve recently read some pretty good books, so I figured, why not? And because I’m quite the multi-tasker, I thought I’d try a double review, of both books and my parenting skills.

How do those things tie together you wonder? Let me introduce you to my rating system.

1 star – I’m making fresh dinners, playing ball with the kids on the lawn, going bike riding, etc… Book? What book? Oh, right… that thing in my bag getting covered in cookie crumbs and marks from loose crayons.

2 stars – Kids and I are running and playing. The book comes out randomly while waiting for kids to finish up whatever they are doing. Still rather watch Housewives.

3 stars – I’m reading while pretending to watch kids play on lawn. Here’s an iTouch, kid, now go away. We’re out for pizza dinner, where I read and ignore their antics, oblivious to any dirty looks.

4 stars – Hiding in bathroom to finish chapter. Will fix your boo boo after I finish my page. Here’s some scissors, go play outside. How annoying, you want to eat? Fine. Humph! Sure watch TV all night. Just don’t bother me, I’m reading.

Now that you know the system, here’s a review of the last four books I’ve read.

I just finished Plan B by Jonathan Tropper. Tropper wrote, This is where I leave you, one of my favorite reads, certainly of last year – or it may have been the year before that, who could tell with how fast these years fly. It may even make my all-time top 10, although I’d really have to give that some more thought. Anyway, total Tropper voice in a likable ensemble, only he’s 30 years-old and having an identity crisis… Who am i? What am I doing with my life? Whine, whine. Filled with fun, 80’s references and easy to read, but lacking the depth, heartbreak and hilarity of This is where I leave you. Plan B gets a B –  2 ½ stars.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I picked this book up because I read somewhere that Anne Lamott recommended it. And truly, since reading Bird By Bird decades back, I will read whatever Anne writes and I will read whatever Anne recommends. I still fondly recall being so inspired by that book, I’d run to my desk early to ignore my work and write. Ah, those were the days.

Me Before You is the story of a quadriplegic who wants to die and his caretaker who has no life. Sounds depressing, but it’s actually not heavy handed and I was completely sucked in. So sucked in that for the three nights it took me to finish, my kids had cereal and milk and apples for dinner. Which is way better than when I was reading the Hunger Games, because no one ate during the 18 hours it took me to finish that book. Me Before You – 3 1/2 stars.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight is about a mother trying to piece together the details surrounding her daughter’s unexpected death by retracing her last days on social media. Once I started, I was hooked. Reminiscent of Gone Girl in the suspenseful pacing, and changing perspectives, just not as psychotic or as good. A great summer read, even after summer. Solid 3 stars.

Starring Jules by Beth Ain. Yep, it’s a children’s book. This charming story about a feisty 2nd grader preparing for an audition for a mouthwash commercial completely captures youth in all its nervous hopefulness. From navigating friendship to conquering your fears, Jules voice is so truly, precociously eight, you can’t help but love her and root for her. What made this book even better was that I could enjoy it with my kids, so I couldn’t ignore them at all, thus placing its rating completely off the charts.

So what I’ve learned here is that unless you’re reading together, good books mean bad parenting. But that hasn’t deterred me. Hopefully, my kids will see how much I love books, then someday they will ignore their own children. A parent can only hope. books



Follow the Bouncing Balls

Follow the Bouncing Balls

“Mommy! Get that ball!” My five-year old calls out as I’m walking out the door, holding a coffee in one hand, a water bottle under my arm, my 40 pound pocketbook over my shoulder, two camp knapsacks over the other arm, and a bag of dirty clothes for the dry cleaner.

A wrapped granola bar for my oldest dangles from my mouth. “Oh yeah,” I mutter, through gritted teeth. “Let me get that for you.”

“What?” He jumps in front of me. “What?”

“Get the ball, mommy!” My 11 year-old calls out, leaning on his wiffle bat.

I’m struggling with the keys, trying to press the button that automatically opens my mini-van door and not drop my coffee, or I’d freak on them.

“Mommy? Can you get the ball?” He asks again. Seriously, does he not have eyes? Or legs?

Only my 8 year-old has the ability to see outside of himself.

“Can I help you? He asks. “I can take my bag.”

I try to smile with my eyes, the only unencumbered part of my body, but I keep moving. Any disruption would cause everything to drop faster than a pair of old boobs on new twins.

I make it to the car and dump everything onto the seat, except my coffee, which I gently place in its holder.

Whew. 8am and I’m already done, but of course, it’s just beginning. I need to drive the oldest to baseball camp, the middle to day camp and the youngest…  Damn, the youngest has no camp.

“Mommy! You didn’t get the ball!” My 5 year-old accuses, which I ignore.

“Get in the car, please.”

They pile in and once settled, I run to retrieve the wiffle ball and toss it on the lawn. We’re ready.

First stop! Camp for Boy 1 in next town.

Second stop! Camp for Boy 2 in town next to next town.

Then me and Boy 3 drop the dry cleaning, stop at the supermarket and head home to play legos,haveacatch,drawpictures,watchshowwhileidoelliptical&eatlunch.

Pick-up time!

First stop! Boy 1.

Second stop! Boy 2.

Third stop. Train station in totally different town to pick up daddy.

We get there in about 20 minutes, but have almost an hour before the train. My middle has a game tonight so he changes into his uniform in the back while they eat the snacks I packed and watch episodes of the Brady Bunch on the minivan TV. All hail the minivan TV.

This is our down time. Hope you’re enjoying it. Want a cheese stick?

Once husband/coach is in the car, we head straight for the field.

Throw. Catch. Pitch. Strike. Run. We win. Yay! Or, we lose. Boo!

Either way, we head home.

Once inside, I collect their dirty clothes and send their dirty bodies to the shower.

“Look, Mama,” My 5 year-old says over and over, and every time I do, he’s in a different naked position displaying himself.

Balls. Balls. Balls.

I hear my husband click on the TV, and the room fills with baseball.

No way he’s going to score tonight.

Catching zzzz's

Catching Z’s

This the best sucky summer ever!

These are the three most frequent complaints coming out of my mouth this summer.

I can’t believe 5 year-old is not in camp.

Are you kidding me, another game tonight??

5 year-old is annoying me.

It’s true, this summer has not gone according to plan. Not that I had a plan, but I wasn’t prepared for baseball averaging five nights a week, and my five year-old putting the kabash on camp for even a few hours each day. On top of that, 8 year-old had some bus issues, so now I’m driving him every morning and either picking him at camp or at a friend’s each afternoon.

There’s a whole lot of schlepping back and forth, a whole lot of laundry and a whole lot of run, run, run! At times, I feel frustrated, stressed and a little overwhelmed. For some reason, I expected summer to be more relaxing, but reality has crushed my expectations.

The truth is my crushed reality is actually a very satisfying, full summer. Yes, I pretty much have seen no friends. Yes, I’ve had very little down time. And, even though, my 5 year-old and I are spending so much quality time together that the word quality is questionable, I can see a day in the not so near future when I am no longer his favorite person. He will not cling to me like this forever. I don’t know if we’ll even make it another year, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to appreciate this beautiful, bouncy boy constantly tugging annoyingly at my shirt.

I love you. now go away.

I love you. Now go away.

Even as my feisty 8 year-old spits fire in my direction, I marvel at his desperate and aggressive need for independence. Plus, the minute he runs out of steam, he happily holds my hand.

Soon we'll be holding hands... sigh

Almost out of steam… Allllmooost.

While my 11 year-old may ignore me while meditating to a computer game, I live for the goofy grin I get once he recognizes I’ve been trying to reach him from the outside world.

Wait for it...

Wait for it…

There it is.


And baseball? Well, despite it being my least favorite major league sport, there’s nothing like watching your kid play. Even if you’re watching with your hands covering your eyes, while gritting your teeth and holding your breath.

So on many summer nights, okay most, I am lounging in my Tommy Bahama chair, an iced coffee in the side drink pocket, surrounded by friendly parents, cheering our kids while our other kids become part of the scenery; having a catch or kicking a ball, or even sometimes, when the slushies are really blue and the pretzels are salty and soft, leaning up against the fence watching their brother play.

I’ve got nothing to complain about.

My happy cage

I know why the caged bird sings…

There is a wall up in his studio apartment, and it’s me.

I stood at the door stiff and all business as he puttered around the cluttered apartment looking for his glasses but not finding them, brushing his hair back for the 100th time, searching for a belt to hold up his jeans which kept slipping from his slight lower body, because he was so hunched over.

He hopped around gingerly, bent at his bulging waist, more in line with the floor than the walls, trying to get ready so that we could walk down to the lobby where my husband and three boys waited. Hopped really is the wrong word. It was more of a limp, with a slight, uncoordinated bounce. He was happy to see me.

It had been over two months since we last visited. Visiting wasn’t easy for either of us. We both had expectations. I expected him to be ready to go down and see the grandkids with almost a three hour heads-up on the visit, and he expected me to understand that he couldn’t be rushed.

I understood that, but I could never understand why he couldn’t have most of this stuff done before we arrived. Or, I just couldn’t accept it. He lost time. It was why some mornings when the home health aide came in she’d find him on the floor in the bathroom, or asleep on the chair with the oven on. Alone in his apartment, minutes staring became hours of day dream, or drifted into unconsciousness. I knew it, but similar to my experience with calculus, just because I knew the answer didn’t mean it made any sense to me.

He’s brushing his gums and talking to me simultaneously, moving from the sink, closer to where I stand in the center of the room, with my arms crossed, trying not to touch anything.

“Dad, can we talk after you finish up? After we go down?” It’s been over a half an hour. My husband has called three times, unnecessarily exasperated, threatening to leave me, take the boys to a park and come back after. It’s not helpful.

He looks immediately annoyed. “I’m going as fast as I can.”

“Well, maybe if we didn’t talk in between…”

Slowly, he stops brushing, takes out his toothbrush and points it at me. “This talk is the most important part of the visit. Maybe not to you… but to me.”

I nod in acceptance, but I am expressionless. I feel myself closing up. All I want him to do is finish brushing, take his medicine, find his glasses, put in his teeth, put on his shoes, pull up his pants and go. But, he’s right. The point of my visit is to give him a sense of family, to help him connect and feel less alone, yet, from the moment I walk in, I’m guarded. Pleasant but not warm. Interested but not caring.

I note the cigarette burns on his bed spread, the boxes cluttering the small space, the dozens of medications laid out on the table and I look away. I study the over filled book shelves instead.

I should hug him, but my arms are still crossed.

Healthy competition vs. Sibling rivalry

I admit it. Our family is a little competitive. Okay, a lot competitive. Okay, the most competitive! Seriously, our family is more competitive than your family.

And, since I’m brainwashed by motherhood to take it easy on the small wusses, I mean children, I’m probably the least competitive of the bunch.

All three of my boys, ages 5, 8 and 11, compete on everything from who can stare without blinking the longest to who will get to the car first. They compete on whose drawing is better, who grew more, who likes pizza the most or even who’s the rightful owner of the number five.

5 year-old – My favorite number is 5.

11 year-old – Hey, that’s my number!

8 year-old – No it’s mine, because David Wright is number five.

5 year-old – Well, I am five!

11 year-old – I liked it before you guys were born!

Their competitive streak runs deeper as well. They argue over who is the most likable, smartest, or, the ever popular, who can love mommy more, with all three of them simultaneously trying to squeeze the life out of me.

Competition might just run in their blood. My husband, aka Coach, aka Mr. Baseball, leads the charge in all the sports they play, especially baseball. When not at a game or practice, Coach and his boys are on the lawn engaged in some kind of game that usually ends with one or more of my children crying over who won or who lost.

Coach’s dad, Grandpa H, is no competitive slouch himself. Whether playing my kids, a geriatric, one-eyed, limping widow or men his own age, his joyous cries of victory, after killing a shot, echo from mountain top to mountain top.

And my mom, Grandma S, for all her giggly cute smiles, is a shark in short shorts. No one, not even Charlie Sheen on a crazy streak, takes winning more seriously.

Whether nature or nurture, I find competition healthy and productive, for both the winning aspect and the losing. However, when it occurs, as it does regularly, inside of the family, it’s another story.  The results of competition as sibling rivalry range from frustrating tantrums at the least to confidence crushing at the worst.

Competing with a sibling, especially one older is almost a guaranteed set up for failure and feelings of inadequacy. No matter how much I protest and remind them that they are in completely different developmental ages and stages, they have already categorized themselves according to the other.

I can’t stand the idea of my middle son thinking he’s less than his older brother, simply because he’s competing against unfair parameters. My youngest is still young enough not to be affected, but my middle guy constantly beats himself up. No matter what I say, he refuses to believe his own worth.  He just shrugs and says almost defiantly, “I’m just not as good.”  It breaks my heart.

It’s hard to draw the line between healthy competition and unhealthy sibling rivalry. I want my kids to be competitive, just not with each other. Yet, I don’t know how to stop it.

Early on, I even inadvertently encouraged it with little contests designed to motivate.  You know… “Who’s going to get in bed first?” Or, a favorite, “Who can be quiet longest?” I don’t do that anymore, but back then I didn’t realize the seeds I was planting. Still, even without the mommy motivator or the daddy influence, I don’t know if they’d be much different.

It’s like they’re in a race with each other from birth… my oldest far ahead, my middle struggling to keep up and my youngest, not really caring as much, and just kind of attaching himself to the oldest in all his glory. Sigh.

It seems all I can do is be aware of it, discourage it, and do my best to build each of my children up on their individual strengths.

Those articles I read about birth order and sibling rivalry are true. The race starts right from the womb, with the finish line being the only one that no one wants to cross first.

boys 5