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Monthly Archives: September 2013

When do I get to have my tantrum?

He was 16 months when he stood with me in the kitchen, asking for an “Ookie.”

“No cookies now. After dinner. Okay?”  I said and away he toddled.

A moment later I found him on the floor in the hall, writhing and screaming. Immediately, I was alarmed. What was happening? Should I call a doctor? What was he doing?

I bent down. “Baby? What’s the matter? Are you okay? Baby?”

Still squirming like Linda Blair from the Exorcist, he wailed, “Wan ookie!!”

Huh? Was this a tantrum? It was my first. My older son had never had one. I watched with fascination.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the same child who when I tried sleep training, absolutely trained me. I didn’t think a seven month old could cry that long and continuously. Ultimately, I spent the next two years sitting at the base of his crib every night until he fell asleep. Well trained, but not exactly what I was going for.

When we potty trained, it was the same business. Forget the stickers or M&M’s. No bribery, reason or compromise could make him go. Finally, I threw my hands in the air and gave up. The next day, he decided he was ready and went on his own.

Now eight years-old, he is my most charming, social and independent child. Yet he is still a spit fire, who has spent the last seven years mastering his button pushing technique. He no longer writhes on the floor, now his tantrums are much more manipulative and exhausting.

Yesterday, when we were about to leave, he decided that he didn’t want to go to his brother’s baseball game. While I understood, frankly, he had no choice.

I took a deep breath. “We are going. Please don’t make this difficult.”

Hands over the ears. “Lalalalala! I can’t hear you!”

I hate when he does that.

“Your friends will be there.” I said nicely, through gritted teeth.


“I’m going to have to take away your iTouch.”

“Good! Take it! I don’t want it anyway!”

“Come on!” I practically begged.

He went to hide behind a chair. “NO! You can’t make me!”

That was it. I could make him and sadly, I showed him how, by dragging him by the arm into the car.

His little body felt even lighter than the fifty pounds it was. He screamed the whole time and embarrassingly, I screamed back.

Once in the car, I took deep breaths. I was so angry, I couldn’t speak. I was mad at him and at myself. He was making me a bad parent, I thought spitefully.

Why not blame the eight year-old?

“Baby,” I said calmly. “None of that was okay. I’m sorry I lost my temper.”

He just shrugged. “Okay, me too.” Now that he was in the car, the drama was over. “When do you think I can get my iTouch back?” he asked sweetly.

He can turn off as quick as he turns it on. I’ll give him that.

He has always been unbreakable, but every so often it would nice if he could just give me a break.

I know it's hard to believe.

I know it’s hard to believe.

I lost my edge, but kept my fingers.

When I got the email from a friend telling me she had given my name to this college girl who got credit for coming to my house to give a presentation, I thought I was doing someone a favor for school. So, even though it was annoying and it took up a bunch of time I didn’t have, I met with her.

As soon as she started her presentation, I realized I had been suckered. Or, I don’t read my emails carefully enough. Yes, she was a college student, but this was a job, selling high end cutlery door to door through recommendation. Think Avon lady with a knife.

I didn’t want to buy anything, but I could tell I was in trouble. First off, I’m a people pleaser. Second, I’m an idiot and third, I actually needed knives.

She started her schpeel and demo, cutting through a thick rope easily. Before she pulled out the aluminum can, I cut her off. “Listen, I know they’re good knives. Just tell me how much.”

Very smoothly, she rattled off numbers higher than my couch and dining room table combined. I maintained poker face. Oh yeah, I’d consider buying a set knives for a couple of grand. No problem. Was it the leftover cereal bowls and frozen pancakes on the table that gave you the impression I was a top chef?

Instead of showing her the door, I bought four knives for about $250. I know. What was wrong with me? Still, I justified that I needed knives, these were good ones and I’d never buy another knife as long as I lived.

Quickly, I realized how short that would be if I wasn’t careful.

The first time, I pulled a knife from its sheath to inspect it, I thought it looked pretty… dangerous. I turned it over in my hand, and when I looked down again my finger was oozing blood. What? I didn’t even feel anything. Crap.knives

The second time, I pulled out a knife, I just wanted to make a small tear in a plastic bag I was having trouble opening. This time, I felt it touch my finger, and knew without looking that the bag wasn’t the only thing with a tear. Yup. Gaping, gushing wound.

Bandaged on two fingers, I now assessed the knives skeptically. When my oldest asked for a sliced apple, I stared them down and walked on by. When my middle wanted his sandwich cut, again, I eyed my expensive cutlery but passed it up.

I was afraid of them.

My aunt was third to try a knife. Poor woman made the mistake of wanting a bagel. I said, “I have a serrated knife but it’s verrrrry sharp.”

“Don’t worry.” She said, a little too cavalierly.

“Seriously,” I warned. “Be careful.”

One minute later her finger was gushing. “The knife just touched me.” She said in disbelief.

The next day, I ran into a friend at the supermarket. “What happened to you?” She asked looking at my bandaged fingers.

“New knives.” I said sadly.

“Cutco?” She asked, naming the brand.

“OMG Yes! How did you know?”

She held up a hand with a finger bandaged. “Sliced the top right off. It’s just sort of growing back.”

Those knives were going back immediately.

I may have dull knives, but I am a sharp girl… who likes fingers.

Buh bye, instruments of death.

My children are perfect, and always will be.

My children are perfect.

Right now, one is stomping up the stairs in a fit of temper. I asked him to go to his room to cool off, but mid-way, he has decided not to give me that satisfaction.

“You want me to go to my room?” He huffs. “Then I think I’ll stay right here!”

So now he’s back, fuming. His big, green eyes bright with insult.

“So, stay right here.” I say agreeably, refusing to be drawn into his tantrum.

“Oh, you want me to stay here? Then I’m going to my room!” He yells and stomps back up the stairs.

I keep my smile on the inside, but little bits of it come out in the upturn of my mouth.

The minute he is gone from the room, my little one, five now, not really so little, jumps in front of me, pulling on my arm, dancing around me annoyingly. “Mama! I want you to play legos with me. Now! Can we play now?”

He’s biting the neckline of his shirt, exactly like I’ve asked him not to do a thousand times. I don’t want to play legos, but his little face is insistent. He is desperate to play, clenching the shirt tightly between his teeth, squinting his eyes real hard, hoping his wish will be answered, that I will not say, “wait” for the third time, that I will just play, which I do, but not without a heavy sigh. Did I mention I really don’t want to play?

My oldest son bounds in like a puppy. “Mommy? Can you get me a snack?” I should tell him to get it himself.

He’s eleven, but I’m all too happy to be released from lego prison. Besides, he may be my oldest but he’s my least responsible; more likely than my five year-old to spill his cup of water or rip open a bag of pretzels to drop right to the floor like pick-up sticks. Right now, I’m trying not to notice that his tee shirt is both inside out and backwards.

I come back to find him happily engaged with my youngest. They are soaring their creations around each other, complete with battle sound effects. I place the pretzels and drink down, and hear my middle son storming down the stairs. He pauses when we make eye contact, just long enough to growl at me.

These three boys, so different, physically, emotionally, developmentally; each with their strengths and weakness, yet, there are moments I am blown away by their absolute perfection; their eyes full of hope, their growing psyches, their innocence and their honesty, their flawless youth.

They are not tainted by the world, have not suffered crushing rejections and disappointment. They have not been stripped of their pride, had to learn real life lessons, had their dreams shattered around them. Their lives are open, their paths, a journey and an adventure. They are beautiful in their possibility and their promise.

They are as children should be. Perfect. Untainted. And I try not to get emotional, when I realize the inevitable; that they will grow, and become people. People with baggage. It breaks my heart a little, but then I remember, they will always be perfect, because they will always be my babies.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.  Poo. Poo. Poo.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.
Poo. Poo. Poo.

I go for a run. Or so I thought.

We had so many things going on that day, but I figured I’d squeeze in a couple of miles just to kick the day off right. When my husband gave the official eye roll of agreement, I grabbed my Ziploc bag with a cinnamon mint and my cell and was off and running.

phone in bag

Trot, trot, trot. I was cruising along, minding my own mind, trying to decide whether I should wear my navy and cream maxi dress or capris with this cutesy new top my mom just bought me – yes, deep thoughts, people – when my Runkeeper app announced in that warm, automated bank teller voice, “Five minutes, .5 miles with an average pace of 10 minutes 2 seconds per mile.”*

I wasn’t really paying attention because a 10 minute mile for today’s run was perfect. Until I turned the corner and almost collided with a woman I sort of know from either baseball or elementary school or possibly from the neighborhood. She could be a friend of a friend. I don’t know, but I knew her and she knew me and we said hello as she passed me by.

I followed her butt from a car length or so behind and started racing her in my head. I sped up a little, then worried that we’d have this awkward moment where we were running side by side. I’ll just cross the street if that happens, I told myself. I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Congratulating myself on this brilliant idea, I realized that in the minutes that had passed I was no closer to catching her than I was before. Hmm. Might have to speed up a bit more. Now I’m panting, still waiting for that moment where – oh, ha ha, here we are together – but I had made zero progress.

WTF?! I did a self-confidence check. I’m in decent shape. I’m pretty competitive. I’m not a speed demon, but I’m no slack. She didn’t even look like she was running hard, while I imagine a photo of me would reveal someone who looked like they needed medical attention.

At that moment, Runkeeper announced, “15 minutes, 1.75 miles, with an average pace of 9 minutes 17 seconds per mile.*” Well, that’s certainly faster. Yet, I’m still at least a car length – if not two – behind her.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, she trips.

I watched her fall to the ground and do a kind of half roll. My mouth dropped open, and I am definitely not thinking that this is the moment I catch up to her. I am going to make sure she is okay. I get a little closer and yell, “Are you okay?” but before I reach her, she is back up and on the move again, brushing herself off as she goes.

She doesn’t even turn around, but gives me a little half wave in acknowledgment. Within two minutes, we are back at our regular spots, her striding ahead, me lagging behind.

I’m pissed – no biggie, just a pelvic wall thing from the babies – and I’m frustrated. All my dormant competitive instincts now come alive. Oh yeah, let’s take it up a notch.

I do gain a little ground, but quickly realize as I huff and puff that I am not going to blow this house down. Besides, I wonder, what would I do if I actually caught her? I could probably only match her pace for about a minute, before giving some ridiculous little wave of triumph and slowly falling back to my rightful place behind her.

No. I was humiliated enough. I slowed and followed her swaying short shorts until I hit my block and turned.  She, of course, continued on, forever in front of me, just out of reach.

When I got home, Runkeeper clocked my fastest mile at 8:27. Not bad. I probably should run with her more often.

photo (1)

*Numbers are approximately accurate, just in case you’re checking my math. 😉

It’s the first day of school. Wish me luck!

It’s Monday morning.

The first day of school. My two oldest kids have beaten me downstairs and went straight to the Wii for their last hurrah at Power-Pros. I’m making the lunches, and while I work on auto-pilot from the years of packing lunches and snacks, the task still seems somewhat unfamiliar after a long summer.

Did I give enough snack? Did I give too much?

I err on the side of overboard and pack away. Sitting here at 6:40am, I’m tired. Throughout the summer I’ve generally gotten up at 7:30am or so, sometimes earlier to write, but now I feel weary and anxious, with a strange emptiness in my stomach like we’re catching a 5:30am flight. I worry. Do we have everything? Am I prepared? Are they prepared?

First days are always stressful I guess, so I’m happy to hear the happy shouts coming from the basement of the boys engaged in something other than worry.

It’s the first day of middle school for my oldest; a huge school with 1,200 kids, different ‘houses’ and switching classes. The middle school could eat the elementary school. In fact, it has. Its combines five elementary schools in its belly.

It’s the first day of Kindergarten for my youngest, a transition which terrifies me; the new school, the bus, the long day away, all things not only unfamiliar to my child, but unacceptable. Please, please, let him adjust easily.

And it’s the first day of third grade for my middle one, with a teacher I’m just not so sure about.

Worry. Worry. Worry.

And here’s my oldest, up from the basement, head on my lap, saying, “I don’t wanna go to middle school.”

“But it’s going to be so good, honey.” I coo. “You get to do so many new things, meet so many new people. It’s an adventure. You’re going to love it.”

My youngest just walked down from sleep, naked, but for his underwear, ran right into my lap like a warm muffin and broke down crying.

My middle one is now playing music on his iTouch, oblivious to the nerves around him.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. You can do this. You can do this.

First days are tough, but it’s an adventure. We’re going to do it. It’s going to be okay.

I’m telling them over and over. I’m telling myself.

Yet, I feel like I’m going to throw up. Probably, just like they do.

Except for my middle one, he just asked me to make him macaroni and cheese.

Too cool for school

Too cool for school

Oh my God! Where is the school bus?!!

I’m standing at the goal, yellow wiffle bat in hand, waiting for the kickball to come my way. We are engaged in a down and dirty game of Frank Ball, think soccer using wiffle bats. It’s a game my oldest made up two years ago, and no his name is not Frank.

It’s a fun game, generally. At least it is when my three boys aren’t playing it. Lately, it seems that we can’t do anything, and I mean, anything without them bickering and fighting, and one of them storming off in tears. Shout out to the middle child.

For the first time, ever, I am ready for them to go back to school. Summer has been a wild ride of baseball and baseball and uh, baseball, but the long days and buggy nights have just gone over my expiration date and like that carton of milk, now I’m sour.

We were good right up till last week, but now there’s a restlessness in the air that settled down like fog on my children. They can’t stop torturing each other. It’s like they feel the change and know summer has come to a close, and there’s nothing left to do but tease each other mercilessly and drive their mother insane.

I never felt a real desire to shove them off. It’s a new experience for me to look forward to the peace that comes with a return to structure, normal bedtimes and a less flexible schedule. They’re changing and growing in amazing and sometimes, annoying ways. And I guess, I’m changing and growing too; learning to let go a little more, and enjoying both the quality time with and without them.

People have asked me how I will spend my days now that I will soon have three children in full time school. It makes me laugh. 8:30am to 3pm is pretty easy to fill. So don’t worry about me, I think I can manage that time to myself without resorting to bonbons and daytime TV.

I smack the ball preventing a goal, but the ball hits the side of the frame resulting in bats being immediately thrown to the ground and my children screaming about whether that constitutes a goal or not.

“Touching counts! It’s a goal!”

“You’re such a cheater!”

It goes on and on, back and forth, until finally I put my own bat down and just walk in the house.

“Mommy!” They scream and run after me. “He cheated!” “Did not!” “He did!” They’re following me, pleading their cases on my wishfully deaf ears. I can’t get away from them.

Only three days, one hours and 23 minutes to go. Not that I’m counting.

Please don't make me take 3 boys to the supermarket ever again!

Why does going to the supermarket alone, sound as blissful as a massage?

Another day in paradise…

It just changes you. I don’t know whether it’s the brainwashing from years of watching the television commercials showing pristine beaches and sun drenched skies; the happy faced islanders inviting you into their secret, but the moment you arrive at your tropical destination, your eyes soften by the view, and so do your perceptions, your values, your needs. As your blood pressure drops with each gentle wave lapping to shore, you can feel yourself slowing, smiling more easily, melting into your lounge chair.

It is easy. All of a sudden, life is easy. Those urgent issues and obligations that required your attention, the laundry and errands that needed to be done, all disappear on the endless watercolor horizon.

The children in their suits, splashing, running, turn golden – even with the constant gooping on of the sunscreen, and soon you even relax about that.  Because they don’t just turn golden from the sun, they shine with health and happiness and pleasure. They are native, they are free, they are perfect. And you see it. You see their perfection in this crazy dream of a place, where you are lazy but energized, sublimely dreamy, yet more keenly awake then you’ve been in months.

You wonder why you don’t take vacations more often? Why vacations aren’t more like real life? Why we can’t somehow meld these easy feelings into our every day. Why this can’t be real life. Because it certainly feels real. It feels vibrant and full. It feels warm and intoxicating. It feels like what life should be, if life were about finding peace in your soul.

But even in a place with service so relaxed you might wind up getting dinner while waiting for your breakfast, the days roll by, and soon you have rinsed your child’s sand covered toes for the last time, and you suck in your last sweet breath of air suffused with nature’s Valium.

The colorful fish disappear with the packed snorkel gear and we see the last lazy chameleon idling across the way. It is a long trip back to real life, our eyes and our brains gradually adjusting to the harsh change of scenery; the long uncomfortable plane ride, the cranky, bickering children. The bright, unnaturally blue waters recede into the background, replaced by grey buildings and technology and people who seem more grey as well.

It is shocking yet familiar and we readily accept what we know. We pull up to our quiet street, which looks altogether different but no less beautiful than where we were, and carry exhausted children to their beds, which they curl into, smiling blissfully, like they’ve been reunited with a lost friend.

Giant bags of laundry and unpacking left for the morning. The time line that was offline is resetting. Things will be done again. But for now, there is sleep and hope for one more night on an island of dreams.

Say ahhh...