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Divided Mom Stands. United She Falls.

Shh! Don’t anyone make a move or say a word. I don’t want to scare them off by alerting them to my presence. Right now at this very minute, my three boys are in the other room – get this – playing nicely together.

I have not heard one of them yell “Stop it!”. I have not had one of them run from room to room searching me out to complain. I have not heard the heaving cries from a child flailing underneath his older brother, or the mocking taunts usually accompanied by the gyrating victory dance of “Oh yeah, I’m good, you suck, oh yeah.”   There have been no tattlers coming to tattle or whiners bemoaning their plight. The house is eerily void of the usual, “He hit me! Get off my chair! You can’t play! Leave me alone!!” banter always punctuated with a loud “MOM!” at the beginning, middle and end.

Right now, they’re all cooperation and consideration.

I don’t know what’s gotten into them.

Maybe they are still a bit shaken from earlier, when I found them jumping from the top bunk into a sea of pillows and comforters that they had pulled from the beds. Until I informed them, apparently they had no idea how dangerous this was. No one strips off all my linens unless they’re doing the laundry.

Waiting for the other shoe to fall – or hit me in the head, I tentatively peer by the archway to the living room. The floor is covered with action figures. They are very busy, setting up Skylanders, army men and Mario Bros figures; each boy with his own castle to protect.

I listen in on complicated trade negotiations.

Oldest – Can I have Hot Dog? I’ll give you 5 army men and Bowser?

Youngest – No way. I love Hot Dog, but I’ll trade you Spyro.

Oldest – What? You have Spyro too? You have all the good guys!

Oh no. Trouble.

Middle – How bout I trade you my Trigger Happy?

(Pause)

Oldest – Yeah, okay, I can do that.

Wow. Problem solved and crisis averted without parent intervention.

I love it!

Quietly I tip-toe away.

But then I realize something. If they really joined forces, I would be outnumbered in movie choices or eating out. I might have to schlepp to unwanted outings like Game Stop or the town pool if they all agreed. Oh God, I might have to get a dog. I often relied on their division to keep from doing things I didn’t want to do. Alone they were a single, sometimes whiny voice but united they were a force, their powers tripled. If they really started working together, they would be unstoppable!

Uh oh.

“Hey guys,” I call out, testing the waters, “What do you want for dinner?”

A chorus of conflict immediately responds.

“Chicken!”
“Pasta!”
“Cheeseburgers!”

Whew. Still safe.

 

Trouble..

Oh, that’s trouble.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Jumping in… one toe at a time

It was like the queen coming to tea, or somewhat more relevant to this generation, like New Direction visiting all girls school. There was cheering, wild waving and gap-toothed grins. Unbelievably, Mommy had entered the pool.

It was 90 degrees on July 4th, and we were pool squatting at a friend’s, meaning, they were on vacation and we were, uh, making sure the pool was okay. It was just us and their oasis of a yard.

pool

My kids quickly jumped in and started thrashing around like just caught fish on the deck of boat, except in water.  My husband also joined the party. In fact, he might have been the first fish in.

With the kids engaged and a parent on duty tossing them around the water, uh, supervising, I was free to read my book and relax. To the sounds of splashing and giddy laughter, I positioned myself on my friend’s comfy outdoor couch and opened my Kindle.

I was reading Me Before You. It was turning out to be the kind of book where in every spare moment, I hungrily and guilty sneak in a few finger page flips, like when I’m pretending to make lunches for the kids, or those brief minutes between giving the kids some water guns and someone crying.  Now it seemed I had a good, relaxed hour of just me and my book, without feeling like an adulterer whose husband was about to walk in. Bliss.

I was about a page in when I heard my eight year-old yell, “Look at me!”

Even though he wasn’t speaking to me, I glanced over at the pool in time to see his skinny, white body clutch his knees and cannonball.

I returned to my book, but was again distracted by my 10 year-old shouting, “My turn!”

“Me too! I can too!” I heard my five year-old squeal.

I tried to ignore them, but I couldn’t concentrate. No one expected me to participate. They knew Mommy didn’t like water or swimming, since Mommy definitely shouldn’t have seen Jaws at 5 years-old, and possibly had drowned in a prior life. No one was bothering me at all. But I was bothered.

cannonball

I placed my Kindle on the cushion. I was sitting in a pool of my own sweat anyway.

Slowly I made my way toward the pool and tentatively put a foot in the water.

My five year-old stopped mid jump, looking confused. “Mommy’s going in the pool?”

My two older boys, started cheering and chanting, “Mommy’s going in the pool!”

On doggie paddles and floats, they waded over to me. I was barely in, my anxiety rising with the water around me, deepening with each submerged step. I was in over my head, and I was only up to my knees.

They swarmed me, laughing, splashing, pulling me further in, jumping on me.  They were circling sharks and I was fresh meat.

It was kind of a blissful torture. I was so happy to be in there with them, to take part in a family moment and memory. But if they’re expecting a repeat performance anytime soon, they shouldn’t hold their breath.

"http://yeahwrite.me/challenge-117/"

Hooking up with Yeah Write! “http://yeahwrite.me/challenge-117/”

I just need a moment

“Hello, I’m home.” Howard booms, walking in after a long day’s work.

“Hi!” I yell from the kitchen, preparing dinner.

“Hello!” he yells again, louder this time, since the only response he heard was mine, and the ones he really wanted to hear had their brains attached to the computer and could not be expected to form words until we pulled the plug, or threatened to.

“Hello!” he says, in their faces and they look up at him innocently, and sweetly say, ‘Hi, Daddy” before returning to their screens.

In the kitchen, he is a storm of frustration, and he’s been home all of five minutes.

“They can’t even look up to say hi.” He complains.

“I’m saying hi,” I say and put a plate of dinner before him.

“Do you guys want to go to the park?” He yells to the other room.

A weak ‘yes’ from my oldest can be heard in reply. He has learned to say yes, although his nature usually compels him to say no. My middle son already has his glove on and stands by the door shouting at my husband to hurry.

My husband rolls his eyes in annoyance, mainly because my oldest is not as excited as he’d like him to be. Still, he’s got their attention, and shovels the food in fast so he has time to play.

“Did you have a good day?” I ask. Oh my God, I sound like a housewife. A desperate one.

He is busy eating fast, skimming the paper. “Yeah. Uh huh.” He answers absently.

It makes me want to take the old striped dishtowel I’m using to dry the pot I just cleaned from dinner and throw it at his face. Instead, I resume washing the dishes. I’ll show him… with the cleanest dishes.

With barely a word between us, he finishes his food and hurries from the table to catch whatever daylight is left to give the boys batting practice and maybe do some fielding drills. With a quick peck, a grab for water bottles and a lot of rustling and schlepping of equipment bags out the door, they are gone. The only thing left are the dishes on the table.

And my five year-old.

“Mommy!” he runs in, eyes excited and happy, while mine are watery and down cast. “Can we do drawing? Will you draw me Pokemon?”

“Okay.” I say, trying not to look at him, knowing I’m extra sensitive today for some reason, probably hormonal, and not wanting to cry in front of him.

“I love you!” He squeals and wraps his chunky arms around my waist. “I need to hug you!” He exclaims and it is the most warm, genuine gesture of affection that makes me so grateful and for some reason, even more sad.

“Go play in the other room and I’ll draw with you when I’m done.” I say, and his return smile is love.

He turns to run from the room, but stops abruptly and runs back to hug me once more before jetting off.

“Go on.” I say to the empty room, “Mommy just needs a moment.”

I laff at the Inglish langwige

“You know, I’ve been thinking…” My 10 year-old says, as we drive home from my niece’s party.

I immediately perk up. This kind of open is usually a prelude to something interesting. The last time he started a sentence that way, what followed was, “… War is stupid. Why do all those people have to fight and die? Why don’t only the two leaders fight, and then just one person has to die.”

Alert the White House. This boy is on to something.

“So,” he continues, and I wait for what’s been swirling around in that adolescent brain of his. “The letter G sounds like Juh but it really should be Guh.”

I have no idea what he’s talking about. So I say, “I have no idea what you are talking about. G makes the Guh sound.”  But then, as I said it, I totally got what he was saying.

“Oh you mean the letter G sounds like Jee, even though phonetically it makes the Guh sound, like Go. So you think the letter G should really be pronounced gee?” (Like geek, but without the k. Stay with me here, we’re in the mind of a 10 year-old.)

Through my rear view mirror I see he is nodding like a bobble head and smiling like he thinks he’s the smartest boy in the world. Which, of course, he is.

I point out that G does also sound like Jee, as in, this is genuinely confusing, and he points out that, that sound has already been covered by the letter J. Touche.

This whole thing gets us going on just how ridiculous the English language is. I honestly don’t know what people were smoking when they started putting it all down on paper, I mean parchment. So much of it is an exception to a rule, and the rules don’t even make sense.

Forget why is it, I before E, except after C…why is there ever an ie? We in the minivan don’t get it.

I mean, why isn’t Pierce  – Peerce

And what’s with CK endings? Why can’t it just be K?

As in, “It makes no fuking sense!”

I know you don’t miss the C. And speaking of C, we decided that it’s not even necessary as a letter. C just sounds like K or S. Try these on for size. Kantelope. Sentury. Nise, right?

K is for Kookie! image credit- muppet.wikia.com

K is for Kookie!
image credit- muppet.wikia.com

And what’s with the silent letters in words? Why do we need silent letters at all!? Lisen, it’s the elefant in the room, peeple! Let’s just get it out in the open.

There’s seriously so much wrong with our language, and when you’re teaching a five year-old to read, it’s glaring.

That’s why my sun (Sorry, the ‘o’ makes no sense. Plus, he really is the sun) and I decided to come up with a slightly modified version of the alphabet. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Here it is –  A B  D E F G (pronounced geek without the k ) H I J K L M N O P Qu R S T U V W (now properly pronounced WubleU) X Y (pronounced Yi not Wi) Z*

My kid is so getting kicked out of kindergarten.

 

To see my son preform the new alphabet go to my facebook page.

 

Ain’t Nothin Gonna Breaka My Stride

Downstairs making lunches for my children in the early morning hours, it was already apparent that there was something special about this day. The hard boiled eggs easily shed their skins. The peanut butter had a lovely oily sheen. I had enough vanilla yogurts to go around. Making lunches was never this enjoyable. Even waking my kids and watching them drudge themselves from their slumber took on a rose colored hue. They looked young and gorgeous. Even I didn’t look half bad as I gazed at my reflection in the bathroom mirror.  Okay, the lights were off, but whatever.

Maybe it’s because today is my birthday. I am 43. Wow, that sounds old. 43 is a woman with short hair and 10 extra pounds in mom jeans, not me. Although, I can’t say the gym clothes I’m sporting on a daily basis will be seen in Vogue anytime soon. And I have recently gained a few pounds. Crap.

Well, I certainly don’t feel 43. I mean, sometimes I feel 100, but certainly not 43. On most days, I think I settle in nicely around 31, although for the record, 27 is the age to be… not so young as to still be in some back alley throwing up your fourth margarita and accompanying nachos on your borrowed overpriced shoes, but not so mature that you limit the potential of your own possibility. But 43… Wow, again. I seem to be stuck now obsessing over the number. I can’t move on. I can’t look away. I need to get it out of my head. 43434343434343434343434343. That’s better, for some reason now all I see is 34. I’ll take it.

Something about birthdays make you feel very young and hopeful, like there’s a surprise waiting for you around every corner. They also can make you feel very old, like when you realize, there are no surprises anymore, only kids who couldn’t bother to even make you a card and a husband who didn’t take the early train home, and spent the night watching the Yankees.

But that was last year.

This year, I’m taking control of my birthday and not leaving it in the hands of amateurs. I’ve scheduled my annual physical this morning. I thought it was a positive way to start the year. After that, I’m heading straight to the gym. Then I’ve got a massage appointment, followed by lunch with friends.  I love it already.

My husband walks in the kitchen where I’m finished with the lunches and have started giving the boys breakfast. “Happy birthday, Mommy!” he booms. “Did everyone say happy birthday?” Three sleepy heads lift. A muted chorus of unenthusiastic “Happy birthday, Mommy” dutifully follows.

“That’s it?” My husband bellows. “That’s all Mommy gets?” That woke them. Immediately, three bodies attack me with hugs viscous enough to suffocate a small animal. I beam. That’s more like it.

I’m totally feeling the glow, all warm and happy. I add pick up ice cream cake to today’s to-do list. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but I’m old enough to know not to put my happiness in anyone’s hands besides my own. It’s a gift.

I wish... this was true. Wait, no, then i'd be pregnant. :)

I wish. 😉

 

One…Two… Three! Get Out Of The Pool!

I was taking my time, shuffling through my suitcase, trying to figure out my strategy. Two of my three boys and my husband were already at the hotel pool for some night swimming. My middle son, Michael, and I were milking it. He hadn’t decided if he wanted to have a stomach ache, and I hadn’t figured out how to get out of going to the pool.

I usually never even bring a suit, since I have a general dislike of all things water – pools, beaches, my body in a bathing suit. But, for some reason, on the same mini-vacation where I had forgotten to get a pedicure or bring a razor, I had shoved a suit in my bag last minute. Once Michael declared himself fit to swim, I had to make a choice – to wear or not to wear. After some mental tennis, I decided against the suit, instead throwing on a cover-up dress to give the illusion of pool ready, without showing any reality.

Once there, I immediately remembered why I hate indoor pools; the chemical smell, the contrived heat, my children playing in a tank of wet doom. I could never find any true comfort, just an agitated impatience. I sat next to my husband and checked my phone. It was already after 8pm. That was the gift of night swimming. It didn’t last too long.

We rotated our eyes from boy to boy to boy; one a good swimmer, one decent and one new. It was monkey in the middle. One. Two. Three. One – My oldest, playing with a blue ball in the middle of the pool; pushing it under water, then watching it shoot up out of the water and retrieving it. Two – Just a bobbing blonde head and orange goggles, doggie paddling toward the far edge. Three – Right in front of us by the stairs, practicing his swimming.

“Mommy, watch this!” he squealed, his dark curls matted against his head, his dark eyes alight with excitement. Dramatically, he climbed up two of the steps, readying himself, and with one mischievous look back at me, jumped.

That’s when the lights went out.  Complete and utter darkness engulfed the pool area.

I stood, both immediately and in slow motion, surrounded by blackness and the unreal echo of water and people freaking out. Mute and drowning in fear, I reached for my husband. My worst nightmare was this second. My children were in that pool. We needed to jump in. Now.

But before we could, the lights flicked back on.

My heart pounded wildly, and my head whipped around. One – Still in the center of the pool. Two – Hanging on to the edge. Three – On the steps.

The whole thing lasted maybe five seconds. Probably less. I took a deep breath, relief filling my lungs. Then, finding my voice, screamed for my kids to get out of the water.

I knew going to the pool was a mistake.

When I'm on duty, there's only daytime swimming

Yup, you’re cute. Nope, not coming in.