Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"G'day, Govna! Pip, pip Cheer-i-o!"

Summer 2010, I love you. You are mostly awesome, but slightly exhausting.

Isn't summer meant for relaxing?

Not that I'm complaining. I'm just saying.

Between baseball games and practices, swimming at the pool, playing outside, going for walks, and my children wanting to be doing something every second of every day, I am exhausted. Don't even get me started on the state of dishabille my house is in. The other day, I found myself wishing I could just throw all four of my children into a large playpen for a few hours, just like when they were babies, so I could get a few tasks accomplished. Great idea, huh? I could toss a few scraps of food in there, a few Nintendo DS', and I might even get a chance to visit with my old friends, "The Real Housewives".

Alas, there is no such invention. Instead I came up with this.



I set up our tent in the basement, and voila. Instant "me" time. Not that my "me" time involved massages, pedicures or sipping Cosmos. It was Clare + a mop + Windex + Mr. Clean Magic Eraser + paper towels + my vacuum cleaner = good times.

The tent was such a hit that I had to keep poking my head down the basement to make sure everyone was still accounted for, because it got too quiet. Statistically speaking at my house, seven-and-a-half times out of ten, too quiet = SOMEBODY IS ABOUT TO GET INTO BIG TROUBLE.

But nothing. Everyone was getting along fabulously.

Be still my beating heart.

I was temporarily impressed with my own genius, as the tent was a means to corral my children peacefully, entertain them, and get my own tasks accomplished all at the same time.

Basically, I got my four little dears to sit down, shut up and chill for a few hours.

I'm a huge fan of the "chilling out" part of this story. Me likey.

But hey y'all, a new phrase was born in the tent, and I thought I would give you the heads-up, just in case you happen to run into me and my brood somewhere in public. If you see any of my children, even my sweet little girl, toss their pinky finger in the air, hoist an imaginary monocle to their eyeball, and utter the phrase, "Pip, pip Cheer-i-o," in a fake British accent, RUN.

Just run like heck. Far, far away.

"Pip, pip Cheer-i-o," is their new favorite code phrase for, "I'm going to inflict a world of hurt on your nasal passages, whether you like it or not."

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

I have no idea where my children come up with this stuff.

Really.

Your children do weird stuff like this too.

Aaaaanndd....this is the part where you nod your head and say, "Uh-huh Clare! Right on! My kids totally have code phrases for bodily functions too! Sing it sister! Loud and proud!"

Right?

Never a dull moment, people. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You know it's baseball season when...

Ahhh...the joys of summer.

You know it's baseball season when you find one of these on your kitchen table.



Really? On my kitchen table? Where we eat? Food?

Seriously.

If you have no idea what the above picture is, then you must not have a boy.

Boys.

Please tell me this is universal and my boys are not the only ones in the world with this disgusting habit.

As you may recall, I have five sisters and ZERO brothers, so all of these boy details are still relatively new to me. I am learning more every day. In fact, I wrote about this same issue right around the same time last year, so clearly, it's not going away.

Houston, we have a problem.

Perhaps I am the disgusting one for taking a picture of it. Perhaps you find a picture of a protective cup tasteless and crass. But this job is sometimes tasteless and crass. And let's face it. You don't always come to this blog for the classy talk, now do you? You come here to relate.

Please tell me you can relate to this.

We keep it real here, and by real, I mean I take pictures of cups on the kitchen table. Not the kind you drink from, of course.

I promise you, this is exactly as I found it. This photograph is so much better than having to paint a picture for you with words. With one click, a protective cup became a Kodak moment.

Yep, this is where I found it.

It was right here.

Just chillin' on my kitchen table.

Where we eat our meals.

Over the last decade as a mother, I have found that in order to maintain my sanity, I have lowered my standards and expectations a bit for what I want in a clean house. I'm okay with a little clutter, and yes, I realize that disarray is part of the job.

But ew, you guys.

Ewww.

I'm just trying to raise civilized human beings.

Ironically, my boys usually run through the house before their baseball games to search for their protective gear because it is missing. And why can't they find it? Why is it not in their drawer where it's supposed to be?

That's a good question, isn't it?

The other day, one of my sons told me rather indignantly that someone "came into our house and stole his cup" when he searched everywhere and couldn't find it.

Let that sink in for a second.

Yeah. Someone STOLE his cup, but decided to leave the rest of our valuables alone.

Sneaky robber.

Once again, I remind myself that if this is my biggest complaint in this job, then life is pretty good.

It could be worse. I could have found it in the silverware drawer.

Now that would be gross.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The push and the pull of childhood.

At the ripe old age of 9-years old, my firstborn child has informed me that my mission in life is to treat him like a baby.

Scratch that. He's nine. AND A HALF.

Much better.

But he is my baby. Always has been, always will be.

All his friends get to ride their bikes to the pond by themselves. Or so he tells me. Their mothers don't treat them like babies. Their mothers treat them like the ultra-sophisticated 8 and 9-year old boys that they are.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

I tell him I don't care what all his friends do. They have their own mothers, who have their own rules. The retaining pond down the road is no place for young boys. One slip of the foot and tragedy. Besides, we have a huge backyard, plenty of toys, and a basketball hoop out front. Isn't that good enough?

"But Mom, I would never fall in the pond. I know what I'm doing."

End of discussion. I will never be moved on this topic. Ever.

I tell myself that I am not a helicopter mom. I do not hover.

At least I try very hard not to hover.

But these are my babies. My job is to get them safely from childhood to adulthood. I use my instincts the best I can.

The first sleepover he was invited to was during his second grade year. I was not ready to say yes. I did not want to say yes. But I said yes because I know the family and they are good people. I had to trust. I had to let him go a bit. I drilled him on our rules. No violent video games. No wandering around the neighborhood. He was ecstatic.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

This boy, my oldest child, is taller than average for his age. Undoubtedly, he will be taller than Bill someday. As he is on the cusp of the fourth grade, he is almost 5 feet tall, long and lean and weighs about 80 pounds. I look at one of his arms and I realize that it is about equal to his entire body's length at birth. I am 5 feet, 5 inches tall. The day will come sooner rather than later that I will no longer be able to look down to talk to him. I will have to look up to see his face.

But he thinks nothing of curling that long, lean frame of his onto the couch, right by my side for a snuggle as we watch a show together. Rather than the Nick Jr., of his toddler years, we now watch the Food Network.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

I ask him about his day. I ask him about school. I ask him about his friends. I ask him about that sticky situation he encountered last week with a friend who was being bullied.

He grunts. "Mom, you just ask so many questions. You just don't let stuff go. Girls talk too much."

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

A few weeks later, he sidles up to me in the family room and says he is bored. Sounding more like my own mother every day, I respond, thinking that it will inspire him out of his so-called boredom, "If you're so bored, why don't I give you a job to do?" To my surprise, however, his eyes light up, and he asks, "Can you teach me how to use the carpet cleaner?"

And so I do. His chest puffs up with pride as he runs the machine across the floor, noticing the clean lines in the carpet forming. Later, he snaps at his younger brother, "Keep your dirty shoes off my just-cleaned carpet!"

I am training him well.

"Thanks Mom, for letting me do that. That was fun. Do you have any other fun jobs? I like cleaning with you."

Fun jobs? Is there such a thing?

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

As the two of us sat at the table eating lunch together an hour later, I said nothing. Apparently, I ask too many questions. It was he who spoke first. He asked me what kind of chores I did when I was growing up. He asked what Grammy and Poppa were like when they were younger. He wanted to know what I was like as a kid.

I embellished for dramatic purpose, of course, but I told him stories of his grandparents and his aunts when we were younger, and not scattered in different states, but all living under the same roof.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

The next evening we went to the pool. As I sat by the steps in the shallow end with my two youngest children, he wanted nothing to do with the shallow end. Mom and the little kids cramp his big, bad, 9-year old style. Therefore, he is all about the diving board and the deep end of the pool. I am rarely relaxed as my eyes continually dart about the pool area as I watch my two youngest children splash with each other, my second oldest son who loves going down the slide, and of course, my most independent child, Mr. Cool, King of the Diving Board.

He is pushing me away. He is craving his independence.

Then he is hurt. He surfaces from the pool, and he has banged his mouth on the concrete edge, and there is blood. Lots of it. Whenever a child needs to be taken to the ER, I will be the one to do it. Bill and I predetermined that years ago. My husband knows that I have to be in control of these types of situations. If I have to sit at home and wait for a phone call or an update from the ER, I will lose it.

I stay calm as we drive to the hospital. I am no stranger to this rodeo. He will most likely need stitches. Been there, done that. I put my arm around him in the waiting room, and I kiss his forehead. He lets me. He does not roll his eyes or say, "Moooommmm, stop kissing me in public."

As the doctor readies his mouth for stitches, my boy grabs my hand and squeezes. He does not let go.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

It is not easy, but I am slowly letting him have his independence. He is a good kid, and I am learning to trust him, and trust that he will make good decisions, even when I'm not watching. Even when he screws up, I will be there.

When he thinks I am not watching, I catch him doing things like this.


I hate having to let them go, little by little.

But fortunately for me, he always lets me kiss him good night. For now.

He is pulling me in. He still needs his mommy.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oh that's just the sound of my heartstrings being tugged. Hard.

My daughter, with every fiber of her 32 pound, 3-year old being, wants a dog.

It is a fact that she reminds us of several times a day. Last week alone, she asked us, "Can I get a puppy, pleeeeeeease?" an average of 287 times.

Ish.

Dare I use the word, "obsession"?

I dare.

At her age, we have already started giving her the "stranger danger" talk. You know, the talk about not talking to strangers, not going near strangers, and not taking anything from strangers. However, we have now had to add the "stranger dog" talk to the mix because without fail, if she sees a dog in public, or walking down our street with its owner, she will drop whatever she is doing, run over to it, and pet it. She will coo as she strokes the dog, "Hi Puppy! Hi Puppy! You like me!"

Thankfully, we have not crossed paths with a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull yet. I shudder to think of it.

She has an assortment of dog stuffed animals that she likes to sleep with, play with, strap a leash on and pull around the house. Most kids beg for trips to the ice cream store. My daughter begs for us to take her to the pet store, so we can watch the dogs play with each other through the big glass window at "Doggie Day Care".

But last Thursday evening, my daughter took her obsession to a new high. Or low. However you want to look at it.

The same thing happens almost every night. I spend an hour or more preparing dinner, only to have my children scarf it down in two seconds flat and ask, "May I be excused? I wanna go outside/play a video game/watch TV." Last Thursday night was no exception. After a homemade dinner of sweet and sour chicken with brown rice and eggrolls, our children vanished to parts unknown in the house. As Bill and I sat at the table, rehashing our day and enjoying our meal without having to inhale it like our children do, we saw our daughter pulling something and saying, "Come on puppy, come on!"

At first, we didn't think much of it. You know, with her aforementioned dog obsession and all.

Until we saw what it was that she was pulling as her "dog".

This.



It's a plug, you guys. A plug. For a keyboard.

A plug.

Have you ever seen anything more pathetic?

We are mean parents. Why is it that don't we have a dog?

Oh yeah. Because I just finished potty training my fourth and final child. I have cleaned up enough poo messes in the last ten years and I'm just not ready for the kind that comes from a four-legged being.

I'm. just. not. ready.

Yet.

There will definitely come a day when this family owns a dog. That is a promise that I can keep. I am a dog lover, and I am of the belief that my children need a dog. At some point. Just not yet.

After having four kids in six years, I need to slow down and catch my breath.

Back to the doggy plug.

Our jaws dropped as we saw that our daughter had turned a simple AC plug into her latest pet. Safety issues aside, there is nothing snuggly about this heavy black box.

Bill treaded lightly as he said, "Wow, honey! What's that?"

"It's my doggy, Daddy!"

"Oh really!" I continued, "And what's your doggy's name?"

"Lulu." she replied without hesitation.

Lulu. I like it. Remind me to add it to the short list of names if we get a girl dog.

"Lulu? That's a cute name!" Bill said. Then he bent down to the floor and petted the plug.

He. petted. the. plug.

I love this man.

Then he said as he pointed to the two prongs on the plug, "Are these Lulu's teeth?"

Incredulous, my daughter looked at my husband and scoffed, "No, Daddy! Silly! Those are Lulu's feet!"

Oh. Shame on us for not recognizing a fake dog's feet when we see them.

A dog. We will get one someday.

She's wearing us down.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Aaaaaahhhh. Summer.

Summer of 2010, I have high expectations and big plans for you.

Big plans.

There are many things that I want to pack into these precious, fleeting days, right up until the moment the school bell rings again at 8:00 a.m. on August 25, 2010.

Our family of six is taking a vacation to Washington D.C., and I have an itinerary to plan.

My basement storage area is crying out to be organized.

My two older boys have their assorted day camps to attend, such as basketball camp, golf camp, and Cub Scout camp.

My two younger children must hone their breaststroke and their doggy paddling at swim lessons.

We will cheer for our sons at their many baseball games from now through July.

There is a stack of novels on my nightstand beckoning to be read. Each one is a trashy romance novel. Nothing highbrow allowed.

My green thumb must be satiated as I plant tomato seeds in the "Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter" that I have yet to buy, but is on my list.

We want to travel out-of-town to visit family.

I will be "the good mom" and take my children to the zoo at least twice this summer. Or at least I will try.

Our home office is a slight wreck. My paper shredder will not be denied.

The master bath needs a fresh coat of paint.

The kids' closets are a mess, and screaming to be organized. Again.

I am sure your list is similar to mine. You have a thousand things to do, and summer is when you want to get it done. The days are longer. You have more energy. You have more free time.

But here it is, Monday of the first full week of summer vacation, and my motivation is sorely lacking. Summer is here, and all I want to do is this.


I just had to take the kids to a free concert in the park in our town.

And of course, we had to do this today.



And I'm a big sucker for this.



Happy Summer. Isn't it a thrill?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Even a pair of stinky shoes tells a story.

"Take a picture of my shoes, Mom," my 8-year old son said today as he slid his school tennis shoes off his feet and dropped them on the floor of our mudroom.

At first, my brain wasn't registering what he was asking me to do. I was slightly irritated and all I could see was yet another pair of shoes where they didn't belong. On the floor. Instead of in the closet.

I cannot trip over another pair of shoes. I will lose it.

But he continued, and begged, "Mooooommmmm, take a picture of my shoes!"

"Honey, why would I want to take a picture of your shoes?"

"Because 'member on the first day of school, you took a picture of our shoes all shiny and white? Now look at them."

As I looked down at the floor at the offensive sneakers, torn, dirty, and literally falling apart at the seams, I shelved my irritation and recognized beauty.


Yes, I said beauty.

I know, I know. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Stay with me on this one, people.

Today was the last day of school, and my children were triumphant as they threw their backpacks down for the last time until August 25, 2010. Triumph is not an emotion I often see at the end of the school day. The emotions I usually see are happy, sad, exhausted, cranky, and hungry, among others, but true looks of triumph are few and far between.

Except for today.

These stinky shoes, whose proper home is now a garbage can, instead of the closet, represent triumph. My son saw this, and through him, I was able to see it.

My children attend Catholic school, and as a part of the school uniform, they are required to wear white, or mostly white tennis shoes. Therefore, they wear the exact same shoes for the entire 180-day school year. These shoes have seen every single day of the second grade. Every gym class. Every recess. Every test. Every time he timidly got up in front of the class to speak. Every time he walked solemnly with his class to Mass. Every step as he walked to introduce himself to someone and made a new friend. Every climb up the monkey bars. Every trip to the drinking fountain. Every time he absentmindedly shuffled his feet on the floor while deep in thought on a math test.

Every. moment. of. the. entire. school. year.

The school year, which, coincidentally, happened to fly by way too fast. The way I see it, on a sunny day at the end of August, 2009, I dropped my 7 and 8-year old sons off at school for the first day of a fresh, new school year. My boys had backpacks full of unspoiled school supplies, and an eagerness to start the second and third grades, respectively.

Then suddenly I turned around, and it is June.

And now, here I am with 8 and 9-year old sons who have yet another school year under their belts, and the wisdom that goes with it. They are proud. They have bragging rights.

I am proud.

My oldest son had white tennis shoes which unfortunately did not make it to the end of the school year. The sole fell of one of them on a cold, rainy day in March. I remember the rain because he complained the whole car ride home about how wet his socks were where the majority of the sole had once been.

Here are both pairs of shoes, in all their perfect, blindingly white glory on the first day of school in August, 2009.

I prefer the dirtier pair. They tell a much better story.

Happy Summer Vacation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gum. A three-letter word for pure evil.

This, right here, is good times.



Especially in 90-degree heat.

Gum. On my seat belt buckle and clasp.

My 3-year old daughter, thanks to me, has discovered gum, and all the wonderful properties of it. Like how gum sticks to most surfaces. And how fun it is to shove gum down into the seat belt clasp. And how Mom won't discover it until she sits in the passenger seat of the minivan, and tries to buckle up. And how, once Mom manages to get the belt to "click", the gum gets shoved further down the clasp. And how Mommy looks so funny trying to undo the seat belt, but the gum is making that nearly impossible to do so, because it sticks.

Gum sticks.

Funny mommy! Look at her yelling. Her face is all red.

In essence, this is all my fault. Shame on me.

I am a dumbass.

But don't judge me. You are more than welcome to recommend another way to entertain a 3-year old girl stuck in a minivan with me day after day, while we drive her brothers to school or practices, and as we run errands. She is quite the trouper, but she has her limits. There are only so many DVDs that she wants to watch, or books she wants to read. The Magna-Doodle has lost its luster. Gum is exciting. Gum keeps her occupied as she fervently tries to blow a bubble, but her little lips fail. Apparently, however, gum keeps her occupied in more ways than one. 

As you can see.

When I discovered the gum in the seat belt clasp Sunday morning as we were leaving for church, I yelled, "WHO. DID. THIS?"

My daughter slapped her hands over her eyes, and said, "I didn't do ANY-FING, Mommy!"

Aha. Guilty.

I wagged my finger in her face and said, "You are DONE with gum. DONE. NO MORE!"

I soon realized that was stupid, and I would be making a liar of myself if I let that threat stand. Gum is my friend. It gets me through an afternoon at the mall with her. Gum relieves her boredom, if only for a few moments. As a 3-year old, I know the day will come when she no longer finds little things like gum fascinating. All too soon I will hear from her, "Meh. Gum? That's lame."

I continued by saying, "Well...um...you are DONE with gum for now. Until I say! Yeah. That's right! Until I decide!"

Because I'm fierce like that.

If my minivan could talk, it would have many stories to tell, including this one. But mostly, I think if it could talk, it would start out by saying, "Bitch, please. Can you just try and keep me clean? It's bad enough that I smell like flatulence and sweaty sports equipment, and I have crushed cracker crumbs and granola bars wedged between my seats, but now this? Gum?"

I guess you could say that my minivan is my boo.

Another day, another mess to clean. Although, I say with a great sense of perspective that it's really not that bad.

Gum? I can deal.