Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Because we all could use a little magic.

He knows.

I just know he knows.

He knows that I know.

He knows that I know that he knows.

At least I think he knows.

How could he not know? He is 11-years old, after all, and logic has set into his growing brain.

He hasn't spoken of his knowledge, however.

It is The Unspoken topic in our home.

The 9-year old is showing signs that he is starting to doubt, but he is a child that believes in the impossible. He is a dreamer. He has said to me on more than one occasion that he will cure cancer one day, so who am I to crush the dreams of a believer like that?

I will not.

But when it comes to the 11-year old, this knowledge of the non-existence of the fat man in the red suit who allegedly soars through the sky on Christmas Eve, in a sleigh pulled by eight magical, flying reindeer remains unspoken on his lips.

It is The Santa Knowledge.

Every child figures out the logic at some point, and when it came to my pragmatic, responsible oldest child, I thought it would be a lightbulb moment. I pictured us sitting down and having a conversation. I pictured a nod, and moment of, "Shhh...now you know, but please don't ruin the magic for your siblings."

Maybe that day will still come, but for now, I know he knows, but he doesn't speak of The Knowing.

And of course, I cannot speak of The Santa Knowledge with him.

Because what if?

What if he doesn't know?

Even though I just know he knows.

I just know it.

Perhaps it is because he is the oldest child. Perhaps he still doubts The Santa Knowledge, and wants to believe, because if he doesn't believe, and there really is a Santa, he will receive a big ol' pile of underwear and socks on Christmas morning. Perhaps he is just humoring us, his parents.

Perhaps he wants to keep the magic alive.

Perhaps he says nothing about The Knowledge, because knowing something and believing in something are two very different things.

Innocence is difficult thing to harness, because one moment you have it, and then within a matter of seconds, it can be gone.

Just like that.

One peek behind the curtain of life, and you become jaded, and knowledgeable.

Knowledge is power, yes, but knowledge is sometimes also a huge bummer.

Reality, as they say, bites.

Buzzkill alert, kiddos! Santa isn't real. It's all smoke and mirrors. It's your sneaky parents, who, by the way, have been lying to you since birth about the whole entire thing.

But isn't it less about lying and more about the embellishment of the truth? Because, after all, Santa is real.

I just know it.

Sure, he might not be an actual person that exists today, but don't all of us believers have a bit of Santa in  our hearts this time of year?

Santa is good. Santa is kind. Santa is love. Santa helps others. Santa wants you to be nice and not naughty. Santa gives freely without expecting anything in return.

Santa is magic.

And what's wrong with believing in a little bit of magic?

What's wrong with believing in something you can't see, you can't feel, you can't touch?

Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

This belief in Santa, or the spirit of Santa, makes this season that much more magical. It's why some of us put elves on our shelves and make them do silly things. Because we are adults. Jaded, seen-it-all, know-it-all adults. It is why we wait in long lines at the mall to sit on the lap of a Santa impostor. We do it all because we want to try to recapture the magic of the days before we had The Santa Knowledge, and we thought the whole thing was real.

Before the boom was lowered. The Santa Knowledge boom.

Otherwise, it would just be another dreary, rainy Monday at the end of November. But when there is a sneaky elf in your house to find, it becomes a Magical Monday, as you discover that he has dyed your milk red and green. (Thank you, Pinterest for this idea.)


Otherwise, it would just be another dreary, rainy Tuesday at the end of November. But when there is a sneaky elf in your house to find, it become a Magical Tuesday, as you discover him atop the stove, having roasted a marshmallow over a tealight after you went to sleep. (Thank you to my friends Bridget and Katie for this idea!)


Otherwise, the roads and streets and night look boring and plain. But, starting at the end of November and throughout December, they twinkle and shine with millions of light, and look downright..well... magical.

Otherwise, most of us would just go about our days, thinking of only ourselves and our schedules. But at Christmas, we go out of our way to be kind. We write extra checks to charity. We drop money into red buckets staffed by bell ringers in Santa hats. We organize food drives. We tell ourselves that we are going to carry this spirit all year long.

Otherwise, we go to our mailboxes and find a pile of bills, catalogs, and credit card offers. But at Christmastime, we are excited to open our mailboxes and find cards and pictures from family and friends old and new, near and far.

All because of Christmas.

When the time comes, I hope that I have the tact and the right words to drop The Santa Knowledge on each of my children. But who really wants to drop The Santa Knowledge on anyone?

I don't.

Because who says his spirit isn't alive and well in 2011?

I know it is.

I just know it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Penn State Talk.

This morning, my 11-year old sports fanatic, and avid fan of ESPN Sportscenter, came into the kitchen as I was making lunches before school. He plopped down on a barstool at the counter and as he was pouring the milk into his bowl of Cheerios, he said to me, "Guess what?!? Penn State fired Joe Paterno last night! Can you believe it?!?" The butter knife that I was holding in my right hand stopped mid-spread and hovered over the bread, leaving a trail of grape jelly in its wake, as I knew The Question was next.

"Yep. I heard that on the news this morning," I cautiously replied, bracing myself for The Question that inevitably followed.

My boy paused as if deep in thought and continued, "So Mom. Why exactly did Joe Paterno get fired?"

For a moment, I said nothing.

In parenting, you only get these teachable moments sporadically, and you have the chance to say the right thing. You can lie and flub your way through it, or you can go with the truth.

Unfortunately, the truth isn't always rainbows and unicorns.

Sometimes the truth is awful. And dirty. And heinous. And deplorable. And just about every adjective that you can think of for a horrible, life-changing act against children. Then you look at your 11-year old innocent boy, who knows nothing of the horribleness that lies within the hearts and minds of some people. The closest contact he has had with pure evil is a fictional character in a Darth Vader costume on his television screen.

He waits for your answer eagerly, and your brain scrambles for the words, especially because it is 7:02 a.m., and your brain struggles for any coherent thought at 7:02 a.m., let alone a coherent thought and talk about child abuse.

I looked at him and began. "Well, there was this guy, Jerry Sandusky, who used to be an assistant coach to Joe Paterno. And everybody thought he was this great guy, because he was a good coach, and all his players loved him. They also thought he was a great guy because he started a charity to help needy children. But it turned out that he was a very, VERY bad man. He hurt little boys. He abused them. He touched their private parts. And you know that it's NEVER, EVER okay to let anyone besides a doctor, when Mom or Dad is there, touch your private parts, right?"

"Duh, Mom. I know that. You only told me that like a billion times."

"I know you knew that. Anyway, even though most people didn't know it, Jerry Sandusky was a very, very bad man who hurt boys, and it turned out that Joe Paterno and some of his staff knew all about it. At first, Joe Paterno did the right thing and reported it to one of his bosses, but they didn't do anything about it. So what should Joe have done instead?"

My boy thought about it for a minute and responded, "Well, I guess he should have gone to the police."

"Exactly. He should have gone to the police, or even someone higher. He should have NOT stopped until someone listened to him. He should have made sure that Jerry Sandusky, even if he was a friend of his, should have been fired and reported as a child abuser. He should have made sure that Jerry went to jail, because it is NEVER, EVER okay to hurt children."

"But he didn't?"

"No. He didn't."

"But did Joe Paterno abuse boys, Mom?"

"Absolutely not. Joe Paterno is not a child abuser, and he never abused the boys. But when he didn't protect them, he hurt them. Adults should ALWAYS protect children, and never hurt them, or allow them to be hurt."

My 9-year old son, who I thought was deeply engrossed in his waffle and the Harry Potter book he was reading, perked up his head.

"Well, why didn't the boys just tell someone?" he asked, very matter-of-factly.

"I don't know, dude. Some of them did tell, but no one listened. Maybe some of them didn't have anyone to tell. Maybe they were scared. Maybe they didn't understand it. Maybe Jerry told them that if they told anyone about it he would hurt them or their parents. Or he would call them liars. Who knows? But you DO know that if anyone EVER tells you to keep a secret from Dad and I, you never should, right? Daddy and I would NEVER be mad at you if you told us something that scared or worried you. Bad guys only say that to make kids scared so they won't tell."

"Duh, Mom. You always tell us that. We would always tell you something."

"I know, dudes."

I continued, "You know, guys, Joe Paterno is not a bad man. But look at what happened to him, and all the other people that got fired, all because they didn't do more to help those kids." My brain scrambled for an analogy that would make it all relevant to their pre-adolescent brains, without having to dwell on the scary, cringe-worthy topic of child sexual abuse.

"Now, what if one of your friends kept bullying a little kid on the playground, and you saw him do it, but you never said anything? What if you thought, 'Well, I'm not the one being the bully, so I should just let it go,' and you kept on letting the little kid get bullied and hurt without telling a teacher? Would that be wrong?"

They both replied quickly, "Yeah."

Then my 11-year old son continued with a question in his voice as he said, "Mom?" and I wasn't sure what more I could say about the topic.

I hate this topic.

It is horrible that parents even have to talk to their kids about this topic.

With hesitation in my voice, I responded, "Yeah?"

"So when's my first basketball practice?"

And just like that, we moved on.

Perhaps we were all a little less innocent than at 7:01 a.m., but we moved on nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word Up Wednesday: Candy Coma.

My kids talked a big game on Halloween.

They were determined to get candy.

Lots of candy.

Piles of candy.

Pounds and pounds of candy.

"CANDY!!!!" they yelled many times in the days leading up to Halloween.

"MORE CANDY!!!!" they yelled, even after they went to a Halloween event, and got only a small amount.

They were not satisfied.

Two chocolate bars and a Skittles?

"WE WANT MORE!!!" they said.

Were they greedy about it?

Of course.

They were greedy, little, candy monsters.

But they are kids. Kids on Halloween.

It kind of goes with the territory.

In fact, if they had looked at me and said, "Why no thank you, dear mother. We would not like any more  candy. We are perfectly satisfied with our humble little pile of chocolate pieces, Mother dear. That will be enough for our little tummies, what with not wanting to spoil our healthy meal of grilled chicken and asparagus. In fact, if you could please put more asparagus on our plates, that would be better than any candy you could send our way. After all, we are not interested in rotting our teeth clear out of our heads, therefore causing you and Father dear to have to spend so much in dental bills that our dentist can buy a new Lamborghini. No, Mother dear. That will be enough," I would have thought something was wrong.

No.

Not in my house.

Such a conversation would be about ten different kinds of ridiculous.

Instead, my shorties donned their costumes, grabbed their pillowcases with much gusto, and went on a mission.

A candy hunting mission.

They were proud to report that it was a success.

Although, I don't know if I would use the word, "success" when describing their candy haul.

Ridiculous?

Disgusting?

Nauseating?

Toothache-inducing?

Actually, I had no words.

To date, we have never had such a candy haul in our home. In past years, we have always been able to fit our candy into two large bowls. Being slightly anal retentive and OCD when it comes to my candy, I would divide into chocolate candy, and "other", which are lollipops, Skittles, Smarties, Starburst, Tootsie Rolls, and etcetera.

This year? It took me a half hour to sort through all the candy and put it into bowls.

A HALF HOUR.

TO DIVIDE CANDY.

Then, I told the shorties that they would have to donate a pound and a half of their candy to the troops. (Thank you, Noodles and Company candy swap on November 6!)

You would have thought that I asked them to chop off their left arms.

"A POUND AND A HALF, MOM?!?! A POUND AND A HALF?!?!"

No, shorties. I did not stutter. I said a pound and a half, and I meant a pound and a half.

Now fork over the candy. It's for the troops.

"Listen up," I said. "This is no time to be selfish. You could give away half of this candy and still have bowls and bowls of it. Also? Without the troops you would not even have the freedom to roam our streets safely to beg for candy."

What's parenting without throwing in a little guilt once in awhile?

They had nothing more to say, and went to work digging through the bowls looking for candy for the troops. I pulled out our food scale and they measure out EXACTLY 1-1/2 lbs. each.

My kids...ahem...generously them every single Almond Joy in the bowls, which was about 25 in all.

Sorry troops. God Bless the USA. Thanks for all you do to protect our freedoms.

But everybody knows Almond Joys are disgusting.

I was happy to report that the shorties also gave them piles of coveted candy as well.

And this mom gave them every single Pixie Stick in the pile.

Really, Pixie Sticks? I'm a fun mom and all, but really? Pure sugar poured into paper tubes?

I have my limits.

Foolishly, I thought that donating 6 pounds of candy (1-1/2 lbs. from my four kids) would cull the pile greatly.

Unfortunately, it did not.

This is the finished product. (The Ziploc bags are the candy to be donated.)


The word, "redonkulous" comes to mind.

Even though it's a fake word.

Because I have no words.

My children should not be surprised if they find Halloween candy in their Easter baskets next year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Love Story.

Love is a funny thing.

Love starts out all beautiful, all shiny, all wonderful.

Love starts out new.

Love starts out perfect.

Then, as time goes by, love gets tarnished. Love changes. Love isn't so shiny anymore. Love becomes routine. Life takes over, and love, while still wonderful, becomes comfortable.

Love becomes flawed.

But somehow, love, real love, despite its flaws, remains perfect.

Because real love is perfectly imperfect.

Love comes in many forms.

Love is a friend.

Love is a dog.

Love is a grandparent.

Love is a mother.

Love is a father.

Love is a husband.

Love is a wife.

Love is a favorite stuffed animal.

Meet Pinky.


Pinky is my daughter's best friend.

Pinky has been in our lives roughly the same amount of time that our beautiful daughter has, which is four-and-a-half years. Pinky was a gift from my sister-in-law, who is also lovingly known as, "Aunt Wee" to my children. But we received many pink stuffed animals once we gave birth to our fourth child, and only girl, so we had no reason to believe that this stuffed animal would be any more special than the rest.

After all, a stuffed animal is a stuffed animal is a stuffed animal, right?

One would think.

But one would be wrong.

Despite the fact that Pinky is a pink pig, and I have yet to meet an actual pig with soft pink fur, Pinky was made of the fluffiest, most silky, cozy fur one could ever hope for in a stuffed animal.

Pinky put all other stuffed animals to shame. When it came to snuggling, there was no contest.

Pinky always won.

My girl began to prefer, "Pink Pig" (as Bill and I very UNoriginally named her at first) over all her other stuffed animals, and she would cry if the pig did not make it into her crib at night. When I would check on her again, long after she fell asleep, I would often find her in the same position, snoring peacefully, one arm thrown around the neck of her pink best friend who was snuggled in tightly to her little body.

Bliss.

As my daughter learned to speak, she shortened her friend's name simply to, "Pinky", which was much more fitting. I expected her to outgrow her friend, as children are fickle and often find new favorite toys, but her love for Pinky remained.

Pinky has seen a lot of life and part of the USA, having gone on vacations with us, journeys to visit family, and trips to school. Pinky has been to the grocery store. Pinky has been to the mall.

Pinky, thanks to my daughter, has seen life.

At preschool conferences last week, as the teacher showed me examples of how my daughter has progressed in school, she handed me a paper on which my daughter had given her details about her life. On the question that asked, "Who is your best friend?" it was clear that my girl could not choose. She answered, "My family and Pinky."

I wasn't the least bit surprised.

Last night, I read my daughter a bedtime story and tucked her covers in tightly under her chin. As we chatted about her day, I got a good look at Pinky, who was lying next to her, also tucked under the covers.

To say that Pinky is actually a bright pastel pink anymore is a stretch, what with her being mostly a drab shade of gray, with a side of pink. Her fur is no longer silky smooth and fluffy, but dingy, nappy and slightly matted down in places. Her stuffing is not as robust as it was in her heyday.

I shudder to think of the germs that Pinky carries, deep within her fur.

Also? Pinky smells. Pinky smells like spit and drool.

I said to my girl, "Sweetie, Pinky's looking kinda old and dirty. Maybe I should put her in the washing machine."

"NOOOO!" my daughter shouted back at me immediately as she hugged her friend tightly.

"Why not?" I asked.

"BECAUSE. You will ruin her."

"No, I don't think she'll ruin. She'll just get cleaner."

"But why? She's not really dirty."

"Yes, she is. And she kinda smells, don't you think?"

My little girl looked at me like she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She hugged Pinky tighter and she sniffed her friend's head. Then she spoke confidently. "No, Mom. Pinky doesn't smell at all. I like how Pinky smells. She smells like Pinky."

It was then that I realized that my girl actually loved this stuffed toy. She cherished it and did not see its flaws. She did not think of it as the smelly, germ-filled thing that I did.

She looked at Pinky and saw love.

Perfect love.

I know that someday she will grow up and forget about this stuffed toy. I know that it will eventually sit in a dark bin in the basement, long forgotten, until she is an adult and rediscovers her long lost, old friend. I know that she will have other best friends. Other loves. Other confidantes.

But for now, it is Pinky.

Pinky and my girl against the world.

And far be it for me to change that.

Pinky will remain as she is. Unwashed, smelly and the same.

Absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eat your heart out, Hallmark.

My 9-year old son locked himself in our office last night.

Unless you are Mommy or Daddy, locking yourself in the office is a big no-no in our house, what with the computer being in the office.

When I went to unlock the door, I was greeted by a sign on the door. On it was scrawled in pencil, "KEEP OUT, DAD!!! SIGNED, (name of shortie)"

Instantly, I knew I had nothing to worry about, because my husband Bill's birthday was the next day. When I asked my son in a loud whisper what he was up to, he said, "SHHHH, Mom! I'm making a card for Dad."

How sweet. A card for Dad.

By all means, continue your card-making, oh son of mine.

He emerged from the office a short while later with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. He was carrying a green envelope in his hand, and as he saw me, he whispered, "I got it! It's a card for Dad tomorrow!"

Today is Bill's birthday.

My 9-year old son came bounding down the stairs this morning two at a time, carrying the same green envelope. My kids had a group card for their Dad, but this was a special one that my son made all on his own.

My boy was proud of his work.

He beamed as he handed the card to Bill with a hug and smile and a, "Happy Birthday, Dad!"

My husband slid the card from its envelope. He was greeted with an adorable, hand-drawn picture of a cake, several sparkler candles, the number 37, and many, many exclamation points.



Handmade cards are the best, aren't they?

As Bill opened the card, my son stood at his side, still beaming.

My boy was proud of his work.

It was quite a moment.

Bill read the words aloud to all of us, as we convened in the kitchen for breakfast and our usual morning rush. He began reading the words our son had written."What describes Dad."

He paused, patted our son on the back and said, "Thanks! This is such a nice card!"

Bill continued reading the words that described him.

"Dude. Awesome. Dude."

How sweet! The words that my son had written spelled out the word, "Dad"!

It tugged at my heartstrings. I looked over at my son, who was grinning ear to ear. He began to chuckle quietly to himself because he was so happy.

My boy was proud of his work.

Bill kept reading the other words that described him. "Fun! Awesome! Radical! Too Cool! Extra Funny! Dude!"

It was a precious moment.

Just precious.

Such wonderful words like, "Radical" came from my son!

My boy.

It touched my heart, I tell you.

As I looked over at my son, I was confused to see that his smile and small chuckles had turned into full-blown laughter. He was doubled over.

Hmmm. My shortie was up to something. I just knew it.

It was then that my husband realized that all the wonderful words that my son used to describe him were arranged a certain way. They were all arranged so that the first letter of the word stood out. When listed together, they spelled, "D.A.D.F.A.R.T.E.D."

Dad farted.

As in, "Happy Birthday, oh Daddio. You know I think you're awesome, and thanks for always playing with us, and providing for us, and clothing us, and selflessly sacrificing time and money so that we can have the great life we live. We feel so loved. But Dad? You farted."

Boys.

So very, very obsessed with bodily functions.

Who else but a little boy could manage to link birthdays and farting?

My boy was proud of his work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Football and jewelry. They have so much in common.

As you may know, three out of my four children are of the male variety.

As I have also mentioned a time or thrice, I am the second oldest of six girls.

We have zero-point-zero brothers.

Needless to say, before I married a wonderful man 13 years ago, and gave birth to one boy, then another, and another, the male species was somewhat of a mystery to me.

It still is, to some extent.

Living in a house with seven women (plus my dad, of course) was quite different than my current living situation of four boys (including my husband) and two girls (my daughter and I).

Quite different.

Sure, we played sports when we were younger, but we were more interested in Barbies, and dolls, and books, and clothes, and hair, and eventually, make-up.

More specifically, unlike in my current living situation, you would have never, ever, EVER found yourself tripping over a stray football in the hallway.

Check that. Actually, one of our Ken dolls might have been a football player with a tiny plastic football. But you know how Ken rolls. I'm sure his uniform was blinged out, and he was always way more concerned with the state of his perfect coif instead of scoring touchdowns.

Fast forward a few decades, and I am now the mother to three boys (and a girl) who, among many their many interests, love sports. My oldest son, in particular, is passionate about anything that involves a ball and some type of running in a open area. Fortunately for his love of sports, he is also very athletic, and not only enjoys watching sports, but playing them as well.

Over the years, I have been schooled in the ins and outs of various sports. I have learned what a force out is in baseball. What a full count is. What a balk is. Why pitchers pitch from the wind-up or the stretch. I have learned about technical fouls in basketball. What constitutes man-to-man defense versus zone defense. What a double dribble is. When to yell, "Get the rebound!"

And then, there is football.

Football.

No, not European soccer, but true-blue, American football.

With a pigskin.

Who knew that football was so confusing? Who knew that there were so many rules? So many plays?

Who knew?

Well, I'm sure most of you knew.

But I?

Did not know.

My oldest son started playing tackle football in first grade. He loved it. I loved it. It was fun to cheer for him and his team, and get a basic understanding of what exactly we were all cheering about. Of course I have always understood the basic premise of football: Two teams. Each trying to score a touchdown. A touchdown is worth 6 points. The team with possession of the ball is called the offense. They get four tries to move the ball down the field, and each try is called a, "down". If they move the ball ten yards, it goes back to being a first down, and they get four more chances. Unless the other team intercepts the ball. Then the other team gets to be offense.

Duh. To the uh.

I'm not stupid.

I get all that.

Except when I don't.

Except when I'm standing on the sidelines cheering for my boy and his team, and one of those yellow flags goes down on the ground and I'm all, "Huh? Holding? Face-masking? False starting?" Or everyone else is cheering and I'm all, "What just happened? Why are we cheering? I just see a pile of bodies on 30-yard line! Whuh?"

You know what is particularly fun? And not at all embarrassing?

When you think something good just went down for your team, and you start cheering, but then you realize that no one else on your side is cheering, so you immediately stop cheering and turn it in a cough, like you totally meant to cough instead, but a cheer escaped? And you think, "Whuh? I thought that was a first down? But no? Oh. The other team intercepted it? Stop cheering, Clare. STOP. CHEERING."

And then you stop cheering.

And you look around and hope that no one saw you cheering.

And you cough once more for good measure.

Because that was totally a cough that escaped your throat before. NOT a cheer.

That is your story, and you are sticking to it.

My almost-11-year old son plays Center for his football team. As you know, the Center snaps the ball to the Quarterback, and blocks on the offensive line. My son is also the Punter. On the defensive line, he plays the Left End.

It is not enough that I, The Sports Illiterate One, had to learn the ins and outs and how to cheer for the one position he plays. I had to learn how to cheer for the three different positions that he plays. I had to learn when to yell, "Good blocking!" or "Great tackle!" or "Awesome punt!" lest I look like a total fool.

Because only a fool would yell the wrong thing.

Like I have.

Guilty.

I am a work in progress.

On Sunday afternoon, as my boy was playing the defensive line, he saw that the quarterback passed it to the...um...fullback? tailback? halfback? um...Guy Who Runs The Ball After The Quarterback Hands It To Him? and was going in for a, "reverse play" (Please don't ask me to explain what this is, for I fear that I will come up tragically short on accurate details.) and before the "guy" could advance any further, or gain any yardage, (Look at me with the fancy football talk!) my son tackled him to the ground. I cheered and yelled, "YEAH! AWESOME TACKLE! WOOOOO!"

Which, of course, was the right thing to say.

My son's team lost anyway, but after the game I made sure to compliment him on a few of his great plays. "That was a great tackle you had in the last quarter!" I said as I put my arm around him, as he was still wearing his bulky shoulder pads.

"Thanks!" he replied. "It was a 15-yard sack!"

A what-yard what?

"Well, technically, it wasn't a sack. But it was a 15-yard tackle!"

Don't ask. Some things are better left unknown.

But I couldn't let it go. After all, I have several years ahead of me of cheering for various sports.

Mama better know what she's talking 'bout.

Later that evening, my son came to my bedroom to say goodnight to me, and I was folding laundry. I said, "Dude, today you were talking about your 15-yard sack-slash-tackle. What did you mean by that? Did it mean that you stopped him from going 15-yards?"

"No, Mom. I stopped him 15-yards behind the original line of scrimmage, which moved the play to a new line of scrimmage. But 15 yards back."

"Umm-hmm. So you stopped him from going 15 yards forward?"

"NO. MOM. I said that I stopped him 15 yards BEHIND the line of scrimmage, before he could advance the ball, therefore putting the new line of scrimmage BACK an additional 15 yards."

"So you mean you stopped him from going 15 yards?"

"MOM. That's not what I said."

It's not? Whuh?

Something was not clicking in my brain, and I fervently wanted to understand.

At that moment, I realized that our relationship had changed. I used to know it all. I used to be the smartest person in his life. He used to look up at me with his bright eyes and chubby cheeks and ask, "Why, Mommy? Why?" And he would believe anything I would tell him.

In his world, I used to be The All Knowing.

Somewhere along the line, however, he started knowing things I don't know. He started understanding things that I don't understand. He started knowing about lines of scrimmage and 15-yard sacks.

And I was left behind.

He looked at me, and I could tell that he was feeling frustrated that I just wasn't understanding what he was trying to tell me about the play that I had so innocently complimented. My boy, my 11-year old sports fanatic, took a deep breath and said calmly, "All right, Mom. First of all, I originally called it a 15-yard sack. It wasn't a sack. It was just a tackle. You can only call it a sack if you tackle the Quarterback. Okay?'

"Yep, got that."

I watched his eyes dart around the room as he tried to explain the play. He looked at a pile of jewelry on my nightstand and smiled. He arranged it to form the offensive line and began, "See this blue necklace? That's the line of scrimmage, even though the actual line of scrimmage is invisible."


"Yep, got that."

"And these small silver hoops back to back? The front one is the Center. The back one is the Quarterback. The pink stones on either side of the Center are the Guards. Then, the medium hoops are the Tackles. The big hoops on the end are the Ends. The other fancy hoops behind the Quarterback are the Tailback or Fullback, but they can move around. Got it?"

"Got it."

"So the small hoop behind the Center, the Quarterback, passed it to one of the fancy hoops, who was about to run with the ball. But I stopped the fancy hoop all the way back here, which was 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and he wasn't able to advance at all."

"Okay, got it."

"Now, the blue necklace, the line of scrimmage, has to scoot back 15 yards to begin the play again. And then they start the play all over. Got it?"

"Oh, dude! I totally get it. Why didn't you just say it like that in the first place?"

"Mommmmm. I did."

"Oh. Yeah. Right. You did. But now? I understand it better."

Football. It's much easier and prettier when explained with jewelry.

Men? Throw some diamond studs into that offensive line display, and you will have our rapt attention.

Touchdown.

Monday, September 12, 2011

There are no limits to my wimpiness.

What has two thumbs and is a big wimp?

This girl. 

Yes, I have birthed four children into this world without hesitation. Yes, I have played, "What's That Smell?" in the minivan many times without fear. Yes, I have endured the wrath of shortie projectile vomit aimed at my direction without flinching. Yes, I once tasted an indescribably disgusting concoction that my children cooked up one fine day in our kitchen that they simply titled, "Mystery Soup". Yes, once a week I confidently stride into the bathroom my three sons share, with various cleaning solutions and snap on my yellow Playtex gloves, open the lid of the toilet, unsure, but unafraid of what awaits me. Yes, I have bravely held a crying child in my lap many times as I watched a vaccination needle pierce their cherubic skin. Yes, I have stuck my head under the kitchen sink and cleaned out a clogged, slimy pipe.

I am not always a wimp.

But everyone has their kryptonite.

Bugs are my kryptonite. Not all bugs. Big bugs, to be exact.

The larger the bug, the harder I fall. Large wood spiders? Forget it.

Bring out the defibrillator.

This is most definitely not the first time I have blogged about my fear of icky, disgusting bugs. It probably won't be the last. 

There are many reasons why I married my husband. He is hilarious, kind, compassionate, ambitious, and patient. 

He can also kill a bug like it's nobody's business. 

I have already told you how he is also known as The Fly Hunter. But this blog entry isn't about him and his mad skills.

I love him. However, I hate that I need a man to kill bugs for me.

It's so last millennium for a girl to shriek, "ACK! A BUG!" jump up on a chair and yell, "HONEY! QUICK! KILL IT FOR ME!"

I hate this about myself. But I can't help it. I am what I am.

Today, as I was cooking dinner, I heard a gasp coming from my 9-year old son, who was in the front hall. 

"Mom. You do NOT want to see this. You do NOT. Stay away from here! You do NOT want to see this!" he urged me. 

Well then. Now I have to see this. 

I took three steps toward the dining room, and I hadn't even reached the front hall when I saw it. 

Gah. 

A horsefly.

A huge horsefly.

A ginormous horsefly.

A horsefly that juices on 'roids nightly.

This horsefly.


Don't let the picture fool you, friends. He was enormous.

I'm about 97.6% positive that he growled at me.

Of course, I did what any sane, normal, calm person would do.

I screamed.

I shrieked.

I cried out, "AAAAACCCCKKKKK!!!"

I yelled something that sounded like, "GAAAAAHHHH!!!"

Then I ran.

You know. Like a normal person.

My 9-year old son just stood there staring, as I'm sure he thought, "Um, woman? Are you done with your borderline psychotic episode yet? Because it's a horsefly. Not an actual horse that flies. A HORSE. FLY."

Instead he bravely said, "Mom! I'll get rid of it for you!"

To which I quickly replied, "OH NO YOU WILL NOT! NOT MY BABY!"

It was very Debra Winger-slash-Merryl Streep of me.

Hollywood? Call me. I have free time every day between 12:30 and 2:30 in between preschool drop off and elementary school pick-up.

Anyway.

Less than a minute later, my cell phone rang and it was my husband, Bill. As I answered, his familiar voice said, "Hey honey, I'm on my way home."

"WHAT?!? YOU'RE JUST LEAVING NOW?!? BUT I NEED YOU NOW! HORSEFLY!"

"Um, Clare? What do you mean, 'Are you just leaving now?' It's only 5:15. "

"HORSEFLY! NOOOOO!"

"What? Horsefly?" Bill asked. Then, he laughed at me.

He laughed at me.

Nice. I'm about to be eaten alive by a monster in my front hall. He's about to come home to just a carcass and a pair of flip flops where his wife used to be. Yet he laughs.

"It's not funny!" I asserted. "There is a HUGE horsefly in the front hall and I need you to kill him! Now!"

"But I'm driving, Clare."

"Are you any closer?!?"

"Um, I'm about a half mile further than when we started this conversation."

Great.

"Oooookay, Clare. Just watch it. It's not going anywhere. And close the bedroom doors so he doesn't go into our rooms and have horsefly babies," Bill said.

Horsefly babies? That hadn't crossed my mind. There will be no horsefly babies in this house. Not on my watch.

Once again, I did what any sane, normal, calm person would do.

I stood far back, zoomed in with my camera phone, took a picture of it, and made it my Facebook status.

You know. Like normal folk.

I figured if I stared it down, it wouldn't go anywhere; therefore, it wouldn't attack me or my babies.

Do horseflies even attack?

Whatevs.

My boy offered again to, "get rid of it" for me, like the brave soul that he is, but I wouldn't let him. My little soldier was not ready for field duty yet.

I heard the kitchen stove timer beeping, and I had to leave my horsefly-watching post temporarily.

"Watch him for me," I instructed my son.

It was less than five seconds later that I heard a scream coming from the front hall. "HE'S DOWN MY SHIRT! HE'S DOWN MY SHIRT!"my boy cried.

"WHAT?!?! THE HORSEFLY?!?! TAKE IT OFF! TAKE IT OFF!" I shrieked like a banshee instructed him through my fear.

As he threw his shirt down to the ground, there was no sign of the horsefly.

Great. The Secretariat of flies is loose in Case de We Don't Need No Stinkin' Horseflies In This House.

Just. Great.

I hugged my boy and made sure he was okay as he cried. "How did it get in your shirt, anyway?" I asked. He sniffled and responded, "I was trying to whap him for you and he bit me!"

"You were trying to whap him for me?"

"Yeah! You were scared, mom!"

Normally, I wouldn't think that my child attempting to kill a living thing for me was sweet. All God's creatures great and small, right?

But this? Touched my heart.

He took a bullet for me.

A horsefly bullet.

A horsefly bullet that left a small, but painful bite on his chest.

Stupid horsefly.

We eventually found the horsefly right here, on the railing leading upstairs, where he stayed until Bill came home a few minutes later and painlessly ended his journey with a resounding, "WHAP" of today's newspaper.


After my children gathered around to study the enormous creature splattered among the newsprint, my husband allowed my valiant boy the privilege of the ceremonial, "Flushing the Horsefly Down the Toilet" because of his bravery and protection of his mother.

My boy. My hero.

Sidenote: Horsefly flying in the heavens, I'm sorry for hating you so much. I'm sorry that your lovely horsefly life ended today. I'm sorry that you flew into my open screen door instead of into the home of a horsefly-loving person. But I can't help it. Bugs creep me out. It's not you, it's me. Godspeed to you, Horsefly. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Epic failure. Kind of.

A few weeks ago, one of my hilarious Facebook friends called for a proper burial of the overused word, "epic".

I wholeheartedly agree with her.

In the most epic of epic ways.

But not before I sneak the word into my lastest blog entry, of course, because there is no other way to describe how I feel.

Friends, I have failed.

Epically failed.

Last year, on my 36th birthday, I challenged myself to a 365-day photo project. I wanted to take at least one picture a day in the life of our family. I wanted to capture the random. The mundane. The minutiae. The small moments. The candid shots of the life we live all together in this home that will one day be just memories.

I started out strong, and my camera was my constant companion. The first picture I took was one of my daughter who didn't know I was watching her as she excitedly laid out all her new Pull-Ups just so she could see the gloriousness that is the Disney princesses.


The next day, my shorties found a toad in the mulch as they were doing a scavenger hunt in the yard. I couldn't care less about the toad. However, I am a sucker for a picture of my kids doing something all together, and of course, I can't resist a picture of a precious, chubby toddler hand.


Then there was the day that my oldest son begged my husband to let him mow the lawn for the first time. Bill was easily persuaded.


We took a family walk through a forest preserve on a sunny fall day. This was also the day that my children wore matching red t-shirts with the words, "Thing 1", "Thing 2", " Thing 3", and "Thing 4" and we took our Christmas card picture.


Who can resist a picture of three agreeable shorties getting along, courtesy of a Nintendo DS, sitting on the steps leading to the playroom? I could not.


Then, there are those days that you just need to photograph a Friday evening at wine o'clock, because you put your shorties to bed before you remembered to take a picture.

Because it was just one of those days.


I couldn't resist capturing the simple, paradoxical beauty in Christmas lights trapped in ice during a winter ice storm that simultaneously sparkled on tree branches, yet threatened to bring down power lines and trapped us in our house for two days in a row.


There were many day, many special moments, and many pictures in between all of these pictures of course, and my momentum was high. I was rarely without my small, pocket-sized camera.

Until.

Life got busy, as it has a tendency to do around here.

Priorities shifted.

365 Challenges were largely forgotten.

Sigh.

I did remember to pick up my camera many times, but no longer on a daily basis. Over the last year, I took well more than 365 pictures, but there is not one for every day of the last year.

But I will not beat myself up for it.

Such is life. And this life? Is a wonderful one. Chaos and all.

Ironically, on the day before my 37th birthday recently, I looked out my kitchen window and saw my beloved shorties playing with a kite that we found for $2.00 in the bargain bin at our grocery store. I ran to find my camera and captured the moment. Clearly, I am a novice photographer at best, but I love this picture because it shows pure joy on my children's faces.



After all, any day that you can capture four pieces of your heart on film is a good day.

Epic fail?

Maybe not so much.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A bird's gotta do what a bird's gotta do.

There is a bird.

Let's call it a sparrow. (I am not an ornithologist.)

There is an adorable little sparrow who chose my home to build her nest.

Specifically, she chose the gutter above my front porch overhang in which to build her nest.

This gutter.



The bird? Adorable. The nest? Not so adorable.

Starting at the end of May, and ending a few weeks later, I would find twigs and branches all over my porch, left over from the construction project taking place in the overhang of my porch. The top of my front porch is about 15 to 20 feet off the ground, so the branches had even farther to fall, which caused them to blow and land all over the steps and threshold of my front door.

Annoying.

But I allowed nature to take its course.

After all, these things happen.

A bird's gotta do what a bird's gotta do.

Once the nest was built, and the amount of debris on my porch lessened, I thought the worst had passed. However, I soon discovered the "treasures" that my sparrow friend had left all over my porch.

They were messy, icky, disgusting treasures that had to be hosed off the porch every few days.

Apparently? This bird liked to eat. A lot.

But a bird's gotta do what a bird's gotta do.

Weeks passed.

Hose down and sweep. Sweep and hose down.

And hose down.

Again.

Then, the other day, I stepped out my front door and saw a baby sparrow, scared and shaking, sitting on my porch, not far from a planter. The nest was in my planter.




Have I mentioned that I am not an ornithologist?

Baby humans? I can handle. Baby birds? I have no idea.

A few hours later, I opened my front door and stepped back onto my front porch to check on the bird.

And then there were two.



Two terrified, trembling birds, sat on my porch, hovering together for warmth.

The nest had fallen about 15 to 20 feet, and landed in the inadvertent cushion of my planter. When I first checked, I hadn't seen the other bird in the planter, but it must have jumped or fallen out, and found the comforting warmth of his/her brother/sister bird.

There was no sign of the mother bird.

I had once heard that if a human touches a baby bird, the mother bird would smell the human scent, and reject the birds.

I could not let that happen.

As I often ask myself several times a week, What Would Google Do?

I pulled my iPhone out of the pocket of my shorts, tapped the Google search app, and typed in the words, "What do I do if a baby bird falls out of its nest?"

Google, being the all-knowing, wise sage that she is, told me in her most confident tone that the whole notion of the mother bird rejecting the baby bird is an old wives' tale.

It's total hooey, friends.

Then Google went on to say that when a nest falls, the mother bird will be nearby, watching. Which she was. My oldest son and I spotted her across the street, perched on the top of my neighbor's garage, watching us like a hawk.

Pun intended.

Google continued by telling us to pick up the nest, put it in a nearby tree or bush, pick up the baby bird(s) and place them in the nest for the mother to find them.

Google say what?

Have I mentioned that I don't touch birds? That the thought of picking one up - especially a young'in - creeps me out? What with all the wings flapping, and the beaks pecking, and the claws scratching?

Um, no.

Just no, Googs.

I have my limits.

Picking up a screaming, clawing, flailing toddler? Yes. Picking up pecking, clawing, flapping baby bird? No.

Fortunately, I discovered that's what husbands are for.

Among other things.

Bill had absolutely no fear or reservation as he donned a pair of garden gloves, picked up the nest, placed it on top of a low shrub, then picked up one baby bird, placed him in it, and went back to retrieve the sibling.

Truthfully? It was kind of hot. The only thing hotter would have been if he put his arm out and a large falcon came to rest on it.

Rrrrrawr.

I digress.

The next morning we checked on the family, and the mother bird had found her babies and was caring for them. The second sibling, who, had scampered off in fear into a distant shrub at least 15 feet away when Bill had tried to place it in the nest the previous evening, had amazingly managed to find its mother and sibling. The baby birds were huddled together for warmth as the mother watched over them. It was a sight to behold. The family had abandoned their nest for the protection and privacy of a taller bush. I tried to snap a picture of the gorgeousness of it all, but the mother bird flapped her wings at me a few times in warning, and I backed off.

It was at that moment that I found myself completely relating to a sparrow. She is a mother, protecting her young, slowly introducing them to the world.

A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I know who I am.


The Fun Mom looks around her messy house, surrounded by piles of laundry beckoning to be cleaned, bills waiting to be paid, and dishes to be washed. Instead of succumbing to the chores, she shrugs her shoulders and thinks to herself, “Later. Summer isn't forever.” Then she shouts to her kids, “Let's go to the pool!”

The Cranky Mom feels the familiar tug of a whiny toddler pulling on her leg, begging to be carried. Again. She first ignores, and then she snaps, “Go play! Mommy is busy!” She doesn't mean these words, but she is cranky and overwhelmed, and the Cranky Mom is perpetually in need of a break.

The Overwhelmed Mom is packing for a family road trip, but instead of soaking in the joy of the impending vacation, she yells at her kids to get their stuff together. She moans over piles of laundry that need to be folded and packed. She strives to get the house clean before departing. She breathes fire if a child happens to casually ask her, “Um...Mom? My Nintendo DS is lost. Can you find it for me?”

The Joyful Mom relishes the ordinary. She knows that despite the chaos and the hard days, these precious moments with her children will not last forever. She looks at her family and her heart fills with joy, because life is good. She knows that she is exactly where she is supposed to be at in this moment in time.

The Selfish Mom buys a few boxes of the expensive, organic crackers and granola bars just for herself, and she stores them on the top shelf of the pantry, out of the reach of the grabby hands of her children. She knows that in a family, things are shared, but she this is one time that she is not willing to share. She wants something that belongs only to her.

The Selfless Mom buys a few boxes of the more expensive crackers and granola bars just for herself, and stores them on the top shelf of the pantry, out of the reach of the grabby hands of her children. But she knows her son is worried about a test at school that day, and she wants to make him smile. She writes, "Good luck! I love you! Love, Mom" on a napkin, and tucks it into his lunch box, along with one of "her" coveted granola bars. After all, in a family, things are shared.

The Martyr Mom looks around the messy kitchen and starts filling the dishwasher for the third time in one day. She looks out the window at her husband and children, who are running around the backyard and playing a pick-up game of baseball, and thinks to herself, “Sigh. Poor me. Everyone else gets to have all the fun while I do all the work around here.” She doesn't ask for help, however, because she would rather whine about the unfairness of the situation and carry all the problems of the world on her shoulders.

The Tough Love Mom knows that it is a beautiful, sunny day, and she would love nothing more than to let her children run around outside with their friends for a few hours before dinner. Alas, homework must be completed, and math facts must be practiced, so for now, the outside must wait. Her children whine and cry about her decree, but she sticks to it. She is tough, but loving.

The Nagging Mom asks her children to kindly hang up their backpacks and their coats. Then she asks them again. THEN SHE ASKS THEM AGAIN. THEN SHE ASKS THEM AGAIN. And repeat. She is a broken record that nobody seems to hear.

The Silly Mom cranks up the music on the iPod on the speakers in the kitchen and yells to her family, “DANCE PARTY TIME!” as The Black Eyed Peas remind her to get it started. She gets low. She backs it up. She walks it out. She pops it. She locks it. She shakes what her mama gave her. And her family joins in the fun.

The Worrier Mom bites down on her lip in apprehension after her son begs to ride his bike around the block. She knows her neighborhood is safe. She knows her son is responsible. But he is only 6 years old, and a neighborhood block feels like miles to her. She has visions of men in vans with tinted windows stopping her boy and asking him to help find a lost puppy. She wants to tell her boy, "No," and keep him in her protective fold forever. But she sees the longing independence in his eyes, and instead, a "Yes, but be careful!" escapes her lips. She sits on the front porch and watches her heart ride off down the street and disappear out of sight. She waits. And waits. And waits. In what seems like an eternity later, she spots a smiling 6-year old pedaling toward her. Her fears are allayed. For now.

The Overprotective Mom checks her teenage daughter's Facebook account. She gets to know her son's friends. She asks questions. She requires that bedroom doors remain unlocked. She gets to know the parents of her children's friends. She asks questions. She knows that she is not a friend to her children; rather, she is the mother. She limits computer access for her children. She tells her tweener, "Absolutely not, you may NOT have a cell phone." She asks questions. She knows when to say, "Yes," but she is never afraid to tell her child, "No." She asks questions.

The Patient Mom sits quietly on her 4-year old daughter's bed as her daughter attempts to read her first book. The words struggle to come out of her small mouth as she sounds them out with hesitation: “...aaaannnd...the...dogggg....r..rr...rrr....ran...” The Patient Mom strokes her daughter's hair and offers gentle encouragement, not caring or noticing that it takes her sweet girl almost 10 minutes to read one page. Learning takes time, and the Patient Mom has plenty of it.

The Regretful Mom tosses and turns in her bed one night, unable to sleep because of the negative thoughts and regret that plague her overloaded brain. She remembers the moment during the day when she tripped over yet another shoe that her children forgetfully left on the floor of the kitchen. Again. Overcome with frustration, she shouted at her children, “SERIOUSLY?!? SERIOUSLY?!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU KIDS?!? HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO PUT. YOUR. SHOES. AWAY. ?!?! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!?!” Her diatribe continues as she scolds her children on their lack of responsibility, and she yells a little too loudly. She notices the fallen look in their eyes, but plows forward, leaving crying children in her wake. The regret of her tirade washes over her as she lays down to sleep, but sleep doesn't come.

The Proud Mom looks at her children in amazement and thinks, “How is it possible that my husband and I made such amazing human beings?” Her heart soars when she thinks about the people her children are becoming. She knows that despite the tough days and the self-doubt, she is doing something wonderfully right.

The Persistent Mom takes her son to the doctor because she is worried about the behavioral problems that he has been having. The doctor tells her not to worry, and that it's probably just a phase. But her instincts tell her she that it's not. His struggles have been going on for too long for it to be a phase. Her instincts tell her that something is up with her boy, and even if she has to switch doctors, she will find him the help that he needs. She is her child's best advocate.

The Appreciative Mom is on Facebook one evening when she comes across a page for a 6-year old boy suffering from neuroblastoma. His situation is grave, but his parents remain hopeful and prayerful. She offers up two silent prayers: one for the boy and his family, and another in thanksgiving that her own children are healthy. She is mindful of the preciousness of life and health and how fleeting it can be. Suddenly the messy playroom doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

The Busy Mom feels like she sees the inside of her minivan more than she sees the inside of her home. She daydreams of leisurely home-cooked meals with her family gathered around the table as she drives her children to and from yet another practice or lesson.

The Sentimental Mom chokes up when her 6-year old walks through the kindergarten doors by himself. He turns around and waves at her with a huge smile on his face, and not a single tear in his eye. His stature is confident, she knows that he is excited to begin this adventure. He no longer needs her with him every second of every day, and he is craving the independence that a full day at school will bring. The Sentimental Mom wonders at what point her newborn baby turned into this walking, talking, beautiful, independent human being.

Over the years, I have come to realize that I am the Fun Mom. The Cranky Mom. The Overwhelmed Mom. The Joyful Mom. The Selfish Mom. The Selfless Mom. The Martyr Mom. The Nagging Mom. The Tough Love Mom. The Silly Mom. The Worrier Mom. The Overprotective Mom. The Patient Mom. The Regretful Mom. The Proud Mom. The Persistent Mom. The Appreciative Mom. The Busy Mom. The Sentimental Mom.

I am okay with this.

I own it.

I am what I am.

I am all of these, rolled into one person that my children simply call, "Mom".

What I am not?

The Perfect Mom.

The Perfect Mom does not live here. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh, it's just me, Mom, the Destroyer of Fun.

I am a dream crusher.

A crusher of dreams, if you will.

A destroyer of fun.

But sometimes it just has to be done.

Some dreams are easier to crush than others.

There was the time I crushed a dream with twelve little words: "No, a pile of Halloween candy would not make an awesome dinner."

Or the time I was all, "Well, just because your brother can bark and get down on all fours, it does not mean he is your pet dog, and no, you cannot put a leash on him."

Or, "I understand that it would be fun to see your sister's Barbie dolls hanging upside down from the ceiling fan and swinging in the wind, but no, you may not have duct tape, string, and the kitchen ladder."

Or, "No, you cannot set up an obstacle course in the basement and charge the neighbor kids a $5.00 admission fee."

I can understand that in the eyes of a shortie, these are all fun dreams. They are a platter of fun, with a side of joy, a salad of tomfoolery, all covered with a large helping of awesome sauce.

But no.

Just no.

Then there are the dreams that I do not crush. For example, my 9-year old son dreams of being a professional golfer-slash-Major League baseball player-slash-research doctor who cures all forms of cancer-slash-video game programmer.

And? In his spare time, he is going to invent iPhone apps.

Also, he informs me that he's going to have a wife and two children. When I asked him why he is so decisive about having two children, he answered, "Well, because if I had four children, then that would just be soooooo busy, Mom. Duh."

Ahem.

Dream the impossible dream, buddy. Far be it for me to crush that stable full of awesome. After all, I hope that for his sake, he keeps dreaming big, and one of those dreams actually comes true for him. (I'm partial to the whole curing-all-forms-of-cancer dream that he has. Moms can dream too.) 

Back to me.

And how I am The Dream Crusher-slash-Destroyer of Fun.

Scratch that.

I am The Corn Dream Crusher.

All four of my children recently attended a wonderful vacation Bible school at our church and came home with seeds planted in small biodegradable containers. "Mom! We're going to be farmers!" they informed me with much enthusiasm as they showed me the seeds they planted, still in their containers, about 3 inches to the left of our front porch. They didn't tell me they were going to plant them, of course, but once I saw it, I had absolutely no problem. It's dirt! It's fun! It's educational! They feel productive! They are not fighting! They have a common goal!

Also? It's not like those seeds will ever grow, right?

How could they grow? During the planting process, the kids had sloshed out half the dirt from the containers, and I'm assuming, most of the seeds. To say that they were, "planted" is a stretch. The containers were mostly just embedded in the mulch next to a row of boxwoods. How could they possibly grow into anything resembling a stalk of corn?

Ahem.


Three out of the four containers are flourishing, friends.

With a flourish.

And within a matter of weeks, I will be able to open my front door and get whacked in the eyeball with a corn husk. Or is it cob?

Whatever. I wouldn't know, because I am not a farmer. I'm just a suburban mom trying to do my thing.

And now? I have a row of corn flourishing inches from my front door, and four happy children who do not want the Destroyer of Fun anywhere near their agricultural wonder.

It's not that I don't want them to be mini farmers who grow their own corn. I am supportive of their goals.

Kind of.

I have suggested moving the corn to a more proper spot in the backyard, an impromptu cornfield if you will, but my suggestion was met with a chorus of shouts and a tear or two, and a, "NO! YOU'RE GONNA KILL ALL THE CORN! LEAVE IT WHERE IT IS! YOU NEVER LET US HAVE ANY FUN!"

Sigh. Playing the role of the bad guy wearies me.

My son pleaded with me that he was actually doing me, "a ginormous favor" by growing our own corn. "Think of all the money you will save mom!"

Yeah. It might save me a WHOLE $2.00, because that's how much 10 cobs of corn cost on a recent trip to the grocery store. Thanks, kids. Now I can upgrade myself to the venti-sized drink at Starbucks.

My heart does not want to crush their latest dream-slash-goal-slash-project.

It was the light in their eyes that got me. They had me at, "Mom! But it's real corn!"

So the corn will stay put for now, and as of this morning they informed me that it has reached 8 inches in height.

Dream uncrushed.

For now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Christmas. Smack dab in the middle of summer.

Baby, it's hot outside.

I am quite sure that the last thing on your mind right now is holly and ivy, Nativity scenes, Christmas carols, Santa, snowdrifts, twinkle lights, and the smell of pine indoors.

Unless you are me.

Today is July 25, also known as Christmas in July, a fun family tradition started years ago by my parents. I have since adapted it for my own family, and it has become a favorite with my own children.

For one night out of the summer, we play Christmas carols on my iPod, hand out silly, inexpensive gifts, and eat a Christmas in July dinner together. The menus over the years have been varied, but always enjoyable. One year I cooked a full turkey and all the sides, and another year we ordered Chinese take-out because it was just TOO. DARN. HOT.

Whereas Christmas in December is a more formal occasion, at Christmas in July, anything goes.

Bring it. The zanier the better.

One of my pre-lit artificial trees in an urn is pulled out of its basement storage area, and will make an appearance in the corner of our kitchen eating area. Santa hats are sometimes donned with shorts and flip-flops. Many years ago, when I was home from college one summer, my parents hosted a family Christmas in July, and Bill, my then-boyfriend, was invited. He had no idea what to expect, but was a great sport about it, showing up to my parents' home in a Santa hat, a white, long-sleeved oxford shirt with Christmas tie around his neck, and khaki shorts. He topped the whole look off with a pair of Christmas knee socks.

I was smitten.

I haven't had much time to think about what I will serve for dinner tonight. In homage to our tradition family Polish Christmas Eve, I might pick up some fresh pierogi at the grocery store. Or, perhaps I will serve Mexican. After dinner, we will most likely make a trip to the pool on this hot, sunny day.

You know, because it's Christmas.

In July.

Anything goes.

I love traditions, no matter how ridiculous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Fly Hunter.

My husband Bill is the yin to my yang. The tic to my tac. The hip to my hop.

As I have mentioned in the past, he is a very calm, even-tempered man who is rarely rattled.

Sometimes I hate this quality about him.

Even though I adore him with every fiber of my being.

I hate it at times, because whereas I have the tendency to freak out lose my cool in tense situations, I look over at him, and a cooler head prevails.

And I hate looking like the cuckoo bird.

But I get over it. Because we balance each other out.

We play our marital roles quite nicely, and it just works. Because, really. It's not like we could both go around this planet spazzing out at the littlest thing. That would just be exhausting. Fortunately, he stepped up and offered to play the role of Calmy O'Logical in our marriage, because that role? Is so not me.

Of course, I am not saying that he is a perfect man. It's just that there are not many things that ruffle his feathers.

Except.

When it comes.

To this.

Yo. I'm kinda BZZZZZED and it's all because, this is how I do it.

It's a housefly. A Musca Domestica for the fancy people.

Thanks to well-meaning, but forgetful shorties, whose arms only seem to work in the forward direction and are able to open a door, but cannot close it again, our home is rife with flies. 

Rife.

The incessant, elusive buzzing is constant summertime white noise at our house. Perhaps I am just used to it, but it doesn't exactly rattle my cage. I have four kids. Clearly, there are bigger cage rattlers in my day than houseflies.

I pick my battles.

Besides, why should I spend my day chasing houseflies when I am married to The Fly Hunter? He hears a buzz and grabs a newspaper. It's very Pavlov's dog.

He stalks his prey through every square foot of our home if needed. Darkness is his friend, because he knows that the Musca Domestica is attracted to light. My husband often likes to remind me of the day he stalked a bumblebee that had the misfortune of flying into our home. He followed the bee around the house, waited for the right moment, clapped his hands together fiercely and killed it mid-air without getting stung. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

People? It is the stuff of which suburban legends are made.

Last evening, Bill came home after a hard day's work, changed out of his suit, and came back down to the kitchen to chat with me. As I was in the middle of a riveting story about how I picked up the boys from Cub Scout camp at 3:30 p.m. and took them to the McDonald's drive-thru with the intent of cooling us all down with a snack of $.59 vanilla ice cream cones, but instead I ordered fries and burgers for the older boys because they were starving and exhausted from all the camp shenanigans, (Yes. McDonald's for a snack at 3:45 p.m. on a Monday. Don't judge me. It happens.) I realized that my guy was ignoring me.

Ignoring? Me?

Did I not mention that my story was riveting? About a spontaneous McDonald's run and display of my most awesome parenting? Did he not get that part?

Pssshh.

His eyes were darting feverishly throughout our kitchen as he was muttering in my general direction, "Uh-hmm. Yeah. Sure, Clare..."

"Hello?!?"

"Yeah, Clare, I heard you. Mmm-hmmm..."

A tiny buzzing sound had overpowered the sound of my voice.

Newspaper, meet Bill's hand.

He was a goner, muttering to himself something about maggots as he swatted his newspaper throughout our home.

But this fly was particularly elusive and foolishly intent on taking up permanent residence at Casa-de-We-Already-Have-Four-Kids-And-We-Don't-Need-Disgusting-Maggot-Fly-Babies-In-Our-Garbage-Cans-Thankyouverymuch.

Hours later, darkness fell upon the land, and the fly remained at large.

Darkness. The Hunting Hour.

I looked over at my calm husband, with a newspaper firmly in his hand as he turned out every light in our home except for one. He smiled as the buzzing headed toward the light of the open door to our powder room. With as much dramatic pause as he could muster, he said to me before he closed the door, locking him and the poor, unsuspecting fly in the bathroom, "Clare? Only one of us is coming out alive."

Sigh. My guy. He's so fly. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's just not fair.

So far, this summer has been known as The Summer of Fairness.

Even-stevens.

My shorties have a case of the Not-Fairsies something awful. If I hear the phrase, "It's not fair!" one more time, cartoon steam will shoot out of my ears and then my head will explode into tiny bits.

Literally.

I know that I have mentioned in the past that I detest when people misuse the word, "literally". The word "literally" literally makes me want to scream my head off.

In the literal sense.

But this time I'm literally going to explode, friends. It's that bad. My kids' campaign for complete and total fairness in our house is killing my brain like a poisonous mushroom.

See? Now I'm quoting Vanilla Ice. The brain decay has commenced.

It all started at the beginning of summer when my two oldest boys attended a daytime basketball camp at the local Catholic high school one week, and my other son attended football camp.

My 4-year old daughter, who is my youngest child, ran errands with me on the mornings that her brothers were in their camps. One morning, when she was being particularly helpful and well-behaved, I stopped at McDonald's to get her a berry fruit smoothie. When we picked up her brothers from their camps, they saw the empty cup in one of the cup holders of the minivan. All heck broke loose.

"NO! FAIR!" one of them yelled indignantly. "Why did she get a smoothie and we didn't?!? That's so unfair! She gets everything fun!"

All three of them then proceeded to whine and moan about the unfairness of it all.

Really?

Need I mention that the shortie who started the chorus of whines had just spent three hours at football camp, running around a great, big, fun, high school football field with his friends? That his mouth still had evidence of pizza sauce around its edges from the end-of-camp pizza party that he just attended? That his hands were full of fresh trinkets that he had won as prizes? That his body was clad in a brand-new shirt and shorts bearing the camp's name?

Sigh. If only 6-year olds could detect irony.

The whining about fairness and equity has gone on and on all summer long, when one child is asked on a playdate, and the other three are stuck at home. Or one child gets the chance to run a special errand with Bill or I. Or one child seemingly gets a slightly larger scoop of ice cream. Or two children are at the grocery store with me and happen to get a free cookie while my other two children are "suffering" at a baseball practice. Or one child gets invited to two birthday parties in one month, and another gets invited to zero. I am told how unfair it is. On and on the whining goes. And on.

And on.

And on.

A girl could scream.

This girl has screamed.

Fair, schmair.

While we are on the topic of fairness, do you know what's not fair? That I have to eat the rejected, slightly burnt piece of chicken because the shorties won't touch it.  (Ironically, shortie logic will tell you that boogers are occasionally edible, but a perfectly tasty piece of chicken that is oh-so-slightly browner than the rest is absolutely inedible. Go figure.)

That I have to re-mop my freshly washed kitchen floor because a full cup of sticky apple juice accidentally fell to the floor and managed to splash the baseboards in even farthest corner of the kitchen.

That I have to listen to the movie, "Cars" for the 427th time over the speakers while driving the minivan, when I'd much rather listen to Pitbull and Ne-Yo sing to me that I should, "Grab somebody sexy and tell 'em, 'Hey!'"

That even though I wear about 10% of the clothes in the laundry baskets, I must wash 100% of them.

That the latest episodes of iCarly take preference over a show that I would rather watch. (Because really? I MUST bite my tongue when watching this show. Spencer is a responsible, totally mature guardian to Carly, and she has her own internet webcast? Really? REALLY???)

That I have a wicked purple bruise on my right thigh courtesy of a stray Croc shoe that managed to trip me and then launch me directly into the sharp corner of an open kitchen cupboard.

But I don't really care about any of these things. Not one of these problems-that-aren't-really-problems is worth the breath that it takes to form a complaint.

Because life, as they say, is not fair.

But my love is.

Each of my shorties has an equal piece of my heart. My overflowing, bursting-with-love heart, and somehow these supposed, "inequities" in our everyday life have a way of evening themselves out.

Deep down I know my shorties know this, and I am thankful that their resentments don't last.

Because we have love, and our love is the equalizer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Can't we all just get along?

There is always an adjustment period.

Always.

At the start of every long break or vacation from school, when my shorties are once again all up in each other's grills 24/7, there is always an adjustment period. A fighting-for-space-and-attention-and-getting-to-know-you-again period if you will.

To put it nicely.

Read: They fight like cats and dogs on and off for about the first week. They fight over what they're going to do, and who's going to decide. They fight over Wii controllers. They fight over basketballs. They fight over pool toys. They fight over sharing the same air.

Trust me. It's buckets o' fun.

Buckets.

I'm not saying they fight every gosh darn, cotton pickin', ever-lovin' second. No. There are many moments of peace and happiness and unity in that first week, and I think the storm has passed and the adjustment period is over.

Right up until one shortie calls the other shortie a, "poopy farty fathead" for allegedly stealing his protective cup that he is unable to find right before a baseball game.

Because, you know. Protective cups are a hot commodity, and ripe to be burgled. And there's not a chance in the world that the protective cup was just misplaced, (ahem...thrown carelessly under the kitchen table...ahem) and not, in fact, stolen and sold on the black market.

Because there's totally a black market for protective cups. Just ask my kids.

Summer Vacation 2011 started on Tuesday, June 7, and I braced myself for the inevitable storm on Wednesday, June 8.

It never arrived.

The storm did not arrive that Thursday, or Friday, or the weekend. The following week began, and 3 out of my 4 shorties were in various sport camps every day, and the storm never arrived for that whole week.

I patted myself on the back for my overall awesomeness as a parent. These children get it! They are getting along, and I am taking all the credit! I have managed to avoid the storm of all storms! I should rename myself Peacekeeper Mama Extraordinaire! That's how much Peace I have kept!

Until.

This week.

Foiled again.

Perhaps I can blame it on the weather, which has been less than stellar this week, with storms brewing almost every day. But that is all just one big excuse.

I have spent the majority of this week negotiating peace treaties and handing out punishments and time-outs like they are Tic-Tacs.

Not fun.

Yesterday morning I began the day by telling the kids that if they were good, I would take them downtown to the Science Center to see the exhibits AND an IMAX movie. My proclamation was followed by a chorus of shortie cheers. I also said that afterward, we would hit a favorite downtown cupcake bakery. More cheers erupted.

I had this in the bag. There was no way my shorties were going to have anything less than perfect behavior, knowing the fun that awaited them in just a few short hours.

Until.

It started at lunch. The fighting began over a chair. We have a total of 9 chairs (6 at the table and 3 at the bar) in our kitchen. Yet for some unknown reason, sometimes the only desirable chair just happens to be the exact one your brother or sister is sitting in at that very moment.

Naturally.

I warned the children involved and negotiated a peace treaty over said chair.

Really, people. I missed my calling. United Nations? Call me. I specialize in Peace Treaties among warring parties.

Anyway. I thought I put out the fire, but it continued moments later over something insignificant. Within moments, all four children were involved. I warned. I threatened to take away the field trip.

As we moved to the mudroom to put on our shoes, my patience was wearing thin as the battles raged on. They volleyed insults back and forth to each other. Time-outs were issued. When it came time to put on shoes, one shortie whined, "Mommmmmm! I can't find my tennis shoes!"

A shortie responded, "Yeah. Well that's because they're up your butt with a rubber nut."

To which the insulted shortie responded, "Yeah, well your tennis shoes took one look at your ugly face and ran and hid."

These words, by the way, my friends? Are SO NOT OKAY in my house. At all.

I was done. D-to-the-O-to-the-N-to-the-E. Kaputski. Over. Stick a fork in me. Done and done.

I threw my purse to the ground and yelled said, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? IF YOU THINK FOR ONE, HOT SECOND THAT I AM GOING TO DRIVE ALLLLLLL THE WAY DOWNTOWN TO TAKE YOU TO THE SCIENCE CENTER, AFTER THE WAY YOU HAVE BEEN BEHAVING, THEN YOU HAVE ANOTHER THINK COMING! NO! WAY! YOU CAN'T EVEN BE NICE TO EACH OTHER FOR A FEW HOURS?!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?"

By the way, I have no idea what a hot second is. It just sounded fierce at the time.

One of my sons was indignant as he said, "You can't do this!"

To which I responded, "Watch me. I just did."

I shut. it. down. I was drunk with power.

You PROMISED us you'd take us to the Science Center! You PROMISED! And you can't break a PROMISE!"

Which is laughable on many, many levels.

First of all, I am no fool. I never, ever, use the word, "promise" in this house unless I mean it. There are only a few things a mother can ultimately promise her children, and they are: to love, cherish, nurture, guide, and provide food and shelter for her children. Going to the science center? I cannot promise that.

Immediately following my tirade speech, I kicked my sandals off, plopped down on the couch, picked up my copy of Jen Lancaster's latest novel, "If You Were Here", and started reading.

Promptly, all four shorties collapsed to the floor in crying fits.

Which I ignored.

Ignoring crying shorties...Ha, ha! Jen Lancaster is soooo funny! I love this book!...ignoring crying shorties...

The shorties continued the dramatic scene by blaming each other. "It's all your fault!" "No! It's all your fault!" "No! It's all your fault!"

They begged me. One shortie even said through his tears, and I quote, "Mom! I was totally going to be good once we got in the car! Please give me a chanccccccce!"

Really? That's the best you got?

Ignoring crying shorties...


Finally my oldest child, with his 10 years of...ahem...wisdom..., spoke. He said, "You guys? Mom is not listening to us. She is mad because we were bad."

You think? What tipped you off? Was it the ignoring part? Was it me sitting on the couch reading a hilarious book instead of driving you to the Science Center?

Within moments, all four shorties fell silent, and all I could hear was the sound of ragged breathing and whimpers. About five, silent minutes passed and one of my sons spoke, "Mom? What can we do to fix this?"

With as much dramatic pause that I could muster, I waited at least a minute before responding and said, "Until you can be kind to each other and get along, and stop using those horrible words, then we are not going anywhere."

Silence.

About 20 minutes passed, and two children retreated to a bedroom to play Lego together, one picked up a book and read, and the other child just stared at the ceiling.

An hour passed without a single fight or unkind word.

I know what you're thinking. An hour, Clare? An hour? That's a big deal? But over the last week, in my world, it is.

After that hour, I rounded up my troops for an impromptu family meeting, but I let them do most of the talking. My hands circled the air in their direction as I started off the meeting with, "This behavior over the last week? Is not okay. What are you going to do to fix it?"

We talked about ways to be better. Expectations that Bill and I have for them. Promises were made. Apologies were said. Hugs were had.

And off to the Science Center and cupcake bakery we went.

Uneventfully.

Thankfully.

It is hard for six people with wonderfully strong personalities to live in one house and always get along famously. But we try. And then we have a setback. And then we try again.

Because there is love. So much love. And laughter. And fun. And moments that have been sealed in my heart and my memory.


Today is a new day, and I am telling myself that the adjustment period is over.

I hope.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The shoes.

It has been exactly one week since summer vacation began for my children, and already, we are off to a great start.

The lunchboxes have been wiped clean and are sitting on the bottom shelf in the pantry. The school uniforms are folded and stored in the closet, waiting to be donned again in August. The backpacks have been emptied of their stray bits of paper, crayon and pencil stubs and old notebooks. But, the other day, as I went about organizing the closet by the mudroom, I came across the shoes.

It has only been a week, and I almost forgot about the shoes.

The white tennis shoes, a required part of the school uniform, have seen better days.

In fact, they saw every single day of the school year.

The good days and the bad ones.

Here they are on the first day, white and shiny and full of promise and enthusiasm.


And here they are on the last day, well-traveled and full of a year's worth of experience.


Just like my children.

The large Puma shoes all the way to the left finished fourth grade this year. They tapped the ground while the wearer was deep in thought over solving a long division problem. They ran the mile in gym class. They stood flat and facing forward during the 4th grade recorder concert in March. They walked patiently and excitedly through the cafeteria hot food line every Friday for pizza day.

The Nike shoes in the middle finished third grade this year. They walked reverently down the church aisle on a cold winter Wednesday morning to present the gifts at Mass during the offertory. They marched into school on a weekday morning, convinced that whatever happened the previous day didn't matter because every day is a new day to start fresh. They tapped the floor nervously during standardized testing in October. They schlepped to and fro as their wearer told a funny story to make his friends laugh. They strode confidently up to the front of the classroom to deliver a speech about The Great Ohio Flood.

The Wilson shoes all the way to the right finished Kindergarten this year. They rambled hesitatingly into the classroom on a warm day in late August, unsure of what to expect at, "The Big School". They jumped up and down while singing a song. They sat quietly in a, "criss-cross-applesauce" position. They traipsed and dragged a heavy bag of 100 metal Matchbox cars for the 100th day of school. They paraded out of school proudly while their owner proclaimed, "I'm a first grader now!"

These shoes have lived well. They have served their purpose. It is time for them to retire.

But oh, the stories they could tell.