Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding

When I was around 7 years old, I remember coming downstairs in the middle of the night to find my mother watching the wedding of Charles and Diana.  I didn't understand why she cared or why she was willing to sacrifice sleep to watch a wedding for a couple she had never even met.  I did wonder why the bride was wearing a dress that looked like it was trying to swallow her. 

That sucker was huge.

So thirty years later, I still can't fathom all the fuss over these royal weddings.  Friends of mine set their alarms, poured champagne, and watched with fascinated devotion.  They knew what the invitations looked like.  They had studied the guest list.  They knew the history of the horsedrawn carriage in which the bride would ride.

I caught the highlights on CNN.

I must say, as a girl not that steeped in fairytale lore, even I could recognize the Cinderella-like spectacle.  Kate was beautiful - the loyal bride toiling away for 8 long years waiting for her prince to step to the plate.  The two evil step-sisters (okay, they were really William's cousins) with their horribly ugly hats and outfits.  What was with those hats?  Don't they know the number one rule of a wedding ettiquette: never detract attention from the bride.  Those hats looked like grotesque parasitic twins.  Stacy and Clinton would be mortified.

My husband, who likes weddings not for the inherent romance but rather for the grand party after, watched about 10 seconds of the coverage before rolling his eyes and putting on ESPN.

This is why we are married.  We are just not romantic wedding people.  Perhaps I was once.  As I planned our wedding years back, I got furious with my husband over his lack of interest in the preparation - believing that he didn't value our relationship.  He gently reminded me that it was the marriage that counted, not the wedding.

And so I am more excited to watch Kate and William have children and develop a long life together as husband and wife.  My dormant romance gene always comes alive when I see the old couple walking down the street holding hands or finding my husband had charged my phone for me.  Romance is sometimes defined not by the grand spectacle, but the day-to-day. 

Although if anyone sees my husband, please let him know that flowers wouldn't kill him.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Only Carpool Listening to "Rent"

It was my turn to drive carpool this week with 3 extra little boys in the back seat who are not mine.  We do not have a DVD player in our minivan, so music is the only thing I can use to distract my little army from hand-to-hand combat while driving home.  As the boys were extra keyed-up the other day, I quickly popped in my Rent  CD.  Instantly, everyone started banging their heads and singing:

"We're not gonna pa-ay...we're not gonna pa-ay....we're not gonna pa-ay next year's rent..."

We've been listening to Rent for most of the year, so they know several of the songs by heart.  Naturally, I've had to limit some of the selections (like the song that rhymes "sodomy" with "God and me" for instance), but they know most of the kid-friendly tunes.

When I saw the movie Knocked Up, I think I was the only person laughing in the scene where the two little girls are in the backseat fighting over music selections.

"I want to listen to Rent!" the one little girl in the move shouted.

I nearly chocked on my popcorn. 

My boys also know many of the songs from Mama Mia, Wicked and Les Miserables.  As I spend most of my days driving kids to various schools, activities, and functions, I feel it is my duty as a mother to mix up their music.  My husband on the other hand would prefer to have them only listen to classic rock.  Every time he gets in the car when I've left a CD on, the look I get could topple mountains.  He can't switch it off fast enough.

But I don't care.  I will continue to broadcast a wide array of Broadway tunes until my sons beg me to stop in their teen years.  Even then, we will have to negotiate cleaning their rooms for turning off, say, Hairspray.

It's all about leverage.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Coffee Grind Prophesies

I was pregnant with my second son when I went to one of those coffee grind psychic parties hosted by a friend of mine.  I wasn't too far along in pregnancy, so I took off my wedding ring, sucked in my stomach, and marched over to the gypsy-like woman with my empty coffee cup to see what she could glean. 

Almost instantly, the woman saw penises.  "Ohhh...dis mean you surrounded by many, many boy" (I'm not sure she had a Bosnian accent, but for purposes of the blog, I'm going with it).

I didn't know at the time that #2 baby was a boy, so I just nodded.

"Your husband (I hadn't mentioned I was married)...your husband surround by penises, too.  Lots of penises there."

If my husband didn't have 5 brothers and work 2 jobs that were all men, this statement could have been upsetting to a wife.  Again, I nodded. 

"Many many penises I see."

Now I just wanted her to stop saying penises. 

"I see boys.  No girls for you.  Dat twenty dollars.  Cash only."

When I was pregnant with my 3rd son, I went to the ultrasound convinced I was having a girl.  My mom had even hidden a tiny pink baby girl doll in her purse.  The ultrasound tech hesitated before announcing it was another boy.

I burst into tears.  My mom tried to comfort me.  My friend handed me a tissue.  And I shook my head.

"No, I'm happy!"

I couldn't have been more relieved.  I had been secretly hoping for a third boy from the time I found out I was expecting.  I didn't know how to braid hair!  I hated Barbies!  I was a boy mom!  I liked sports, mismatched clothes, and was completely incapable of finding a girl name that wasn't associated with someone who called me "Giraffe" in high school. 

Now don't get me wrong.  I would have loved and treasured any daughter that came into my life.  But it would have broken my heart to watch a child of mine go through the "mean girl" years after being a six footer myself by 6th grade and finding no reprieve from the childhood taunts.  Not that boys don't have their issues. But for that, I've got a husband who grew up with a lot of penises and seems pretty adept at all things male.

So instead, I will wait patiently for a future daughter-in-law who likes coupons and online shopping.  Perhaps we can even lunch together on two-for-one days.  Joy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Does One Bad Friend Equal Disaster?

My husband was watching one of those intervention-type shows where a grown man was undergoing another round of treatment for drug addiction.  He was a life-long meth addict who had not only destroyed his own life, but the lives of all who loved him.  The part that caught my ear as I was folding laundry was his mother.  She was talking about how her son was always a good boy, got good grades, and was on the right track.  Then he met another kid who introduced him to the drug world.

"That's the thing," said mom, "no matter what you do, one bad friend can destroy your kid's life."

I got the chills that moment.  One bad kid?  How do I recognize a bad kid?  Do they behave only when people are looking and then whip out the crack pipe when you go get milk & cookies?  I started to sweat.  My husband realized the mistake he made having this show on within my earshot.

"Stop obsessing.  Daniel (our oldest) isn't even 7 yet."

Stop obsessing?  STOP OBSESSING?  Does he even know me?

I quickly started running through the boys' friends.  They all seemed okay, but it's hard to tell this early, right?  Should I run a background check on their families for substance abuse?  Can I come up with a form?  Would the parents be willing to submit to random drug screens? 

Now my husband turned off the t.v.

"I can hear your brain from over here.  Stop.  Now."

Maybe we can plan a trip to jail so the boys understand where drug addiction can lead?  Or we can home school!  Yes!  That's the ticket.  We'll home school!

"We're not home-schooling."

"I didn't say anything," I countered.

"I know how your brain works."

So now I'm left obsessing about my kids having "one bad friend" that could undermine the values we're teaching and the aspirations we have for our sons.

"Relax," said my husband, "they're probably not even going to have any friends with a mom like you."

From his lips to God's ears....

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Deaf Bunnies

In a delicious show of absolute obedience, my 3 sons dutifully followed their father's directives to only to have a few bites of their chocolate Easter bunnies. 

"How much can we eat?" questioned Daniel.

"I don't know, Dan.  Eat their ears."

The message obviously trickled down the ranks:

Joey has indicated he wants to eat his bunny's "butt" tomorrow.  I'm thinking this is his way of protesting his newly potty trained status.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mommy Meanest

I'm starting to get a rep around my neighborhood.  I yell at other people's kids.  It usually has a lot to do with sticks - big, sharp ones that look like daggers.  Kids think these are grand and run around just looking for eyes to pop out.  And so I yell.  A lot.  As in "Drop that stick before you hurt somebody RIGHT NOW."  The kids usually freeze, refuse to look at me, and drop the offending tree limb.  Within moments, another kid has picked it up and the whole process repeats.

Atheist Friend thinks I'm a lunatic.  She reminds me that we all grew up unsupervised while running around with sticks.

I don't care, so I continue to yell.  Then there are manners.  I have a strict policy on how to ask for things.  Kids in my house have a precise template of "May I please have (insert object of desire)."  Anything else is met with resistance:

Kid:  "I'm thirsty."

Me: "That's nice."

Kid:  "I want water."

Me: "I want to be young, thin, and have all my money back."

Kid (catching on):  "Pleeeease."

Me:  "Put it all together, Pee Wee."

Kid:  "May I please have a drink of water?"

Me: "After you pick up that mess of toys you left over there."

So I'm not that easy, fulfilling-every-need mom.  I personally think I'm helping my boys be better husbands one day as they will not expect a cold beer and remote control to drop from heaven when they're older.  But they will have to endure the stories at the pub in about 25 years or so....

"Do you guys remember that crazy lady at the park that was always yelling at us?  She was NUTS."

"Dude, that was my MOM."

"Geez, guy, that must have been rough.  Lemme buy the next round."

Regardless, they will all have their blurry eyes firmly in place thanks to me.

My husband tells me not to expect a thank you note.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Eggs & Jesus

Our family is currently on Year One of religious education for the boys.  Not exactly the most fervent of Catholics, my husband and I are being punished by having to get up for 8:15 am CCD every Sunday. Sure, it's not exactly the 40-days-in-the-desert variety of suffering, but we're only human.  The boys of course are soaking it all in and have come up with dozens of questions after each session.

Why does Jesus like Easter Eggs?

Can I baptize my Transformer?

Is God Jesus' dad or is it Joe-Fish (Joseph)?

Do I have to practice the piano in heaven?

With all the current Lent and Easter discourse, we are knee-deep in crucifixion fascination.  The boys talk about the nails through the palms, crown of thorns, and rising from the grave as though it were a sci-fi movie.  While I explain to them that this story is the basis for our faith, I am often interrupted.

"Why didn't Jesus just use his powers and kill Punch Us Pilot (Pontius Pilate)? "

"Why is Jesus naked on the cross?  Did they give him a bath first?"

"Was the Easter Bunny at the crucifixion?"

The last question leads me to the mess I'm going to be in once the boys lose their belief in Santa Claus and the Big Rabbit.  We have so tied together the character inventions of holiday celebrations to Christian faith that I worry once belief is lost in one, will faith also be diminished?  Despite being an infrequent mass attendee, I do find comfort in my faith and hope for the same for my sons.

No time to fret now, though, I've got to hide 100 plastic eggs stuffed with jelly beans and Tootsie rolls. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

If Thine Enemy Be Laundry

At 6 am today, I dropped the first load of laundry into the machine.  It's my fault really - leave a 14 year old babysitter in charge of 3 juice-obsessed boys (including a newly potty-trained one) can imagine the results. 

Laundry is the bain of my existence.  It knows no beginning, no middle, no end.  It is the alpha and the omega.  The beginning and the end.  It taunts me like the sky taunts a caged bird. 

Never to be free, never to be free.  Woe is me, never to be free.

So to Chuck E. Cheese's today for a 9:30 am birthday party.  I like this mom's thinking - no crowds, no chaos.  Just fresh hot sizzling pizza and skee ball at 9:30 am.

I'll be taking notes like Kathy Griffin backstage at the Emmy's for use in an upcoming blog.  You know this is going to be good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Will Not Obsess...I Will Not Obsess....

Without going through the gritty details of my day dealing with Chicago Public School bureaucracy last week, I had my youngest son secure recommendations for services going into preschool next year.  Joey is an energetic, bright, and stubborn 3-year old who is a 4th generation obsessive-compulsive.  Despite my assertions to my husband that my side of the family is perfect in every way and any less-than-perfect traits are clearly inherited from his side, the opposite is in fact true.  Oh the long line of nutties that line my family tree, but for the PC crowd, I'll just describe them as "eccentric."

First comes my great-grandmother who came to this country from Lithuania at 16, promptly married, had 3 boys, ditched her husband and made a secure life for herself through property and gambling.  I remember going to her 2-flat as a young child.  She was renting one of her units to a family and she lived on the 2nd floor with a young, hot guy that was  only referred to as her "roommate" (granny was around 90 at the time).

Her son, my grandfather, was a tough son-of-a-gun who survived a horrific car crash, heart attack, and point blank shooting (6 bullets).  He had a great laugh and outgoing nature - wonderful tools to hide his own OCD.  The only thing that could kill him was a visit with my family (he died on the car ride back to Florida).

I had no idea my father was eccentric until I grew up and got to understand "normal" dads (like my husband's, who went to football games and coached boxing).  My dad is a former policeman, retired federal agent, and first class nut who labels everything he owns, re-uses bread bags for food storage, and has the same clothes he wore in a picture from 1970 holding my now 41-year-old brother.  My dad would ride past our high school in his government-issued car and use the speaker system to shout out "'s your FATHER...are you wearing clean underwear today???"  Nothing like a little public humiliation to keep your teenage children in check.

And now me.  Highly aware of the family history of "questionables," I have sought consciously to end the cycle by marrying a very normal man and working daily on my own OCD behavior.  Two of my siblings cannot sleep at night if their vacuum lines aren't perfect.  In an an effort to introduce immersion therapy to my OCD-inflicted siblings, I have instructed my 3 boys to promptly lay down on their floors and make "carpet angels" upon arrival.   It makes my older brother twitch, and my sister has since opted for hardwood floors to thwart me.

Still, I have some issues.  I cannot pay full price for anything.  I will spend hours looking for coupons to try to secure the best deals.  When I worked in business and was told to buy "nice" golf shirts and bags for corporate events, I would get physically sick.  $75 for a shirt? I tried to talk the CEO into Target-variety golf shirts.  It didn't fly.   While others control their universe by order and neatness, I control mine with coupon codes and frequent buyer cards.  Nobody can compliment me on an outfit or pair of shoes with getting the price, "Oh, these boots?  $12 online at Sears with free shipping.  Thank you."

Which leads me back to Joey.  Joey will wake up several times in the middle of the night to rearrange toys and gets upset if I leave a cabinet door open or dirty dish on the counter.  He organizes his toys by color and thanks me every time I clean his room.  My brother watched Joey scramble around once picking up everything off the floor and commented, "that kid should belong to me - you're a slob."

So in an attempt to alleviate Joey of the stress that OCD can bring on someone, we'll hopefully secure some behavioral therapies to rid him of his DNA legacy.  If not, I'm going to have the cleanest house in Chicago.  And save money on a cleaning lady!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Daniel the Lion

My oldest son Daniel came into the world almost 7 years ago at nearly 11 pounds and 2 feet long.  As I brought friends and family to the hospital window to view my long-awaited firstborn, it was difficult to hear some of the comments made by strangers unaware that I was the baby's mom:

"Look at the size of that one!"

"Can you believe that baby's thighs? He looks like a sumo wrestler!"

"Why do they have a 6 month old down here?"  (asked when Danny was 3 hours old).

It all made me a bit weepy - add some post-delivery hormone shifts and no sleep for 2 1/2 days and you understand.  My entire life, I had visions of holding a tiny little baby and starting out motherhood with an infant that looked like an infant.  Now I had this son who, as my Milwaukee friend pointed out, arrived into the world "smoking his own cigar and looking for a date."  The nurses had to get clothes for him from the pediatric ward.  His coming-home outfit couldn't be snapped shut.  His hands and feet didn't fit on the ink card and according to those records, Danny only has 8 fingers & toes.  My husband, in the normal male way, beamed with pride as he shouted out Danny's size & weight on his cell phone before even noting Danny's sex and name to friends.

Daniel - 1 day old

As a large girl myself, I had often felt out of place in a world of petites.  Shoes that look cute in a size 6 look like clown shoes in a 10.  Every pair of pants and jeans looked like floods (thank you, JC Penny for coming out with Ultra Talls).  Motherhood was supposed to be the great equalizer - something I could finally share with my miniature friends and neighbors.  And once again, I felt different.  On the outside of the norm even for this.

Through the years, I have often felt like wearing a shirt with Danny's age so people would stop expecting so much of him.  When he was one, he was mocked by kids for not being potty trained (they thought he was 4).  When he was 2 and would throw a tantrum, mothers would look at me as if to say "get your 6 year old under control."   At 3, the 7 year olds couldn't understand why he didn't understand the rules of tag (he would place his hand on "glue" and advise them there was no glue on the park bench, "it not ticky (sticky)."  His peers shied away thinking him much older, and the kids his size thought him daft.  It was crushing. 

Danny is about to be 7 and so much more confident than his mother.  He uses his size to squash schoolyard bullies and help his mother carry in cases of bottled water (2 at a time).   Sometimes I want to go back in time and shake the silly new mother with the giant baby and tell her she has no idea of the joy in store.  But sometimes when the expectations of motherhood meet reality, it just takes a little time to readjust.  I've had 7 years of the most wonderful son a mom could ask for.  It only took me a few hours to realize it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jonathan Swift & Me

Many many years ago, I was an undergraduate English major (please no comments on my subj-verb disagreements and varying tenses in this blog  as I'm the equivalent of an English major Sybil - schizophrenic and inconsistent).  For one class, we had to read Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and write a paper.  I chose a paper on the scatological - which is basically the study of poo-poo.  Swift writes a lot about excrement and seems to love potty humor.  Many other students in the class wrote about English oppression, Irish suffering, and Swift's views on humanity.  I chose poop.  Quite prophetic, I think. 

I visited Jonathan Swift's grave at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin years ago.  Here was a man who wrote some of the most thought-provoking satires of the 18th century, spoke out against persecution, and had a deep regard for women and children.  And an affinity for poop.  What's not to love?

We are on day #3 of potty training, and poop, like in "Gulliver's Travels," is making frequent appearances.  Unlike my college professor, who viewed my paper as "a little gross," I am delighted to welcome poop in this manner.  I have gone seven long years changing diapers. Seven years of being able to change the nastiest of situations, wash my hands, and resume eating dinner.  Seven years of my own kind of oppression: never being able to have a cute purse because it couldn't hold diapers and wipes.  The bonds of Pampers are being unshackled and as God as my witness, I, nor my kin, will never go diapered again.

In an act of final resolution, my extra-tall changing table has been given away.  Off to my husband's brother, wife, and baby.  No looking back.  No surrender.  Elvis has left the building.  Jonathan Swift can stay.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A First Wife's Perspective

In one of those rare moments of marital serenity when the children were asleep, the laundry was done, and the garbage had been taken out, I looked lovingly into my husband's eyes and asked the question many wives have asked their husbands throughout the ages: would you ever remarry should something happen to me?

I looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to go on about my endless patience, virtue, and great beauty (all lies, I know, but I like to hear it anyway).  Instead, he just said, "no."

Confidently, I prodded.  But why?  Because nobody could compare?  Who else can heat up a frozen pizza better?  You couldn't find someone else to put up with your rants during a Bears game?  Why would you never seek love like ours again?

"Because being married is like having a boss."

To quote the Brits, I was gobsmacked.  My response to that statement could be heard across Western Avenue.  But we needn't go there today.  Instead, let me recount another tale that occurred while I was pregnant with my 3rd son and we had to determine who was going to get "fixed" due to some pregnancy issues.  I had suggested he handle the deed.  Snip snip done.  His response?

"What if, God forbid, something happens to you and my next wife wants kids?"

I had a host of angry words to say about his "next wife."

"Hold on there," he interrupted.  "That's no way to talk about my next wife....she hasn't even been born yet."

And this is ultimately why I love my husband.  He has a marvelous sense of humor, doesn't let me get too self-indulgent, and refuses to follow the script.  The unexpected can be so much more fun.  Once I calm down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dexter, Kind Atheists, and Outsourcing

Today's posting is written in a potty-training-and-watching-"Dexter"-boxed set-until-3 am stupor.  I promised my husband I wouldn't get too far ahead of him watching Season 1 (he went to bed at 11 pm), but I couldn't help myself and after a full day of cleaning pee off my carpet, kitchen floor, and couch, a little escape was needed.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm hoping he gets me the "Glee" boxed set (season 1) for Mother's Day.   We are usually only 3-5 years behind watching the current t.v. trends and are nobly aiming to catch up soon.

Potty training has had some hits and misses.  My Atheist Friend was kind enough to collect the two older boys in my minivan and take them to an indoor pool for several hours while fighting the urge to clean my ride.  I don't think my minivan is that bad in the world of mom-mobiles, but apparently the abandoned sucker sticks, wrappers, wipes, and napkins got to her.  Atheist Friend's house is always immaculate and she cooks (not microwaves) three meals a day.  She brings me cupcakes and takes my kids, so I let these obvious personality defects of hers slide. 

Which leads me to now.  Joey is wearing underwear, occasionally indicating a desire to pee, and I am suffering from a Dexter hangover.  I'm not opposed to outsourcing.  If anyone out there has a way with 3 year old boys and getting them to cooperate, I'm game.  I'll pay you in cupcakes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pride Goeth Before Your Kid Bites the Neighbor

Karma is a funny thing.  Several years ago, a mom at the park was telling me how her 3 year old son was never invited over for play dates because he bit other kids.  I was outwardly sympathetic and assured her that her son would grow out of it.  But by the time my husband got home, I was happy to point out to him another parent's "deficiency" in not properly rearing her child.

Our Danny promptly bit a kid at preschool the next day.

Karma Smack Down #2 came in the form of infant sleeping-through-the-night superiority.  Danny slept through the night at 4 weeks and Jack slept through the night at 6 weeks.  My husband and I smiled, congratulated ourselves on being parents-of-the-year, and judged everyone who complained about being unable to get their babies to sleep.  Infancy was such a piece of cake for us, we had our third son, Joey, in quick order.  Joey proceeded to scream his way through not only the night, but the first full year of his life...24/7. I drank a lot during this period.

So by now, you'd think we'd learned our lesson.  Not so fast, loyal reader.  Karma Smack Down #3 was Potty Training.  Danny was trained inside of a day.  Jack took a grand total of 45 minutes.  Oh how smug we were listening to the woes of other parents.  Obviously they had neither our skill or perfect children or they would not have an almost four-year old running around in a diaper.

Enter child #3 (Joey), who karma sent to this earth to destroy our inflated egos on a daily basis. Our first attempt at potty training was at 3 which failed miserably as he refused to get off the potty for 10 hours because he didn't want to wear underwear.  I folded.  Attempt #2 was about 2 months ago at which time he gleefully wore underwear and peed in it every 10 minutes pointing out that he was still a baby.  He threw diapers at me and insisted "these."  Attempt #3 starts next week during the older boys' Spring Break from school.

So I've learned my lesson.  Judge not lest ye be brought to your knees by fate/God/karma/your children.  I've even committed to my friends to refrain from judging parents until their children are grown and are either CEOs or incarcerated at Joliet Penitentiary.  My one miniature friend (as opposed to Atheist friend) called me on my b.s.  "Be honest, you're not going to commit to FINAL judgment yet, but we all judge each other's parenting and children."

She may be right, but I'm still going to try to fight the good fight.  Or I'll be sending my son off to college in the world's largest pull-up.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saving For Discounted Brazilian Liposuction

When you meet a man, fall in love, and start a life together, you begin to share all kinds of interests.  While my husband and I had a number of common passions to begin with (sports, family, "Survivor," and Irish-fests), I must say that there's one passion I could have gone without: an introduction to food.

Now understand that I have always liked my sweets.  Cake - check.  Cookies - check. Pie - check.  But I ate them in lieu of actual meals so my weight usually stayed under control (though my nutritional intake was highly suspect).  Enter my husband - the ultimate foodie.  He falls asleep each night watching "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives," or even better, "Man vs. Food."  He cuts out recipes and cooks regularly.  If he had to choose between me and food, I'd be nervous.  I of course am adept only at microwaving nuggets and boiling water for instant oatmeal.

 As a single person, I might as well have been Jerry Seinfeld.  I ate cereal for dinner most nights of the week.  On rare occasion, I'd spice things up and make some instant rice with soy sauce.  If I traveled for work, I'd order the cookie sundae for a meal (my husband has never forgiven me for this one - "you had an EXPENSE REPORT for chrisssakes - and you didn't order the filet???"  I was a waste of a palate.

My husband has painstakingly cured me of this deficiency and between that, my aversion to exercise, and having 3 kids in 3 years, let's just say nobody holds the elevator doors for me anymore.  So this is why I'm saving for Brazilian liposuction.  You get the surgery AND a vacation for half the cost!  My husband is already researching the restaurants.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why the First Hoarder Was Probably a Mom

The lady from Purple Hearts Veterans (organization that collects used clothes, household items, etc. for resale) called last week and wanted to know if I had any donations.  Throughout the year, I donate all outgrown clothes from the boys.  This process is always grueling.  Not because I'm hauling Hefty bags down a flight of stairs repeatedly, but because I'm bidding farewell to clothes I've seen all 3 of my boys grow up in.

Now to be fair, it's usually only the tops that bring me to a melancholy state.  None of my kids ever share pants.  Ironically, I thought I'd hit the frugal lady jackpot in having all boys and thus securing three times the usage out of any item.  God most certainly has a sense of humor as he granted me one "Husky," one "Regular," and one "Slim" in each pant size.  The best laid plans....

My wonderful 65 year old mom usually comes over and shuffles everybody's dressers to meet the next size and season.  For this alone, I have promised to never put her in a home.   She sits there, squinting at faded tags trying to decipher sizes while cross-referencing against each boy's new size. 

After she's done, I'm left with memories of my babies.  The orange jumper that Jack learned to walk in.  The Handy Manny sweatshirt that Dan wore to his first day of school.  Every season we go through this, and each time I am left to mourn the end of my baby years.

If it wasn't for the Purple Hearts' call and my mom's seasonal help, I most certainly would be a hoarder.  I have visions of being surrounded by infant overalls and duckie hats.  Yet the veterans call, my mom comes over, and there we be no flattened cats found in heaps.

Despite this, I have my own secret stash of contraband.  In the back of my closet, under an old comforter, I have kept exactly 4 pairs of maternity shorts.  Oh, and 3 maternity tops.  Oh, and there might be some maternity jeans.  Oh!  And I can't forget the maternity tanks. Those suckers are like a little bit of heaven on fat days.  I don't think I have a problem.  Now where's that cat?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Death, Taxes, and Ice Hockey

For the most part, my husband has handed me the reigns of sport and activity selection for our three sons.  Yet about a year ago, he walked in with a receipt and a huge smile.  He had just registered Danny and Jack for ice hockey.  I was mortified.

"They'll have no teeth!" I insisted.

"You have them in piano, chess, and violin.  They'll have no friends."

After some lively discussion on the matter, I realized my husband was right.  Just as I had always wanted to play the piano, but couldn't due to a large family size, my husband had always wanted to pursue hockey.  These were both gifts and opportunities we could now make possible for our own children.

Yet what I didn't realize was the chaos that would ensue at the very first session.  My husband, the catalyst behind this activity, was conveniently working a 24-hour shift at the firehouse.  I had never put on a pair of ice skates in my life (being a 6 footer with a high center of gravity and limited athleticism).  But how hard could it be?

That first set of skates was like one of Dante's circles of hell.  Just when I thought I had the right combination of pulled and loosened strings, I would realize I had missed a step.  The string of profanities falling from my mouth like rain paled in comparison to the horrified looks I was getting from parents as I bumbled, yelled, and cursed my way through child #1.  By the time I got to child #2 (Jack), the fear and apprehension in Jack's face was obvious - mommy was losing it.  Child #3 (Joey) was MIA and took a half hour to reclaim as some parents had found him in the girl's bathroom eating a cookie he'd found on the floor.

After I deposited the boys onto the ice, I took note of all the doting parents around me.  For this first session, moms and dads with cameras in hand locked arms and wiped away tears of pride at the generational passing of this family sport.  Grandparents graciously repacked shoes and coats in shiny new hockey bags embroidered with the family crest.  I had a large paper bag from Food for Less and Danny would eventually walk out of the ice arena short one shoe (I still blame Joey).

So tonight, the boys have hockey yet again.  And yet again, my husband is at the firehouse.  And all those parents who used to cringe when I walked in (while covering their children's ears) now send their husbands over to lace the boys' skates.  Nothing need be said.  I will never be a hockey mom.  But I'm still a mom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Muscle Shirts and Haircuts

I watch a lot of "What Not to Wear."  Mostly because I like the "befores."  There are other women who go to the grocery store in their pajamas!  Look at the mom in her scrunchie from 1989!  Is that a monobrow?  Oh how I feel a little superior because I actually throw on the occasional scarf and eyeliner.

That is, I feel superior until you consider my hair.  Until yesterday, I hadn't had it professionally cut in over 3 years (mostly because I hack off bits here and there and really don't want the stylists to yell at me).  Yet with the recent humidity, even my own butchering wasn't calming matters down.  Time for the real deal.  For the record, my husband gets his hair cut every 6 weeks by a pretty boy named "Ralph" who wears buttoned down, tight club shirts and has a lush salon in downtown Chicago.  I went to the neighborhood girl who has 3 sons and looks like me.  I begrudge my husband nothing, but Ralph?  When SuperCuts is right down the street?  Really?  I digress...more on my coupon cutting and bargain hunting another time: it's really my issue more than his.

Like a psych patient to her therapist, I confessed all.  No, those weird angles came from me.  Yes, I know it's not a good idea to trim your own bangs.  No, I'm not sure how exactly the back of my head looks...but from the frown, not too good, huh?

So I let Toni work her magic.  I initially had convinced myself when I made the appointment that a gay man named "Tony" was cutting my hair and was so excited.  But Toni turned out to be a very nice lady and didn't take it personally when my face fell as I realized she wasn't going to be the flamboyant gay male hairdresser of my dreams.

After a good hour of snipping the mess I'd contributed to for years, I had an actual style.  And like the ungrateful nominees on ""What Not to Wear," I was not instantly impressed.  I missed my hair.  If I had been watching me on "WNTW," I would have yelled at me.  You have a style!  You don't look homeless anymore!  We can see your face!  Instead I thanked her, drove home and cried for an hour.

Now that I have had a full day with it, it's growing on me. Toni did a great job, and I'm just another silly mom that sometimes has a hard time with change.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can Pokemon Cards Make My Son a Musical Genius?

We are now into Year 2 of violin and piano for my two older sons.  While Year 1 was extremely painful and saw very limited practice time, I decided to Tiger-Mom it for Year 2.  After several weeks of forcing my boys into daily practice (versus the twenty minutes I'd make them do the morning of their lessons during Year 1), we'd hit an ugly patch.  My 6-year old son was dropping the word "mean" in my general direction regularly.  The 5-year old cried.  And the 3-year old took full advantage of my being distracted and completely rearranged the pantry.

So I began another approach.  Only recently, I had been notified by a concerned mother that I ought to consider my 6-year old son's overall mental health which was being deeply impaired by the fact that he was the owner of not a single Pokemon card.  As a child of the '80's who owned neither a Swatch Watch or an IOU sweatshirt, I promptly aimed my car towards the nearest Target.

Just to be clear, I am not the kind of mother who buys things for her kids regularly.  I am currently on the hunt for second hand Duplo legos (more on that another day), so I will hit the occasional Goodwill and Salvation Army which leads to the kids getting a $1 used toy now and then...but that's really it.  It was truly out of character for me to be spending money on kid stuff without a celebration looming.  Yet those old wounds of our own childhood often hurt even more with time - so Pokemon it was! I could not deny my first born again - I already caught enough flak missing out on the whole Bakugan craze (when I accidentally brought home some delicious baklava, misinterpreting his requests).

Thinking I'd be spending a dollar or so a pack, I nearly lost it over the cost of these cards.  3.99 a pack!  Ridiculous!  The stigmatization versus my frugal nature.  With the wheels turning, I reached a compromise (mentally that is).  I'd auction these treats off like the gold my son viewed them as.  Piano time for Pokemon cards.  After spending over $30 at Target (and later another $10 online at ebay where I could get a lot more cards for a whole lot less), my son has started practicing nearly an hour a night.

Now to be fair, it's only been a month.  My middle son is also practicing more because he's more compliant and with the older guy moaning less, he's going along with the program.  For the first time, I hear songs I can actually recognize without the long computations between notes (every good boy does FINE - it's F).  Right now, we're all happy.

So I've sunk to bribery and it's working like a charm.  Mom Mistake (for purposes of this blog): #2.  But I'm hearing Ode to Joe on the piano.  It can't be coincidence.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Park, Dogs & Why I Must Try Very Hard to Get to Heaven

So I have this five-year old son who is terrified of dogs.  Think mind-numbing screams at the very site of a dog blocks away. Most of my dog-walking neighbors quickly cross the street should they see us coming - not out of consideration for my phobic son, but rather to spare their dogs' highly sensitive ears from the piercing onslaught of screams and hysteria.  There is no doubt he harbors an intense anxiety towards our four legged friends.  I've probably failed some mothering test by not ridding him of this fear years ago, so go ahead and start my mom failure tally (as far as this blog is concerned) at 1.

Which brings us to today.  As we pulled scooters and bikes from the depths of our garage this glorious Chicago Spring day, we plan a trip to the Mecca of childhood - our neighborhood park.  After only 15 minutes of catching up with last year's summer buddies, a woman approaches with her untethered golden retriever.  Before I get lambasted (should anyone actually be reading this), I do like dogs.  I know most dogs are friendly and would not eat my son.  But there is no explaining logic to one steeped in aversion and a firm belief that all dogs are secretly lying in wait to take him to the netherworld. 

The screaming begins.  My son claws desperately at my arms to lift him to safety.  His three year old baby brother is running at the mongrel shouting out "here dogggggie" and quickly grabs its tail as though it's a giant fuzzy rattle.   My older son tries to shush his embarrassing brother as there are other 1st grade classmates to impress and his screaming brother is ruining his rep.

And then it happens.  The Dog Mom just looks at me.  Like I am entirely responsible for this display of hysterics (I'll give her 50% out of pure mom guilt, but I wouldn't dare take on the  whole enchillada).  Her accusing stare is trying to negate the possibility that it is not acceptable to to bring a large, unleashed dog to a Chicago park full of 1-7 year olds with a sign that clearly reads "No Dogs."     

I shuffle my three wee ones to another section of the park, and wouldn't you know it?  Ten minutes later, indignant Dog Mom and her dinosaur (as far as my son is concerned) are approaching our exile.  And this is where I'm glad to be friends with an atheist.  My friend who has two kids playing at the park who are highly allergic to dogs, steps in the path of Dog Mom and braces for a throw down.  Her voice remains calm, but her manner and stance were obvious: the dog was not coming one step closer even if it resulted in incarceration and/or eternal damnation (though being an atheist, probably not a big concern).  Dog Mom, knowing that the other mom had sensed her blink, apologetically redirects her dog away. My son of course continues to cry uncontrollably for another 1/2 hour as a result of post traumatic stress.

So here's the thing.  I know moms are distracted.  Heck, when registering for summer camp the other day, I almost walked out without my 3 year old who had been playing happily on an indoor slide.  I know we're not always aware of our impact on others because we are in fact so distracted.  I know we make a million mistakes daily, but can I just put it out there that parks and dogs will lead me only to a place where I might not make it to heaven.  Not that my chances are that great now....