Friday, December 18, 2009

The Quiet Before the . . . I Don't Know What

My house is so quiet that it is eerie.

It's eerie because two of my three boys are home. They just had their last day of school before the winter holiday, a half day, and they are home. And they are quiet. I mean SILENT quiet.

My oldest is busily, obsessively, and quietly on his way to solving the 5x5 Rubik's cube I gave him for his birthday two days ago. I'm guessing he will have it done by the end of the day or tomorrow at the latest.

My youngest is reading. Yes, reading. The reluctant reader is in his room reading a book and does not want to go anywhere or do anything, he wants to stay home because he is reading a good book. He is actually choosing to read rather than cruise the kitchen for any holiday sweets that might be lurking in drawers.

Even the dog is quietly lying at my feet and not jumping up every few minutes to see what I'm doing.

The quiet is so strange that I am slinking around trying to figure out what to do. I am just more used to trying to drown out noise so I can form coherent thoughts. With the absence of the noise, I still don't have any coherent thoughts.

I'm not going to waste this kind of tranquility on doing laundry. I'm going to enjoy this quiet because I know I will never again have it after I give my youngest son his Christmas present; an electric guitar.

What the f#%@ was I thinking?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm Not That Old!

My oldest son is thirteen today. A teenager. I am the mother of a teenager.

We are going out to dinner as a family to celebrate.

I have an uncontrollable urge to make sure I DON'T look like the mother of a teenager tonight. I want the chef who will cook our dinner at Benihana's to think, as he throws knives and slaps shrimp around the tepan grill, I want him to think DANG she is way too young to be the mother of this teenager.

In three years my son will be getting a driver's license. In ten years he will be two years past the legal drinking age.

If my dermatologist was really smart, she would start blasting clients with all kinds of youth-enhancing treatments when their children turn thirteen. Having a teenager makes you venerable to youth-enhancing promises.

Mom, I know you are going to call me when you read this and tell me that it is even weirder to have a grandchild who is a teenager. Then again maybe you didn't think it was weird until now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

These Holiday Blues Are Not Mine!

Talk about the holiday blues! This morning I got out of the shower and grabbed one of my favorite pairs of jeans from my closet. I went to put them on and they were a little more difficult to get over my thighs. As I started wriggling and pulling, I thought "I am going to kill my friend Tali who made those EVIL pretzel-Hershey kisses-M&Ms things. I ate a whole bunch of them and now my jeans don't fit!"

Then rrrippppp went the belt loop as I tried desperately to get the jeans over my hips.

SHIT. Not good.

I look down at the jeans. How could this be? Yes, they DID fit me last week.

Then I looked again.

They were my son's jeans. My eleven-year-old son's jeans.

Thank god.

First, but probably not the last, time that will happen. And perhaps soon they will even fit me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Holiday Help

Getting out all the Christmas decorations can really be a pain. First of all, they are stored where I cannot retrieve them by myself. In the past I have had to rely on my husband to get them down, which usually occurs about ten days and eighty-seven reminders after I would actually like to have them available. Second, we have an artificial tree which requires at least two people to assemble.

One of the most awesome things about having three boys who are getting very strong is that they can get all the decorations and the tree down for me and I only have to ask them once and bribe them with candy.

OK before you write me off as one of those "fake tree" people, let me just tell you that my entire family used to be sick for the entire month of December, from the day we put the tree in the house until the day it went to the trash. Yep, allergies. Fake tree equals no sniffling, no sneezing, no sinus infections, no ear infections, no trips to pediatrician, pharmacy, no antibiotics. So I don't care what you say, it's worth it.

When I bought our fake tree eight years ago, it was a marvel. Even my mom was jealous. It's twelve feet tall, with thousands of tiny white lights. It came with a VHS video demonstrating how to assemble it, starring a very effeminate man who overly enthusiastic about Christmas trees. The first time we watched it we were crying so hard with laughter we couldn't follow the instructions.

Eight years later this tree is dusty and only three of the thirty (?) strings of lights still works. It's the old-school lights where if one goes out, the whole string goes out. So it sat in our living room for the last five days looking very dusty and very pathetic, lit at the top, middle left, and part of the bottom. My husband INSISTED he was going to fix it.

I gave him a deadline and an ultimatum. If the lights are not fixed, or mostly (partly?) fixed by a particular date, the tree goes away and I replace it. As the deadline neared, he completely avoided the tree, not looking at it, talking about it, even being in the same room as the tree. I knew there was no way he would test each and every little bulb on that tree, but he was breaking out in hives at the thought of having to throw something like that away. I certainly wasn't going to fix the lights myself. Finally tonight the deadline arrived. He let out a deep sigh as he prepared to go in and face down the tree.

My oldest looked at him and said, "Dad, do you need a Christmas tree pep talk?"

After much laughter my husband admitted that he just didn't have the time or desire to work on the lights and maybe we should replace it. At the ready, I brought in the cheap tree I bought at Home Depot. We set it up, all the lights work. But it is half the height of the old one, didn't come with a funny video, and will only hold about one-eighth of our ornaments. It looks pretty bad. On this new tree, if one light goes out, the others on the string stay lit. But it's not really a big deal because I think this tree has only two strands of lights on it. My middle son put a positive spin on it. "Mom, it will look like we have a TON of presents when we put them under that tree."

Now I'm the one who needs a Christmas tree pep talk. I'm thinking about going back to a real tree, sinus infections and all.

I'm going to bed to dream about my secret fantasy of having Kren, the florist who created stunning flowers for our wedding almost eighteen years ago, coming to my house to deliver a very tall beautiful perfect tree, setting it up, lighting it, and decorating it for me. A girl can dream.

In reality I'm going to have some interesting negotiations with the boys about which ornaments we put on the tree and which get left out this year. Hey, at least we won't need the ladder.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Hundred Years

This is my husband's beautiful grandmother, the day before her 100th birthday. She was born in, and still lives in Juneau Alaska. It was a pleasure and an honor to be there to celebrate with her and the many relatives who traveled to Juneau for the occasion.

Her words of advice? Live a healthy, outdoor lifestyle.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Alaska Gathering

Here in Juneau Alaska, the sun rises at 8:17 am and sets at 3:15 pm this time of year. The difference in temperature between day and night is two degrees. It's raining a lot, snowing just a little.

There is a woman, born in Juneau 100 years ago, who is completely used to the short days in the winter and the very long days in the summer. She was born here before Alaska was a state. She raised six children here and sent them all to college, despite the fact her husband died when she was pregnant with her last child, and she has never even had a driver's license. She is my husband's grandmother.

Her birthday has drawn about 50 people to Juneau, all of them related to my husband. Many of us are in the same hotel. It's close to the airport. So close that when you get out of the shower you have a great view of the control tower and the people in it. So close that when we arrived, we just walked across the street and checked in.

Juneau is a popular stop in the summer for cruise ships and for people sightseeing and hiking or fishing. The only way to get here is by water or air. The road only goes so far. You can drive out to the end of the road, from one end to the other, in less than an hour. In the winter, many of the stores and restaurants are closed.

Dark, chilly, wet. Lots of cousins. Not really anywhere to go. I'd say couped up would describe it. We have the room above the office, which contains hardly-working persons who do not appreciate the fact that there are at least five people above them, walking, stomping, jumping, wrestling, and occaisionally tossing a baseball around. We've gotten a phone call asking us to quiet down. Um, didn't they place us in this room? Didn't they see we have three boys?

So we decided to use the conference room at the hotel for a game night. We invited all the relative over, and we gathered dominos, cards, a jigsaw puzzle, and a couple other games. We were ready to occupy tonight, when the ever-so-attentive staff (oh I'm sorry, do I work here? I'm watching TV!) told us OOPS someone just rented it out. So while a bunch of ladies are trying on lingere and learning the ins and outs of all kinds of different sex toys, my husband's relatives are piling up in the tiny lobby and we are trying to figure out where to put everyone. I had the idea of going across the street to the airport where there is lots of room to run around, but no one seemed to take my suggestion seriously. I could hand-signal the control tower staff and ask if it's OK.

I better go down and see what's going on. I want to be there if one of the relatives wanders into the conference room.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Broken Wrist 2.0

Broken wrist 1.0 was middle child careening down a ski slope on a mountain bike this last summer.

Broken wrist 2.0 was oldest child playing all-out basketball at school and falling down. Just today.

We got to the doctor's office, waited and waited, then got to the radiology department just after they no longer accept wet-read orders. Meaning they could xray it but could not read it right away and tell us if it was broken. Huh. Hmm.

Time was of the essence. We've got a holiday staring us down here people! We've got plans! We've got non-refundable tickets!

Not to give away any secrets of having friends who are doctors or orthopedists, but when you need to call in a favor, you do.

No cast, just a brace, thank goodness. And we owe someone a couple bottles of really nice wine.

Boys, Baseball, Train and Bad Coffee

I brought my laptop but never even got a chance to open it up.

Between eating ridiculously large pancakes, trying to sleep with a train going by all night long blaring it's horn, four baseball games, and driving 760 miles, all in two days, there just wasn't time.

It was a lot of fun though. Fun games to watch, great parents to hang out with, it was a good road trip. I am becoming a real baseball fan. I'm scaring myself.

I'm not a fan, however, of the pervasive culture of crappy junk food that permeates baseball. If they had anything decent or healthy to eat at the baseball park, I wouldn't mind not being able to bring my own snacks and drinks. It wouldn't be so painful to pay exorbitant prices to eat there. But it is nasty nasty crap. The coffee cost more than Starbucks, there was no cream, only non-dairy creamer, and each time I took a sip I involuntarily winced it was so bad.

On the other hand, you can buy a beer, which is perfectly good because they don't make it there, and sit and watch your son play baseball. I personally would prefer a glass of wine, but I shudder at the thought of what selection they would offer.

OK, I'm a bit of a food snob. I admit it. But my son didn't want to eat anything there either. Why does it seem that so many baseball people have no taste buds?

I'm thinking that I'm going to invent an illness for my son, like gluten and free-radicals intolerance, so we can bring our own food into these places.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Off again!

I am off again.

Off to a U11 Baseball tournament in Riverside California. That's right, a weekend road trip with my son.

This time I am leaving my husband with instructions to put ointment in the dog's eye twice a day and to leach the ground-up acorns in the refrigerator once a day.

In exchange I am leaving him with a freshly roasted turkey breast and homemade cranberry sauce. I'm not sure if he will see this as a good trade or not.

I look forward to posting over the weekend about being immersed in this very testosterone-infused weekend. Should be fun!

Note to my husband: Don't eat the acorn stuff. It's not ready until Monday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We Saw 13

We took our boys to see the musical Thirteen tonight. It was put on by our local Children's Musical Theater, CMTSJ. There were about ten kids from our school in the production. I really enjoyed the show, both the story and watching children I know singing and dancing on stage.

For the first few minutes of the show, I almost had a heart attack though.

We were sitting rather far away and I mistook one of the lead girls for one of my son's friends. A friend of my eleven year old son, with whom he has been exchanging enough texts to fill a monosyllabic novel, or alternatively, makes us very very glad we got the unlimited plan. I'm not sure they talk to each other at school though. But they are masters of the three word question and answer exchange. I digress. Anyhow, I was having heart palpitations watching this girl on stage singing and poised and, well, kind of sexy and grown up-looking, tossing her hair and hips around and looking just like a teenager. I thought, my god, this cannot be the girl my ELEVEN year old son texts constantly! I am not ready for this! My husband was having a similar reaction. We clutched at each other, rather panicked. Then we realized that it really was a teenager and not the 6th grader we thought it was. Big sigh of relief.

My youngest son was literally at the edge of his seat for the whole show. His favorite line from the show was, "We all have a little more homework to do." He said that is one of the truest lines he has ever heard.

Toward the end of the show the actors and actresses say what they did on their thirteenth birthday. There were various things, then one girl says, "I signed a virginity pledge!" There was a rather long silence, when my nine year old turned to me and asked, "A WHAT?" in his not so quiet voice. Getting no immediate response from me, he thought I didn't hear. "A WHAT? SHE DID WHAT? WHAT DID SHE SAY?" Trust me, I heard him and so did everyone sitting within three or four rows. While my husband cracked up beside me, we shushed him and watched the rest of the show. I know that was a temporary reprieve and he will bring it up again soon. Like when we are standing in line at Starbucks or at the grocery store. Or hanging out with his younger cousins at the Thanksgiving table. "Hey mom, what is a virginity pledge anyway?"

After the show, we stood outside and congratulated the friends in the show. The aforementioned friend who is a girl (but not a girlfriend) was there, and my middle son awkwardly mumbled something to her, trying to look at her while trying not to look at her and not sure what to do with his body that was telling him to run away and stay put at the same time. Well, at least I know he will tell her "great job" in a text. Yes, we all have a little more homework to do.

Find more videos like this on 13 The Musical Fansite

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm Back!

I am back from my trip.

I had a great time. I am relaxed. I am tan, but not too tan. I have done a cranial flush and have forgotten when basketball practices are and that I was supposed to be in science class today helping to grind acorns. I feasted on Hawaiian fish and indulged in fruity drinks with umbrellas, some very weak and one very strong. I picked kohlrabi on the side of a volcano. I spent more time in the hot tub than is recommended on the sign nearby. I visited my favorite kooky coffee place, Java Jazz, and was happy to see the depraved Barbie-themed decorations are still there. I saw tattoos that were not right, and I talked to honeymooners still in shock that they just got married. I got briefly trapped in the back room of the Peter Max gallery in Lahaina with a saleswoman who enjoyed using the dimmer switch way too much. I watched every sunset and none of the sunrises.

And I came back to . . . three boys and a husband who were very glad to see me. Nothing suffered while I was away, everyone did just fine. But each boy found a moment to tell me it was nice to have me back, and I know they meant it because there was a little extra squeeze in the hug. Everyone appreciated me just a bit more. And I appreciate them just a bit more.

So I think I should go to Hawaii a little more often.

Halloween 2009

Click here to view these pictures larger

Elvis on a bad hair day, a hippie, and a referee! This is a very clunky way of putting a photo here of Halloween but I was a dumbshit and forgot my own camera, so this is what I get. I have to share this photo because I'm not sure how much longer all the boys will be dressing up. The older two were less interested in Halloween this year. I'm not sure what it is, too much effort?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Twinge of Guilt

I have a twinge of guilt.

I am off for a tropical paradise, leaving my husband to manage the boys.

I'm not saying he can't do it. Not at all.

It's just that usually it takes BOTH of us to get everyone where they need to be. We have a change over of sports this week too. Flag football has ended and basketball, both NJB and school teams, are starting practice.

What I'm Getting Out Of, By the Numbers

6: Days I will be gone
14: Number of basketball practices
3: Number of soccer practices
1: Number of baseball practices
1: Number of soccer games
2: Number of baseball games
10: Trips back and forth to school in the car
6: Dinners I will not be cooking
8: Number of times the dishwasher will need to be unloaded
0: Number of "people" my family has working for us to help with all of the above jobs
500: Number of times I will not be asking someone to stop bouncing a ball in the house
15: Number of times I will not be yelling at someone to go to bed
0: Days that I will wake up at 6:30 am

Oh god, now that I look at this list I hope that my husband will not read this. At least not until my flight leaves. Maybe I have more than just a twinge of guilt. As a mom there is just no getting around it, the guilt is always there when we shirk our duties to do something for ourselves. It shouldn't stop us from taking a break once in a while.

So I am going to do my best to not feel the guilt, have a great time, and come back to a very appreciative family with a rested and tan smile on my face.

Not too tan, or I'll feel too guilty next time I see my dermatologist. Oh there it is again. Stop it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kale Chips

This is not a cooking blog, but I must share this snack that has become a recent favorite in my house.

Who doesn't need an easy, quick way to get your kids to eat kale?

Kale Chips
recipe from Bon Appetit

1 bunch Tuscan kale leaves (also known as lacinato kale in my area), rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil (I use garlic-scented olive oil)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 250°F. Toss kale with oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves. Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

I have made these several times lately. My boys scarf down two bunches of kale made into these chips as an appetizer. I recently brought them to a cocktail party. They are vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and almost fat-free, pleasing just about everyone. If you have a three year old, you might want to rename this recipe Green Potato Chips, as one faithful reader of this blog did the other night. I hate to tell people how easy they are to make but I've had too many ask for the recipe so the secret's out.

Let me know how you like these.


I am drowning in the deep waters of sports. I'm blaming my lack of ability to update this blog on that at the moment.

Select soccer, tournament baseball, flag football (two teams), competitive tether ball (ok that one's only during recess), basketball practices (five different teams, don't ask), lacrosse clinic, timed-mile running in PE, football games on TV, World Series games on TV which seem to justify staying up late to watch or at least listen to the games. And mom, I might want to try out volleyball. Sports Illustrated magazines everywhere.


And that's not all, it's the endless discussion that we must have about each of the above, the review of each play, the analysis of each game or practice, the details of each point scored or lost, what each player was doing and what they could have done better.

I feel like I am living each day in preparation for the sports; the laundry, the food, the trips to the gas station. The shoes, the balls, the constant organizing of the right equipment in the right place. My car and my husband's car both smell like locker rooms.

Yes, I am drowning. But my boys are quite happily swimming around in this sea of sports. Not literally, thank god. That is one sport we are not participating in at the moment. Shutter. Those weekend-consuming swim meets are a no go.

So while some parents might think we are nuts, and I wouldn't disagree, what I CAN tell you is my boys are healthy, they are having fun, and they are NOT out at the local elementary school on weekends experimenting with Malatov cocktails. Which some 13 year olds in my town are doing. They are NOT taking marijuana with them to the school fair. Which some 13 year olds in my town are doing. And they are not sulking and sitting around playing violent video games. They don't have time for any of that shit!

Oh thank goodness, a life preserver has been thrown to me. A trip with a girlfriend. And no sports for a few days. It just might save my sanity.

Here is a little test for you. How many pieces of equipment are shown in this picture? (Answer: 13) How many pieces of equipment are necessary but not shown here? (Answer: 5) Can you name them all? Can you organize them all? Can you clean them all? Can you find them all when no one else can?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Brace Yourself

My oldest gets braces later this week. In anticipation of this teenage right of passage I have done something completely contrary to my personality.

I bought him a whole bunch of candy.

He doesn't even have much of a sweet tooth, but I felt like he should be able to eat a bunch of the stuff that will soon be forbidden fruit. I have this faint hope that he will get tired of those certain candies and not miss them for the next year or two.

So we have Starburst, Laughy Taffy, Airheads, gum, Sour Patch Kids and kettle corn around the house and his brothers think his getting braces might be the best thing that ever happened because MOM BOUGHT CANDY. I'm sure in the backs of their minds they are compiling a list of all the candy they want before they get their own braces. Damn, I think I've set a precedent.

And you must not know my boys very well if you have to wonder about Halloween coming up. No costumes yet but candy-trading negotiations reminiscent of Wall Street are starting: shares, unit trusts, derivatives, pooled investment products and bonds are being issued and discussed. Wouldn't surprise me if someone broke out a spreadsheet to track it all.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Future Careers

What if one of my sons ended up as an artist someday?

What if he became an artist like this?

It would be really cool but what if as a mom I had to describe to people what he does for a living?

I was thinking of selling all those little Lego people on ebay but I may have to reconsider JUST IN CASE.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Test of Patience

I was looking over the contents of my son's Friday Folder last night. You know, the folder that comes home on Fridays with his completed work and tests. One test caught my eye, a vocabulary test where he missed five of the questions. My youngest son certainly has a pretty good grasp of the English language so I looked over the questions he missed.

Here is one of them:

A person needs be patient in order to

a. eat dinner.
b. wait for a delayed train.
c. play in a band.
d. go into a hospital.

My son chose a. And let me tell you, this shows me he absolutely understands the meaning of the word patient.

In his lifetime of experience, he has had to be patient many many times to eat dinner and has never once had to be patient waiting for a train. He has had to wait at crowded restaurants, while ravenously hungry, to be seated. He has had to wait, while ravenously hungry, for me to finish cooking dinner.He has had to wait, while ravenously hungry, for food that has been ordered in a restaurant, to be served to the table. He has had to wait, while ravenously hungry, to eat his food until others at the table have been served. He has had to wait, not hungry but perhaps bored, to be excused from the table until others are finished with their meal.

Another question he missed:

Good baby-sitters are always alert. In this sentence, alert means

a. watchful and wide-awake.
b. fun and energetic.
c. not easily upset.
d. trained in first aid.

He chose b. I absolutely know that he would say a good babysitter needs to be energetic and fun and that means they are alert, awake. He would say, why would they need to be watchful?? That's not a good babysitter in his mind!

Yes, for a fourth grade boy, it requires much more patience to eat dinner than wait for a train. And an alert babysitter is fun and energetic, not watchful.

Are these tests written with fourth grade boys in mind??

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Record(er) Breaking

My youngest son has just passed a milestone that has been memorable for each of my boys. He has reached the point in 4th grade when he starts playing the recorder. It's a shrill, squeaky little thing which has the huge benefit of at least keeping the mouth and fingers of the player busy while assaulting the ears of anyone within 3 miles.

Like my other two boys when they first got their instruments, my youngest is obsessed with his recorder and practices a lot. Unlike my other two, he has the few simple songs he's learned so far down pat, they actually sound good, and he is trying out playing them with feeling. This is after just a couple days of playing. He is even experimenting with trying to play Smoke on the Water on the recorder.

I think he might have a talent for the thing.

That is what I tell myself as I wake up at 6:30 am to the sound of recorder music echoing around the house. I hope he learns another song very soon or I'm going to go insane.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oh Boy It's Time

We got the word today. Says the orthodontist to my oldest son: IT'S TIME!

Here is where we see the transformation from cute boy to awkward teenage look with acne and braces. Here is where we start making payments to the orthodontist, and by the time we are through, we will have contributed a large sum of money toward his children's college educations.

To my son, it's no big deal. Many of his friends have braces already. To me, a much bigger deal, I'm not sure why. Maybe because as a teenage girl I was always horrified at the thought of kissing a boy with braces on. I don't think I ever did. You see, I never had braces myself, I just remember the slobbery metallic smiles of friends, with ropes of spit clinging to those rubber bands, food stuck all over their teeth, the weird lispy speech caused by too many foreign objects in their mouth. I also remember the frequent garbage can dives to retrieve the retainers, often mistaken for Jolly Rancher watermelon candies. Ick ick ick. Yuck.

Maybe braces are better now. At least his teeth are not this bad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hello Forest

The boys had Monday off school. We needed to take advantage of having no school and no sports commitments, a real rarity! We needed what the boys and I call an "adventure day" where we go and do something fun and adventurous together. We usually go alone but this time my oldest son brought a friend.

We headed up to Big Basin, where we went last year for a camping trip. This time, we did the big Berry Creek Falls hike, a strenuous 11.5 hike through the redwood forest. A solid 5.75 hours of brisk hiking with few breaks.

No cell phone coverage, no people, no video games. Just the forest and lots and lots of snacks.

All the boys, even my 9 year old, were impressive hikers. A few times they patiently waited for me as I made my way up the steep long slopes, and most of the time I was bringing up the rear. My oldest even said, "Mom, you are a trouper!" Oh please.

We all enjoyed the hike for different reasons. I enjoyed the quiet of the forest, the beautiful scenery, the clean air, and the chance to chat or just listen to the conversation. The boys enjoyed the challenge and they love, even crave, being in the forest. I really do believe it is just good for boys to spend time in the relative wilderness. They felt responsible and independent, carrying what they needed, reading a trail map, estimating distances, helping each other when someone fell, peeing on a tree, spotting poison oak. I really got the feeling they could have done the hike without me, until my youngest fell and scraped up his leg exactly at the point where we were furthest from the ranger station. Then they were glad I was there with my first aid kit and LOTS of bandaids. It was my youngest who was in reality the trouper, finishing the hike without complaining until the very last quarter mile, when I was tired and sore myself.

But at the end of the hike, they were not too tired to climb the root structure of an enormous sequoia that fell more than thirty years ago. I had to force them back to the car so I could sit down.

On Being Gay (Child's View)

Shared by my nine year old recently:

"Mom, you know what would be good about being gay? You never have to go to the mall with your wife! And you can do manly stuff together like go dirt biking."

Other than stifle a guffaw, I wasn't sure how to react to that. There are just so many things to say, so many of them not appropriate for a nine year old level of understanding. So I just let it go. For now.

I'm not sure where the aversion to the mall came from. One thing's for sure, being gay does not give you a stay-out-of-the-mall card!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will Work for Food

Many of you may not know my assistant. He sleeps on the job but that's OK because I don't pay him much.



Now I'm suspicious.

I can be patient and get the most out of this.

I wonder what he wants.

I hope it's not a car.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dishing It Out

Today was a historic day.


I'm still feeling rather faint from shock.

I can't help but feel we've reached some sort of milestone. And whatever it is, I know I did not personally reach this milestone until I was at least seventeen years old. At least. And he's not quite thirteen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do You Wine?

We do. Quite a bit.

When my youngest son was in kindergarten, his class celebrated the 100th day of school. His homework for the celebration was to create something from 100 items we had around the house. I cast around for possible items: pieces of pasta, toothpicks, squares of toilet paper, nails, dust bunnies . . . it all seemed so usual, so I've-seen-it-before. Then I found the giant bag of corks. I have been saving them for some vague idea of a future craft project, possibly involving building furniture or an addition to the house. Seriously, I had a lot of corks. My son and I counted out 100 of them and it didn't even make a dent. Yes, I know you can now recycle natural cork at Whole Foods so stop it.

I gave him the corks and a hot glue gun and he went nuts. I still have the project he made.

He proudly carried it in to school, and only as I watched his backside round the corner, did I think about the fact that it just might not be a good idea to send your child to school with such a blatant example of your affinity for wine. Oh shit too late now.

Later that day the phone call came. "Umm, NICE project your son did for 100th day!" the Head of the Lower School said. I was horrified. I didn't even know her, she didn't know me, and now she has pegged me as an alcoholic mother. Oh great.

It turns out that the Head of the Lower School drinks her share of wine too and she actually thought it was funny that my son used corks. Whew.

Fast forward to 4th grade. We are at Back to School Night for the same son. The night has gone smoothly, we have met all the teachers, they are all fabulous, it's an idyllic place, the weather is warm. My husband and I are waiting outside the last classroom of the night, science, chatting with other parents. Suddenly the science teacher appears, heading straight for my husband and his name tag. "Oh you are R's dad! I have to tell you a funny story!"

Both my husband and I wince, our shoulders tense, and we look at each other with a smile/grimace that means, "Here we go again." We have heard many funny stories about our youngest son, not all of them funny, certainly all of them utterly unpredictable.

So in fourth grade this year, my son will be studying the oak woodland environment, in which the school is located. In class they were discussing oak trees and the many uses they have. Climbing, building, wine barrels. Apparently my son then informed the science teacher "some chardonnays are aged in stainless steel, not all of them are aged in oak." Or something to that effect. She thought it was quite funny and unusual. Thank goodness she wasn't around when my son was in kindergarten. She is definitely smart enough to make some kind of connection there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Smarmy Glam Out, Tough In

Clearly I need to get rid of that smarmy glamorous Teen Beat looking header on my blog. It just doesn't reflect reality any more. I need one featuring sports, muscles, and sweat. If I can get all three boys in the same place at the same time with good lighting, I will craft something.

Plus, I just found out my dad hates that picture. Yep, it's gotta go.

Muscle Man/Boy

My oldest son, almost thirteen, said to me the other day, "Mom, do you need help carrying that? Do you want me to use my awesome man-muscles?"

So I looked at him that night. I mean really looked at him.

Holy shit, he does have awesome man-muscles. Or teenager-muscles.

This really freaks me out. This is my first baby. How can he look like this?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Field Trip Already?

My sixth grader is off on a field trip already. Yes, we just started school and he has left today for five days in Yosemite to hike and a science-related curriculum. He packed his bag this morning before he left, just like his Dad does. I hate that. I have to be more organized ahead of time, but since HE had to pack, HE got to pick when to do it.

He got to school, met up with friends, and had not a trace of nervousness or trepidation getting on the bus. I wasn't surprised. He loves anything related to being outside, the forest, and camping. He is a very independent guy.

He is almost like a teenager. The almost part being the footed pajamas and the teddy bear that went into the suitcase. And the fact that he does not care what his friends might think about either one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A New School Year

This morning, my middle son, eleven years old and a new 6th grader, was up early. For the 100-pound, almost five foot tall kid who is almost visibly growing, that is unusual. He loves his sleep, and likes to sleep in. It takes him a while to wake up in the morning. Sports-talk radio blares from his room for at least 20 minutes before he can rouse himself.

Last night was my birthday, and we were all up a little late eating an insanely rich dense chocolate-chocolate cake. So to see him up early, diligently studying at the kitchen table just made me smile. He is really getting a good start in school this year!

My husband came to the kitchen to say goodbye to him before leaving for the office. "Hey buddy, what are you studying there?" he asked, looking down at his paper. My son galnced up and said, "The football plays, Dad. I've got to memorize them."

My husband then gave me the goofiest smile, a combination of pride, amusement, and I-can't-believe-you-are-surprised-he's-obsessed-with-sports-don't-you-have-that-figured-out-yet look.

Apparently my son is taking his job as quarterback of the 5th/6th grade team very seriously. And apparently, the dad who never got picked to play the quarterback as a kid is enjoying himself a bit. I've got to get that book back out, Football for Dummies. I'm not totally sure what the quarterback exactly does.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Not Quite on the Ball (Yet)

I thought I was mostly ready for the boys to back to school.

Then I had one of those "am I a bad mother?" thoughts this morning as my middle son, who lives for PE, is running out the door for carpool and shouts, "Mom, I need my PE uniform today!" Mad scramble as all three boys shoot up the stairs and through the house, doing an all-out sprint for their rooms. I know the shorts are in the washer. Been there for three days. Ooops. For god's sake, keeping track of school uniforms, baseball uniforms, soccer uniforms, and PE uniforms in addition to all the regular laundry is really testing my sanity. Not my brain, just my sanity.

Thank goodness it's going to be hot today. Those wet PE shorts should feel great.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Back to School!


Not to be too eager or anything. But it is back to school and I am more ready than ever for the time of year that brings the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new backpacks. And time to have coffee with my friends.

It has been a topsy-turvy summer of fun, stress and changes.

Can we please get on some kind of schedule of regularity?

Can we please get a guide on how to deal with a teenager? A teenager, which I believe is the antithesis of regularity? Who is this almost thirteen year old with changing facial structure and body, acne (mild thank god), Converse tennis shoes with neon laces, and a girlfriend?

And who is his brother, full of testosterone, sass, and sheer muscle mass, obsessed with sports but able to cry hysterically over a deer with a broken leg?

And can someone PLEASE freeze the fourth-grader who out of the blue decides he wants to hold my hand once in a while?

You know you are getting old when your kids have a way more fun summer than you do, and you look forward to the start of school so you can sit in quiet for an hour with time to think.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Boys Cubed

I am a geek at heart. As a kid, I took great pride in being able to solve the Rubik's Cube. The Rubik's Cube was introduced in 1980, when I was thirteen, just a few months older than my oldest son is now.

I've had a Rubik's Cube around the house for years, hoping someone would pick it up and play with it. When my oldest son was at camp recently, I threw it in a care package that I mailed to him. Several days later when I talked to him on the phone he told me he was working on it, and then the next time I talked to him, he was very excited to tell me he could solve it now. I secretly rejoiced: another geek!

When he came home, the Rubik's Cube hardly left his grasp and he was determined to teach my middle son how to do it too. Now, I have two children who can solve the Rubik's Cube!

I wondered, would my youngest attempt it?

He looked at me and said, "Mom, the only way I am going to do a Rubik's Cube is to move all the stickers."

OK, I get it, cool people who are not geeks find other ways to deal with solving the cube.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Coming Soon to A Blog Near You

One mom.

One dad.

Three boys.

Two hundred square feet.

Two weeks.

Oh yeah, and add in the good friends, a family used to staying at the Four Seasons, bent on seeing the "real America."

Am I f**ing crazy?

Sparkling Clean and Shiny

In a fit of enthusiastic enterprising and a desire to feed their candy habit, my boys decided to wash my car for cash. Needing a car wash anyway, I was happy to pay them for the task. I figured it would keep them busy and they would have more fun than watching the cars get washed at the car wash. (Yes, the days when I would take them to the car wash and they would stand transfixed for hours are over). With caked-on bug splatter from two recent drives to Southern California and back (that's 1,400 miles), they had their work cut out for them.

I told them to use just a bit of the blue Dawn detergent and go for it.

An hour later my car was incredibly clean, sparkly and shiny. I was amazed at how well the bug stuff came off. The windows were very streaky but this is the most challenging part of washing a car, even for professionals. I could live with the streaky windows, an improvement over the nose art from the dog.

I felt almost guilty for paying them only $5 each.

Not to worry, they negotiated and cut a deal with Dad to wash three other cars for $40 each. What a sucker.

I have to say they improved with each car washed, and the windows were not even streaky.

Then as I was walking in the door of the house the next day, I noticed my bottle of JetDry Rinse Agent sitting there. Odd. Why would it be anywhere other than under the kitchen sink? As I picked it up, I noticed the blue liquid, exactly the same color as the Dawn detergent.

Yes, my car was washed with JetDry. It did a great job of dislodging cooked-on bugs. The car is very very shiny and I am certain that food will not stick to it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Feverish About Summer

Ahh, the start of summer. It's what I've been looking forward to for the last few crazed months. The carefree days, the impromptu BBQs, the sleeping in, the time to sit and drink a glass of sun-brewed ice tea and read my book, the time to practice making art in my journal and tackle a couple other projects, the chance to get a pedicure.

What the hell was I thinking?

It's daily All Star baseball practice, a list of people I am trying to schedule BBQs or get-togethers with who have busier schedules than mine, my kids are sleeping in but I can't anymore even if I stay up later than they do, I tried to make sun-tea but forgot it outside for two days, my book is already due at the library anyway (I know, time to get a Kindle). I feel like I am spending alternate days at Costco trying to keep enough food in the house just for the boys, let alone enough to do any entertaining. And to make it worse, my family has fallen victim to a virulent virus (nice alliteration) that has so far claimed three of the five of us, myself included. We don't have it at the same time, we are staggered about two days apart, so there has been somebody feeling crappy for a whole week. It started with my oldest son who had such a high fever he was hallucinating and about as active as a wet sponge. Alarmed, I took him to the doctor who swabbed his nose for a culture. He was so out of it he told the doctor the swabbing felt good! She looked at me with alarm too. No influenza, meningitis or appendicitis. She told me to give him Tylenol, suppository if necessary, fluids, and then looked at me in a really pitiful way and said without any hope, "Well I hope the rest of you don't get it." Two days later I got it, then today my youngest son fell victim. My oldest is now recovered, feeling fine and ready to get out and about, but no one else is.

Today is my seventeenth wedding anniversary, and my husband and I are emailing each other from across the house because neither of us have the energy to move, he from the couch with a sick child, me from my computer trying to catch up on some email with a very foggy and pounding head. We are trying to convince each other to put the kids to bed, and trying to muster up energy to watch a movie together.

Let's hope this summer starts looking up real soon here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gossip Mom Sideswipes Friendship

I recently had a confrontation with one of those vindictive, overinvolved gossipy kind of mothers. Yeah, you know the type. It's a lot like avoiding a bad driver. You know she's a bad driver, you try to stay out of the way, but you are in the same traffic every day so the odds are she's going to sideswipe you or, worse, rear-end you. The hard part is that it is impossible to predict when the accident will happen. It comes out of no where. At the least you are going to have a little bit of body damage, a scratch or a dent.

So I got sideswiped by her. My nine-year-old son was wrongly accused of paying another boy to deliver a sexually harassing message to a female third grader at the end of the year pool party. And worse, he was accused of this in front of a group of little girls and several parents. And imagine, this woman's child was not even involved.

My son and I learned that yes, even adults can be wildly inappropriate. It makes the inappropriate stuff said by children occasionally to look like, well, kid stuff. We also had a lot of discussion together about the nature of friendship, and how friends don't try to hurt each other, they try to help each other. We talked about how you can tell if a friend is really a friend by some of their actions. This is tough stuff for a nine-year-old boy who really just wants to go outside, climb a tree with a giant squirt gun on his back, and lay in wait for a hapless victim like his brother to ride by on a bike or the dog to walk by.

I learned, again, that having good friends can make me realize the scratch I got from this sideswipe is in reality a funny story. That having a glass of wine with a friend who is determined to make me laugh about this story for the ridiculous thing that it is, is a gift. Giving us the gentle reminder, when we really need it, to look at things in perspective is another very valuable trait of friendship. I hope to be able to teach my son this, but I think this is one lesson he has to learn by experiencing for himself the difference between a true friend and a self-serving friend.

And I can't tell how much I appreciated this story from another friend of mine. He and his twin were in kindergarten. They had recently visited their diabetic grandmother and took a handful of her saccharin tablets. You know, the tiny white ones? They brought them to school and very fairly handed them out to all of the kindergartners. Finding they had some left over, they handed out seconds to some of the children. One of the girls, feeling slighted, told the teacher that the boys were handing out little white pills and that she did not get a second one and it wasn't fair. The teacher, in a panic that all her students had consumed some mysterious little white pills, grabbed one and rushed across the street to the pharmacy to ask what they were. She was told by the pharmacist that they were LSD tablets.

The teacher spent the rest of the year, unsuccessfully, trying to get the twins expelled.

So I actually can thank this gossip mom for reminding me about the value of true friends and about the value of laughter. It's a reminder I intend to carry with me all summer!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Morning Serenade

A few mornings ago I came down to the kitchen with the boys already getting their frozen waffles ready. My youngest son sings a lot. Well, he talks a lot too. But this morning he was singing, to the tune of Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard.

In case you need a refresher here is a link to the video and song on YouTube.

He changed the words though, to "She's hot, sticky and sweet, from her hair, to her dress," and was belting it out complete with air guitar. That's odd, I thought, as I rounded the corner.

Then I saw that he was singing to Mrs. Butterworth.

OK don't give me a hard time about this people, we're in a recession and so we take drastic measures: substituting Mrs. Butterworth for the real stuff once in a while.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mom's Softball Nightmare

We are in the throes of baseball playoffs, the cramming of last homework and projects due for the end of the school year, the flurry of social commitments for adults and children including but not limited to three end-of-year parties, a mom's night out party, a board/spouse party, two baseball end-of-year parties, a soccer end-of-year party and several "oh my god I'm about to have my children 24/7 let's go out to lunch" gatherings (skipping those this year sorry).

None of this freaks me out as much as the email I got tonight.

Our Little League is organizing a Mom's softball game.

Instantly I am transported back to high school, to the PE class that was the bane of my existence, an absolute torture for me from 7th grade until graduation. I hated the smelly crowded locker room with no privacy, I hated the sadistic female teachers that looked more like men, I hated the dorky PE uniform, I hated being outside on the grass that I was allergic to, I hated not knowing how to play any of the games. I hated the fact that I couldn't catch, throw, or hit a ball of any kind. Even a vollyball. Or a tennis ball. Really.

Most of all I hated the process of picking teams. I was the LAST person chosen for any team (except for academic decathalon but that's another story) every single time teams were picked for my entire PE career. Even my best friend would pick me last. She played varsity basketball and softball, and ended up going to college on a field hockey scholarship so I guess that is not such a shocker. I tried everything I could think of to get out of PE. I claimed I had my period for the entire swimming section (didn't work), I claimed I needed the time to take another AP class (didn't work), I offered to work in the library (didn't work), I claimed I'd rather be a trainer and help tape the ankles of those more able-bodied. That kind of worked, but when I entered the room where the taping happens, with all the weight-lifting equipment and the smell of BO and rubber and metal, and then I saw the disgusting feet of the Jr. varsity football players, I think I might have fainted. I really couldn't do that either.

I so clearly remember standing out in the field during a softball game during the end of my senior year, praying the ball would not come anywhere near me, looking around at all the other loser kids who weren't playing any kind of sport, and wondering how this humiliating experience could possibly be necessary for me to graduate. I was one of the top students in my class, already accepted to Santa Clara University, and I was out there trying my best to avoid proving, once again, that I had absolutely no hand-eye coordination. How is it possible that I can solve a Rubik's cube but I have never ever hit the ball with the bat?

My boys are good at sports to the same degree that I was horrible at them.

So back to the Mom's Softball game. I'm a reasonably fit person. My kids are good baseball players. I could imagine that I would not be the last person picked for the team. I mean, these people didn't know me in high school. They might assume I could play. But then imagine the disappointment! The embarrassment! My husband and kids, and all the other parents and coaches laughing!

A Mom's softball game sounds like the stuff of nightmares. I will let those moms who were captains of their teams, who played sports, who can hit and catch a ball, get out there in cute outfits and run the bases. I'm out of town that weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Evening Walk

I feel sorry for him. Really I do. Growing and developing and changing can really take it's toll on your ability to remember where the milk is stored in the refrigerator, to bring your PE clothes to school, to find your baseball glove hiding in front of you on the floor of the garage. My twelve and a half year old goes through phases where clearly his brain is off somewhere else doing other important things. During these times it is a good thing that his arms and legs are attached to him or he would loose them. Thank god he doesn't have to keep track of car keys yet.

These phases are maddening for a parent to watch, dangerous for a parent to participate in (take a giant step back please), and touched with a bit of empathetic embarrassment and humor.

I just learned a very important lesson about the phase of adolescence that we are embarking on in our house. In all the frustration and craziness, there are some crystalline moments when you see through the cloud of teenager to the wonderful person your child is struggling to become. You have to keep your sense of humor, you have to be patient, and you have to be willing to let it happen.

Today was the kind of day when I started out with grand plans to attack my To Do List and get a lot done. My oldest son called from school in the morning and very politely and apologetically explained that he forgot his swimming bag again. He had forgotten it the day before and had to run during all of PE, which wasn't so bad, but forgetting it again meant that his grade would be affected. God forbid his grade in PE be affected by one one-hundredth of a percentage point! He very nicely asked if it would be possible for me to bring his stuff by school, knowing that normally I don't make trips to school for forgotten lunches, homework, projects, or PE clothes. But he was so polite about it, and it's almost the end of the year, and I really have felt sorry for him and his lack of cognizance. So I brought the swimming stuff to school after I had coffee with a friend. The rest of the day saw only two small things crossed off my To Do list and by the time I was making dinner I had a headache.

My oldest son, taking a break from a diligent homework session, asked if he and I could go take the dog for a walk together. I informed him that I was making dinner and that after dinner would be a better time. I took a Tylenol, we all sat down to eat, and I figured he would forget about the walk. Just after dinner, he said, "OK Mom are you ready to go?" I wasn't really in the mood to go on a walk but the request was unusal and I thought I'd better take advantage of the opportunity. We started on our walk when he informed me that he had a route in mind.

Chatting away, we passed the time discussing geography of Africa and the Caribbean, summer plans, where the dog was going to poop. A mile and a half later, as we neared Baskin Robbins, my son told me that he really appreciated me bringing his swimming stuff to school, and dug a $5 bill out of his pocket. Would I like to stop for an ice cream?

Well knock me over. Wow.

The dog and I waited outside while he went in and ordered two Gold Medal Ribbons, each in a cup. I wasn't even hungry but that had to be some of the best ice cream ever, shared in a strip mall at sunset with my son who is really growing up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Family Camp

Last year after leaving Family Camp early, I really didn't think we'd ever go back. See last year's post here.

But we did. And it was the best year ever.

We stayed in a nice cabin right on the lake, the weather was great, and the boys are old enough to keep themselves busy all day long catching frogs, fishing, hiking, and hanging out with friends.

I just wish I didn't have so many loads of laundry to do. It's nicknamed "dirt camp" for a reason.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

That Kind of Kid

I had to face a realization today.

My youngest son is that kind of kid.

The kind of kid who finds a dog biscuit in his pants pocket while at school. Instead of saving it, or throwing it away, he takes it out and shows it around, marveling at how it looks exactly like a chocolate chip cookie.

I happen to know it is in fact a dog biscuit and not a cookie but his friends are not 100% sure. He decides to take a little nibble. I make a yucky face but tell him it won't hurt him. He claims it is good. One of his friends bravely tries a tiny bit.

Yeah, he's that kind of kid, the kind that will eat a dog biscuit at school.

But he's also the kind of kid that will seek out the girl who loves sweets, who eats other kid's lunches, and test her specific reaction to his eating the dog biscuit. I can see him studying her response. Is she grossed out or interested? (Interested) Will she dare ask for a bite? (Not quite) What will she do? (Ask me if it really does taste good)

Yeah, he's that kind of kid. A risk taker who loves attention and pushing people's buttons to see what they do.

As a parent of that kind of kid, I'm not sure what I can do other than sit back and watch the show.

Does Playboy Have An Age Limit?

My youngest son, who just turned nine, and I were alone for a bit in the car the other day. Usually we listen or sing to the radio. This time it was mostly quiet, until he broke the contemplative silence with the statement, "Mom, I heard there is going to be a 75 year old woman in Playboy."

There are just so many things wrong with this statement coming out of my son's mouth that I didn't know where to start. My mind began spinning with questions to ask in return, and things I could say, and then, even a mental image of what that would look like in Playboy. I briefly wondered if I could have all this brain activity going on and still be a safe driver.

I began with asking him, "What's wrong with that?" I know, in hind sight it seems an odd thing to say but that's what I did. His response: "Mom," said with a hint of exasperation, a whisper of warning, an intonation of fear to take the discussion any further. I repeated, "What's wrong with that?" Long silence. Then he said, "Mom, the ladies in Playboy are supposed to be pretty."

I really should have pulled over at that point because I think my jaw dropped on to my lap. The knowledge he has gleaned from third grade astounds me.

I didn't know what to say, so I told him 75 year old women could be very pretty (I didn't say that it's a good idea for them to keep their clothes on though). He said, "Yeah, I guess so. Besides, I've heard bad things about Playboy."

"Oh really, like what?"

"Naked people!"

And that was the end of our journey in the car and the conversation about Playboy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Last week I received an email from my youngest son's third grade teacher. I've mentioned her before, she's fantastic. Anyhow, she was updating me on the results of a recent reading assessment she did on my son. Good news, he's reading above grade level, comprehension is good, doing great. Then about an hour later, the following email, from my husband to the teacher, appeared on my iPhone. I thought it was funny and wanted to share the male perspective:

To 3rd grade teacher in response to results of reading assessment, from my husband
Great news. You are to be commended. During the same time period you have brought him up in reading and math, my wife has almost killed him several times for his inability to find his proper clothing (baseball cup, hat, underwear), deal with person grooming, complete other simple duties around the house, etc.

Since I am a man and understand the limited capabilities of the male mind, this means that my son has directed ALL of his intelligence towards you and school – and is completely incapable of having any brain cells left to be a functioning member of our household. Again, as a male, I understand and have compassion for him. And soon, he will have brain cells for cars and girls, and then when he is older he will understand that he owes it all to his Mom. It just takes 30-40 years (or longer) for men to get it… why is that???

Interesting mother-related trivia to think about on Mother's Day:
While nearly 80 percent of Americans will buy a card for mom this year, 83 percent of the cards will be purchased by daughters.

The youngest mother on record was Lina Medina, who delivered a 6½-pound boy by cesarean section in Lima, Peru in 1939, at the age of 5 years and 7 months. She delivered on Mother's Day. Yes, it's true, check it out on Snopes here.

Think about Lina's mother. That had to be one heck of a shock.

I'm hoping for a Mother's Day that's more relaxing than shocking. And I hope my boys appreciate me just a little sooner than 30 to 40 years from now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

I'm so sari but I have to put a picture of this lemon on my blog. Jesus Christ, Mr. Bill or Cindy Crawford?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nature: Deficit or Overexposure?

Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child In the Woods. Mr. Louv writes about how children are spending less time outdoors and this results in a wide range of behavioral problems. Hear Richard Louv interviewed on NPR.

When my children exhibit behavioral problems, I often deal with the problem by sending them outside. I learned this essential parenting skill from my mother who would routinely throw us girls outside and tell us she didn't want to see us until lunch (or dinner as the case may be). Some of my fondest memories of being a child are spending time outside, although much of it is fogged over by severe allergies.

The big oak tree that once held a treehouse. Only some old footholds are left.

I am fortunate to live on a large, relatively wild piece of property where there are lots of areas to explore. There's a creek, mature oak trees, a hill to slide down, room to throw rocks, a place to play basketball. Twenty years ago, long before we built our house on this property, the neighborhood children built a treehouse in one of the large oak trees. There was even a rope to swing on. We had to remove the few remaining boards and the frayed and decaying rope when we moved in, but the fact that there was once a treehouse there has fascinated my boys for the last few years. They stare up at this large and daunting tree, imagining how cool it would be to have their own space up there. They have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to climb the tree. Every once in a while, with team work and sheer will one of them manages to shimmy up part way, but this tree is not an easy one to climb. About a year ago they made a ladder out of scrap wood to help get up in the tree. They found a piece of chain and a rope and installed them to repel up the tree. Recently, the idea of a zip line between this tree and another large oak nearby has captured their interest. There has been planning, exploring, climbing, surveying going on. These trees are on a steep slope so the other day, they decided to make a sort of path/stairway to more easily get to the trees in question. They used the only tool they could find at the moment, a hammer, to hack at the earth. They did make a path that looks pretty cool. Plus, it kept them outdoors and busy for hours. All good, right? No nature deficit disorder around here!

The pathway up the hill from one tree to the other. It was created with a hammer.

My children went to a preschool that emphasizes outdoor education and play. When I see them working on this kind of outside activities I often think back to their preschool experiences and how they helped shape the way my boys play. Unfortunately my middle son, who is in 5th grade and almost 11 years old, forgot one very important lesson he learned in preschool.

Skip forward two days from the path-creating activity. I am watching my sons play in a Little League game, my middle son is pitching and doing great. The game ends, he comes off the field, walks directly over to me, and says in a slightly panicked voice, "Mom I think I have poison oak." This does not surprise me, our property is full of poison oak. At dinner after the game I see that he is visibly uncomfortable. When we get home, he undresses and I see that his body is one red swelling rash and that rash is everywhere. Yes, EVERYWHERE. He's a boy; he puts his hands down his pants on a regular basis.

The upper oak tree, with the homemade ladder in position.

Holy shit, he doesn't have Nature Deficit, he has Nature Overexposure.

As we talk about where he could possibly have gotten such a nasty case of poison oak, he admits he has forgotten what poison oak looks like. He learned this in preschool! He knows better than to be in poison oak with shorts and a t-shirt on! Then it dawns on him. Maybe that small oak tree that was in the way of the path they were building, the one he chopped down with the hammer, was actually a poison oak bush. Judging by the way he looked, I had to agree that was certainly a likely senario.

This is poison oak. Leaves of three: let it be! Looks like oak leaves but more rounded instead of pointy, and there are no barbs. My son said, "Oh yeah, the one I cut down and pulled out looked like that. Only way bigger."

After missing school, a trip to the doctor, a lot of medication, and a fair amount of suffering, I think he has learned something. Know what poison oak looks like, and think twice about putting your hands down your pants when you've been playing outside.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break Fun

I've tried something new: a podcast of this entry. Click on the title to hear it. Let me know what you think.

Spring break staycation! Hooray!

Just got an email from a friend who met up with my neighbor. A nice picture of them having a fun dinner together in Hawaii.

What are we doing? Well, let's see. My oldest was up all night, sick, coming in to me to let me know his stomach hurt every hour on the hour and reporting when he threw up. The other two are playing soccer in the house with a large bag of foam peanuts. The bag broke, the soccer game continued until every single foam peanut escaped the bag and floated over the entire house. Let's see how fun it is to have the dog run down the hallway, see how the peanuts spread around even more! See how the dog slips and slides!

And my mantras this week (it's only the second day of break): "Get out of the dog's kennel!" "Get your hands out of your pants!"

I sent a copy of this picture to a few friends, including the one who is in Hawaii. In response she called to tell me the beach is great and she has met Joe Montana and some famous baseball player and that she's eating so much wonderful food that it's almost tragic. I know, she's heartless. Another friend I sent it to called me, correctly guessed that my youngest was involved, and offered to whisk him off to play miniature golf with her kids. I did not hesitate to accept. I also sent this picture to my husband, who is too afraid to call me. I don't blame him.

The days (all two of them) have been punctuated by bouts of media exposure, more than I would normally like, but the relative calm while they play Spore is just too nice to deny myself.

I think the thing I miss most about the flush days of the old economy is going on vacation. I suppose I will enjoy and appreciate my next vacation all that much more. And so will my kids.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Dog Tongue, Peanut Butter and Toes

My middle son has found the strangest after school activity imaginable. Today he spread peanut butter between his toes and then sat down to let our dog lick it off his feet, shrieking because it tickled and felt good.

I can only hope he doesn't try spreading it anywhere else.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Resist the American Snack Tyranny!

Last fall I was the team mom for my youngest son's soccer team. The job description pretty much consisted of creating a snack schedule, posting it on the team site, and then sending reminders to parents to bring the snack they had already been assigned. Then when it was time for me to bring the snack I forgot.

No big deal, or so I thought. But the kids were trolling around looking for a diabetic infusion of candy, juice, or a massive cupcake right after the game and there was none to be had. They started to gather around me, demanding their fix. I got out of there before the kids started to display sugar withdrawl symptoms, whining and shaking and throwing themselves on the ground.

I hate the whole organized snack thing. The kids are out there, playing a game, getting some exercise, and then we reward them with . . . processed junk food?? This sends exactly the wrong message to kids in a nation with a massive obesity problem. I don't buy that kind of food for my kids unless I am buying it for baseball or soccer snack when it is my turn. So why do I even buy it? I'm not sure, I guess I am sucumbing to peer pressure.

Then my sister forwarded me this article titled Will Play for Food from the New York Times. My sentiments exactly!!! Another person who hates snack duty and had the guts to print it in a national newspaper!

I have to shop today for the team snack for my youngest son's Little League game tomorrow. When the game ends, we go straight home for dinner, so I'm going to bring what I'd give my son if he wanted a snack at home right before we sit down to eat. Water and carrot sticks. Maybe a piece of cheese. I'd like to answer the author's call to end the American Snack Tyranny but that would involve "forgetting" snack duty and I just can't let the other moms think I am that unorganized. I already dropped off my son for a practice yesterday that did not exist.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Car Wrestling

We had a major car wrestling incident today. No, the beloved (not) minivan was not harmed. The three boys riding in it did however get completely tangled up, climbing over seats, pulling shirts and shoving each other around.

What could cause this melee?

Rude comments?
Seat scuffle?
Radio war?
Windows up or down?
Food sharing?


It was the Sports Illustrated in my hand with March Madness on the cover.

I am never going to understand these boys.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Getting Excited About Reading

All kids are different, mine are no exception. They have each taken different paths to becoming readers. One took the fast route, one took a normal well-traveled route, and my youngest . . . well he's still on the path.

But I think I have discovered a way to get him more excited about reading. If I give him the chance to act in a video and post it on YouTube after he finishes each book, he might start reading more.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to Avoid Morning Chaos

Getting three boys ready for Little League games at the field by 8:00 am Saturday morning is a logistical feat. It sometimes involves yelling by one or more parent, frantic searching for cups by one or more kid, tearing apart the laundry room by more than one person, searching for the glove in the garage, and milk left out on the kitchen table.

This morning, for Opening Day, I didn't want to start the day off that way. We tried something new and managed to avoid some of the morning chaos.

First rule: label everything. Yes, this includes cups. This avoids fighting over who's items are who's. This is useful even if you have only one baseball player in your house because they will leave hats, bags, gloves, and yes, even cups, in the strangest places. I wish there was a way to label socks, I haven't figured out how to do that yet. If you are going to label, don't mess around, use a Sharpie and write big.

Next rule: have your player gather every item they need for the morning and lay it out the night before. This way there is time to search for the hat, find the cup under the seat in the car, and transfer items from the washer to the dryer (Christine). The first couple times your child goes through this process it might take 30 minutes for them to gather everything. Plan for it and make them do it themselves.

Last night my kids went through this process and the result was an interesting sort of Rorschach inkblot test of their personalities. If I was a developmental psychologist I would be able to read the results. I invite readers to analyze for themselves. Post your analysis in the comments below.

In a pile, organized but not overly concerned.

Is this UNorganized or what?

Is this organized or what?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unbelievable Quote of the Day

"I love long division. It is so fun."

— My eight year old third grader, this morning before school.

Same kid who started third grade struggling with memorizing his addition facts.

I bow down to the goddess who is his teacher. We need more smart and dedicated teachers like her in the world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Draft, Part Two, Fricking Prescient*

Prerequisite reading: The Draft, Part I, How It Works

OK we know the purpose of the Little League draft is to make the teams as even as possible.

So now it is time to expose what really happens at the draft. The scandals. The back room deals. The temper tantrums.

I had such high expectations of drama and intrigue. But I was disappointed. It was more like a civil poker game. Just not as exciting as I hoped.

Set in a characterless Round Table in a neighborhood strip mall, the twelve men gathered to build their teams. Bearing clipboards, spreadsheets, or hand-scrawled chicken scratch, they did their homework and were ready for the test. Make no mistake, there was a lot of preparation done before this fateful night. Some coaches have been discussing and playing out scenarios in their heads for this draft for almost a year.

There is debate, there’s some voting, some drinking of beer (not too much, they need sharp wits). There is some bluffing, a bit of arguing, posturing, and chest beating. But it is surprisingly civil. So far.

The draft begins and the first round goes as everyone expects. The coaches throw out some rhetorical questions to each other about strategy, but no one discloses. "Are you going for speed?" "Why are you taking this pitcher over that one?" Coaches start to second-guess themselves over the second round, but I think this is just an act. Nerves are high.

The third round goes smoothly. Then someone picks a kid with an injury issue. This throws everyone into a tizzy, consulting notes and asking themselves, "Is his arm OK?" There is general discussion about the injury. The coach who picked him knows he is taking a chance on a kid who may or may not be able to play. Somehow this seems to lift some of the pressure everyone is feeling and there is a sense of teasing and complimenting. There is a positive vibe about all the kids picked so far.

The next round requires more strategy. There is one coach who absolutely cannot sit still. He jumps up, sits down, paces.

There is an iPhone registering texts. Ding!

Coaches are whispering to each other in an otherwise silent room.

I hear two phrases worthy of quoting here:
“If that team beats me I’ll quit.”
And my favorite, “I’m looking fricking prescient.*”

Dramatic groan.

As they move into the final two rounds, coaches take longer to decide their picks. There is more second guessing, and changing of minds.

As the draft ends, one coach runs out of the room celebrating his last round draft choice, shouting “I love that kid!”**

And then it was over, just like that. Not one fight.

One thing that became clear to me is that each coach values different things. One likes a team built with kids who have a larger physical size. One likes players who have proven good past performance. One likes older players over younger. Past experience in the division level seems to matter: have they played at this level or did they just move up? Effort the player shows is important. Most coaches consider the player’s family style and how much they are involved and volunteer. And I hate to say it but yes, the MILF*** factor for potential team moms was also mentioned. It was quiet but I heard it.

Far from being the contentious process I was expecting, it was actually a fairly good-natured display by people who really care about baseball and the kids in the League.

Like baseball, the draft is a game. I think every coach that night thought they won. Now the games start, and we will see who had the most successful strategy.

I’m not sure which coach thought he got the MILF team mom, but I intended to find out.

*Since my husband asked me what prescient means, I guess I have to put a definition here.
prescient: adjective, having or showing knowledge of events before they take place : a prescient warning.
** I have since been informed that this comment was completely sarcastic. Apparently I missed some of the subtleties and sarcasm, but I don't think it impaired my general impression of the draft.
*** This is for my friend who was not sure of the meaning of MILF: a reference to Wikipedia's definition

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What Went On?

My third grader after school today. I'm not sure I got a satisfactory answer about why there is paint in-between his toes. Not a good day to run out of Spray & Wash.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ano Nuevo in the Rain

There is no bad weather, only bad gear.

OK, we had bad gear.

But we looked fashionable.

It was much too stormy to bring my good camera. I brought my son's little CoolPix and managed to get a few good pictures.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I went to a training session tonight to learn how to keep score for a AA division Little League game.

It might have been more helpful if the class was prefaced by the statement: You are about to learn a very specialized form of coded shorthand with which you will record every move by every player on the field in handwriting so small that a two hour game will fit on a postage stamp.

Hmm. This might be challenging for me. I like to color outside the lines. The scoresheet, which is so complex and minuscule that it is signed and copyrighted by it's creator, does not lend itself to any kind of creativity or personal expression. I am going to write my disclaimer, "There are no mistakes, just creative possibilities" on the scorebook cover.

I have always heard that baseball is a game of statistics but this is ridiculous! Who thought up all this stuff? Just about everything is recorded except for how many time the kids pick their noses or adjust their cups.