Thursday, December 30, 2010

You Never Know When You Might Need . . .

I was cleaning out my youngest son's backpack last night when I reached in and pulled out a hose nozzle.

I have pulled strange things from his backpack before but nothing quite this strange.

He immediately informed me that there is a hose right near his locker and he is simply being prepared in case he needs to use the hose for anything.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trimming the Tree, Boy Style

Decorating the tree with boys is not for the faint of heart. I captured a bit of this year's tree trimming on video because I really felt it would capture the feel better than photographs could. I dedicate this video to my mother, who will be horrified. Yes Mom, this is different from raising three girls.

Click on the bottom far right corner on the video to watch directly on YouTube, the quality is better that way.

I am happy to report that, with some additional engineering support from my husband, the tree is still standing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bad Ass

My youngest son has recorded a CD recently, and he is now selling them to raise money for charity. He is part of Children's Voices for Charity, a group of local children who have practiced like crazy and recorded a CD with holiday music from around the world.

After the group's last performance at the local tree lighting, we were invited to a party at a home nearby. The grandfather of one of the singers generously offered to host our group of children and parents in his fabulous home. Initially I was stunned that he had actually invited children into what was decidedly not a child-friendly decorating scheme, with antiques, china and silver and first edition books filling every surface, both vertical and horizontal. First, he plied the adults with dangerous Manhattans and the children with bowls of M&Ms right at waist level. After valiantly trying to escape from, or at least doctor up, the sinister Manhattans in our hands (I am certain they will find several half-full cups wedged in the bookcase), we mingled and had an all around good time. In his affable and friendly manner, with a festive apron tied in a bow at his back, our host served big trays of homemade mac and cheese, and juicy sliders. The children ran around, delirious on candy and salami (maybe that was just my son). After dinner he showed my older son his college yearbook (Georgetown) of which he was the editor. Then he pointed out who the class president was, a guy named Bill Clinton.

As the evening came to an end, we sought out our host to say thank you. He leaned down to my youngest, and asked him what grade he was in. My son replied, "Fifth grade!" like it is the best grade in the entire world. "Ah yes," our host replied. "The age when you believe you know everything!" My son regarded him with a level gaze, paused, and said, "You mean like a smart ass?" A surprised and pleased expression spread across our host's face. "Yes, that's what I mean." To which my son replied, "Well, it's better to be a smart ass than a dumb ass!" With a glance to make sure the host was finding this humorous (he was), I grabbed my Brooks Brothers suit-wearing ten year old, said thanks, and made a hasty exit.

I don't know, maybe I should be mad at my son for being a smart ass, or for swearing. But it was funny. And he knew it. I just couldn't be mad. Perhaps the Manhattan clouded my judgement.

Please buy a CD (min $10 donation, all goes to charity)! In addition to being a smart ass, he can sing pretty well. Leave a comment below and I will contact you.

By the way, what the heck is in a Manhattan anyway?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Un-Vanning, A Little Known Yet Important Rite of Passage

While my boys are still giving me plenty to write about, I've been kinda busy.

But I have big news.

I would like to announce that we have reached an important milestone in our family.

I no longer drive a minivan.

It is perhaps even more momentous than the day our third child was potty-trained and my husband took the Diaper Genie outside and hacked it up with an ax.

There are a few things about having young children that I don't miss at all.

I am in the sweet spot. Behind me is the minivan, ahead of me is a teenage driver in the house. I think I'll stay here for a while. Two years, in fact.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Upcoming Topics

Upcoming topics I am planning to write about. Which one should I start with??

Vegas Baseball Tournament: Taking Teen/Preteen Boys to Sin City
Subtitle: Four Days is Just Too Long

Jump Start: Why I Need to Graduate From A Minivan. Finally.
Subtitle: Why My Sons Need to Know How To Use Jumper Cables
Sub-subtitle: How My Sons Get Plenty of Practice

Speed Laundry: Shortcuts That Save Time
Subtitle: Fashion Compromises Your Children Will Be Forced to Take

The Haircut Debate
Subtitle: Don't Call Me Justin 
Sub-subtitle: Don't Touch My Hair
Sub-sub-subtitle: Why My Son Offered Me $ if I'd Allow A Buzzcut

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stories from the Working Trenches: The Rich Cheapskate

We have a high net worth client who did something astounding the other day.

He was spotted one recent morning at the local Starbucks, slinking in to the store. With sunglasses on, presumably so no one would recognize him, he picked up a New York Times newspaper from the newsstand, looked around, and then walked out with it. Without paying for it. He didn't even buy a coffee.

He has between four and five million dollars in his retirement account.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Working Girl

After almost 14 years of retirement I have gone back to work. Having spent all of my working life in the creative side of high tech, and the last 14 years doing all manner of volunteer work and blog writing, not to mention birthing and raising three boys, I am now in the field of real estate management, investments and documentation. It sounds a lot like what my husband does. In fact, I get to see him a lot during the day.

After my first week, I both made my mark and realized there are some challenges to jumping back into office life. There is now a coffee machine in the office, I'm learning lots of interesting things like how hard it is to evict squatters running a meth lab on your property, and I have a new respect for the letter carrier who deals with the massive amount of correspondence coming and going on a daily basis. Our company pays the salary of at least one full-time postal worker with the amount of postage we go through. In fact, if the job at the office doesn't work out I'm going to apply to be the letter carrier serving the office.

It is an understatement to say the last three years have not been kind to us and our industry. We've gone from a high of eight employees to one. And now me. I'm pretty busy. It's a good thing I don't have any time to stare out the window because my view sucks. I look out on a fence and a stucco wall behind it. But what this job lacks in view, it more than makes up for in flexibility, which is pretty much the most important quality in a job for me. I bring my dog to work, and I leave every day at 3 o'clock to pick my boys up from school and taxi them around.

After more than a month, the part I am really finding difficult is coming home at 6:00, 7:00, or later and then having to prepare dinner. In the past I had the luxury of shopping for and preparing dinner early in the day if the afternoon was busy. I am finding that it is a challenge to keep everything stocked and healthy food on the table for dinner. I am constantly sending my husband texts (SOS milk emergency) to stop and pick up a gallon of milk on his way home .

I wasn't sure what to expect, going back to work, with the added strangeness of sleeping with my boss. I've waited to write about it because I am still figuring out how I feel about it all. It's going OK. It is nice to use my brain and my skills in a different way, to feel productive and have a sense of accomplishment. I understand a lot more about the day-to-day operations of my husband's company, and I am able to be a real help during a time that my help is needed and appreciated. Maybe this is a good balance for me, as my children are needing and appreciating my help less.

So as I go about my transition to working girl, I will be sure to share stories about the office, and the characters that come in (like the one who operates a medical marijuana establishment and comes in smelling strong enough to give us the munchies). I've seen tears, panic, anger, lawsuits served, lives in shreds and lives being rebuilt, and that's in just one month in the office. I promise to be nice to Jenn, the star employee, helping to hold it all together. I can't piss her off, she makes a mean panini and there's no way I can do her job. Plus she lets me tag along to bingo night at the Italian Men's Club.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Hole is to Dig

One of my very favorite children's books is A Hole is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. My blog post today is inspired by it.

A girlfriend is for . . .
changing the passcode on your cell phone and making you crazy as you lock yourself out of your phone trying to guess the code, and then to be told the code is "love" and forgiving all.

A hole is for . . .
skirting around as you walk the fine line of writing about your adolescent and teenage boys' love lives and respecting their privacy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Vocabulary Lessons

We like words in my family. Some of us like to talk, some like to read, and some have a new pernicious obsession for the iPhone app Words with Friends.

This morning we had the usual teenage joking and grunting, with a remarkable lack of comprehensible words strung together. I tried to think who they reminded me of, when suddenly I thought of Beavis and Butt-head. I have never watched more than 30 seconds of the cartoon because I find it inexplicably stupid. But suddenly I had an epiphany of recognition. The creator of the cartoon was merely capturing and recreating certain kinds of teenage behavior. For example, this little clip of the characters watching old videos is similar to the conversation my two older boys were having while flipping pancakes eight feet in the air (the dog was disappointed none of them fell).

Now that I live with people who occasionally resemble these characters, I find this funny. (If you told me ten years ago that I would find anything associated with Beavis and Butt-head funny I would have claimed you were demented.) The only reason I do in fact find this funny is that, THANK GOD, I only see glimpses of this behavior. It is rare.

No longer temporarily inarticulate, my middle son interrupted his homework session later in the day to say, "Mom, what is that tantalizing aroma wafting up here?" It was homemade chocolate chip cookies, with a trace of bacon smell from breakfast still in the oven. I swear I think he became stoned on this aroma. Later, he proudly mentioned that he used three of last year's vocabulary words in one sentence.

My youngest son has always been a big talker. When he was a toddler, I would have to say to him, "Mommy is out of listening energy," as an appropriate way to tell him to shut up. Now, at age ten, that phrase doesn't work. I am much better at selectively tuning his chatter out, or, on desperate occasions, just telling him to shut up. He is endlessly entertaining to those who don't have to hear him all the time, so we try to give him lots of opportunities to talk OTHER PEOPLE'S ears off.

I sometimes prefer my words in written form, but my usual book or three a month is being interrupted by a certain DING on my iPhone telling me my dad has just made a move on Words with Friends. He recently got an iPhone himself and has gone from dipping a little toe into the water of the digital age, reading his email twice a year, to playing fiercely competitive online Scrabble games day and night. It is just weird. Or so I thought until he hounded me to "get the app," a truly strange phrase to come from my father. I got the app, and now I find that playing two games at once, against my dad and my friend Jenn, might not be enough for me. However, if I'm ever to get anything done in life I should probably limit it to two games at once. But I really need to find someone I can beat, so I might have to take on a few more competitors, preferably ones with a vocabulary similar to Beavis and Butt-head.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why You Should Not Give Your Brother A Hickey

The other day my middle son, for some unknown and unfathomable reason, gave his younger brother a hickey. It had the rather unfortunate placement right around his eye, making him look like he had actually been punched and not loved. It looked very much like a black eye.

My middle son learned a lesson. If you give your brother a hickey that looks like a black eye, the next day your brother may for some unknown and unfathomable reason have the opportunity to be on TV. Because that's the kind of kid your brother is and that's the kind of luck you have. And your mother will tell anyone who asks, and some who don't, how the little brother got the black eye. So that's probably the last eye hickey we will see in our family.

This is a video I shot on my phone the day after the hickey. You'll see what I mean about being on TV (it was NBC News) toward the end.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


My youngest son after testing out my exfoliating body wash in the shower:

"Mom, WHAT is that stuff with the little balls in it that itch???"

I started to explain exfoliation but then just stopped. How to explain the little balls? It just doesn't make that much sense, even to me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Relax When Stressed About School Starting

Hang out in a papasan chair, wearing your bathrobe, and meditate to completely tune out your mother asking if you have finished your summer reading.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Upstairs & Downstairs

Our summer is winding down. We can count the days left before school starts on one hand now. My oldest seems to be melancholy, with thoughts of his final year at his K-8 school, impending high school applications, being the big man on campus. At four months from turning 14 years old, he is quiet, thoughtful, and fairly serious. Usually a voracious reader, he has even had a hard time focusing on his summer reading for school.

I commented to him tonight, "You seem to have a lot going on upstairs these days." I was hoping to draw him out a little and find out what is going on in his head. In his non-verbal teenage way, he acknowledged with a nod, when his 10 year old brother blurted out, "Yeah, he's got a lot going on DOWNSTAIRS these days too!"

As usual, my youngest knows what's what. And tells it like it is.

I did not ask for details. On second thought, maybe I don't want to know what's on his mind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Let's Face It

I have always imagined that one of the most pivotal moments as a parent is when your child grows taller than you. It seems like a weighty, significant change. You, the parent, always taller and wiser, able to easily hug or put an arm around the child. The child, who has always looked up to the parent, is suddenly staring you straight in the eye, and soon will be looking down on you. It becomes much easier for them to hug you than for you to hug them. And they are less inclined, at least as teenagers.

We are not quite there yet in our house, but it's close. My middle son is about an inch shorter than me, my oldest maybe another half inch shorter. They can almost look me straight in the eye. Every time we are standing near each other my husband teases, "OHH! He's taller than you!" Every time I have to stand up straighter and we stand back to back, measuring. We have already passed the point where two of the boys have feet bigger than both me and my husband.

It turns out there is an even stranger crossroads in the parent-child relationship. It's when your child starts getting more email than you do on a daily basis. Two of my boys have reached that crossroads this summer. It is not insignificant. I get a lot of email. But now they get more. And since I somewhat loosely monitor their email traffic, it is quickly turning into a more than full time job for me.

I know the fact that I monitor their email may be controversial, but I still feel it is necessary in their cases. I don't comment or act on anything I read (I have not yet had reason to do so). I respect their privacy. But I also know that email is not private, and the fact that they are now on Facebook, with my permission, means they have a more public presence that needs to be protected and guided, at least for a time, until they understand the culture and the rules.

Teenagers, no matter how smart, are not always the sharpest tools in the shed. In the age of email and Facebook, when they make a mistake, it is a very public one. I didn't grow up with email. The most embarrassing thing that could happen when I was growing up was a note passed in class intercepted by a teacher and read out loud to the class. And that meant that only 30 people at most would experience your humiliation. At the time that number was enough for me to not pass notes in class. Today the consequences of a mistake are bigger and more public, but somehow kids don't see it that way.

After two days on Facebook, my middle son has 45 friends, from kids he plays Little League baseball with to kids in Japan and Korea he met at camp, and most of his relatives, including his grandmother. Both he and his brother are even now friends with some of MY friends on Facebook. I expect the number of friends to grow substantially as they are social kids who are a part of a lot of different circles of friends.

Now, posting something thoughtless, that you should have thought twice about, has a much larger audience with the ability to react instantly. It's not a stupid note in class anymore. An unfortunate email can be forwarded and before you know it, it can reach hundreds or thousands of people. This kind of public presence is definitely something kids and teens need to experience with guidance. They have this persistent and unintelligent notion that they have some sense of privacy, and they just don't. What's interesting to me is that they seem to value privacy much less than people of previous generations, but that might just be part of being a teenager.

So why do I let my boys join Facebook and text and email? Why do I kill myself trying to keep some sort of handle on what is going on? Because Facebook and email offer an unprecedented and very powerful way to communicate and connect with others. Savvy use of social media is an essential skill for them, and they need practice and help to use it in a responsible way.

And really, how cute is it that some of the boys' friends are sharing pictures of friendship bracelets they are making, inspired by their recent week at camp.

I know, I know, the pictures won't always be that innocent.

My two older boys are poised to match and pass me in height very soon. I'm sure they will surpass me in their knowledge of how to use Facebook. Probably by tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Call Me A Fruit!

Every once in a while I venture into the food blog arena. Cooking and being a part-time foodie are very useful endeavors when you are the mother of three hungry boys and a husband.

Tonight though, I cooked something just for my husband. The kids are at camp this week, and I wanted to make him something special to mark the first full day of our stay-cation without kids. Never mind that he had to work all day, and after dinner had to go back to the office. At least I know his tastebuds were happy.

We each had two servings.

I made a tomato tart tatin from Bon Appetit's August 2010 issue (I've been a subscriber for about 20 years). My husband loves fruit desserts, and my theory is "Why bother with dessert unless it has chocolate?" When we want dessert to share in a restaurant and he orders the dreaded apple tart (boring but he loves it), I can be heard muttering almost under my breath, "Not the fruit shit . . ." While I cook daily, I hardly ever make dessert, as my family loves ice cream and we have a killer bakery in town. And really, who needs the calories?

When I saw this recipe, I thought it would be perfect, a fruit dessert that is slightly demented enough for me to embrace. It was easy to make, made easier with my perfectly, proudly seasoned cast iron pan. The lowly terrible supermarket roma tomato is transformed into something really delicious and unusual, if not altogether healthy. Both my husband and I really liked this dessert. I bet my kids would like it too. I can't wait to make this for a dinner party. Anyone throwing one? I'll bring the dessert!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Care Package

My middle son is away at camp right now. He will be gone for three weeks, studying and living with other kids his age at a program through Johns Hopkins CTY program.

I talked to him the other day and he is having a fantastic time. In fact, he is having way more fun than I thought he would. He was a little hesitant to go, but his older brother has participated in three of these programs, so we wanted him to have an opportunity to try it out too. He is normally all about sports, but this is giving him a chance to hang out with a different sort of crowd, and gain a new perspective on things. We just didn't think he'd love it so much!

He's not homesick at all from what I can tell. When I talked to him, he asked me to send him a couple things. Here is a picture of what he requested. One of the items was NOT specifically requested by him. Which one do you think it is?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Show Done!

My youngest just finished his second show with Children's Musical Theater of San Jose. I found myself volunteering insane hours and spending a lot of time backstage . . . which was much more fun than I thought it would be. I have never been backstage during a show, or even been in a show. And for this one I helped with the 8 million costumes required for each actor. OK, I exaggerate slightly. Only slightly.

So while I was backstage, I am NOT a Backstage Mother. I saw a few of them though. Really not so different from the Little League dads when you strip it down to the "Push! Primp! Polish! Practice! My child deserves a far better role/position! My child's talent is under-appreciated!" Thank goodness that, just like in Little League, it's just a few parents that act this way. I have to say they ARE entertaining.

The stage door.

The dressing room. Much like a locker room, this boy's dressing room had to be doused with Febreeze every 15 minutes to make it bearable to go inside. The grass skirts, leis, and coconut bras were part of my son's costume!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Barbie Party

In the very beginning of the summer, a bunch of girlfriends, who I normally get together with to play bunco, came over. I had decided to do a riff on our regular bunco night. I asked each girlfriend to bring a Barbie, old or new, and I introduced them to a new game called Screw Your Neighbor. I guess I was in the mood to shake things up a bit.

One of my sisters is in the bunco group. She was very leery of the Barbie theme, as she is still traumatized by playing with Barbies when we were children. When we were young, I LOVED Barbies. She did not like them and wouldn't play them with me. So, I simply locked her in my room with me, put the Donny and Marie record on the turn-table, and serenaded her while holding her captive. She had to play with me or never leave the room. I don't understand, even now, how our parents didn't respond to her wails and accusations (undoubtedly true) of torture. Maybe "A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock n' Roll" was so loud they couldn't hear her. Now if you would like a great piece of nostalgia, pause and click on this video. Watch it to the end to see both Marie and Donny sing with their respective backup singers. Something I never noticed as a child: Marie has the bearded white country dudes in white pants, Donny has the singers in simple dresses, one with an impressive afro, wearing corsages (Why? To make them less sexy?) It's really hilarious to see Donny try to look and act bad ass.

So when my sister came over and saw I had my old Donny and Marie Barbies out, she understandably was a bit uncomfortable. I got those Barbies on my 9th birthday, opening them at the table at Farrell's Ice Cream parlor, surrounded by obscene amounts of ice cream with plastic animals perched on top, being run around the restaurant on trays to the sounds of sirens by pimply teenage boys. It was a great party, I was so happy. I have a picture of myself with the Barbies at the restaurant, and I would go look for it but I'm currently icing my severely sprained ankle. (More on that later. Hence the reason I have time to sit here and write.)

Getting my old Barbies out of storage for the party was a bit shocking. They needed to be cleaned up, shampooed, styled, and dressed. It took me most of a day to get it all done. It took over my kitchen. When my boys and husband appeared from work and baseball, hoping for dinner, greeted instead by a Barbie spa in session, they were mightily confused. But not entirely surprised. I've been known to act a little strangely from time to time.

I reassured my sister and handed her a glass of wine. Had I known that wine would loosen her up enough to willingly get near the Barbies, I would have tried it many years ago.

The evening started out quite civil.

Then as the game progressed, and the wine bottles started piling up, things got a little out of control.

My favorite part of the evening was watching my sister have so much fun with the Barbies. It was even more fun than locking her in my room and torturing her.

I pray that my boys were asleep by the time the Barbies got wild. It would be really hard, if not impossible, to explain. Sorry, it's a girl thing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer is Flying

I have not updated in a while. Let me catch you up, dear reader, in pictures.

All Star baseball, a couple Mai Tais, a Barbie party, being fully immersed in a theater production, and hunting for good cheap parking in downtown San Jose have been some of the highlights so far! As for the pictures: 1. My oldest holding a Condictivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) device off the coast of Oahu, 2. Another gallon of milk gone, 3. My youngest on Fourth of July, 4. Barbie restoration in preparation of the party.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boys in the Kitchen

I think my kids could have a great cooking show. They don't cook very often, but when they do there is a lot of laughing and usually some antics going on. Let's face it, three's a crowd in the kitchen. Especially with one boy who likes to toss ingredients in the air, one who doesn't read the directions all the way through, and one who really would rather be teasing the dog.

As of this morning my kitchen is spotlessly clean. Well, it was. Then came the rice krispy treats project.

hysterical laughing,
a distracting baseball game on the kitchen TV,
a bag of marshmellows,
a box of rice krispies spilled all over and into the range,
a tiny saucepan when a large pot is called for,
a vacuum,
a dog who is not allowed in the kitchen scrambling to eat all the items on the floor but who doesn't like the vacuum,

and you get a project that is more clean-up than creating, and a miraculously somewhat successful batch of treats that are a bit tough and overcooked but delicious to their creators.

The creators who, I realized too late, have braces and shouldn't be eating them in the first place.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Lovin' Happened So Fast

Yes I'm a huge Grease fan. But that's not what this post is about.

It is almost summertime, and I have a teenager this summer. And another almost teenager. I can already tell this summer is going to be different. Way different.

HELP! I need a manual on how to parent teenage boys over the summer!!

One of my boys has a girlfriend, and it is killing me but in the interest of privacy I can't post much about it. Let's just say it is very sweet. It reminds me of my first real boyfriend, Keith, who was very sweet. Until he was a really huge jerk (are all teenage boys this way including mine?).

Different issues this summer. How much independence do boys this age want/need/deserve/handle? Do I let them go on . . . gulp . . . dates? I mean one-on-one, not group dates to movies. What do I do about the fact that they don't want to hang out with me anymore? That one hurts. How much separation needs to happen between the teen and the ten year old? Right now that 3.5 years is a huge gap.

And how am I going to feed all these growing boys 24/7 starting tomorrow?????

I'm freaking out here. Time to call on some friends who have been through this recently for some advice.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Clean Plate Club

My youngest son just has a knack for performing in front of an audience.

During the 6th inning of a tense and close playoff Little League game last night, my youngest sauntered up to bat. He eyeballed the pitcher, set his feet, tapped home plate with his bat. Then instead of bringing his bat in to position to hit the ball, he said something to the umpire standing just behind the catcher.

The umpire reached in to his pocket and pulled out his brush, handing it to my youngest. My youngest knelt down and carefully and meticulously brushed off the plate, which was just a tiny bit dusty. This was accompanied by much laughter from both sides of the field, a much needed comic relief in the tension.

Satisfied with either the audience reaction or the clean plate, or both, he was ready to hit the ball and get on base to help win the game.

As proof that imitation is the best form of flattery, a team mate who also likes to be appreciated by his fans asked for the brush to clean the plate himself before his turn at bat.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Any Old Rounded Object

My middle son loves balls. Soccer balls, basketballs, super balls, baseballs, sparkly rubber balls, any kind of ball.

He throws, kicks, dribbles, catches, tosses, and just holds them all the time, even in the house, even when it is a clear violation of our house rules. Yes we've had the proverbial Italian light fixture broken by a flying soccer ball when we first moved into our house years ago.

Did you know that an egg is a kind of ball? He enjoys my "funny" reaction to his tossing a raw egg about the kitchen, up almost touching the ceiling. Not funny when he has to clean up raw egg. Not to worry, the dog loves raw eggs. The dog cannot reach the ceiling, so it is very lucky for my son's longevity that the egg landed on the floor and not on the ceiling.

Yesterday a friend who plays baseball on my son's team was over. Unbeknownst to the adults sitting around talking, the friend and my son were enjoying a little game of waterballon toss IN HIS ROOM. Why play outside? There is no sense of danger. We all know that a water ballon toss ends only one way. Turns out the dog is not so big on cleaning up plain ol' water from the floor. I didn't tell my son this, but again I was happy that the ballon broke on the floor and not on the ceiling.

I did ask him which one of them dropped it, just because I was curious. The drop was a combined result of a bad throw from the loft and a failed diving catch from the . . . I didn't want to hear the rest.

Bad Mom

I feel like a bad mom. I just found out that my youngest son's Little League team is the number one seed for his AAA division and I'm NOT VERY HAPPY ABOUT IT! What kind of mother is upset that her son's team is doing well?

My youngest son auditioned for a local production of High School Musical 2 earlier in the month and has been cast as a Pool Boy and Lava Posh. Yes, I laughed hysterically when I found this out. He is pretty excited about it because in rehearsals so far he gets to serve a drink to Sharpay and to dance on top of a desk. I'm not sure, he may even get to wear his bathrobe, we'll see.

So we knew that play rehearsals, Little League, and the end of the school year would all clash somewhat. But it really would be much much easier if his baseball team wasn't doing well and we could predict the end of the season. But no. Now we start playoff games, which are impossible to plan for since you don't know when you are playing until you win or lose each game. If his team wins the playoffs then there is another series of unpredictable games. And the play rehearsal schedule is absolutely not flexible. And then my husband just told me my youngest is being asked to play on the All Star team, which just about sent me into calendar apoplexy. NO!! I cannot jam one more activity in there! I refuse!! So my husband sat and poured over the excel spreadsheet in 7 point type detailing out all the rehearsals to see what gives. I'm not sure what he discovered because I went upstairs, got in bed, and pulled the covers over my head.

My middle son's Little League team is also the number one seed in the Majors division. We now have our playoff schedule, or at least the first two or three games. After that, it's completely unpredictable. And he will play All Stars too. But that's OK, we have planned for all that. Except no one planned for the unseasonal rain that may or may not fall this week, throwing my entire calendar into a blender with random dates and commitments flying out and splatting on the floor.

So my mantra for the next two weeks: take things day by day. Live in the moment. Don't worry about that which I cannot control. Enjoy where I am at this moment.

I'm going to try anyway.

If you see me meditating in my car (which needs to be washed), don't disturb me. I will be getting centered. Or I'm sorting through a pile of tournament spreadsheets.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hugh Hefner and the Double Digit Household

Wow if that is not an interesting title for a blog entry, I don't know what is. I think it has more meanings than I intended.

May is a frenetic month in our house. And I mean frenetic in the exact definition of the word: wild and uncontrolled. We are going here and there, doing this and that, living day to day with little time for reflection on the fact that birthdays are happening, Little League playoffs are coming, and summer is looming just over the horizon.

There are precious little moments when I can think rather than do. This goes for the whole family. Sometimes this kind of distraction can be welcoming but in May it is always a little much, and it happens every year.

My list of things going on is dizzying. Two boys in Little League, one husband coaching and working several full-time jobs, one boy in soccer, one just auditioned for a musical with rehearsals starting (gulp) tomorrow, one doing cross country, volleyball, and softball at school, one starting choir, end of year homework projects, building boats of cardboard and duct tape (I just figured out this is PE homework), Gold Rush Day, art show at school, it could go on and on. Add to that two birthdays; my middle and youngest turn twelve and ten. It is the end of single digits. We are now permanently in the double digits in this house. And now, thanks to a birthday gift, we have Hugh Hefner living with us. More on that later.

In May our normal healthy family fare is thrown out window and we are using the Little League snack shack, with it's substandard nutritional content, as our personal restaurant. I actually had a dream the other night that my boys started eating candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all from the snack shack. I woke up feeling irritated and guilty. I proclaimed that the eating of candy shall end, which shall be honored . . . until . . . until the next visit to the snack shack when I feel a craving for a Reese's to get me through the evening until dinner. I mean REALLY, I'm not the one with braces in my house. Then I went into my kitchen late in the night and made hard-boiled eggs, homemade yogurt, and whole wheat blueberry muffins to assuage my guilt. Nutritional snacks are in the house! For a day or two anyway.

In all the goings on this month, I have noticed something happening that has produced the most curious mix of emotions in me. No, it's not the candy consumption. It is the awareness that love is in the air. It must be spring. My older two boys are thirteen and almost twelve, and they are becoming more aware of girls. Or vice versa.

It's the vice versa that is getting to me, particularly in regards to my middle son. One day recently I noticed that there were some girls at his baseball game. I was pretty sure they were not there because they are avid Little League fans, but I didn't know why they were at the game. Then I overheard them talking to my youngest and suddenly I realized what they were doing there. They were there to watch my son. Gulp. Are these groupies? Since I was certain that my middle had no idea they were even there, I didn't worry much. He was blissfully ignorant. But how long will that ignorance last? With my youngest fully aware of the situation, I don't think it will be long.

Then, at a recent family event at school, I was observing my middle son from the fringes and was mildly surprised and pleased to see him dancing. Yes, dancing. Even a little break dancing. When and where did he learn how to do that? Then, still watching him out there having fun, I became aware that there were quite a few girls around him. I stopped watching him and watched the girls. WAIT a minute, there are not only 6th grade girls hanging around him, there are 7th grade girls too! I wanted to run out and tell those thirteen-year-old girls to get away. I momentarily became an overprotective crazy mother with a wish to preserve the young innocence of my little boy from the brazen attention of make-up and brassiere-wearing, hair-flipping teenage girls. But clearly he is not a little boy anymore, he is a handsome almost-twelve-year-old, who as one friend recently told me, looks fifteen. And any day now he is going to be enjoying, instead of being annoyed by, the attentions that are directed his way. Much like his thirteen-year-old brother is experiencing.

I have an overwhelming sense of "Oh here we go!" We are on the rollercoaster of adolescence and starting to pick up speed. I have picked up my copy of Your Ten- to Fourteen-Year-Old by Lousie Bates Ames and intend to read it cover to cover now as it spans all the boys in my house. The subtitle says it all: from peer pressure to sibling rivalry to sexual awareness. There is a whole chapter on mother-son relationships. I'm scared to read it.

All this going on in our house is why my husband and I think it is so funny that our youngest has the new nickname Hugh Hefner. Unlike his brothers, he is still a little boy, roaming the house all day in his new bathrobe. It was number one on his birthday wish list and he wears it any time he is home. He also wanted a fan for his room, which he feels is often too hot for him. So he sits in his room, in front of the fan, wearing his cozy bathrobe, perfectly happy. A mini Hugh with his own personal wind machine, a force of personality his brothers will begin to appreciate when they realize he is already talking to the girls they want to talk to.

It's going to be a wild ride. Wait, it already is one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Elmo Makes An Interesting Topic of Dinner Conversation

The good news: my two older boys have paid attention and learned a lot from the puberty education/sex ed they have had in school.

The bad news: they have paid attention and learned a lot from the puberty education/sex ed they have had in school.

My seventh grader has been studying genetics in science. He is doing a fun project involving Sesame Street characters, where different traits are genetically passed down to babies created from two parents. These traits include lip color, body color, eye placement, nose color, etc. It seems to be a fun and very visual way of learning about dominant characteristics and smacks just enough of reproduction to make it very interesting to a thirteen year old.

My seventh grader was explaining how this all works over dinner the other night. It was just my two older boys, myself and my husband. My youngest wasn't home.

I was following the conversation with part of my brain while the other parts were preoccupied by a busy stressful day and also by something I had heard on NPR earlier which I found fascinating and wanted to talk about.

So when I heard my middle son say something like, "You can't beat the fastest swimmer," I launched into what I had learned that day about being the fastest or best at something.

"Did you know that it takes something like 10,000 hours of practice at something to get really really good at it? That's a lot of practice! And it's not just any practice, it's concentrated practice, you have to focus. You know . . ."

I took a bite of pizza and looked up to see both boys staring at me, faces white. My husband, with eyes wide, interrupted me, saying "I don't know what YOU are talking about, but WE are talking about sex!"

Amidst all the laughter I was flummoxed. It slowly dawned on me, the implications of my 10,000 hours of concentrated practice comment. I think I actually felt a blush coming over me. One of my kids had made a joke about sex and it went right over my head. I'm really not ready for this kind of role-reversal. But the boys and my husband, they thought this was one of the most hilarious things ever.

I tried to think how to redeem the situation. I had just mistakenly extolled the virtues of many many hours of practice with sex. "Well," I said, "you just don't want to be a father before your time."

"Oh God! MOM!!" they shouted, wanting me to just stop.

So last night, when the topic of Sesame Street genetics came up again over dinner, I was determined to keep my mouth shut. My oldest showed us a round piece of paper.

"Look, this is Elmo's sperm."

This was followed by hysterical laughter from all the boys, which went on for at least the next hour.

I've said it before:

Boys. I really don't get them sometimes.
I will never look at this picture in the same way again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Boy in Braces and Popcorn Giveaway!!

There are now two people in the house who can't eat popcorn.

I've got a Costco box still half full of microwave popcorn packages. A few of the blogs I read have had some giveaways recently, so I thought, "Why not?"

Help keep our orthodontist bill down by taking some popcorn off our hands. Post a comment to this blog post and I will choose a few random (or maybe just my favorite) entries to receive some Movie Theater Butter microwave popcorn.

My middle son getting braces.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Basketball and Rapping on the Airplane

One of the highlights of spring break in our family: a quick trip to LA for my husband and two of my sons.

My middle son's all-star NJB basketball team did unexpectedly well, coming in 2nd in the regional tournament and qualifying them for the national championship tournament in LA. After winning four out of five games in two days, his team ended up 3rd in the nation for 6th grade NJB, with a big trophy to bring home.

In the team picture, my son is bottom row, 2nd from the right.

As you might guess, if you know my youngest son, he was not to be outdone.

On the Southwest flight, he talked to the head flight attendant. Then, when they were at 35,000 feet, my youngest took over the microphone and had the entire 737 airplane stomp/clap/stomping for him as he performed his Southwest Rap. He was rewarded with his own thunderous applause and in leu of a trophy was presented with his very own giant bag of individual peanut snacks.

While I wasn't there to see it, I can just picture the smile on his face carrying those peanuts off the plane.

I think everyone who knows my youngest has heard his rap. For those who have not, or those who want to hear it again, I will post it soon as a video. Please check back shortly.

So where was I that weekend? I was at an all-girl weekend in Monterey with my mom and a group of fabulous women learning all about free-motion quilting, which was pretty much the opposite of being at a boys' basketball tournament in LA. While I regretted seeing the games and the rap performance, I had a great time away from it all. Moms really need that sometimes.

Where was my oldest son? Staying with a friend and attending a bat mitvah. I forgot about the dog until the last minute, he had to stay somewhere too! Thanks dad, he enjoyed staying with you and is still tired from following you around all weekend.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter

My boys are no longer very interested in dying eggs. I think they are pretty, so I did some myself.

They prefer the plastic kind of eggs, full of candy, hidden around the yard. This year the egg hunt was in the pouring rain. After the hunt, all the kids came inside and stripped down to underwear and tshirts so their clothes could go in the dryer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Kneecap Caper: Best April Fool's Joke EVER

This last Monday, when my youngest son was at the pediatrician being diagnosed with bronchitis, he mentioned to the doctor that his knee has been hurting. The doctor moved his joint around and said it seemed fine but she ordered a simple xray of the knee just to make sure. On Wednesday I took him for the xray. He seemed a little nervous, which I didn't understand until he told me he has never had an xray. With three boys I have already been to the radiology department so many times that I didn't register the fact that I had never been there with my youngest. They even recognize me in there now. After some reassuring and some "isn't this cool?" with the male technician, he was fine. I asked if my son could see the xray of his knee. We left with two films in a big red envelope. We looked at them in the parking lot. They were interesting but mysterious since we don't read xray.

Yesterday, the doctor called and left me a message that the xray was completely normal and there was nothing to worry about. So when my son got home from school, I told him, "The doctor called about your xray."

I swear I don't know where it came from. I meant to say "Everything is fine." But instead I said "There is a problem with your kneecap. It is completely separate from your knee."

I knew, obviously, that the xray would back me up on that. He looked at me with wide eyes, not sure what to say. I continued. "You know how some kids who have braces on their teeth have rubber bands on them?"

"Yes," he said, hesitantly.

"Well, you are going to need rubber bands like that to keep your kneecap in place. Here, let's look at the xray."

I pulled the xray out and there it was, the kneecap floating in position, completely separate from the femur above and the tibia below. He clapped his hand over his mouth with a shocked expression.

"I can't believe it! Oh my gosh," he said.

"Mom, mom! Mom, it's . . ." my oldest son said, deciding he needed to bring some sanity to this conversation and straighten us out with his knowledge of human anatomy.

I turned to silence him with an exaggerated wink, trying to tell him with mental telepathy that it's April Fool's day. His mouth formed an O and he smiled and looked back down at his homework.

"You know, you get to pick out the colors of the rubber bands," I said turning back to my youngest.

"Oh, so the rubber bands go on the outside then?"

"No. No, they have to go on the inside."

"Well then what's the point of colored rubber bands?"

"Oh, well they show up in color on the xray" I bluff.

"Oh. Oh. Oh my gosh. I can't believe it."

"When you have surgery on your knee, you won't be able to walk for about four weeks."

"WHAT?????" he shouted. "I will miss swimming in PE at school! FOUR WEEKS?? OH NO!! THAT'S NOT GOOD!!"

I looked over to my older two who were pretending to do their homework with the most ridiculous smirks on their faces, very much enjoying the scene.

Then my youngest son did something I didn't expect. He said, "Can I call Tali?" He asked to call a friend. My friend. He wanted to tell someone and he picked a friend of mine he knew would have a dramatic reaction. "Sure," I said, and handed him the phone. He blurted out the story to her. "My kneecap is not attached to my knee, I have to have surgery, I have to miss swimming, can you BELIEVE it?" I could hear her exclaiming and reacting on the other end of the phone. I turned away, laughing so hard that my body was shaking, tears ran down my face, and I was about to pee my pants.

"Here Mom, she wants to talk to you," he said handing me the phone.

"Hello" I said in a quiet and mostly controlled voice.

I pause. She pauses. "OH MY GOD ARE YOU CRYING??" she said.

"Noooo . . ." I said.

After she asked me a few confused questions answered by strangely monosyllabic muffled noises, she says "OH MY GOD IS THIS A JOKE? ARE YOU PLAYING AN APRIL FOOLS JOKE ON ME?" followed by a most hilarious belly laugh. I said, trying with all my will not to completely crack up, "Not you." She started to cackle, realizing what was going on. She was laughing so hard that I have to hang up because I couldn't hold it together. I went in the bathroom and tried to pull myself together. It didn't work very well. I was laughing and crying at the same time.

My older two sons had their heads determinedly down over their homework. They were wondering if I had completely lost it.

My youngest son has gone into his room. He reappeared in his basketball outfit. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Going outside to play basketball. While I still can," he said.

"Listen, I want you to be careful with your knee! I don't want your kneecap to get out of position!" I warned him.

"MOM. Hello. I have had this for a long time. My kneecap has been just fine, I don't think anything is going to happen to it right now," and off he went.

Once he is out of ear shot, I tell my older boys "OK listen up."

"You— don't try to say anything to Dad when he gets home, you are not a good liar," I tell my middle son.

"You— make sure Dad sees the xray and you point to the kneecap and say 'that is NOT good' " I tell my oldest. They looked at me like I had lost my mind but were completely willing to play along.

Unfortunately, at this point I had to leave. I had something planned with some friends. I gave the boys dinner and instructions for showers and bed since I didn't know when my husband would be home from a late meeting.

I checked in with him later via text.

Are you home?

No, going to dinner. Just talked to boys, they are all fine.

Did you talk to Youngest?

Yes, seems happy.

? Good.

Why? Issues?

Knee issue.

I left it at that. I wondered, would he fall for this? I think maybe. But he was a trainer for a while in high school/college, he knows how a knee works. He is going to know something is not quite right. Right??

The next morning, as we are all got up, Youngest asks me "Did you tell Dad about my knee?"

"No, I thought you should tell him."

"Dad my kneecap is separated from my knee doctor called rubber bands surgery can't walk for four weeks!!"

My husband says, "For real? Not April Fools?"

Oh no, I thought. "Show Dad the xray." He ran to get it (knee seemed to be working on the stairs) and my oldest stepped into his role as they looked at the xray and pointed. I had to leave the room because I couldn't stop giggling. Luckily it looked more like I was crying.

"Oh wow," I heard my husband say, "look at that! Well I guess we know why his knee had been hurting."

His voice was serious. He was completely buying the story.

I was wracked by another bout of body-shaking laughter and hurried back into the bathroom to brush my teeth again.

My husband followed me into the bathroom. "Well he is going to have to learn how to use crutches! Wow, four weeks. He is going to drive you crazy for four weeks!"

"Oh I am going to leave town for those four weeks" I joked. I leaned over the sink, spitting toothpaste, to hide my contorted face. "I don't know, we need to get a second opinion," I mumbled.

Luckily, I was driving to school that morning and it was time to leave. I hustled the kids and headed out the door, trying to avoid any more conversation with my husband. My youngest asked if he could bring the xrays to school. I tell him he could.

On the way to school I tried to think. Can I let my son tell everyone at school that he has a damaged kneecap and needs surgery right before spring break? I try to think out the consequences of that. I decide that is not the best idea. But how to tell him?

He exploded from the car at drop-off, giant red envelope containing the xrays flapping as he sprinted toward his classroom. I parked and ran after him. I got to his classroom 30 seconds after him, and already the story was circulating.

I pulled him out of the class and asked him to come sit with me on the bench outside. I had to stop this.

Or did I?

I looked at him with as much seriousness as I could muster. "Youngest," I say. "I have to tell you something."

He took a deep breath. "What?"

"April Fools."


He stared straight ahead, and took another deep breath. Those wheels were turning in his brain at lightening speed. A moment later, the corner of his mouth twitched just a bit. Then, as the realization of all the ramifications dawns on him, a huge smile spread across his face.

"I want you to know that your knee is fine. Your kneecap is SUPPOSED to be disconnected from your knee. Your xray is completely normal. But you can keep the story going. Dad completely believes that you need to have surgery."

A maniacal grin on his face, he pulled out the xray and ran back to his classroom, saying "YEAH! I'm going to keep it going!"

So now the joke was on my husband. His day was full of stressful meetings. I know in the back of his mind he was wondering what to do about this surgery.

Later in the day he got an email from our son's school. It said they are concerned about Youngest potentially missing so much school and that we need to think carefully about how to time this.

My husband worked late and got home after the boys went to bed that night.

This morning my son, enjoying his acting role, told my husband that he was worried about his knee. My husband reassured him, telling him how arthroscopic surgery works, how his grandfather had a knee replacement, how many people have knee surgery and it all works out just fine. My son managed to take this all in and look concerned. He gave me a sly smile. He was enjoying this. Then my husband started asking me what doctor I thought we should go to, listing all kinds of names of doctors that specialize in this and that. All I could do was shrug my shoulders.

I couldn't stand it anymore. This had to end. I said to my son, "Tell Dad where the very best doctor who does this kind of surgery is."

"What?" he says with perfect innocence. "Oh yeah. Mom said the best doctor is in Hawaii."

He is so convincing that my husband does not catch a clue. "Hmm," he said. "I'm sure there are plenty of good doctors around here."

I pull my son over and whisper to him, "You have to end it. Now."

"So Dad. About my knee. About the xray."

"Yes?" he said, taking a sip of coffee.

"April Fools."


My friend Tali predicted that he would kill me. That our marriage would be in jeopardy.

Instead, there was no reaction.

"Gee, your reaction is a little disappointing," I pointed out.

"Well," he said. "I am going through all the people in my mind that I told yesterday about the knee surgery. I'm trying to remember them all. It's at least five or six, maybe more, I'm not sure."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Texting Aspirations

I sent my husband the follow text yesterday:

Seems you should have married an organizational secretary with a taxi medallion who lives only to serve others.

This was after a testy phone conversation during which we were both driving kids around: he to go pick up one son from a friend's house where he was enjoying what I thought was an afternoon with no practice of any kind. I was going from dropping off one son at his baseball game, another at soccer practice 25 minutes away, only to return to the baseball field where big fat rain drops sent all adults to shelter and all kids out to field to dance (hey they are nine and ten years old). He was accusing me of being unorganized, I was accusing him of . . . well, of . . . I don't know. Maybe over-scheduling. I was just sick and tired of driving around.

I admit it. I am not the most organized person in the world. And I never will be. I am my father's daughter, he of aspirations to organization that include making lists of lists, he the son of the woman who organized by hiding things and had an encyclopedic memory of every piece of ephemera she possessed. I am organized, just in my own fashion. It works most, but not all, of the time.

I did not have baseball practice on my calendar for my middle son and so I let him go hang out with a friend. My husband, who is one of the coaches the baseball team, insisted that we talked about the practice that morning. He has not learned after eighteen years of marriage that I don't process any verbal instructions when I am not fully awake and uncaffeinated. And by the way if it's not on my calendar it simply does not exist.

So he rushed to retrieve that son and then back to practice while I shuttled the others to their events. Then the rain drops came. The baseball game, which has progressed through the first inning, came to a temporary halt. The overly optimistic umpires and coaches called for a 10 minute wait, while I stood around impatiently, getting soaked. When they finally came to the realization that the rain was not going to stop any time soon, the game was officially ended. At another location, the practice that my husband had made such an effort to get to was mostly rained out. I think they hit a few balls in the cage then stood around waiting for the weather to stop too. Meanwhile, 20 minutes away my older son was at soccer practice. I had a mental image of him playing in the rain, while his backpack with dry sweatshirt and phone sat on a wet field getting soaked. Turns out that was a premonition.

We all got back home, where everyone was hungry, wet and cold and wanting someone to make dinner for them, including me. I didn't have making dinner on my calendar. So it didn't exist.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sick Day

My youngest stayed home from school today. He is sick. I will spare you the gory details. He saw the pediatrician, received a diagnosis (bronchitis), got the prescription. So he is sick, but not feeling particularly bad.

He has hardly ever stayed home from school for being sick. Not that I send him to school spreading germs everywhere, it's that he is rarely sick.

He thought today was a bonanza of freedom that he wasn't quite sure what to do with. He slept in, got to have chocolate ice cream before lunch while waiting for his prescription to be filled, and only had to compete with the dog and my email for attention.

He played Wii for a short time, then read a book for about an hour. I was thinking he might fall asleep but no such luck, why waste a day like today sleeping?? He went outside. I walked out a few minutes later to see what he was doing and found him skateboarding. I had to draw the line at that and tell him "no skateboarding when you are sick." Geesh, can you imagine if he fell and broke his arm and I had to go back to the doctor again the same day? And can you imagine the lecture I would get about having a kid with bronchitis who is home from school sick but out skateboarding around??

He got off the skateboard as directed and wandered around the yard. A little while later he came back in to announce, "You know, Mom, catching ants is a lot harder than you think it is."

Later, he decided to put his brother's suit jacket on and wear it around the house. It made his sweatpants look quite formal.

Still later, with him in another outfit altogether, we ran to the grocery store to get supplies for dinner. He whizzed around the store in his Heelys, talking to me incessantly about the new Cadillac something-something he just saw in the parking lot.

I think it was about then that I decided he was going to school tomorrow. This kid might have bronchitis but he is not sick enough to stay home, cuddle on the couch, listlessly watch TV, take naps, and drink herbal tea with honey. Nope. When the alarm goes off in the morning, he is up and out of here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Heavy Sports Weekend

I think I have Toxic Sports Syndrome after this weekend.

Saturday: four games. Starting at 9:00, a baseball game for my youngest son. Followed by a noon game for my middle, then a 3:30 soccer game for the oldest, and topping off the day with a basketball game at 6:15 for my middle son.

Then after the basketball game, a group of parents and boys decided to get something to eat. Sounded like a good idea after a long day. It's not like I had time to get dinner organized at home anyway.

We sat down to chat with some parents we didn't know very well. The conversation veered immediately to the refereeing of the game, the bad calls, and the unfairness. This is after our team won the game. And this was from a mom sitting right next to me. If she was looking to get to know me, she didn't get very far. I didn't participate in the complaining. After trying to steer the conversation to something less sporty several times, I gave up. I had enough. I packed up my terrible restaurant meal in a to-go container and left my husband to pay the bill and round up the boys. I had my own car and drove home enjoying the quiet.

Sunday: two games. Both basketball games for my middle son. He played one game at 2:30, which his team won. That means . . . yes, folks, that means MORE GAMES!!! Actually it is rather exciting. His All-Star basketball team qualified for the state tournament in southern California by winning that game. They played another game at 6:15 which they lost. Again there was a whole lot of complaining, whining and shouting about the quality of refereeing coming from the stands near me. Sometimes I wish there was a section to sit in labeled I'm just hear to sit and watch the game and not the referees, so any complaining you hear is not coming from this section.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dirty Job for Candy

What will an eleven-year-old boy do for $2 worth of candy?

More than I thought.

I offered $2 for unrestricted candy purchases at our Little League snack shack if one of the boys would do a job for me. It's a job I didn't want to do. I asked my husband to do it and he didn't want to either. So more than a week later, I tried the candy bribe. I didn't think it would work.

You see, about eight weeks ago we hosted an event. There was some leftover food that, unbeknownst to me, was placed in our small outside drink refrigerator. Last week, when the weather warmed up, I went out to uncover the BBQ and opened up the refrigerator to check out what was in there. Repulsed by the smell and the mold, I recoiled. The refrigerator wasn't on. I gagged and quickly shut the door again.

My middle son decided to take on the task before he really knew the situation. After checking it out, and gagging, he shut the refrigerator door and thought for a minute. Then, holding his breath, he got out one of the containers of what he called "alien barf" out. He got a whiff and a good look at it, which caused him to gag violently. He set it down and backed away for some fresh air. Watching him pacing and trying to control his gag reflex from in the house, I thought "that's it, he is not going to do it." But he went back! Taking a large breath and then holding it, he approached the toxic mess again with a very concerned yet determined look on his face. After another attempt and getting a small amount of goo on his hand, he sprayed the area down with water, then came to the door requesting a garbage bag and rubber gloves. I handed him both. He took another deep breath and and advanced on the mess yet again.

I should have taken a picture but I was laughing too hard. Then I noticed he was doing all this in his socks. I locked the door to the house so he couldn't come inside until he removed the socks.

Wow did he earn that $2! I might even give him a bonus.

I better figure out what to make for dinner because NO ONE is going to go for leftovers tonight. Gag.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Movie Night

Watching movies with boys ages thirteen, eleven and nine can be painful or siesta-inducing for parents. At least for me it is. I don't necessarily enjoy their choices in movies. I don't want to see animated monsters, hamsters who save the world, anything with the name Transformer in it, or anything with fart jokes.

Fine, call me picky.

Then one day a good friend recommended a movie to me. A sports movie. I was shocked.

I was shocked because this friend, like me, grew up with two sisters, no brothers, and is struggling to understand and cope with this species called "athletic boy."

Of course I had to watch it.

More Than A Game turned out to be one of the best movies I have ever seen with my kids. We laughed, we cheered, we bit our nails, we cried. Well, three out of the four of us cried. The nine year old was a little disappointed there were no fart jokes.

The movie is about LeBron James and his journey to basketball success through high school with his group of four close friends and his coach. There are very few female characters in the movie at all, except for LeBron talking about how important his single mother is to him. Maybe because of the lack of female characters, the movie really felt like a window into the male mind and some of the things that make it tick. It has given me more insight into how important sports can be to boys. It has created an opportunity to talk about sportsmanship, effort, and friendship with my boys.

I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, and any other kind of tear-inducing, emotionally-wrenching movie with my mom. When these movies come out, I still want to see them with my mom and sisters.

The boy thing, it's different. Sports movies, believe it or not, can make both moms and boys happy. I have a whole new genre of movies to explore. There are several lists online for Best Sports Movies and I plan to add some to my Netflix list.

A Netflix movie has just arrived and it's not a sports movie. It's Lord of the Rings. A friend recently revoked my geek status when I admitted to never having seen it. He shamed me into bumping it to the top of my list. So now I will see if I have any fantasy/science fiction fans in the house while I earn my geek status back.

Add a comment if you have a favorite sports movie you think would appeal to moms, and why.

Tell Me, Show Me, Involve Me

One of my sons' science teachers (who is amazing) has this quote at the end of her emails:

"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

This is a great philosophy for a science teacher who works with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. It turns out that this gem of a quote can apply to all kinds of things besides teaching science. It can also work amazingly well with a 7th grader who has a bad bout of refrigerator blindness and a chronic case of "I'm starving."

A couple months ago, when my son turned thirteen, his food intake, which was not shabby to begin with, started to really ramp up. A check up with the pediatrician confirmed the start of his adolescent growth spurt. An inch in height since then has put us all on notice: this kid needs a lot of food. He even asked me, "Why am I always SO hungry?"

So what's the problem with this?

1. We don't have hot & cold running help that can plan, shop, prep, cook, and manage our family's food.
2. After all the effort I go through to provide healthy delicious food for my family, my teenager stands at the refrigerator with the door open and exclaims, "There is nothing to eat! I'm starving!"

The quote above is so true. I tell him what there is to eat. He forgets. So I started merchandising the refrigerator to make it easier to "shop" inside it for food (see How to Feed A Teenage Boy by Georgia Orcutt for tips). After showing him what was in the refrigerator, that helped. But it wasn't perfect, and he didn't always make good choices for snack or mini meals. So out of frustration, I decided to involve him. And I mean REALLY involve him.

I chose a day when we didn't have a booked schedule and let him know ahead of time that he was going to spend the day with me in the kitchen. We were going to have a "food day." He eyed me suspiciously, thinking it sounded good but not quite trusting what I had up my sleeve.

To prepare for this day, I let my refrigerator get disorganized for about a week and a half. I brushed up on the nutritional requirements of teenage boys. Then the day before our Food Day I went to Costco and the grocery store, stocking up on items for the week and ingredients to make a few recipes. I just stuffed everything in the refrigerator. Now even I couldn't find anything in there.

Then, the morning of Food Day, I had my son go out to the garage and find two big ice chests and bring them inside. Then I put an apron on him (so he felt he had a uniform) and we got down to business.

Emptying out the freezer. Gloves were very helpful to keep hands from freezing!

I had my son completely empty out the entire refrigerator AND the freezer, loading all the contents into the ice chests. As he handled all the food, we talked about his changing nutritional needs. I figured by the time he unloaded everything, he would know what we have. Then I realized this was an excellent opportunity to clean the entire inside of the refrigerator and freezer, so we did that too, talking about food safety a bit also (something teenage boys know NOTHING about by the way). Then I asked him to think about all the contents of both the refrigerator and freezer and how we should organize it and put it all back. We talked more about eating vegetables, fruit, protein, and how many servings of each thing you should shoot for a day. You know, the whole food pyramid thing. He learns about nutrition in school but we talked about specific foods as we were organizing them; what made good snacks, what needed prep or cooking and how to do it, what could be thrown in a soccer bag. What was good to eat just before dinner or after dinner if he was still hungry.

Taking a break from all this work, I taught my son how to make real macaroni and cheese. It was a fairly healthy version from the book mentioned above. He grated cheese, he made a roux, he made dinner for that night.

By the time we sat down that night to eat the macaroni and cheese, I was exhausted. But I was happy because my refrigerator, freezer, snack drawer and pantry cabinet were more organized than they had ever been, and there were TWO people in the house that knew everything we have in the house.

Proudly showing off his organization!

I think I started a tradition because my other two sons asked if they were going to have a Food Day when they become teenagers. I said, "Of course!"

Since Food Day, I have noticed a significant change in the way my oldest son eats at home. He knows where things are. He is making better and more varied choices for snacks. And he is doing a lot more in the kitchen independently, which means less work for me. He still goes for the easy and quick items, he still forgets to put his dishes in the dishwasher, and he isn't great at cleaning up after himself, but I see big progress!

Oh, and last but not least, we had fun together on Food Day. I realized it had been a long time since we spent the entire day together, just he and I, working on something. I think we will both remember the day with fondness and a sense of accomplishment: he as an eater, me as a parent.

"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Would You Like to Dance?

My oldest son, in seventh grade, has recently gone to his first school dance.

He did not go to the first dance of the year, I think because of fright. But he screwed up his courage, rallied a few friends, and decided to go to the next one.

He came downstairs ready to go. I took one look at him and said, "You are NOT wearing that to the dance. You look like you are going outside to play basketball!" He was in a tshirt and shorts. Basketball shorts.

While I am a HUGE fan of the school uniform on a daily basis, I sometimes think it creates a clothing impairment. My son has a hard time dressing appropriately (in my opinion) for many things except for sports practices or games (which require a uniform). This is compounded by the fact that he doesn't usually have much to choose from given that he is growing at an alarming rate at the moment, one inch in height in the last 60 days.

I understand the desire to fit in with his peers, and not to stand out. This is one of the difficult stages of parenting, both understanding that desire, dimly remembering it, and simultaneously wanting that conformity to be tossed off as soon as possible.

This understanding was not enough for me to drive him anywhere near a dance dressed like that though. Knowing there was absolutely no way he could win the battle, he resigned himself to his new cool jeans and a nice—but not too nice—shirt which featured the apparently unusual qualities of long sleeves and a collar.

Once appropriately attired, I drove him to the dance and dropped him off. On the way, I made sure he knew how to ask a girl to dance. I could feel him rolling his eyes in the dim light of the car. I completely forgot that dances cost money, so I didn't send him with any. Luckily one of his teachers working at the door loaned him the $10.

When I picked him up, I desperately wanted to pepper him with questions, but with effort stayed quiet and let him talk. The first thing he told me was that he was by far the most dressed up person there. I saw this as an advantage, he did not. The second thing he told me was that the girls ask the boys to dance, not the other way around.

WTF? Can things really have changed THAT much since I was in middle school? Apparently they have.

During the first slow song, he was asked to dance by a beautiful seventh grader. I smiled with pride. Then I got the funniest mental picture of them dancing. This particular girl, probably the tallest in seventh grade, is at least seven inches taller than my son. Where exactly was he looking as he danced with her: up at her beautiful smiling face . . . or straight ahead? I couldn't ask that question, but noticed when he talked about that dance he had a certain smile on his face.

Going to the dance seems to have given my son a certain new kind of subtle social confidence. It's hard to define but I see it. Another step toward growing up.

This is a picture of my friend and I going to a middle school dance. We were the epitome of fashion: Gunny Sax dresses by Jessica McClintock. My son looked at this picture with some amusement as a relic from long long ago. Probably he was surprised it was in color and not black and white. Trying to look at it from his perspective, I suppose we did look somewhat bridal. If my son looks at this picture from my perspective, he will understand why wearing BASKETBALL shorts to a dance is just NOT going to happen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Out Standing in the Field

Dearest Friends and Relatives,

Little League season has started. From now until June, you will rarely see or hear from me unless you come out to the field or call me on my cell phone which I will answer from the field (unless I am scorekeeping).

Why, you might ask, is being a Little League mom different from a NJB basketball mom? After all, I have only two boys playing Little League this year, and all three boys played NJB. (One still is still playing basketball, it's that confounding extension of the season called All Stars which overlaps in a big way whatever sport comes next) Being a Little League mom is different because the baseball games last two-and-a-half to three hours, plus the hour-long warm up before the game. From this week on, we have FOUR games a week. Now do you begin to understand why I always say I live out at the field? Because I do! The games are so long, they preempt at least one meal. This necessitates so much organization of snacks and groceries and advanced cooking methods that I sometimes can't keep it together. It makes the fact that my family, and I, don't really like to eat out, a disability. I really should embrace my crockpot but I only have one recipe that I really like made in it.

My boys are very happy during Little League season, they would live in their uniforms if they could. I too have grown to appreciate most of what Little League season brings. So here we go, once again!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Goodbye to Show Business (For A Month or Two)

The show is over.

It took a few days for me to recover. It took my son no time at all. He is thinking ahead to the next show. But first, he must don his cleats and his cup and head out to a few Little League games. Yes, that's right, he chose to play baseball and then try out for the next show which will be staged in the summer.

We are putting away the makeup box and getting out the eye black, trading in the glittery costume for grass-stained knees, and putting the jazz shoes away and lacing up the cleats.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed my stint as stage mom and will miss it. But I've also honed a keen appreciation for Little League over the last several years so I'm happy to hang out on the metal bleachers and breathe in dust for a while.

A few photos from the meet and greet after the last performance.