Father (thinks he) Knows Best

5 Jun

The morning of the first full day of summer, my husband (If he were a Super Hero his name would be MicroManageMan!), woke me at 6:50 am (Thanks, Honey) to tell me that my older 2 boys were in the pool.  I groaned at the realization that I would have to go from “comatose” to “alert” in 0.6 seconds in order to supervise them after my husband left for work, but the fact that my sons were already up and at ‘em to such a ambitious degree pleased my husband greatly. 

My husband was raised by a father we affectionately call “Grampy the Hun” for his gentle, laid back approach to childcare and forced labor.  This was a man who relished sending his children off to slumber with bedtime stories from the Struwwl-Peter book fresh in their heads.  For those of you unfamiliar with this book, Poor Struwwl-Peter and his friends learn life lessons the hard way. For instance, when Peter’s friend won’t stop sucking his thumbs, a tailor comes to his house and cuts them off with giant scissors.  Adorable.  Sweet dreams, son.  

Apparently every Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, Grampy the Hun and his never-ending chore list had my husband out helping with an unending list of home repairs, wood chopping, house painting and snow shoveling — even in the bleakest morning hours of the coldest Connecticut winters. My husband loves to garner sympathy with his retelling of an austere upbringing wherein he and his younger brother shared a drafty third floor bathroom with no heat which, according to family lore, had them executing a morning routine that included showering in frigid water while scraping icicles from thier eyebrows at the same time.  The way he tells it, waterboarding would have been a far more pleasant approach to their morning ablutions. (But don’t cry for them, Argentina.  That “rickety old house” they lived in had 11 bedrooms and was situated on 5 acres just down the street from David Letterman in New Canaan, CT… Poor baby.)  

Anyway MicroManageMan has a vision of how this summer will proceed that is clearly informed by his childhood memories.  In order to beat the Arizona summer heat and maintain maximum productivity during all daylight hours, my husband expects that all of his children will be up, dressed, and fed by 5:30 am.   By 0600 they will be fully engaged in some form of rigorous outdoor physical activity such as swimming, bike riding, running a military-style obstacle course, or perhaps enjoying a 5-mile forced march through the desert.  Note:  all preceding activities require competent adult supervision—which would require ME to be up at 5:30 am.  (Which tells you right there that his idea of the ‘perfect summer day’ is pure fantasy…) 

After completion of a minimum of 3 hours of vigorous outdoor physical activity, MicroManageMan dictates that each child has a healthy snack consisting of bran, pitted dates and whey protein.  After said snack, the children must brush their teeth with baking soda and sawdust, before swiftly moving to commence their chores.  This morning — the first morning of summer– MicroManageMan left a chore list for the boys that included the following:

1.    Unload dishwasher

2.   Load dishwasher

3.   Put backpacks away

4.   Make beds

5.   Fold, put away laundry

6.   Hug mom 

(Alright, I guess I’ll give him a point for #6, but still, he’s seriously stepping on my toes here …)

After the chore list is completed, MicroManageMan requires a minimum of 2 hours of academic work such as can be found in the Summer Bridge workbook or perhaps reading Tolstoy or memorizing entire books of the Bible. When academic work is completed (and painstakingly checked by Mother, of course) the boys are required to retire to their rooms for a 2-hour nap.  The children will arise from thier naps, do a series of calisthetics such as deep knee bends to alert thier minds; help Mother prepare dinner and perform their evening chores.  Afterwhich the family will provide a full accounting of their day’s endless productive and enriching activities to Father, who will nod his head approvingly and beam with pride.  Before bed, Father will smoke his pipe and read select passages from the Book of Virtues to the boys before they blow out thier lanterns and fall asleep by 7 pm.    

Frankly, if this is the way he thinks the day will go, then I want to know what kind of pipe he is smoking…  

(Editorial note:  OK, I’ll admit, at this point my original “Super Hero” idea has morphed into a dream sequence more reminiscent of Father Knows Best meets Little House on the Prarie.  If you don’t like it you can write your own damned blog).  

What actually happened this morning when my husband left for work at 7 am was this:  I dragged myself out of bed and threw on my robe to stagger to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  There– at 7:05– I found my two amphibious sons dripping wet, staring at the TV and eating pudding.  Their father hadn’t been gone for 5 minutes.  I don’t even think the garage door was fully down or his car had cleared the driveway before they embarked on their own agenda for the day: Snack, watch TV, repeat. Fight with a brother. Snack, watch TV, repeat.  Jump on the couch. Snack, watch TV, repeat. Break something. Snack, watch TV, repeat. Fight with the other brother. Snack, watch TV, repeat.  The aforementioned routine can only be amended by Mother yelling “KNOCK IT OFF!!!” at the top of her lungs. Once won’t do it.  Twice is a joke.  She must yell it seven hundred and fifty two times before it catches their attention.   And so the day goes…

Mother tells boys to turn the TV off seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to pick up their rooms seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to keep their hands off each other seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to put sunscreen on seven hundred and fifty two times

Mother tells the boys to stop yelling in the pool seven hundred and fifty two times.

Mother tells the boys to shut the sliding glass door because they are letting the cold air out seven hundred and fifty two freaking times.  

By now it is 4:47 pm.  Mother has yet to shower for the day.  Her hair like Medusa, her eyes wild and glassy; she’s hyperventilating in the kitchen, nervously rocking back and forth and muttering under her breath.  Surrounded by laundry and crumbs, a twitch develops under her left eye as she stares at the clock, mentally willing it to be 5 pm so she can pour a generous glass of chardonnay to wash down the sleeve of Girl Scout cookies she’s been eating.   The air conditioner is on overdrive because the sliding glass door has been left ajar.  Again.  The boys are quiet for the first time today.  Nevermind that hey are covered in sunscreen and lying all over her unmade bed eating cheetos and watching their third hour of reruns of ‘Saved by the Bell.’  They are quiet and that’s all that matters.   And that they finally have sunscreen on.  

The silence is broken by the sound of the garage door going up.  Uh oh, Dad’s pulling in the driveway.

Quick…  Everybody look busy!

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Schoooooool’s Out for Summer…

31 May

I sat outside waiting for the bus to deposit the boys at our stop on the last day of school.  Over the past week or two I have listened to numerous mothers claim to be “so excited” that school was almost over because they just “can’t wait” to get some “quality time ” with thier kids!

I am not one of those mothers.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I am always genuinely glad to see my boys get off the bus at the end of a long day apart from them… but frankly, it usually doesn’t last all that long.  No sooner do they cross the threshold and they start bickering with each other, arguing with me about homework, sneaking illicit snacks, and systematically destroying the house I spent all day cleaning…  And on this day, the last day of school, it was slightly terrifying to think that they wouldn’t get back on that bus for another ten weeks.  So as I watched them disembark and start to slowly trod across the grass toward me, I admit I sort of had to feign enthusiasm.  I threw up a feeble:  “Woo hoo!”  and started to sing my own middle aged mom version of Alice Cooper’s “Schoooooool’s Out for the Summer!!”   My younger two looked amused.  My fourth grader (ahem) — my fifth grader– shot me daggers as he stomped by and grouchily barked: “STOP EMBARASSING ME!!”

I followed the boys into the house and reminded them that we had big plans to head to a pool party at a friend’s house in 45 minutes, so whoever was hungry should have a snack and then should help me start pulling swimsuits, towels and sunscreen together.   Right about then the TV flipped on and thier minds went completely blank.  Schoooooool’s out for the summer… 

Snapping the TV off, I remind them that we are supposed to be getting ready for a party…  big fun… friends… swimming… boat drinks and the like…  naively assuming that this would motivate them to rally and cooperate to get ready.  Nope.  Feet dragging, muttering, sniping at each other, each boy disappeared into his room.   Several minutes later I hear another TV snap on somewhere in the house.  “What the…”  I wonder as I wander toward the sound of cartoon voices.  “Seriously, guys. POOL PARTY! Woo Hoo!  Let’s get ready to go!”  

In the kitchen I start going through backpacks in search of report cards.  My middle son comes back into the kitchen and sees me eyeing his end of the year grades with a pleased look on my face.  “Give me $10 bucks!”  He bleats, demanding an instant reward for the O’s on the page.

“Excuse me, young man, but your reward should be the feeling of accomplishment you derive when the grades you earn are an appropriate reflection of your effort and intelligence.  Your motivation should be your desire to do your best.  You know, Eleanor Roosevelt once said:  ‘Whah whah whah whah whah whah whah.’  Suffice it to say, I am not going to pay you for your report card.”  

Clearly my eloquent speech really hits home and he responds: “Whatever, Lady” and snaps on SpongeBob on the kitchen TV.  Just then my oldest son storms out of his room:  

“You didn’t sign me up for basketball and now the team is almost full!”  

“What?  It is?  Well, I called the coach and haven’t heard back.”  

“You never signed me up!”  

“OK, well, I did try, and don’t worry, we’ll get you signed up.”  

“Well the team is almost full!”

“Easy does it, son, I tried to get the information, I never heard back.  Just relax.  We’ll get you on the team.” 

“It’s almost full!” 

It dawned on me then that I was being sucked into the vortex of one of those circular, over-dramatized arguments that tweens are prone to provoke.  It also dawned on me that I had already spent nearly $600 on “Summer Basketball” plans for my not quite 11 year-old son who was now yelling at me for not getting him signed up in time for an ostensibly nearly full YMCA team that I had no information about despite doing my maternal due diligence.  It further dawned on me that he still needed new basketball shoes.  Make that $650 dollars.  And he was still yelling. 

            “You never signed me up!” 

I was starting to get a little ticked.  “What do you want me to do?!?  Alright everyone!  In the car!  On the double! We’ve got to go sign up for basketball RIGHT NOW!  Let’s get to the Y!  WHY?  Because John says so!” 

The look in his eyes told me that my little tirade had me inching toward the cliff called Crazy, so I switched gears:  “Would everyone please just get your swim suits on so we can go to the POOL. PARTY.!”   My oldest son headed off to get his suit, in the bathroom off the kitchen that he now claims as his own since we converted our former guest room into his tween bachelor digs.  Gasping for air and clutching his throat he dramatically staggers backwards out of the room choking out the following totally unnecessary and obnoxious proclamation: 

SOMEONE POOPED IN MY BATHROOM AND IT SMELLS HORRIBLE!!!!!” 

“Oh for crying out loud… get your suit and swim shirt so we can get out of here.” 

Pulling his shirt up to cover his nose and mouth, he cautiously inches forward toward the bathroom, face set in a grimace and arm outstretched like he’s determined to enter a burning building to save a child.  “Would you just get over it and flip the fan on?” I implore him, my tone exasperated, my eyes rolling back in my head.

Unfortunately we keep all the boys’ swimsuits and shirts in that bathroom, so once my older son staggered back out clutching his suit I had to send my middle son in to fight the noxious fumes and retrieve his.  Oh. The. Drama.  No sooner does he dart into the offensive chamber then the screaming starts:  “Aaaaah!  Aaaaaah!  Aaaaaah!  IT’S HORRIBLE!  IT’S HORRIBLE! YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL ME!!!!”  he shrieks as he sprints full speed out of the room, clutching his bathing suit in his flailing hands.  In the meantime my oldest son, airway still protected by his stretched out t-shirt, appears out of no where and tapes a hastily fabricated “KEEP OUT OF MY BATHROOM!! YOU STINK!!” sign on the door. All this fuss over their little brother having used the potty?  I go in to turn on the fan and air out what can’t be more than a little stinky gas. 

Sweet mother of god. 

“Toxic” doesn’t touch it. “Repellent” is not even in the ballpark.  To this day I cannot comprehend what sort of vile atrocity that small child could have eaten to cause such an unholy stench. Seriously, the corrosive fumes nearly singed my nose hair.  I flip on the fan and fumble under the sink for the anti-bacterial room spray, spraying the room liberally and then taking a few huffs myself in a vain attempt to purify my nasal passages.

Turing my attention back to the gruesome scene, I am determined to find the source of the smell.  It was then that I compiled the clues that allowed me to get to the bottom of it (so to speak).  I spy an empty toilet paper roll.  Fecal matter on the faucet handle.  And a brand new, formerly white swim shirt crumpled on the floor… It doesn’t take a detective to know that ‘putting poo and poo together makes gore.’ Sticking my head out of the room and inhaling deep agonal breaths, I gasp to my two older boys to get their younger brother, the Poopetrator of this crime against humanity.

Andrew, oblivious to the odor, but keenly aware of the pained look on his mother’s face, hesitantly approached the bathroom door.  “Son!  If there isn’t any toilet paper, you need to ask mommy to get you some! You made a big mess and didn’t tell anybody. That’s not OK! Do you know what the word ‘BIOHAZARD’ means!?” He hangs his little head and turns to leave the room.  That’s when I see it.  A skid mark on the back of his lower leg.  I exhale deeply and escort him to the bathtub.  The clock catches my eye.  The boys got off the bus at 12:40.  It is now 1:00. 

We are only 20 minutes into Summer Vacation.     

I’ve already had to turn off the television 27 times, deliver a commencement-style address about the virtue of intrinsic motivation for academic achievement, settle a contentious basketball arbitration, and channel my inner Nancy Drew to solve the ‘Case of the Exploding Bowels’ not to mention donning a respirator and HazMat suit to clean it all up.   And we still don’t have our swimsuits and sunscreen on…  

Only 109,440 minutes of summer left to go…

Sweet mother of god.

Effing Amish Friendship Bread

11 May

The other day my friend, Melissa, handed me a large ziploc bag filled with something that looked like glue.   She told me it was an “Amish Friendship Bread” starter and that I would need to “mush the bag” every day for 6 or so days, then on the 7th day add some ingredients and bake it.  “It tastes like cake,” she said.  “My kids loved it.”  (She had me at cake). The bag of glue came with a detailed sheet of instructions that I ignored. “Should be something fun to do with the boys,” I thought before tossing it on the counter and forgetting about it.

The next day my 10 year-old son spotted the curious bag, still full of glue and now also quite full of air. “What’s this?”   I told him what it was and asked if he wanted to help me “mush the bag” each day for the next few days until it was time to bake it.  “Sure,” he said as he looked over the instructions, “it says we’re supposed to let the air out.”  “Hmmm, I hadn’t noticed that.  That can be your job.”  For the next few days my son and I took turns letting the air out of the ever-ballooning bag and mushing it’s pasty contents.  I ticked off the days until Bake the Bread that Tastes Like Cake Day and was relieved to see that we would have all day Saturday to get it done.

Saturday morning dawned early and it was immediately apparent that the boys hadn’t had enough sleep.  By 7:00 am there had already been a few punches thrown and a few doors slammed and multiple declarations of war.  It was going to be a long day.

In order to curb their aggression, we tried to keep them busy:  chores, grocery shopping, lunch, cleaning up after lunch, making messes, cleaning up after messes, etc, etc.  They also spent a good portion of the day in the pool.  By the time we got everyone ready for our double-header at the Little League field, it was clear that all three boys were sunburned and exhausted.  When the first baseball game started it was over 100 degrees with an insistent breeze blowing that felt like Mother Nature had her super-sized blow dryer trained right on your face.  Nearly four hours later the games ended and we loaded our hungry, hot-pink, dust-coated brood into the car and headed home.  By the time everyone was bathed, fed, and tucked in bed, and the filthy uniforms were in the washer, and the kitchen was almost clean it was already after 9 o’clock.  “I’ll finally be able to put my feet up,” I thought as I wiped down the counter and loaded the last few dinner dishes in the washer.

CRAP!!!”  I exclaimed to no one in particular.  “Today’s the day I have to make that Amish Friendship Bread!”

Thinking it would only take a few minutes, I found the sheet of directions and preheated the oven.

OK, what do I have to do?  Let’s see, oh, I guess I’m not just baking the bread, but I have to parcel out the starter to give to other people. I got out 4 ziploc bags and dated each with a Sharpie. And what is this?  Oh geez.  It says in big letters “DO NOT PUT MIXTURE IN METAL BOWL!”  Gosh, there’s a lot to this…  Let’s see… ‘Add 1-1/2 cups each of sugar, flour and milk.’  I measured out the sugar and flour and dumped them in the bowl with the starter; then headed to the fridge where I discovered we were out of milk.

CRAP!!!”  I nearly shouted.  To the Amish in particular.  

“Honey?”  I sweetly addressed my husband who was hunched over a sandwich and seemed to barely be able to keep his head up off his plate he was so tired.  “How would you feel about going to the grocery for some milk?”

“Huh? Now? Can’t we get it in the morning?” he responded. (Quite rationally, I might add).

“Well, I kind of need it for this silly Amish Friendship Bread.  Would you mind?”

“OK” he sighed, pushing away from the table.  I have to say that my husband’s a rock star when it comes to last minute, inconvenient  trips to the grocery.

I figured I’d get everything ready so I could just dump the milk in and get it in the oven as soon as he got back.  “Man, there are a lot of ingredients to this stinking Amish Friendship bread…” I set about measuring baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, oil; cracking a few eggs… When I was done with each ingredient, I promptly put its container back where it belonged, priding myself on keeping a clean kitchen, even as I cook.   My husband arrived home as I was adding the final few ingredients.

CRAP!!!” I groaned.  To everyone residing in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

“What now?” my weary husband asked.

“It says I need 2 boxes of vanilla instant pudding!!!  We don’t have any instant pudding!!!”

Just then there was a long pause in the kitchen.

“Are you going to scrap it at this point… or are you going to ask me to go back to the store for 2 boxes of vanilla instant pudding?”  My husband asked slowly (but by the tone of his voice, I could tell he already knew how I would answer).

“Well… it’s just that I already have all the other ingredients in the bowl and it makes 2 loaves and it could be our dessert tomorrow.  (Long pause of my own) And tomorrow is Mother’s Day…”

“Whose school project is this anyway?” he wanted to know.  I guessed that he was trying to psyche himself up for the drive back to the store by clarifying which of his three sons’ academic success he was selflessly contributing to.

“Uh… Melissa’s?” I answered meekly, attempting a chuckle.

Is this like some sort of a chain letter?!” he demanded.  “You mean to tell me I’m headed out to the grocery store– for the second timeat 9:30 at night— for a chain letter…?!” I heard him grumble as he pulled his keys off the hook in the laundry room and headed out the garage door. “Well then, I guess I’d better go because if we don’t make the bread it will mean 7 years of bad luck!”

“Oh geez this is sort of ridiculous, and I am exhausted!”  I thought as I added the milk and grabbed a whisk and started to stir the concoction.

OH CRAP!!!” I bellowed.  (To all future generations of electricty-eschewing Amish people the world over.  And the horses that pull their buggies.)

A metal whisk!!  I was using a metal whisk!!

I yanked the whisk out of the bowl, slopping the now much-hated mixture all over the counter in the process.  When my husband returned with the pudding, I finished mixing with a plastic spoon, put all the ingredients away and wiped down the splattered counter.  All I had to do now was pour the batter into 2 loaf pans and stick it in the oven.  I thought. I got out the only two loaf pans I owned.

CRAP!! (To those carriage-riding, furniture-making, barn raising, technology-avoiding … and to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and…)

One was glass and the other was metal.  There was absolutely no way I was going to ask my husband to go back to the grocery store to purchase another glass loaf pan. Come hell or highwater or mysterious cake-ruining chemical reaction, I was going to pour the batter into the 2 pans I had, but first I checked the recipe one last time.  I wanted to see if there were any explicit warnings about explosions or corrosive metal cake poisoning, or…

CRAP!!!  For the love of  all things AMISH!!!!

What’s this!?!? Forget about the physical properties of the loaf pans!! Those Amish people with their crazy Old Testament names and Abe Lincoln beards don’t just pour batter in pans, apparently!!!   Nooooo… they get back out all the ingredients they just put away to keep their kitchens clean, and they mix sugar and cinnamon and dust the freaking loaf pans first!!!  Out come the measuring cups. Out come the sugar and cinnamon. I was so tired by this point, my vision was starting to blur.

Finally.  Finally. I got the pans dusted, the batter poured, and put it all in the oven.  It was 10 pm.  One last check of the evil Amish recipe told me that the god-forsaken Amish Friendship Bread would have to bake for ONE HOUR.

I wanted to kill myself.

No… I wanted to kill “my friend” Melissa.

When the resented loaves were finally pulled from the oven, and I’d had a good night’s sleep, and woke up to freshly baked cake/bread… I had to admit, it was really good, and my husband and the kids loved it.  But make no mistake.  If I happen to give you the starter for this Effing Amish Friendship Bread… I really must not like you very much at all…

Pity Party Planner

7 May

This week I received an e-mail from the Kindergarden Room Mom informing me that it was time to get the ball rolling with regard to the Kindergarden End of the Year party.   Apparently at the beginning of the year I signed up to be “Lead Mom” for this extravaganza.  I have to tell you, this really doesn’t sound like something I’d do. I know myself pretty well.  I’m not a Ball Roller.  I’m actually more of a Huge Procrastinator.  I’m not at all detail-oriented; and I’m always running late, arriving harried and feeling like the only one in the room who doesn’t have a clue what’ s going on.   I’d have to have been out of my mind to volunteer to run the show.

When I told her that I thought she must be mistaken and that I probably signed up to be on the committee rather than overseeing the party, she responded with a lengthy e-mail which essentially provided legal documentation of my accepting the role of “Lead Parent.”   An excerpt:

“Hi Susan,
In the beginning of the year, when we volunteered to be a Lead Parent, we were each asked by Mrs. Johnson (and me) to be the organizer of one of the parties. Everyone who attended the meeting with Mrs. Johnson picked a party then. Mrs. Johnson talked w/ you sometime after the meeting and told me you wanted to be a Lead Parent , too. That’s when I asked you to be the organizer of the EOY party since it was the only party left that didn’t have a Lead Parent assigned. I remember thanking you in an email to all the the Lead Parents for taking this role on. Sorry you thought you were on the committee of planners. Any attempt to transfer any of the rights, duties, or obligations hereunder except as expressly provided for herein is null and void. “

 

Alright already.   Uncle.  I believe you.   I’ll lead the damned party. 

 

Who am I to argue with this woman?  She’s  a Professional Room Parent.  Expert Party Planner.  A card-carrying Good Mom.  She’s always volunteering in the classroom and is on a first name basis with the teacher.  She not only knows every child by name, but their mothers too.  (Me?  I sent out an e-vite  for my son’s birthday party and didn’t recognize a single kid who showed up).  Every flyer this woman sends home is packed with information and perfectly crafted with little kindergarden-esque borders and charming school-ish clip art.  She dots every freaking i and crosses each perfect t with painstaking kindergarden-teacher handwriting and really, my son would be far better off if she were his mommy.  I don’t stand a chance against her.   I decided my best strategy was to respond to her with an e-mail admitting my paralyzing ignorance of how to proceed.  She took to the the bait like a bass to a Cow Catcher Umbrella Rig (I don’t have a clue what that is, I just Googled “bass bait” and that was the first thing on the list…)  Anyway, in minutes she fired back an e-mail that thoroughly detailed every move I’d have to make.  When I saw that wealth of information, I figured all I had to do was:
  1. Highlight her suggestions
  2. Cut
  3. Paste into a new e-mail
  4. Send to the class

I told the other mothers to sign up to bring something and to make sure and “cc” the whole group so everyone would know who’s bringing what.  Presto!  The End of the Year party would organize itself!  Who’s the Professional Room Parent now?  

Boy was I naive.  


As soon as I sent out that e-mail to the other moms, my inbox was flooded.  The questions! The unsolicited suggestions! The need for clarifications!  Seriously Ladies, could you please read the other e-mails before you write back and tell me what you want to bring?  Why were there suddenly so many i’s to dot and t’s to cross?!  Frankly, my penmanship is about as good as my time management skills… This party is doomed!  After over an hour of sifting through and responding to e-mails about this Loathsome Luau, I received another lengthy missive from Room Mother Extraordinaire…

   “Have you thought about this?  Have you thought about that?   Why do we need flatware if all we are serving are fruit skewers and finger food?  Does anyone own a luau CD so we can have appropriate tropical background music? If the goldfish crackers are going to be eaten during the party then do we really need to pay extra for individual packs?  Are you going to send out invitations to the parents per the teacher’s request?  



My eyes began to glaze over.  My brain began to sting.  I wanted to weep.  Gahd this was going to be a lot of work.  A short while later, I was neck deep in the mindless micro-management of minutia when I ran headfirst into my first Diplomatic Blunder.  I had unwittingly authorized the provision of both plastic leis AND sand tube necklaces as party accessories…   Idiot!!  And even though the e-mail soliciting supplies had gone out a mere 36 hours earlier, and party was still more than 2 weeks away– both women had already — inexplicably– gone out and purchased their assigned accessories for the class.   Truly, I’ve never heard of such an obnoxious level of planning ahead.  Now what do I do?  Spend more precious time crafting an apology e-mail decrying my oversight and taking full blame.  That’s what I do.  

Dear Hyper-Organized, Overachieving Mothers who put Pathetic Procrastinators Like Me to Shame,

I can’t believe my egregious error!  How thoughtless of me to authorize two redundant tropical neck accessories!   Mea culpa, mea culpa…  Please forgive me and won’t the children be lucky to wear both the leis and sand tube necklaces at the party!



At this writing the party is still 2 weeks away.  There are Party Planning Update e-mails to be written and Updates to the Updates; Flyers to go out in backpacks and Invitations to be sent to parents; limbo poles to be procured, luau music to be located.  The list goes on and on… Why?  WHY?  What possessed me to have signed on for this?  I still can’t believe I really agreed to be Party Planner.      

Perhaps I’ll requisition the court documents for proof.  

Major League Idiot

20 Apr

On a recent Tuesday afternoon I was elbows deep in cookie dough, happily engrossed in the activity of baking cookies with my 3 sons.  They were cracking the eggs and leveling the flour and taking turns stirring as we added craisins, chocolate chips and walnuts to pack these treats with extra healthy energy.  We were making these cookies to send along with my husband on his annual camping trip with his college buddies. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was sort of known for the cookies I send with the campers.  So not only was I feeling like the Mother of All Mothers as my happy little band of brothers cooperated in the kitchen, but I was also feeling like the Wife of All Wives– thinking of how all the weary men would gratefully be singing my praises as they cut in to a bag of my homemade treats after a long day out on the dusty trail.  

Suddenly the fantasy of a bunch of “Hungry He-Men Hikers Devouring My Delicious Cookies” was interrupted by a loud knock at the door.

Standing on my front porch was a high school aged boy who looked like he’d just walked off the set of “The Hills” or “The OC” or “Lifestyles of the Idle Rich and Ridiculous.”  He was all about the $200 jeans with permanent crotch creases and elaborately stitched back pockets, sissy-ish skater shoes and carefully gelled hair.  I know I’m a middle-aged, Midwestern, mother of young children, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to beat him up the moment I laid eyes on him.

     “Can I help you?”  I cooly inquired.

     “Hi there,Ma’am” he said, offering me his soft hand in a slightly damp and decidedly wimpy handshake. “I’m here selling magazine subscriptions to hot moms like you to raise money to help send our club baseball team to a tournament in Hawaii.  Now, personally, my family can easily afford to buy my plane ticket, but there are some dudes on our team that need a little help, so I’m out here doing my part to help them so they can join the team in Hawaii.  Can I count on you to purchase a magazine subscription that will allow a young man to play baseball? “

Seriously.  That’s what he said.

As if I didn’t want to beat him up before…  

I stood there, stupified by the display of arrogance before me.  What did I care if this obnoxious jerk and his posse of pampered pansies got to fly to Hawaii to play baseball?  If I wanted to “donate” my hard-earned money to send anybody on a Hawaiian vacation, believe me, I would start with myself.  

     “No thanks.”  

     “But there are some great magazine subscriptions here, and you’d be donating to a great cause.”  

     “Sorry.”

     “Here, just look at this list of great magazines you could choose from” he said as he attempted to press the laminated list into my clenched hand.

     “Really, I don’t want to waste your time.  I’m not interested in any magazine subscriptions…” I said, taking a step backward and readying myself to close the door.

     “OK, then how about just making a donation so all of the guys who can’t afford it can come to Hawaii with the rest of us who can.”  

At this point I was ready to pay the kid something just to get his jeans off my front porch.  I asked my son to run and get me my wallet.  

     “How about writing us a check for $100?” he said.  Perfectly straightfaced.  

     “Are you kidding me? There’s no way I am going to write  you a check for $100.”  I looked in my wallet.  All I had was $10 bucks.  “Here” I said, thrusting the bill forward, interested only in buying my freedom.  

He pretended not to notice the paltry bill in my hand.  “Then how about just writing a check for $20? C’mon, it’s for a good cause…”

     “Ten bucks. Take it or leave it” I icily replied.  My irritation clouding my better judgement which would have dictated me shutting the door in his face 10 minutes ago…

     “You won’t even write us a check for $20?” he asked, slowly, increduously… He looked at me with a mix of amazement and disgust.  Like he’d never seen someone so cheap in his entire life. His entire indulged, indolent life.  

I narrowed my gaze, shaking my head and slowly lowering my outstretched hand with the bill.

Then he simply uttered:  “WOW

With a flick of my wrist I slammed the door in his face.  

My young son stood there mouth agape, having witnessed the whole exchange.  I’m not sure he knew what to make of the prettyboy on the front porch who spoke so rudely to his mommy.  Or the mommy who so impolitely just slammed a door in the idiot’s face.

     “Son, I don’t ever want you to talk to a grown up the way that that boy just talked to me.  He was very rude and set a very poor example.”  

     “Yeah,” my young son added, “and he dressed like a girl.”

A Night of Ups and Downs

20 Apr

The other night in the midst of making dinner, I peeked out the door to see my three sons playing happily together on the sidewalk in front of our house. The activity they were engaged in seemed to be some version of Limbo, and my quick glance out the door detected harmony, cooperation and smiling faces. This was a tiny miracle unto itself.  Usually when my three sons are engaged in some joint activity involving large sticks, the outcome involves bodily harm, dramatic wailing, forceful (if not entirely believable) accusations wildly flying in every direction… followed by my version of an Inquisition that makes the Spaniards look like a bunch of amateurs.  However this special night, mysterious winds from Planet Peace must have been blowing through my neighborhood, because only brotherly love prevailed.  

I happily, if not a bit smugly, headed back to the kitchen, taking stock of my good fortune: Despite the fact that my husband was working late, I was in a good mood (traslation: NOT self-medicating with the latest edition of People magazine and a bowl of brownie batter).  I was also  somehow managing to pull off a clean house, a homemade dinner consisting of 3 food groups (including an actual GREEN vegetable)… AND the boys were getting along?! This was turning out to be some kind of magical evening indeed! When the food was nearly ready, I could just make out the the sound of the garage door over the thrumming of the clothesdryer and I marveled at how “in sync” my boys and I were… “They are headed inside before I even call them for dinner!” I thought to myself… However after a few minutes when no one had entered the house, I went to go to the door to beckon them.

In the garage I was met by my oldest son wearing a worried look on his face. “Uh… Mom… the garage door won’t go down…” I pressed the button but only heard faint, ineffective clicking and humming noises emanating from the unit mounted to the ceiling. “That’s strange…” I said out loud, repeatedly pushing the button but getting no response. I glanced at my son, who now had beads of sweat dotting his brow and who seemed to also have developed a nervous twitch under his left eye. “All right, what happened?” I asked, bracing myself for a response that was bound to ruin an otherwise perfect evening… “Well… we were… we… were… sort of …riding the garage door up and down and it … sort of… stopped working…”

Preternaturally calm, I paused to take in one more deep breath– filling my lungs with the dying breezes of Planet Peace– before assessing the situation and determining the most prudent response. I calmly concluded that if they were misbehaving while I was trying to get dinner on the table, then they would have to forego dinner that night, and let their hunger pangs remind them of their misdeeds until their father got home to really read them the riot act. Heads hung low, they marched to their rooms, apparently too weak from hunger and wracked with guilt to protest. I called my husband and told him the news, holding the phone a few inches from my ear in anticipation of an aggravated, blustery response…

“Oh. Geez. Well… I’ll call the home warranty company and get the garage door people out tomorrow”  was all he said.  

As luck would have it, the garage door people couldn’t actually make it out for another few days… As I tolerated the inconvenience of parking on the driveway during a month of March mini-heatwave, I couldn’t help but feel a bit proud that my husband and I – both prone to yelling—had handled the incident so calmly and not made a bigger deal of it. 

But truth be told, I found myself feeling another feeling I never would have imagined. I kinda found the whole thing to be, well, sorta funny. Those damned boys… riding the garage door up and down…  I pictured them hanging on with bent arms and legs, silhouettes dangling there like those little plastic monkeys in a barrel… til they fell off… or til they let go… or til I called them in for dinner…  or til the capacitor on the garage door opener burned out…

“William opened his mouth and breathed his stink all over me!!”

27 Sep

I just don’t know another hell hotter than running errands with 3 cranky boys in the late September 103 degree heat in Phoenix.   Even as I sit here trying to type, they chase each other around the house slapping and laughing and squealing… and I tell you I am in no mood.  There aren’t enough chocolate-tipped candy corns in this 12 oz bag to make me happy and at 2:34 pm it’s way too early for a glass of Chardonnay.   

Deep breath.

And I was really trying so hard to be “Good Mom” today too.  The younger 2 boys have been clamoring for these new “Bakugan” toys that apparently can’t be kept on any store shelf.  I have no earthly idea what these Baku-things are or do.  All I know is that I have never had my pronunciation corrected more frequently by a 5 year old than I have since first hearing about these Baku-toys.  

We have made numerous trips to the Baku-aisle at Target, only to stare forlornly at the lonely empty Baku-hooks.  Though I have been relentlessly beseeched to make a side trip to the nearest Toys-R-Us to check their Baku-stock; I have heretofore declined.  Today though I relented.  

I had had enough of the begging and the pleading and the imploring so I finally decided to endure the driving and the parking and the walking and the cautioning and the bickering and the admonishing and the searching and the inquiring and the hurrying and twitching and the salivating and finally the breathless locating of the…NOTHING … and then it was the gasping and the disbelieving and the sulking and the whining and the wailing and the crying (tho’ no tearing) and then it was my own comforting and consoling and promising devolving into griping and muttering and eye-rolling as I grabbed hands, turned tail and headed back out to the car…  

The man at Toys R Us told us that they would have more Baku-thingys in stock next Friday morning, but to get there early because they flew off the shelves in minutes.  “How?” I wondered, when most kids are in school where they can’t badger their mothers to death to go get them until much later on a weekday afternoon…  

Then I pictured a horde of Baku-moms in their track suits and fashionable baseball caps descending on the store as soon as the doors open, hell-bent on their mission to obtain as many of those little plastic spheres as possible– despite having no earthly idea what they are or do…  

And the minute the doors open there is the hurrying and the racing and the sprinting and the breathless locating and the jockeying and the clamoring and the grabbing and the accusing and the arguing and the insulting and the cursing and the pushing and the shoving and the slapping and the hair-pulling and the Manager-paging and the yelling and the 911-dialing and the police arriving and the arresting and the cuffing and the booking and the charging and the one-phone calling and crying and the bailing…  

All in a fruitless attempt to avoid any future episodes of the …begging and the pleading and the imploring…