Category Archives: Parenting

Have Kids, Will…Nurse My Ego

Having boys has opened my eyes to a special kind of flattery:  the kind that only a Mommy can get from her little boy.   In his eyes you’re a princess…beautiful, nice smelling, kind, and infallible.  He wants to snuggle, hold your hand, and marry you because you’re the most wonderful woman in his world.  Your heart absolutely melts when he looks into your eyes and tells you how beautiful you are.  And you are.  I’ve no doubt about that.

But then, he gets bigger.  Older.  Wiser.  Maybe a little cynical.  Suddenly you’re being picked apart like last week’s garbage.  Your breath stinks (somehow that coffee breath previously went unnoticed), you’re mean and unfair, your butt is big, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

My big nose and big teeth were recently subjects of scrutiny and raillery.  The boys were being very funny, cracking each other up as I stood there, a witness to my fall from familial eminence.  And this was on the heels of having my youngest draw a picture of me on the back of a restaurant menu…as a green witch.

Despite the slight bruising to my ego, I do find a sense of relief when my kids hit this point.  There’s a lot of pressure involved in being the most awesome person in the world.  When your children finally realize you are, in fact, a flawed human being and not the smartest person in the world, you’re off the hook.  I’m totally comfortable admitting to my mistakes and physical shortcomings because I have nothing to prove except that this ugly witch loves them unconditionally.

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Have Kids, Will…Eavesdrop

Don’t you just love listening to your kids talk to one another when they don’t know you’re listening?  Or when they have a friend in the car and they suddenly start whispering and giggling together?  Considering I have all boys all the time, I regularly hear some really great (and equally appalling) potty humor.  All my best jokes have come from first and seventh graders.  It’s all ridiculous stuff that is innocent enough, whispered through the hot breath of little boys who don’t always brush their teeth.

Just last week I was carting a couple of elementary schoolers to a party.  They were playing a Nintendo game during the drive.  One friend asked to have a character created for him and, glancing up at me in the rear view mirror, whispered, “Name him Penis.”  The belly laughs that that comment induced were adorable, even if the subject was completely stupid.

The chalkboard in my mud room recently announced, “Welcome to Butt-town!”  Yes, indeed.  I live in Butt-town.  Every gross, stinky body function or body part is up for grabs in regular conversations and jokes alike.  Car rides are filled with farts, burps, and armpit noises.  Outside, it’s seeing who can spit or pee the farthest.  Words like “balls” and “nuts” garner snickers no matter what we’re actually talking about.

On the other hand, the sweetness that I get to witness when the boys are in their beds, with lights out as they settle in for the night, is sometimes miraculous.  Ages ago, when my oldest two were maybe 4 and 6, I heard Eli say, “I love you, Max.”  Just like that.  It was so out of the blue and surprising that Max replied, “Wow, Eli.  That makes me want to cry.”  I remember thinking, Same here! 

The younger two, who also share a room, were recently having a quiet argument as they were lying in their beds.  When I walked into their room, ready to tell them to be quiet and go to sleep, I realized they were actually arguing about how many moons Jupiter has.  Scientific discussions?  Declarations of love?  Why doesn’t THIS happen during the day?  I just better keep my ears open and savor all that good stuff.

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Have Kids, Will…Clean (Again and Again and Again)

There must be something very gratifying about having a clean house.  You can welcome guests with ease, confident that they’ll be comfortable in your lovely, uncluttered home.  You can have an impromptu gathering for coffee or cocktails, serving refreshments in clean glassware that’s been neatly put away in the cupboard and is free of dust or dried on gunk.  You can even sit back, put up your feet, and sigh a breath of gratitude for how lucky you are to live in such a nice, tidy space.  I wouldn’t know.

With four kids, all of whom are BOYS, a husband who is just as messy as the kids, a dog, a cat, and a house in the woods, where every stinkin’ pine needle, leaf, and clump of dirt comes in on everyone’s shoes and paws, my house is rarely ever clean.  And when it is, it’s because a monumental effort has been put forth to get it that way.  Admittedly, I HATE to clean and I can find a million other things to do with my time other than even basic maintenance.  As a result, it can get pretty gross.

Yesterday, I decided the upstairs bathroom really needed a good scrubbing.  Resigned to spend a precious half hour or so on the room, I wiped down the cabinets and walls which had been covered in several clouds of baby powder dust over the past week.  This is a new passion for the youngest two…a thorough dusting after every shower, which leaves a fine white coating on every surface.  A good, deep cleaning followed and, with pathetic pride, I stood back and admired the loveliness of having at least one clean room in my house.  Until they all came home.

By evening, nay by 4 p.m., I smelled a strong chemical odor coming from the upstairs bathroom.  Turns out, my boys can’t simply sit on the toilet to do their business, they have to keep busy!  One of them decided it would be fun to coat the counter top with Compound W wart remover while he was sitting there.  I imagine he was thinking: Let’s add a little baby powder to that.  Why don’t I trim my bangs while I’m at it and the scissors are right here in the vanity.  Oh, Mom might not like all this.  I’ll just grab one of those freshly washed towels to wipe it all off and then leave it on the floor.  Phew!  That was a close one.

At least I know who’s getting bathroom cleaning duty this weekend…not me!

Have Kids, Will…Parent an Adult

Unbelievably to me, my oldest son just turned 18.  This is a huge milestone, mostly because he’s now legally an adult.  An adult!  He can join the military, buy tobacco products, get arrested and put in regular, adult jail (scary!).  He can vote, make a will, sign contracts, get sued, and is eligible for jury duty.  Basically, he now has the legal right to do everything (within the law) except purchase and consume alcohol.  Amazing.  Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital, in that little infant car seat with the teddy bear print?  Wasn’t it yesterday that I held his chubby little hand as he enthusiastically ran through the doors of his preschool and learned how to count?  And I swear, it was just last night that he cried out from his crib because he had gotten hold of the Vaseline jar from the changing table and smeared it all over his face, the walls, and into his soft, auburn hair.

Having a baby at 22 was the single scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew I wasn’t ready, but…well…these things happen.  And for that, I will be eternally grateful!  He unwittingly introduced me to the art of parenting and, through the ups and downs of being my guinea pig, has been a beacon of light and the source of some of my greatest joy, frustration, and pride.  He is, and always will be, my baby: my sweet, raspy-voiced, precocious, nature-loving, little boy.

As we’re looking at colleges and talking about the next chapter in his life, I can’t help but to become a little wistful.  All those times I felt completely spent after long, exhausting days cleaning up after an active toddler who refused to sleep past 5 a.m., and some older person would see me, haggard and drooping, with my little firecracker in tow, and say, “Enjoy him now.  It goes by quickly,” I would think Yeah, right.  You just forgot how hard this is.  Well, I’m here to tell you, it does indeed go by quickly.  The days are often long, but the years just fly.

I love all my boys more than I ever imagined was possible, and Eli continues to be the guinea pig for my parenting, but what I’ve come to learn and really appreciate is just how fast time does go and how finite our time is to do the best job we can in raising our children.  Being a mom still scares me sometimes, but the love that causes my heart to swell for these wonderfully sweet, funny boys of mine, is so worth that occasional discomfort.  And now that my oldest is an “adult,” I catch myself admiring the young man he has become and think, I did okay.

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Have Kids, Will…Get Back on Track

“Get back on track!”  That’s what I told myself.  That’s my intention.  The problem?  I don’t know what track I’m on or where it’s going.  That’s kind of a big problem.  However…I’m convinced that for every big problem, there is a simple solution.

After trying multiple combinations of working/parenting, and always being available to my children, I think it’s time for me to leave my nest.  That well-feathered, marginally clean, come-and-go-as-you-please nest is not a good work environment.  I need structure.  And high speed internet.  It’s incredibly frustrating that my neighborhood is without an internet infrastructure.  No cable, no DSL, no whatever else people use.  We have a satellite, which delivers normal speed service for the first 10 days of the month.  After that, we’re back to 1995 until we spend another four million dollars to add data to our already maxed out data plan.  Ridiculous.  And I’ve been trying to work from home for the last 10 years!

When I made the decision to stay home with my very first son (after taking him to work with me and attempting to breastfeed during the day amidst my all-male colleagues), I never thought it would be another 17 years before I went somewhere to work.  But three more boys later, and that’s where I am.  I’ve worked at their school, have floated in and out of my husband’s company, written freelance restaurant reviews, and made myself useful in all sorts of volunteer positions.

Now, with my oldest starting his senior year of high school and my “baby” in third grade, I think it’s time for gainful employment.  That’s my new track.  So, technically speaking, I need to get ON a track rather than to get BACK on track.  Anyone hiring?

Have Kids, Will…Enjoy a Winery (With Kids!)

 

For as much as I love exploring new places on my own, especially those that offer something wonderfully adult (like wine and no whining), I do love to do things with my family.  It gets harder and harder to convince my two teenagers that our togetherness is important and time well spent.  They don’t buy it.

We were recently invited to a local winery that’s beginning to expand and offer fun events, like 5k races and paint nights.  Knowing it welcomes families, I made sure we all showed up.  The older two drove separately–just in case.

What a nice surprise to find a water slide!  And a playground!  And live music in a barn!  And picnic tables under tents!  I was in heaven!  Where were my children?

Seeing there were no other teenagers, my two darling, pubescent beasts sat in the bed of their pickup truck, likely grumbling about the lame family outing mom forced them into.  Again.  Perched in the back of my minivan, the younger two were raiding the contents of the cooler: fresh baguettes, cheese and prosciutto.  WTF?

Rather than forfeiting my own enjoyment, I let the big boys go home and sent the little boys out to the water slide.  We had a ball!  The wine was fantastic, the bluegrass  music was awesome, and we could relax with our friends, surrounded by the vineyard.  As the sun went down after a gloriously warm day, the kids were running up and down the lush rows of expertly trellised vines, playing a game of tag.

Of course, the water slide that had seemed like such a wonderful feature earlier, left me with two kids that looked like this:

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I won’t complain.

 

Have Kids, Will…Act Like a Crazy Sports Fan

Are you a crazy sports fan?  It’s okay if you are–there are plenty of you out there–and you know who you are.  You’re the very enthusiastic spectator who wears the team colors either in clothing or body paint, often from head to toe.  You enter a stadium with your heart racing and feet bouncing.  You jump up from the sofa and scream at the TV when you’re home watching a game.  You cry when your team loses.  You do cartwheels and beer bongs when they win.  Okay, maybe not beer bongs, but you feel a very real and personal connection to your favorite players.  I get it.

Normally, I am not one of you.  I clap and cheer, but without any real attachment to a specific team or player of any sport.  Well, yesterday I crossed over to your world.  My son’s high school lacrosse team played for the state championship title of their division, and it was an awesome game!  Wearing my team colors, I was jumping up, arms raised, shouting until I had to gasp for air.  Another son who was sitting beside me giggled a “Mom…”

There’s something about witnessing the intensity of competition among a bunch of capable athletes that is truly impressive.  The boys, many of whom I’ve known since they were eight, were playing hard and playing well.  It was wonderful!  When they won, 8-4, there were tears of joy in many parents’ eyes, lots of hugging and high-fiving in the stadium and on the field. While I can’t say I’m a complete convert, I will embrace my crazy sports fan personna any time my kids are part of the game, and I will love it!

Have Kids, Will… Be Grateful

 To say that motherhood changes everything is to make a blanket statement that smothers all the sparkle, magic, and heart-bursting emotion that motherhood brings.  It also skirts around the frustration, sleep deprivation, and agonizing self-doubt that mothers experience.  The statement is essentially true, but so incredibly vague that it doesn’t come close to touching the all-consuming changes that do take place when we become mothers.

In the fabulous book, Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan writes, “Raising people is not some lark.  It’s serious work with serious repercussions.”  Can you feel the gravity of that statement?  There are serious repercussions if we screw this up. On the other hand, there are serious perks to providing our children with the love, support, and compassion that, frankly, is their birthright.  

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once wrote, “I am most anxious to give my own children enough love and understanding so that they won’t grow up with an aching void in them…”  What both of these ladies emphasize is so important.  It’s our duty as parents to make sure our kids become the best versions of themselves when they are adults–kind, ethical, responsible, loving, socially conscious people.  What an enormous task that is!

So, this Mothers’ Day, I want to express my sincerest gratitude for all the women out there who work tirelessly and with awareness of the task at hand.  I consider myself to be in great company as I parent alongside some of the most  incredible moms in the world.  Ladies, you rock!

Have Kids, Will…Fall in Love

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On my recent Spring Break trip to Savannah, I fell madly in love with the Savannah Bee Company.  You can check them out at www.savannahbee.com.  Not only do they have an assortment of local Georgia honeys, they also bottle honey from other parts of the country, and allow you to try them all before making a purchase.  If your experience in tasting honey has been limited to the bottles of clover honey from the grocery store, I’d like to invite you to expand your honey palate.  Just like wine, honey has layers of flavors that are determined by the nectar source, the terroir, and the weather.  You’ll visually notice these differences when bottles from different regions are lined up next to each other and the colors vary from pale golden to very dark amber or brown.  Most people are pleasantly surprised to actually taste the differences.  It feels magical!

So, in addition to offering great varieties of honey, the Savannah Bee Company also makes (or has made under their label) some fabulous products like Royal Jelly Body Butter, lotions, lip balm and lip gloss, hair products, and very cool tee shirts–my favorite ones said, “She works hard for the honey” and “I got my mind on my honey and my honey on my mind”.  To say that I was like a kid in a candy store is an understatement.  I was able to totally nerd out, especially when Usher, one of the employees, gave me a tour of their on-site apiary.  I had my younger two boys with me, so it felt like a really fun Mr. Rogers field trip.  But that was only one of their locations!  We headed to their downtown store where I was able to sample (and buy, of course) some meads, melomels, and metheglins.  In case that sounds like jibberjabber, those are all alcoholic wine-like beverages made with fermented honey.

When the boys and I came home after a 13-hour car ride (hell), the first thing they wanted to do was cut into our block of comb honey.  I’m so glad they’re almost as enthusiastic about keeping bees as I am.  Ben even volunteered to be my beekeeping helper this year…but he also wanted to trade in our chickens and cat for a house in Georgia.

Have Kids, Will…Hide My Tweezers!

I’m not sure what it is about my kids and tweezers, but good God, I can’t keep a decent set of them around here to save my life.  My eyebrows are such that if I go more than two days without plucking and tweezing them, I could easily be mistaken for Frida Kahlo.  Or Groucho Marx.  They’re unsightly!

On top of that, the males in my household seem determined to either ruin or confiscate every pair I buy.  They use them as some sort of tool that is not related to grooming.  Sure, they can be used to remove ticks–but please, not from the dog!  One of the grossest things I’ve found was a semi-smooshed dog tick impaled at the end of my tweezers just as I was about to remove the offending hairs above my eyes.  I don’t mind if my tweezers are used for removing splinters either, but no one around here likes to have their splinters pulled.  They’d rather use the soak and fester method.

So, how in the world my tweezers disappear, have the ends blunted and burred, or become pulled apart and warped, is beyond me.  These people confess to nothing.  It’s a mystery, and a terribly annoying one.  It’s not like they’re taking the cheap drugstore brand pairs either.  No, no, those aren’t good enough for their nefarious deeds.  They’re taking the $20 Tweezermans.

When I was in Germany last summer, I splurged on a really great pair of tweezers that I had kept hidden from everyone.  They were perfect in all their beautiful, German engineering…sharp, angled just right, and with a grip that exactly matched my preferred finger placement.  Wouldn’t you guess that the one time I left that supremely important instrument out, one of the boys took them, used them in some plot for destruction, and left them, useless, on the bathroom floor.  I cried.

No one admitted to any wrongdoing, and they all looked at me like I’m crazy when I started gesticulating with my arms about the importance of my having a decent set of tweezers.  “Don’t you know,” I pleaded, “that I will develop wooly caterpillars across my forehead if you all keep taking my tweezers?!”  They just don’t get it.

I’ve decided I need to buy a lock box or a safe for my prized possessions.  Some women safeguard their jewelry.  I covet my tweezers.