Boys, boys, boys

I have decided to try to post every day this month . . . I realize I missed yesterday and it’s very late tonight and I’d really rather just go to bed.

But here we go. A quick little something.

Because of Veteran’s Day, my kids had no school and my husband was home from work. At about 7:20 AM, the dog went nuts because the doorbell rang. One of my 16-year old’s friends arrived to spend the day. As the day wore on, more teenagers arrived until I had a table full of teen boys. It was like old times when we used to have a steady stream of kids show up in our house.

I remember one time saying to a boy in my kitchen, “Oh. Hi. Who are you?” He’d wandered into my house, following the crowd, I guess, during a snowstorm. I had never seen him before.

(You should know that I started this post last night at 1:10 AM, but then my mom walked into my office–she’s staying for a while–and we started talking and before I knew it, it was 2:15 AM and I had to go to bed, do not pass Go, do not collect $100.)

Anyway, having a house full of boys reminded me of the “old” days.

So, I guess that’s it for now. I am still working–taking a quick break to get this posted–and then heading to bed sooner rather than later.

You’d think I’d have something interesting to say, but no, not really

My teenagers arrived home from a four day Christian music festival this morning at 3 a.m.

At 10 a.m., I drove my two youngest children to church in Seattle.  I have now driven to church enough times that I can drive in the correct lanes the whole way, eliminating the stress of driving through a city and finding myself in the wrong lane with ten seconds to cross four lanes to the exit.

After church, lunch at Dick’s Drive-In as usual.

Arrived home and decided to clean up the back yard and set up a $10 inflatable pool for the 6-year old.  Never underestimate the power of a small inflatable pool to entertain a small child.  While she frolicked (I moved the Little Tikes climbing toy so the slide slid into the pool), I cleaned the patio–swept up a ridiculous amount of leaves (I have a very stupid tree that drops half its leaves in the spring and half in the winter) and then sprayed the astro-turf green carpeting stuff on my patio to clean it.  (Also ridiculous, but that’s what we have.)

After two hours, I took the two youngest to the real pool where I sat and sweated in the shade.  It’s HOT here in the Seattle area.

I had to work tonight at 9 p.m.

Now, it’s two hours after my shift ended and I am heading to bed.  Last week we had VBS every morning.  This week I can sleep in every morning except for Tuesday.  On Tuesday I have to take my 11-year old to the doctor to get an updated immunization for sixth grade.

And five-days a week football practice begins for him, too.  It’s the slow goodbye to summer, even though it’s not quite August.

So very very tired

My husband told me yesterday that a handy-man friend of ours would be by this morning to look at the boys’ room. He’s going to build some platform beds or something to solve our dilemma in that room. The boys have bunk beds, but the top bed is too short for our increasingly tall son and the bottom bed no longer has a frame since that boy broke not one, but two frames. The tallest boy chooses to sleep on the floor rather than the top bunk.

The boys and all their neighborhood friends spend their time playing video games and watching television in that room–we put an old hide-a-bed couch in there which is now stained and disgusting, but sturdy and that works for me. But when I open the door into that vast cave, I shudder. I half expect bats to wing their way into my hair. No matter how much I vacuum, the floor looks like a street after a parade.

So, despite my bedtime last night (1 a.m.!), I wearily rose from bed at 8:00 a.m. and showered. I cleaned up the kitchen, folded two loads of laundry, picked up the living room and the phone rang. Oh, it was a misunderstanding–no one is coming over at all.

I should be grateful to be awake and in my right mind at this hour, yet I’m thinking seriously about a nap.

Spring Break

Break, as in the children have broken my will to live. Break as in, “if I am very sly, I can make a break for the border.” (Only three hours to Canada . . .) Break as in . . . how many days until I want to break something?

And this is only Monday.

My 5-year old daughter’s persistence makes us all a little crazy. She wants her brothers to play with her, to favor her, to listen to her, to defer to her. They want to get away from her, to ignore her, and on occasion, they literally sneak away from her, causing her to wail.

This morning, I was still in the bathroom, wrestling with an uncooperative contact lens when I heard a shrill scream, followed by sobbing. I knew immediately that the 10-year old had pushed the 5-year old to her limit–and sure enough, the crying was followed by very dramatic door-slamming . . . one slam, followed by a louder slam, then silence. Then, after a few minutes, another double SLAM! SLAM! She opens the door just so she came slam it like a wooden exclamation point.
I opened her bedroom door and found her face down on her bed, weeping. I said, “What’s the matter?” She cried, “Zachary is so mean to me!”

I went to his room and found him reclining pensively on his bed. I said, “Why are you so mean to your sister? She is crying on her bed, you know.”

His chin quivered and he said, “Why is she so mean to ME?”

I said, “What did she did to you?”

“She was standing too close to me, watching me play the computer. It was annoying.”

I advised him to suggest to her that she sit on a chair. That way she wouldn’t crowd him. I told her that she made Zachary cry and that she should sit on a chair if she wanted to watch.

Then I returned to my bathroom and discarded the recalcitrant contact lens and resorted to my old eye glasses.

The funny thing is that three out of four of my children are always home anyway, but adding one more child is like adding a chemical to a mixture that becomes explosive. Add harmless chemicals together–like bleach added to ammonia–and suddenly, people are passing out from the poisonous gas.

If we were like some people I know, we’d actually vacation on Spring Break, but we are not like some people I know. Alas. At least I can sleep in, sort of.

Teenagers are lucky to be alive. . .

Honestly, I don’t think I’m a bad parent, or an “inhuman monster” as my son declared today. He was furious with me for “bullying” my other son, his twin brother. Nevermind the fact that the twin brother had repeatedly spoken to me disrespectfully, refused to do his work and interrupted my instructions with comments like, “I don’t care!” and “I’m not going to do it.”

Finally, at my wits’ end, I dialed the phone and said to my husband, “Please, just listen to this.” And then I repeated the instructions to my son while holding the phone between us. I said, “Please write down the formula and then do the work.” He said, “Okay.” Then I said, “Thanks,” to my husband and hung up.

And then, out of his father’s hearing, my son started up again, refusing to do his work, arguing with me.

I dialed again. This time, my husband spoke directly to my son who began to cry.

All this because the boy refused to write down the formula, plug in the numbers and solve the problem. Four problems, to be exact.

Teenagers make me long for the days of tantrums and diapers. Teenagers make me nostalgic for the days of spilled sippy cups and plastic toys all over the floor. Teenagers make me view their toddlerhoods through the gauzy film of selective memory. Ah, they were so cute! Even better were the days before they had language and all they could do was cry. Crying seems preferable, after a day like today when my teenager told me in no uncertain terms what he thinks of my parenting.

I excelled as the parent of twin babies, twin toddlers and twin preschoolers. However, just to keep the universe in balance, I fail miserably as the parent of twin teenagers. At least that’s what they’ll tell you.

(I’d like to resign now.)

My daughter and my grandmother, separately

My daughter woke me this morning by climbing on top of my bed and whimpering. I held her, thinking maybe she had a bad dream. She fussed and carried on for a good twenty minutes. Then she finally said, “Why didn’t you answer me?”

“I didn’t hear you!” I said.

“Oh,” she said. And she slithered off and returned to her room.

Kids are so weird.

* * *

All the crocuses are up, blooming with great enthusiasm. Are you ready for summer? It will be here in what will feel like twenty minutes.

* * *

My grandmother is almost 102 years old. About six weeks ago, she fell in her bedroom. She was taken to the emergency room, but I heard just last night that they didn’t bother to x-ray her. A day or two ago, they brought a portable x-ray machine to the house and, as it turns out, she has a fractured pelvis and a broken femur. She’s been hobbling around on these injuries for six weeks.

I am stunned by this news. She is heavily sedated for perhaps the first time in her very long life. My mother says that she may or may not hang on until her birthday, which is March 10.

I cannot even comprehend the idea that my grandmother might not boss us around forever. The worst thing is that I have a trip scheduled in the near future . . . I leave on March 13. I selfishly hope that she will hold on until I return on March 18. (I’m going to a writer’s conference in California.) It would be awful if she died while I was gone, or even if she died right before I’m supposed to leave.

And now I will wrap up this rambling post.

The end.

First Day of School

My 9-year old stood at the kitchen counter pushing a turkey pepperoni and cheese bun sandwich into a plastic bag. “Oh,” I said, “You made your sandwich!” Last night, I scavenged in the kitchen, rather desperately looking for something appropriate to put in his lunch. I came up with a homemade banana muffin, corn puffs from Trader Joe’s, and a bun which I intended to turn into a sandwich. (I have no bread.) As an afterthought I added a Milky Way bar, clearly a nutritional disaster, but I wanted his first day of fourth grade to have a fun lunch. And I had not planned ahead very well.

I spread out all the school supplies on the floor last night at 9 p.m. and checked them against the list as I added them to his gigantic backpack, one with wheels and a handle. I filled it to the brim, lacking only the appropriate number of pencils because I am an admitted pencil snob and I only buy Ticonderoga and the best place to buy them is Costco because you can get a bunch for not so much money. And we need a bunch of pencils because they disappear into the swirling vortex of the black hole that is my house and, no, I have no idea how that happens. Today, I’m going to Costco and I am buying pencils, among other things.

My daughter and I drove my son to school, through a mini-traffic jam in our smallish town. We parked and walked toward the building. The sun shone on their blond heads and I grabbed my camera to capture this moment. And luckily, no one was hit by a car.


To Do List for First Day of School

1) Take kid to school.

2) Drink Diet Dr. Pepper because Diet Coke is gone.

3) Post here, there and everywhere on blogs. (Okay, that second link wasn’t today, but I never mentioned it before today.) (And please, click on “there” because, as I keep mentioning, that blog pays money . . . and maybe you’ll want to join the Fitday Challenge?)

4) Postpone actual writing assignment (four devotionals, if you must know) that is due on Saturday. Procrastination is my middle name.

5) Go to Costco. Buy pencils, string cheese, milk, bread, Kashi granola bars, strawberries and so much other stuff that the receipt shocks me. Buy Diet Coke at snack bar. Fifty-five cents!
6) Unload groceries.

7) Pick up kid from school.

. . . and the rest of the day is blurry, but I think it will involve the swimming pool and more procrastination until finally at 10 p.m., I get myself together and WRITE THE DEVOTIONALS.

The end.

Boys will be boys (if we let them)

I love it when you say, “Hey! Me, too!” Then I am able to put my life into perspective. I have to admit, though, that when you say, “You’re doing a great job!” I think perhaps your judgment is off because sometimes, right here in my own stretch-marked skin, things don’t look so cheery. However, I’ll tentatively agree with you . . . you probably have a better view of things from there. I’m too close.

So, thanks, everyone, for your supportive comments on the last post. I so appreciate it (even if I haven’t answered your comments. Yet).

Ever since the difficult day with my teenagers, I have been restraining myself, holding back, trying to act like the grown-up in the house. I really must reign in the over-reacting because as anyone with kids knows, children of all ages manage to mirror the behavior and mood of the adult in charge. I find that very annoying because if I’m being irritable the last thing I need is irritable kids. So, I’m pretending to be calm, even going so far as to say to myself, “Okay, be calm, just relax,” which weirdly enough kind of works.

The Tomb movies

Okay, so guess what the boys have been doing for the past three days? (And when I say “boys”, I mean the neighborhood boys as well as my own.) Any guesses? Big hole? Nope. That’s so last spring. Street football? Nope. That’s so last May.

Give up? Okay, get this. I look out the patio window and see a bunch of two-by-fours propped between the deck and the fence. The boys are constructing what looks like an elaborate lean-to, something the folks on Survivor might build on their first of thirty-nine days on an island shore. I march outside to say, “WHAT?” and they say, “We asked Dad if we could use this old wood from the deck and he said it was fine. See? We asked!”

And so I gave a pointless, but mandatory warning about nails and hammers and left them to their creativity and team-work.

100_1310.jpgA little ringleader from down the street who has a rattail haircut brought over his own red hammer and a passel of nails. I think he’s about ten years old and he’s the one who thought it a good idea to drag out the old dog crate from the shed and use it in the construction. (Hey, I paid good money for that crate!) I made him cry today, but it was unintended. I looked out the patio window and saw what looked like an awl. An awl? So, I went out to investigate and said, “Hey, what’s this?” and he grabbed it to his skinny body and said, “It’s my tool from home.” I said, “I know it’s a tool, but what do you plan to do with it in my back yard?”

My son said, “We’re going to poke holes in that.” And he gestured toward the plastic tray from the dog crate, which is in perfect condition. (And that crate cost a lot of money!)

So, being mindful that I am the Queen of Overreaction, I tempered my natural inclination to throw myself forward into a grand mal seizure and said, “Uh, no. Bad idea. You cannot poke holes in anything back here.”

And Rattail Kid burst into tears and said, “I’m taking my tools and I’m going home!” and I said, “Hey, now, you’re not in trouble, but you just can’t ruin that plastic. Plus,” I said, “It’s not your fault. It’s his. He should know better.”

But Rattail Kid said, “No, I’m making bad decisions, too. It was my idea. I’m going home.” And so, I said, “Fine. Go home. But you’re not in trouble.”

Then I reported to his older brother what had happened, being careful to emphasize that he was NOT in trouble. (He did disappear for awhile, then was back with a vengeance.)

You would not believe the backyard shelter now nailed firmly with about a billion nails. Another neighbor brought over a bunch of old wood from his yard, including large sheets of plywood and several big blocks of railroad ties . . . it looks like I’m running a homeless camp behind my deck. (You know those camps you sometimes glimpse in inner cities or under freeway overpasses if you look closely enough? Yeah. That.)

We made them stop nailing things at 6 p.m. in deference to the neighbors who might have their windows open. By then, they’d started a second project in the overgrown hedge. “What are you doing?” I said. “Isn’t one enough?” and my boys said, “That’s their,” meaning Rattail Kid’s and two other boys, the 9-year olds. Apparently, this shelter in the woods is for the teenagers. And they promised to clean it up. Ha. Just like the giant hole they dug. I filled it months later. And like the hammocks in the tree. I gathered up unfamiliar pillows and mildewed sheets months later and deconstructed everything myself.

But! These are the kinds of things boys are supposed to do. In the “old” days, they’d be building a campsite at a creek or piecing together a treehouse in the woods. I love that they are working together, that they are creating, that they are pushing the very boundaries of what they are allowed. (I’ve never let my sons use hammers before . . . what would they hammer? So, to see my 9-year old wrangling that heavy hammer, concentrating on driving a big nail into an old piece of wood warms my heart a little.)

They’ll lose interest in a week or two and then I’ll have to demand that they pull out the one billion nails (which are nailed part-way in, then bent over and nailed against the wood–they’ll never come out without a fight) and put all the materials they used back. Meanwhile, they are being boys. Hooray.

(And this all occurs because their computer is broken. Ha. We came home from vacation and it wouldn’t fire up.)

* * *

Now, here’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in a thrift store.

I had some time to kill before a movie, so I went to Value Village to browse. I found a black velvet jacket, then noted it said “Anne Klein” on the tag. I examined it closer, noticed the original tag on it with a price of $320.00. I tried it on and it fit, despite being a larger size than I wear these days. The tag said it had two pieces, so I went to the skirts and what do you know? I found the matching skirt, still with its original tag.

The jacket was marked $4.99. The skirt was marked $5.99. I purchased a $320.00 Anne Klein suit for $11.00. Never worn, 100% cotton, black velvet. That’s a mark-down of 97%.

I love a bargain.

Bad Mom! Bad Mom!

For weeks, perhaps months, I’ve been saying to my 9-year old, “You need a haircut!” He half-heartedly agrees, but his overgrown mop is fine if you ask him. The boys around here sport a variety of styles, but long, 1970s messy styles are fashionable, not that we pay much attention to fashion in our family. This week, I said, “Would you mind if we had your hair cut?” and he agreed to have it cut.
I mentioned to my husband that our son needed a haircut. It’s not so much the length I minded. Rather, it was the

Dutch-girl look nod_dutchboy.jpg that drove me crazy. So, today, after Avalanche Ranch, my husband took him to the barber. We discussed what to ask for (“A not too-short boy’s haircut”).

So, my son came home afterward and his face told the story. I said, “Hey, come here. Don’t you like it?” and he burst into tears. I tried to feel his pain. Really, I did. I patted him on the back, hugged his resistant body and told him, “It’ll grow. Hair grows. By the time school starts, it’ll be long.”

Secretly, though, I wanted to do a backflip in celebration because it looks fantastic . . . short in the back, long on the top, cut over his ears.

He is miserable, but I am thrilled. (Don’t tell him.)

(I try not to concern myself with hair and clothing choices, too much, but when I occasionally get my way on matters of personal taste, I can’t help but feel victorious. And happy! And the tiniest bit guilty.)


I’ve turned into your great-grandmother, you know, the one who lives alone in a tidy house who can’t stand sudden noises or even the general loudness of children at play? (Oh, wait, maybe that’s just my grandmother–she’s 101 now.)

Anyway, I am her and when my 14-year old moves all the kitchen chairs so he can sweep (not of his own initiative, no, his dad directed him), he bangs and drags them and then I hear the unmistakable crunch-crunch-crunch of someone chewing and some little circuit in my brain immediately went haywire and I said, “WHAT ARE YOU EATING?” and he, the other 14-year old, looked startled and said, “Nothing?” and I raised my eyebrows and he said, “Popcorn. What?

The television was on and my husband was clanging silverware in the sink (doing dishes, good husband, good boy!) and the loudness soaked into my brain like radioactivity.

All I want is peace and quiet. Although, I would settle for just quiet. Peace is overrated, anyway, but quietness? I can never get enough.

There was a day when all I wanted was a baby with pudgy cheeks and downy hair. There was a day that I lamented the childless rooms in my house, when I only wanted someone in the back yard who’d run through the sprinkler and pat together mud pies. There was a day when I took for granted tidiness, and never, ever removed an empty milk carton from the refrigerator.

Today, though, was full of life and kids. I slept in (as much as one can sleep in with a four year old in the house) and then when a phone call alerted me that my obligations for the day were canceled, I rounded up the kids and took them on an adventure, which was not much of an adventure but that’s only because the U-Pick strawberry farms had no U-Pick berries to pick. So, instead, we drove out to a working farm and bought some fresh strawberries, cherries, rhubarb, beans, and onions.

The kids didn’t care a whit about the produce, though. Four year old Grace asked the lady behind the counter, “Do you have any more animals?” (Two donkeys and two turkeys were fenced in by the parking lot. A dog wandered out of the produce stand.) The lady directed us back to see two goats, who eagerly ate feed we purchased for a quarter. Then, “Do you have any more animals?” and she said, “There’s a horse out at the end of the driveway.” So, we walked the other direction. A most hilarious donkey trotted over to us, wiggled his lips into a grin and then hee-hawed in cartoon fashion at us. We all burst into laughter. Then we admired the chickens before returning to buy produce.

After that, we headed back to civilization and Costco where my plan was to let each child pick out a snack food to take to the pool. This is preemptive shopping on my part. The kids always want to feed the vending machines at the pool and at 85 cents a snack, I cringe. So, now we have our own private stash of junk that I can dole out, saving money in the long run.

(We will have Jolly Ranchers until we die. The bag is huge.)

We sort of got lost on the way back and I have to confess that I have an admirable internal map, an innate sense of direction. And also, I realized once we hit a main drag again that our new van has a directional display, which is mighty cool.

At Costco, we had lunch, after spending way too much money. (That is so easy to do at Costco.) The kids each had pizza and I had a salad, but I had eaten only four bites of my salad and my 14-year old son was done eating his pizza. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had actually chewed or if he merely wadded it into balls and shoved it down his throat. I will never cease being amazed at how fast a teenage boy can eat.

We were home long enough to change into swimming suits. We were among the few, the brave, the crazy at the pool. I sat under a beach umbrella at a table and read a magazine as the children swam despite a light smattering of rain. That’s right. I sat by the pool in the rain. Welcome to summertime in the Pacific Northwest. They swam for two hours and Grace protested when I said it was time to go, but she realizes she has no power and so she reluctantly swathed herself in her giant pink towel and followed me to the van.

Then dinner.

Then exercise.

Then bedtime for Grace.

And then the kids finished their chores, my husband finished the dishes, and the kids went to their rooms.

The only sound now is the occasional cough of my 9-year old and the gurgle of the dishwasher. I hear the murmur of teenagers somewhere, but this is what passes for silence in my house.
Tomorrow, I’m taking the day off. I can’t wait to spend eight straight hours without once being called “mom” or having someone argue with me about whether I will or will not allow a particular computer game to be purchased or have someone debate with me the merits of having sleepovers on Tuesday nights because otherwise, “What is the point of summer if you can only have sleepovers on Fridays?”

I have small dreams and none of them has a soundtrack or dialog.