Tag Archives: little boys

Deck the halls with boughs of brag

Deck the halls with boughs of brag

Actual photo from my 2005 Christmas card. I made some quip about "all through the house not a creature was stirring.... just not my house."

I haven’t sent holiday cards in three years.  I use to love creating holiday cards.  One time I drew a Christmas tree on each card, just the outline, and used my children’s toe prints to create the ornaments.  This year, I’m finally in a financial position to send cards, and I have some things to communicate.  There have been some big changes.

I haven’t decided how exactly to say all that I’d like to say so I’m paying attention to the letters I’ve been getting and, unfortunately, they annoy me.

I don’t like the impersonal trend toward ink jet address labels and Shutterfly messages, but more than that, they are all braggy brag.  “Our son was accepted into the Global Leadership Program for bilingual children with a political interest, and after graduating from first grade this year, he will embark on the program in Spain.”  Or the most irksome, “Our daughter has mastered the moguls and won her first competition.  Dad doesn’t understand why this second home in Aspen which was suppose to give HIM the opportunity ski is instead making Olympic hopefuls out of his children (Darn that work!)”  Seriously, this was in a letter I received today.

My letter would read something like this: “Dear friends, what a year!  I’ve finally hit stride as a single mom.  After a year of searching and hundreds of resumes sent, I’m back with my old employer, something I never envisioned myself doing.  I realize now how important stability, a pay check and benefits really are.  Big adventure and risk-taking are overrated.  It’s all about the orthodontic coverage, and I know that now.  My oldest son is gaining confidence although his daydreaming is reflected in his grades.  My number two son is doing well with his support systems and warming up to reading now that he’s in the third grade.  We’ve tackled many of his food sensitivities and his nose stopped running after three years!  Who knows how number three son is, I haven’t had time to look at him.  That’s right dear friends, I’m now solidly on the road to healthy mediocrity and couldn’t be happier!”

Twelve and counting

Twelve and counting

My son turns twelve today.  As I type have ten boys running unrestrained and untethered in my house, junked up on caffeine, chocolate and the adrenaline of a post-Nerf war victory.  I’d be lying if I said there was anything unusual about that.  My three boys all by themselves can create quite a lot of noise and mayhem.

It is time for reflection.  Twelve years.  What the hell?  I’ve never had anything for twelve years.  Not a plant, a dog, even my husband, one could argue, punched out long before we got to twelve years.  Of all things I might imagine myelf to have for twelve years – a car for instance, maybe a mattress – I would never have imagined a human being.  And my son seems happy to have me.  Of course I gave him a PS3 with ensures (and insures!) his devotion so I can’t be sure how sincere his undying affection is, but I really don’t care.  I have it.

So tonight, I’ll listen to him and his friends scream like girls, echoing down the streets of the neighborhood.  In a year or two they won’t sound like little girls any more so I’m going to enjoy this before they get neck deep in testosterone.  They are a great group of boys.  I’m not concerned about a single one of them.  We’re really fortunate.  I have a beautiful boy who made me a grateful mom.  I love him in ways that can’t be expressed.

A year or two ago, I was really worried about his life and how it might turn out.  Not any more.  I’ve got it covered.  And for those times when I’m not there, his trusted friends and their families will be.  All things considered, it’s good to turn twelve.

Oh my beautiful Calvin

Oh my beautiful Calvin

Calvin at 7.

So Calvin says to me tonight, “Mom, you’re really clever, even though you’re old.”

He almost had me.  It was so close.  But he followed it up with this beauty:

“You have so many things in your head.  I don’t have as many things in my head.  Not yet.  As you get old, you get more knowledge and it all fits in your head.  So a person’s head always fits their knowledge.”

My Calvin with his unique and wonderful brain can come up with things that give me pause.  How does it all fit in there?   I don’t know.  Our feet grow, but our heads don’t.  Weird, right?  You’d think if anything would grow it would be your head to accommodate the wealth of information, the daily memories being saved for later use, the sounds and textures and smells of a lifetime.  It’s such a cool observation.  Cool and twisted.

Hello, goodbye, repeat as desired

Hello, goodbye, repeat as desired

The Boyfriend Candidate and I broke up not too long ago.   Again.  We do this about every three weeks, and we’ve each totally lost credibility with each other on the break up front.  This time I was picking on him — pretty much all day — most likely as a result of general frustrations with the relationship.  I was indirect, provocative and uncommunicative.  So we got in a fight.  He called me an ugly name.  And then defended it when I graciously gave him a chance to retract.  I was done.

So a week goes by and in that week I’ve been really asking myself hard questions about why I’m dating in the first place.  Are my frustrations with the relationship because it doesn’t serve a purpose relevant to my life any more?  I think I’m on to something.

I’m 46.  I have three small children who deserve my time and energy.  Now that I’m working, which means I can provide everything I and my children need, I’m not looking for a man to save me/us, to be the responsible party or to fund us, if you will.  I’m in bed weeknights at 8pm because I’m up at 4:45am.  When exactly am I suppose to nurture an adult relationship anyway?  So seriously why am I dating at all?

Sex is an obvious answer.  Adult companionship generally.  To be adored in that way a man adores you has particular attractiveness to me.  And you know I got all those things from the Boyfriend Candidate.  What I didn’t get that was frustrating me was “traditional marriage material.”  He isn’t that Prince Charming.  He’s a salty old curmudgeon, truth be told.  I don’t want to be with him every day.  I don’t want to live with him.  I can’t imagine the nightmare of merging lives.  But you know, I don’t think I really need that.  If he gives me the adoration, even part time, might that be enough?  I think anything more is an old dating paradigm from my early twenties that has expired.

I can reinvent the adult relationship now.  So I’m taking some time to figure out what that will look like at this point in my life.  Naturally I spoke with the Boyfriend Candidate and, as usual, we’re back together.  This time I am relieving him of those traditional expectations which aren’t relevant (or possible) any longer.  Maybe I can be more tolerant.

Honestly, he never thought we split up which slightly irks me.  I did make a dramatic exit.

Little things that change my life

Little things that change my life

I’m divorced.  At the time of the Great Divide, I was a stay-at-home, home schooling mom to my three sons – one of them with entry level autism.  I hadn’t worked in years.  Divorce was a big thing that changed my life.  I still grapple with the meaning of it.  My kids are back in brick and mortar school.  I’m back at work after 8 months of bitter unemployment.  I’m raising three boys to be men without a male presence.  I yell a lot.

What I never anticipated was our ability to adapt and the beauty of the unexpected simple solution.  The little things.  I have a day job, but as soon as I get home, I’m in the home office doing my part time work.  There are never-ending interruptions from the boys which always makes teleconferencing a challenge.  Most of my clients are resigned to the screaming in the background or the occasional “Mommy I have to poop.  Will you wipe my bottom?”  Right now they are in my office arguing over boiled eggs.  They don’t even like boiled eggs.  I repeat myself with withering conviction throughout the day.  “Get out of my office!”  “Let me finish my work!” and my favorite “I’ll be there in a minute!”  This is a good one: “Stop touching your brother!” That one works 24/7.

Anything I can do to reduce the stress I’m game for.  TV, for which I have a love-hate relationship, is a big trigger for tension because the boys only have a love relationship with it.  When it’s time for bed, it becomes all out war.  They’ve developed effective strategies.  The ear piercing whine is fairly reliable.  But a couple of weeks ago they did something exceptional.  They turned the volume down so I would think they had turned it off.  They faked me out.  Now I have to stop what I’m doing to get a visual on what they are up to.  I cannot trust my ears which for a mom is a really big loss.

Last night a little thing changed my life.  The guy I’m dating, the Boyfriend Candidate, is a problem solving junkie.  He must look at my house with the same glee as a mosquito in a blood bank.  He gave to me a most powerful weapon: a remote control power switch I can use on the TV’s outlet.  From my office, without warning, I can turn the TV off at its power source.  They cannot turn it back on.  They may yet find a go around; they could outsmart me.  They are younger and more flexible.  But for now, I’ll take the peaceful resignation of “What happened? Why isn’t the TV working? Barnacles.”

Adaptation is a small and beautiful thing.

A view from the laundromat

A view from the laundromat

Maybe two years ago my clothes dryer died.  At first I was broke and couldn’t afford to get it fixed.  Now, I’m just obstinate.  I could get it fixed, but I rebel against the plumbers that charge a $90 house call fee.  They tell you what’s wrong and how much it will cost.  They then apply the house call fee to the cost of repair.  It guarantees that there is no problem which is going to be less than $90.  What if it’s a loose wire or it can’t be fixed at all?  Really?  $90?  I also discovered that my electric bill went down $20 when I quit drying in the house.

Do the math:  I do two loads of drying a week.  That’s eight a month.  Eight loads for $20 in electricity and who knows in water and gas.  So let’s say clothes drying costs me $25 a month at home.  A fabulous local laundromat charges thirty cents for 10 minutes of drying in a double load dryer.  So I can dry all my clothes in one load for 30 minutes.  That’s $1 a week or $4 a month.  So I save $21 dollars a month by going to the laundromat.  Plus the freakin’ $90 for the house call.

And I have fallen in love with it.  Every Sunday at 4pm I pack up the kids and we drive a few blocks to the Clean Scene.  There’s a pizza place next door that sells $6 cheese pizza.  We go, we start the load, we walk next door and order pizza.  Ten minutes later either Steve or Mario will deliver it to us at the laundromat.  The manager of the laundromat – Andrew – is a really nice young man.  He is the middle of three boys so when my three little guys come in, I think he looks at me like an echo of his own mother.  There is a big screen tv and he’ll usually change it to the Simpson’s or some other kid friendly kind of thing when we get there.  I always offer him pizza and he always very politely declines.

There are lots of regulars and I’ll talk about them another time.  I find it mesmerizing being a part of this community.  It’s an intimate thing: washing your clothes.  It reveals so much about you: what you think about material possessions, how you care for them, personal taste, the types of people in your family, what size bed you have, the level of clean freak that you are.  The relationships are amazing.  Who do you bring to the laundromat?  Why?  There’s a woman that brings her grandmother who is in a wheelchair.  I imagine for the same reason I bring my three kids:  she won’t leave her alone and doesn’t want to get a sitter.  But maybe I’m totally wrong.  Maybe Grandma just loves it the way I do.  You can’t make any assumptions about the people in a laundromat.

It took a while for us to become regulars, but we are, and it’s some kind of weird wonderful.  I wouldn’t give it up.  For one hour on Sundays my kids and I are part of this tenuous, ethereal thing.  It’s a microcommunity.  We come together for such a short time then fall away. Then back again.

Kind of like a tide – or maybe I should say Tide.

 

Sorry kids, I don’t feel like being a mom

Sorry kids, I don’t feel like being a mom

One of the things I’m most proud of is my ability to discuss menopause.  And I love that about my generation generally.  I deplore euphemisms like “the change”.  Ugh.  Aren’t we grownups?  So I think for me and my friends, menopause is a health issue, an inevitability.  And a source for huge laughs and lots of commiseration.  It’s no different than arthritis.  It can be discussed without shame or embarassment.

So I’m at my office talking about menopause with my co-worker Belinda who is about ten years older than I am.  She has successfully navigated the menopause waters and is a big help.  Unlike my 70 year old mother who gets wildly uncomfortable when she senses the conversation turning to hormones and can’t we change the subject for God’s sake?

Belinda told me about a great book on menopause.  I looked it up and read a chapter or two.  I was thrilled and relieved to discover that a weird thing I’ve been experiencing is actully part of menopause for some women.  My toes cramp and cross over.  It’s seriously referred to as flat toe.  For months I’ve been worred that it was the first sign of a significant neurological disorder and I’ve been afraid.  But no, it’s hormones.  Evidence that I’m getting old.  Awesome!

In addition to the freaky behavior of female extremities, the book discusses how empowering this time of your life can be.  And not solely because you can own sex without pregnancy, but also because the hormones that provide care giving instincts, the compromisers and the accommodaters, start to lose their oomph.  You no longer have the urge to mother people and make sure they feel good or cook nourishing meals for everyone and keep the house perversely clean.  It gives women a killer instinct at just the time in their career arch when they need it.  I probably won’t surprise anyone that there is a divorce spike during this time – my divorce came right on cue.

Of course someone will need to tell my six year old why I think he should drive himself to school and make his own dinner, but that’s okay.  I won’t care since that mothering instinct is a distant memory.  Really they should tell women this stuff before they delay motherhood.

By the time you become a mom, you won’t feel like it any more.

4.5 seconds flat

4.5 seconds flat

So the Boyfriend Candidate was over not too long ago.  It was getting late.  The kids were half asleep in the living room.  Naturally we steal away to the kitchen to make out like teenagers.  I love that, that whole notion of recaptured youth.  I never saw it coming as one of theose benefits of being divorced.  I get to slip through a wormhole and improve upon mispent youth.

So we’re in the kitchen and he starts whispering, which I find annoying because I’m trying to listen for little feet which may be walking in our direction.  We might get caught!  And there it is: high school.  Back then when I was making out in the kitchen I had half my attention on where my mom and dad were and what they were doing.  Were they talking?  If so, where in the house were they?  How many steps would it take for them to get to me and would that be enough time for me to straighten myself out.

I’ve gone full circle.  There is something beautifully insane about being afraid of getting caught by your own children when just yesterday I was afraid of getting caught by my parents.  Is someone always trying to catch me?  Is my attention always going to be divided?  How nice, how unusual it would be during these deeply meaningful, developmental make out sessions, if I could just enjoy and listen to my own internal musings.  How much of lust is ultimately riddled with fear?  It does make me wonder if they are intertwined and related.  And is that ultimately dishonest?  If I’m not paying attention to me or my guy in those moments, am I really there with him?  Can I really enjoy it?

What a bunch of BS.  Oh yeah, the moment can be enjoyed.  Just as long as I can get my clothese back on in 4.5 seconds.

It’s a big adventure

It’s a big adventure

I was laying down with my youngest little boy tonight.

Me:        You use to be so little!

Sam:      One day I’ll be 100 years old!

Me:        Make it 150!

Sam:      And you’ll be dead!

Me:        Maybe I’ll die on a big adventure….

Sam:      Like in the desert.  I don’t want you to die.

Me:        I promise I won’t die until you don’t need me any more.

Sam:      I’ll always need you, so you’ll always be here?

Me:        For as long as you need me!

I started thinking.  And I’ll let you in on a secret:  I think in weird loops so here goes.  I started thinking it’s interesting that children see the end of your life story, not the beginning.  I see the beginning of theirs, but if everything goes the way it’s suppose to, I’ll never know how their story ends.  Thinking about my children dying then made me wonder why I had them in the first place.  Thinking of them dying, maybe in pain, maybe alone…. ugh.

So from there I went to thinking that’s a good reason for me to tell my childless friends why their occasional doubts about their decision (or unintended consequence) to stay childless is really ok:  you don’t ever have to ponder your children dying.

Then I had a mental argument with myself.

Me:        Dying, so what?  The joy that your children will feel will far overwhelm any pain or anguish that comes into their lives.

Me2:     That’s bullshit.  Where in your life experience can you say your joy has surpassed your anguish?

Me:        OK.  That’s a good point.  It does seem like the stress and anguish far  outweigh the joy.  But maybe that’s because anguish happens to you and you have to get off your ass and create joy.  Joy doesn’t just happen.  It takes effort.  Anguish happens.  If you want more joy, if you don’t want to be laying on your death bed thinking the scale tips toward disappointment, then you have to do something about it. You have to create it.

Me2:     You’re a self-righteous bitch.  What you’re suggesting is I laugh more, I make more friends, I seek out moments of happiness and enjoyment, I see the positive side.  Oh good God, that means making an effort.  And I’m tired.  You know that.

Me:        Get off your ass.  Do it now.  I don’t want to linger in the shadows with you.

OK so all of this happened in about two minutes.  Most of it while brushing my teeth watching Sam trying to lay flat under the sheets so I wouldn’t see him.  My God, I remember doing that with my mother.  In Oklahoma.  In the bedroom she grew up in.  The beginning of her life story which I would know nothing about.

Today my almost ex-husband decided to scrap the dissolution we’ve been working two years on.  For a marriage he desperately wanted to end, he can’t seem to let it go.  And that little bit of anguish will continue.

Tomorrow I’m going to a 5 year old birthday party.  I’m going to solidify friendships with these new people in my life.  I’m going to laugh really hard and leave my phone number with at least one other mom to set up a play date.  I really don’t want my life burdened by anguish.  I don’t want to leave that model for my children.

When I die on my big adventure in the desert, I want my kids to know I was laughing.

Hanging on!

Hanging on!

One of the things that has always stood out for me is Jane’s natural motherhood. I have never observed a mother so calm and consistent with her screaming brood, the youngest constantly hanging from her like a chimpanzee in a safe jungle, not skipping a beat in our conversation as he swings from her left arm to her neck and then upside down off her torso. The kid’s got Cirque de Soleil written all over him.

Jane is unflappable, and her wry humor has served her well. I love those boys, and after an evening of running around making sure they are not maiming themselves or each other, I realize that you either have it or you don’t. She’s got it. I’ve got cats.