Tag Archives: parenting

No good story ever started with ________

31 Dec

blog image gilleys

“One time I was in Texas and….”

for my east coast friends this ends in either a fight in which beer, Mexican food and a woman is involved or with a police escort to the state line (sometimes both).  If you’re lucky, the fight happens at a place that requires patrons to check their guns upon entering.  While visiting The Lone Star State, you are free to carry all the concealed library cards you want.  Whether folks in Texas use library cards or read is unclear.

“I’m just going to pop into IKEA and…”

never come out.  Or at least never come out empty-handed.  Even if you buy only Svalka and Dryck Julmust (an auto-correct nightmare for sure), there’s no escaping the umlaut.  And if the meatballs don’t lure you in, the öersattlig napkins will.  In any case, there’s no “popping” into IKEA.  If you enter, you will spend both time and money buying items like weirdberry preserves that will sit on the kitchen shelf for a few years until one of you throws them away.  (PS: the shelf is a Fjalkinge and is ready for the trash alsö.)

“Why do you always…”

always what?  If I’m so busy constantly, eternally and perpetually doing whatever (kudos thesauras.com), how am I able to type (and online shop) right now?  Your question just went from defensive to expensive as you know that I can only deal with confrontation when sharply dressed.  Even my limited yoga and meditation practice has taught me that there are no absolutes.  Speaking of which, I positively must sign up for more Ashtanga classes.  And book a facial while I’m in town.  Definitely.

“Canadians have a word for this…”

well Canadians have a word for everything but can they drive?  Even my limited long-distance driving experience has taught me that Quebecers are the worst.  All summer, from New York State to the Jersey shore to the top of Maine, there they are either meandering in the left lane or zooming up all willy-nilly like in the right lane while loosely towing a pop up camper or some other clunky thing behind them and will then pull in front of you with only one working brakelight- like a little red eye winking as if to ask “how’s that affordable care act working out for ya?”  Meanwhile, The Boy (now eligible for his driving permit) is closely observing and asking questions like, “if the left foot works the clutch and the right foot works the other pedals, when am I supposed to shake it all about?”  We Americans have a word for Canadians and it’s not “Canadians.”

“Mom, no one wants to see you twerk.”

an actual sentence spoken by The Boy last week.  (He continued by saying that he felt weird even using the words “Mom” and “twerk” in a sentence but it had to be said.)

and finally,

“Haven’t we all had enough twerking?”

unless, of course, what we’re all really saying is “it’s 2014 already and time we all got back t’ werk.”  In which case, pass me my sledgehammer, I agree.

The Gift of the Magi(c) Pants

9 Dec

blog image barefoot snow

The Boy and I had just finished a rousing match of badminton (versus the colloquial version which is more a non-fingered hand-covering and not so much a sport) and after, I suggested that we go to the high school band concert to hear some tunes and visit the Friends of Music bake sale (it’s for a good cause.  Really.  I eat brownies for the children.)  He had no homework and television programming was dominated by football or some other non-badminton type sport.

Now I know that getting The Boy to return to school once his day is done is difficult.  He has spent entire weekends, in February, without a coat because he left it in his locker and refused to go back and get it.  He once came home from school without shoes.  Shoes.  How does a person (other than the folks at Surfrider Foundation.org) get through their day without shodding?  The world is a dirty, broken glass-infested place just waiting to cut someone.  Basically the world is like east L.A. without Los Lobos.

“When you’re done with work, you don’t go back to the office to hang out,” he says.  “Your time there is over.  You know, like if you had an office.  Or a job,” he continued.  “Why don’t you have a job?”

I stopped his blathering and made him empty the car from my warehouse shopping trip where, armed with a list and coupons, I was able to keep costs down by staying focused.  (Although I couldn’t pass up the acai berry concentrate- it heals everything and was on sale.  I have needed it forever yet never knew it existed.)

Likewise the sweatpants.  A total impulse, but necessary, purchase as the moment I saw them I was reminded that The Boy has yet to bring his gym clothes home since, oh, the first day of school.  (I should have bought the bulk Lysol that was also on sale.  The Boy is a dirty, germ-infested being just waiting to cough on someone.)

The Boy has never owned a pair of sweats.  Maybe because “sweat” is something he avoids (along with chores, socializing and any physical contact with his mother- a hug would kill him- but I digress).

Soft and shapeless, the pants transfixed The Boy from the moment he brought them inside.  “Mother,” he asked, “how was I not previously aware of the splendor and the glory of après-school pants?”  (He has never avoided hyperbole, however.)

Now, as nights reach their absolute longest and badminton games occur in short, but fierce, bursts (no net, no rules, no daylight, stop crying), sweat pants are what The Boy wears after school and for entire weekends at a time, all the time.  He rarely argues and even occasionally inquires about my life (which also has no net).  He sends off lovely emails to his teachers, plays his music at a reasonable volume and sometimes flosses.  It’s as if aliens, nice and polite aliens, take over while he nestles deep within the sweatpants.

Oh, he still litters his room with discarded Kind bar wrappers (which I also should have bought in bulk) and has yet to swap out his gym clothes, but for $13.99 I have a teen who is gentle and sweet (and so not mine).

Until the pants give out.

Perhaps the best preventative action is to not launder the pants too often.

And so we learn from the children.

Sure, you gain an hour, but at what cost?

7 Nov

blog image home alone 2

“And, really, what good is an hour when you have to come inside early because it’s dark out?” asked The Boy.  (Yes, he begins all his diatribes with “and” because he was raised in a very linguistically conscious environment where his mom started all her sentences with “yes.”  Even when she was going to say no.  Like, “yes, some families do go to Paris for Thanksgiving but we are not the Sarkozy’s.  We go to New Jersey.  Now get in the car.”)  As far as I’m concerned, The Boy doesn’t have to come inside at all seeing as how all he ever wants once he does come in is food and the internet.

Yet, I feel his angst because I know that these past few days have not been easy for him.  His mother (AKA: me, AKA: the driver, the yeller, the candlestick maker) in an attempt to maximize her bonus 60 minutes, tacked so many tiny extra chores onto the morning routine that we ended up leaving the house 3-5 minutes later than usual depending on whether you consulted the clock in the kitchen, the bedroom or the Master Atomic Clock at the US Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., which actually took a little while to find online so I may have lost some time proving that I was correct about the exact time (and, also, learning that there are 84 world time zones) but accuracy is important.  (Especially when I am the one who is right.  Everybody’s got time for that.  Everyone who is too young to drive themselves to school, that is.)

Before we knew it, my extra hour cost The Boy 15 minutes and the tardy count on his report card ticked ever so slightly higher (again) just because I needed to pick up wet towels off the floor or, at least, yell until the person who put the wet towels on the floor came over and picked them up.  Sue me.  Or, if you’re a Macaulay Culkin fan (and please say you’re not) emancipate yourself.  And take those stupid “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” DVD’s with you.  (Oh Joe Pesci, what were you thinking?)

Finally, you want to discuss loss of time?  Let’s talk about Sunday when The Boy spent hours and hours fiddling around with GarageBand and then made me listen to his new song starring The Boy on guitar and vocals, featuring The Boy on drums and bass with special guest appearance by The Boy on background vocals.  And triangle.  Yes, triangle.

Sure, I gained an hour, but right there was 4.5 minutes of my life that I can never get back.

Report Card Day

24 Oct

blog image glengarry

If you can find any reason, at all, to celebrate Report Card Day, do it.

A “good sense of humor” comment from the Algebra teacher = happy dance around the kitchen.  (Never mind that statistics is, by far, the wittiest of all maths and that, in most instances, two trains leaving from the North and South will, at best, avoid collision or, at worst, successfully deliver all passengers to their Italian cruise ship.)

So you take that FM radio station GPA (89.2 on your dial) and parade through the house.  Because putting on socks and shoes and parading outside the house is for 90 and above GPAs.

“Coffee is for closers.” ~ from Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet.

Also I refuse to acknowledge that sock weather is here- my last pedicure still looks fabulous.

The Boy is, right now, at the peak of report card pride.  Call the grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles and wait for those $5 and $10 congratulatory cards to roll in because the next few report cards will be a series of rolling hills and valleys followed by the February slump topped off with an end-of-year gain due to improved weather and several teachers on the cusp of retirement.

Besides, a stellar report card is one of the few ways that a fifteen-year-old can make money without having to be driven (by me) somewhere.

But what is Report Card Day really?

When your spouse travels for work, (he says “too much,” I say “you think so?”) the report card is certainly a means for Spouse to track The Boy’s academic progress, and, sadly, a way for him to note some of the smaller elements that make up an education.  Things like attitude and citizenship and…tardiness.

Now, as a mother, I, along with scores of pediatricians, doctors, nutritionists, mental health practitioners and Oprah, have always maintained that sleep is essential for growth.  Sleep is where problem-solving and dreams occur.  It’s where the body can heal and mend and grow.

So Spouse, knowing that, I think that you and I can agree that while The Boy is doing great academically, where he really stands out, where his hard work and dedication shines is in the crazy amount of GROWTH (and healing and mending) he has demonstrated in just one marking period.

PS: we have an appointment with the attendance office on Monday.  Please be on time.

Don’t You Forget About Me

26 Sep

blog image breakfast club

Raising a teenager is hard.

Even if yours is kind, giving and even-tempered.  Mine is not.  But maybe yours is.  That’s why I said “yours.”  (Oh my, and don’t I just sound like a teenager right there myself?  All I need is to refer to myself with a lower case “i” and I am Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club.”  Look it up, kids.  It’s a 1980’s classic where Judd Nelson, aged 45, portrays an 18-year-old.  Smoke up, Johnny.)

Any parent knows that prying information from a teenager is like trying to open a Diet Dr. Pepper without breaking a nail- nearly impossible yet so full of delight (and caffeine)- you must persist.  Get a pen cap or a dirty fork from the break room if you have to, but get that truth (and caffeine) out.

One of the best ways I have found to glean information from The Boy is by taking a nice, relaxing car ride where the possibility of eye contact is non-existent yet the probability for good music is high.

It was on one of these recent trips where The Boy, having been loosened up by listening to The Clash and then being comfortably lulled into spilling his guts by A Flock of Seagulls, (what can I say?  The 80’s were weird.  Like, David Hasselhoff weird) revealed that he “always thought that you,” meaning me, “would have become more.”

First of all, what 15-year-old has “always thought” anything?  As far as I know, kids don’t even think until they’re like, 6, and then it’s mostly caveman stuff like “fire hot,” “Judd Nelson overacts,” etc.

Now I’m not officially a child-rearing expert but I would imagine that the only thought a 15-year-old has always had is something like: “how is it possible for my dear mother to love me so much?”

Second: become “more” what?  Because if it’s more “me” he’s after, he’s about to get a dose of crazy the likes of which make Courtney Love look like Betty Crocker.  (Side note: Betty Crocker, along with White Castle, is featured in the 1986 Beastie Boys classic LP: “License to Ill.”  Are all of my references from the 1980’s?  Why would anyone do that?)  Oh, I can out-crazy the best of them.  Just tell me that we’re out of Nutella and see what happens.

Finally, I know that The Boy was complimenting me in there somewhere so I tried not to take it personally.  Given that he has forever felt this way and all.

I said I tried; I didn’t say that I succeeded.

So have I signed up for night classes since The Boy’s revelation?  Cracked open my knock-off “Josetta Bone” language CD’s and begun reinventing myself?

Nope.  Instead, I am practicing what all of my meditation studies suggest- doing less.  Because “less is more,” right?  (Examples include: having The Boy wash his own laundry, having The Boy schedule after school doctor/dentist/haircut appointments and having The Boy make dinner.)

PS: his cooking is good although it could use a little more.

Why I (Presently) Don’t Work Full Time

20 Sep

the capn

I wrote such a stellar resume and cover letter in response to a recent job listing that any prospective employer would feel foolish for even considering anyone else for this position.  And you know I mean it because I used lots of italics.

All active verbs and adjectives were prodded into action: I excel and complete things at both a high level and at a granular one.  I am not only an expert, I am also adroit, proficient and highly-skilled.  I use words like “proficient” and “adroit.”  I am a team player who enjoys working alone (especially if the uniforms are off the rack).  I am self-motivated yet capable of spacing out in front of a box of Cap’n Crunch while contemplating the contraction “Cap’n.”  I know what a contraction is, damn it, and I’m pretty certain that “Cap’n” is a fine one.

I am the greatest ________ who ever lived and I am willing to work for only a fraction of my worth.

So what’s stopping them from hiring me?  (PS: do I really want to work for a company who doesn’t have their uniforms tailored?)

Toner.

Toner is what’s preventing me from fulfilling, nay, exceeding my potential by getting hired, being promoted (more than once) and taking over the company.  Toner.

Toner and The Boy.  (Which really does sound like a bad TV-cop show.)

The Boy, who, for who knows how long, has covered the walls of his room with downloaded pictures of Zooey Deschanel, Sophia Vergara and Tina Fey.  (I really should go in there occasionally.  If only to retrieve all the cutlery that he has also been stashing under the bed for who knows how long.)  It’s a teen version of “binders of women” on those walls- without the creepiness.

And I understand where he’s coming from: the shiny hair, the bangs, the curves and the general loveliness.  (Although he says that in Tina Fey’s case she represents smart and quick-witted women everywhere.)

It’s just that for as long as The Boy has been printing, he has also been putting empty toner cartridges in the place where full cartridges used to be.  And you know I’m mad because, again, italics.

(Side note: should you get an interview and decide that you no longer want the job, say, because the morning commute is eastbound and the early sun can damage fine skin, do what others have done: during the interview, drop random words into your answers then flee leaving the employers feeling, what I like to call, “dazzled and confused.”  Beginners will often start by referencing more popular words like “the Google,” “the Netflix” or “Sanford and the Son” while more seasoned interviewees know that the fun lies in making references that only your friends will understand.  Phrases like: “the Dufresnes study, as presented by Mr. Hedberg, puts forth that humans have limited patience.”  Or, “Robert Lee has been instrumental in introducing Asian philosophies to today’s workforce.”  The less they get, the more they will insist that the office cannot run without you.  That’s my theory.)

So, to answer your question, Spouse, The Boy is the reason I don’t have the perfect job today.  He used up all my toner and now I’ve lost all my mojo.

“Missing Her Mojo:” How one mother’s search for employment leads to an entire bedroom makeover.  (On Lifetime this Fall.)

Back to School

12 Sep

back to school

Here’s why I hate the first day of school:

First: I am not known for being quick.  To move.  To judge, well, who’s to say?  (Actually, I am.)

I revel in all things slow (side note: future NPR show- “All Things Slow”?)  Friends have been known to doze as I search for the exact word whilst in conversation (for example, “whilst”) while others have consumed an entire meal before I have properly plated my green beans opposite my cranberry sauce (Spouse, Thanksgiving 2008).

It takes about a week once school ends for me to fully develop my summertime groove- from switching bed linen to a higher, more luxurious  thread count, to picking berries to add to my morning beet smoothie (side note: future morning music show about ska-influenced music titled “Beat Smoothie”?) and then imagine, if you can, how disruptive deconstructing that groove can be.  You see now how the first day of school is overwhelming, at best, and, at worst, a total Weepfest (September, 2011).

Secondly: the paperwork.  Every year it’s the same.  Science lab rules, gym class rules, homeroom rules.  Where are the Stevie Ray Vaughn Rules rules?  Doctor’s information, emergency contact (where you ferret out true friends and then saddle them with caring for your sick child because the school cannot reach you at any of the contact numbers you provided- oops, did I leave off a digit?) plus an improved code of conduct- NEW for 2013-2014!  The “I will not wear sleepwear to school rule!”  (PS: I didn’t even know that wearing pajamas had been an option.  Oh, the Lifetouch pictures we could have had- complete with airbrushed option and crooked hair.)

Third: lunch.  The Boy has watched enough Food Network to now believe that only fresh basil and hand-hewned croutons are acceptable in a salad.  Who hews?  Of course, a PB&J is fine if you’re rushed (hello, it’s me) as long as the bread is stone ground whole wheat, preferably cold-climate grown.

Fourth: the clutter.  The constant jumble of socks and shoes and backpacks and lunchboxes.  And books and binders and paper and such.  All in front of the kitchen door.  You know, the door that we must fly out of right now if we are to make it “on time.”

Finally, about the quest to arrive “on time.”  I put quotation marks around “on time” because while “time” is more of a “concept” to me, previous employers have adopted a more literal definition of “time” and the “wasting” thereof plus the need to “show up on” it.  But, hey, we’re all different and both schools and workplaces benefit when tolerance is practiced.  Besides, who am I to judge?  Oh, right.  I’m the unemployed one.

Let’s not even discuss the switch to Standard Time where, from November to March, I am 59 minutes late for everything.  Oh sure, I eventually make up a few minutes here and there- mostly at doctor’s appointments because physicians have even broader definitions of “time,” “schedule,” and “appointment” than I do, but it’s not the same.

Plus the reason I am at the doctor’s office is due to some nasty germ that The Boy brought home from school anyway.

Then, from my scratchy-sheeted sick-bed, I will begin counting down the days until summer vacation again.

259 from today.

We’re Back! (PS: there is no “we.”)

3 Sep

blog image jim gaffigan

Following our busiest summer EVER (what with the book tour to Paris and all- more about that later), FA&S is pleased to announce that we’re BACK!  With even more of the sarcasm you’ve come to expect (and love).  Mostly love.

Here’s a quick run-down of what to look forward to this fall.  (Note: due to time constraints such as feeding The Boy, conversing with Spouse, disagreeing with Spouse and ultimately no longer talking to Spouse, FA&S is simply TOO BUSY FOR FULL WORDS AND SENTENCES just now.)  And yet, somehow, we have plenty of time to type in ALL CAPS.  Go figure.  Until then…F.U.

“You leave me little notes on my pillow. I told you a hundred-and-sixty-eight times I can’t .. stand .. little notes on my pillow! ‘We are all out of Corn Flakes.” -F.U.  It took me three hours to figure out that ‘F.U.’ was Felix Unger!” ~ Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”

See, we don’t always abbreviate, only sumtmz.  (PS: there is no “we.”)

FYI, here’s how our summer went (also, there is no “our”):

ALB to CDG.

UTI– best place to get a UTI?  Paris, France.  30 minutes and $3 later, antibiotic drugs delivered to my apartment;  I felt like Jim Morrison without the bloat.  Ego, yes.  Bloat?  Non.

POS– as rust eats away at the tailgate of my little red car, we head south on the

GSP to

NYC

and

LBI while listening to

NPR and, of course, the sounds of The Boy whining and Spouse yelling while stepping on an imaginary brake pedal that doesn’t exist.  Why anyone would need to brake while driving on a highway is beyond me.  With so many lanes to choose from, just glide over to one that you like better.

IRS– just when I thought summer vacation was paid for, a FY2012 adjustment shows up.  (Ended up at DQ for Blizzard Therapy.)

KGB– killer ground bees.  I didn’t die but my arm swelled up like Kathleen Turner’s head on steroids.  Not a good look for her, a horrible feeling for ME.

M.E.– because that’s who was attacked by the bees and that’s who is entitled to high drama (and eggplant parm) until the swelling goes down.

W-E-D- as in “til death do us part.”  As in, the average life span of a pioneer was 40 years.  “Death” was lurking around every corner in the 1700’s.  From bad squirrel meat to well, good squirrel meat, “death” was a just part of your first marriage.  Well anyone can honor a commitment like that.  (Side note: “W-E-D” begins with a “W” and contains three letters.  As does “WHY?”  Just an observation.  You’re welcome.)

WTF– which, until recently, I thought meant “with the fries.”  I now understand why friends would often text “?” to my answers.  Like when Harry texted: “ordered burger medium-rare and it’s burnt, wtf?”  And I replied: “enjoy the f- especially steaming hot with a little vinegar and cracked pepper.”  Or when Lucy wrote:  “wtf!  At Costco and they sold out of toilet paper!”  To which I replied: “I hope they’re warm.”

Oh, and about that book tour of Paris.  Well, in June, I did visit the City of Lights where I was, again, treated to the sounds of The Boy whining and Spouse yelling (plus bread, wine and cheese.  And wine.)  Also, I read a book on the flight over.  Hence the book/tour.

The book was Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat” but I think it still counts.  Also, I figure that the only way I will ever have a book/tour of my own is by linking words like “book” and “tour” and “me” into sentences and then releasing that energy into the universe.

And I’m pretty sure that I have the “ME” part down.

Plus, I’m certain that Mr. Gaffigan appreciates the plug.

Until L8R.

Just say it already

2 May

blog image leonard cohen 2

Somehow The Boy and I ended up in a conversation about character flaws and I encouraged him to tell me one of mine.

What the hell.  I was feeling generous and we were bonding and I was not yet aware of the talcum powder explosion in his room so “you’re a yeller” was not his first response.

What he offered, instead, was this:

“Well, I don’t want to say that you’re flighty or that you can be unfocused.  You’re energetic and somewhat crazy, but that’s not quite right either.”

Continuing to sound like a fortune cookie fortune, he went on:

“You freak out at the slightest thing and get cranky when you don’t drink enough water.  I hesitate calling you moody because I think that some mood swings are caused by hormone imbalances but if I even mention hormones you become insane even though you are a girl and part of being a girl is acting crazy because of a hormone imbalance.

I would say that you are a “less than stellar cook” except you make that lentil bean loaf that I really like so that rules that out.

You read a lot and sometimes you don’t look up when I am speaking but do I really want to waste this opportunity by naming reading- and not even very good books by the way- as a flaw?  Also you talk on the phone to the same people about the same things as far as I can tell.  Who cares about coupons anyway?

And the way you insist on hanging laundry outside when we have a perfectly good clothes dryer is something I’ll never understand.  Then you just go on and on about how heavy the basket is and how when you were a kid you wore the same pants two or three times before you washed them.

You always open the car window even if it’s freezing out.

I want to say that your singing is terrible but your Cindy Lauper impression is spot on and sometimes you sound just like Leonard Cohen without even trying!

I guess I’ll say that you’re feisty.  You know, feisty in a good way.  In a good, flawed way.”

And I offer, in return, that The Boy is honest.  In a good way I guess.  You know, honest.

Hey, at least he knows who Leonard Cohen is.

Boy, Bath and Beyond

11 Apr

blog image hygiene

I thought we’d reached a milestone when The Boy got into the car and immediately flipped down the visor.

“He cares about his appearance!” I thought.

“He’s going to check his hair and teeth and then wave at someone!”

I was beside myself.  I envisioned a future where:

I no longer yell about soap- its purpose, its required use, and where it can be found throughout the house.

Lengthy diatribes on shampoo, warm water and the importance of blotting oneself dry are abolished.

Gone are the days where The Boy can be located by smell.

We are closer to a “loofah, body wash and après shower” regimen than ever and, upon mastery, will surely be followed by “nail and hand grooming, beginning pumice and pore maintenance.”

From here he will empty his pockets before putting clothes in the laundry and take off his muddy shoes upon entering the house.

He’ll load the dishwasher without being told, empty the compost bucket because it’s the right thing to do and add windshield washer fluid to the car simply because he noticed that it was running low.

Hobbies will include: finishing homework, calling grandparents to thank them for sending birthday/Christmas/ Valentine/Easter/Halloween money and writing thoughtful notes to teachers who have meant so much.

Any remaining time is spent dreaming of apps designed to make a mother’s life easier (“Hall Monitor”- an alarm that stops kids from bringing sandwiches into the bathroom because they’re hungry yet they have to go), and searching for grant funding for bloggers.

I have seen the future and it is tidy and solicitous.  This Boy who I picked up was not the same Boy that I dropped off at school this morning.

That, or the sun was in his eyes.

And given that we have not had any solar exposure in months, he did what any 15-year-old would do: he took it personally.

“Why does the sun have to burn me right in the eyes?!” sighed The Boy as he flipped down the visor.

Milestones are so overrated.

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