December 16, 2010

*Sigh*

I have ILH Syndrome.

I Left Hawaii.

And now I'm back home, in the rain and the wind and the can't-decide-if-it-wants-to-be-freezing-or-just-plain-cold state of Washington, and I'm not adapting well, at all.

My friend John suggested that the state of Hawaii give you a month's worth of anti-depressants when you get on the plane to go home.  Um, yeah.  Super idea.

Here's my photo journal of one of the best vacations I have ever taken in my life.  I have to say, here, that I spent a number of years living in and traveling around Europe, enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world,  and this trip to Maui (my first) ranks up there with the best.  Thanks, Mom & Dad!!
Day One, downtown Lahaina, already loving it, even without a tan.
My Dad on his balcony, as we found him every morning. Crossword, coffee, sun.  Life's sustenance.  
The view from MY balcony
The view from my chaise lounge. If I chose to open my eyes.
About ten steps out the front door of our condo. 

With Mom at Morning Happy Hour (at the Kid's Pool!). Killer Bloody Marys with extra olives :)

John & me getting ready to snorkel (not a graceful sport) ...sea turtles everywhere!
Seriously. 
This is the kind of gorgeous flora and fauna that is everywhere you look.  Unbelievable!
Even when it was windy and rainy, it was beautiful. 

Mom & me enjoying a cocktail before the Luau. One can never be too far ahead with Mai Tais, you know. 
The view as we enjoyed those.
At the Luau with our waiter, Rob.
My Dad had a few Mai Tais too...
Unforgettable vacation with my folks!!

November 22, 2010

Crazy Stuff



















  





It's three days before Thanksgiving and this is my house as I go to bed tonight.   

I kind of love it, as long as I'm in here. 

The hour-long drive home from work - four stoplights and two turns - not so much.

November 18, 2010

I just posted on my Facebook the new kind of noise in my house. I should take that back; I shouldn't call my son's music noise.  Or my husband's, either, for that matter.  Apparently, I now live in a highly musically inclined family.

Matt is in his room - slash- recording studio - mixing some kind of "hard style" music with which I am only recently familiar, thanks to him.  It's not bad, it's just very techno, and very, very, very LOUD.  And lots of bass.  Thumpy.  Deafening, if you want the truth.   There was a time, I admit, when the subwoofer was the coolest piece of stereo equipment in any guy's apartment, but at my age, really, it's just a huge headache maker.  No offense, Matt.



So you would think that if my 54-year-old husband were suddenly to take up a musical instrument, almost simultaneous to Matt's embarking on his recording career, that I would be thrilled, right?  They'll have something in common!  They might start a band together...what if Matt recorded John and they both became You Tube sensations?!

But what I really had in mind, there, was that John might take up the acoustic guitar. Or, say, something, older. More ... dignified.

I got what I asked for.

He took up the Bagpipes.

Dignified, yes. Older, for sure.

Quieter?

Than a techno, bass-driven screaming recording studio?

Not so much.

The noise level in this house right now, with both of them in their respective practice rooms, with both of their doors closed, is insane.



And what do I hear, when there is a break in the cacophony?

Matt: Hey, John, this isn't too loud is it?
John: No, you're good.
Matt: Ok, cuz I didn't want to throw your beat off or anything.


Too bad Jack's shower rendition of Club Can't Handle Me is getting drowned out.


November 9, 2010

LOL for the Day

You may have seen this on The Today Show this morning, but if you didn't, it's classic!
Being the mom of a middle school football player who is now dying to use this play, it made me laugh :)


November 5, 2010

So Halloween turned out to not be so sad after all. First, there was the Haunted House on Friday night, which was a huge hit. Jack didn't get home until almost ten, at which point he had to tell me all about it for another hour. He said he felt a little bad because he had made three girls cry.

"I wasn't even trying to scare them, they just looked at me and started bawling. And I was all, like, it's ok! Don't cry! I'm just a kid, see?"

Then, come Sunday night, imagine:  he wanted to go trick or treating. I should have known. Three hours of virtually unsupervised collection and consumption of free candy.  Hmmm. Who in his right mind wouldn't want to go?  Fortunately, his buddies agreed, and off they went, for a night of reckless abandon.  I'm so grateful for one more year of this, since I'm perfectly, painfully aware that in about four three two years from now, reckless abandon will mean something completely different.

For now, he's still just a kid.

I went back to work a couple of weeks ago, and even though my job is supposed to be part time, during the school day, I have been covering a full time shift for the first few weeks. I don't mind it; there's a little extra money I wasn't counting on for the holidays, and I'm learning my job in half the time, I guess.  But I don't get home until 7:00 or later some nights, and our household routine  is a little out of whack.  Ok, a lot out of whack.  Jack hates it.  Someone else brings him home from wrestling every night and sometimes, even at 5:15, there's still no one home. Don't get me wrong - he's no different from any other pre-teen boy when it comes to being home alone. He's all about that.  He just doesn't like to come home to an empty house. And he told me so.

I'm also going to miss his first two wrestling matches, which wouldn't be such a big deal, if wrestling, like baseball, were something he'd been doing for years. But it's not; this is his first shot at a new sport and I'm going to miss it twice.  Not to mention the two more matches John and I will both miss when we're in Hawaii at the end of the month.  Ouch.

The thing is, I've been kind of a grouchy mom since I started working again, and I think that's what's really bothering him.  I'm not exactly laid back normally, but I'm sure I'm a lot less stressed out and tired than I have been the past two weeks.  I know he feels it.  I mean, I know everyone in my house feels it. I haven't made a very smooth transition back to Mom Who Works Outside the Home.  Tonight, I got upset with him because I was having a party with all my girlfriends - something I'd planned months ago - and he wanted to stay up late since the house was full of people.  John had gone to a friend's house so there I was, trying to negotiate, but ended up getting all grumpy instead.  Now it's 3:30 in the morning and I can't sleep because I feel terrible about the way he went to bed.

Without me.

Mad at me.

I went into his room just now and recovered him with his blankets.  He's taller than I am,  and takes up pretty much that whole double bed, but I know I won't sleep until I tuck my kid in.

October 29, 2010

All Good Things Must...Change

Photographed in our 'hood by good friend Scott Spanier

I love Halloween.

Love it. 

I've mentioned before how much fun we have in my neighborhood and how crazy it gets with 600+ ghouls and goblins and princesses and super heroes parading up and down our street for one gloriously noisy, non-stop night.   I know, it's not for everybody, but I look forward to it every year.  I happily go to Costco and spend half a week's worth of groceries on candy; John and I go together so we can each pick out different kinds.  He likes to get the stuff that he likes, so he can have the "leftovers" (that's the "one for you, two for me" pile he secretly makes as he hands out the loot).  But I like to get the stuff the kids like, so we'll be a Popular House.  I don't go all-out though; I'm not very competitive.  No full size candy bars or Pop Tarts. (Pop Tarts! Can you imagine?  There wouldn't be any left for the kids if I had 600 of those lying around the house.) Nor do I try to compete with The Best House on the Block: Karma and Randy give out Ding Dongs.  Oh, for Pete's sake. Clearly a desperate ploy to get all the kids to like them.

Unlike some of my less enthusiastic neighbors, the ones who plan a quiet escape every October 31st and leave their porchlights off, I don't complain about the vanloads of kids that are dropped off to roam, sans supervision, from remote neighborhoods. I don't mind that there's a fair amount of garbage to clean up the next day. I don't care that there are parents who come through with infants and you think, "Hey, wait a minute!  That kid doesn't even have teeth. Who's going to eat his candy?" And I'm more amused - in a Jersey Shore kind of way - than I am disgusted and appalled, by the adult Playboy bunnies / Naughty Nurses who cart their toddlers through. The only costume that ever made me cringe, and seriously question parental guidance, was the ten year old boy who came through as a pimp.  A Pimp.  Really?

If you remember from my post a couple years ago, (Lesson Learned) we have a tradition on Halloween to which we must adhere.  John stays home and passes out candy and I do all the costume work, all the picture taking, and all the making sure that the kids have eaten something remotely healthy during the day before they short-circuit their little systems with sugar.  Then, I go out and walk around all evening, with any one of my neighbors who also happens to be carrying a travel mug full of red wine, vaguely keeping an eye on our own children.  And I love it more every year I go.

So you can understand how I've been a little teary eyed lately, as I have resigned myself to the fact that Jack isn't going to change his mind: He's not going trick or treating this year.

He's too old. Or too cool. Or both.

All of a sudden, all of my kids are done with Halloween.  Just like that.  No heads-up last year, no Pay Attention! Take Lots of Pictures! This is Your Last Year!

Just done.

I'm going to a party.

With girls.


* Sigh *

But wait!

God must have known that I wasn't really ready for this, that I wasn't going to cope with this particular End of Childhood Moment as well as other moms might.  Because out of nowhere, Tuesday night, a friend called to ask me if Jack might be able to help her out.  See, her kid is still in Elementary School, and they're having a Haunted House at school on Friday, and they really need middle schoolers to be monsters.

Hello! I get to make a costume? Of course Jack will help! We'll be there!

So, this afternoon, when I got off work 45 minutes late, in a slight panic, I raced home to get him ready.  He was very excited to be a part of this, to be the older kid, the helper, the one who gets to scare all the little guys.  We wrapped him up in cheese cloth and painted his face white until he was a pretty darn good mummy.  We arrived just in time for him to take his place in the Haunted House.  He's The Guide, the one who directs the kids through, then creepily taps their shoulders from behind when they least expect it.  I helped out for a bit, in a school my kids do not attend, and never did. I pretended like I was on the PTA and started taking tickets, at the direction of my friend, just like in the old days.


I left there with a huge smile on my face.  I grinned all the way home, thinking of him in the dark there, his arms stretched out in front of him, having a blast, being the scary mummy for all the little kids.

My kids might be done with Trick or Treating, but none of us is giving up Halloween.

October 26, 2010

A Night to Remember

I know - crazy to have two posts in one day when I hardly write at all for weeks at a time. But I got the pictures back from the party and I wanted to share :)

Here are a few of my favorites, taken by our fantastic photographer (and good friend!) Kimberly at Kimberly Atkins Photography.


The Venue: The Attic in Sumner
The cake by Maribel at Maribel's Dream Cakes
My Mom, Dad, brother John, and me,  just before we escorted them in 


My Mom and Dad first coming in the door -- crying already! 


My handsome husband John 

Our gorgeous daughter Casey and her friend, Rodolfo

My Mom and her best friend Nancy, whom I adore

My beautiful, dear friends Todd and Shawn, who have adopted my parents as their own

It was hard to get the mic away from my Mom once she got started telling stories...

...and making everyone cry...
...but then she lightened it up by getting my Dad out on the dance floor
and cutting it up to the Rolling Stones with my cousin Patti and my Aunt Jodi

until we were all barefoot and dancing with the DJ.
Fifty years....now that's worth a dance!

It's Okay - Tuesday

I stole this idea from Whispering Writer, over at Airing My Dirty Laundry, who stole it from Glamour Magazine. They have a section called "Hey, It’s Okay" - a list of a bunch of things to be okay about. I really like this, because I'm working so hard on trying to be OKAY with everything in my life/head/heart and to stop judging myself for everything I say/do/feel.


It's okay to be really angry at Jesse James for ending up with that Kat Von D. I mean, he wasn't a real stand-up guy to begin with, but this?! 


It's okay to not mind at all having to wear a uniform to my new job. Sure, it's dorky and ugly, but I can now get from What Shall I Wear Today to Fully Dressed and Ready to Go in about three minutes. And it's not like anyone shows me up when I get there.  We all look dorky and ugly. 


It's okay to tell my 12 year old kid that he stinks - out loud and in front of his brother - whenever I notice that he does. I'm the only person in the world who will ever tell him that because I love him, unlike everyone else who will tell him to hurt his feelings.  And for the record, it's ok to tell his friends they stink too, if they all happen to pile into my car after two hours of practice. 


It's okay to pay $4.95 for a bag of veggie chips half the size of a small bag of regular potato chips, because they are the most awesome million dollar snack out there.


It's okay to have lost interest in Glee when the hype got so out of control that I felt like my best kept secret had been revealed to the entire world. 


It's okay to watch Sister Wives.  And, it's okay to hate Robyn because, admit it, she'd be a threat to anyone.  Even if Kody is a pig and you are merely one of a herd of wives. 


It's okay to wonder about that girl's story - the one whose husband was allegedly shot by pirates while jet skiing.  Something is just not right there.

October 21, 2010

Working Girl

It's my first day of work! Wish me luck!

October 18, 2010

Crazy Busy, but in a Sort of Good Way

I've been away for awhile, tending to too many things at once, but it's all slowed down now.

On September 28th, my wonderful sister in law Dorothy lost her battle with leukemia.  My husband John was fortunate enough to spend her last few days by her side, along with his other sister, and his older brother.  The three of them never left her alone in the last weeks; they took shifts sitting by her bedside 24/7, always making sure she was comfortable and could hear them talking and laughing around her.  Just so she knew she was surrounded by the love of her family.  Lucky woman.

My daughter and I flew out the night she passed and missed her only by hours. Still, we were there for the wake and the funeral, which was something to behold, I must say.  Over 700 people came to the wake and waited in line for hours just to say goodbye to her.  We had no idea, as her family, what a tremendous impact she had on her friends and her community.  As an educator and Principal of one of the local elementary schools, she was loved by so many parents and students, it was astounding.  The district closed her school the day of the funeral and I'm pretty sure every staff member - and half the parents and students - were there with us. It was truly a testament to her life and work; one of John's cousins commented, "When I die, if people have to wait in line for an hour just to get into my wake, I'll know I've done something right."

Indeed.

I was only able to stay back in New York for five days, but I so loved being with my family-in-law for even that short period of time.  They are the epitome of family to me: close knit, but still functional :)  I miss them and have been leaning on John a bit to think about retiring back east.  We'll see how that works out.

I had to get back home earlier than everyone else because I had the big 50th wedding anniversary party for my parents coming up that next weekend and I had a few loose ends to tie up beforehand.  I managed, with the help of my dear friend Shawnie, to get it all finished not only in time for the party, but three days early!  Table centerpieces and all.  On Thursday, my parents arrived, followed shortly thereafter by my husband and a handful of cousins from out of state.  By Friday, we had a dozen guests or so already in town and our casual pizza and beer dinner for "a few guests" turned into a crazy fun evening with probably 30 people at my house. It was a great night and a good chance for people to meet each other before Saturday night.

Because I had managed to get organized (God knows how), Saturday was virtually stress free.  I got to spend it cheering on Karma and her team at the Breast Cancer 5k run, then enjoyed Toby's football game later in the morning.  I think I might even have taken a brief nap there somewhere in the afternoon before getting all dolled up for the big to-do.

I wish I had pictures to share, because the whole thing was so beautiful.  It was everything I had pictured in my head and more; the food was excellent, the service was over the top.  The room itself was breathtaking.  The cake was gorgeous and delicious. The DJ was outstanding.  My husband's speech - and the dozen others - were touching and memorable.  And my dad danced. He laughed and talked and visited all night and he danced too.  That's pretty unusual, if you know my dad.  The rest of us?  We were dancing fools all night long. Including my mom, of course, who was in her element.

They had a blast, my Mom and Dad.  It might have been the night of their lives; I don't want to be too optimistic, but that was all I wanted to give them, and I think we succeeded.  As soon as I get the pics back from our amazing photographer, I will share.

By Monday, we were exhausted, but in that good, satisfied way.  And I had a job interview that day!

See?  I told you I had a lot going on....

I am now gainfully employed, five days a week, 9-2:30 at a local medical office.  But I'll write more about that later.  I'll also fill you in on how my gorgeous oldest son is becoming such an awesome man and how my little guy got the Team Pin in the last game of the season tonight.

For now, I'm going to take my Vicodin for the tooth I just had pulled and hit the hay.

Did I say things were slowing down?

September 16, 2010

Guru in Training

I'm one of those people who cracks herself up on a regular basis. I have a hard time amusing other people, unless it's because they're laughing at me, but I do a fine job of entertaining myself.  I'm also the kind of person who reads self-help books, in my continual quest for a perfect life.  Or a quieter brain.

I'm reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.  It's all about spiritual enlightenment, how to live in the moment, how to get out of your crazy head when your life is spinning in circles, you know, that kind of thing.

Jack comes in last night while I'm reading and he's bouncing off the walls in ecstasy over the new bat his Dad just bought him. He tells me seven times what brand it is and how much it weighs and how much it costs and why it's different from and better than all other bats in the world. He's hopping around next to my bed, making pretend swings with it, way too close to my head, with this beaming grin on his face the entire time.

I'm laughing at how happy he is over a baseball bat, thinking how lucky he is to be in that most simple of times in life, and how fortunate he is to be a person who sees good and light in everything around him.  I tell him,

"I love you.  You'll never have to read this book I'm reading."

"Why? What's it about?"

Uh, well...how do you explain Tolle to a 12 year old whose biggest worry is whether or not the team will be impressed with his bat?

"Oh," I say, casually waving the book away with my hand, "it's just about ... how to be happy."

He busts out laughing and raises his eyebrows.

"Seriously? You're reading a book about how to be happy?"

I sort of nod, wishing it didn't sound so stupid. He shrugs and says,

"You seem pretty happy to me. I mean, you laugh at everything you say."

Touche.

September 13, 2010

Series Finale, No Warning

I read a "Farewell Post" from a fellow blogger this morning, and it totally took me by surprise.  But it wasn't because she quit blogging, it was the new knowledge that anyone actually does that.

Really?  I'm still a relatively new blogger, so there are a million things I don't know about it, but it never occurred to me that some writers might just stop doing it one day.

I read blogs like I watch TV shows - not often, but I definitely have my favorites.   I read this particular blogger's every post with great pleasure and admiration; while she didn't write daily, or even weekly, she wrote very well and entertained me immensely with her outrageous stories about being a native Scot living as a closet lesbian in Egypt (and I'm not even making that up).  And then, all of sudden, she says she's got other stuff to do.

Hello??? Over here - I'm reading you! (Me, and 600+ followers; what in the world would prompt a person to quit writing when that many people are actually reading you???)

This feels a bit like some random network executives deciding - without my input - that Benjamin Bratt didn't need to be flexing his tattooed guns on my big screen once a week, pretending to be a recovering drug addict.  Um, yeah he does. 


When I started writing this, if you had asked me how long I would do it, I would have thought that a weird question.  Well, until I die, I guess. Or I lose my hands in a farming accident. Which isn't likely, but it could happen.  A lot of the time, I don't have much to say. I don't write as often as some of the other bloggers I love and I don't have a lot of followers.  But I come here to write because I'm practicing. I'm practicing not only my writing, but my thinking, my decision making skills, my life. If I quit writing my blog, it would be the first time in my life I voluntarily chose to shut up.

So, maybe too bad for you, this is not a Farewell Post.  I will miss my cyber friend, Kerry, and her crazy life, but I guess now I know: I better not get too attached to anyone here.

Look how bitter I still am about that Benjamin Bratt thing, and that was two years ago.

September 2, 2010

Mom Nap

The littlest McDonald had left the building, and the teenagers were upstairs being quiet, for once.  I curled up on the comfy couch with my favorite quilt made by my mother.  The windows were open and a light breeze was flowing through the room making it just cool enough to nap.  In no time, I started to drift off into a heavenly snooze with no threat of interruption.

And then.

The laundry room door opened ...

"Mom!"

But before I am fully awakened by Jack's urgency to ask me some all-important question, Matt appears out of nowhere - bless his heart  - and whispers,

"Dude. Mom's taking a nap."

"Oh, " Jack whispers back.  They are standing 10 feet from my couch. I think they are, anyway, but I can't be sure because I haven't yet opened my eyes and am desperately hoping I will fall right back into my slumber.

Matt: "What do you want?" whispering.

Jack: "I want to ask her something." a little bit louder now...

"What do you need to ask her?" a little bit louder now...

"Something." a little bit louder now...

"Dude, just tell me. Maybe it's something I can help you with." loud...

"No, it's not." louder.

"Jack, you're gonna wake her up.  Just ask me what you want."

"YOU CAN'T ANSWER IT!"

10 feet.  In my ear.  Same dif.

"Oh, you're awake." Jack whispers.  "Can I have a cream soda?"

August 30, 2010

I'm in Love with the Air

Mmmmmm...I can smell it in the air.  Fall is coming!  Don't get me wrong, I love summer as much as the next guy, and I feel a little gypped that we didn't get much of one this year, but still.  I love fall.

I love the smell and the way things move differently in the air. I love the colors and cooler temperatures, sleeping in flannels again, putting the comforter back on the bed but still leaving all the windows open.

I love the leaves all over the yard (sorry, honey!) and the branches getting thinner and thinner, opening my view to the neighborhood as nature's curtains are slowly drawn from my front windows.

I love the sounds...the crispy crunching of drying leaves and dying twigs.  The way the wind sounds stronger, more serious about its business, as it sweeps through my house and slams doors all on its own.

I love the briskness in the air and the darkness creeping in closer and closer to dinner time. I really love going to bed after the sun does.

But there's more. I love the beginning of school and the promise that this will be the best year ever. The year that I have the coolest school supplies and the cutest new clothes, the year that that certain someone will fall forever in love with me.  Even as an adult, I wish these things for my kids and I love helping them get ready for it, even if they aren't remotely seeing it the way I do.

I can't wait for Halloween; it's right around the corner! It's my favorite holiday of the year (here's why) and this year will be no different. No matter that my kids are too old to Trick or Treat, it's still a night that can't be beat around here. This year, the kids are having a party. Yep, they're old enough to have a party of their own. Yikes.

When fall is well underway and the ghosts and goblins have all crawled back into the graveyard, I take down the gory, severed head on the front porch and replace it with my beautiful homemade fall wreath.  And then...to celebrate the end of my favorite season, it's time to get ready for ThanksgivingChristmasNewYear'sEve.

Why yes, yes it is one big holiday all wrapped up together.

And that's why I love fall.  Can you blame me?

Dream Job

I want Dinking Around on the Computer to be my job. I mean my computer, not some random company's computer, doing data entry. I want to get paid to sit here and write my blog, cruise around Facebook, make cool things in Photoshop, take online tutorials about how to create an iMovie or how to make eggplant cheesecake (just saw it, didn't really want to eat it).  All day.  How cool would that be?

Because, quite frankly, when I sit down, I sit here far longer than I should.  I read blogs and get ideas for writing and page designing. I check out websites of totally random things that have no bearing in my life whatsoever, just to live vicariously.  I so wish I were making big bucks doing it.

I freak out, thinking about adding a job-outside-the-home to my daily routine, especially now that school is starting again and I kind of have to get my act together.  Not that I'm oh-so-busy, but because my time management skills suck.  If I had a job, when would I have time to do this???

Unless....

...I boycott the laundry. Boys are supposed to smell, everyone expects that.

...I quit picking Jack up from sports. It's only a few miles. He's an athlete, for Pete's sake, he can run home.

...I give up my quest to be The Best Cook Ever. Like I'm having any success anyway.

...I become the crunchy earthy girl I always wanted to be and save an hour+ on hair and makeup in the morning.

...I use Tuesday nights to blog, and give up Glee. Like that's ever gonna happen.

* Sigh *

No one's sending me a paycheck for parking my ass here, so I guess I better unload the dishwasher and make myself useful.

August 21, 2010

Ten Reasons Why I Love My Wayward Son

No one could have told me, a year ago, that I would be able to write this. I wouldn't have believed anyone who said that things would get better, that  my world would turn around, that my son would be home, for good. I would have wanted to believe it, but by then, I had given up hope and was trying to move forward.

It's been almost five months since Matt came back to live with us, and while I'm certain that he is internalizing much of the pain associated with the death of his father, I also know that he is coping better than I would have expected.  He isn't a talker, and being raised to believe that "only crazy people go to therapy; that's why your mother goes", he's not one to try counseling. Believe me, we've encouraged it, we've tried our best to get him to go.  But I have learned some things since he came home, and even if they aren't things I'd choose, they are true, nonetheless.

I have learned to let him be, more or less.  He is no longer a kid. In many ways, he never really was. He's always been older than his years, and always a little less dependent on his parents than most kids.  All his life, I have tried to mother him, care for him, take care of him - but in the end, I must realize that he's not that kind of person.  He's very much like his dad was, in that way.  Completely happy taking care of himself.  Which is not to say that he doesn't want to be loved, or appreciated or even hugged and kissed.  He's very affectionate and sweet when it comes down to it.  He's just low maintenance, I guess.  This is in such great contrast to Jack, and even Casey, I think, that it's hard for me to accept. My other kids like to be cared for, they like to have boundaries and structure.  Not Matty, though. Nope, no coloring within the lines for that kid.

I worry that when Jack is almost 18 he will pull out the "But You Let Matthew..." card, but I doubt it.  I think even Jack knows that the way Matt lives with us is different for a reason. Sometimes, you have to bend and reshape the way you do things for each kid. Sometimes, all the same rules need not apply in all situations.

Like the fact that Matt doesn't really have a curfew.  This is a kid who has run away on multiple occasions, so really, setting a time to be home is pretty useless. The only thing I ask is that I know where he is and when he will be home.  He doesn't really have to clean his room or make his bed, at least not as regularly as Jack is required to. He doesn't have a bedtime or rules about driving or using the internet.  You think I'm crazy, don't you?

Here's the way I see it: he's almost 18 years old.  He's been arrested twice and he' been in juvie. He has spent nights in places I don't want to imagine; he's been lost to me for so long that the mere thought of losing him again is more than I can bear.  So I trust him.  I trust that he will make the best choices he can and that he will tell me the truth when he doesn't. So far, he hasn't let me down.  And he's still here.

Ten Reasons Why I Love Him

1.  When he goes out, he always asks me if I have plans and need him to stay.  He always tells me where he's going and with whom, even if he knows I don't like that particular friend, or event.

2.  He cleans up after himself when he cooks and he does his own laundry (and anyone else's that happens to be in line).

3.  He always offers to make something for anyone in the room when he's cooking or making a snack. He never fails to notice that other people are around him.

4.   He offers me gas money if he needs a ride somewhere (!)

5.   He texts me at 5:00 in the morning if he moves from where he was supposed to be spending the night so I always know where he is.

6.  He tells me things about himself and his friends that are personal and sometimes shocking, but I know that he tells me because he trusts me with his feelings.

7.  He does awesome little things for his brother, like taking him skating, or out for ice cream.  Or, if he's going out for the evening, he'll go find Jack at whatever house he might be playing, and make sure he tells him goodnight.  If he's home, he always goes in and says goodnight to Jack before he turns in himself. Even if Jack's asleep.

8.  He compliments me on my outfits, or my hair, or something I've cooked.

9. He always, always, always, hugs and kisses me goodbye, or goodnight, and says I Love You a thousand times a day.

10. When all is said and done, he keeps coming home.

August 14, 2010

On the Fence

The day has finally arrived, and I am the happiest blogger around: I went and bought myself an iMac. When I told my husband I had gone to the Mac Store, (because that's how out of touch I am with technology) he asked what kind of new makeup I bought. The very expensive kind, as it turns out.

I won't go on and on about it, because I've been doing that on Facebook all week, but I will say that this is the best thing I've purchased in ages. I love it.  I know, for all of you Macsters out there, this isn't news, and for those of you die-hard PCers (like I was, four days ago) you'll never be convinced (like I wasn't, four days ago).

I'm generally not a gadget person, but I am trying to push myself into the 21st century one little step at a time. I don't have any techie stuff, really. I don't have a DVR. I don't play video games. I have to ask Jack most of the time how to work things that plug in. Of course I don't have an iPhone; in fact, I don't even have a phone with internet access.  Up until about a year ago I didn't even know how to text.  The only gadgety thing I have is the GPS in my car, and the only reason for that is because it's built in.  Took me forever to figure out how to use it, but now I can't live without it.

This being said, where do I get off wanting to go back to school and learn to do web design?  I'm completely enamored with browsing websites of all kinds, and most of the time, I look at them the way I look at rooms in a home. Hmmm, I think. This couch would look much better in this corner. Why on earth are there sheets on that window...what about some curtains, eh?  Good gracious, who thought to paint this room Pepto Bismol pink?  Not, mind you, that I'm all that when it comes to interior decorating. But I don't suck at it, either.  I wander around websites and I'm constantly making mental notes about how, if this were my website, I'd put that here. And this, there. I'd change that font and I'd make that link easier to find.

It keeps calling to me. I keep pulling out the catalog and looking through the class schedule - even though I'm not sure what half the classes are about - and feeling like I should just sign up and go for it. Matt says I should; he says I should follow my dreams. Of course he does, he's 17. That's what I thought at his age, too.

Why is it so much harder when you're older? I mean, money aside. Let's just say that I had the money for tuition tucked into a manila envelope under my mattress. Let's pretend for a moment that I wouldn't have to take out (yet another) loan to pay for it.  What else is stopping me?

Time.  This is every day, all day, five days a week. And no paycheck at the end of the month. Who has that kind of time? I should be home with my kids after school. I should be here folding laundry and running errands and making sure the cat gets fed.  And what about in the evenings? I'll be doing homework and not spending any time with my family.

Commitment.  This is serious stuff.  If I'm going to plop down this kind of cash, I better be serious about it. How can I commit to something that I don't even know the first thing about? How can I say I'm going to love it when I don't have any experience with it at all? What if I totally hate it; what if I really don't understand computers and I end up just not getting it?

The Future. So I get my degree and I'm the best web designer around, what if I still can't get a job? The whole point of doing this is would be to get a good job and have a second career as my kids start leaving the nest. Imagine putting in all that time and effort to discover, at the end, that the economy is still in the shitter, or - worse yet - that technology has advanced so quickly that websites are obsolete.

And...welcome to my brain.

Thoughts, anyone?

August 4, 2010

Kids These Days


What's with work ethic these days?  Here's a picture of Jack, trying to make some cash so he can go skating with his brother tonight. Look at his face: he's about to cry, I think. In the end, he did a fabulous job - better than I had hoped for, even - but getting him out there was a bit of a chore.  You'd think he'd want to get it done so he'd have the moolah in his hot little hands, but no. He is so freakin' lazy sometimes I can't stand it. Oh, did I have something to do with that? Did I pamper and coddle him to the point that work of any nature is painful? Woops.

Evidently, I didn't do that with Matt.  When he was little, he would do anything to make money.  To this day, he is a hard worker who never complains. He gets stuff done. He helps around the house without a word. If you give him a job, he does it to the best of his ability. Maybe I have to give a little bit of that to his Dad, whose neuroses and OCD made him a really dedicated employee and I think he passed that ethic on to our kid. I wish Matt would pass it on to his brother.

When he was about eight or nine, Matt would take his Radio Flyer out of the garage and fill it with a bucket, some sponges, soap and towels.  He'd pull that thing around the entire neighborhood, going door to door, washing cars. He had a whole price list, which I must have kept a copy of, I just can't find it. He had different prices for different kinds of cars/trucks/SUVs. They were pretty reasonable prices, if I remember, but you had to find the right category into which you fell. Like SUV's with a trailer hitch were extra.  And, if you had a truck, you had to help him with the roof.

One summer, he passed out fliers for a carwash he was going to hold in our driveway. The flier listed the time, the day and the prices, but that wasn't all. He also promised a "comfortable waiting room with magazines and Kleenex." When I asked him about it, he told me that's what all good waiting rooms have: magazines to read while you're waiting, and Kleenex.  In case you sneeze, I guess.

The Saturday came and he was out there, bright and early, getting his carwash set up. He placed three or four lawn chairs in the front yard with a little plastic patio table between them, on which he neatly fanned out several magazines.  Promptly at the opening hour, my dear neighbors, Mary and Leon, both then in their late 70's, arrived for their carwash. Matty showed them to the waiting room and offered them a magazine to read. Mary looked around and said,

"Hmm...I need a tissue. I thought you were going to have tissues here."

You should have seen his little face; he was stricken to have forgotten something.  He raced into the house and came out with a new box of Kleenex and apologetically handed it to Mary. I knew she was just messin' with him, but I learned on that day that he took his work - and his customer service - very seriously. I was laughing my ass off (all of us were) but deep down, I couldn't have been prouder of him. No way was that nice Mrs. Copeland gonna sit there in the waiting room without a Kleenex!

Leon is long gone now, but Mary remembers that day and I get a kick out of sharing it with her on occasion. They probably gave him a 50% tip, not because he was a stellar car washer, but because they believed in kids who had "spunk".  They came from a generation that taught them if you worked hard and treated people nicely, you'd go far in life. I think they liked that there were still some kids around who believed that too.

Of all the things he's good at, I really hope he holds on to that.

August 3, 2010

Sure Thing

I'm a yes girl.

Not like that.

I'm the girl who can't say no when you need something.  Anything. And it's not because I love house sitting, or feeding your guinea pig or babysitting your kids or running to the store at the last minute because you're out of milk.  It's because I talk before I think. Always. I hate it.

I'm always the first person to offer up when things are needed. Me! Pick Me! I'll do it! I'll buy it! I'll take care of it while you're in Hawaii for two weeks! God, half the time I don't even know what it is I've offered to do until I get a call the next day asking "Did you really mean you would plan my sister's wedding, or was that just drunk talk?" And still, I can't say it was drunk talk, because that would be rude. I said I'd do it, I'll do it.

I was the kid in class who raised her hand before the teacher asked the question because I wanted so much to be the one with the answer. It didn't matter if I didn't actually know it. That was totally beside the point.

The problem with being a yes girl is that it spills over into other things.  For instance, I'm the Queen of "Let's have dinner next Friday. My house! With all the kids!" Why can't I just say "Let's do dinner sometime?" because what I really mean is that I don't really want to hang out with you, but I don't want to hurt your feelings. I just don't know how to do that. I feel like I haven't said enough. Therein lies the problem. I don't know when to shut up.

I feel like it's good karma, though. As if saying yes to all of this means that one day, when I'm in need, I will have a good support system. Does that make it selfish? I hope not. I don't do it to get something out of it. I think I do it because I like to hear myself talk and saying yes requires a lot more talking than saying no.

August 2, 2010

The Beach House

That's where my friend Kim is this morning, and I am here, in my den, the fog outside beginning to lift with the promise that it may be sunny again today. I will have coffee with her when she gets settled in - phone coffee - but while I wait, I will imagine I am there, helping her unpack...

...a weathered Cape Cod with sand and tall grasses nestling the steps of the porch. Open windows with sheer Pottery Barn curtains flowing freely between the salty air outside and the wainscotted dormer room in which they hang, probably from driftwood rods my friend handcrafted. A kitchen with a worn hardwood floor and crisp white cabinets, artisan bowls of fruit or shells, exquisite framed photographs of her beautiful children on the sea blue walls. Beach towels that are huge and plush and that match. Fun and fanciful woven beach bags in which to tote them.  White wood bunk beds in the bedrooms and a diaphanous comforter on the master bed. We will sip our coffee in real Adirondack chairs facing the water, the morning tide soothing our every care away. Later we will chop fresh vegetables from the garden in the back for a gourmet salad we will savor at the table her grandfather carved himself and passed down to her.

Technically, you couldn't say I was jealous, because I'm longing for a place I just invented. I have no idea what Kim's summer place is like. For all I know, it's a 1970s duplex, six blocks off the water with a view of overgrown shrubbery.  But when you hear "Beach House", that's just not what comes to mind, is it?

I love how certain words just put me in a good mood. 

Beach House. There's two of them.

July 30, 2010

Less Busy Than Not Very Busy At All

Nothing.

That's what's on my calendar today.  No errands, no appointments, no plans for dinner. Just wide open...and I couldn't be happier. I have been down with strep throat for four days now, and I'm all about not having to go anywhere or do anything while this antibiotic kicks in.

Not that I've been super busy lately, don't get me wrong. I'm never super busy. In fact, last week the guy came to fix my window screens at 9:30 in the morning. I just happened to have run out to the store beforehand and had to call to let him know I'd be a minute or two late in meeting him. When I got here, he shook his head and said "Wow, you're a busy  person!"  As if I had just finished painting my house and doing all my Christmas shopping.  Yea, I'm exhausted. I went all the way down to Grocery Outlet before I even had coffee!

I don't mean to knock my job - the Stay Home Mom Gig. It's just that I never feel like I can't catch a break. There's nothing in my in-basket that will cause the stock market to crash if I don't get to it today. Sure, Jack might have to have a bagel instead of cereal if there's no milk, but he'll get over it. It's still white food.  If I don't work today, millions of sea creatures will not perish from spilled oil. Crimes will not go unsolved.

I'm pretty sure though, over time, this little corner of the world would fall apart. (Ok, maybe not under the direction of my husband, but under normal circumstances.) Like the fact that there's a weird phenomenon in my boys' bathroom. Not the normal stuff, like molding socks. Lately, I've noticed that the bottles of shampoo and body wash and god knows what else are multiplying. On their own. I haven't bought anything recently, but there are like ten new bottles of half-full product all over the place. Are they stealing them from their friends? What the hell?

And dishes. If I say "Ok, one of you has to unload the dishwasher, the other one has to clean the cat box", they trample each other racing for the litter box. Really? Maybe it's just me, but putting away warm, clean, pretty dishware is more desirable than kneeling on the dirty laundry-room floor with a bacteria-infested scoop, shoveling cat shit.  Just sayin.

Other than that, I'm not all that busy. I'm not preventing toddlers from inserting forks into electrical outlets all day, or cleaning up after Woops-I shouldn't-have-fed-the-baby-that. I'm not planning my every move around crucial nap time or trying to get my own nap in after spending the night with two small children wedged between me, the cat and the husband.

Especially in summer, anymore, there's very little care of children involved, other than basic life-or-death supervision. On occasion, I make lunch. Mostly, they feed themselves (freeze pops, Go-Gurt, cheese sticks) or maybe I have to drive one of them somewhere.  I have to make sure there's food in the fridge. Toilet paper available, gas in the car, that sort of thing. Laundry and vacuuming and all that, of course. But really, this is a pretty rockin' job.

Still, I love NOTHING days.

July 22, 2010

Family Ties...

Time to get back into writing.  I've been in summer mode since school got out, and have had a hard time spending more than a few minutes at a time at the computer (read:facebook). 

Unfortunately, our weather has turned to crap again so we're all wearing sweatshirts and hanging around the house. I shouldn't complain; I know other people are dying in heat waves around the country or getting flooded out.  I just miss my poolside chaise lounge down in California!

The vacation was good for everyone, although I think the beneficial part for Matt was taking his little brother to Mississippi for the first time.  Kenneth's family is all there, and Matt is close to all of them.  He's been wanting to take Jack down there with him for years; this year seemed a good time for me to say yes.

They had a great time, as I knew they would. No over-protective Mom hanging over their heads to direct their every move. Still, I knew they were in good hands with Matt's Aunt Kim, who has always been like a second mother to him. Jack loved her, and in his thank you note, he wrote "I felt loved". That totally brought a tear to my eye!

Since they got home, Matt has been doing ok. Kim and I both were worried about how he's not really dealing with his Dad's death, but who's to say he is or isn't? I'm not in his head. I'm just afraid that this calm, seemingly everything's ok attitude is a facade, that the real explosion of anger and hurt is right around every corner. Yeah, that's me, constantly having to be worried about something.

But seriously, if he's keeping all that inside, something's gotta give at some point, right? He won't go to counseling, he won't talk to anyone (that I know of).  He just keeps really busy with his friends.  I know, that sounds like any normal 17 year old kid, but I wish there were more of a connection to our family. The one thing that hasn't changed since he came back to live with us is his lack of interest in being a part of "us". He tells me his friends are his family - the family he wants. He is always polite and respectful to us, helps around the house, etc, but he's not connected. There's no bond there, and I'm not sure if there ever was. I pretty much let him come and go as he pleases (not what I would choose) just because it's what he's so used to, and what will cause the least tension. Fighting with him is just something I can't do anymore. The slightest indication that we're going to battle sends me into a panic attack so quickly that I have to leave the room the minute I sense it. I have no desire anymore to engage and prove my point. I have no desire to be right or to have any kind of control or authority over him.  He hasn't caused me any grief so far - meaning that he's always home at a decent hour, stays out of trouble, is nice to everyone. I can't push my luck.

Does that sound complacent? Lazy? I don't want to work too hard? Maybe. Maybe this is me, being the parent who finds that discipline is just too hard, that it's easier to say yes, to give in, to look the other way, than to create healthy boundaries. I guess I see it differently, though (of course I do, I'm trying to rationalize) since he's so much older, and the situation is somewhat unique.

I don't know. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. I may be setting a precedent for Jack that will come back to haunt me later. I may be setting myself up for a fall, who knows.  Right now, what I do know is that we're all getting along relatively well and as long as I can keep it like this, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.

June 14, 2010

Faith and a Fork

So much going on around here... I don't know where to start. I have become a bit of a Facebook Soundbiter, sadly.  Don't get me wrong; I love FB. I'm not quite as addicted to it as I was in the beginning, but I do check in to see what everyone's up to today, what new pictures have been posted (particularly now that all the grads are celebrating) and to chit chat about daily nonsense with far-away friends, which kind of makes me feel closer to them.

Still...there's other stuff happening that I really don't feel like posting to the universe. Like the fact that my sister in law, Dorth (John's oldest sister), was diagnosed with leukemia - out of the blue - last week, and is already undergoing aggressive chemo.  There is not a high rate of success with this treatment, but it is her only option. 

Being all the way across the country is particularly hard for John; his other sister and brother are there to take care of Mom and make hospital visits, but he's anxious to get home and be a part of things. Of course, this is all very sudden, so it's kind of a whirlwind trying to get flights arranged and work done, in the midst of school coming to an end and getting our boys ready to fly out for their vacation on Saturday.  

I am not very close to Dorth; in fact I have spent very little time with her over the past fifteen years since I first met her. Still, I think she's pretty awesome. She's incredibly smart, for one.  She went to college across the street from where I went  in Boston (albeit many years earlier) so we had a connection right off the bat. She's an educator too - a principal - so we could engage in conversation with each other easily and comfortably.  She has always struck me as vibrant and complex a little eccentric. It doesn't seem right that someone like this should be so sick, but that's a trite thing to say. It's not right that anyone should be this sick.  I am sad for John, mostly, and for his mother. No one should ever have to see her child suffer.

I've done an awful lot of praying this week. I am not a religious person, but John told me yesterday that one of the things that he sensed was keeping her spirits up is her deep faith.  Their family is Irish Catholic; his parents were devout churchgoers all their lives, and I remember when my father in law died, how deep and true his faith was until the end.  In fact, one of my favorite moments in his last days, was when the Priest came by the house to visit with Pop one afternoon.  I wasn't there, but the story goes that Pop asked him,

"So Father, why am I still here?"

The Priest wasn't sure how to respond.  "What do you mean, Hugh?"  Dying is awkward, even for men of cloth, I guess.

Pop was agitated, obviously irritated. "Well, you told me that when I was ready to go, I should let Him know, and that would be it.  I told him I was ready, but I'm still here!"

I love it because he was ticked off and it cracked us all up,  but also because he believed with his whole being that God was listening to him. There wasn't any doubt in his mind that he had a relationship with God and that he had somewhere important to go when he left this world.

I guess Dorth made John feel like that yesterday. She told him she didn't like the fact that God had chosen her to deal with this, but that she knew he had a plan, and that was all that mattered.  She didn't wonder if He knew what He was doing, or if maybe He'd made a mistake. She wasn't angry with Him or wallowing in self pity. Sure, this hasn't been her best week ever. But when I heard the things she was telling John about it, I couldn't help but feel grateful that her faith is that strong. I have personally seen faith alone help people overcome insurmountable obstacles, so I know how powerful it is, and I thank God himself for giving her that.

I should probably give that some thought. Faith, I mean. I'm not a non-believer, by any stretch. I'm just not a Practicing Anything. What if that's what gets you through things like this, or gets you past them? What if not being afraid of what's next is what makes you peaceful when you're standing at that door? 

John found a little story I received from a friend a couple of weeks ago, and he reprinted it for his whole family because it spoke to him this week.  Maybe you've read it, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

~ ~ ~ ~  ~

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things 'in order,' she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

'There's one more thing,' she said excitedly.

'What's that?' came the Pastor's reply.

'This is very important,' the young woman continued. 'I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.' 

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. 

'That surprises you, doesn't it?' the young woman asked. 

'Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request,' said the Pastor. 

The young woman explained. 'My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming...like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! 

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with he fork?' Then I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork ...the best is yet to come.'

At the funeral, people were walking by the young woman's casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand.. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, 'What's with the fork?' And over and over he smiled. 

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. 

The next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

June 6, 2010

A Little Sun Does Wonders

We had a beautiful day here in Washington yesterday - sun and everything!

After so much rain and gloom for so long, it was heaven to see all the neighbors out, washing cars, mowing lawns, gardening...all the kids were in shorts, playing in some form of water that didn't fall directly from the sky.  I got some of the plants planted - the ones that have been sitting in their little plastic pots for the past three weeks, trying to survive the weather. I repaired some of the ones I planted in the first place, that had been ravaged by the rain. And, sadly, I pulled a few of the ones that didn't make it, and gave them their proper burials.  I'm still a novice gardener, by comparison to Shawnie, who is an unoffical Master Gardener around here. But I did pretty well salvaging, I thought.

At some point, I looked up and saw half a dozen of the neighbor kids all huddled around Jack out in the street, so I went to investigate.  Cool bug? Wandering frog? Injury of some sort? Nope.

Construction crew.  Building a dam to catch carwash water.




I love how kids think.

I'm all, Thank God it finally stopped raining! and they're all, Better save this water! We didn't get any today!

Never fear, children. It's raining again today. Put your boots back on and wade out to play.