Not Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader

December 11, 2013 § 17 Comments

This morning on the way to school, my fourth-grader and I had the following conversation.

Him:  Did you know sloths move so slowly that sometimes they mistake their arm for a branch, reach for it, and then fall to their deaths?

Me:  Sloths have arms?

Him:  Yeah!  Of course they do.

Me:  Sloths don’t have arms.

Him:  (disbelievingly) Yes, Mom!  They have REALLY LONG ARMS!

Me:  No, they don’t.

Him:  Yes, they do!

Me:  They do not.

Him:  (patiently) Mom.  I’m talking about SLOTHS.  S-L-O-T-H-S.

Me:  I know what you’re talking about.  Sloths.  Sloths don’t have arms.  Do they?

Him:  (exasperated) YES!  Sloths have arms!!!  S-L-O-T-H-S!

Me:  Stop SPELLING it.  I KNOW what you’re talking about!  Sloths have arms?  I never knew that!

Him:  (disbelievingly) HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT???

Me:  I really think they don’t.  I’ll have to look it up when I get home.  That’s really interesting.

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You see, that entire time HE was talking about sloths, he saw this animal in his mind.

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The entire time I was talking about sloths, and insisting he didn’t need to SPELL it out for me, I was seeing this animal in my mind.

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In my defense, they are both very slow-moving animals.

 

Banana Bread

August 26, 2013 § 15 Comments

So, you know how so many people post Facebook status updates the night before the first day of school?  “Lunches are packed!  Kids in bed!  Backpacks ready!  Forms filled out!  Relaxing with a glass of wine and hubby!” And it’s only 8 p.m.?  Some dear friends of mine – and I hope they still are after reading this – but please indulge me in a rare public bitchy moment.

I frikkin’ HATE those status updates.  They shouldn’t, but they make me feel like SUCH a loser mom – I rarely, if ever have my shit together like that.  For one thing, it’s  usually 10:47 p.m. when I read them, and the kids are all still awake and I’m about to go grocery shopping (sometimes at the gas station “convenience” store) for the first time in 10 days so they don’t eat uncooked ramen noodles for lunch on their first day of school.

Not this year.  It’s payback time, beyotches.  This year, I AM THAT MOM.  Last night the youngest was in bed by 10 p.m. (unshowered, but hey – you can’t have everything,) grocery shopping was done (4 days earlier,) and I was in my pjs (unshowered, but hey – you can’t have everything,) – do you hear me???  I made banana bread* batter (the only bakery item I know how to make from scratch,) stuck it in the fridge, and woke up at 5:30 a.m. to get it into the oven.  Let me tell you, by 7 a.m., that sucker was PERFECTION.  I had it buttered and lovingly arranged on a Bounty paper towel for my eldest to have on her way to school.  Right next to her bottled Starbucks frappacino.  Then, after some Marx Brothers-like confusion and car-jockeying because we hadn’t figured out yet which one of us was going to drive her to school, she was off for the first day of school.

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Never mind that my eldest is almost 17, and I’ve been on Facebook for five years now, and that I am only NOW boasting about something of this nature.  But I’m BOASTING, BABY!!!!!  SUCK IT, LOSERS!!!!

(Cue thunder and maniacal laughter)

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

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*A little bonus story:  I’ve been making this for years – got the recipe from Dave’s mother.  When we were married for less than a year, I did something similar – waking up early to get the banana bread in the oven for him to bring to some office potluck. Then I showered and attempted to wake him up.  He was immovable.  So, I stood next to the bed and said, “Hey, Dave.  There’s a naked woman in front of you and a banana bread in the oven.”  He raised his head up, lifted an eyebrow and said, “Banana bread?”  

Lost In Suburbia – Book Review*

April 15, 2013 § 9 Comments

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Lost in Suburbia – A Momoir contradicts itself right there in the subtitle.  How I Got Pregnant, Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs.  Apart from being a mouthful, everyone knows it’s practically impossible to get your cool back in the Jersey suburbs.  Of course, I had to read.  Let me tell you, Tracy not only achieves “cool,”  she attracts “cool.”  She discovers it’s possible to be cool AND live in New Jersey, and she makes it clear that truly, wherever you live, being honest with yourself and having a sense of humor automatically defines you as cool.

Tracy lived in Manhattan, was a TV exec, and based much of her identity on how cool that was.  She remained cool as she met her future husband and married him.  Then she became pregnant, and as most of us know, the downward spiral from coolness happens quickly.  Especially 20 years ago, when, as Tracy accurately surmises, “I think all maternity clothes were made by Garanimals.” Humor like this takes us through her pregnancy, the baby’s birth, and the dreaded bris.  For those Jewish mothers intending to have a bris for their boys, heed her advice in the chapter aptly titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Let your Mohel Take The Red-eye To The Bris.”  (The Mohel, pronounced “moy-el”, is the person who performs the circumcision.) She
explains that a Mohel can either be a doctor with some rabbinic training, or a Rabbi with some doctor training.  She chose the former, since “If the guy was going to make a mistake, I preferred he screw up on the Hebrew rather than the surgery.”  With that, we know she has her priorities straight.

She follows the arc so many of us do, which is to say, her family outgrows their tiny space in the city, needs more room, resigns themselves (after kicking and screaming) to the suburbs, and struggles with identity post-kids.  What she does differently is write about it in such a way that I was snorting with laughter through every chapter, while relating to her experiences, and being caught off-guard by the perfectly-timed moments of poignancy when they happened.  At one point, after having gone back to work post-baby, she came home at lunch time to discover her nanny (and a few other nannies) laughing, eating chinese food and watching tv while  her baby (and a few other babies) were playing happily and contentedly nearby.  She runs to the bedroom and calls her husband to tell him how unhappy she is.  “‘I thought I wanted to go back to work, but I hate my job and I miss our son and the nanny is having a better time than I am,’ I cried.”  I was so moved by this, and I have never had a nanny, nor did I go back to work post-kids.  That’s part of what makes her book so unusual.  You don’t have to even come close to having had the same experience as Tracy in order to feel exactly what she feels in long-distance sympathy and understanding.  It is SO relatable.

Hilarious moments (who hasn’t been stopped by a cop while in her ducky bathrobe, or ignored the Board of Health warning on a restaurant’s door, or interviewed the Chief of Police with a pair of thong underwear stuck to our shirt?) and personalities (everyone has a “Peanut-Free Cheryl” in their lives) make this so much fun to read, as do the moments of epiphany, such as one that comes when she is struggling to find “her people” among the New Moms set.  Thinking she could be friends with anyone else who had kids the same age as hers failed miserably.  She realized “Women who were annoying, narcissistic, shallow, or just plain boring before they had kids were still that way after they had them.”  She conveys how hard isolating motherhood can be, but figures out a way back to find friends, a new career, and her cool.  Though it’s my humble opinion that her cool was evident even when she thought it wasn’t.

On a serious note, one thing I absolutes LOVED in this book is the portrait she painted of her husband and her marriage.  It’s never overtly stated, but from the way she writes about their interactions, they are so clearly best friends and have so much respect and love for each other, it made me wish I lived in New Jersey so we could double-date.  Okay, maybe that’s going too far.  But I at least wished they lived in Baltimore.

*DISCLAIMER:
1.  I received the book I’m reviewing here for free from the publisher.
2.  I won another copy of the book in a Twitter Party.  I’d make it a giveaway here, but I have no idea how to do that legally, and I’m lazy, so I’m just going to give it to my sister.
3.  All opinions are my own, but are heavily influenced by how much coffee I have drunk.
4.  I get no compensation for writing this review, except for the hope that if I ever get my sh*t together enough to write my own book, Tracy might consider writing a back-cover blurb for it, and possibly introduce me to Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess.

You can get your copy of Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir at this Amazon link.

Brave New World of Parenting

February 19, 2013 § 34 Comments

I am so proud of my kids.  Most people are proud of their kids, but this week, I feel especially proud.

My husband and I did something very scary this weekend.  We left the kids home by themselves overnight.  It was my daughter’s idea.

Now, those of you who have declared us delusional and insane, please allow me to explain how this situation evolved.

My parents, incredibly generous souls that they are, have in the last few years taken a new approach to birthdays and anniversaries.  Once a year, between my sister’s birthday and mine, they treat us and our husbands to dinner and tickets to a Broadway show.  This covers all four of our birthdays and our two anniversaries.  It is a real treat for us, as we sisters and our men are really never able to double date – just the grown-ups.  They live in New York, we’re in Baltimore, and when visits happen, they’re entire-family-style.

This year, my daughter launched a gentle protest.  She has a job, likes to sleep late in her own bed on the weekends, and didn’t feel like being schlepped up to NY so her parents and aunt and uncle could go out.  She’s 16, one of our sons is 14, and the other son is 9.  They all love seeing their NY family, but she was angling to stay home.

“I’d arrange all my rides myself – to and from work.  If I made any plans, I would take care of finding transportation.  You wouldn’t have to worry about any of it.”  Ya know, except for the worrying about it that I ‘d normally do if I was 200 miles away.  Older son is catching wind of this, and starting to like the idea.  I mean, if his sister wasn’t going, maybe he could stay home, too – he won’t admit it, but he likes family visits more when she’s around.  Then came the potential clincher.  “Think about it – we could take care of Leo (9YO) and you guys could have a grown-up weekend without the kids!”  Oooooooh, she’s a sly one, she is.

We said we’d think about it.  We mulled.  We discussed.  We asked Leo if he would rather come with us or stay home if the big kids were allowed to stay home.  He said he’d rather stay home.  Truthfully, we felt if Leo stayed home, there were actually FEWER chances of irresponsible behavior on the part of the older kids.  They really adore him and take great care of him if we’re not around.  I consulted my parents about this potential arrangement.  My father would give Emma the keys to a new Lexus if he could, but my mother is a little more reserved in what she thinks is okay to allow the kids to do.  So, when SHE said she thought with the right preparation and precautions, it would be fine, I exhaled and the deal was done.  “But I want TO GET CREDIT for this, got it???  Your kids OWE ME.”  “I promise, Mom, they will know of your part in this,” I assured her.

We prepared them ad nauseum.  We put safety nets in place.  We established simple and hard and fast rules, like the boyfriend couldn’t come over after work, the garage door had to stay closed, no candles, GPS on their phones must be ON at all times, no word of it on any social media, etc.  We enlisted a few of our neighbors and a close friend to keep their cell phones on in the event of a medical or safety emergency.  We advised the neighbors to keep their eyes and ears open for smoke, parties, roaming zoo animals, anything that might seem out of place in our tiny neighborhood with houses very close to one another.  They agreed, and even spoke some encouraging words about how mature our kids were, and they weren’t worried.

So, after breakfast hugs and squeezes and warnings and copies of instructions and phone numbers strategically placed in practically EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE, Dave and I got into the car and drove off.  We couldn’t believe it.  We were really at the stage where we could go away for a night?  Birds chirped, holding the ends of rainbows in their beaks, leading the entire way up the New Jersey Turnpike.  We didn’t even double to check to see if the kids were with us when we left the rest stop.  We were pretty okay with this, despite the slight, nagging fear that the house would look like this when we came home:

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We made random contact with the kiddos a couple of times, knew Emma got safely to work and back, texted with Nicky about the pancakes he was making Leo for dinner, and knew when they were all home for the night.  My parents even joined us for dinner, so it was a rare TRIPLE date.  I don’t think that has happened for 17 years.  After dinner, we saw “Book of Mormon” and laughed and laughed.  Spoke to the kids in the morning, grabbed bagels and took off for home.

It worked!  We pulled it off!  The kids pulled it off!  They were fine, didn’t miss us, and barely noticed when we walked through the door.  They noticed the Brooklyn bagels we left on the counter, but otherwise, it was as if we never left.  We congratulated ourselves, and patted the kids on the back for being so mature, responsible, and trustworthy.  They’re growing up.  So are we.

(P.S. Then later that night I got into bed at midnight and got a text from Emma saying she needed a ride home from a party that was being busted up by the cops and she was cooperating with the cops but she couldn’t leave until they spoke to me and when I got there and she blew zeros on the breathalyzer they let her go and I told her ass she was lucky she didn’t get a citation and we gave her a painful lecture at 1 a.m. and then I got into bed at 2 am and then at 3:30 am Leo came into our room and threw up.  The end.)

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