Time keeps on slipping (into the future)

Damn you, Time. You’ve done it again.

Slipped away when I wasn’t paying attention — AGAIN. (If you hadn’t already figure this out, I’m not very good at paying attention because this seems to happen to me a lot.)

I just read an article which discusses how physics is to blame for the feeling that time is moving more quickly the older you get. Something to do with mental-image processing time and some other things that kind of made my head explode, like the difference between “clock time” and “mind time” and how the brain processes visual information when the eyes fixate in between unconscious, jerk-like eye movements called saccadic eye movements that occur a few times a second. But the point is, at least I can use this as evidence to back up my claim that I cannot believe it’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted on my blog.

A whole. Freaking. Year.

360 days to be exact. (A shout-out to Google for not making me do the simple math myself.)

Last time you heard from me, Boy #1 was turning 20. Well, guess what, friends? (Cue the drum roll…) He’s now turning 21! And if that isn’t a real “adult” in every sense of the word, I don’t know what is. He was already able to buy cigarettes or even vape if he wanted (which fortunately he doesn’t). But now he can legally drink or bet it all on a craps table here in Iowa. Heck, he can even buy some recreational marijuana when he travels to Colorado or California.

Fortunately, it seems that despite all our flaws and failures, Husband and I have turned out one pretty awesome adult. He is responsible, caring, dedicated and passionate. He’s a much better almost-21-year-old than I was, for sure!

What you may not realize is that besides having a 21-year-old in a few short days, I will also have a 17-year-old four days later — a boy in the second half of his junior year of high school. What the heck, Time? Why you gotta be so cruel?

It seems, my friends, that not only does ONE of your children grow up faster than you could ever imagine, but they ALL do. AND each child seems to grow up faster than the last. Case in point: Next year at this time, my “baby” will be halfway through his first year of HIGH SCHOOL.

Maybe it’s because I’m older and just not paying as close attention as I used to. Maybe it’s just science. Either way, it sucks.

Which is why I’m trying to soak up the “now” more. If anything is able to whip my anxiety up to a frenzy, it’s Time. For someone who feels like life is out of control, Time is the ever-present adversary. So I have been trying to do more noticing of the here and now. Noticing sounds, colors, smells. Cataloging details about the present and then tucking them away for when they become my memories in the hopes that even though I can’t slow down time, at least I can maybe look back on the past with clearer details instead of just as a nondescript blur of happenings that I was too busy to really take in when they occurred.

John Green said, “One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”

I believe this is so true. My hope for you all in this new year we’ve been given is that you’ll enjoy the moments of “now,” and even if you can’t enjoy all the moments (like discovering 7 dirty plates and half a loaf of moldy bread under your son’s bed), that you’ll at least appreciate their fleetingness and find what charm in them you can. Knowing that with each passing year, time goes faster and faster, sooner rather than later we’ll be longing for just one more chance to open that door and see a messy teenager’s clothes strewn about instead of a neatly made-up guest bed.

Photo by Noah Silliman

The half-star day

Three stars
Image via Wikipedia

Boy #3 has been having, let’s call it “issues,” in school. I told you a couple weeks ago that he’s been naughty lately. The little dude is still struggling, and so are we.

Last week, after getting an email from his teacher informing us of his little habit of “testing” her when she asks him to follow directions, Husband and I created a chart for Boy #3. For every day that he comes home with a good report, he gets to put a star sticker on the chart. If he comes home with a not-so-good report, he doesn’t get a star, and he also doesn’t get to watch TV that night. After 10 stars, he gets the pack of SpongeBob Silly Bandz I picked up at Fareway. (Oh, how those Silly Bandz are taunting him from their place on the counter…)

After initiating the chart, he did very well. He got a good report the rest of the week and happily gave himself his stars.

When he climbed in the van after school today, however, the story was not quite as good. I asked him if he’d had a good day, and there was a pregnant pause. Definitely not a good sign. I have to hand it to the little stinker, though, he did tell me the truth. Well, most of it, anyway.

“No,” he said.

When I asked him why, he answered, “Because I threw the cards on the ground.” Why did he throw the cards on the ground, you may wonder? “I didn’t get to play CandyLand 2!” he told me. Man, kindergarten is rough these days!

So we talked about it and I asked him if it was worth throwing the cards on the floor. Did it make him feel better to get into trouble? No, he said. He seemed to understand what he’d done wrong and feel genuinely bad about it. And I was feeling pretty good about it, all things considered.

That is, until I got home and read the email from his teacher. It seems Boy #3 had sugar-coated his misbehavior just a teensy bit. The first clue to that was the use of the term “very destructive behavior during center time” by his teacher.

It seems that he didn’t just throw the cards on the ground, but after repeated warnings, mixed up all of her decks of cards together and threw them on the ground and also was cutting other kids’ papers up (which they didn’t want him to do). And my favorite? During cleanup time, he proceeded to headbutt other kids in the chest.

Despite all this, Boy #3 still thought that he should get a half of a star on his chart. His reasoning:

“But I was good in the morning!”

If only life worked that way, dear. If only . . .

Needless to say, since this is the first we’ve had to deal with destructive and disruptive behavior with our kids AT SCHOOL (Please, they are destructive and disruptive AS A RULE at home!), I’d love any advice you could give, or stories of your own kids’ bad behavior just to make me feel better. (wink)

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Sometimes we pretend we’re normal folk

Once in a while — a great while — the stars align and we manage to accomplish a handful of feats that may be everyday to some but are a rare glimpse into normalcy for us.

Yesterday appeared to be one of those days.

Feat #1: I washed all of the laundry that was stacked in the laundry room. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I swear, we have more laundry than any other family. It’s a job that has no beginning or end, like a grass-stained and foul-smelling Mobius strip. Part of this could be because I suspect that I wash Boy #1’s clothes over and over again without him ever wearing them. His hamper is ALWAYS spilling over, and he wears the same 2 or 3 outfits every day. Seems a bit suspicious to me.

Nonetheless, we are always woefully behind on the laundry, which means I usually just get the dirty clothes from our bedroom washed (if we’re lucky), and leave the 4 or so baskets full of random rugs, winter coats and mismatched socks in the laundry room for “another time.” Well, “another time” was apparently yesterday, because those baskets are now pretty much empty.

Notice I didn’t say that I had all the laundry from our bedrooms caught up as well. That would be WAY too normal for us…

Feat #2: I prepared supper ahead of time, and it was actually good! Okay, so it was easy as sin, but that’s not the point. I actually put chili on the stove at lunchtime and let it simmer all day, the way it’s supposed to (unlike the 20 minutes I usually give it) and we could tell the difference. Yum!

Feat #3: I made dessert for once. This is not a regular feature for us. In fact, Boy #2 asked me what I was doing in the kitchen this afternoon, and I said, “Making a cake.” His response — “Why?” This is so different from my house growing up. After every meal, my dad could be counted on to ask, “What’s for dessert?” And Mom always had something (still does). It’s that farm wife in her, I suppose. Apparently I didn’t inherit that gene.

Feat #4: Boy #3 wore matching pajamas to bed. How sad is it that we were both excited when I found (in my recently folded laundry piles) the Toy Story 3 pajama top AND pajama bottoms? To top it all off, we even found Toy Story 3 underwear. “Now I just need Toy Story 3 socks!” Boy #3 said.

Even though I swear the boys have about 35 pairs of pajamas between them, if they ever actually put on something other than underwear to sleep in, it’s always a complete mismatched spectacle. Star Wars size 4T top that’s now a midriff paired with a size 8 pair of blue snowflake pajama pants that are more than a little saggy in the rear. The night before last, Boy #3 completed the look with one black sock and one white sock. And he wore this most of the day. Last night, however, he looked respectable . . . even if no one but us saw him.

Feat #5: I actually played with my kids. Well, two of them anyway. Boy #1 is in that doing-stuff-with-the-family-is-so-uncool phase, so he opted out. But Boys #2 and #3 and I set out to put together a 100-piece puzzle. Which would’ve been much easier if we hadn’t started putting together a puzzle that, for some reason, we have two copies of, in the same box. So we had twice as many pieces than we needed and not only had to put this bad boy together but also had to determine which were duplicate pieces. We took puzzle putting-together to a whole new level. And there was only minor yelling and hitting between the boys. I consider that a good evening.

But despite the fact that we dipped our toes into the “normal family” pool, we didn’t exactly jump in with both feet. It was after 10:00 when I finally got the two youngest to bed, and that was after Boy #2 told me he was scared someone was going to jump through his (second-story) window. And then he told me that he was the most afraid that Fred, that totally annoying internet-sensation teen who talks in that stupid baby voice, would be the one to come through the window. Darn new-fangled media. Now it’s making kids paranoid! (Although I have to admit I’m a little bit afraid of Fred too. He’s creepy!)

I’m sure the normalcy won’t last long, though. It never does. I noticed as I left for work this morning that we have a Tonka dump truck that’s  been spray-painted red in the driveway (That little sh*t “It Wasn’t Me!” did it, of course.), and the largest Nerf gun I’ve ever seen (that I think must launch nuclear missiles) is lying in our landscaping. I’m sure by tonight the boys will be either naked or mismatched, and we’ll be reverting back to the McDonald’s drive-thru for supper.

I’ve learned to never get too cocky.

Naughty Baby

What is it about the youngest?

That’s what I’m asking myself this week as I reflect on Boy #3’s recent behavior (AND my reaction to it).

It appears that he’s either going through a bit of a “naughty phase” or has become possessed by the ghost of Darth Maul.

Need some concrete examples? No problem. I have puh-lenty.

Let’s see… In the past two weeks, he’s:

  • spit his food at another boy in the lunchroom
  • written on the hardwood floor in the kitchen with a black permanent marker
  • scratched Husband’s car with some elusive sharp object, including writing “PH” on the front quarter panel. And no, those aren’t his initials. And no, I have no idea what “PH” stands for. Apparently neither does he. (Maybe he’s going to be a chemist when he grows up? Or maybe just a pool cleaner…)
  • lost his shoes at his cousin’s house
  • cut his shoelaces at school during a math lesson
  • decorated our sidelight window with a red permanent marker
  • brought home a toy gun from school that he apparently traded with another kid for Pokemon cards. (I have no idea why the other kid brought a toy gun to school. I’m just thankful that no teachers witnessed this exchange. Expulsion is not on our agenda for kindergarten!)
  • lost his brand-new shirt while playing outside with his brother
  • took the headband out of my hair and while examining it, accidentally snapped it in half

What is it about him, though, that makes it impossible for me to get really mad at him? One minute I’m lecturing him about how Sharpies are OFF LIMITS and spray paint is NOT A TOY, and the next minute I’m showering him with smooches.

Is it this way with the baby in all families? Or am I just a complete pushover?

Thinking back to when I was growing up, my youngest sister did seem to hold some spell on everyone she met, including my parents. Whether she was hiding under the bathroom sink after covering her body in lipstick, breaking the porcelain lid to the back of the toilet because she wanted to see what was in the tank, or holding a cat hostage while brushing its teeth, it was always considered “cute.” No one could get mad at her. Well, except her older sisters. But maybe that’s because she also did things like conduct a “study” to see how we reacted to various annoying sounds while trapped in a car with her on vacation…

Come to think of it, most everything she did actually was pretty cute, in a mischievous kind of way. And today she’s one of the kindest and most creative people I know. This gives me hope for Boy #3.

Is anyone else’s youngest child extra naughty? Or am I just so old and worn out now that I’ve inadvertently created a monster???

Hey, October! How you doin’?

So long, September. And don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-where on the way out!

It’s October. Ahhh. Normally, I don’t think of myself as an October-lover, but this year, I’m welcoming it with open arms. Especially considering how the last few days of September went.

Let’s see. I went to a scrapbook retreat last weekend with my mom-in-law and sisters-in-law. (Fortunately, I my photos and scrapbooking supplies were still in the back of the van from my last scrapbook retreat in July.) It was fun, as always, and I filled in a few gaps for Boy #1’s album. You no longer turn the page from his baptism and see his 6th birthday party! However, when I came home, I had to brace myself for what I knew I’d find. The boys were home alone. (Well, Husband was there, but hello, it’s football season!) At first it wasn’t too bad. Boy #1 had supposedly cleaned the living room, but I still was able to whirl around in three seconds and scoop up 5 cups and pop cans that I knew were there when I left on Friday, so apparently he wasn’t extremely thorough. Boys #2 and #3 had busied themselves with making a “fort” in Boy #2’s room, which consisted of dragging Boy #3’s mattress off his bed and propping it up in Boy #2’s room, in the process knocking things over and dragging other things all over the floor. Excellent.

However, Husband had worked on the laundry and picked up our room, and the messes and “rearrangements” were minor compared to what could’ve happened, or so I thought.

“Uh, something’s wrong with your computer,” Husband told me quickly, like he was ripping a Band-Aid off my arm.

I found my laptop lying, neglected, on the floor of the living room. When I picked it up and cradled it in my arms turned it on, I didn’t see any damage. Well, besides the fact that it was disgusting from what I’m assuming were the boys’ food-covered fingers. Either that or they licked it. Which is entirely possible.

“It’s starting up fine,” I told Husband. But then he said, “Try to type,” and I understood the issue. The only key that would work was the “Return” key. Which isn’t really convenient when you write for a living.

Upon questioning my children, they couldn’t think of anything they’d done to render the typing disabled. They were innocent, they assured me, as innocent as the newly fallen snow.

So Monday evening I turned over my laptop to the Apple Store, where one of the Geniuses informed me that it looked like it had gotten wet. “I am so not suprised,” I said after telling him about my weekend away and my guilty-looking children.

Have I mentioned before that I love Apple? Well, I found another reason to. The technician at the Genius Bar went ahead and covered the repair under my Apple Care program (It probably shouldn’t have been covered, but he said he appreciated my honesty. If I’m nothing else, I’m honest!), and I didn’t realize just how much I would owe him until I picked it up last night. My bill would’ve been $755 if I’d had to pay for it. YIKES! Needless to say, my children will not be coming anywhere near my laptop unless they can show me they have $755 to hand over as a deposit.

Husband teased me about going through withdrawal while my computer was away, but I told him the reason I went to bed at 8:00 was because I didn’t feel well. But he is probably a little bit right. I admit that I found myself caressing the top of my laptop a bit too lovingly last night.

So besides the computer incident, I also got an email this week from Boy #3’s teacher saying that he’d had to stay in for recess because he’d spit out his food at another boy at lunch.

Is that wrong?

What is it with the third kid? Honestly, Boy #1 was perfect in kindergarten. He didn’t break a rule and just sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap. Boy #3’s already gotten in trouble for cutting his shoelace off during math and now spitting his chicken at a kid. This should’ve really been the other way around. Six years ago I had much more energy, and only two kids. I would’ve felt more like dealing with naughty behavior (or at least felt able to). Now I’m creeping closer to 40 with three kids. I’m plum wore out. It would be nice if Boy #3 could have a little mercy on me.

But it’s October, and I’m starting fresh. Today is the first day of the rest of my life! (Or, at least the rest of the month.)

This month will be different. I will gain control of my house. I will gain control of my kids. I will make changes.

And I already started. As of today we have one less pet. This morning, I cleaned Fluffy’s cage, loaded him up cage and all, and took him to the Animal Rescue League. I finally gave up our bird!

This wasn’t easy, obviously, since I’ve been thinking about it since Boy #2 was born 8 years ago. We love Fluffy, but he’s just not happy. He always seems stressed and then screeches this ear-piercing tweet that lasts for hours. And then when we got Teddy, things got worse. Anytime you’d come within a foot of Fluffy, Teddy would sense it and try to attack the poor bird. I’m surprised his little heart hasn’t given out. And no one wanted to take care of him. I can’t imagine why; scraping bird poop out of a food dish is so refreshing! So I was the one to do it, and it wasn’t often enough. I knew if we wanted to sell our house, like we do, we had to simplify.

And that meant giving up the bird.

Our ARL is extremely nice, so I felt good about taking him there. That is, until I walked in and had to wait for this couple who were trying to get their dogs back. Apparently they’d been taken away, and the couple had to pay $130 each in fees before they could reclaim them. The girl was quite possibly pregnant, or maybe just had an unfortunate beer belly, and the guy looked like he’d lost one too many brain cells to a can of Natural Light. Not the brightest bulbs. So imagine my surprise when Mr. Dim Bulb turned to me and asked, “Are you just givin’ that bird away?”

Yeah, my mouth just kind of hung open.

The man continued, “Cuz if you’re just givin’ it away, I’ll take it.”

“Uh…” I stammered, wanting to scream, “Over my dead body, you deadbeat!” Fortunately, the nice woman at the ARL kindly informed him that if he couldn’t afford to reclaim his own pets, he really wasn’t in a position to take home another pet.

I didn’t trust him, though. He kept eyeing Fluffy, and at one point even offered to “help” the ARL: “I can carry his cage back for ya, if ya want,” he told the ARL worker.

Fortunately, again, she was on to his schemes. “No, I’ve got it,” she told him as she  carried Fluffy to safety.

When she came back and I’d signed the paperwork, I asked, in front of the couple, “So, do you screen people before you let them adopt the pets?” And she informed me that yes, they do have qualifications. “Not just anyone can take care of a bird,” she told me.

I don’t think Mr. Dim Bulb agreed. I’m sure he thought he could just take him home and throw a worm in his cage. I feel really bad for the one dog the couple could afford to buy back and secretly hope that they don’t come up with the money for the other one. Maybe it can get adopted to people who aren’t idiots.

Oh, did I mention that the couple started feeling each other up as we were standing there too? But how can I blame them. There is something very sexy about being in an animal shelter, wooed by the frantic barking of dogs. Especially when you’re there to explain that you can’t afford to pay for your own dogs’ fees, who were neglected in the first place. And you look like you haven’t showered in a week. Makes me wanna make out with my honey just thinking about it!

I’m going to initiate a list of places where it’s NOT okay to make out:

  1. animal shelter
  2. dentist’s office
  3. grocery store

These are all based on actual makeout sessions I have witnessed. My list of ones I’ve yet to witness (and hope never to) would obviously be much longer. I’ll work on that in my spare time.

So now I’m going to sweep up the dried bird poop and feathers that are on the floor where our cage used to be, and then I’m going to see how long it takes for the family to notice that Fluffy is gone. Anyone in a betting mood?

So with one animal down (and hopefully one to go, if I can ever get up enough nerve), I am working toward control of my household. Next on the list is cleaning and organizing. Which I should be doing now. Instead of being on the computer…

I need you all to hold me to this. I want to be able to report changes by Halloween!

And now I’m off to scrub poop off a Star Wars ship. (If only I were kidding…)

Photo from micahelaw

Young Love: The Dichotomy Between Kindergarten and Middle School

Having a 7th grader on one end of the spectrum and a kindergartner on the other provides for some interesting insights.

Take love, for example.

On one hand, I have an almost-teenager who has to log on to Facebook numerous times a day just to keep up with his ever-changing “relationship status.” (I try to keep a straight face.) This wouldn’t make me quite so leery if it weren’t for the “dating” habits of today’s youth.

A few weeks ago a woman “in the know” blew my happy-to-be-naive-thank-you mind when she initiated a frank conversation with Boy #1 and me. The topic? Sexting, and girls sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to boys they like. She said it’s happening right now IN HIS SCHOOL. These are SIXTH and SEVENTH graders, people.

Sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Oh, and she also mentioned that boys in our city have been charged with trafficking of a minor for forwarding said photos to their friends.

What happened to class rings and letter jackets?! Sock hops, anyone? Those could become cool again, right? Right?!

I’m so not ready for this.

So while one day I’m reading Boy #1’s sent text messages for evidence of “foul play,” the next day I’m having conversations like this one with Boy #3.

Boy #3: Mom, I have a girlfriend.

Me: You do?

Boy #3: Yeah, but she doesn’t know I’m her girlfriend.

Me: (Holding in my giggles) That’s okay. She doesn’t need to know.

Me again: So why do you like her?

Me once again: (Because I am apparently the shallowest person alive) Is she cute?

Boy #3: (Looking at me like has no idea what I’m smokin’) No.

Me: (Trying to recover from being the shallowest person alive) Why do you like her then?

Boy #3: Because — I like the way she draws.

And right then a 6-year-old put me in my place, without even trying to.

Now, if I could just magically transform the middle school dating scene to be so innocent. But I’m pretty sure that would require hormone manipulation, and I didn’t take that class in college. I don’t think “British Literature and Art in the 1890s” is gonna be much help here, either.

I can only hope and pray that this philosophy on love comes full circle and someday when Boy #1 is thinking about who he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he remembers his little brother’s standards.

And that Boy #3 remembers his own standards when HE is 12-going-on-35.

Yeah, right…

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The Puzzling Logic of a Tween

I’ve told my 12-year-old that he can call me at work — if it’s important.

Well, apparently I should’ve been more specific, because this is one of the calls I got this week:

“Mom, will you look at this hat online real quick? It’s really cool and it’s on sale!”

(Um, no.)

This along with various other calls inquiring when I’m getting home, if I’ve left yet to come home, and—again—when I’m getting home.

However, the other day I was driving home when I noticed that I had a text. From the same son who’d called me repeatedly about various trivialities. So I casually picked up the phone (when I came to a stop, of course) and read the text. Here’s what I saw:

“Mom, the vacuum cought on fire.”

(Yes, I kept his spelling intact despite my editorial urges to fix it.)

Really? A marked-down skater hat ranks an interrupting phone call, but a fire involving a household appliance only warrants a text?!

As you can imagine, I nearly drove off the road calling him back to see if the house was burning down (considering the text had been sent a half hour before I saw it). Fortunately, it wasn’t a FIRE as much as it was a yucky smell coming from the vacuum, presumably caused by my dear son sucking up a wad of paper towels. (He “didn’t see them.”)

So, this story has somewhat of a happy ending (although I can’t vacuum now until I get to the store to purchase a new belt). But, can someone tell me how this is logical in the mind of a middle-schooler? Ugh.

_________

Image by mrceviz

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A Tale of a Boy Mom—The Stowaway

This is something that would only happen to a mom of boys…

I was leaving work a few days ago and was walking around the back of my van in the parking ramp when I spotted this:

If you don’t know what it is, then you obviously don’t have boys between the ages of 5 and 14. And that’s okay. Allow me to explain.

It’s called a Bakugan. You’ve probably seen them overtaking the toy aisles at Target. I’m still trying to figure out how exactly they work, but basically they are balls that have a magnet on them. There are magnetic collector cards that you can use with them. If you place a Bakugan ball on a magnetic card, the ball “transforms” into a creature. It kind of pops open and then can go to battle for you. I really don’t get that part. It involves adding up g-power points and some other rules that don’t make sense to this estrogen-laden brain. Oh, and you have to yell, “Bakugan brawl!” I do know that part. I only hear it about 750 times a day. But I’m getting off topic. It really doesn’t matter that you understand the intricacies of a Bakugan battle brawl. My point is…

…a Bakugan rode 10 miles with me and then hung out on my minivan the entire 7+ hours I was at work.

Here were my thoughts after I climbed into the van with my hitchhiker, which I allowed to ride inside on the way home. Because I’m nice like that. (And possibly because I didn’t want the other downtown commuters to point and snicker when I drove by.)

  1. Damn, that is one strong magnet!
  2. Ooh, I wonder how many people walked past my minivan in the ramp and thought, “What the hell?”
  3. *Sigh* My “boy mom” identity follows me wherever I go. Even if it has to cling for life on the back of my vehicle.

Any other moms (or dads) out there relate?

Or is it just me?

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