Friday, September 23, 2011

Thank you for visiting

I hope you enjoy reading my stories, many of which were published in "Snakes, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tales." You can visit Boy to the World! or Coffee Talk for newer stories.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

(Crazy) hat day

Ten minutes before the bus was due to arrive, “Mommommom, it’s Crazy Hat Day today! What should I wear?”

“Oh, yeah…isn’t it just Hat Day? It doesn’t have to be a crazy hat, does it? Just wear one of your baseball hats.”

“Okay, uhmmm...well, do you know where my abc hat is?”

“Not offhand, honey, can you wear xyz hat?


"How about 123 hat?"


"Well, what about -- "

"No! It has to be my abc hat!"

Well...God help me...there are a few places we can check,” I smiled through clenched teeth. It was Friday of a hellish week as I was preparing to go out of town for business the following week and all that entails; it was also the end of the quarter and all that entails; and furthermore, just that morning I had been the lucky recipient of blue screen of death (computer) and black screen of death (iPhone) and all that entails (at that moment, I didn't even know what "all that entails" was -- and was imagining the worst). I didn’t think I could handle anything more outside of the scope of “normal.”

6 = number of places in the house searched, while muttering under breath
24 = number of baseball hats discovered
4 = number of hats tried on and discarded
9.75 = minutes to accomplish all this
0 = number of hats worn to school

“Where’s your hat, honey?” I sighed at my son as he came out the door. After handing him his abc hat, I had stomped out to the driveway to wait with the other kids for the bus.

“I don’t really feel like wearing a hat after all.”

“Well! ...breathe in....breathe better hustle your little self out here so you don’t miss the bus – it’s coming down the street right now!”

Monday, March 21, 2011

The TV in the Living Room

Two Christmases ago, Santa brought us a flat screen TV. It was a marvelous thing, and seemed to take up an entire wall. Of course, it didn’t, but it’s a small room, so the TV seemed larger than life. The TV we had in the living room at the time (as big as a coffee table) was relegated to the man cave, which really is a cave – our basement is unfinished: you can still see bark on the trees that comprise the ceiling beams, which may very well date back to the 1880s when the house was built. Currently the wii (that Santa brought the next Christmas) is hooked up to it, as well as an older cable box (no DVR).

It wasn’t long before our new TV was “damaged.” The Bigs were throwing Jenga blocks at each other and one hit the TV, leaving a colorful mark behind.

“He did it!” my middle son accused his older brother.

“I don’t care who did it. You were both throwing the blocks so I hold you equally responsible.”

Apparently they had been throwing their best pitches, because the TV was scarred. They had to look at a colored splotch every time they watched. The scar grew until it was a vertical line on the right side of the TV. Then several vertical lines, then horizontal lines as well, and finally, the TV became unwatchable. I removed it from the living room. (The Jenga game had long since been removed, though I did continue to unearth pieces from time to time.) These were the natural consequences of their actions; I did not feel I had to punish them any further.

We had not had a TV in our living room for more than two years. Besides the man cave, there’s a TV upstairs in my room (a cast off from someone who upgraded), again with an older cable box (I don’t even know how DVR works). Whenever we watch family movies, it’s upstairs, since I do not enjoy spending time in the man cave. Until now.

This weekend I went to the local cable office and picked up a new cable box (with DVR, the woman assured me if I could use a VCR – I don’t even have a VCR anymore, but I do remember how to use one – I could figure out the DVR). I hooked it up to an old, no-frills TV we had in the attic, that has no remote and won’t work with the cable remote, so you actually have to push a button on the TV to turn it on (imagine – I remember having to turn a knob, which was also the volume control).

Well, after two years of going without, my boys were thrilled. They did point out that the color was not the same as on our other TVs (“It’s, like, black and white, Mom…but-that’s-okay,” they were quick to assure me, lest they appear ungrateful. “Kids, this is not at all like black and white.”)

An added bonus is, that I had to move my furniture around and now there’s a couch blocking the double-wide doorway through which the boys used to race cars, play soccer, and run through before they took a flying leap onto the couch, ramming it into the wall: the configuration of the couches seems to keep everybody contained in that particular area.

Tonight we all ended up sitting together on the love seat watching The Laughing Show (America’s Funniest Home Videos) and The Regular Show.

Maybe someday we’ll get a flat-screen TV (and I told The Bigs it’s their job to figure out the DVR).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rich is a relative term

Here's a story from my book, Snakes, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tales.

“Mommommom! Pick a color!” My middle son thrust a cootie-catcher at me. I was folding laundry on the dining room table.


He studied the word momentarily and then spelled out, “O-R-A-N-G-E.” as he worked his fingers back and forth, opening the cootie catcher first one way and then the other, six times to correspond with the letters in the word “orange.”

“Pick a number.” He showed me the number choices inside the cootie catcher.


“One-two.” He moved the cootie catcher back and forth again.

“Okay, pick another number. This is your final number…” he said gravely, to underscore that I should choose wisely.


He lifted the flap where the number five was written so he could tell me my fortune. “You are rich,” he announced with a big smile.

“Ummmm…well…” and my mind wandered to my post-Christmas credit card bills and to the camp brochures that had arrived the previous week necessitating that I begin planning how to finance my summer childcare plans. And then to the oil delivery that was certainly imminent because it had been so cold this winter, save for that one week where we had a couple of 50-degree days. I lamented that my grocery budget seemed out of control and that every morning I counted out small coins (doing my best to limit the number of pennies because my oldest had informed me that nobody at school has time to count pennies) for milk money.

“…do you think we’re rich, honey?”

“Of course, Mom. You have alotta money!”

I smiled back at him and reflected with much gratitude that my boys don’t know what it’s like not to get relief from their hunger or cold, and that they weren’t yet too cool to eschew hand-me-downs. And that we had made it through the year that I coughed up one-third of my income for childcare – and all that entailed. That year there were times that I wondered why I bothered working at all, and cursed the powers-that-be that I could only claim $5K of that money as tax exempt – don’t “they” know that if I didn’t have childcare, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the economy at all?

“Hmmmm. ‘Alotta’ isn’t exactly a number, but it’s enough to get most of what we need and some of what we want…” I contemplated how one year rebuilding the front porch trumped our vacation plans, but the next year the trip to Disney and some white duct tape kept our bathroom on the deferred maintenance program.

The boys and I frequently talked about needs vs. wants. I remind them of one of my favorite sayings, “Happiness is not having everything you want, but wanting everything you have.”

“…so, if you think we’re rich, we are,” I confirmed.

People often say to me, “God bless you,” when they find out I have three sons. This usually occurs when they witness me herding them through the supermarket, church, or the airport when I flew them across the country to visit Grandma and back. I tell them, “He already has.” Richly.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Haikus for the homework challenged

My oldest has to write a poem for one of his classes and he has been telling me about this for what seems like weeks, and I think to myself, just do it already! but say to him, "Do you need my help?"

He says he does but then all he can tell me is it has to be at least two stanzas. I'm like, uh huh, but instead I suggest, "why not write two haikus?"

He didn't really like that idea. I said, "Well, write four then!"

"Mah-ahm! I just don't really want to write haikus..."

What is it against haikus? I remember one time about a year ago when my middle son had to write a haiku or two and he flipped out about it. He just couldn't bring himself to do it and tortured himself (and me) for days and when the final hour came, when he couldn't put it off anymore, I had to leave the room. I told him, "I'll be happy to help you when you quit yelling at me," and stalked away -- far, far away. He was being a wretch.

Later, when I returned, he was morose. As soon as he had an audience, he began his, "This-is-stupid-I'm-stupid-I-can't-do-this routine.

"Sure you can. Let me write a couple to get you started."

Homework can be hard
Only when you think it is
Attitude is key.

If you think you’re smart
Your vision becomes real and
“Smart” becomes your truth.

You are very smart
You must believe it is so
And you will succeed.

I don't think he was amused.

My oldest's poem is due on Tuesday, the same day he starts MCAS. Maybe I'll suggest my oldest write a limerick...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The choices we make (and the ones we don’t)

Last year's minor league summer team.
Dad was coach and youngest was bat boy.
 I was sitting alone -- cross legged on the floor in the “skybox” overlooking the gym in the high school with my forehead pressed against the Plexiglas for the second time this week.

Tonight was my middle son’s baseball evaluation (my oldest's was two nights ago.)

The custodian said to me, “You know, So-and-so is downstairs tonight, giving a talk…”

I said, “Oh, yeah, I read about that…”

“You’re welcome to go down, she’s in the theater right downstairs.”

“Oh, thanks, but I can’t. I want to watch my son bat,” even though “An Evening with So-and-so” was touted as a highlight of Women’s History Month featuring So-and-so – Host of her own travel series on the Travel Channel. As a strong woman of today, she will discuss her career, her travels, and the strong women who have inspired her in her success. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers following her presentation.

I actually had to watch my son bat. He kept looking up to make sure I was watching him, whenever he was waiting his turn at each of the stations.

“How did you do, honey?”
“Okay. I missed the first two pitches.”
“Yeah, I saw. But if you were in a baseball game, I bet would have got on base – you hit the third pretty well.”
“Pitching was when I was in really in my baseball zone. I felt like everyone around me was Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Becket.”
“Yeah, I saw that, too. Well, good – I’m so happy it’s baseball season!”
"Me, too, Mom."

Though, I didn’t know how I was going to juggle three teams (majors, minors, and tee-ball). I had hoped that my older two could be on the same team, but that would mean once again, my middle son would have to play up. He’s 9 and even though a few of his classmates, at age 10, were eligible to try out for the next level, most of the other players are 11 and 12. Would that be the right thing to do for my convenience? He had already played on three teams (last spring and summer) at the minor level…though, maybe it would be better for The Bigs to be on separate teams, with separate friends, and separate identities (and not competing against each other for the coveted pitching spot). I had hoped that we could have at least one of the same coaches from last year (if the boys were on the same team) and both coaches (if they were not), until I found out that one of my sons’ friend’s dad was coaching... Too much orchestrating! I talked with both boys tonight and we decided that whatever happens, happens, and we’ll be alright with it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Peer pressure and the need to fit in

My youngest asked me tonight to do his hair in a “faux-hawk” (he had wanted to get a mohawk the last time we went to the salon but I convinced him that if he didn’t have the sides shaved, then he’d have a choice about how he wears his hair.) We have some super-stiff hair gel that “makes hair obey” and his hair will look pretty much the same tomorrow morning as it did tonight when I tucked him in. He’s worn the faux-hawk on and off during the past month or so since he had his hair cut. He’s never mentioned anyone making fun of him. I don’t know if it’s because no one has or if he just hasn’t noticed.

However, if we back up five years, it’s another whole story. My youngest was just a baby and my oldest was in kindergarten, and my middle son was four years old, in preschool. It was “picture day” at school and we had begun talking about it at least a week in advance. The year before (when he was three) picture day was traumatic for my middle son. I am not sure why, but he just wasn’t okay with the individual picture (not only could I see in the final product that he’d been crying, but also all his teachers made a point of mentioning it). The sibling picture had been the best of the bunch, though.

That year there would be no sibling picture because even though my youngest would be there at the preschool/daycare center, my oldest would already be at school by the time the photo would be taken, and I didn’t want to do a sibling shot unless all the brothers could be in it together. So, I was trying to get Middle Son psyched up in advance, since he’d be on his own.

The night before we chose a cool “party” shirt and practiced doing Middle Son’s hair. What that meant was combing it, because he had an overgrown buzz cut and the front hung down in straight bangs across his forehead. He wanted me to comb it to the side, and that entailed hair spray to make it stay put, but he was disappointed because he didn’t have “the wet look.” So I got out my gel. When I went on and on about how handsome he looked, he wanted to carry the mirror around with him until bedtime.

The next morning he was let down because his hair was dry, so we rewet it (which cured the bed head, too…I really needed to cut the hair of my children who had any and had bought a clipper set to do so…but wanted to wait until after picture day in case I goofed up) and reapplied gel. Middle Son and I watched the photographer setting up that morning before he joined all the other kids in his class (all with dress shirts and combed hair). That evening he reported back to me that he did a good job on his picture – that he “wasn’t even shy.”

The by-product of picture day that Middle Son became very interested in “doing” his hair. My oldest “got to stay home sick” the next day, so while we were at the pharmacy getting medicine, we bought Middle Son some special hair gel as a consolation prize. I think it actually said “hair glue” on the label. Middle Son was very excited about using it the next day and decided he wanted me to help him spike his hair like the dude on the package. I told him, “Sure, honey, that will look really cool!” And it did. He looked so cute (though I did not say that word to him), and a good deal more like Dennis the Menace than usual.

We got to school and everyone we passed on the way in told Middle Son they liked his hair…the director, some of the moms and dads, and all of his older brother’s classmates. Then we went to drop Middle Son off at his class, and…some of his friends laughed at him. Several of them were crowding him, wanting to touch his hair. Not wanting his “do” to get mussed, he wound up backed into a corner. He got upset and kicked over the block tower his friends were making and stomped back over to a table, voluntarily putting himself in time out, folding his arms in an exaggerated sulk. I had been standing with my youngest, talking to one of the teachers, and excused myself mid-conversation. I pulled up one of the pint-sized chairs right next to Middle Son, switching my youngest to my far knee when he, too, began grabbing at Middle Son’s spiky hair. I told him his friends were just jealous because he was so cool, that he had hair long enough to spike. No dice. Still fuming.

The teacher followed shortly after. She told him that the only thing that mattered was that he liked his hair. Scowling and hmmphing, he said that he did, he just didn’t want his friends to laugh at him.

I piped in and reminded him that God made him special and unique, and that God makes people in all colors, shapes, and sizes. I never want Middle Son (or any of the boys) to squash his individuality so he can be just like his friends (though I know from personal experience how easy it is to do that and even though it seems like each generation is more “enlightened” than the past, is wanting to fit in ever going to change?). This is why I let him wear his cowboy boots with any outfit he chose – even shorts, wear his Incredible Hulk costume to our first day at our new church, and wear his rocket-ship pajamas all day on his older brother’s birthday, even when all his older brother’s friends were there for the party. They didn’t laugh at him – perhaps six-year-olds had already been introduced to the concept of diversity.

Middle Son did wear his hair spiked again the next day, despite telling me that he hated his friends “ ’cause they laughted at me!” (adding that syllable that he always did to verbs in the past tense). I hoped and prayed that he continued to feel secure enough as a well-loved child of God to be himself as long as possible. But within a week, the do was done. He just wanted to fit in.