When mornings are hard…

“Gimme my sandwich back, man!”

Life has been crazy… and I haven’t been here, because maybe some of you know I’m over HERE… and at work. And doing that kid thing… Like all of you, right? There is always so much going on, and sometimes I am not the best version of me as a result. (I actually think I’ve yet to be the best version of me. Though the version of me after two Manhattans is delightful, if you want the truth…)


I hate it when I’m mean to my kiddos, or short with them, or just not patient. When they’re driving me nuts I TRY to take a deep breath and imagine my house without them in it. No, not like that — I mean I try to imagine what life will be like in about ten short years. When it’s just me and my husband. When there are no Nerf guns being fired at my desk, when no one is singing the JT song “I’ve got this feeling…” and changing all the words to be about his balls… (or are those the real words? I honestly don’t know. I’m so hip.) But I think about how a day will come soon when I’ll miss them SO much, and the quiet won’t feel like a gift, and they’ll be big and they won’t want or need me constantly…

And those are the days like today when I’m too busy, but when Lunchbox comes into my office wearing a random paper crown, excited ‘cuz he has a field trip at school, and says “we should look at polar bear pictures on the internet,” I pretend I TOTALLY have time to do that, and call Turbo in. And then we spend five minutes looking at those polar bear pictures, and I narrate what those bears must have been thinking as each photo was taken, and the boys laugh, and so do I… and I try SO hard to hug them tight and NOT to think about how much I’ll miss them when they’re not here with me to drive me nuts every day. 🙂

Do you know what I mean?

The Revenge Poop

IMG_0684This is a true story. It is not for the faint of heart. I give you this warning while there is still time to turn back to wherever it is you came from.

Still here? Well then, read on for a story about Lunchbox, his impressive bowel command, and the evolution of a sacred rule that stands in our household to this day…

Once upon a time, the Mr. and I were going to go on a date. It should be known that the Mr. is pretty much always late. On this particular night, I’d gotten myself ready to go, was undoubtedly looking spectacular, and dropped through his office at about five minutes to babysitter arrival time to find him still doing whatever it was he did in his office on the computer.

“Uh, five minutes till the sitter gets here,” I told him. This statement was followed immediately by the doorbell. “Make that, babysitter’s here,” I amended.

He cast a guilty glance my way and then tried for a charming smile before bolting upstairs promising to shower quickly.

What happened next was told to me later by the Mr., since I then had to hang out with the babysitter and make uncomfortable small talk while trying not to feel like my lipstick choice was being judged by a nineteen year old who was way cooler than I’d ever be.

UPSTAIRS… The Mr. strips down fast, aware that he’s already in the doghouse for being late. The shower is heating up, and Lunchbox strolls in, naked as the day he was born.

Mr.: “What are you doing?”
L: “Taking a shower with you.” (This was during the phase where LB LOVED getting in the shower no matter who was taking it… It was cute, but it took more time than a quick rinse when your wife was already pissed at you downstairs).
Mr.: “Not tonight, buddy. I gotta hurry. Mommy’s mad.”
L: *Frowns and tries to get in the shower anyway.*
Mr.: “Seriously, buddy. Not tonight.” *Gets in and closes door.*

Lunchbox scowls and marches away, buck naked and angry. Minutes later, the Mr. is coming back into the bedroom to get dressed, and finds Lunchbox exiting his closet.

Mr. “What were you doing in my closet?”
L: (looking extremely proud) “I pooped in your closet.”
Mr. “What? No. Tell me you didn’t just poop in my closet.”
L: (smiling) “I didn’t just poop in your closet.”
Mr. “Better not have.”

The Mr. goes into the closet and switches on the light. There, laid in a perfect line in the middle of the walk-in closet, is a hefty brown turd, all fresh and new.

L: …silence

There were some words had after that, and we had to do significant cleaning up before we could finally go to dinner. That said, the Mr. was pretty sure Lunchbox would not be doing that again.

Until he did. The next day he pooped in his brother’s closet because Turbo wouldn’t let him play with his new plastic sword. And the next night he stood up and peed on the living room rug when I told him it was time to get ready for bed.

Lunchbox is going to turn eight soon, and he doesn’t do this anymore. But no one in the house has forgotten the lurking threat of a good revenge poop. (And c’mon… you have to be impressed by anyone who can poop on command…)


It starts again…

Children portraitI know. It shouldn’t be a big deal. They go off to school every effing year around this time…

But things change, you know?

Two years ago, we sent Turbo off to third grade at a new school… and we watched him struggle. The funny thing was, he didn’t know he was struggling–or he did, but he pretended not to care, acted like he didn’t notice. His teacher figured out fairly fast that he was ‘active’–that he would be a distraction to other kids. She learned that he wanted to be funny, that he had a hard time controlling his impulses and that he often spoke when he shouldn’t. She found out fast that he liked to get up and move when he was supposed to sit still. She found out he didn’t really sit still. Ever. That wasn’t in his repertoire.

Turbo is social. And energetic. And funny.

But to her, Turbo was noisy. And distracting. And inappropriate.

And you know what? I get her point. He wasn’t the kid that teachers are relieved to see walk through their door. Instead, I know my kiddo was one of the ones the teachers warned each other about. From kindergarten through that hard third-grade year, I was on a first-name basis with the administration. I took a board-level position on the PTA at his first school to try to buy him a second chance in Kindergarten, for crap’s sake…he was going to be suspended. For teachers, and for me…he was a challenge.

He was a bright, shiny, energetic, little boy-shaped challenge. And some teachers don’t want a challenge. Every time I came to his third-grade classroom, Turbo was sitting alone. His desk was against a wall, or next to the teacher’s, even though I’d told her a few times I thought that exclusion was detrimental to his self-esteem. From grades K through 3, I had to listen to Turbo tell me he wasn’t smart, that he was a bad kid, that he couldn’t listen like the other kids did. He knew he was different…and so did we. But we didn’t know what to do.

For Turbo, being different like that made him mad. He spooled up quick if someone challenged him at school, and he always felt on the outside, so he was defensive. He was explosive at home, too. So we took him to a counselor to talk about anger.

And that led to a recommendation to have him “worked up.” I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something was, and that was why I took that recommendation. It wasn’t easy. It took six months to work through insurance and talk to lots of centers and doctors that didn’t do neuropsychological workups. I was told no such thing existed. I was told I’d been mis-referred. And then we found the right place. We drove two hours to get there, and Turbo spent a day playing games and taking little tests…

And after another three or four months, we’d gotten the results and gotten placed with a center locally that treated ADHD with behavioral therapy and medication. And that was at the beginning of fourth grade. And that year? It was a whole different experience. Maybe it was the diagnosis. Maybe it was the 504 plan. Maybe it was the medication… but Turbo did well. His teachers worked FOR him instead of ignoring him or trying to work around him. And he excelled. We ended last year with good grades and a kid who didn’t call himself bad anymore. We ended last year with a kid who understood that he has unique challenges, but that he also has a family and a support system willing to help him navigate those challenges.

We go into fifth grade prepared. And for the first time since beginning elementary school, Turbo told me that he’s excited to go back to school.

We spent some time with friends tonight–an end-of-summer BBQ. It was nice, and a great end to summer. And I watched my two little boys jumping with their friends on a trampoline, watched them being little and relatively innocent–watched them on the eve of their fifth and second-grade years… and I was profoundly grateful.

We have challenges. I know we’ll have more. But for now, I was grateful that we’d stood behind our little guy, we’d given him tools and help when he needed it. And that made him confident enough to look forward at the new year with hope instead of dread.

I hope that you’re able to sort through the challenges your small people bring home to you. We’ve got other challenges, too… Lunchbox is a whole other can of worms, I assure you. Parenting is hard. We haven’t figured it all out, and I don’t think we ever will. But I’m going to appreciate this small win. Today I have two kids eager to enter a new school year.

Sleep tight, kiddos… who knows what the year will hold?

BEST Easter Dinner (or any dinner, really…)

Oh HI there… sorry I have been… oh hell, no excuses. I have been distracted. And frankly a little down. And it’s hard to write about amazing inspiring things when I’m not feeling amazing and inspired.

I don’t want to get into all the crazy details of why life’s been more blue than turquoise for me lately. I think we all go through those phases, don’t we? I think it may be somewhat unique to my individual makeup that I constantly ask myself what my place in the world is meant to be. I thrive on accomplishment and achievement–I was the girl who always wanted the gold star and got made fun of for being teacher’s pet. And I haven’t had a lot of gold stars lately. I’ve had a lot of…well, a lot of what feels a lot like failure. And that’s hard for gold-star girl to handle.

But I’m trying not to quantify myself by the number of “things” I’ve racked up. I’m trying to quantify life by moments instead. Trying to pay more attention to the small wonderful details, the times between the events. I’m trying to measure my life based on the way my six-year-old glows and giggles when he reads a book by Sandra Boynton (oh how I love these books!) I’m trying to estimate the size of things based on the sheer joy I see on my eight-year-old’s face when he swims…by the smell of their little messy heads when they wake up in the morning, by the way they still fit curled up in my arms, by the eyes that still hold vulnerability and wonder and a fierce determination to become independent. I’m trying to remember what’s important.beef prime rib roast crusted with herbs

And that’s part of why I’m so excited to be spending Easter Sunday with my whole family together — at least my side. I’m going to meet my one-year-old niece for the first time! And my parents will get to see all three grandkids in one place for the first time… It’s just one day together, but I’m really looking forward to it.

And I’ll be honest. One part of my enthusiasm has to do with dinner. Since my brother has a newish baby in the house, I didn’t think they’d want to go crazy cooking just because we’re in town. So I suggested my newest favorite recipe–only for very special occasions. Prime Rib! I’m not the biggest red meat lover on the planet, but I am telling you, this recipe is so easy and the meat is literally the best meat of any kind I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. I made this at Christmas and my husband says he has dreams about that dinner.

So I ordered a prime rib to be sent to my brother’s house. (There are lots of places to get em online. We ordered from Kansas City Steaks (this is not an affiliate link!) And if you’re going to make it, you just need to allow lots of time for it to cook, but there’s almost NO work to do. Here’s the recipe I use at Food Network.


My Word for 2016: Simplify

Depositphotos_46522753_m-20152015 was a good year, both personally and professionally. (Remember I have two jobs, so it’s easy to find some kind of success to point to in at least one of them! I’ve also been in some form of sales long enough to be able to twist any little thing into something that could be considered a success… hee hee).

But here’s the thing:  I have some bad habits. Well, really I have plenty, but some of them I enjoy too much to get rid of this year, and some of them are just too fundamental to who I am as a person to really worry about. At least right now. So when I look around myself and inside myself and consider what I can make better in the next year, I come up with one thing that makes a lot of sense to me on lots of levels.

I just want to keep things simple. In my house, in my work, in my mind. I abhor clutter, but with two small boys and one big one–all of whom adore toys–I have a lot of it in my physical environment. There is only so much I can do about that, and learning to look past it sometimes has been the best way to handle it. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept clutter in other parts of my life. In my 42 years, I’ve figured out a couple things that relate to this. For one, when my house/office is cluttered, I’m grumpier. (I say grumpier because I think I’m moderately grumpy kind of all the time…) When my workspace is cluttered, my work is harder to accomplish. And when my mind is cluttered, nothing gets done at all.

I’ve got a few plans brewing to attack the physical and mental clutter in my life and allow a little more light into the dark corners that have been blocked by “stuff”:

  1. AT HOME: I’ve got a donation pickup scheduled for early January. We have old bikes and toys, clothes and things like dishes and towels that we don’t need, but that have been with us through more years and moves than I’m happy admitting. Time to cut back. How much stuff do we really need? I’m guessing a whole lot more than we have.
  2. IN MY BOOKS:  I went through a semi-crisis as a writer from October through early December. And part of it was that I think I had lost my voice, or my purpose as a fiction author. I’d begun pulling in all kinds of crazy subplots, trying to build out or bulk up my stories. And it wasn’t working, but I couldn’t identify what was wrong. I write romance. These are stories about PEOPLE. Not so much about three thousand other things. With some help and guidance from other writers whose input I respect and treasure, I think I’ve managed to find some clear space to begin again. And I literally have done just that. I had a complete book that I was revising, but it was getting nowhere. Except bigger. But these wise folks made me realize the best path was a clear one. And I started again, with a blank page on. The story I want to tell is finally evolving nicely, and I’ve finished about a third of it in just over a week, during the holidays with everything else going on. When the path is clear, I write quickly because I can see where I need to go.
  3. IN MY MIND:  I have a tendency to get wrapped around the axel. I focus on details, losing sight of the bigger things in my life. I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying if things are not “just so” — especially with the boys. And I forget to be thankful and happy that they are smart, handsome and healthy. I think this one grows from wanting to control everything. And after 40 plus years, I might actually be realizing that I just … can’t. And that’s okay. I’m going to try to let go a bit and enjoy what’s in front of me, not what I could potentially FORCE to appear in front of me.
  4. IN MY LIFE: Bigger picture stuff here. Day to day. Life is pretty good, and I need to spend more time appreciating that. I’d like to streamline my work, and find myself making a happy income doing what I love. But I’m willing to accept that, for now, that may not mean working 100% for myself as a writer. I once had a successful freelance career, where I made a legitimate and respectable income writing from home (before I wrote fiction at all). But it was a hustle, and it was stressful. And while that grass looks pretty green at the moment, there is something to be said for going to a job where I just do the work and come home. As “real jobs” go, mine is pretty good. So I’m going to strive to stop pulling against the invisible chains and just be. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still have goals that might one day see me writing full time for myself, but much of that is out of my control at the moment. (Reference #3 above). Relaxing and just living the life I have will give me more time to spend enjoying my boys while they’re little instead of wishing them away, or wishing them quieter so I could worry more about everything holding me back.

I always look at a new year as a chance to do better. I don’t really make resolutions. As a former personal trainer, I’m well aware that those things are temporary. To me, the word “resolution” is a lot like the word “diet” … maybe only in the way we use it, not in its true definition. With that in mind, I admit that I’m going to TRY to honor my word for the year — SIMPLIFY.

What’s your word?


Lunchbox Weighs In – Christmas Toy Review

We can’t let this whole toy review thing go without tiny Lunchbox getting a say, right? (And PS, Lunchbox isn’t tiny anymore… he’s six. I know, I can’t believe it either).

SO…drum roll please. The winning toy for a six year old boy? (At least THIS six-year old boy…) Was…

Not a toy at all. He is in LOVE with the Chomposaurus Dino Chair! Check this thing out… He literally carries it all over the house. He even tried to sleep in it on Xmas. The good thing is that it is lightweight, so having him haul it up and down the stairs has been, while not ideal, not a big problem, either. I’ll have to weigh in later on durability, but it’s been a big winner at our house! 🙂 chomp

Another big favorite was the Archiform building set. This thing can be reconstructed into a million configurations, and Lunchbox works on them while relaxing in his chompo-chair. We’ve put up and taken down several buildings since Xmas. My only complaint is that disassembly isn’t super easy, and the little tab in slot attachments have a tendency to snap if they are pulled too hard. That said, I think this will last us a while — good solid wood construction and big sturdy pieces for little hands. archiform

Another winner this year was the Bloco Toys Aqua and Pyro Dragon set. This was a construction project more than a toy, but it was exactly the right speed for Lunchbox. He needed some help, but he could put a lot of it together himself, which was great. bloco

I’m not gonna lie — both guys got a lot of stuff… but I’ll just talk about one more thing here. Lunchbox is a puzzling little character. And he likes puzzles. (so do I, so I’m always excited when there’s a new one to be done…) This year, he got the Janod Fireman Observation Puzzle. It was exactly the right speed for him, and it was extra cool because it was round. And, best of all, once it was assembled, it was a hidden picture puzzle! All the pictures appear around the edges of the puzzle and you have to find them in the middle once you’re done. Super fun! puzzle

I’ll add that I realize my boys are spoiled. The Major and I honestly don’t get them gifts… We usually will wrap up a couple things — never toys. This year we got them each a pair of winter shoes and a money bank… Not too exciting. We are blessed to have a big family that chooses to send gifts, and the little guys are learning to be grateful for what they have (though that is a hard lesson to teach… tips???)

I’ll leave off here… with a promise that I have rectified the over-green guestroom situation…  And a wish that all of your holidays were merry and bright!

Turbo’s Post-Christmas Toy Review

We have Christmased. Christmasted? There is no way to actually write that out. But I say it. It is done. We did it.

The gifts have been opened, and we’ve had three days of solid user testing–under harsh conditions, mind you–to report on.

Choosing toys for boys has always been both fun and challenging. I never know what to recommend to relatives to buy, because this stuff is all new to me. Not many of the toys available now were around when my brother and I were little, so it’s not like I have hands-on experience with stuff. And my guys aren’t quite big enough to come home from playdates with enough information about something they liked to actually ask for it.

So this year, every toy catalog that came home from October to December went straight into their hands. Armed with a pen, they circled and initialed everything that looked interesting to them. And then, in early December, I edited, creating a Pinterest board for each of them, and sent our army of relatives there to shop. It worked out pretty well, actually, even if it was a little labor intensive on my end.

I thought it might be helpful to offer up the end results — toy reviews from my little guys, who are pretty rough on toys. Today you get Turbo’s insights. Tomorrow, Lunchbox.

Best Xmas toy this year:
the Perplexus Original. perplexusTurbo is eight years old, and although this was sat upon and dented within twenty-four hours of being in his possession, it also kept his attention for long periods of time at a stretch, and he continues to pick it up and fiddle with it three days later. (Maybe this doesn’t seem impressive to you — maybe you have a different kind of eight year old boy than I do!)

Of course, we got lots of other cool stuff, too. This year Turbo wanted mostly things he could “work on” or do, which I’m all for. Except that Turbo wanted to do ALL the projects IMMEDIATELY. And needed help with most of them. So now we have many open boxes and pieces and parts scattered around. That’s a whole other issue, and not the fault of the toys.


This project, with the Major’s help, was completed right away:  The Smithsonian Motor-Works engine kit.

smithsonian motor worksI’m not exactly engine-savvy myself, but it was pretty cool.

He also received this: The Remote-Control Machines Animal Science Kit. remote control machinesI got to help with this one, and I have to tell you — the frustration level for the adult involved was pretty high. I’m a LEGO veteran, so even with that experience under my belt I found the instructions a little vague. That said, Turbo got up and danced around when we finally got our T-Rex’s legs put on correctly and he walked forward when Turbo pushed the button on the remote control. This one makes several animals (turns out the T-Rex is the hardest, of course), so I’m sure I have hours more fun ahead of me. 🙂

And then there was the Physics Workshop Kit. physics workshopI have honestly not gotten into this one at all, but Turbo had a little engine built all by himself in a matter of an hour or so, so I’m going to venture that the instructions are pretty good, even if you’re eight!