The Big Yellow Bus Cometh

School Supplies. Or maybe I’m stocking school pantries…

School starts next week for my littles. Turbo will be in third grade and Lunchbox is going into Kindergarten. They’re starting at a brand new school, since we moved last year… and they’re both weirdly fine with the entire thing. I keep checking in, probably inspiring anxiety where there is none (because seriously — these are MY kids, right??) But they’re rolling with it and taking it all in stride. It’s unsettling. There’s nothing for me to DO… (except buy ALL the school supplies. 20 glue sticks for two kids? Sure, that makes sense…)

This summer my kiddos have changed. I guess they do that every year — hell, they do it every day, don’t they? But this year Turbo has become calmer, easier to talk with. He’s insightful and smart, and I’m starting to get this glimmering idea that maybe we’ve done some things right.

But he’s changing in other ways, too. He’s also embarrassed when I hug him in front of people, and won’t kiss me if anyone is looking. Still though, in the car in the morning when I drop him off for camp, he’ll look at me as I hug him, and whisper “I love you more.” And there’s something in that look — a longing, an understanding — something that tells me he knows what’s happening, just like I do. Something that tells me we both feel him growing up, growing away. And even if he might not be able to talk about it with me in the terms that I might use, I know he senses that maybe it is something to be mourned, just a little bit. There’s a knowledge in his expression at those moments that breaks my heart a little as I hear my own mom’s voice in my head telling me that I should never wish away their childhoods. “The days last forever, but the years fly by.” And when I hug Turbo as tight as he’ll let me, I look into his eyes to see that knowledge, hoping he’ll see the knowledge I carry now — that I know our time is short. That I know he has to move away from me and become independent. That it breaks my heart a little every day, but that I want him to do it because I can’t imagine anything greater than having created a kid who has the confidence and faith in himself to step away. I just don’t know if I’m ready for it to happen in third grade.

Lunchbox veers wildly between sweet huggable little boy and raging delirious madman. He wants to be held and hugged in a way that Turbo never really did, but he’s also indignant whenever the word “baby” slips out of anyone’s mouth, lest it might be aimed at him. He is quiet in company and ludicrously crass and vulgar — and hilarious — at home. If I have worries about him, they center mostly on his reluctance to let his personality show to those who don’t get to know him well. He has spent the whole summer at camp, and just this week as I dropped him off, one of the counselors asked over his head, “Is he always quiet? He never talks.” I wondered silently if it might be because she was one of those grownups who talked about kids like they weren’t standing RIGHT THERE. I’ve gotten variations on that question a lot, usually with Lunchbox right there to hear it. To me, that’s a version of, “What’s wrong with him?” and I don’t like it at all. He’s cautious and you have to earn his trust. And I just hope that his kindergarten teacher will not be one of those grownups who wants to ask me what’s wrong with him instead of asking HIM what his hopes and desires are for his first year of “real” school.

I guess I’m finally realizing that this whole parenting thing is so much more than I’d ever imagined. I’d thought about family, about having kids. I’d thought about it like a photograph — me standing there with the Major and our offspring. And we’d look happy, and it would just be. I never knew that having children is life eviscerating you, hauling your insides out to be examined and then you slowly figuring out how to put it all back in, but never being able to fit it all back quite right. I never knew I’d be completely undone by a two-year-old Turbo refusing to nap, me standing outside his bedroom door, holding it shut and screaming, “I was the marketing director of a public company!!” Like he cared. Like in the face of his refusal to comply with my rational demands, my past success might make a damned bit of difference. I never knew that I had a wolf inside me who wanted to rip apart the clueless jerk at Walmart who looked at my sweet tiny Lunchbox (who had to wear a helmet as a baby to shape his head) and asked “What’s wrong with your baby?” I never knew that having a kid catapults you into a completely different plane of existence, but it does. And sometimes I get to visit that place I used to live, that other world where different types of things seemed to matter a lot. But what I’m starting to see now, eight years into this journey, is that I’m happy where I am, in this alternate universe called “parenthood.”

Every day I try to remember to hug my little summer-brown boys as tight as they’ll let me. I try to remember to snuggle with them and to lay down on the floor and let them climb on me. I tell myself to take the time… because there are ghosts of the future wandering my house now. And I see one of them standing outside Turbo’s room — not begging him to stay in and sleep, but begging him to come out and just…be with me a bit longer. I want to hold them as tight as I can, all the while knowing I have to let go soon.



Vacation Grown-up Style

Howdy y’all! (that’s what folks say around here. We’re mid-Atlantic, but there are plenty of those crazy not-to-be-mentioned flags flying about up this way…) That’s a whole other topic.

The topic today is controversial, at least if you’re a parent: Vacation.

As far as I can tell, there are two types of these: The with-kids and the without. At the risk of being pegged with rotten vegetables and called a bad mom, I will tell you that I am a huge proponent of the latter. At least while kids are of the not-yet-ten-years-old variety.

We have lots of friends who have taken kids on vacation, and they have lots of great things to say. These great things usually include:

“We didn’t see them the whole time!”

“They were totally taken care of, completely entertained.”

“They did their own thing. Fantastic.”

Is it only me that starts to wonder why you’d want your kids with you on vacation if you don’t see them the whole time? There are lots and lots of all-inclusive family resorts and cruise lines that offer kids’ clubs and activities designed to relieve you of your parenting burden so that you can enjoy your trip in the relative peace that comes with lack of responsibility for tiny people. But if your goal is to NOT see your kids the whole time you’re on vacation–or even MOST of the time–then why on Earth would you take them along?

This is not a popular opinion, but here it is. I don’t think kids are equipped to really enjoy travel until they are past the whiny self-centered, food-driven ego stages that generally occur before they are about ten years old. I can really only go by my own spawn, and by stories related by others…but my kids would have just as much fun staying home and going to the pool with us for a few hours as they would staying in a hotel or tiny stateroom on a cruise and doing exactly the same thing. My kids don’t remember details. Like, at all. So taking them anywhere to do anything like “sightseeing” would be silly. If we took them on a cruise, I would bet money that they would be unable to tell you which ocean we sailed upon at the end of the trip, or recount what color the water was. And there is little chance that I’m going to be paying to tote them off to a cash-fueled Disney-themed week of Princess and castle-inspired kid crack-fest when all they’re likely to remember is that they didn’t like the funnel cakes and couldn’t find a good straw at the restaurant.

It comes from my upbringing and innate selfishness, I guess. My parents left us routinely when we were kids, for two weeks at a time. They flew off to exotic island destinations, just the two of them, and came back tan and smiling at each other in a way that I really didn’t understand. They did this every year that I can remember, leaving my brother and I with babysitters and relatives and whoever they could shanghai into watching us. (though, of course, we were ANGELS).

When I was a kid, it pissed me off. I didn’t like being left, and my Grandma was super overprotective. But now that I’m a mom, I think I understand. And my parents were frank with me, telling me that having time alone together was critical to our family, whether I knew it or not.

There was a time when I asserted to my dad that I was the MOST important thing in his life–my brother too, of course. And he told me I was wrong with no apologies. “Your mother,” he said. “Is the most important person in my life. You and your brother are number two.” Man, that pissed me off.

But now I see that taking time away from your kids–however you can do it–is absolutely critical to a marriage. You chose each other, long before children were involved. And if you can’t remember why…well, then you’re lost.

The Major and I took five days away this summer. And it was the first time in about eight years that I got to just sit next to him and laugh at a silly joke. It was the first time in eight years that I got to read a book start to finish without an interruption, without a priority making me feel guilty about it. And it was the first time in eight years that I looked over at the guy I married and remembered WHY. If the kids had been there, even if they’d been shuttled off to some all-day distraction, I wouldn’t have been relaxed enough to be able to enjoy any of that, or to enjoy the freedom of having space and time to ourselves. To just BE together.

My parents did eventually take us on their trips. We went to lots of islands, learned to scuba dive, and to appreciate less-than-luxurious accommodations in luxurious locales (my parents were both school teachers). But the important thing, I think, was that I never expected that they would take us. It was a privilege — one we accepted and earned eagerly after so many years of wishing we could go. And even as a twelve-year-old on my first vacation (to Maui), I knew that what I was experiencing was something special. Because I hadn’t been dragged along on countless trips that I couldn’t possibly appreciate. All those solo vacations they took were actually great for me, and undoubtedly great for my parents. For me, they created a sense of gratitude. For them, they helped solidify a strong foundation that has them still married after almost 50 years.

I’m not big on parenting advice, but I’ll offer this: Go away without your kids. Once. And don’t call home. Take the time to remember who you are at the basic level, who you were when you fell in love. Take the time to recall what your marriage is about… because if it’s all about your kids? One day you’ll wake up and find that you’re lost.

Updates and Heavy Things

Hello there. Remember me? I’ve been trapped under something heavy, and that has kept me from posting. Use your imagination. Let me know what you come up with and we’ll go with that. Better than just admitting that sometimes when I juggle I drop things. (I’m why we don’t have nice things…)

Anyway, so here I am. The kids are excited about school coming to a close for the summer, so things are a little amped up out this way. As far as general life updates, the Major and I bought a house in December, so there’s been a lot of stuff to do. It was nice renting for a while, but we’re happy to get to do what we want again. I guess this also means that we’re staying for a while, even though we are three thousand miles from home. I’d always expected that we’d get back West at some point…it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t. That’s where we live, after all. Okay, maybe not really, but I think somewhere in me I’ll always be a Californian. Once we bought a house here, though, I guess I feel like we settled. In every definition of that word. I also switched jobs — kind of. I am doing exactly the same work, just for the government instead of as a contractor. It makes things a little simpler.

We moved in December, but it was important to me to keep the kids at the same school. Turbo had a lot of adjusting to do in Kindergarten and First Grade, and this year had really been shaping up to be his first truly successful year, thanks to his amazing teacher. There was no way in hell I was going to pull him out of that class and drop him into a totally new school. So it’s been long days of driving the kids to the busstop and returning to the stop in the old ‘hood to pick them up. My schedule is completely dictated by the bus… the good thing is that I get to see all my friends in the hood. The new hood hasn’t been as social, and I miss the joy of wandering into a neighbor’s house for a glass of wine when the kids get home.

I’m not really sure the kids get that once school is out they don’t really get a break. They have to go straight to summer camp… Sometimes I feel guilty that they spend such long hours in various establishments, away from me, away from home. But then I spend a long afternoon with them, and they wrestle and fight and generally rip the new house apart, and I feel more okay about it.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I’m an undercover romance novelist, right? Well, tomorrow is a big day. I have a two book launch, and I’m pretty jazzed about it. I’m even doing jazz hands. you just can’t see because of the things and the stuff and the webitrons. But I am. And they. are. fabulous. Anyway, the books are based on the time I lived in NYC in my twenties. They’re all about friends and dating and generally running around and figuring stuff out, and they’re pretty funny, too. What’s that you say? You want to go buy ALL the books and be super duper supportive? Well, that’s very kind. Here’s where you can find them!



Happy reading… and I promise, I’ll be back around a bit more often.

The Revenge Poop

There’s been a lot of inappropriate bathrooming going on around our house lately… and it reminds me that this is really something we’ve been dealing with for as long as I’ve had kids. Please tell me I’m not alone in this.

When Turbo was just a tiny bean, wearing footy pajamas and a sleep sack (one of those cool suits that is like a sleeping bag at the bottom and zips up and has little armholes at the top… oh hell, THIS: leon_minky_yellow_100

Anyway, when Turbo used to sleep in those, there came a point where I’d go in, expecting to find him peacefully napping. And instead, his crib would look like a scene from a toddler horror film. He’d be sleeping peacefully, NAKED…surrounded by POOP! He would systematically remove his sleep sack, his clothing and his diaper, and then proceed to do God only knows what, resulting in the unmentionable scene I just mentioned above.

To solve this problem, we did several things, all of which he managed to Houdini through at some point:

– Duct tape the diaper on

– zip the feety pajamas up his back instead of up the front

– put the sleep sack on backwards

Anyway, Lunchbox never did any of that. And I thought we were safe.

I was wrong.

It was much later when it started, but now it’s Lunchbox who seems to have a strange sense of humor when it comes to things that belong in the potty.

A classic story around our house is the time when the Major was in a hurry and needed to take a quick shower and get out the door. Lunchbox enjoys a nice hot shower. And he likes to join the Major in there when he’s allowed to. This was not one of those days. That didn’t stop Lunchbox from stripping down to his chubby little butt and darting into the bathroom, only to be told no. He was none too pleased, let me assure you. First he cried, but then he got crafty.

The Major came out of his quick shower to find a naked Lunchbox striding confidently out of his closet, a smug look on his face.

“Why were you in my closet?” the Major asked.

“I pooped in your closet.” Simple. Straight to the point.

“No you didn’t. Tell me you did not. Poop. In. My. Closet.”

“I did, Daddy. I pooped in your closet.”

The Major poked his head inside and turned on the light. And there, strategically placed in the center of the floor was exactly what Lunchbox had told him he’d find.

Commotion and punishment ensued. But later, the Major confided that he felt a surge of pride. I was disgusted.

“Do you know how hard it is to poop on command like that?” the Major asked me. “That’s like performance pooping. I’m so proud.”

I continue to be disgusted.

This has been termed a “revenge poop.” And it was used several more times. Once in Turbo’s closet. I think the days of the revenge poop might be an an end, but now we are entering new territory: the pee of retribution.

Dark times ahead, folks. And lots of carpet cleaning.

Things I Never Thought I’d Say

As a mom of two boys, I have accepted that I will be the singular force acting in the name of cleanliness in our household. I know and accept that I will be the only person within our home who notices the crap on the floor, the crumbs on the couch, and the Lego brick that has been sitting on the stairs for the past three weeks. (I leave things like that there to see if someone … ANYONE else … might notice and pick it up.) I’ve come to terms with that.

And my response has been to let go quite a bit. I’m not nearly as anal as I once was. I don’t mop the floor every other day, or even weekly at this point. I insist on picking up clothes and books, but the playroom is pretty much an untamed wilderness that I will not attempt to navigate. It’s like little kid Las Vegas in there. What happens in the playroom … you know.

But you gotta draw the line somewhere, right?

This morning I entered the boys’ bathroom (mistake number one) to hang up a towel, and noticed yellow puddled stains on the lip of the tub and down the side. (I should note here that I knew immediately that it was urine, and that really didn’t phase me. Having little boys means that urine ends up in many near-potty locations, as it seems that boys and their parts get distracted pretty easily and cannot focus on getting things where they belong. I’m used to mopping up around the base of the toilet, and even on the walls in immediate proximity.) I called the small people in to look. And then I had one of those moments where I found myself saying something that I could never have predicted, when I was young, single and naive.

And it reminded me of all the other things I never thought I’d hear myself say. For your entertainment, I include a list of these here for you today (warning, it seems that much of our lives revolve around poop and nudity. If you’re easily offended, look elsewhere):


10. We ALWAYS wear pants at Red Robin!

9. Please don’t touch your weiner while we’re doing math.

8. No pooping in the bathtub!

7. Why is there poop on my Christmas hand towel?

6. We ALWAYS wear pants when we have company!

5. Did you poop in Daddy’s closet?

4. Why are you paying with Play-Doh naked?

3. Did you drink a whole bottle of maple syrup?

2. Good job wiping your own butt!

1. We don’t pee on furniture! (variations of this have included: …in the potted palm! …in the front yard! …in the neighbor’s planter! …into the bathtub! …on the rug!)