Friday, August 23, 2013

Beers in the Teacups

Bless me, reader, for I have sinned: it’s been seven (SEVEN!) months since my last confession, lazy blogger that I am…but more on why later.
I officially became a new woman this year: not only did I enter a new decade, but perhaps even more significantly is that all my kids are – finally – at big school. That moment that I long awaited: on those dark days, I used to envision myself counting down on a Giant Calendar, like they show men doing in prison movies who are anticipating a parole date. My baby was finally heading off into the great, wide educational world. A whole new life that doesn't include you. Another cord has been cut.

As anyone who has been in that position knows, it can be met with a variety of mixed emotions: apprehension, excitement, relief, a tinge of sadness even. Our school hosts a ‘Tears in the Teacups’ morning for parents of kindergarten children, which I aptly renamed ‘Beers in the Teacups’. For me, it was mostly a celebration: I felt like it was as much my milestone as it was my five-year old’s. Most importantly, I knew he was well and truly READY. And, secondly, I had made it! I had survived my tenure as at SAHM, keeping everyone alive, clean-ish, fed and mostly dressed (myself included) without turning into a Stepford Wife. Although let the record note that the odd glass of cab sav never went astray during this era.

Remember when your kids were little and grandmotherly people would say, ‘These are the best years of your life! Enjoy them!’ You’d get that cock-eyed look that dogs do when they hear a high-pitched whistle, and have a sudden urge towards hara kiri: cold cups of coffee and play-dough sessions that take longer to clean up than your kids spent playing with it? And this is the best it gets? Cue tears (mine).

Then, you begin to encounter the people with school-age children. Sadistic buzz-kills, they were, who would smugly warn and say, ‘Oh! You think you’re busy now, just wait till they start school!’ Pffft, you’d think. This, from a woman whose children clearly wipe their own bums. How could I possibly get any busier, when at the moment, I can’t even manage a private moment to myself just to pee?

So on my fantasy would go: when they’re all at school, not only will I drink a coffee without cold milk clots forming a Pangea-shaped scummy layer on top BUT I will also have time to workout and achieve my Michelle Obama arms! Finish my novel! Save the endangered gray-handed night monkey! Clearly at some point during my tenure as a SAHM, I had swallowed the ‘When they’re all at school…’ Kool-Aid. Greedily. Like Don Draper with a Manhattan.

But now, six months in to my new phase of life – and no bicep improvement or completed manuscript to speak of – I realise that I may need to summons Mr Rouke and Tatoo to make some of those things come true. So I am just going to say it, like the buzz-killing, smug, all-at-school parent that I now am: I feel busier than ever. But let me explain.

Those ‘free’ hours between 9am and 3pm have given me time to ponder some of life’s great mysteries (including, ‘How does the earth manage to spin on its axis at double-time between the hours of 9am-3pm?’), as well as the luxury of having a private pee. But there is a trade-off (always is with parenting) for the days being filled with a relative peace: now, those after school hours from 3pm-9pm have taken on a frenzied pace that seems to require the mental energy, logistical planning and physical stamina that was at one time was only required for frantic Christmas eve present shopping. It’s a flurry of snacks, homework, sports, activities, cooking dinners, bathing rituals, heated ‘discussions’…and on and on it goes. In the good-old-days of being a SAHM, I at least knew that as demanding or uncooperative (or downright feral) as the kids may have been during the day, come 7:00, I was on the home stretch. And because they couldn’t yet tell the time, you could pull off the odd sixer for bedtime. Now some nights we’re just sitting down for dinner at the former bedtime, in complete violation of the toddler-preschooler timetable that seemingly dictates your life for soooo long. Only now am I beginning to realise how relatively short that time truly was.

And since I’m already beginning to get sentimental about something that ended five minutes ago, that brings me to my aforementioned confession: this is my final blog for Three Under 3.

Now excuse me while I go finish my coffee. While it’s still hot…Imagine!

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Year's Resolutions I Can Live With

Two weeks into the New Year is usually when - personally speaking - my resolutions start to go pear-shaped. Shame, because that’s considered the halfway point of habit forming: some research indicates that it take 30 days to form a new habit (although that time might be much shorter for, say, heroin addicts).

I’ve given up reading January magazines: I can ‘just ten minutes a day’ myself into a whole day’s worth of self-improvement activities. I'm happy to report that Oprah’s advice on decluttering my closets, applying smoky eye shadow, five-day detoxing and walking my way to a J-Lo arse will forever remain a mystery to me.

This year, I’m lowering my expectations and picking what I know will work. But in the spirit of the new year, here is a look at all possibilities: the Will-Never-Do list; the Should-Do-But-Won’t list; and the Will-Do list.

Resolutions you will never see me having, or the Will Never Do list:
1. Read the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy – Don’t worry, I haven’t converted to Mormonism in a wave of Romney Fever. And this choice has nothing whatsoever to do with the sauciness factor. It’s because this woman not only ripped off someone else’s plot, but even the characters(!), and has made an absolute fortune. And I'll freely admit, I’m a bit bitter about that. Even the author’s pseudonym, ‘E.L. James’ is another version of P.D. James, the British mystery writer. Another score of zero for originality there. I guess initials look great on a dustjacket.

2. Give up sugar in my coffee – why is everyone so down on sugar in coffee? I don’t get it. I’m sticking with it, and to compensate for that, I’ll just blow my nose an extra two times each day to work off those whopping 22 calories and enjoy my coffee in peace.

3. Alcohol – Although this quote is frequently attributed to Homer Simpson and beer, it was actually Benjamin Franklin who said that wine ‘is a constant proof that God loves us, and wants us to see us happy.’ Nice to see that in between inventing bifocals and the odometer, he had time to ponder and enjoy life’s little pleasures. Well said, Benny-Boy. I like that whole ‘why French women don’t get fat’ approach, which back in the olden days, used to be called everything in moderation.

Should Do But Won’t:
1. Meditation – wouldn’t we all love to go Eat, Pray, Love style? But that woman has no kids. If I could claim 10-30 uninterrupted minutes to myself each day, I wouldn’t spend it chanting, I can tell you that much.

2. Give up my obsession with Hugh Jackman – Drover. Academy Awards Host. Wolverine. That guy from Le Miserables. Is there anything this man can’t do?

3. Continue my quest for Michelle Obama arms – unless I have someone willing to go all Gordon-Ramsey-bootcamp on me, screaming in my face bedside at 6 a.m., this is not gonna happen. I’ve accepted my inconsistency.

4. Read thought-provoking, Pulitzer-prize winning literature – like that of any modern gal, my life contains enough complicating events, decision making and frustrations. Therefore, I don’t want to read about characters’ emotional suffering, moral dilemmas or epic tragedies. Reading is for brain candy, not for intellectual stimulation. Now I’ve said it out loud.

5. Facebook detox – an unparalleled time-sucker and designed with procrastinators like me in mind, I should just stay away. But won’t.

While not wanting to set myself up for failure, this is my proposed Will Do list for 2013:
1. Floss – simple and important, but I don’t do it enough, and I don’t want cavemen teeth. Maybe someday I’ll spring for a tooth-whitening to compensate for my coffee and merlot, but for now, I can afford the $1.99 for floss.

2. Give my children additional, age-appropriate responsibilities – besides love, stability, education, etc, the three best gifts you can give your children are a happy marriage, trust in their own decision-making ability, and self-sufficiency. This is another step towards that last one, even when it’s sooo much easier to just do the little jobs for them. (This one also relates closely to #5)

3. No more ironing - admittedly, I’ve been doing this one for years, but putting it on a list makes me feel better.

4. Purge the bra and undies drawer - what, what, what is in there? I can barely get the drawer closed, and yet…I wear the same standbys again and again. Anything threadbare, tattered, ripped, wedgie-inducing (that includes YOU thongs/g-strings) or pre-Clinton administration is going, as are those bottoms classified as ‘period undies.’ Shapeware, you are safe, and will in fact, be worthy of your own drawer soon.

5. Reclaim some ‘me’ time – needs no further explanation.

So there you have it. Now, in the spirit of resolution #5, I’m pouring a coffee, drinking it while it’s still HOT, disappearing with my Kindle and not chanting…

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive

It has been a week since the Sandy Hook shootings, and like many, I still find myself reeling from the devastation that this has caused. It is a source of a river of pain that branches out infinitely, flowing endlessly and in every direction.

I have cried. I choked out the words to my husband while he was in the bathroom – dreading hearing myself say them out loud – picking that precise moment where we would (almost) be guaranteed privacy. I have cried at inopportune times. I have cried and then had to make up pithy excuses for my crying jag to my children. I have cried in sympathy for those parents, who realised that their children’s last moments were possibly spent in terror. And there was nothing they could have done, no ‘Life is Beautiful’ game they could have played to spare them from the terrible reality of what was about to happen. I have cried about the fierce maternal instinct of those teachers, some of who weren’t even mothers, but who defended their students like a mother bear would her cubs. I have cried thinking about the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles who will have to look at Christmas gifts they bought for their little angels.

I have managed to shelter my children from what has happened; I don’t know in America if I would have been lucky enough to have that choice, and my heart aches for those parents who would have liked to do the same for their young children, but weren’t able to: an event like this owns you and the general population, and it would be nearly impossible not to offer some explanation for the palpable sadness. It would be seen on faces of people in Dunkin Donuts, in line at the ATM, waiting for Santa photos.

Although everyone is devastated by this tragedy, when you live with a six-year-old kindergarten student, it makes it all the more real. My six-year old is the funniest person in the house, often without meaning to be. He asks questions like, ‘Do Scottish people wear pants now?’ He thinks Santa needs to get some Chinese elves, so that he can keep up with the demand for electronic goods. He thinks his snacks taste better from a blue bowl. His world is Lego, playing cowboys and getting lost in picture books. The joy of parenting reaches unseen heights when you have a six-year-old, when even they can finally laugh at the demands and frustrations of their own ancient history of toddlerhood. Adam Lanza was a six-year-old once.

While it is impossible to make sense of any of this, and questions emerge about the issues of mental health and gun control, I continue to be moved by the small and not-so-small acts of kindness that are emerging. These, too, flow out like a river, and may these acts of kindness continue until they reach the depth of the oceans. Mr Rogers tells us to ‘Always look for the helpers.’ This is God’s work, this is the Christmas spirit. Hug not just your babies tight this season, but everyone you can.

God Bless.

Dedicated to the families of Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hocksprung, Madeline F. Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Ann Marie Murphy, Emily Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There's pain, and then there's Lego pain...

Add caption
And tonight's punishment for those who misbehave will be:  Walk across this Lego forest.  Blindfolded.

Fun with Phonics

Clever 'sh' words for six year olds?
 This is an actual excerpt from Ted's phonics book.  The idea was to come up with as many words as possible starting with 'sh'.  One friend commented, 'Should we be worried when they get to the 'ck' page?'

Some people may find the teacher comment disturbing...Frankly, after a day with 28 kindergarteners, it's a wonder she can even hold a pen, much less read...

My mother would say this is karmic payback for my flagrant disregard fpr the rules of Scrabble: eg, no abbreviations, slang, foreign words...and of course, no swearing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Home with a sick child

Having had a bad run of sicknesses this winter (including some that I thought only occurred in Victorian novels: sweating, hallucinations/dreams, fevers, etc), I thought we were at the end of it all when spring in the the southern hemisphere finally arrived. 

But no.

Yet another bout came on Friday:
(Phone ringing)
Me: Hello?
School lady: Kelly? It's Judy.  Ned's just vomited all over the classroom floor. (Curtly) Can you come and get him please?
Me: Just after I finish my round of golf.  I'm on the back nine as we speak.

Anyone with a child in school knows that you under NO circumstances piss-off the lovely Admin ladies that keep the whole school ticking over.  If she says you're missing a sick note, you write one on your last check if you have to.  If she says come now, you come now, even if George Clooney has just bought a bottle of Cristal Rose for the two of you to share.  Luckily, I was close by, because vomiting + classroom full of students = evacuate the biohazard area ASAP and quarentine for the lucky vomiter.

I hope this is the end.  My weekend was spent washing sheet, towels, clothes, bodies and hands, OH! the hands.  My hands do not look like they've been soaking in Palmolive, but in lye. (Can you botox your hands?) The house is wiped out of disinfectant. Let's hope I've contained whatever this is.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Life With Ethel

Seven is the age of reason, as the saying goes, and as it turns out, with good reason:

‘In Medieval times, court apprenticeships began at 7; so too did apprenticeships at the time of the Guilds, and in English Common Law, children under 7 were not considered responsible for their behaviour. The Catholic Church offers first Communion at about age 7; it's also when formal schooling begins in most societies.’ (Brodkin)

I have to say, as a parent of a seven year old, it is a wonderful age. I have noticed a palpable shift in our relationship this year: it’s still mother-and-daughter, but I can see a little glint of true friendship sparking just beneath the surface.

Seven for many kids, in addition to being the age of reason, is also around the time that they really start to become aware of their talents. They start to realise that maybe they are crap at sports, but man, can they decoupage. Ok, they can only draw stick figures, but they can beat Grandma at checkers. Every time. What’s better: they start to become okay with that. Phew. What a milestone from a parenting perspective. (This is also why not everyone needs a trophy for every activity at the end of the season – it’s no longer developmentally appropriate – but that’s another topic entirely.)

I suppose most parents start to tune in to their child’s talents and abilities much sooner than the child himself actually does – hence, the age of reason. In my case, I was certainly aware of where Eva’s potential interests, or perhaps even talents, might lie: considering that her life has been ‘one big dramatic performance up to this point,’* I knew that channelling that into children’s theatre would be a good thing. And I’m happy to report that it has been. Eva’s most recent role (in addition to the daily performances she gives around here) has been the tortoise in ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. She’s got an outlet, I get to see the good side of this ability and it’s cheaper than therapy. We’re both happy.

But there is another, ahem, ‘talent’ that lends itself well to her inborn theatrical abilities, and that is Eva’s singing. Her love of singing didn’t come as any surprise, since she would sing whatever she could from a very young age, eg, ‘I’m puuuttttin’ on my UNNNdeeeeeeesss now, UNNNdeeeeeeeesss now…!’ She writes songs – not that she has any knowledge of writing music, but she’ll have a bank of lyrics ready for when she does. In fact, her singing has become so constant, I don’t know how she is able to contain her urge for the six-and-a-half hour school day. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in one long, plotless musical, the only escape from which is her bedtime.

I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of the genre of musical theatre either – in my experience, I just start to get into the story, just start to care about the characters and they lose me by bursting suddenly into song: I get it already, I feel your pain, you don’t need to supplement your current crisis with song. Really.

Most recently, (the gods clearly have a sense of humour) Eva’s singing has taken on this big-voiced Ethel Merman-esque quality. Every number has to be big, big, big. It’s like I’m trapped in a Cole Porter hell, although she does do a mean cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Rehab.’ Occasionally, mid-number, I ask Eva a question I have no interest in knowing the answer to, just to break her from her reverie. I’ve even had to introduce a few rules, like ‘No singing at the dinner table’. Sometimes, she drives her brothers crazy with the singing, and I have to be Switzerland, even though I, too want to scream, ‘Will you PLEASE just give the show tunes a freakin’ break already?!?!’

It’s funny, but as any parent will tell you, they are born who they are. Parents guide, encourage, nurture, expose to opportunity, and perhaps most important of all – tolerate. After all, ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses.’

*(This quote is actually taken from my friend Linda’s imagined response to the question, ‘Does your child have any experience with drama or in theatre? on her own daughter’s camp application. Thanks, Lin!)

Read the full article ‘The Age of Reason’ by Adele M Brodkin, PhD, at