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‘Living With Boys’ Category

  1. A picture’s worth a thousand words – and this one says, “The shit’s about to hit the fan.”

    October 23, 2014 by admin

    Look closely at this picture, and it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about this weekend’s Christmas Tree tagging adventure. First, there’s never a dull moment around here. Second, the Griswold’s have nothing on us. Nothing.

    This is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown: waiting for the shit to hit the fan.

    Because among the dozen or so photographs I have on my phone of all of us smiling and posing in front of a picturesque field of evergreens, is this little beauty. And this little beauty tells the real story.


    See in this photograph, one of my sons is smiling, the joy and excitement of the upcoming holiday season almost too much to keep inside. (A Christmas tree! A Christmas tree! I haven’t even worn my Batman costume yet and we’re tagging our Christmas tree!) Nevermind that I pulled him away from a brawl with his brother and demanded through  clenched teeth that he smile and stand still for just one damn second so I can document how much fun we’re having. He’s doing it.  But then over there on the left, do you see?  Do you see my other son, the one who’s wearing the look of an ape about to attack? If he looks like he’s about to whack the smiling son upside the head, spit in his ear, plant his face into the pines or sucker punch him with a balsam branch, that’s because he is.

    These boys. They are always at each other. Always. And it can be – and usually is – so. freaking. exhausting. Stop hitting. Stop throwing your brother to the ground. Stop calling him names. Stop tripping him. Stop tackling him. Stop making annoying noises in his ear. Stop. Stop. Stop! Sometimes, just sometimes, and only in the darkest recesses of my mind, I wish I could do this:


    I know. I know. That’s disgusting. Abhorrent. But Jesus, come on! I really don’t wish to cut off my son’s arms or carve out their mouths. But I do wish sometimes that I could make them obey, follow me around like a couple of mindless little yes men. Yes, mom. We’ll listen. Yes, we’ll behave. Yes. We’ll do whatever it is you want us to do. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    But that’s not real life. The above photo of my two sons, however, is.

    Life is not perfect. It’s flawed. And yet we still try and capture the moment as if it was all unicorns and rainbows. So we can post our picture-perfect escapades on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and get just the right photo for our holiday cards.  That is also exhausting. And disingenuous. And so boring.

    So instead of deleting the memories which may not be so idyllic, I’m going to keep them. Because the scenes of us all smiling and posing in front of a field of evergreens – while much more presentable and acceptable – don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell our story. Yes, of course, there were moments of family harmony, but many of them came after the clenched-teeth experiences of parenthood. And I don’t want to forget those either.

  2. Can I Get an Amen?

    May 15, 2014 by admin

    I love seeing things like this, especially when I’ve had a day when the reading on the Mom Guilt-O-Meter is pretty high.



    I mean, seriously, isn’t this sometimes enough? Sometimes, when my husband comes home at the end of the day and sees me, ragged and beat down, I want to point out that we’re all still breathing, that we made it another day.

    Take today, for example. For starters, our toddler is refusing to nap or stay in bed at night. So out of sheer exhaustion and, because we’ve all been up late watching playoff hockey (RIP Boston Bruins, you bastards), we’ve just let her stay up until the girl is acting like a teenager after her first beer: loopy, drooling and babbling nonsensical phrases into a toy microphone.

    So, there’s that. Then today began with a total meltdown – screaming, crying, the whole shebang – in which my 5-year-old was pissed beyond belief at the mere sight of the shirt I had picked out for him to wear to school. After 10 minutes of arguing, and stressing about the fact that we were late for school – again (though I think it’s been quite some time since they’ve expected us at the required hour) – I sent him into his room to put on whatever the heck he wanted. He comes out 10 minutes later in Transformer pajamas. I still heart my little a-hole, but no. So, I manhandle him into a green polo shirt, in which he is squirming and screaming and crying and declaring at the top of his lungs that everyone – EVERYONE! – is going to laugh at him for wearing something that is only green in color.


    I tell him through my teeth that he looks very handsome in his green polo. He yells something unintelligible. His face is red and tears are rolling down his cheeks. Then I look at the clock. School has already started. I am at my boiling point. I tell him I don’t care if everyone laughs at him. He is wearing the green polo.

    I leave the room and come back. Faster than goddamned Clark Kent in a telephone booth, he has changed into the original shirt I had left out for him, the one that started the whole meltdown in the first place. I start to interrogate him about his logic. This, of course, doesn’t go well. I usher everyone into the car and we leave for school. On the drive, I start to calm down and start feeling like mother of the year for not remaining calm and showing my son how to remain calm while simultaneously being frustrated. Basically, I feel like the a-hole.

    “Can we all just calm down a little bit?” he asks me.

    It’s like a wrecking ball to the stomach, because I know what he really means is, “Can YOU calm down, mom?”

    I apologize for flying off the handle, suggest that HE lay out his clothes at night, so that when he wakes up in the morning he can put on what he has picked out and maybe, just maybe, we won’t be late for school. He agrees to this plan. It’s only taken me most of the school year, multiple wardrobe malfunctions and many mornings of stress and anger to figure this out.

    But what can I do now, but move on and learn from the experience?

    For starters, I can boast the fact that the children are all still alive. Hallelujah, the children are still alive and well. Bring on #4!

  3. Screw you, Kringle the Elf

    December 5, 2013 by admin

    I am sitting here looking at that stupid elf, curled up in one of my youngest child’s toys that I have somehow suspended from the ceiling with Christmas ribbon. Because, you know, these days you can’t actually just put him on a shelf. He has to be doing something spectacular because all hell will break loose if you have the lamest elf in the neighborhood.

    Kringle has his arms delicately wrapped around his shins and he’s wearing that annoying little grin that’s spread between two pleasantly plump little rosy cheeks. He’s looking at me with those bright blue eyes as if he’s the freakin’ savior of Christmas.

    But the truth is, Kringle, you suck.

    You have been here since Sunday, and I just haven’t seen the intended effect on behavior that I was hoping for this year.

    Dec. 1, Day 1:

    You arrive, wrapped lovingly around our Advent Calendar, bearing gifts of Christmas-colored loom bands for the older kids and a little plastic Mickey Mouse recorder for the youngest. Sweet. The kids are so excited, you might have thought that they just won a trip to Disney. You leave them a note telling them you are excited to be back for the Christmas season and reminding them to be good. And if they are, they might wake up to little surprises every day. Nice move. Holding gifts over their heads. How can that not work? Kringle, you and I are besties right about now.

    Dec. 2, Day 2:

    The older kids have misbehaved a bit since yesterday morning. You leave them a little note saying that Santa was a little sad at the report but…wait for it…he’s decided to give them another chance. If they are good all day, there might be a treat waiting for them when they get home from school. Smooth move, ex-lax. You know I can’t really see them at school, right? I am reliant on them to tell the truth. And not that my kids are big liars or anything, but unless there’s a note in their take-home folders letting me know that they’ve tried to burn down the school or started a fist-fight, I am sort of beholden to their version of the truth. Sure enough, when they get home from school, there’s mini stockings filled with chocolates and other treats hanging by the fireplace. I just want you to know that Papa Elf was disapproving of your methods. Me? I thought it might just work.

    Dec. 3, Day 3:

    The children wake up to find you on top of the refrigerator hanging out of our hot chocolate pot holding a half-eaten chocolate lollipop. Get a grip, Kringle! It’s only Dec. 3. With every passing day you have to top your previous hiding place, otherwise, you’ll be labeled a cotton-headed ninnymuggins. I would have thought the hot chocolate pot would occur  closer to Christmas. But hey, you set your standards high. I like that. You’ll just have to stay up all hours of the night – every night – until Christmas, finding the perfect hiding spots. No biggie.

    Anyway, you come bearing gifts of toothbrushes. The kids are glad they got something, but Colin, my middle child, looks at me quizzically and asks, “A toothbrush?” In your defense, the boys got Star Wars light-up lightsaber toothbrushes (though one of them didn’t work – don’t you know to check before you buy?) and my little baby girl squealed with delight at her new Sesame Street toothbrush.

    But the day went downhill from there. There was lots of bickering. Lots of not listening. And well, I just have to say, you don’t hold nearly the amount of sway I thought you did, Kringle, and I am a little disappointed with your overall performance.

    Papa Elf strongly encourages you not to bring anything for the kids the next day.

    Dec. 4, Day 4:

    You arrive, as I’ve previously stated, curled inside a toddler’s toy and suspended from the ceiling by Christmas ribbon. In the kitchen, you have left this note:

    You’ll find me hanging around somewhere,

    Hanging around without a care.

    But a treat you will not find. 

    Until you try and start to mind,

    Your mom and dad and manners too. 

    Right now Santa’s feeling blue. 

    He wants to surprise you with treats and toys, 

    But those are only things for good boys. 

    So please try harder to behave,

    Or those treats and toys I’ll have to save,

    For some other children who are being good. 

    But I want them for you so be good, if you would. 

    – Kringle

    Brilliant! You must have spent ALL night writing this note. Kringle, you rock. This is sure to whip them back into shape! Outwardly, they seemed relatively unfazed by the lack of a toy or treat. But hey, I’m thinking maybe it’s just a few moments of quiet contemplation on the consequences of their actions.

    The morning went pretty well. The boys were able to perform basic duties like brushing their teeth and putting on their shoes. The day passed with little incident, because they were at school. For all you know, Kringle, they could have been raising hell, but you already set yourself up for that farce. There was no note in either of their folders, so I take this as an affirmation of their good behavior.

    The evening, however, was a different story. I won’t get into details here, Kringle. You were there. Or so you say.  I just have to point out that you really lost control of the situation tonight. There was yelling, things being thrown and a naked time out. Yes, a naked time out. It was ugly.

    I’m beginning to distrust those sparkling blue eyes of yours, Kringle. For all the pomp and circumstance of your do-gooder attitude, our arrangement really isn’t working that well so far. You may just have to stay up at the North Pole tonight. It’s not you. It’s me. Actually, it is you. I think we need a break. Please don’t show up tomorrow morning suspended from the ceiling or recovering from date night with Cinderella. I’m sure I’ll give you another chance, but lay low tonight, little dude. Peace out.

  4. Bananagrams with an 8-Year-Old

    August 20, 2013 by admin

    It is very difficult for me to accept loss.

    That didn’t come out right. I am not talking about death or anything near as serious as that. I’m talking about board games. I HATE to lose. I was never good at sports (Remind me to tell you about the time I was running so slow during an indoor track meet that some bleary-eyed preschoolers were screaming at me to run faster so they could go home. Not. Even. Kidding.)  So I never did develop a true understanding of the whole competition thing on the field, ice or court. But open up a Scrabble board, and I’m all over that sh*t like white on rice. This is where I shine.

    But since I’ve become a parent, I’ve obviously had to tone down that part of my personality, especially when playing games with the kids. Teach them about gracious winning and losing. About respecting your opponent. And all of those other behaviors that I no longer display when I am playing against my peers and out for blood. But we teach kids to be the antithesis of competitive because it’s more politically correct and it’s all about the fun and not the winning and we don’t want to make someone else feel bad and everyone gets a trophy. I get it. Sort of.

    Still, these types of lessons are easier – for me – with my 4-year-old (though it’s getting increasingly dicey as his inner competitor is starting to show himself). He mostly still likes to play games that require little to no skill and is just happy that I am on the floor interacting with him and including Bearbo, his beloved stuffed bear, who, by the way, sort of talks like Beaker on crack. With him, I manage to swallow losses in Candyland or Chutes and Ladders or his new favorite, Checkers, because it’s fun for me to see him happy in his victory and most of these games I lose by chance, anyway. So it’s not really a pride-swallowing act, which I can handle. He draws a double purple. I get stuck on a licorice space. There’s nothing you can really do about that.

    But my 8-year-old is a whole other story.

    Braedan, a hockey and lacrosse player and karate student, is the epitome of competition. He loves to win. And when he loses, he works harder the next time to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. And board games are no different than sports for him.

    At the beginning of the summer, we went on vacation with some good friends and played round after round of Bananagrams. I never played before then, but was instantly hooked. If you’ve never played , Bananagrams is basically a crossword game in which you receive a number of tiles to start and race against your opponents to build your own crossword using all your tiles. When you have used all your original starting tiles, you say “peel,” and everyone pulls another tile from the pile. It goes on and on until there are fewer tiles in the pile than players, and the winner is the person who uses all their tiles first.

    So for the past couple of weeks, we’ve been playing this game a lot, Braedan and I. And he’s getting good. And this makes it really hard for me to concede victories. It makes it difficult for me not to want to win against an increasingly worthy opponent. Except when he’s being a little troll. Like today.

    We started out all fine and good. My meatloaf was baking in the oven and the wee ones were playing in the family room, so we started a game. Even though he was tired from an active day at boat camp, he was generally pleasant and happy.

    “Doesn’t my meatloaf smell good?” I asked him about midway through our game. My question was a little enthusiastic, maybe. But I was making an actual dinner, not the thing I usually do, which is wait until 5pm and panic because we have nothing to eat.

    Little did I know there was piss and vinegar boiling inside him.

    “It smells dis-gust-ing,” he said, the look of pure evil in his eyes, accentuating every syllable so he could be sure I heard him correctly. That came out of nowhere! I don’t know if his day had finally caught up with him, or if he was upset because he was having difficulty using his Bananagrams tiles. It didn’t matter. I saw where his mood was headed and for whatever reason – lack of sleep, the end-of-summer bickering with his brother – I didn’t have it in me today to pull him out of the rabbit hole the way I should have.

    Oh, Aight, you wanna go out like that?  It’s on, little man. 

    Now normally, when he was having trouble, I’d stop working on my puzzle and give him a subtle hint or two to help him get back on track with his. Not today. Not now. Instead, I was a magician, my hands as quick as lighting, creating words like nobody’s business. I was no longer nice mommy playing a word game with her 8-year-old to increase his learning. I was no-holds-barred mommy, out for blood. And admittedly, it felt good. (In my defense, though, I went about my business quietly. No boasting or bragging. Just pure, silent genius.)

    Peel. Peel. Peel. Peel. Peel.


    And it was magnificent. My best puzzle yet. I wanted to take a picture.

    Braedan threw his hands up in defeat, shouted something about me creaming him on purpose. As you can probably guess, it was all downhill from there. And the whole ugly scene left a bad taste in my mouth.

    But the meatloaf, that was delicious.

  5. The 3:30PM Text

    July 23, 2013 by admin

    Everyday around 3:30pm, my husband texts me from work.

    “Everyone doing ok?”

    It’s a simple enough question, but with very complex undertones.

    What he’s really asking with those three little words are a variety of questions, the answers to which will determine how he should prepare himself on his commute home from Boston. Should he armor up for battle? Or will he be plastered with kisses and hugs? Will I give him the cold shoulder or tell him about my wonderful day with our 3 little cherubs?

    The simple fact is that the question: “Everyone doing ok?” really is code for one – but usually more – of the following:

    • Have the kids behaved like human beings? 
    • Did you drink enough coffee to sustain yourself through the afternoon?
    • Did anyone require a trip to the emergency room?
    • Will I be able to actually open the front door or will it be barricaded with shoes, crafts, legos and various other toys?
    • Will there be any dinner or will we be having cold cereal?
    • Was anyone’s head bashed into the wall?
    • Were you able to converse with any other adults today?
    • Did you leave the house?
    • Did anything in the house fall apart, fall off, or break down?
    • Should I look at, hug, kiss or otherwise acknowledge you when I walk through the door or should I proceed directly to the kids?
    • Have you googled “giving kids up for adoption?”

    The honest truth is that the majority of our days are good, or at least they start out that way. But by the time 6:30pm rolls around, I have to admit, I have pretty much had it (especially during summer break), and am looking for some relief.

    Here was today’s response to the 3:30pm text:

    Husband: Everyone doing ok?

    Me: Ok. It has rained all day. Tried to nap with the boys, a no go of course. The wood stove pipe leaked and there was a random puddle of water on the floor in the basement. Col slammed the doorknob-less door and got stuck in his room for 1/2 hour while I rescued him. The boys are still in their underwear. Just a regular day.


  6. The Summertime Roller Coaster

    July 9, 2013 by admin

    This morning, as my two boys were sitting nicely at the table drawing and creating and complimenting each other on their works of art, I looked at them with eyes all loving and misty, and said, “I sure am going to miss you guys when you go back to school. I like having you both home all day.”

    Aria, age 1.5, was in her high chair eating some dried Apple Jacks – well, Apple Dapples, the Market Basket version of Apple Jacks – looking all cute with her headful of messy curls. I didn’t even mind that most of them were on the floor. It was nearly like a picture print by Currier & Ives: summertime version.

    That was 9am.

    Flash forward 5 hours.

    It’s now 2pm and both boys have had separate playdates – one home, one away – and have eaten lunch. I’ve cleaned up the mess of toys and a table full of dishes and half-eaten cheese sandwiches and squished blueberries off the floor. The baby is napping, so I agree to let them play some Wii and decide to sit down so I can get some writing done. I set up the Wii and leave the room and at the exact moment my butt hits the chair and I open my laptop, there is a problem with the Wii. Problem solved, I sit back down. Immediately after, bickering ensues. My 4-year-old is screaming at my 8-year-old who is screaming for me. WTF. I stomp into the family room, wielding a silent fury that seems a tad too extreme for the situation. In the background, some a-hole is running a chainsaw.

    Suddenly that picture print by Currier & Ives is looking more like Munch’s The Scream

    I want school to start. Now. I don’t care that we’ve only been out since June 25. I don’t care that most of the summer lies ahead of us in all its unbridled freedom. We’ve already been on our vacation to Maine, where we spent 7 glorious days kayaking, fishing, hiking, rockhounding, swimming and just having some old-fashioned fun with good friends, good food and good wine. The kids have had some playdates. They’ve enjoyed their fair share of sun. Bring on 3rd grade and pre-K. What time is bus pick-up?

    But wait. What is that I hear? Talking. In normal voices! Not screaming, at least not at each other. The boys are conversing nicely and complimenting each other on their Wii playing. They are working together to to conquer Mario’s enemies and collect Power Stars. They are cheering in unison. How wonderful, the brotherly love! I sure am glad it’s summer vacation.

    Until I’m not.

  7. According To This, I’ll be Dead Sooner Than I’d Hoped

    March 1, 2013 by admin

    There’s a new study  out that says having sons takes an average of 8.5 months off a mother’s life. (Please note that according to this study, having sons does not affect a father’s lifespan, lucky shits.) For me, this study is actually a breath of fresh air because I thought I’d die a much earlier death due to having two sons. I thought I’d shaved at least several years off my life already. But maybe it’s just my particular breed of boys.

    8.5 months? Come on. That’s less than a full school year. That’s just one Mite hockey season. You can’t even fully gestate another baby in in 8.5 months.

    But still, when I tell my boys that “I just can’t take it anymore,” or “You’re killing me,” at least now I’m not just overdramatizing. At least now I have some proof to back up my claims.

    In no particular order, here are a few of the reasons why I think my boys are killing me faster.

    1. Bickering (2.7 years gone). It’s constant. They bicker about what episode of Wild Kratts to watch. They bicker about one teeny tiny black Lego in a room filled with thousands of Legos. They bicker about who their baby sister loves more. They bicker about who ate more at dinner and who did or didn’t fart at the table. They bicker about Nerf gun darts, paper airplanes, who won at knee hockey, plastic place mats, scraps of construction paper, mechanical pencils, cheap birthday party favors and the close proximity of one another’s face, hands, elbows and feet.

    2. Worry Over the Threat of Possible Sports Injuries (2.3 years gone). I know. Girls play sports too. I also know that injuries are possible with any sport, but having a young and enthusiastic hockey player (and another one being cultivated) does cause a bit of concern from time to time, especially with all the recent discussion about concussions in young kids. Tonight during the ceremonial puck drop of the Boston/Ottawa game, I learned that a local high school hockey player had his wrist slit last month by an opposing team member’s skate in a freak accident on the ice. He almost died. “I have to Google that,” I said to Rich. “Please. Don’t,” he said. “Then you’ll worry about that too.” Worry Over the Threat of Possible Sports Injuries consists mostly of things that could happen in the future, not things that are likely to occur in the present.

    3. Noise Levels (9 months gone). Boys are loud. They are loud on their own. But when they are together, noise levels can be epic. Or at least it seems that way to a person who cherishes peace, quiet and an environment free of the sounds of bodily functions. I can’t tell you how many times a day, I say Stop Yelling. Stop Screaming. Stop making that annoying noise. Stop making fart noises with your armpit. Do that in the bathroom. Stop burping. Stop stomping. Stop banging hockey sticks against the wall. My husband says they’re just being boys. Sometimes I want them to stop. just. being. boys.

    4. They say girls are emotional. (We’ll find out for ourselves soon enough.) But, newsflash: Boys. Are. Crazy. Trying to figure out what goes on in their little heads is like trying to figure out why in the hell people would want to watch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Louie Anderson, Keshia Knight Pullam and a few other B-list’s, wannabes and has-beens compete in a high-dive competition on ABC. Attempting to do so takes at least 2.1 years off my life.

    5. Roughhousing. (2.4 years, ba-bye). Boys are generally highly volatile little beings. An intense Star Wars Lego battle soon turns into a friendly wrestling match turns into a not-so-friendly boxing match turns into a free-for-all ending with someone crying and needing a bandaid or cold compress. Boys need to be supervised at all times, leaving less time for things like texting, browsing Facebook, cooking, cleaning and drinking wine. This deprivation leads to malnourished children, a hungry husband, a filthy house and an anti-social, yet much more sober, mom.