The Griswold Family Christmas Tree

It looked a lot smaller in the forest.

One of our favorite things to do once Thanksgiving is over is to enjoy our annual holiday viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This seems to get us in the right frame of mind for our next favorite holiday activity…cutting our own Christmas tree. We normally wait at least a week after Thanksgiving before getting our tree, but last year we realized that a freshly cut tree lasts much longer than you think it will so we figured we should get it sooner and enjoy it longer. While a forest tree is not as lovely and symmetrical as a tree you select from a tree lot, you get a lot more exercise when you do it our way. Besides, at $10 a tree, it is quite a bargain anyway you saw it.

When it’s cold, we often pull into the forest, find the first semi-sort-of-okay-but-admittedly-totally-Charlie-Brown-tree, cut it down, and take off. With 50 degree temperatures today, though, we were unencumbered by inclement weather so we sauntered, letting several perfectly acceptable trees stand firm while we looked for something a little better. At one point, I had wandered off in my own direction alone when I spotted IT, a reasonably full number in blue spruce. Steve was nowhere nearby and although I had the saw in hand I felt I should acquire a second opinion, so I called out to him.

“Marco!” I yelled in his general direction. Although I couldn’t see him, I knew he would get the message. No response. I yelled again. Louder this time.

“MARCO!”

“Polo,” came the faint response.

When he was near enough that I could see him clearly, I yelled again.

“Over here! I need your opinion.”

The tree was very close to another tree, which usually is a bad sign, but it was tall and still very full. When Steve arrived I asked him to find the one I was thinking about. When he picked it right out, I knew I was onto something. We went over and inspected it. It was taller than our usual tree, but I thought we could make it work. We checked the base of the tree (it can’t be more than 6 inches in diameter if you want to cut it) and determined we were good to go. We’d have to cut off the lower portion and bring it back with us, but we still felt it was manageable so Steve began to cut. He kept cutting. He kept cutting some more. Dang. This was taking way too long.

Someone must be overcompensating.

“Do you want me to work on it for a while?” I asked, trying not to sound impatient but being really impatient.

“I’m fine,” he said as he started working on it again.

It was still taking what seemed like forever. Either the saw was worthless or we were having operator issues, I thought.

“Where is Charles Ingalls when you need him?” I quipped.

Steve shot me a look and made some reference to the notion that a proper spouse would be supportive. Clearly, he did not think my comment was nearly as amusing as I thought it was. For the record, I thought it was both appropriate and pretty dang funny. (Also, I know I’m not a proper spouse.)

When he had gotten about 5/6ths the way through the trunk, he was starting to slow down from the overexertion. I offered to take over. In less than a minute, compared to his ten, the tree fell over.

“See. And that is how it’s done,” I said as I quickly stepped out of his reach so he could not throttle me.

Once it was on the ground and no longer standing directly beneath a Ponderosa pine that was more than twice its size, our tree seemed a bit bigger. We tried not to trouble ourselves with this detail and got to work making it manageable for the trailer ride home. When we got back to the car, we were relieved to see our tree was roughly the same size as the one our friends had cut down. No worries.

Not your usual Charlie Brown forest tree

Then, we got the tree home and off the trailer. That was when we started to suspect that we might have a problem. You know how sometimes you take more food than you’re actually going to be able to eat because your eyes are bigger than your stomach is? Well, I began to wonder if we’d had similar problems sizing up this forest tree to the realistic size of our living room. We leaned it up against the house. It was huge. I told Steve that, ala one of my favorite scenes from Christmas Vacation, someone was going to ask us where we thought we would put a tree that big. We got out the tape measure. It was 15 feet tall. While a 15 foot tree can easily fit in our living room with the 18 foot ceiling, it cannot fit in a tree stand that can only support a 12 foot tree. Steve cut off a few more feet while I walked around muttering, “little full, lot of sap.” With that last cut, however, we found that now the bottom appeared sparse and uneven so we omitted a couple extra feet to balance it out. Voilà

Now, not only do we have the perfect Christmas tree, but we also have several decent starter logs for our fire pit as well as an attractive section of log Steve hopes to fashion into a comely centerpiece for our dining table. We got all this for the low, low price of an Alexander Hamilton. As I sit here inhaling the beautiful forest scent with my kleenex by my side (did I forget to mention that three of the four of us are allergic to evergreen trees?), I’m feeling confident that we chose the right tree. Now I just have to make sure Uncle Lewis doesn’t stand too near to it with his stogey.

Squirrel!

This is a Rocky Mountain Sheep I saw while hiking with my friend Celeste today. Squirrel!

Sometimes I wonder how I get anything done. Ever. I take the most circuitous routes when I begin a task. I guess I’m too easily distractible. I’m kind of like Dug, the dog in Up. I start out doing one thing and then somehow…SQUIRREL! So, that is what happened to me again tonight and that is why it is late in the evening and I am once again staring at my self-imposed deadline, which is less than an hour from right now, and shaking my head. The Squirrel effect seems to worsen at night and when I’m hungry and when I’m procrastinating and when I’m sleep-deprived and occasionally when I’m over caffeinated. Now that I think about it, it’s truly miraculous that I ever complete a task successfully. But, I digress.

Tonight I began researching airfare for our now decided upon Spring Break trip. We bid on and won a vacation rental last Saturday at the boys’ school auction. Now I have to figure out how to get us to our destination with the least expensive airfare. It’s all very exciting. And, while I should be focused on filling out paperwork so we can schedule all the testing we need to have done to get IEPs and/or 504s set up for the boys for next school year, researching vacation travel is a far less odious task so that has taken priority.

I began on Expedia, but as I was looking at the ludicrous cost of airfare for this trip the wind kicked up outside. We get a lot of high winds here in November and December so I immediately began wondering if tonight would be really windy. So, I buzzed on over to the site for the NBC news affiliate here in Denver to check our weather conditions. I was pleased to note that although we’re in for a cool down tomorrow, no high winds are predicted tonight. Dodged that bullet. But, while I was on the NBC site, I started wondering what the heck has been going on in the world since I’ve been checked out this week. Off to Fox News I went to figure out what is being reported on currently. I perused the headlines as I had planned but then, at the bottom of the front page in the Latest News section, a story caught my eye about some folks in the Florida panhandle who poached their neighbor’s pet turkey for their own Thanksgiving dinner. From that story, I noticed a link to the best and worst swimsuit photos from Hollywood. That seemed like an adequate distraction, so I went off to check those out. After deciding that most people over the age of 50 look sad and droopy at the beach (yes…I mean you David Hasselhoff and Ivana Trump), I was feeling discouraged about being just 5.5 years from that dreaded physical cliff (I can’t bring myself to care about the fiscal cliff because there’s nothing I can do about that cluster). In a desperate attempt to elevate my spirits, I texted with my friend Heather for a while. At which point, Heather reminded me that it won’t matter what I look like in a swimsuit at the beach in March because I’ll be at the beach in a swimsuit in MARCH. Well played, Heather. And, so I put my phone down and decided to get back to Expedia because I still have not booked any travel yet.

At some point in the next few weeks I will break down and actually commit to a flight itinerary…probably not without a massive mental meltdown as my shaking fingers attempt to input the credit card number I have memorized. But, I will do it because I have paperwork to fill out and I can’t get to that task until I have something really incredible to look forward to as a reward for all my hard work. And now, as I sit in bed and finish this blog, I’m wondering how I will be able to get the house cleaned, the table set, and the meal cooked for dinner at 4 p.m. because I am sure there will be myriad distractions tomorrow. Distractions are the thing that….wait…do we actually own enough napkin rings for 12 place settings?

Note To Self: Cows Don’t Care About Glory

The cows…they just don’t care.

I am a stay-at-home mom, which means that I don’t get paid and that I’m never home. I live in my car. Consequently, my car (a midsize, luxury SUV in name only) consistently looks as if it’s been plundered and pillaged by rogue Norsemen (which it has because my sons have a full quarter Norwegian ancestry). This morning after the boys had removed themselves from the back seat, I noticed that I could no longer see the black, leather seats back there at all. They were covered with Legos, food wrappers, various school papers, and sticky substances I have been ignoring for weeks. The floor was not much better. I knew there were floor mats down there somewhere. But where? As far as I could tell, the carpet had been replaced by shredded tissue, chewed on straws, and Star Wars action figures missing their heads. It was at that point that I seriously began to wonder if the mess back there was partially due to a rodent infestation.

I headed to the local, automatic car wash to vacuum out my filthy car and find the silver paint again. I immediately realized I had not enough quarters for the vacuum, so I sent the car through the wash and drove home to rescue the inside. I dragged out the wet/dry vacuum, a trash bag, a damp rag, a roll of paper towels, and about a gallon of Windex to begin my quest. I was mildly concerned that during my cleaning I might shove my hand under the backseat and pull out a rodent (something similar happened in our family before when hubby pulled up a seat cushion and uncovered Voldemouse in his FJ Cruiser). I tried not to think about it as I opened the back door and started digging through the rat’s nest where my children usually sit. In the first three minutes, I rescued five mangled Lego magazines, four pieces of foreign currency (not sure when my kids had time to vacation in England, France, Italy, and Denmark without me), about a gazillion Lego bricks and assorted Lego pieces, a super-high bouncing ball, an empty water bottle, some crude drawings of battles and dragons, and a spelling list. (I’d wondered where that had gotten to.) When I at last found the back seat and started working on the floor, I uncovered an interesting piece of paper. It was in Luke’s handwriting…neatly penned but with the kind of obvious errors only a child with dyslexia could make. It said: “Note to self. Cows don’t care about glory. Cows don’t care about you.” I stood there staring at that paper with my head cocked to one side. What the hell does that mean? I had no idea where to go with that information. It was funny, but what made it even funnier was that my darling son had flawlessly executed his b and d letter reversals in the most stereotypical dyslexic way. I love the way his mind works.

I finished cleaning the car to the best of my ability without uncovering any evidence of the Lost City of Mouselantis. But, I walked around for the entire rest of the day thinking about Luke’s note to self. Instead of mice occupying my thoughts, it was cows. And, not just any cows. Cows that don’t care about glory. I later was able to ask Luke about his cryptic message. He disclosed that he heard that quote on some Lego video on You Tube. Ah. It suddenly all made sense. Chalk the whole thing up to You Tube. And to think I’d been blaming the obscure cow mention to our trip to Chick-Fil-A last week. Silly me.

 

 

 

 

The End Of The Tunnel

No one was harmed in the making of this lunch. How incredibly awesome is that?

Since my sons were born, I’ve spent more of my waking hours caring for them than I’ve spent caring for myself. I don’t mention this as a complaint. It’s just what is. It is the nature of the beast of parenting. When you decide to bring another life into this world, you change the course of your own irrevocably. With our recent revelations about our sons and their learning difficulties, I’ve spent more time doing things for them than I have in a while. My life has been a blur of paperwork, interviews, conversations, and applications. Because my husband is already a full-time, paid, paper-pusher elsewhere, these tasks fall to me. While all the filling in blanks and checking off boxes is tedious work, it’s infinitely preferable to all the nose and butt wiping I’ve managed to leave behind as the boys have gotten older. I’m still doing things for my boys, but at least the things I’m doing are becoming less odious. I’ve always felt it was a parent’s duty to do all they can for their children to give them a leg up in this world. Tonight I realize I was at least partially wrong.

As the hours inched on toward bedtime, I realized I needed to make Luke’s lunch. I didn’t want to. I just did not feel like it. As a rule, not feeling like it is not ample enough excuse to avoid the task, so I suck it up. Tonight, I was happily lazing on the sofa researching spring break options and watching Sunday Night Football. Making lunches sounded like a dismal reason to get off my expanding hindquarters. So, at 9:15, when my son should have been headed up to bed, I made a lazy parent decision.

“Luke,” I bossed, “go make your lunch.” There. No longer my problem.

“You want me to do it?” he asked, surprised.

“Yep. You know how you like your sandwich. You will make it better than Dad or I could, anyway. Get busy.”

At this point, I was certain I would encounter verbal backlash or, at the very least, a small whimper or whine. But, none came. Luke simply marched into the kitchen and started gathering his materials. In five minutes he had assembled his lunch: a PB&J (crusts jettisoned, of course), a plastic sleeve filled with organic yogurt, a small container of Goldfish crackers, a “healthy” (read: no food coloring or high fructose corn syrup) fruit roll-up, and an organic vanilla milk. He shoved it carefully into his Star Wars: The Clone Wars lunch box and was about to flee the scene when I called him back and made him clean up the mess, which he also did without fuss. Then he headed upstairs to play a round of Draw Something with me on his brother’s iPad while I stood there, jaw hanging open and hand scratching my head.

Years back, I had allowed our sons to make their own lunches one time. It was only one time because they had assembled lunches filled with Halloween candy, cans of soda, and a measly sandwich. In the process, they had turned our kitchen into a replica of the food fight scene from Animal House, and I’d had to shoo them out and start over but with twice the amount of work. I chalked it up to immaturity and boyhood. I figured they weren’t ready. In fact, I wondered if they might never be ready. Tonight, though, our 9 year old son made his own lunch and it was no big deal. There was no whining. There was no colossal mess. I was tempted to look around for the hidden camera. He’d completed the entire task without drawing blood or destroying the kitchen. And….and…the best part was that I hadn’t even had to get off the sofa for it all to happen. Perhaps it wasn’t the best lunch in the history of lunches and yet it was because I hadn’t had to make it.

It got me to thinking. My boys might be a lot more capable than I’ve previously thought. I started to wonder if I’m doing too much for them. Perhaps they’re at the ages now when they are ready to take on greater responsibility. Not only would it save me some work, but it would also give them an opportunity to experience all they are capable of. It will build their esteem. It will increase their skill set. Holy cow! I’ve been robbing my children of the gift of self-sufficiency. Well, no more, I say. There are so many things I should not be doing for my boys. The possibilities are endless. Wait. Just ahead. Do you see it? That light? It must be the end of the tunnel.

 

Facebook Knows Me Too Well

Yep. There’s witchy old me again.

A while back I wrote a blog about fate, coincidence, and signs. My premise was that life presents you with signs that attempt to nudge you in the direction you’re supposed to be heading in this life. If you’re paying attention and are self-aware, you will notice the signs the first time they present themselves to you. If you’re not, the signs will keep appearing over and over until you take notice and then hopefully hop aboard the clue bus and go forward. I still believe this to be true. In light of this belief, however, I’ve been struggling with something that keeps happening in my life.

Just before Halloween and in honor of that spooky holiday, I changed my Facebook profile photo to a shot of me in a witch costume I wore to pick up my boys from school last year on October 31st. It seemed appropriate to deck myself out on Facebook for one of my favorite holidays. I thought it was kind of a cute idea. On November 1st, I promptly removed the photo of witchy me and replaced it with a photo of me from our trip to Moab last spring. For the past two weeks, though, that photo of witchy me keeps reappearing randomly as my Facebook profile photo without my changing it. It’s happened both on my iPhone Facebook app and on my Facebook page on my MacBook. Now, I’m sure this is nothing sinister, but it’s starting to get a little weird.

When I see that witchy photo, I go in and change it back. Simple enough, right? No need to freak out about it. It’s probably just some sort of mix-up with the cookies from the Facebook app, right? It’s definitely not some type of sign. If it were, what would it be a sign of? I should do some serious research into Wicca because perhaps that is my calling? I should wear black more often? Hats really work for me? Tonight, I told my hubby about it.

“You know that photo of me that I put up for Halloween?” I asked.

“The one of you in the witch costume?” he replied.

“Yep. That one. Remember how I told you a week or so ago that it was back?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I changed it then and today it’s back again,” I said. “Do you suppose someone is trying to tell me something?”

This is when he began laughing.

“What are you laughing at? This is not funny,” I said, right before I started laughing too.

“I don’t think the universe is trying to tell you that you’re a witch,” he said and gave me a hug. “But, it is a pretty big coincidence,” he added in that quiet sort of way that’s meant to be an underhanded remark. Then he started laughing again.

“Fine. Side with the universe. And Facebook,” I said as I changed the photo back to the one of me in Moab on one of my happiest days ever.

Now, I don’t really believe the universe is trying to send me a message with the repeated appearance of that witchy photo, but it does kind of bother me a bit that Facebook seems to know me a bit better than I think it should. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

The Babysitter Confession

Free babysitters everywhere!

We’ve never had to pay an actual sitter. Shocking, I know. Our sons are 9 and 11 and, for their entire childhoods, when we’ve needed a date night or decided to go away for a weekend, we’ve had family members available to watch them. This situation was partly by design and partly the result of fate. When we were in our early 30s and decided we might like to have children, we moved back to Denver to be closer to family. This wasn’t as much a babysitting ploy as a desire to have our children grow up near their relatives. Both Steve and I grew up at a distance from our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, and we knew we wanted something different for our children. In 1999, when we first moved to Denver, we had three sisters and one grandmother nearby for babysitting. After Joe was born, Steve’s parents did what they said they would never do; they bought a second home here so they could see their grandson more often. So, soon we were up to three aunts, a grandmother, and a set of grandparents. Five years later, my father moved back to Denver and we both had our entire families within 30 minutes of our home. And, as fate would have it, no one else in our family has children, so our boys are the only grandchildren and the only nephews. People actually want to spend time with them. Yeah. I don’t get it either.

Now, before you go off on how lucky we are to be in this situation, how lucky we are not to have to pay someone to watch our children, I need to tell you what it costs to have your family members watch your children. It’s not a monetary cost. But, trust me, there’s a price for their services. For example, when family members watch your children, your home is an open book. They have unlimited access to your dirty bathrooms and your unorganized pantry and they’re family and working for free. So they’re not afraid to help themselves and to snoop around. You come home from a relaxing evening out and are greeted with “You have more hair spray than Donald Trump” or “I’m going to borrow all three seasons of Arrested Development that you own on DVD.” And, you can’t mind because they just spent three hours with your boisterous, exhausting children with ADHD so you didn’t have to. As much as you’d like to protest, you’re powerless.

Another hidden cost is extracted through paybacks. Your sister comes over and spends eight hours with your kids so you can go on a long bike ride with some friends. You have a great time and find you are actually excited at the prospect of sitting around watching Madagascar for the 99th time with your kids now that you’re home. And, just as you’re thanking her for babysitting, she casually mentions that she could use some help with a little project she needs to complete at her house next weekend. Oh…and you might want to bring that steamer you own because the wallpaper you’ll be helping to remove is really stuck on there. Well, there is no getting out of that situation. She helped you out. She expects reciprocity. You must comply.

Tonight I discovered the highest cost of all. My sister and brother-in-law came to spend two and a half hours with Joe and Luke so we could grab some wine and tapas at a local wine bar. We had a magnificent time talking about our hobbies and many things other than our children. The boys were thrilled to show their uncle their new Skylanders characters and do battle. When we returned home, we discovered that our children had been loaded with candy and taught some new songs. Thanks for that, Uncle Chris. Tonight as I drift off to sleep I will be singing a never-ending tune about a moose that stood around with one hoof on the ground. Not sure exactly which second-rate summer camp taught you that ditty, but I’m ever so grateful. Could you please teach the boys the diarrhea song next? That would be awesome.

Oh. All right. I jest. Of course we’re eternally grateful for the years of dedicated service our families have put into being the best aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the world and caring for our boys with the same love and devotion we would. (Scratch that…they’ve probably cared for our sons with more love and devotion than we have…or at least more patience.) I can’t imagine how many thousands of dollars we’ve saved in childcare over the past 11 years, not to mention how fortunate we’ve been to know that our boys were actually safely engaged in play rather than placated by a television for four hours while we paid some random teenage girl to talk incessantly on her cell phone to her boyfriend. Still, when the boys are old enough to stay alone for a couple hours on occasion next year, I’m probably not going to miss the guilt I feel when I have to find someone, anyone, to hang with our boys so we can grab dinner. It will be nice to be free of that monkey. Come to think of it, I’m definitely not going to miss the moose from that song either.

 

 

The Three Meanest Words In The English Language

One crazy family is enough.

For a few years now, there’s been a television show on NBC called Parenthood. I rarely watch network television, mostly because our evenings are filled with homework and getting the boys ready for school the next day and family time. What little time is left at the end of the night is primarily devoted to my trying to scheme up an idea to write about in this blog. My sisters have been talking to me about the show for years and telling me I should watch it. Frankly, though, it looked a wee bit too sappy for me so I have taken a pass on it without a second thought. A couple weeks ago when I finally told my mom we were having Luke evaluated for possible learning disabilities, she suggested Parenthood to me too. I started wondering if there was some sort of reward from NBC for people who bring new viewers to the show. But, Mom told me that the show might validate some of what I go through with my boys because a couple on the show has a child with differences. She thought I might be able to relate to it. So, I caved and started watching it via Netflix.

Well, it turns out that my mom and sisters were right. It’s a really good show. And, yes, watching Kristina and Adam negotiate the waters of Asperger’s Syndrome with their son Max does seem a wee bit familiar. It’s nice to be able to identify with a parenting experience similar to mine rather than watching a parenting experience I wish I had. The episode I watched today, though, hit a little too close to home. The teenage daughter buys a sexy black lace bra from Victoria’s Secret. The parents are not too happy about it because they realize what it means about the escapades of their fifteen year old daughter and the boy she has been seeing. As the mother leaves the daughter behind to go on a business trip, she whispers the three meanest words in the English language to her. She says, “I trust you.”

Oh, how I hate that phrase. That phrase is a lie. If you trust someone, you don’t tell them that you trust them. You simply do. If you tell someone you trust them, what you’re really saying is something like “I want to trust you so if you go behind my back you won’t be able to withstand the crippling guilt of having disappointed me after I put my faith in you in this very obvious way.” The implication is that whatever it is you were thinking you were going to do in some way goes against some underlying compact and will destroy the very fabric of our relationship. Those three words completely remove the fun from whatever it is you wanted to do. I hate that.

My husband has said these words to me on more than one occasion. Oddly enough it’s always been under the same circumstance. I’ve wanted something expensive and threatened to buy it against his wishes and better judgment. Then, he utters those three words and renders me powerless.

“I think I’m going to go ahead and book us that trip to Costa Rica,” I say. “The one I told you about.”

“I told you we really can’t afford to do that right now,” he replies.

“I know. But, we’ve only got one life, and it’s such a fabulous deal on a trip I really want to take. We can find a way to make it work,” I plead.

At this point, he’s running through for me the long, boring, laundry list of items we honestly *need* to spend our money on, stuff like carpet cleaning, a new water heater, and a stack of bills. Meanwhile, I’m rolling my eyes at him and singing “lalalalalala” with my fingers in my ears (in my head, anyway).

“You can’t stop me, you know. If I buy the trip, you’ll go and have a great time,” I say.

“But, you won’t buy the trip,” he replies. “You know how I feel about it. And, I trust you.” And, with that, the trip slips through my fingers. We won’t be going to Costa Rica, at least not this time.

I began watching Parenthood because I was looking to make a connection that would make me feel better about my life. As it turns out, though, the similarities between that show and my real life have become a bit too surreal for me. It’s as if the writers and Ron Howard have been stalking my life for material. And, let’s face it, there really is no escape from reality in television if the television you’re watching is mirroring your life. Perhaps it’s time to switch to The Walking Dead. I bet there’s nothing in that show that will reek of the too familiar. At least, not until the predicted Zombie Apocalypse occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Only Lose Sleep For Something Truly Important

Luke and Motty-O feign sleep

Our oldest son has never been a good sleeper. I used to laugh when people told me that I should “nap when the baby naps.” That would have been a perfect solution to my exhaustion if I hadn’t had to drive him around just to get him to go down for a nap and keep him asleep for that hour. Luckily, our youngest is a better sleeper than his brother. Last night, however, he was restless. By 10 Joe was asleep, but still Luke was not. Hubby asked me if I would go in and say goodnight to him again because that might be just what he needed. So, I did.

I walked into the boys bunk room and, sure enough, Luke was in bed but wide awake. I told him I knew exactly what he needed and traipsed off to their play room to retrieve Luke’s most favorite stuffed animal, a grey Webkinz horse named Motty-O. (Don’t ask me. He was 4 when he named it.) Our creative Luke has a series of stories about this horse, whom he has informed us is from Kentucky and sleeps standing up. We know this horse’s entire back story, a fact I’ve perpetually found charming. When I handed Motty-O to Luke, Luke smiled and hugged him. He stroked his tail thoughtfully and suddenly looked quite sad.

“What’s the matter, Luke?” I asked, worried by the face that usually proceeds his tears.

“Nothing,” he said, still stroking the horse’s tail.

“Are you worried about his tail, sweetie?” I inquired “You know, the more you love on an animal, the more threadbare they begin to look. That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a sign that you love him the most.”

“I know,” he said with tears welling up in his eyes.

I’m not the only one who has had a long and rough week. Although he’s been taking it like a trooper, Luke was the one who received the dyslexia diagnosis and began tutoring for his disability. He’s the one who has to think about switching schools and feeling different. I started to wonder if his tears had less to do with his horse than with other things he must certainly be grappling with at this time.

“You know, Luke, sometimes if you’ve got something on your mind it’s better to talk about it. Maybe if you tell me what’s making you sad you’ll be able to fall asleep better?”

“Nope. I’m fine,” he replied even as he opened his eyes wider and looked up at the bottom of his brother’s top bunk to keep the tears from falling down. Just like his mother, Luke likes to believe he can handle anything without any additional help.

I sat on the bed with him and stroked his hair, hoping he would open up but he didn’t. Finally, he asked me to leave. It was around 11:30 when he at last surrendered to sleep.

Tonight, I finally pried from him the reason why he was so sad last night. It wasn’t that he was worried about the dyslexia or the tutoring or the idea of switching schools or even the idea of possibly having to move. It was something I never saw coming.

“I was sad about Motty-O,” he reluctantly admitted.

“Sad about his tail falling out a bit?” I guessed.

“No. It’s something else.”

Having been something of a stuffed animal freak myself, I dug deeper into the stuffed-animal-lover psyche to try to extract the thing that might make him sad. Then it came to me.

“Are you sad because you won’t always have him with you?” I asked.

“Uh huh,” he said, tears once again pooling beneath his sweet, green-hazel eyes.

“You will always have Motty-O, Luke. I still have my most precious stuffed animals,” I said. “You know my orange dog, Drooper? I’ve had him since I was 9 years old. I’ve had him with me for 35 years. He went to college with me. He’s traveled with me. I will have him forever. And, you will have Motty-O for your whole life too.”

At this point, a couple tears leaked down his cheek.

“I won’t have him when I die,” he said as more tears fell.

“Oh, Luke,” I said, hugging him, “I believe you will have Motty-O in Heaven. I believe Heaven is filled with all the wonderful things you love and cherish in your life. Motty-O is part of our family. He will be in Heaven with us. I just know it.”

“My other animals too?” he asked.

“Most definitely,” I replied, relieved to know that he wasn’t suffering any ill effects from his diagnosis.

I can’t help but laugh now at how it all played out. Last night, Luke couldn’t sleep. I thought it was because of the same things that have been troubling my mind this week, so I gave him the one thing I thought would be the greatest comfort to him. Instead, that was the one thing that made it more difficult for him to fall asleep. I’ve got to learn not to project my concerns onto my little guy. Of course he’s not got insomnia about his reading issues. Why would he worry about something he’s always known? It’s the mysteries of the universe that keep children awake, mysteries like what happens to our stuffed animals when we die. That’s the only kind of mystery that is worth losing sleep over.

I Can Resist Anything…Except Temptation

Temptation…thy name is Tamales.

“I can resist anything except temptation.” ~Oscar Wilde

Everyone has their temptation. As a rule, I like to think I’m fairly well in control of mine. My weakness is candy. As you can imagine, Halloween is a nightmare for me. We bought five large bags of Halloween candy this year. I handed every bit of it out, only to discover that my boys had returned from their trick-or-treating with the rough equivalent of what I had spent the evening unloading. Seriously? What kind of cruel joke is that?

Since the boys went back to school, I’ve begun working out again. I hike. I skate. I practice yoga. The combination of the increased exercise and the decreased eating out generally puts me back to what I like to call my “winter weight.” My winter weight is 7-8 pounds less than my summer weight. I know it seems odd that I’m thinner during the time when most people become more sedentary, but I’m a stay-at-home mom. When my boys are home for the summer, I have less time for myself and exercise goes to the back burner. When they start back at school, I have more free time to hit the yoga studio. It just works out that way.

But, right about the time when my clothes are fitting again and I’m feeling happy about my healthfulness, Halloween rears its ugly head. Don’t get me wrong. I have willpower. I do. I can live with unopened bags of candy in my house for weeks. No problem. But, the minute something is opened (be it a 5 pound bag of peanut M&Ms or a can of Pringles), all bets are off. I can’t stop myself. I have issues. You see, there are two very large bowls of candy sitting on the kitchen counter right now. And, while I can turn my nose up at a Butterfinger or Twix, I’m eating Tootsie Rolls, Nerds, and Twizzlers like a bear storing up for winter hibernation.

Tonight I had a craving for one of my favorite candies…Hot Tamales. I’ve been addicted to those red capsules of evil dating back to my days working for Mann Theaters in high school. I would buy a box on my break, take it into a theater, and down the sugar while watching part of Out of Africa or Back To The Future. I bought a few boxes weeks ago because I like to have a stash on hand for family movie nights at home. The boxes have been in the top cupboard of the pantry for weeks, and I’ve done an excellent job of ignoring them. But, tonight, blame it on the candy floodgates having been opened by the decadence of Halloween or blame it on PMS, I wanted those stupid cinnamon-flavored pieces of nutritional garbage. (First three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, modified food starch. Nutritional value = -536.)

I brought them up to my room where I began watching a Netflix rental. I set them atop the books on my nightstand and stared at them. Or, rather, they stared at me. Perched atop The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, there seemed to be a battle of the forces of good and evil playing itself out an arm’s reach away…the tamales representing my baser, selfish wants and the book representing my desire to bring myself to a higher realm of consciousness, my zen. I really wanted to tear the box open, but I would look at Tolle’s book and remind myself that I didn’t need the candies. I simply wanted them. I was full from a pizza dinner with the family. I’d eaten more than I usually do at dinnertime, and I was already feeling a bit uncomfortable. (Ever since my gall bladder and I parted ways, I can’t quite eat the way I used to. Getting old sucks.) And, I knew that eating 500 calories of food dye and sugar would make me feel absolutely miserable both physically and mentally. I pushed thoughts of the devil candies from my mind. I watched my movie. I played Word with Friends on my iPhone. I ironed. Yes. Ironed. On a Saturday night, even. I read aloud to my sons. I stuck my tongue out at the red box in defiance.

It worked. The box still sits unopened on my nightstand…three hours after its appearance there. And, I’m feeling fairly smug about the whole thing. My pants will still fit tomorrow. I did it! I resisted temptation. I feel like I could take on the world. Now, I merely have to hope that my level head and nerves of steel persist through the night because I’m too tired now to take them back downstairs and tuck them away in the cupboard above the pantry where they belong. You know, one could rationalize that cinnamon candies are just a few ingredients away from being a cinnamon bun. That makes them justifiable as breakfast food, don’t you think?

Nobody Puts Joe In A Corner

Who stands in a corner voluntarily? Joe does.

I swear, I’d really like to believe my boys are exceptionally bright but sometimes they make me think I should set my expectations a wee bit lower. This evening I was sitting on the sofa helping Joe practice his words for his spelling test tomorrow. Spelling has never been an easy subject for Joe, but even as the words have increased in difficulty during his fifth grade year, he has been doing a bit better with spelling this year than he did last year. (Yes. I was, in fact, simultaneously knocking on wood and typing just then.) I’ve begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel, as if his hard work is paying off and things are finally starting to take root in his brain. He didn’t struggle at all with hemisphere and he breezed right through isthmus. He was even able to give me the correct spelling and a word-for-word definition for archipelago. Then, just when I was starting to get a bit cocky thinking that all the time and effort I’ve put into being a stay-at-home caregiver was at long last yielding measurable results, he said something that really confused me.

“Okay, Joe. Spell tributary.”

“Mom…wait. Wait. I have to tell you something first,” he pleaded.

All too familiar with his stall tactics, I pressed on.

“Spell tributary and then you can tell me,” I replied.

T-r-i-b-u-t-a-r-y,” he spit out. Then, as quick as lightning without a pause for breath in between his words he spewed forth, “Mom-today-I-stuck-my-nose-in-the-corner-of-the-dining-room-by-the-magnetic-board.”

He said it so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to catch half the words. Still, he was looking at me expectantly as if he’d just divulged the magic fix-it solution for the holes in the ozone layer.

“What?” was all I could muster. Well…that and a quizzical scrunching of my eyebrows.

“I-stuck-my-nose-in-the-corner-of-the-dining-room-by-the-magnetic-board,” he said again, slightly more slowly but still in a barely intelligible way.

“Okay,” I said with brows still furrowed, “that time I got corner and magnetic board. What corner?”

“UGH!” he was getting frustrated with my slow-uptake skills. “The corner in the dining room by the magnetic board.”

“Yeah? What about it?” I asked.

“Today, I stuck my nose in the corner of the dining room over by the magnetic board,” he repeated, trying very hard to be kind to his old and clearly mentally impaired mother.

“What? When did you do this?”

“When I was working on my math homework,” he replied.

Okay. This was starting to make some sense. It’s not unusual for any child to seek a break from his math homework. It’s even less surprising when your ADHD child becomes distracted from the process of long division.

“The next question, I guess, is WHY?” I asked, drawing out the end of that interrogative word hoping it would help him to understand how truly bizarre what he had just disclosed was.

“Because I’ve never done that before. I’ve never seen the house from that angle,” he replied with a tone that told me he was making perfect sense and I was an idiot not to understand it without explanation.

“Wow, Joe,” I said, trying my best not to look concerned about his mental faculties. “That’s an interesting reason to subject yourself to voluntary time in the corner.”

“I was curious,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. Then, as quickly as the conversation started it was over. “What’s the next word?” he asked.

Later, I was retelling the story to hubby who had been out with his parents this evening. After laughing about it for a bit, we started thinking about how differently Joe views the world. We’ve never been able to enter into how his ADHD mind works. We continue to try, but without firsthand knowledge and experience, we’re befuddled. We began to wonder if perhaps Joe knows something we don’t about the world. Maybe there’s something we’re missing? Simultaneously, we went and stood in separate corners in the dining room to see for a moment the world through Joe’s filter.

“I’ve never done this before,” Steve said.

“Me either. Ten years in this house and I’ve never once had my nose in a corner,” I replied.

“Does your nose touch the actual corner of the wall?” Steve inquired from the other corner of the dining room.

“Well, the magnetic board is blocking me at my height, but if I scrunch down a bit let’s see. Yep. Yes it does. It fits right into the corner,” I told him.

“Huh,” he said.

“Why? Does yours?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Who knew?”

Now, you could think we’re a little nutty for sticking our noses into the corner the way our son did, but after 11 years of grasping at straws trying to find a passage into Joe’s ADHD brain we will try anything. We desperately want to understand him better. Any hints at all would be welcome. The funny thing is that I started out thinking my son was crazy for choosing to stick his nose into the corner of the dining room, but the more I thought about it the better I felt about it. While most people take things for granted, Joe investigates. He theorizes. He experiments. He doesn’t accept things at face value. He is deeply curious, and there are far worse things you can be in this world. So, I take it back. I am totally okay if my son, by conventional standards, doesn’t appear to be exceptionally bright. If some people choose to think he’s exceptionally weird, that’s okay by me too. The bottom line is that he’s exceptional, and that’s pretty freaking fantastic.