Everything Including The Kitchen Sink…Just Not The Stove

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As I was writing my blog yesterday, I forgot one important component of the planning, packing, and loading aspect of camping. I am not the only adult in our house participating in these activities the day we leave. This morning as we were preparing to head out, I quickly remembered how having a second set of hands is both a blessing and a curse.

As the clock ticked ever closer to our prospective departure time, it seemed we (and by “we” I mean Steve) kept finding more stuff we needed to bring with us. Now, don’t get me wrong. I adore my husband. He is probably the most honest and genuine person I have ever known. But, he is cautious and protective. He loves gear and gadgets meant to make life easier and more enjoyable, but when it comes time to leave he can’t necessarily recall what he has or where it is. Consequently we have approximately 5,000 bottles of sunscreen and insect repellant…all of which I’m sure are in either the car or the camper right now.

In the chaos of trying to get out of the house, with two people trying to collect necessities, we’ve in the past forgotten important items. I’m currently wondering if this will be the case today because as we’re in the car and driving now, we just had this conversation.

“Do we have enough propane canisters?” Hubby inquires.

“I believe we have about six canisters in various stages of emptiness. That should be plenty,” I reply. Then a thought occurs to me. “Did you pack the camp stove?”

His vacant stare is my answer.

“Isn’t it in the camper?” he asks, his tone dripping with desperation.

“I don’t know. Since we didn’t open it, I am not sure. It wasn’t in the garage?”

“I didn’t look for it,” came the answer.

In trying to keep with my “what’s the worst that can happen” mindset, I made the conscious decision not to fret about it. We may or may not have the camp stove, which we will need to heat the foods I prepared in advance because of the fire ban and the fact that the propane canister on our camper has been empty for years. (Do not get me started on that topic.) Either way, I am sure that our weekend will be fine. We will merely be eating a lot of cold sandwiches rather than hot food. We’re not going to starve. It’s just a small hiccup in what will otherwise be a great weekend. At least, that’s what I am telling myself as I recall the large bottle of sweet tea vodka I do remember packing before we left.

I’m Not A Cave Woman And You Can’t Make Me Eat Like One

Hubby bought me sorbet. Sorbet is NOT ice cream.

My friend, Heather, and I commiserate about most things. Husbands, motherhood, shopping, finances, allergies, exercise, and weight gain are just a few. Yesterday, Heather posted on her Facebook page that she was going to make some “paleo iced goodness,” the “paleo” referring to The Paleo Diet. This immediately piqued my curiosity. Like many women, I have tried nearly every single friggin’ diet known to western civilization. I have done The Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, The South Beach Diet, The Game On Diet, and The 5 Factor Diet, all in an attempt to lose that 5-10 pounds I struggle with each year. I have not, however, yet tried The Paleo Diet. So, I texted her.

Me: What the hell is “paleo iced goodness”? I imagine pie would be better.

Her: Paleo-approved ice cream. No dairy.

Me: You are weird.

Her: Duh.

Me: I’m going to Dairy Queen.

Her: Damn it!!!!

Me: Since when are you paleo?

Her: Since never. I’m a wannabe.

Me: Dairy is one of the greatest things on earth. I could never give that up. Cheese, yogurt, ice cream? I don’t care if I could be 115 pounds as a paleo. I’d rather be fat. Cavemen lived sucky lives and died young. My theory on diets is exercise daily and eat junk occasionally.

Her: My theory…F*** it!

Me: That’s a good one too. Just remember…there can be no ice cream without the cream. 😉

If the Paleo Diet would require me to give up dairy entirely, the Paleo Diet and I are finished before we’ve begun. I prefer cheese to chocolate. There is no way I could ever give that up. And, ice cream is my big weakness. Even during the winter, I eat a bit of ice cream at least 5 times a week. The mere idea of being dairy free is anathema to me. Lord help those around me if I ever become lactose intolerant.

What I’ve slowly come to realize about dieting in general, though, is that I hate it. Hate it. I’m not saying anyone else loves it, but I know I hate it more than most. You know how I know this? Because I avoid it like nobody’s business. The best way to avoid dieting is to live with moderation. Aside from the two times I was pregnant, I have never allowed myself to gain more than 15 pounds over my ideal (per my doctor, not me) weight. The less I gain, the less I have to lose, and the less dieting I will have to suffer through. This is why I choose to exercise as if I enjoy it. Even exercise is better than dieting.

I know I am blessed. I have a decent metabolism. I come from a fairly thin family. I also know myself well enough to know that I am an addictive personality. With as much as I love drinking, the only reason I never became an alcoholic is because the thought of giving up alcohol forever forced me to moderate my drinking habits. And, this is how it has been with food. Giving up ice cream (real ice cream and not “paleo iced goodness,” mind you) is not something I ever thought I could do for long, and so I’ve been very careful with my eating habits.

There is an ebb and flow to my body. There’s no point beating myself up over an extra 5-10 pounds as long as it’s only an extra 5-10 pounds above what is healthy for me at the age I am at. Sue me. I like my cheese and my ice cream. I’m not a cave woman. If cave women were thin and healthy, it was because they were busy running from saber-toothed tigers and not because they had non-cream, paleolithic iced goodness for dessert.

What’s Your Name Again?

Text from Joe

Yesterday morning we planned to escape our house at 4:30 a.m. to make it to the starting point for our MS150 ride. Our children decided to wake up early with us to say goodbye, which we thought was sort of sweet. We know they won’t always care whether we’re around or not, so we try to appreciate the moments when they appear to like us. At 4:35, we were pretty much ready to go, their aunt was here to take over for us, and so we began to say our goodbyes. Luke, our affectionate but more independent child, hugged us and was ready to go back to bed. Joe, however, got very sad. He was near tears, requested repeated hugs, and was delaying our departure quite effectively.

“Joe…what is the matter?” I asked.

“I just don’t want you to go,” he replied.

“Why? Are you just going to miss us that much?”

“Yes.”

“Well…I think you’re just tired. You’ll be fine after you get some more sleep.”

For as much as he was carrying on, though, I began to wonder if he sensed something dire for us on our ride. Did he know something we didn’t know? I shook that nasty little thought out of my head.

“We will see you tomorrow afternoon by 4,” I assured him and then we escaped.

Knowing his state of mind when we left, I recorded a video message for him and sent it to his iPad last night when he was not yet home from a day of fun with his aunt. We desperately needed some rest, so we turned out the lights at 8:15 after the message was sent.

This morning we awoke to determine he had texted me for a conversation at 10:43 last night and tried to FaceTime his father at 10:45. Crazy kid.

Later today, we were waiting in a shady spot for our team to gather so we could ride through the finish line together when a text came in from Joe. He was asking us to come home. I texted back and told him we’d be home in “about” an hour. Exactly 57 minutes later he texted again. (Clearly I have spoiled him by being true to my word.) I told him we were about fifteen minutes away.

When I walked in the door, Joe yelled “Mom” and ran to give me a hug. Luke joined him. It was such a nice welcome home after our long weekend of riding. I told them that we would unload the car and then we could catch up. In the few minutes it took us to get our stuff back in the house, the boys had disappeared into a neighbor’s house to play with their kids. Guess that shows how much they missed us. I’ll consider myself fortunate that they remembered my name at all.

 

 

 

Hell…Swimsuit Shopping Be Thy Name

Me in the least disgusting option I tried on.

Today I did something dangerously ill-advised. Against all better judgment, I went swimsuit shopping. This is a feat far more hazardous than being one of the first shoppers in the door at Walmart on Black Friday. We’re going on this family trip in about a month, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should have a more modest swimsuit for this journey. No reason for my in-laws to have to see me with my midriff showing. (Truthfully, there’s no reason for anyone to have to see me that way, but I don’t have to look strangers in the eye again.) Anyway, a friend told me that she had bought a good suit recently at the Eddie Bauer outlet. She is an excellent bargain shopper, so I figured I should check it out. Nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something you don’t want to buy in the first place, right?

Well, wait a minute. I take that back. There is something worse than going shopping for a swimsuit and spending a bunch of money on something you don’t even want to buy in the first place. You can take your 9 and 11 year old sons to the store with you when you do it. I can’t decide if I am a candidate for sainthood or the insane asylum. Anyway, Joe had his iPad and Luke was playing games on another device, so I figured that would buy me about 20 minutes. I set them outside the entrance to the fitting rooms in a couple chairs and hastily started my search for a one-piece suit that would not make me look like either my 9 year old self or my grandmother.

I hurriedly grabbed four suits, found an open fitting room, and began the insidious process of stripping down to my skivvies in front of a dubiously lit, full-length mirror. Shudder. I quickly turned my back to my image and coerced my body into the first suit. I turned around for the grand reveal. It was less than grand. As is the case with many one-piece suits, this one flattened my tiny chest into a barely discernible fleshy wrinkle. Ick. I rid myself of that suit, and started on the next one. Before I knew it, I was through all four with nary a candidate in sight. I got dressed to search for more suits, hoping that when I got back out there a curious and ethereal light from heaven would be illuminating my dream suit.

It did not happen. The boys were still semi-quiet, however, so I grabbed six new suits and headed back to the changing room. As I was in there, squeezing myself into suit after suit like sausage into casings, my boys seemed to get louder. I could not figure out why this was. Then I realized they had entered the fitting rooms and now were right outside my door. Apparently my 20 minutes were up. I adjusted myself into a suit and opened the door.

“What are you doing in here? You need to be quiet,” I chided.

They stared at me and said nothing.

“What?” I said, feeling suddenly quite self-conscious in my mom suit. “Is it bad?”

“Nice,” Luke said. “Good. Like it.” (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite child?) He was obviously trying to hurry the process along by being my Yes Man. Still, I appreciated the positive comment.

Then, just when I was feeling good about Luke’s approval, Joe laughed. I glared at him with the burning heat of a thousand suns. Finally realizing his misstep, he tried to cover with a quick, “Nothing. Never mind.”

I decided to ignore him, shut the door, and get back to work. One thing was certain. I was not going to go to another store to endure further torture. I was leaving Eddie Bauer with an appropriate suit for our trip. It no longer mattered which one. I just had to get out of there because the confidence I had entered the store with was shattered. Ten flimsy pieces of fabric had taken me from intelligent, self-assured woman to whimpering, whining child. I was broken. I tried on two more suits, grabbed the one I despised least, and headed to the check out counter with my bona fide “mom” swimsuit. I was done.

Buying women’s swimwear is a total crap shoot. Hubby could not believe I tried on 12 suits just to find one that didn’t make me want to vomit or cry. It doesn’t matter what size a woman is, either. The experience is the same. We all have what we perceive to be figure flaws. We all try to minimize them. The goal is to find a suit we can be seen in that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. If we find one that makes us feel confident and sexy, that’s a total bonus. Most times, however, we’re content to find one that makes us feel not totally unattractive.

Sometimes I think about the Victorian era swimsuits…short-sleeved black dresses worn with bloomers and black stockings. As uncomfortable as that costume would be for swimming, at least you had no concern about baring your midriff roll or your post-baby stretch marks or the cellulite you inherited from your grandmother. Everything was covered up and left to the imagination. There’s some wisdom in that somewhere. I find it right about the time I start to try on the first of twelve impossible swimsuits.

 

Some Things Are Worth Saving For Later

One of four pages of ticket stubs I have from my sordid teenage years. Concerts have always been my thing.

Tonight I’m going back to the 80’s to see The English Beat with a few girlfriends. Two of these friends have known me for a very long time. I’ve known Kerry since grade school, and I met Kayla in the 7th grade. I liked Kerry right away because she had a nice Polish last name like mine, and I thought Kayla was so sophisticated because she had an eyelash curler and had heard of U2 before anyone else I knew. I try not to think about the things these girls witnessed because I’m still trying vehemently to deny some events from my teenage years. (Hopefully their ability to remember is as poor as mine.) One of the reasons I hoped I would not have a daughter was because I was once a teenage girl. I never liked teenage girls. Not even when I was a teenage girl. Oh…the game playing, the conniving, the rumors, the theatrics! I could fill books with my idiocy. Wait. I did. I kept a journal all those years. It’s horrifying.

All this preparing myself for a night out with friends I’ve known for over 30 years got me to thinking about the first real sleepover party I attended. I was 13. It was at Sandy’s house across the street from my own. Sandy, like Kayla, was also very sophisticated. She had moved here from North Carolina and she introduced me to great music from Elvis Costello. She and Kayla slowly divested me from my parents’ music, which consisted of Sonny and Cher and Barry Manilow. Not kidding. Anyway, the sleepover that night was typical. There was music, candy, and silly girl antics.

At one point, someone took my bra, got it wet, and stuck it in the freezer while I was off doing something incredibly lame like jumping around singing songs from Foreigner 4. When it came time to go to bed, I crawled into my sleeping bag to find it wet. There I discovered my once-frozen training bra (which never really got much beyond the training stage, sadly), which had been placed inside the flannel bag and was now completely thawed. Ugh. I was beyond annoyed. Being a teenage girl, I pitched a little hissy fit, took my sleeping bag, and in an overly dramatic fashion stomped myself right out of the house and right across the street to my own comfortable and dry bed. Party pooper.

I look back on those days now and roll my eyes. (Some teenage girl behaviors are never lost). So many stupid things in so few years. Most of them done in the name of some silly boy whom I can barely remember now. Luckily, most of my friends from those days lived those naive, childish moments right along with me. Kerry and I once drank too much and upon hearing her parents come home dumped the remaining contents of our opened beers into her fish tank. Brilliant. Kayla and I used to spend hours sitting outside the Rainbow Music Hall talking to cute, mod boys while waiting to hear bands who hadn’t yet made it big…bands like The Cure and INXS…hoping we’d meet them or at least catch a glimpse of them getting off their tour bus. We did get a signature once from the drummer of Wang Chung (back in their Dance Hall Days, before the horribly overrated Everybody Wang Chung tonight nonsense). I suppose it was all part of being a teenage girl.

I don’t miss those days, but I am infinitely glad I’ve still got some friends from that time in my life now. I’m giddy to see Dave Wakeling and The English Beat tonight at the Bluebird. For a few hours, I won’t even care if their music makes me feel 13 again. I won’t stop myself from singing “Tears of a Clown” too loudly, all the while remembering the immature boy who broke my heart when I was so much younger than I am now. And, as I’m dancing with my friends to “Save It For Later,” everything will be right with the world. Although I’ve put drama of my teenage years behind me, the best things from those days still make me happy.

Do Not Darken My Door…Unless You Are A Girl Scout

What does NO mean exactly? Am I confused?

This evening, after five consecutive 100+ degree days with air permeated by smoke from wildfires, we experienced a brief period of rain at our house and were able to open our doors and windows to breathe some fresh and slightly cooler air. It felt like the first day of spring. It was heavenly. It was peaceful. It was interrupted…by a ring of our doorbell. A twenty-something gentleman wearing a dress shirt and tie was at our door. Damn. We were caught at home. No denying our presence with him staring right at us through our open door while we ate our dinner. I hate it when that happens!

Hubby, who gets to be in charge of these type of situations because I refuse, approached the door. The young man started in with his sales pitch. Steve cut him off.

“We don’t accept solicitations,” he said as firmly but politely as he could.

“What about peddlers? Do you accept peddlers?” he quipped.

I had to give it to him. He has clearly been doing this for a while. He was quick with the lines.

“Nope. We don’t accept those either. Sorry,” Steve said with conviction.

The man started explaining why he was here. Steve cut him off again.

“Someone in this neighborhood is going to call the cops on you,” he said.

Wow. I thought that was pretty bold of Steve to say, even though it was fairly likely true. Our neighborhood has a strict no-solicitation policy. It is posted at the front entrance on the main thoroughfare. Any business solicitor who is in our neighborhood must have a permit obtained from the City of Littleton and must be able to provide a copy of it for homeowners if asked. If not, they are not legally allowed to go door-to-door in our neighborhood. Lots of neighborhoods and cities have these types of laws, but not many people are aware of them. Thanks to our overzealous community members who get annoyed about every single little thing (not kidding…one woman managed to get hot air balloons banned from flying over our neighborhood from the state park across the road), we know about this law. This law does not actually mean anything because salespeople still approach our doorstep non-stop and our only recourse is to file a complaint about them, but at least when they show up we have a nice way to explain why we’re closing the door in their face.

But, what gets me every single time is why we feel at all feel a need to explain ourselves to someone who shows up unannounced and uninvited on our doorstep. Steve and I are genuinely nice people most of the time. I suppose this is our problem. If we were mean, we wouldn’t care. We’d just slam the front door and go on about our day without a second thought. Instead, we were taught to be polite, so we make excuses, we get into discussions, we converse with these people because they’re human beings. Even though we’re not buying what they’re selling, we somehow feel obligated to listen to them. It’s crazy. It’s our house. This is our property. We’re grown adults. We should feel completely comfortable sitting at our dining table ignoring the interruption because it’s our right to do so and there’s a sign posted directly above our doorbell noting our stance on unwelcome visitors. Still, we explain our behavior to these strangers as if we need to. We allow them to encroach upon our time when we shouldn’t. It’s borderline pathetic.

I think it’s time for Steve and I to stop being so dang nice to these interlopers. I swear, the next time a solicitor steps up to our open door, we are going to be changed people. We will be brave and resilient. We will resist the temptation to explain ourselves. We will walk to the door, simply say “no thank you,” close it, and go back to our meal without giving it another thought. No Soliciting means NO soliciting. Unless you’re selling Girl Scout cookies. Then No Soliciting means “I’ll take 8 boxes of Thin Mints, please.” What? You can never have too many Girl Scout Cookies.

Today’s First World Problem…Solved

Steve enjoying the solution to our first world problem.

It’s been hot. Ridiculously hot. Today’s mountain bike ride with hubby, undertaken at 10:30 a.m., was conducted in 91 degree heat. By 2 p.m. when we were driving to REI our car registered a balmy 102. Three days ago, we saw 104 degrees, just one degree shy of the highest ever recorded temperature in Denver. To make matters worse, the entire state is a tinderbox. Firefighters are currently battling thirteen wildfires, which is five more than they were battling this morning. The smoke hangs heavy in the air reminding us that not only is it hot but it’s flaming hot. I’m starting to wonder when Satan will drop in for a visit because Hell is feeling a little chilly by comparison.

Tonight we’d planned to go to a neighborhood concert in the park, but as 5 p.m. rolled around we realized there was no way we were sitting outside for two straight hours in the hot, hot heat. Instead, we came home and collapsed in the air-conditioned comfort of our house. Then, the seemingly impossible happened. There was cloud cover and a slight breeze. We ventured out into the backyard to sit on our lovely flagstone patio, a patio that we haven’t had much of an opportunity to enjoy yet this summer. As we sat at our wrought iron table in the shade of our Japanese maple tree, we were still mostly baking. While the sun had abated, the heat remained far too noticeably.

“How do people who live near the equator stand it?” I whined. “It’s summer. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the nice weather. I’m supposed to be able to enjoy the yard we worked on during the spring. It’s too hot to sit out here. Next year I’m not going to bother gardening.”

“This sounds like a first world problem,” Steve replied, hoping to shut me up.

“Well…I need a solution to my first world problem. The folks in the Congo are used to this. I am not.”

“You can always go back into your air conditioned house,” he suggested. It was a delicately veiled attempt to get rid of me, though, and I was not going that easily.

“Wait a second. Wait just one second,” I perked up. “Didn’t your parents buy us that crazy misting fan years ago? Where is that thing?”

“It’s in the basement, I think,” he replied with interest.  “I’ll go look for it.”

A few minutes later Steve emerged with this enormous fan that his parents had bought us years ago. I balked when it had arrived, wondering when we would use such a thing and where we would store it when we weren’t using it. In fact, we’d only used it once, about four summers ago. The past several summers have been far too cool and wet to warrant its presence. Steve plugged it in, hooked it up to the hose, and voila! We were enjoying the wasteful luxury folks in Vegas and Phoenix know so well…a misted patio.

The misted patio, of course, needed happy hour drinks. We poured ourselves a couple cocktails, settled back into our chairs, and reveled in the comfort provided by our own personal patio saver. We spent a couple minutes discussing how fortunate we are to have first world problems and not third world problems. Our eleven year old, who had joined us briefly, inquired about the difference.

“Well, a first world problem is not being able to find the cord to charge your iPod. A third world problem is having the well in the town run dry,” I told him. “What happens if your well runs dry?”

“You die of thirst,” Joe answered.

“Right,” I said. “And what happens if you lose your iPod charger?” I asked him.

“You buy a new one,” he replied.

“Yep. You see the difference between the things we deal with and the things other people in this world struggle with?”

“Uh huh,” he said, thoughtfully, before departing for the frigid basement.

As we sat reflecting on how blessed we are to have only first world problems to deal with, I realized that the metal chair I was resting my flip-flopped feet on was a bit hard on my heels.

“I need a pillow for under my feet,” I told Steve, hoping he would take the hint.

“Looks like you have a new first world problem,” was his answer.

“Yes,” I said. “I need a new servant apparently. The old one is becoming more and more unreliable.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Night Red Cups Stopped Reminding Me Of Beer Pong

Red cups will never be the same for me.

(Author’s Note: The following is a true and cautionary tale. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent. Sorry, Hon.)

My husband is in all ways decent man. He has nary a character flaw to whine about, unless you count his nearly constant worry about his family. I’m blessed to have such a wonderfully good-natured spouse. I truly am. Let’s face it. He’d have to be to remain married to me for nearly 17 years. Still, there have been times that I have to wonder what in the holy hell is in his head.

I met my friend Lisa at Starbucks for coffee at 7 p.m. I didn’t get home until 10:10 because we’d lost track of the time. I pulled into the garage, exited my SUV, and walked up to the door. I turned the knob and realized hubby had locked the door.

Steve often locks the door from the house to the garage. It’s a pet peeve of mine. We have a home security system that we set religiously and a fearful dog with sharpish and pointed teeth and the will to use them. Beyond that, we have relatively little in our house that’s nice enough to be worth stealing. I know he’s just being cautious and protecting his family, but when he knows I’ll be home soon why on earth does he feel compelled to lock the door? Does he think someone’s going to come and abduct him? Sometimes I think it’s some sort of subconscious, passive-aggressive tactic to aggravate me since he’s normally so mild-mannered and accepting of my copious flaws. I have to wonder.

Anyway, I dig through my purse looking for my keys only to remember that I’ve left them on the kitchen counter because everyone was home for the evening and I wasn’t going to be out late. Crap. So, I knock on the door several times and wait for him to do what he usually does…approach to unlock it, uttering an apology I can hear through the door. I wait. I wait. No one is coming. He must be upstairs with the boys. So, I escalate my knocking by kicking the door very hard several times. I leave marks with my shoes. Certainly he will hear that, right? Nope. Are you kidding me? I open the garage door again figuring that he must be upstairs in the boys’ room, which is why he can’t hear me. I ring the doorbell on the front porch. Repeatedly. About a million times until I’m going to short the stupid thing out and start a fire. That will get their attention. Still, no one comes.

It’s at this point that I begin to realize that they’re probably asleep. It’s not unusual for Steve to go hang out in the boys’ room while they’re falling asleep. I figure the only chance I have of them hearing me is if I go around to the back of the house and call up to their open window. So, I do that. Not a peep. No lights turn on. No reply at all. I can’t yell for long because I’m trying not to let the neighbors know that my crazy husband has locked me out. From 10:10 to 11:10, fueled by annoyance, I knock, ring the doorbell, kick the doors, honk the car horn, try to open windows I can reach, yell up to the open window, and even throw rocks at it trying to get someone’s attention. Apparently, I’m invisible. A light bulb clicks in my brain. The fan must be on. When our whole house fan is on you couldn’t hear a 747 land in the bedroom. I’m screwed.

Finally, I go back to my car, close the garage door in resignation, and decide I might as well try to fall asleep in my car. What I discover is that a luxury SUV is not particularly luxurious when employed as a sleeping compartment. Around 1:30 a.m. I am still awake, sitting in my car, livid. I’ve had to pee three times, courtesy of a decaf grande skinny vanilla latte and a bottle of water I wished I had not ingested. That unladylike scenario involved a red Solo cup and a skill I learned very well while pregnant. Nothing like peeing in your own garage to make you feel like the family dog. Wait. The family dog was asleep inside the house while I was locked in the garage. Curious.

I considered going to a hotel, but knew that when hubby finally awoke he would probably notify the National Guard that I was missing. Besides, I had faith that sooner or later he would wake up and notice I was gone, right? He did not. Joe did. Joe woke up, walked into our bedroom to have me tuck him back into bed, noticed I was missing, and told his dad. Around 3:30 a.m. I heard the lock on the door to the garage unlock and saw the door open. Steve noticed my car was there and started to close the door again, presumably comforted because clearly I was home. I opened the car door and yelled to get his attention.

He looked like Bigfoot in headlights. He was in serious trouble. He appeared to be contemplating slamming and locking the door again to avoid the ugly situation. He apologized profusely, but I did not care. I was exhausted. I was angry. I was temporarily not speaking to him. I’d had to pee in a red cup. Beer pong was forever ruined for me.

My Kids Are Sucking The Brain Cells From My Skull

I’m devolving. In my next photo with other adults I’ll be putting rabbit ears behind someone’s head. Wait and see. It’ll happen.

Summer vacation is a mixed bag for me. It’s hard to give up my freedom when the little monkeys come home for the summer, but I do enjoy sleeping in and not making lunches and not stressing out with them over busywork school projects. Summers have become more of a blessing for me and less of a curse than they used to be. The boys are bigger and more independent. They amuse themselves and grab their own snacks. They play outside with friends for hours on end. There is far more freedom in my summers now than there used to be. I’m truly grateful for that.

Still, even with their absences from home, they’re still around many more hours now than they are during the school year. The decibel level in my house increases exponentially in summer. I had no idea I should expect this. One thing I heard before I had kids is that boys are not as talkative as girls. I can’t believe how misguided I was in believing that tall tale. My boys talk non-stop at me all day…and not always about the same things.

To exacerbate the situation, my sons aren’t talking to me non-stop about topics that interest me. We’re not spending hours together discussing alternative energy or world religions or cultural travel. They’re carrying on about their latest fixation, and I’m trying to stay plugged into what they’re saying because I’m supposed to be all zen and living in the moment. When the summer started, we were into Iron Man. From Iron Man, we went on to discover Thor and then Captain America. Of course, from there we were full on into The Avengers after seeing the movie. From the movie, we jumped to the cartoon series Avengers, which assaulted me for what seemed like years but was actually only about a week. After The Avengers, we springboarded right into the Fantastic Four, of course, before landing where we are now…smack dab in the middle of Skylanders. Yes. I am using the term “we” here because if they’re into it I get to be into it, whether I like it or not.

Today, the boys and I went out for a letterboxing hike. Letterboxing, for the uninitiated, is a hobby where you use written clues to find a treasure box. Inside the treasure box is a logbook so you can record your find and a rubber stamp so you can stamp the hider’s unique mark into your logbook. It’s a simple pastime the boys and I took on last year when I decided they needed to learn how to follow directions. (Don’t ask me how that’s going.) Anyway, we were hiking along in between two separate caches, and both boys were rambling simultaneously about equally mind-numbing topics. Joe was telling me the attributes of his Skylander characters while Luke was discussing inventions he thinks Tony Stark should create and market. At that precise moment I realized exactly why my ability to converse with adults has deteriorated to the point where I get the hives at the prospect of a cocktail party: my kids are sucking the brain cells out of my skull. One by one they are disappearing, vacuumed from my head by my Dyson-like children.

They were still chattering on like monkeys on four shots of espresso when I finally lost it.

“You boys are sucking the brain cells from my head. I’m going to need a drink by 3!”

This tirade caught their attention and for two complete seconds they stopped their spouting and looked at me. Then, Joe laughed and Luke raised his hand waited for me to acknowledge his intent to speak again. I shook my head.

I struggle as a parent to tune into what interests my boys. I don’t want them to think that I don’t care about their world. But, how many times a day can I honestly be expected to hear the words “hot lava” or “gunship” without wanting to hang myself? I know I chose this. I could work outside the home full-time, which would greatly decrease the number of hours a day I have to listen to them quiz each other over “Who would win? Thor and his hammer or four nuclear bombs?” If I were in an office, I could have adult conversations and perhaps then I wouldn’t notice my brain in the final stages of atrophy. But, then I remember that work is work, and I don’t like work. I’d much rather be hiking and then hitting Sonic before playing 18 holes of mini golf. I guess when I think about it that way, it’s really not such a bad trade off….a little mindless chattering in exchange for 7-day weekends. And, truthfully, how many brain cells do I need for mini golf, anyway?

 

Marking Your Territory

The victor and his spoils. Or is it the victor in his spoils? Either way…here is the victor.

My boys are usually the best of friends. For years, I’ve been amazed by their closeness and devotion to each other. Recently, though, I’ve noticed a decrease in their togetherness because some things they used to enjoy doing together they now realize they would rather do separately. One of these items is bathing. Their father and I were thrilled when they decided to stop sharing a bathtub because, quite frankly, they were getting way too old for it and we were a little tired of the bickering over who got “the deep end” and who was hogging the tub. What we discovered, however, is that their new love of privacy at bath time led to other issues, like who gets to shower first, who is taking too long, who used all the hot water, and who stole the clean towel.

Last night, after a long day at the pool followed by playing outside in the 100 degree heat, the boys unanimously decided they needed a bath. Not a joint bath, mind you. Two separate baths. Joe asked first, so he claimed first water rights. He filled the tub, got in, and began to relax. He was in the tub about fifteen minutes when an impatient Luke entered the bathroom and started pestering him to get out. I thought about intervening but decided instead to let them solve their own disagreement. Their bickering back and forth went on for about three minutes. Then I heard Luke take it up a notch.

“Get out, Joe,” he demanded.

“No. I haven’t been in here that long,” Joe replied.

“It’s my turn. Get out or I’m getting in.”

“It’s still my turn,” Joe argued.

“I’m getting in, then.” And, I heard the splash of Luke joining Joe in the tub.

For a few minutes, things were quiet. I was not thrilled they were in there together but, honestly, as long as they were quiet I didn’t see why I should rile them up. Then, just as quickly as the truce had been made, it was broken.

“Mom…Luke peed in the bathtub!” Joe exclaimed.

He did NOT just say what I think he said. I heard Joe climb from the tub. He ran down the hall to my room.

“What did you say?” was all I could muster.

“Luke peed in the tub. I had to get out,” Joe tattled.

I looked at him for a long, hard moment, standing there sopping wet in his towel, shooed out of his own bath. He looked so vulnerable that I nearly forgot that he had been egging his brother on, refusing to get out when his turn in the tub should have been over.

“Well, Joe, I’d like to be angry at him for you, but the truth is that you wouldn’t get out and he found a way to get you out. Next time maybe you won’t push him that way again.”

Joe looked at me, but didn’t bother to argue because he knew I was right. I knew he was no worse for the wear because he was wearing a half smile with his towel. I think he was secretly admiring Luke’s powerful negotiation skills. I did talk to Luke afterward to remind him that he probably could have found a less intrusive way to solve his problem. Luke has always been clever, if a bit devilish. He knows what he wants and can usually find a way to get it. As unorthodox as his tactics may be occasionally, I only wish I’d been as fearless with my young life as he is with his.

I suppose his behavior is not that extraordinary. From the dawn of time, men have found a way to appropriate things for themselves, their family, their faith, or their country. Men have plundered and pillaged and taken what they wanted by force. They have drawn up treaties and placed imaginary boundaries on a geographical landscape. Others have waged wars and coerced strangers into their beliefs. More orderly men filed paperwork and staked their claim. And some courageous men have even gone all the way to the moon and stuck their big, old flag in it. Luke’s behavior today was a childish prank tantamount to licking the last piece of cake to ensure no one else wants it. But, you’ve got to hand it to him. Quite Machiavellian, the ends justified the means and he got what he wanted. There truly is more than one way to skin a cat. You can always pee on it.