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    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Picture Day Meltdown

    Have I mentioned that I hate Picture Day? I don’t remember it being traumatic as a kid, but as an adult, this school event always has me flummoxed.

    On the night before Picture Day, I usually lay out the boys’ outfits from the previous Easter--which they didn’t wear because we always have blizzards on Easter—only to discover the next day that they grew three inches overnight and can no longer wear the Easter outfits they never wore in the first place!

    This year, I bought them short-sleeved, button-up shirts with stripes. Yeah. Thrilling. I couldn’t be more excited. Really.

    At least I bought the shirts one size up so as not to be caught off guard by a visit from the Miracle Grow Fairy.

    But this year, I had a new challenge to tackle. I didn’t have time to make sure Monkey took a bath last night, so I had to get him to take a shower this morning before school. Do all nine-year-old boys loathe bathing? Is it normal for them to come out of the bathroom after a shower just as filthy as they went in? Do other moms besides me have to stand outside the door and remind them to wash their faces and armpits?

    I wasted too much time narrating my son’s shower from behind the bathroom door this morning. When he finally finished, I raced upstairs to brush my teeth and get dressed, hollering to Chunky that he needed to get dressed. (His picture day is tomorrow. Yay. I get to do this all over again.)

    I’d just starting brushing when the smoke alarm went off. If I was the sort of mom who actually served a home-cooked breakfast in the morning, I might have been worried. But I knew kid-tampering was the only reason the fire alarm would go off on a Tuesday morning at 8:20 AM with me still in PJ’s, brushing my teeth, and already horrendously late for Picture Day.

    I ran downstairs, saliva pooling around the toothbrush still in my mouth, and glared up at the smoke alarm. Why do we do this? Why is our first reaction to stare at the screeching device instead of look for fire?

    Anyway, as I dragged a chair into the hall and climbed up to push the button, I hollered around my mouthful of toothbrush and drool, “Monkey, what did you do?”

    “Nothing,” he muttered.

    I silenced the alarm then looked at Monkey, who stood there with hair combed, wearing his Picture Day best, and holding the carbon monoxide detector.

    “Why did you unplug the carbon monoxide detector?”

    “I dunno.”

    At this point Chunky shows up, completely dressed, but without socks.

    “Go get your socks on, Chunky.”

    “I threw them downstairs.”

    “Then go find them and put them on.”

    “Here they are.”

    “Those aren’t your socks. Those belong to one of your brother’s friends.” (If I knew which friend, I’d return them.)

    Chunky starts bawling. “Where are my socks?”

    “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL, go upstairs and get new ones! WE’RE LATE!”

    Chunky sobs back up the stairs. I go spit.

    Chunky comes back down the stairs holding thick dinosaur slipper socks.

    “If you wear those socks, your shoes will be too tight! Get new ones. Never mind! I’ll do it!”

    I go up, get his socks, come back down, sit him on the chair I used to reach the alarm, and cram his feet into socks and shoes. He wails the whole time, and Monkey says, “Mom, why are you yelling at Chunky?”

    “Because it’s PICTURE DAY, that’s why!”

    As we're trotting into school, long after the bell has rung, I notice Monkey buttoning the top button of his shirt.

    "Don't do that. You only button the top button if you're wearing a tie."

    "But I don't want anyone to see my neck?"

    What is that about?

    "Sweetie, you will look like a dork if you button the top button."

    "But I like it this way."

    And that's when I officially gave up. I can’t believe I actual pay for this nightmare. Every year.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Things a Nine-Year-Old Does

    Monkey will turn nine in a few days. Apparently, the little twerp has decided to grow up. Fast!

    The other day he sighed and said, “I’m getting older and that means more chores. Like taking baths. Because bigger bodies get more stinky.”

    You can tell what topic of conversation has come up in our house recently.

    His last growth spurt rivaled the Hulk’s transformation, but thankfully my not-so-little-anymore boy isn’t green. Unless he’s eaten a green popsicle, that is.

    The grown-ups in the house have marveled at the recent changes in Monkey’s maturity level. As a late bloomer, he’s always been behind the curve, but now he seems eager to dash ahead.

    He made a splash in swim lessons this year. His instructor said he was the strongest swimmer in his group. We’ve finally managed to get him to piano lessons regularly, and his teacher calls him “a natural.” When he was assigned “Ode to Joy,” I told him it was my favorite piece of music and that we played it at our wedding. Now when I tell him to practice it, he rolls his eyes and says, “Yeah, I know, Mom. It’s your favorite song.” Then he plays it, looks at me with a twinkle in his eye, and asks, “How was that, Mom? Was it good? Did you like it?”

    Yep. Puddle of mom right there on the floor next to the piano.

    I think part of being a late bloomer is being a bit of a mama’s boy. Sometimes I don’t mind. Like when he holds his little, brown, Cherokee-kissed arm out next to mine and says, “We have the same skin, right Mom?”

    But there’s another side to being mother to a clingy boy—always being the security blanket, having to push him to take responsibility, to remember the simplest things, like brushing teeth and wearing clothes, without being reminded.

    My good friend whose son is a high-functioning autistic says, “Someday he’ll be a rocket scientist, but I’ll still have to pack his lunch and drive him to work every morning.”

    I can totally relate.

    But recently Monkey hit a milestone in his journey to becoming a healthy, well-balanced, apron-string-free man. Mom and I had picked the boys up from school and were heading to another author’s booksigning at Mardel. The boys were talking about their day at school and Monkey piped up.

    “Mom, did you know they’re going to have career day at school?”

    In fact, I’d already signed up to be involved, excited that this year I could participate as a published author.

    “Yes,” I told him, “and Grandma and I will be there, and we’ll get to talk about The Dragon and the Turtle with all your school friends.”

    It was quiet for a second then a hesitant voice said, “Well, ok, Mom, . . . but doesn’t Dad build things that go up into space?”


    Yes, my feathers were just a teensy bit ruffled. I mean, come on, my book was published this summer! That’s gotta earn me some cool points with the offspring, right? But at the same time I was cheering inside. If you have boys, then you know how important it is for them to loosen their koala-tight hold on mommy and look to dad as their role model.

    We talked for awhile about Dad’s cool job and how the products he works on go in rocket ships and satellites and help keep our country safe. Monkey quickly concocted a special ops scenario in which bad guys were trying to steal Dad’s plans for a super secret totally awesome weapon. I gently brought him back to reality and silently wondered if we might have yet another storyteller in the family.

    I guess we’ll find out when Monkey grows up.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Cub Scout Mom

    Monkey and Chunky are Cub Scouts! When we starting looking into Cub Scouts naturally the first thing I thought was, “Oh, they’ll look so cute in their uniforms!” The rest of the program sounded good too. Character training, fun activities, positive socialization, summer camp, lots of opportunities to wear out the boys.

    Summer camp was our initiation. After hiking half a mile in my flip flops to drop the boys off at the camp location, I began to suspect that I was not quite prepared to be a scout mom. The other women I saw were in tennis shoes or hiking boots, and furthermore, seemed to possess some hidden control over their little Cub Scouts. While my kids darted around and shrieked like pterodactyls, the other scouts stood quietly waiting for the day’s activities to begin.

    Undaunted, I returned the next day with my tennis shoes and Willie, our Blue Heeler, who is convinced that Monkey and Chunky are her cows and must be kept in line. Hey, whatever it takes. We managed to get through the week of camp, and the boys had fun once they quit acting like prehistoric terrors.

    The start of school has also brought the start of regular Cub Scout meetings. This week it was finally time to get those adorable little uniforms. I made the trek to what is known as the Council Store and had what can only be described as a completely novel experience.

    I didn’t know how to shop!

    That’s never happened to me before!

    The shirts, pants, belts and hats weren’t intimidating. But an entire row made up of bin after bin filled with mysterious patches was enough to make me shake in my destroyed denim. Then there were neckerchiefs, slides, insignia, badges, belt thingamabobs, and socks, and even Boy Scout party supplies.

    I must have looked lost because a very nice, insignia-bedecked young man asked if he could help. I told him I had no idea what I needed, and he started asking questions.

    “What pack are you in?”

    “Um, I have a first grader and a third grader.”

    “Ok, that means you have a tiger cub and a bear cub.”

    “Tell me about it. They’re wild.”

    “But what pack are you in, ma’am?”

    “You mean the numbers?”

    “Yes, the numbers.”

    Once I remembered what pack we were in, he handed me number badges, a council patch, and some other things I still haven’t identified. Then he loaded me down with the rest of the paraphernalia. I followed dumbly as a man did my shopping for me.

    We’ll pause here for me to recover from the humiliation. I’m gonna need a moment before we go on.

    Ok. So we finally made it to the register, and I plunked my armload onto the counter. My friendly personal shopper began ringing me up, and I pawed through the various patches, trying to sort them out.

    I turned a patch over and without giving it much thought, asked, “Are these supposed to be sewn on?”

    “Yes, ma’am, they’re sew-on.”

    “But I don’t know how to sew.”

    Awkward silence.

    I cringed. I’d failed again at being a good scout mom. I’m pretty sure my polite, bearded friend behind the cash register could sew on a patch with his eyes closed.

    “We have Badge Magic.”

    I breathed a sigh of relief and followed my Boy Scout Guide to what I’m guessing was the Single Dad section of the store where they have ready-made kits for home-economics drop-outs like myself.

    I had this wild impulse to tell the guy that I can cook—like that would redeem me in his eyes. But I didn’t. I mean, let’s face it, Kraft Mac n’ Cheese doesn’t exactly scream June Cleaver.

    I made my purchases, thanked him—he really was nice—and fled in shame.

    Today I pulled all the stuff out of the bag, read the instructions on Badge Magic—So Simple, Even a Scout Can Do It!—got all the patches ready, and ironed the shirts. I know! Ironing! I haven’t done that in years! Then I traced the badges, cut out the shapes, affixed the Badge Magic to the badges, and stuck the badges onto the shirts. I only had one snafu and it was easily fixed. But the real test will be Monkey’s den meeting tonight. We’ll see if I managed to get all those patches on in the right spots. But for now, I’m pretty proud of myself.

    Next challenge. Popcorn sales. Are scouts wearing braces exempt?