Sleep’s Overrated, Anyway…

When Marc was a toddler his older brothers used to call him the “Night Crawler.” I knew I was in for it from that point on. Marc always had trouble falling and even staying asleep. Having three boys, I innately understood that if I had enough children, I would experience one of everything, the picky eater, the biter, the crier, the spitter and yes, even the night crawler. I never imagined that Marc’s sleeping problems would continue throughout his life and worsen in his teenage years, ultimately contributing to my lifelong exhaustion.

One Sunday night, before I had the opportunity to begin my usual “because it’s a school night” lecture, Marc came into my bedroom at 9 PM announcing that he was going to bed. As he walked out of my bedroom door and into his own room I was elated. Should I read or go to sleep, I thought…this was too good to be true.

The house was finally quiet, for once. I decided to slide under the covers and spend some much-needed “me time” engrossed in a good book. I was joyous!  It was hard to believe that two hours had passed when I heard Marc’s bedroom door open.

“Mom, I’m uncomfortable in my bed. I’m going to sleep on the couch.” Marc stated.

I replied, “Okay, but get to sleep. You have school tomorrow.”

I went back to reading my book but my mother’s intuition kept nudging me. It was then I realized that I hadn’t told Marc good night. Maybe I’ll just go downstairs and give him a kiss on the head. I quietly walked down the dark staircase from my bedroom to the living room. I approached the couch and leaned over to kiss Marc on the head…wait where was his head…it was covered in blankets.I felt for Marc’s shoulders then down his back. I yelled for my fiance’ John.

“John, come down here!”

John made his way down the stairs and into the dark living room.

“Where is Marc?” I asked.

“Right here.” John replied as he reached for Marc’s body on the couch “I can feel his legs.”

“Can you?” I asked John as I turned on the living room light and pulled back the covers.

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There on the couch were Marc’s joggers stuffed with clean folded and rolled bathroom towels.

“He isn’t even home!” I shouted as I ran back upstairs to grab my cell phone.

I was both upset and concerned as I dialed Marc’s cell phone number. No answer. What parent doesn’t love to call their teenager’s cell phone (which they pay for) and get sent straight to voicemail, especially at a time like this and on a school night.

Time to go to plan B, I thought. I sent Marc a text stating that the cops were looking for him. Now I just had to wait.

Five minutes later Marc flew into the house.

“Mom, mom, mom, I’m sorry. You didn’t call the cops did you? I couldn’t sleep. I was only at my friend’s house across the street.” Marc stated with fear in his eyes.

“You are lucky that I didn’t…this time. Don’t you ever do that again! Now go to your room and go to bed. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” I replied.

I had to chuckle to myself a bit as Marc walked up the staircase to his bedroom. I always thought that as a parent, I would be one step ahead of my kids at all times. I guess I was wrong.  Maybe I could be…if I could just get some more sleep.

 

 

 

The Big Picture

I don’t care what anyone says, it’s hard work potty training boys. Sit, stand, aim. Boys just seem overwhelmed and uninterested. I tried everything… a sticker box and glossy chart to go with it, m&ms as a reward, and the old tried and true, Cheerios in the toilet.

By the time my first-born was off to preschool, I desperately tried to entice him with a shopping spree for “big boy pants” all his own. In the store, we both in stood amazement staring at the vast selection. Immediately, Kevin fell in love with the Spider-Man four pack. That was easy, I thought. Each of the underwear had a small picture of Spider-Man on the front, a large Spider -Man scene on the back, and all were trimmed in different primary colors. Kevin was so excited! I was excited too, but for the reason of putting the expense of pull-ups behind me. At the time, I was also paying for Pampers for his brother Eric.

After a trial run over the weekend, the novelty of the new “big boy pants” hadn’t worn off. When Monday morning arrived, Kevin took pride in dressing himself for school. I encouraged his new-found independence, giving his snap close jeans and Spider-Man T-shirt a once-over and a quick and prideful expression of approval.

“Kevin, I am so proud of you!” I said with delight.

Kevin beamed a smile back while we were on our way to his preschool. In the car, I explained about wearing “big boy pants”, using the potty (like we had at home), and of course, the importance of washing your hands.

“I’ve got this!” I thought, feeling like the best mom ever.

As soon as we entered the classroom, I discreetly let the preschool teacher know that Kevin had a great weekend potty training and that he was actually wearing underwear. I think I was as proud as Kevin was. Feeling hopeful that I had finally conquered the potty training battle, I left for home to catch up on the laundry and house cleaning.

Hmm. Not a call from the school. Kevin must be doing great. I knew it. One down, one to go and I’d be well on my way to financial freedom.

When I returned to pick up Kevin, the teacher was busy with another parent. I thought, well, no news is good news. We drove home, got out of the car and went inside for lunch and then a well deserved nap.

Kevin was playing in the family room with some toys when I called to him that lunch was ready. It was then that I noticed that his jeans were unsnapped. “Kevin, you didn’t snap your jeans. Come here and mommy will fix it for you,” I said.

Kevin came running over. I pulled his jeans together but was unable to snap them. I tried again. They were too tight or there was just too much material. It was then that I noticed that there was definitely too much material. I could see the bands of color from his big boy pants…red, yellow, blue and green.

“Kevin, how many pairs of big boy pants do you have on?” I asked.

Kevin matter-of-factly replied, “All of them.”

I asked Kevin, “Why did you wear all four of them?”

“I couldn’t decide.”

I pulled at the material bulging out of the fly of his tiny jeans. Sure enough, there were all four pairs of Spider-Man underwear. Looking more closely, I could see the large colorful scene from the back of his underwear. He had them all on backwards.

“Kevin, why did you put all of the underwear on backwards?”

“I wanted to see the big picture, Mom.”

I chuckled, but little did I know that Kevin would grow into a young man who always seeks the big picture in life and in turn never gets hung up on small details.

Maybe, that is a lesson for all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

The Award Goes To…

When my boys were younger I always worked multiple jobs. Okay, I still am, and probably always will be a workaholic. Actually, most of my life working like a dog has been an absolute necessity, yet even when not, I always maintained the same work ethic.

I became the queen of quick meals, crock pot cooking and yes, the master of the microwave. I was always pretty proud of myself and my ability to hold two jobs, vacuum the  living room while still wearing a suit and heels, wash, dry and fold laundry into the wee hours and of course, whip up a meal in minutes.

Kevin, then 6 years old, came home with a smile, a bounce in his step and a paper from school boasting an “A”.

“Mom, guess what? I got an “A” on a project!” Kevin beamed.

“That’s wonderful honey! What was the assignment?” I inquired.

“Well, everyone had to write down what their favorite food was, write one sentence about it and draw a picture.”  Kevin continued, “Most of the kids picked pizza or hot dogs…but wait until you see mine!”

Kevin continued beaming as he turned his paper that sported a large “A” towards me so I could see.

At the top of the paper, Kevin had  written perfectly, “My favorite food is broccoli.”

Underneath was his sentence about the topic.

“Boy, Can my mom microwave up a box of broccoli!”

The drawing below showed a box of broccoli and a to scale replica of the green giant.

Embarrassed and momentarily fear struck, I tried to form a smile. My first-born child had no idea that broccoli was grown in soil, in gardens and farms.

“I’m so proud of you Kevin!” I said with a hug.

I’m definitely going to have to decline that “Mother of  the Year” nomination…it’s the right thing to do.

And…this year, maybe plant a garden.

It’s Funny cuz It’s True…

When I tell my friends, family or co-workers a story about my life, they always say, “Oh my God, that’s so funny!” My standard reply is, “It’s funny cuz its true.”

When my kids were small, I saved enough money to transform the entryway of our home into a page straight out of a decorating magazine. I purchased a beautiful wooden sitting bench and an elegant mirror to hang above it. I painstakingly selected wallpaper with a small vertical gold stripe and the tiniest, most delicate floral pattern set against a background of white. I knew together, the wallpaper, the mirror and the bench would make a striking, yet warm and inviting entrance into our home.

I hired a person to put up the new wallpaper since I hadn’t a clue where to start and I wanted it to be perfect. To my surprise, the wallpaper was flawlessly installed in a day. I was elated! I enthusiastically positioned the bench, hung the decorative gold framed mirror, and lovingly added matching gold framed pictures of my children to the hallway.

It was finished. My vision, made into reality! I couldn’t have been happier.  I spent many of the days that followed standing in the entryway admiring its beauty.

Upon returning home from work one night, I was stopped dead in my tracks…low on the wall, across my beautiful new wallpaper, were some swirling red lines. I thought,”Oh my God, is that red crayon…red pen,  or worst of all, red marker?!” My heart was beating through my chest. Because the red scribble was low  on the wall, I knew it had to be my 4-year-old son Marc. My shock was now turning to anger as Marc greeted me by the door.

I forced myself to take a deep breath and smile. “Hi honey. Do you happen to know how these red marks got on the new wallpaper?” I asked.

To my surprise Marc replied, “Yes, I do. It happened last night when you and daddy were sleeping.”

“It did?” I questioned, “Tell me all about it.”

“Well, a burglar broke in,” Marc began.

“A burglar broke in?” I repeated, fully intending on seeing how far my son would go with this story. “Why didn’t you wake us?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to worry you.” Marc said.

“That was very nice of you, Marc.” I replied. “So, what did you do?”

“I just stood there. Then he grabbed me,” Marc stated.

“He grabbed you? You must have been so scared. Why didn’t you wake us?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to worry you,” Marc replied.

“Then what happened?” I inquired.

“Well, he had a knife,” Marc said.

“A knife? Oh my God!” I shrieked.

Marc continued, “And… he had a red pen.”

I said, “So he had a knife and a red pen. Wow, that must have been scary. How did you get away?”

“I jumped out the window,” Marc explained.

“You jumped out the window…Where did you go?” I asked.

Marc replied, “Well, I ran all the way to Dr. Baron’s office (he was Marc’s pediatrician at the time).”

“Why didn’t you have Dr. Baron call me?” I asked.

“He didn’t want to wake you up,” Marc replied.

“Marc, let me go get the camcorder so you can tell me again what happened and I can record all of this for the police.” I left the room to grab the camcorder.

I returned to find Marc standing in the exact same place, looking white as a ghost.

“Mommy?” Marc said sheepishly. “I wrote on the wall with a red pen.”

“I know you did, Marc.” I replied.

“Wait, how did you know?” Marc asked, as I handed him  some soap and a sponge.

“Mommies just know these things, Marc.” I said stifling a smile.

Fortunately, the red pen came off and Marc never wrote on a wall again.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t make this sh*t up.” Trust me, I don’t have to make it up as there is never a lack of material in my life…It’s just funny cuz it’s true.

Damn the Kardashians

So, here it is, my blog. Maybe my daily life deserves more of a platform, like say, a reality show. Maybe the Kardashians have more junk in their trunk, or more stack in their rack…but they have NOTHING on me. “My life, I swear….” I find myself repeating that as my mantra in the face of yet another ridiculous situation, after another ridiculous situation.

I am a single mom of three boys, Kevin (20), Eric aka “Rocky” (17) and  Marc (14). I live with my boys and my fiancé , John, a man I dated 27 years ago (that’s a story in itself). John also has a son, Matthew (20) who lives with John’s ex-wife but comes to visit us. Sounds like the normal 21st century blended family, right?  Right. Unbeknownst to us, my ex-husband spent three days living in our basement this past winter. Did I mention that Kevin is an aspiring film maker and a graduate of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting? This kid has been carrying around a camcorder since he was three and nothing is off-limits, in fact EVERYTHING is material. Kevin is also a rapper, as is Marc. They have rapped on the stage of Toad’s Place, New Haven, as well as other venues. Eric, also known as “Rocky” is my sports star, a seasoned hockey player. John’s son , Matthew, is a talented,  competitive ballroom dancer. John is currently unemployed, which leaves plenty of time for friction with my unruly teenage boys. I am a writer, public speaker and most importantly, a midlife waitress.

There’s the cast of characters.. Ready to see what could possibly happen to make my life put the Kardashians to shame? I promise not to disappoint.

Boys, Boys, Boys

There is something about being the mother of three boys that makes you want to pour straight vodka into your breakfast cereal. I’m not saying I’ve done it, but I have been damn close. There is a dynamic to having three boys, that only a parent of three boys can understand. If you have three sons you’re probably shaking your head “yes” right now and rethinking the half-gallon of milk that you’re holding mid-pour above your cereal bowl.

Wait! Don’t go there yet!

Let me spin you a little dish washing tale that will encompass the absurdity of it all. Unfortunately, it happened at a time when John and I were faced with the most trying and heartbreaking circumstances I have endured to date…

My beloved father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February of 2015. John and I began the exhausting, yet selfless job, of caring for my father during his illness. This required one of us being away from home for twelve hours at a time, then eventually, both of us being away for twelve hours, as his care required two people.

How were we going to leave three teenage boys unattended? We really had no choice so we sat the boys down and laid out some ground rules about our circumstances and our expectations…”Grandpa Ed is very sick and we aren’t going to be home a lot. If we ever needed you boys to step up your game, this is the time. You’re going to have to make your own food, wash the dishes, put the trash out, wash your clothes, walk the dog and stay out of trouble.” I said. The boys nodded their heads in agreement.

Upon returning home one evening to gather more clothes and check on the boys, we found my youngest son Marc at the kitchen sink up to his elbows in dishes and suds. He was wearing pink latex gloves with floral cuffs as he scrubbed with a vengeance. “Wow, Marc! I’m impressed!” I encouraged, as my eyes scanned the mammoth pile of glasses, dishes, pots and pans teetering on the counter. Marc smiled as I gave him a kiss and thanked him on my way out the door. I must admit, although the state of the house was far from pristine, Marc’s effort left me feeling hopeful. Maybe my boys would step up in a time of crisis. Maybe they would be able to take care of things at home after all.

Over the next four months, the many trips back and forth from my parents home to our home began to reveal something about each of my children’s personalities through the simple, everyday task of washing dishes. Marc was definitely the doer. Now Eric (aka “Rocky”) he was another story…

As soon as we stopped home, there was a knock at our back Kitchen door. John answered and our landlord (also our next door neighbor in a duplex) explained that her stove was on the fritz and asked if it would be okay if she grabbed her dinner, brought it over and used our stove. John said, “Of course” and she was gone in a flash.

I was busy sorting through our bags collecting clothes that I needed to wash. Our landlord returned, setting a large pot on our stove while explaining that we were welcome to some of her “famous rice and beans.” When I looked up from our overnight bags I saw it. “What the hell is that?” I thought. I moved closer to the kitchen sink to get a better look. “John, did you put a black trash bag over the sink?” I asked. “No.” John replied, “I thought you did that.” The sink was obviously overloaded with, I would guess from the bulge, every kitchen item we owned. Atop was a very neat and precisely placed, black plastic 30 gallon trash bag. “Why in the world would I do that?” I chirped, as our landlord looked a bit shocked. “I don’t know why you would do that.” John replied, as Rocky entered the kitchen. “I did it.” Rocky boldly announced. “Why in the world would you put a trash bag over the sink?” I asked in dismay. “I was tired of looking at it.” Rocky stated and left the room.

After a long talk with the boys about the importance of washing what you use, sharing the workload and keeping up with the dishes, we came home to Kevin…

John and I both stared on in amazement as Kevin, my eldest mind you, carefully washed a fork, dried it and put it away. Washed a plate, dried it, walked to the kitchen cabinet and put it away. “Boy, this is a lot of work.” Kevin said. John and I glanced at each other as John said, “Ya know Kevin, it’s easier if you wash everything and put it in the dish drainer.” Kevin seemed to contemplate the idea as he washed a red bowl and placed it facing up on the top of the dish drainer. I smirked to keep from laughing, as John walked by, inverted the bowl and said, “Gravity is your friend, Kevin.”

On another stop home not long after, I was in the living room when John bellowed, “Hun, did you put a frying pan in the freezer…? I approached John standing in the kitchen, holding a frozen non-stick frying pan as he finished his sentence, “upside down…dirty?” We stared at each other, then back at the pan. “Had to be Rocky.” I said. “Upside down. Must be Kevin.” John said. The standard inquisition of the boys revealed the standard replies…” I don’t know, I didn’t do it and not me.”

By March I was emotionally and physically drained from caring for my father. My heart ached and I had no intention of celebrating my birthday. To my surprise, John’s mother brought a birthday cake over. We were all home and the simple act of lighting the candles, singing happy birthday and eating cake together was, unbeknownst me, exactly what I needed. The mood was light and happy. I found myself relaxing, living in the moment and enjoying the conversation with my sons.

“Hey, mom.” Marc said, “Seeing that we’re all in such a good mood, I have a confession.”

“What’s that, Marc?” I smiled.

“I put the frying pan in the freezer.” Marc stated.

“Marc, why would you put a dirty frying pan upside down in the freezer?” I asked.

“Well,” Marc continued, “I was tired of washing dishes. There were just so many. Too many. So I hid them.”

“You hid THEM?” I asked.

“Yup.” Marc said as he pointed to the bottom doors of our dining room hutch. John’s mother looked confused as John bent down and opened the doors. There sat a neatly stacked pile of unwashed plates, bowls, forks and spoons. All we could do was laugh.

My life, I swear…

Sometimes I wonder if I taught these boys anything at all and if any one of them will have the basis skills to get by in life. Sometimes I worry that I’ve done too much for them, or maybe that I haven’t done enough. I guess as parents we tend to worry and blame ourselves. Maybe that’s part of parenting, maybe that’s normal. Sometimes I feel that nothing about my life is normal or even close to it. Sometimes in those moments, I take a minute to remind myself how our struggles, how each of our unique personalities respond to those struggles, how we somehow manage to bond together even in our differences and how our interaction and our love for each other create the laughter and the stories that make it all worth wild.

Isn’t that really what life is all about anyway?