‘Tis the night before Christmas Vacation

‘Tis the night before Christmas vacation
and all through the land
not a parent is sleeping
for teacher gifts await – to be made by hand

There are crayon wreaths
and cookies
Ornaments galore
I might’ve lost the baby
in the mess of ribbons on the floor

Such care is taken
Special attention to detail
There is no room for error
No such thing as a Pinterest fail

For our beloved children,
teachers go the extra mile.
It’s really the least we can do –
to burn off our fingerprints
with an overflow of hot glue

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If we’re being real . . .

At daybreak, the kiddies
to the bus they will go
your precious cargo – the gifts –
into their throes
But you’ll hear the bus driver exclaim as she drives out of sight:
What, was your mom up making that all night?

Mother’s Milk

This tiny little person

latched on to my body

as long as I am wide

Miniature fist clenched around a rib of fabric,

holding on for dear life

Eyes arched in ecstasy,

then drooped in slumber

More parasitic than symbiotic,

but the sweetest symbol ever seen

 

Bonus Day

Yesterday, the first day of spring, my children had a snow day from school.

No, the irony does not escape me. Yes, I realize our region of New England does not preclude such occurrences (one blizzard happening several years ago on April Fools’ Day – apparently Mother Nature has a healthy sense of humor every year). Alas, the snow totals fell drastically short of the predictions and the sun shone and snow melted by what would have been dismissal time.

As I lay in bed Sunday night, after receiving the robo-call from the school department, I was more relaxed than usual knowing I wouldn’t have to rush the kids out the door the next morning. I did say to my husband, however, that I wasn’t looking forward to a whole day inside with the kids. He agreed with me that my comment didn’t exactly sound nice, but I’ve gotten used to some quiet school days as a respite. Plus, I’ve been having iPad battles with the oldest (see previous post), all the girls have been having battles with each other, and I just end up yelling.

It made me laugh, then, when a friend called in the morning, saying I had a ‘bonus day’ with the kids. None of us were dressed. I’d been on my phone all day. They’d bounced between their rooms, the Wii, iPad, and computers. Her use of ‘bonus’ implied unexpected and appreciated quality time. I think I was on vegetation/survival mode.

I finally got my butt in gear enough to strip all three of their beds, a task – believe it or not – they’d been bugging me to do. My very particular middle wanted tightly tucked sheets. My little wanted new blankets. The oldest sleeps with such reckless abandon her bed was just torn to shreds. I figured with them home, perhaps they could help me. I also hoped I’d find my middle’s long-lost library book shoved under her mattress. Ha ha!

When I pulled the bunk beds out to sweep for books and animals lost to the abyss, I made the mistake of leaving the room for a bit afterwards. We all know what empty spaces and crevices and unexpected configurations are for, right? For me, it meant extra room to tuck in those pesky sheets on the far side of the bunks. For them, it meant fill with stuffed animals and baskets and blankets!

'Sure I know what would solve this problem. More floor space.'

Or personal space . . .

 

Suddenly, awash in piles of bedding flooding the hallway, random crap scattered everywhere on the bedroom floors, another step added to an already unwelcome task – I was transported back to days when all three were pre-school. When it was one step forward, two steps back. When it was literally shoveling shit against the tide. When keeping them happy and/or entertained and a house with the least order of squalor attainable and some semblance of sanity was a nearly impossible balance.

And I was scared.

I was reminded what life was like with a house full of littles. As the sole caregiver, comforter, cheerleader, coach, craft guru . . . I am well aware that I need not be all these things at all – and certainly not all at once. But my anxiety treats any deviation from a perceived plan or expectation as a misstep, a notch closer to irritation, panic, anger. It makes me hide in a corner of my couch, balled up in my pjs, content to try nothing rather than get frustrated with things not going according to plan. Or overwhelmed by the enormity of a whole day with all these people – when it should be about the moments.

Even when summer vacation starts and I have not only the new infant, but the older three, it will not be the same as those insular days when they bounced off the walls like ping-pong balls. They are not all toddler and preschool age. They can have some independent and alone time. Even while I tend to the baby, they can play on their own or swing outside. Hopefully they will understand that I won’t be able to – nor should I – entertain them all day. Hopefully I’ll remember that, too.

And to take each moment one at a time for what it’s worth – not worrying the whole day away before it’s even started.

 

Musical.ly Inclined

Many a lazy weekend day in my childhood were filled with concerts. Right in my own living room.

The Eurythmics were repeat performers. Annie Lennox would sweep her hands down into the crowd, imploring them, would I lie to you? Dave Stewart would run the driving back beat down the neck of his guitar.

But even though I hosted the party, there was no front row seat for me. I was Annie Lennox, playing to my imaginary musical sidekick. During the advent of compact discs and their newfangled players, it was exciting to try out the new wave artists’ albums my parents had just acquired – even better when the tiny insert had the lyrics, which made memorization a lot easier than starting the song over and over. Usually, Saturday nights, my parents would retire to the TV room downstairs and I’d transform the living room into a concert hall. However, it was such a common occurrence and I blared the music so loudly, my parents knew my weekend ritual and my mother crafted me a wooden microphone for just such occasions. I played to the crowd, I played to the huge rectangular mirror that hung above the couch, I rallied with my band mates.

Imaginary play is a fantasy. If not in a world of your own creation, where else can you be the star? But – is there a line between imagined best case scenario and narcissism?

The reason I revisit this memory now (as well as any time I hear The Eurythmics) is because of an app called Musical.ly. My eleven year-old has discovered this via – who else – her friends. It started out innocuously enough. She wanted to watch a handful of videos friends had shared with her; she needed to have an account to do so. Once she saw her friends hamming it up, of course she wanted to try as well. The videos are shorts, mostly voice-overs of popular songs or memes to which the kids lip sync and dance – not unlike what I did in front of the decorative mirror in my living room. One HUGE difference, however, is that I never recorded and uploaded my goofy performances for cyberspace to see. I also don’t remember how well I imitated Annie Lennox’s sashay across the stage; my daughter has got way too many of the head-shaking, arm-waving, hip-swaying moves down. She stops mid-move when I enter the room, just like I did as a kid due to embarrassment for being caught in mid-performance, but the video lives on. She doesn’t want me to see it, yet posts it on this app. She does have a private account, only accepting followers she knows as friends. I’ve checked her profile info and posts. I’ve impressed upon her the caution she must take when connecting with people or sharing information on-line. But to see my baby creating her own music videos, trying to look just like the singers who are either much older and more worldly or act way above their own ages, I want to destroy it all. Never mind the self-image lessons it could be teaching; the self-esteem lessons from obsession over number of likes and followers . . .

So am I overreacting? Am I a hypocrite? Is she simply a modern-day make-believe Annie Lennox? Was I as narcissistic staring into the mirror with my microphone as she is gazing into the tiny lens of her iPad? I’d like to think I made it through with a modicum of modesty. Will she as well?

Or is this new medium of childhood fantasy too grown-up for our kids’ own good?

lie to you

Murphy’s Child Outtakes

If you’d like to further tempt fate and play the odds for a surprise child, here are additional steps you can take.

  • Purchase a big family vehicle with one seat more than number of children you currently have. When your father-in-law comments that ‘you have room for one more’ and asks if you’re going to fill that seat too, say “Nooooooo! Not planning on it!”

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    (llbean)

  • When looking to hang the precious Christmas stockings your mother bought for each member of the family, you must have identical hooks. Be sure to buy the unique,weight-balanced ones, regionally made, sold from but one supplier – and only in sets of two. So when you outfit your last baby, you can tuck the extra hook into the storage tote, telling your husband, ‘you don’t think keeping this ensures another stocking (child) to fill it?’ You both laugh heartily at your superstition, but perhaps a little too much.
  • While giving visitors the dime tour of your new, larger, family-friendly house, point out the proximity of the bathroom to your side of the bed. Be sure to quip, ‘Too bad I got it after I walked down the stairs in the middle of the night for the three other pregnancies!”
  • Tell everyone about that woman you knew in your early twenties who surprised everyone, included herself, by getting pregnant at forty. She’d just joined a gym, replaced her wall-to-wall carpeting with refinished hardwoods, and sent her youngest off to middle school. Be sure to add significant shock and awe to your retell.
  • Try not to micromanage and embrace life in all its iterations. And you and Murph will get along fine.

Sick Daze

My friend told me her children had been on holiday break for 17 days – 17 days!!!

I can’t believe we didn’t hear about them on the news.

No, that is not a judgment on my friend’s parenting style. Nor is it a commentary on her children’s behavior. But Good Lord, 17 days – out of routine, out of school, in each others’ faces!

Today is my first day of vacation.

School started back up Monday in these parts, but my eldest decided to vomit all over her bed Sunday night. She looked miserable Monday and Tuesday morning, saying her stomach hurt and she felt like she’d be sick again. Wednesday morning when I threw down the gauntlet of ‘no vomit, no fever – go to school’, she dressed and ate breakfast only to vomit it all over the kitchen floor. Shortly thereafter, my youngest awoke with an earache, glassy eyes, and continued congestion. My middle was not a happy camper as the only one of her trio boarding the bus that morning. She announced that she wanted a sick day. I told her we’d quarantine her as the only one who wasn’t sick.

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Think you can come up with a fun word for this phenomenon? Click through for the challenge!

So today, Thursday, fourth supposed day of school – my whole crew returned to routine. I’m as giddy as a school girl myself. Well, maybe one who skipped school. For I was able to return to a quiet house, which even with its piles of detritus left from stretches of sick days (did I mention I’m sick, too?), seems somehow calmer, cleaner, more zen.

I don’t know what I’ll do today. Maybe get started on pulling down those Christmas decorations that have overstayed their welcome. Maybe de-germ all community surfaces. Maybe turn over a New Years’ leaf and write some more pages of my lonely manuscript.

But right now my eye lids feel heavy. I might just take a nap – and wait for the call from the school to come pick up a sick child.

Murphy’s Child

There are some sure-fire ways to guarantee the growth of your family. None are medically proven; none are rational – but all fall under the accord of Murphy’s Law.

  • First and foremost, tell everyone who asks – even those who don’t – that you are done having children. Your family is complete.
  • Further this point by passing along all your baby paraphernalia, with the caveat that you never want to see it again. They can do with it whatever they like when they’re done with it, but you don’t want it back.
  • Sweep maternity clothes out of your home with great aplomb. Plunk the rubber tote you’ve been storing them in on your neighbor/co-worker/friend’s front step with great and resounding authority.
  • Start to enjoy the long-forgotten freedom you and your spouse can reclaim at parties and cook-outs, even when the children are present. You can sit for 2.5 seconds without rushing to pluck them from the jaws of salmonella, see-saws, or swinging bats. Up the ante by enjoying a refreshing adult beverage.
  • Dream of a day in the not-so-distant future where you may actually be able to take a family vacation. All the kids are potty-trained, done with naps, and significantly less likely to throw a tantrum. The rosy glow on the horizon – and substantial sums of money no longer going toward diapers and pull-ups – even make you consider opening a dedicated savings account.
  • Send your youngest off to her first full day at school. Look at the seemingly endless hours that stretch before you and marvel at how you’ll fill them. Begin to dream and scheme for something soul-fulfilling, personal, even professional.
  • Most importantly – and the penultimate step – is to engage in quality intimate time with your spouse. Have actual conversations, canoodle, and connect in ways you haven’t since you conceived your last child – wait, what?
  • Too late. Murphy strikes again.
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shedka.com

Obtaining a Passport in 14 Simple Steps

  1. Wait until the absolute last minute to apply. For instance, if the state department says processing time is four to six weeks, file your applications four weeks to the day of departure.
  2. Be sure to do all your business on a weekday. This gives you the added bonuses of:
    • your spouse’s absence
      • While he’ll miss the ensuing hilarity at the passport counter, he can contribute by badgering his fellow officemates for a notarized seal on the extra form you’ll have to present as proof you’re not trying to steal his children across the border without his consent.
      • It will also give both of you the opportunity to appreciate the true skills of license forgerers as neither one of you will be able to photocopy his likeness. *It may also make you wonder if you’ve married a vampire.
    • time constraints
      • With all postal collection agencies stopping their passport services 30 minutes-1 hour before their already conservative closing time, you have the thrill of rushing at breakneck speeds from your children’s busstop to a neighboring town – which brings me to my next point.
  3. Bring all of the children for whom you’ll be obtaining passports. The more the better. More whining in the long lines. More children crossing their eyes at the one trying to maintain a stoic face while getting his/her photo taken. More little hands to pull padded envelopes from their displays in the post office lobby. To grab the weighted blotter from the counter and wave it above their heads. To terrorize the patrons retrieving mail from their PO boxes.Not only does the passport agent need to see them, their behavior may make them reconsider this inconvenient policy.

And speaking of inconvenient policies:

  1. Be sure to choose a postal collection agency that does not have its full information posted on the link from the state department’s website – so you can wait in said line with children straining to hold in their poo only to reach the front counter to be told, yeah, we don’t process passports within an hour of closing. You’ll have to come back. Yes, with all three kids.
  2. Drive back through the two neighboring towns you passed to get here, with two children beating each other in the backseat since starvation and dehydration have set in and the third complaining about the poo in her pants.
  3. Try again the next day at a postal collection agency that’s a little closer and open a half-hour later – which you know because you’ve checked and checked again. Schlep all the children through that line, meeting clerk so nice she won’t take your application because she would hate for the state department to return the whole thing since your husband’s photocopied license isn’t visible.
  4. Curse the amazing mediterranean tan your husband gets each year, wish he were as pale as you, tuck your tail between your legs and leave the counter. *Wondering even more if your husband is a vampire.
  5. Release your pent-up rage as you pass through the parking lot since it wasn’t the so nice clerk’s fault it’s so gad-dummed difficult to get someone, anyone to just take. my. papers!
  6. Take several days off – because life intervenes, and you don’t want to be arrested for assault of a passport agent. Plus, you’ve already screwed any chances of obtaining the passports in time anyway.
  7. Take this downtime to discuss with your incredibly tan husband, who may or may not suck blood, the possibility of expediting your children’s passports – for an additional fee, of course. Why not pour all the money you saved by purposely opting for the less-expensive passport cards – and then some – into the exorbitant total cost for expediting three kid passports?
  8. Scurry around the house like nincompoops, scanning, printing, and peering at new copies of his license for what better be the ultimate passport application submission attempt.
  9. Revisit post office from few days previous, nice clerk nowhere to be seen. Dispondently hand over application materials to new clerk, who, when you mention the license issue, looks and says it should be fine, but she’ll submit both copies just to be sure. When clerk questions your departure date and whether you’d like to expedite, answer ‘no’ so quickly, she jumps back. When she reminds you the passports may not arrive in time, with a twitch of the shoulder and giggle so borderline psychotic she looks uncomfortable, tell her, ‘Well, we just won’t go then.’
  10. Hand over a ridiculous amount of checks and funds and get the hell out of dodge.
  11. Resist the urge to dwell on the fact that you’ve wasted a week of your life – especially when you discover that all your children need to pass over the northern border are their birth certificates.

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Breaking the Surface

If I had told my five-years-ago self that one day I’d be able to sit in a chair at the beach and watch my three children frolic in the water, that self would’ve told me to go jump in that lake.

Even yesterday as I watched just a scene unfold, I couldn’t quite believe it.

Such an occurrence has been hard-fought and won.

And it’s really nothing for which I can take credit.  Those little fish just grew of their own accord; tested their little fins and swam.

I somehow managed to keep all our heads above water in the meantime, but suddenly, I find myself with five minutes of peace on the beach.

It is an entirely foreign feeling.

A still, a calm, a quiet I never dreamt I’d get.

In the melee of raising three little ones, I never thought I’d have time to catch my breath, to rest a moment, to sit back and observe.

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Jennifer Butler Basile

It’s one of those moments where time suddenly seems to stop and a truth of life is filed.

There are certain things I’ve overcome; certain markers I’ve hit; bits of joy to digest.

They’re hard to recognize when being pulled along with the current, but there are blessed moments of buoyancy.

One day we’ll all be able to bob to the surface.

The Future of Fenway

The last time I was at a Red Sox game was pre-kids.  Pre-worrying-about-someone-else’s-bladder-but-mine.  Pre-stuffing-vibrating-little-bodies-into-ridiculously-small-sweaty-seats.

The excitement was still there.  The awe of the gate rising above Yawkey Way.  The hum of my soul resounding with the rest of Red Sox Nation.

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Jennifer Butler Basile

New sensations?

The abject terror of someone sweeping my child away in the crowd.  The overwhelming desire to wrap my arms around them like a mama bird with her brood.  Irritation when they wouldn’t hold my hand.  Impatience when they didn’t read my mental directions on how to navigate the milling crowds.

This was my first time leading my babies through the big city.  I’d done it myself plenty of times, but leading literal babes through the woods was a new and disconcerting experience.

It also offered many teachable moments.

Telling my ten year-old how to keep her bag close.  Telling my five year-old who insisted on bringing my old flip phone with no service not to set it down anywhere.  Telling my eight year-old not to wave her mini Dominican flag celebrating the retirement of Pedro Martinez’ jersey dangerously close to fellow fans’ heads.

But also, what a bull pen is.  A foul line.  Tagging bases.  Striking out.  How to do the wave.

And it was a way to rediscover the magic of rooting for the Red Sox through my children’s eyes.  Seeing the spark when they realize that the guy at the plate right now is Big Papi in the flesh.  Sharing the excitement of singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the top of our lungs.  Chanting ‘Let’s go, Red Sox’ in unison.

The Sox may have lost the game, but we’re still a nation of believers.  And we may have just clinched the next generation of die-hards.  New Englanders live and breathe for their team – whether it’s 1918, 2004, or any year in between.

And that’s worth the whole gamut of sensations that comes with.

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