Monday, June 30, 2008

Night One: Kid Free Zone

Left the Windex out on the counter all night. Wanted to feel what it was like to leave a cleaning agent out without the fear of little fingers using it as a water gun.

But I still put the night light on in the bathroom. I realized last night that I do that more for me than for them.

The week has arrived that my kids are away on their sleepover with my parents. My daughter has been counting down the days and demanded I "Go home!" a few times as soon as we arrived at the beach. But, just like a script, as soon as I mentioned I was really heading out I was tortured with the "Don't Go" scenario, complete with sad faces at the door as I drove off. Sorry kids - Mama needs a couple of nights alone in her house to clean and get ready for our next vacation trip. I may travel for work occasionally, which some constitute as "alone time", but I'm still at the mercy of other people when I'm away. Last night, I was in charge of my schedule and no one else.

So, what did I do, you ask?

Rolled down my window on the highway and blasted the tunes on the way home, to start. Then I went out to dinner - kid free - with my husband. Downed two glasses of wine, guilt-free. Then we grabbed a gelato for dessert before he headed to work. I listened to the rain and thunder outside and read the Sunday paper, uninterrupted.

By 8:00 I was starting to pace a little. I cleaned the little windows in the living room but then I had promised myself I wouldn't jump right into cleaning mode the first night. What would be open on a Sunday night at this hour? Should I just go for a ride around town - what am I nuts? With the price of gas above $4 I can't go joyriding.

So, I found a show I hadn't seen on TV before - a show about a husband, wife and their 8 kids. I watched it for an hour and a 1/2 - back to back episodes. And I laughed really hard. Because it was like a mirror into my life, but without the extra 6 kids. It was so comforting to hear another mother still proclaim, "I'm just not a morning person". Hallelujah! Me neither, sister.

My first night kid free and I watch a show about raising a family. I've already promised myself that tonight will be different!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer of air guns and swear words

Ahhh...summer is back full force in my neighborhood. Know how I know? They are erecting another new house across the street from me. Just like last summer! Only last summer it was my first season working from my home office and I hadn't fully learned how to tune out any extraneous noises from my head so I could concentrate on work.

This year, I'm prepared. I'm going to sit with my office windows WIDE OPEN and take in the sounds of summer in all their glory. The air guns hammering in nails at lightening speed. The shouts and swears flowing from the mouths of the overweight, sweaty construction workers. The endless beep-beep-beep-beep-beep of the trucks as they back in and out of the site. I can't wait to pick up the trash that gets left behind and blows so gently onto my front lawn.

Yes my friends, it's summer in my neighborhood. Oh look - the cement truck has arrived to pour the foundation, yipeeee!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

4 sacks of potatoes

I hit the big 2-0 yesterday. Or in Weight Watcher's world, 4 sacks of potatoes.

As I stood on the scale I was anxiously waiting to see the results, and as the little zeros swirled trying to calculate my weight I imagined I had gained it all back because I cheated with pizza, Chinese food and a cheeseburger all within the same 7 days. Healthy eating was not an option at the amusement park last week!

Imagine my delight when I realized I had (finally) lost 20 lbs since January 1st when I decided to officially change my lifestyle and tackle my issues with my size and shape. But now, I think I'm done. I am at the weight I was when I got married 8 years ago, able to fit in a size that I am comfortable shopping for, and quite frankly I think I've cut out all the unhealthy food I'm capable of cutting out of my diet without binge tendencies creeping in. A girl can not cut out cheese and crackers completely from her diet - sorry, ain't happening!

But I will say, I can totally understand how women develop unhealthy body images... because while I am no longer carrying around 4 sacks of potatoes on my waist and thighs, I still don't see the results as much as I would have hoped after 6 months. I'm still able to grab some rolls around my waist, flap my upper arm in the wind, and still pull back the flab around my neck. However, if I had a true compulsive behavior, this weight loss mission could have, and would have, totally consumed my focus. And with a full time job, two kids to raise and friends and family to find time for, exercise and diet do come a distant 3rd no matter how hard I try to move it up.

I am at peace with the fact that there are those in the world who are skinnier than me, plumper than me, taller than me and shorter than me. So now that I've found MY HEALTHY place on this planet I think I'm going to splurge out to dinner with some girlfriend's tonight and worry about getting back on track again tomorrow by holding 4 sacks of potatoes in my hands at the store, just as a reminder :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Let's yak about Gak

My daughter's class had a blast with their Gak the other day. It took a lot of coaxing and pleading for her to pull off a quarter size piece with which her brother could play. He never put his Gak down and wanted to sleep with it!

We're not talking Gak Snack's...Gak is a rubbery blob that can be rolled and pulled and mushed in your hands. There are a couple of different recipes but this one is from a fun site called Kaboose:

Get slimey this summer with Homemade Kids' Gooey-gak made from glue and borax (or liquid starch).

What you'll need:
Wire whisk
1 cup all purpose glue
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon tempera paint, your choice of color

How to make it:
Mix together with wire whisk the all purpose glue, water, and tempera paint. I used the powdered tempera, but the liquid works just as well -- just don't mix the powder too thin.

Mix separately 1/3 c. water and 1/2 tsp. borax. Slowly pour borax mix into glue mix.
Let stand a few minutes, then knead. Pour off any remaining liquid. Store in plastic bags.

Repeat for different colors.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Resisting the urge

I can't nail down exactly when it happens, other than the obvious bar scenario while enjoying a few beers, but every now and again I have an intense craving for a cigarette.

Having quit almost 7 years ago, it is hard to explain the after-effects of this strong addiction. Many people will argue the urge is based on routine, which is partly true, but true smokers will tell you it's just a straight forward addiction to nicotine. I started smoking around the age of 15 and didn't quit for good until I was 32.

I think today it came because I was holding a straw in my hand in a manner that resembled holding a cigarette - completely unaware of what I was doing for a moment. I caught my daughter "puffing" away on a crayon once and it really disturbed me. How did she learn to do that? No one in our family or circle of friends smoke. Smoking is no longer portrayed on TV or in the movies she watches - or is it? Cruella DeVille is notorious for her long cigarette holder and puffs of smoke. Thanks Disney. Now I have to figure out a way to deter her from taking the path I took because let's face it...cigarettes are gross!!

Hopefully by the time she wants to explore and make decisions on her own there won't be any place left in public to smoke. Funny, but I think that would be wonderful.

And don't worry...I won't be buying a pack again in my lifetime.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Can I take your order?

My children are going to run a restaurant some day. Whenever we go out to eat, as soon as we sit down, they start taking our orders for their own imaginary establishment. Tonight my son was filling me in on the menu he was offering:

"Tonight we have Cwab and Hot Dogs. But be careful because the hot dogs are hot."

I don't know how it started, but he thinks shrimp is crab and since I melt every time he says "Cwab", I just don't have the heart to tell him the truth.

Smells like Summer

Water Babies Suntan Lotion

Summer Rain

Potting Soil

Tomato Plants

Hamburgers on the Grill


Salt Water

Fresh Cut Grass

Yup. Summer arrived on Friday and it sure smells good. What are your favorite smells this season?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dory Jr & Dory III

(To steal a storytelling format from a fantastic blogger):

Me: "I'm heading upstairs to get dressed. I'll be down in 2 minutes. Try not to fight."

Them (30 seconds later): "MOM! MOM! MOMMA! MOMMA! MOMMY! Where are you??"

I've renamed my children Dory, Jr. and Dory, III because just like the original Dory from Finding Nemo - they have NO SHORT TERM MEMORY

Tis the season to be jolly...or broke

No, it's not Christmas season! It's Amusement Park Season! And we have 2 down and 3(or more) to go.

We conquered Canobie Lake in our annual trek before Memorial Day. I love that park for several reasons, but mainly because it's 10 minutes from our house. And because it is geared toward kids under 10 - for the most part.

Yesterday we took on the challenge of Six Flags in Agawam. That is NOT 10 minutes from our house. But in the spirit of the season we loaded up the CR-V and headed "West Young Man". And in the spirit of full disclosure, I love the portable DVD Player...keeps stir-crazy kids at bay on trips over 2 hours.

We had a fantastic time. The kids enjoyed the park and the chaos. I thought it was clean and not overly crowded. However, I was pretty amazed at the cost of this trip. Not including the 1/2 tank of gas that runs about $300 these days (OK, not really $300) and the fact that we scored free admission tickets from my cousin - we still managed to drop $150!

Let's break it down:

Tickets: Free (otherwise $120 for four until June 30 when it spikes higher for adults)
Gas: Not included in this breakdown

Parking: $15 (not included in ticket price)
Lunch: $40 (we're talking 4 slices of Papa John's pizza here...not a sit down meal...and you can't bring in food or coolers)
One round at "spray the water in the clown's mouth": $5/player x 2
One round of "hit the bell and win a prize": $5/player x 2
One round of "throw dart at pictures": $3/player
Ice Cream - two kiddie, two small: $20
Medium Diet Coke: $3.49
Four bottled waters: $16
SMALL toys from Thomas the Tank Engine area: $25
One batman cape: $5

Total: $147.49

I didn't break it down to complain, but more to question how families less fortunate that mine could possibly afford a day like that - especially if I did factor in ticket prices and gas? The idea of a "day at the park" has evolved into a "day to remortgage the house". It's unfortunate because it really did provide an escape for the kids for 7 hours where they could meet superheroes, ride the Big Red Car from the Wiggles and walk away with a few trinkets from their successful carnival games.

Just like Christmas when my brother and I were CONVINCED there was a Santa Claus because there was no way Mom & Dad could afford all those gifts, I now have a full appreciation for those family summer vacations where we would spend 7 hours (or more) riding rides, eating from a menu that only included lard or sugar, and falling sound asleep at the end of the day.

Up next - we come!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Naked walls

We had a little flood in our basement earlier this year that required us to rip out the wet, stinky carpet and repaint the walls for the kids playroom down there.

Picking out a color for a basement with no natural light and florescent bulbs proved to be difficult. Much to my disappoint, the color I liked at the store ended up looking more like the color of a band-aid rather than the sandy beach color I had envisioned.

AND...I'll admit...I convinced the hubby to buy too much paint by overestimating how large our basement is, or rather is not! And in case you didn't know, you can't return paint. You buy it, you're stuck putting it on your walls. Now, I have extra gallons of band-aid flesh colored paint sitting in our basement.

Today I had an ingenious idea to donate it. Our neighboring community had a devastating fire that burned down 3 Habitat for Humanity houses. I thought for sure they could use my extra gallon of paint for a bathroom or hallway as they rebuild those homes.

Nope. Apparently paint isn't in short supply for them. They refused my donation. I guess I'm off to again to find a home for my extra paint.

Monday, June 16, 2008

For my son

Tonight I went upstairs to check on my son after I put him to bed. He's had a nagging cough and I wanted to see if he was sleeping soundly. As I opened his door a crack I heard a little voice say,

"Come sleep with me..."

Tonight I could not say no. I have been extremely moved and touched by the recent death of political moderator Tim Russert and his amazing and loving relationship with his only son. I felt that the least I could do, on this cool and cloudy night, was lay in bed next to my only son and listen to his little heart beat, feel his breath on my face and hold his warm hands. I wanted him to know that there was nothing more important in my world tonight than him.

As I began to drift off to sleep next to him, I felt him turn in towards me, angling to get a little closer and I felt this overwhelming love and comfort as he proceeded to stick his finger up my nose!!

Sleep tight little one. Momma had to share this story with the world.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

That's a spicy meat-a-ball

I ran to the salon to have my hair done today because I have a tradeshow in town on Monday and Tuesday this week. Sorry Grammy, but I feel like one of those old ladies that have a standing appointment on Fridays to get their hair washed and styled. It's just that any time I have meetings or an event it is so much easier to let someone else work magic on the forest of hair that I have than to do it myself every morning. A good style will last a few days. Anyway...

Since I had my parents coming to visit, the hair stylist was running late - which never happens - so I was rushing around after my blow dry to gather items for a Father's Day dinner. I had settled on good old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs mainly because my husband and I had stopped consuming most carbs and fatty meats on January 1st in our quest to drop 10% of our body weight (which we both succeeded at doing - yeah!) and so this was a "special" dinner treat. I even bought a loaf of white Italian bread to accompany the meal!

Long story short, I finally arrived home to a full house, put out fresh guacamole and tortilla strips, low-fat cheese and Melba toast, olive spread and deviled eggs for the kids (they'd eat 3 dozen if I let them - thanks to my Mom for actually peeling and stuffing those!). I then stood over the stove and created a spaghetti sauce from scratch with fresh basil and garlic, mixed up my special meatball recipe and browned them in olive oil, added them to the sauce and FINALLY joined everyone in the living room to chat. They were enjoying the spread I put out when I arrived at the house.

Later that night, in celebration of Father's Day, my family all enjoyed the same meal for a change - well except for the vegetarian daughter who gagged at the thought of meatballs and only enjoyed spaghetti and butter - but what a treat. Half way through the meal, my husband looks across from me at the table and inquires,

"Where'd you get the meatballs from? They're really good."

I replied, "Are you kidding me?"

"What? Didn't you say you were going to go get them from Borelli's?"

"Weren't you in the same house when I was slaving over them in the kitchen?"

He directed his next statement to my daughter,

"You should spend time with your Mother in the kitchen. She's a good cook. Her meatballs taste like she bought them."

Deep breath. It is Father's Day so I let it go, otherwise he may have been wearing a plate of those delicious meat-a-balls.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When I was a kid...

Ugh. I used that phrase the other day on my kids. It was super hot out and we have Central AC that just keeps the house at a pleasant 80 degrees. The kids were complaining of being hot and I came back with,

"When I was a kid, your Grampy had to put this big fan in the hallway outside the bathroom and blow it into the kitchen to keep us cool when we were eating. It was like a big box and sounded like a jet engine."

No response. Just funny stares.

But since Father's Day is quickly approaching, I started to think more about my Dad and the things he would do for us. I remember, without fail, he was in charge of getting everyone something to drink for dinner. And he'd march us into the bathroom before each feeding to be sure our hands were clean. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table reading the day's mail, and on occasion, I'd crawl up into his lap.

I remember piggy backs and rides on his shoulders and family vacations where he'd ride the roller coasters 100 times with me and my brother if we asked. I also remember him dozing off in the corner of the living room in the recliner and then insisting he was just "resting his eyes" and not sleeping.

I could go on and on with those simple, yet awesome memories. Watching and listening to him now with my kids is allowing me to relive some of those all over again. And now that I am married to the same sort of patient, funny and loving man, I know my kids will be doubly blessed to have two great men in their lives.

I had a conversation with some girlfriends recently and we were discussing how we sometimes feel we yell or shout too much at our kids. There was plenty of yelling and shouting when I was growing up, but what I remember most is the love - in the many forms it took. And if you outweigh the daily shouts with the hugs and kisses and praise, your kids will be just fine. Happy Father's Day to my Husband and my Dad.

Hot in the city tonight

So what happens when you offer all-you-can-eat ice cream in Boston on a hot city night for $4 a kid:

It gets a little crowded!! The crowds to the right are actually trying to get at the scoops of ice cream. Luckily, we got there early enough to get our fill before it got reallllly crowded.

But this is how you know you've succeeded as a parent in providing them a good time:

Sweet dreams you sticky little popsicles.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Birdy, Birdy, in the sky...

Why'd you do that in Momma's eye?

It wasn't actually me that got tagged with bird poop over the weekend, it was my daughter. I told her it was good luck - yet another lie from her mother.

But we seem to be on a roll with our feathered friends because we have an adorable little creature flying around our garage who just won't fly low enough to get out of there. He seems to like the high points which aren't going to get him home to his family.

He's quite vocal, too. I don't want to trap him in there but if he doesn't find his way out by sunset, he's going to be out of luck for the night. I did spread some birdseed on the garage floor hoping he'd spot it, but I tend to think that's just going to attract chipmunks and squirrels and then our garage will become an instant suburban forest. My son and daughter are both outside the garage PLEADING with him to come out:

"Hi birdy. Hi birdy. Come out birdy."

Bye Bye Birdy - please!

Update: Birdy managed to get himself out before we left for the Scooper Bowl that night. At least, I think he did. Otherwise, someone is in for a big surprise when they move the wrong item in the garage and find a "sleeping" birdy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Si habla espanol?

I got an interesting email today from a friend. I don't believe much of what I read in emails but this one caught my attention because it was about a supposed ammendment to the Immigration Bill that would make English the official language of America. The headline read:

33 Senators Voted Against English as America's Official Language on June 6, 2007

Senators that voted against it, including Obama and Clinton, were called un-America and such.

I didn't bother looking up the validity, surely it's a joke, but it did make me think - isn't dictating a "language" in America more un-American that voting against it? Would I be arrested if I didn't speak English? Would it need to be proper English? There are some variations of English out there that give me the chills, if you know what I mean dawg.

Having in-laws who primarily speak Spanish, I don't really care what others use to communicate, as long as they realize I can't converse with them unless they use English (which after 15 years they've honed in on). I grew up with friends whose families spoke Greek and Italian. I was jealous - I wish we spoke more than one language in my house. My husband is bilingual but hasn't given that gift to our children (although I try to encourage it).

I love the variety of languages spoken around my town. I get bummed out sometimes that I miss the joke when it's not in English - but seriously? English as the Official Language? Oy vey!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Do they really need a DJ?

Friday night was the first of 4 kindergarten graduations in my house.

"What?" (you may ask since I only have 2 children)

Well, since I was blessed with December babies (literally 2 years apart) they can not start kindergarten "officially" until they are 5 in Sept. This means they must wait that extra year, by state standards, to formally begin their education.

Lucky for us, their daycare/kindergarten school will take kids at 4.9 (as if children are a grade point average) which means that they can both begin some sort of kindergarten education the Sept before their 5th birthday, and then sit amongst the other 5 year old children to receive their diploma in June during graduation to first grade. Then, the following June...well...they get to do it all over again...for real.

So Friday night was Abby's 1st kindergarten graduation. I will share pictures soon, for those who would like to see the festivities, but will let you know that she promptly returns to school tomorrow to the same school for the summer session before heading to her new digs in September. Not surprising to me, she was still the only child to cry at her graduation on the thought of leaving.

I asked why she cried and her response:

"Because when I was giving Ricky a hug after he called my name (they use first names at her school for teachers which irks me just a bit), I realized he won't be at my new school. I'm a little concerned..."

I couldn't get her to tell me what she was concerned about...but now...I'm concerned about September.

In addition, when everyone congratulated her, she held her head high and proclaimed she'd be starting first grade in September. Whoops. Probably need to address that issue soon.

All in all, once the tears were wiped away, she had a great time, as did the rest of us. There was a huge cake. Pictures with friends. Lots of balloons. Snacks. And a DJ. A loud DJ. Playing loud versions of the Hokey Pokey and Chicken Dance. Note to self: Ask her new school if their kindergarten graduation has a DJ.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Counting sheep

Go back to sleep. Go back to sleep. You are alone in a king size bed, in a hotel, without any kids to wake you up - go back to sleep. That's it...just roll over...hug a soft pillow...go back to sleep.

Damn. I'm up. Turns out you can leave home for a night on a business trip, but the kids are never far from you after all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

And the award goes to...

I have an awards ceremony to attend tonight. Our company was selected as a finalist for a technology award. Pretty cool stuff. I decided to share the news with my daughter because she loves - or is obsessed - with horses and was enthralled with Big Brown winning the Kentucky Derby a couple of weeks ago. Ever since then we've had mock races with her plastic horses and someone has to win the trophy.

"Hey Abby. Guess what I am doing tonight?"


"I'm going to a dinner to find out if I won a trophy for work. Isn't that cool?"

"REALLLLY??? Does this mean if you win the trophy you can stop working??"

"No honey. That's the lottery."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Close Encounters

Dear Mr. Alien,

I'm not sure when you arrived...It could have been Friday night because I think I was a little distracted, but I have a favor to ask. Will you please return my son to me? Saturday morning this creature appeared at the local street fair with me and I'm not quite sure who he is - but I know he's not mine. My son would never scream "No!" in his mother's face, over and over again so that everyone within 5 miles could hear him. He'd never scream so loud in a restaurant that my ears hurt and my faced turned red from humiliation as he refused to take a bite of his lunch.

My son NEVER dropped to the ground and refused to walk to the car when I told him it was time to go home. And there is no way he'd pour a bottle of baby powder all over his bed and himself when he was supposed to be tucked in, sound asleep.

Please Mr. Alien, give me back my child and you can take this alien creature back with you. What's that you say? He's not yours either? He's just a 3 year old boy? OK - I guess I'll have to see what happens when he hits 4 - if he makes it that far.

Not-amused Mom

I can't drive... 55

"Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Move! Move! Move!"

That was me in my vehicle at 9:00 this morning as I came to a crawl on Rt 128 South. I knew I'd hit traffic on my way to a meeting in Framingham but I had no choice but to embark on the trek that takes me through Woburn, Burlington and Waltham at rush hour (for those who don't know, there is no easy way for me to get from my house to Framingham - at all).

I left myself plenty of time to travel the 45 miles and have been trying to make a concerted effort to drive slower these days. I hear it helps with fuel efficiency - and at 18 mpg I'm up for anything - and it should be good for my odds of avoiding any speeding tickets.

But, I live at the intersection of 2 major highways that have posted 65 MPH speed limits. So when I hit a road that posts 55, well, I just feel like I'm going REEEAALLLLLY slow. And then when you layer in the morning motorist who is on their phone, eating their breakfast sandwich, texting on the blackberry, receiving faxes, launching satellites into space and solving world poverty - I ending up screaming when they get into MY left lane and go 45. That's the "move it" lane. The "I'm-only-here-to-drive-and-get-somewhere" lane. If you want to occupy your time with something other than driving at or above the speed limit, do it in another lane!!

So, in all my efforts to slow down and drive more responsibly, I've come to accept that I will never be the slowest on the road, or the most courteous, so get out of my way because I can't drive, 55!!