Signs you may have PSAD (Parental Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Hey.  I’ve been gone for a while now, and while I do have a few valid excuses – traveling, busy with work, with the kids‘ schoolwork, up to my eyeballs as I actually danced in a town-wide fundraising event (more on that another time) – that wasn’t it.  This winter has sucked the spirit right out of me and I know I’m not alone.   Fellow parents, have you found yourself in tears when the call comes in that another snow day is in your future?  Have you fed your kids enough soup to sink a ship…not because it’s warm but because it’s easy and saves you a trip to the store?  Do you and your children sorta hate the sight of each other these days?  If you have answered yes to any of these questions then you may have PSAD, or Parental Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Take heed, though; there is only one cure and that’s Spring.  If you or any other Mom or Dad is showing signs of PSAD, grab something to drink, give the kids carte blanche on Netflix (no judging) and ride out the (literal and figurative) storm.  Remember that you’re not alone.

Signs You May Have PSAD

  1. You have seriously considered cashing in your child’s 529 Plan to take a weekend trip south.  Like, EQUATOR south.
  2. You’ve let your hair color go so long because the mere thought of getting into a cold car to go buy a box of 5G-Golden Chestnut is simply too much to bear.  It takes noticing the Jay Leno white patch that has sprouted in the middle of your forehead and your child pointing to the squirrel stripe along your part to finally bite the bullet and head to the store.  But by the time you’ve prepared to brave the elements and put on the various layers of outerwear, you realize that as long as you’ll be keeping that winter hat on then really, can’t this wait until spring?
  3. 20140311-221804.jpgBinge-watching has become your lifeline to the outside world.  You start with great shows like “House of Cards” and “Breaking Bad” but as the wind blows against the windows, you spiral quickly downward to Season Three of “Dance Moms.”
  4. It was your daughter who turned you onto “Dance Moms.”  She’s 8.
  5. You don’t object when your kids start playing dangerous indoor sports like “Stair Basketball.”  As your 4-year old teeters at the top stair and hurls a pair of rolled up socks down into the hoop on the bottom step that his sibling is holding, you don’t picture him falling; instead you relish in the five minute break from Cabin Fever until a fight (or injury) inevitably breaks out.
  6. You’ve found yourself picking fights with your children over the dumbest things.  “Are you SERIOUSLY still listening to the song from “Frozen?”  Good LORD, find something new to obsess over.”
  7. You despise the TV meteorologists with a fervor normally reserved for adulterers or Oprah Winfrey and would punch Al Roker squarely in the face if only you could get close enough.
  8. Your anger level has reached DEFCON 7; upon giving up swearing for Lent (terrible idea, I know), you find yourself dropping the F-Bomb to a friend and then repeating it three more times to emphasize just how &*#!ed you really are.  You quickly realize that you owe $4 to the swear jar for just one sentence.  &*#!
  9. You are quietly rooting against your child’s basketball team because if they lose this game then they DON’T have to play again at 8am Sunday morning.  And just as you are feeling really guilty, you realize all of the other Moms and Dads on the bleachers are doing the exact same thing.
  10. You don’t argue with the kids to wear hats, mittens or even winter jackets anymore because you just don’t have the fight left in you.  Your thinking is, “Fine, get frostbite, you toad…but so help me if it gets so bad that I have to go back out in the cold and drive you to the doctor, I will end you.”
  11. As you clean up the third round of projectile vomiting in a week, you think to yourself, “Well, at least he ate his carrots last night.”
  12. It’s taken you two months to write a &*#!ing blog post.

Think spring, folks.  Think spring.

Alex’s Letter to…The Ghost of Christmas Future

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Dear Ghost of Christmas Future,

Hey!  How are you?  Hope you had a nice summer!  Did you take any trips?  Not sure if you ever make it to the Cape but you should visit; there are so many annoying tourists to haunt that your dance card would be filled from May through September.

the-muppet-christmas-carol-50th-anniversary-edition-20051220045446879-000Anyway, I’m writing to you instead of Santa this year because what I really want for Christmas is less of the Big Man’s “bag” and more of yours.  I mean, he’s certainly cornered the market on wooden toys, sugar cookies and claymation specials but what I want is right in your wheelhouse.  I know this is a super-busy time of year for you, what with the television specials on everything from CBS to Sesame Street (ps, your Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my faves), but since you probably don’t get these requests that often I’m hoping you’ll hook a sister up.

Christmas Future, what I want this year is answers.  Simple answers that might make the next few trying months of parenting just a little easier.  You have to understand, my three little darlings are at such different stages of life – pre-teen boy, precocious elementary school girl and hell-on-wheels, four-year-old whirling dervish – that the hubs and I are perpetually stumped.  Just when we’ve put out one fire, another one pops up right next to it.  Will it end in 2014?  Will it end…EVER?

For example, let’s take the aforementioned pre-teen.  I’m told that these mood swings are normal but HELLO how long should I expect them to go on?  One minute he’s my sweet, helpful and caring firstborn and the next he’s an eye-rolling, “you-don’t-know-anything, MOM” creature whom I hardly recognize.  IMG_0451I can handle this as long as I know that there is an end in sight…and being the Type A kinda gal that I am, I’m gonna need to know WHEN that will come.  I mean, are we talking three months?  A year?  (Gulp) UNTIL 18?!  If that’s the case then I may consider diving into the ditch with your boy Ebenezer just to ride out the storm.

Here’s another answer I seek…when, OH WHEN, will I be able to go out for dinner with my children again, knowing they will behave like humans?  Get this, tonight a friend and I took our kids out to a pretty family-friendly restaurant, The Halfway Cafe.  They stuck the seven of us in a booth in the back corner of the joint (smart move) and we must have threatened our children 48 times apiece with the old “Naughty List” standby.  To be honest, I think the kids are on to us at this point; they must plan on pulling an 11th-hour miracle because about 10 seconds after each warning they were back under the table again, swallowing full sugar packets.  IS there a future for my family when it comes to fine dining?  Or any dining for that matter?  Will we be relegated to a lifetime of takeout?  Or worse…DRIVE THROUGH?!

My last question is a simple one: when will my children stop yelling?  I don’t mean outside, with friends, on a playground, during a soccer game or at a concert…I’m talking about at home.  While eating dinner.  Or laying in bed.  Or watching a movie.  Or at church.  I’m seriously concerned that they don’t physically have the ability to do anything BUT speak at a volume so loud that it would wake the dead (no offense).  Is there a time in the future that they learn the art of the whisper?  Ever?  No?  Can you nod?  Why do you continue to point that bony finger at me?  Are you going to turn it into a thumbs up?  No?

Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to read this.  Obviously, peace on earth and good tidings to Tiny Tim and all that jazz; I’m hoping that because I’m not being AT ALL materialistic in my list this year (and since you probably don’t get a whole lot of love from anyone EVER) that you’ll send me the answers that I’m looking for.  If you’ve ever wanted to leapfrog over the Man in the Red Suit, this could be your big chance.  Don’t squander it, Ghostie; take a page out of Scrooge’s book and learn from this.  Ain’t nothin’ like a shiny new second chance.

Hope you have a great Christmas scaring the bejeezus out of cranky old jerks.  If you’re looking for a few new victims this year, just holler; I keep a list of some really deserving ones.

Ho Ho Ho,

Love, Alex

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The Obligatory “Here’s What I’m Thankful For” Post

It’s Thanksgiving.  You knew this was coming, so settle in and embrace the schmaltz.

photo-3Although I often curse the ubiquitous Barbie doll-sized rubber bands that show up everywhere from inside my purse to the floor of the shower, I am actually thankful for Rainbow Loom.  Why?  Because it can occupy hours – HOURS, fellow moms – of Georgia’s time and when one comes face to face with the long sigh/eye roll/”I’m boooooored” monster, you too will want to nominate the inventor of Rainbow Loom for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I am happy that certain retail stores still have revolving doors (stay with me here).  While dragging two unwilling children to Legacy Place shopping center last weekend (four year old completely decked out in his Captain America costume, November be damned), I was at my wits end.  Between the constant refereeing of arguments (“She touched me!” “NO. I. DID. NOT!”) and near-shoplifting act by Quinn (he didn’t MEAN to wear the headband out of the store), I was about to lose it.  That is, until we passed Williams Sonoma and the kids took five turns around the revolving door, going faster and faster and laughing like hyenas.  Made the 19-year old cashier confused.  Made me smile.

192904_10151583909027880_847399697_oNow that Ben is in 7th grade and taking English via Latin, I am THANKFUL BEYOND WORDS that I took 5 years of the dead language when I was in school.  For years I felt duped; grownups swore to me that the time spent suffering through conjugating verbs and translating the Iliad would help me on my SATs and in the end, they really didn’t.  However, aside from the fact that I can KILL IT in certain Jeopardy categories (Greek Mythology remains a strength), I am actually somewhat able to help my son recognize the difference between the present and future tense of “to be.”  Ad astra per aspera!  (That one’s for you, Magistra Lowe.)

After injuring my back this summer lifting a sofa (apparently the 41-year old back is not made for that sort of thing, WHAAATTT???!), I am quite sure that Zelayna, my chiropractor, is nothing short of an angel roaming the earth.  If you live in the Boston area and are in need of a miracle of the vertabraeic kind, email me.  Hell, even if you live in Duluth, consider making the trip.

I am super thankful that Whole Foods offers 10% off when you buy six bottles of wine (that one’s pretty self explanatory).

1385483_10201186964739081_653230068_nQuinn has started to really hit his stride when telling a (completely insane) story.  For instance, earlier tonight he proceeded to tell me (while sitting on the throne) that he knows a boy who went on vacation and actually fell down into the potty and got lost.  He declared in bed that “My name is Adrian Crockshaw” and despite googling this character, he seems to be completely made up.  And on the way home from daycare as I was reminding him that Santa is watching and if he finds himself on the the Naughty List then it will be no presents for Christmas, he had a backup plan.  “If Santa puts me on the Naughty List then I will hide behind him and when the kids are sitting on his lap I will creep up and steal all the toys.”  I guess that’s a great alternative to actually being good.

Of course, no Thanksgiving list would be complete without taking stock of how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends and family, and for that I’m truly blessed.  This year I seem to be even more aware of those that I love and to never take them for granted; I hope that they all stay healthy and happy and focus on the good that is around all of us.

And for all those baddies out there, let’s just hope that Santa has eyes in the back of his head…‘cuz they’re comin’ fer ya.

10 signs you and your husband aren’t on vacation anymore

With just 24 post-vacation-sans-children hours under my belt, it’s now glaringly obvious that the honeymoon, as they say, is most definitely OVER.  

  1. The people at your hotel hang on your every word.  The people at home require you having to say things 14 times (and yell once more) before they respond.
  2. Instead of chocolates on your pillow there are leftover Halloween candy bar wrappers on your floor.
  3. You can’t go to the bathroom by yourself anymore (it sure was fun while it lasted though).
  4. photo 4The thought of going to a wine tasting at 4:00 now seems like a really bad idea.
  5. Instead of being greeted with “Hello, Mrs. Shumway, and welcome!” you’re greeted with “MOMMY I just pooped and it looks IZZACLY like a monkey head!”
  6. Instead of lazily rolling over and waking up naturally to the sun peeking through the hotel blinds, your alarm clock buzzes at 6:45 and you put a fist through it.  BOO.
  7. You and your husband aren’t taking frequent strolls outside to “explore the neighborhood you’re staying in;” now you speed-walk in the cold for the sole purpose of getting Elvis to poop on the grass instead of the dining room rug.
  8. The most decadent thing on the menu is leftover macaroni and cheese (homemade, not out of a box) and the only poor schmoe clearing your dishes is you.
  9. IT SNOWS ON YOUR FIRST MORNING HOME (grrrrr).
  10. photo 1The sunset may not have palm trees in it, but you both get to share it with three little people that make up for all that.

A wonderful and much needed vacation, but happy to be home.

A letter to my In-Laws (as they take the kids for the weekend)

Dear Earle and Jeanne,

Andy and I want to thank you SO very much for taking care of the kids while we take a fast – but fabulous! – four day vacation to celebrate our 15th Anniversary.  I know, 15!  It seems like just yesterday we were walking down the aisle.  Actually, it seems like a lifetime ago; yesterday involved making lunches, driving those lunches (that had been forgotten in the kitchen) back to school, paying bills, washing and folding laundry, working a full day, helping study for homework, refereeing sibling smack downs…but I don’t mean to scare you.  This is gonna be EPIC.

A few tips as you embark upon the full time parenting of three young kids for the first time in…well, a while.  Don’t worry if you lose your mind/patience/car keys/house keys/even a child or two; it happens to us as well.  And should you need it, the wine rack is fully stocked and there is beer in the fridge.  That’s no accident.

  1. Remember to gas up your car, as you may think you’re spending time with your grandchildren but what you’re really doing is logging more miles than a New York City cabdriver does in a month.  You may never leave a 5-mile radius of the bed you’re sleeping in, but over the course of four days you’ll become a regular at Dedham Gas and Service.  Be nice to Joe there, you’ll see him a lot.
  2. Your eldest grandson – that sweet, blonde haired little boy that you remember – is now 12 years old and does NOT smell good (I’m told this is totally normal, but you just aren’t used to it anymore). Despite the daily shower, he can take on an otherworldly odor that will mentally transport you back to your High School locker room.  After the big game.  As if there were barn animals living there.  A trick I’ve learned is that when you pick him up after soccer practice, crack a window and breathe through your mouth.  You (and your nasal passages) will thank me.

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    Georgia, mid-meltdown.

  3. Georgia, your pretty little 8-year old girl, is a giant question mark to me.  She will be helpful and kind, helping Quinn put on his sneakers and kissing his forehead, and you will thank the heavens for her.  Moments later (and without warning) she will collapse into a fit of tears (although NOTHING has changed from that previous idyllic moment) and become inconsolable, only to then snarl at the same little boy she was just taking care of.  I can’t explain it and I CANNOT diffuse it.  My advice is to just hang on to something stationary and wait out the storm.  It’s windy, wild and EXTREMELY unpredictable but like any hurricane, it too will pass.  You’re New Englanders, you can take it.
  4. While I had hoped to have completely “fixed” Elvis’ emotional issues, I didn’t quite get to that on my to do list.  He needs to be walked 57 times a day and still occasionally eats the pillow he sleeps on at night.  Also, I apologize for the early morning barkathon as he doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of daylight savings (earplugs and/or pillows on your head can help drown out the 5:30 am wakeup call).  At times, you may want to drop kick him into next week but at least he’s cute and hey, an 11-pound dog has small poops (it helps to look for the silver lining).
  5. photo-2Quinn’s preschool class is learning letters.  This week has focused on the letters F and P and despite his brother and sister’s best efforts, he does NOT think it’s funny when you say that “Fart” and “Poop” begin with F and P, because “Dose are baffroom woords.”  Unfortunately, he WILL tell you that snake, lollipop and dog start with F and P but I guess that Rome wasn’t built in a day so try to work on this.  He did mention that Power Ranger starts with P but just between us , I think it was a lucky guess.  We’ll take it anyway.

Andy and I cannot thank you enough for giving us this long weekend to rekindle our romance, celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss and actually get to talk about our future together.  Kidding!  We intend to sleep and eat nice food (while actually sitting down) and drink wine and drive only to places that we want to visit.  It should be pure Heaven.

You, on the other hand, might want to look into booking yourselves a vacation for the moment we get back because you’re gonna need it.  But while you’re here, remember that they are used to crazy and the time with you both is something they can’t wait for.  Embrace it and just hang on; Monday will be here before you know it.

And if that wine rack is missing a few bottles when we get back, we get it.  Bottoms up.

Love, Alex

Happy 4th Birthday, Little Buddy

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Last Thursday our baby turned four.  FOUR.  It sounds so cliche to say but HOLY HELL does time fly.  It seems like just yesterday I was telling Andy that if he really didn’t want three kids, I would be ok with it…only for him to tell ME that after years being convinced otherwise, he was now on board.

Yes.  That would be our Quinn.

While pregnant with Quinn, I was constantly reminded of my age.  Perhaps it was because I had two other kids to take care of or because it had been over four years since my body had been through this little nine-month roller coaster, but I like to think that it was because the OB nurses LITERALLY reminded me every time I saw them.

“Hi Alex, we’ll need to take some blood again.  Because you’re of advanced age.”

Old and pregnant.  Super.

At 28 weeks along, we had a major scare; Quinn’s heart rate shot through the roof and as we were whisked off to labor and delivery, I’d never been so terrified in my entire life.  Was the baby going to die?  Was I going to die, leaving Andy to raise Ben and Georgia and this preemie?  It was horrible….for both of us.  Although his little heart fixed itself within an hour (apparently babies in utero “can just do that,” WHAAAT?!), it was a very tense last trimester and I knew I wouldn’t feel completely at ease until he was born healthy.

Well, he was.  VERY healthy.  And extremely explosive.

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You see, our baby has been a tornado long before he even existed.  He kept us on our toes while in the womb and hasn’t stopped since.  Labeled a “Happy Spitter” by his pediatrician, he barfed for 10 months straight but never failed to grow.  He spent his first year being passed from one parent to another while his brother played soccer and baseball and served as a kind of mascot for the 9-year old Summer Travel team.  He was treated like a living baby doll by his big sister who, despite her 4 1/2 years, would pick him up every time I turned my back.  He has been loved.

Photo1Of course, as he’s grown up he’s asserted himself into this family (and the world in general) like a tiny dictator when he so chooses.  A typical third child, he’ll bark when he wants something because if he doesn’t, he might not get heard.  He fought me for six months when it came to potty training (I’m forever scarred) but now frequently insists that I come admire his “handiwork.”  And despite a bad back, he can STILL get me to carry him when he wants.

That being said, he’s still the little boy who jumped out of the car with me on the ride home from daycare to admire a rainbow stretching across the afternoon sky.  His excitement upon finding his new Power Ranger Halloween costume was priceless (“IT’S THE BEST THING I EVER SAW!”) and I still can’t help myself from getting one last look at him before I go to sleep.  He has definitely been worth it all.

IMG950101And besides, what other four year old do YOU know who’s poop “looks JUST like a dolphin?”  Kid’s a keeper.

King’s Bar: The New Classroom?

As my family and I headed to King’s Bowling last night, I didn’t realize what I was in for.  They were hosting the Dedham Summer 10- and 12-year old championship baseball teams (State and League Champs, respectively) for a night of bowling, pizza and all around fun.  Andy and I were looking forward to seeing our friends that we haven’t been able to hang out with since August while the kids could play with all of their buddies.

Of course, when you’re the only family with a 12 year old AND an (almost) 4-year old , things don’t always go the way you plan.

While the older two kids were thrilled to ditch Mom and Dad, my shadow (I-mean-dear-little-Quinn) decided that Mommy was the only person he wanted to spend time with.  And when I say “spend time,” I of course mean “attach to me the way a barnacle adheres to an ocean rock.”  Which was awesome and TOTALLY conducive to adult conversation.

Within 14 seconds of the kind bartender pouring me a glass of wine so that I might catch up with a friend, Quinn had left his big brother and sister and climbed onto my lap.  AT THE BAR.

(Aside: needed to pause writing blog post to take call from National Mother of the Year Award Nomination Committee…my chances are looking strong.)

As I tried to hold a conversation with actual adults while keeping my wine away from the tiny tornado on my lap, I was interrupted every four words with conversations like:

“My teacher at school says…”

“My friend Ryan’s little brother bit him…”

“Today I weared my socks AND Crocs just like Lukas…”

You get the gist.

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Quinn practicing writing S’s

Anyway, at one point Quinn seemed to climb up on to the bar and lay on it; obviously confused, I asked him what he was doing.

“An S!  I see an S!  It’s like a sssssss-nake, see?”

At that point, my sweet boy put his index finger on the S in the word “JoSe Cuervo” written on the bar and traced it.

“Here’s another S, Momma!  Look, I see it!”

Quinn traces the S in the word “Grey GooSe.”

I am SO happy that the 20-something bartender was witnessing this entire incident.  If HE has an in with the aforementioned Mother of the Year nomination committee, I’m now accepting wagers.

Education can come from anywhere, folks.  Whether tailgating at a football game (keeping track of cornhole scores counts as math) or ante-ing up in poker (statistics are important, folks), one must never overlook a teachable moment.  I can’t wait until Quinn is sworn in as Chief Justice and he credits his Mom for teaching him how to Spell all of thoSe confuSing AmmendmentS to the ConStitution correctly.  I will be So proud.

In JoSe we trust.