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.

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The 4-year old Operative

While watching the season opener of Homeland, they flashed back to Carrie interrogating Brody inside CIA headquarters.  The more she pressed him, the more he refused to cooperate…and all I could think of was, “They’re doing it wrong.”

If you REALLY want to break someone down, send in my 4-year old son Quinn.

“I didn’t blow up the Embassy!”

“Yes you did I sawed you do it.”

“I wasn’t even there!”

“Yes you were, I. SAWED. YOU.”

“I left five minutes before the bomb went off!”

“YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO COUNT!  THIS IS HOW YOU COUNT!  One, two, free, four, five, seven, firteen, fifteen, seventeen!”

“FINE I DID IT, I SET OFF THE BOMB, JUST TAKE THE KID AWAY!”

Come to think of it, the CIA would be smart to bring in a whole army of four-year old operatives.  Not only could they break even the most steadfast of witnesses but take a look at a few of their other special skills:

  • photo-8Weapons – I don’t know about your 4-year old, but Quinn can wield a plastic machine gun, baseball bat or pirate sword like a government assassin.  He seems to possess expert skills in slaying all sorts of bad guys (and unsuspecting small dogs…heads up, Elvis) and can even handle more specialized tools like nunchucks and water balloon launchers.  Plus, he can turn any household item (such as a paper towel roll or banana) into a lethal weapon.
  • Pay scale – as we are now in the midst of a government shutdown, this poses a very budget-friendly alternative.  Not gonna pay those agents?  No problem.  Hand out bags of candy corn, juice boxes and Power Ranger DVDs and those kids will do whatever you ask of them.
  • PicFrameMasters of Disguise – there’s nothing Quinn likes more than dressing up.  He may not blend in, so to speak, but you would never know it was him.
  • Discretion – what 4-year olds lack in an ability to keep secrets, they make up for when it comes to confusing the enemy.  Sure, they may accidentally spill some top sensitive information but it would be buried in so many layers of irrational storytelling that not even the most skilled decryption expert would be able to crack their code.  E.g,, “Yesterday at school my teacher said ‘what the heck’ is a bad wood and Sam saw a monstuh but a man with a gun killed the monstuh and then I ate birfday cake and I got to pet a tiger!”

While I’m hardly ready to ship Quinn off to Langley, it does make you wonder…maybe the answer to many of the current government problems could be solved with a little 4-year old berating?  I’d bet my life that if we locked Congress in a room with Quinn and a whole army of his insane friends and then told them that they couldn’t leave until they came to an agreement…

We’d have things worked out by noon.

The end of the road for Mighty Blue Plaid

ImageWell, friends, the Shummys reached a milestone last week as our third and (God willing) final child graduated from a carseat to a booster.  Goodbye, gynormous beast that took up two-thirds of the back seat, hello aerodynamic (and slightly smaller) apparatus.

Perhaps what is particularly monumental about this “Moving Of The Seat” is not that Quinn is graduating so to speak, but rather how long the Blue Plaid Throne has been sitting in my car.  Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane, shall we?

The year is 2001and first-time Mom Alex is noticing that her beanpole of an 8-month old is currently sitting in his rear-facing baby bucket car seat with knees up to his chin, resembling a much younger (and paler) Wilt Chamberlain.  What do to, she thinks to herself?  As any good (and terrified) new Mom would, she immediately turns to her “Baby Bargains” book to see what the author recommends for Phase 2 carseats.

While perusing the section on safety, she goes straight to the top of the line model, as she has just one child and therefore gobs of disposable income.  Additionally, she is trying to hide the fact that she has NO idea what she’s doing when it comes to parenting and therefore will make up for that by purchasing the BEST carseat ever manufactured.  You know the mentality: “That Alex, she’s a wonderful mother.  I mean, have you SEEN that carseat that Ben is riding in?  It’s like putting your baby inside of a bubble inside of a vault inside of a VOLVO it’s so safe.”  Of course, the price tag of $240 stops her dead in her tracks (she is still very frugal, after all) so she consults her friend Melanie, another new mom.

“I guess I’ll say this,” Melanie offers.  “When it comes to your child’s safety, a carseat is one thing you should splurge on.  You’ll get your money’s worth.”  Alex agrees and purchases the Rolls Royce of carseats, the 2001 Britax Roundabout.

And get her money’s worth, she did.  That bugger lasted over 12 years.

photo 4The Blue Plaid Throne has seen three kids and given us many seasons of service.  It has ridden in five cars and has the battle scars to prove it.  The material is faded and the elastics don’t grab the outside of the plastic anymore.  The straps have been barfed on, spilled on and made sticky with countless lollipops, sprinkle donuts and various Jam Hands.  So many Cheerios have been lost in the corners and innards of that thing that it would take an entire forensics team to find them all.  It is truly a relic.

When it came time to retire it though, I have to admit that there was a part of me that got a bit sentimental.  I mean, for 12 years (with limited time off for tiny babies or kids in booster seats) I’ve seen it in my rear view mirror.  Whether there was a person strapped in with little feet dangling or just that funky, faded plaid pattern staring back at me, it’s been a trusty passenger of mine for a long time.  photo 2While I’m happy that the kids are growing up, knowing that it’s last road trip will be out to the garage tugs at my heartstrings a little.  Out of my car, Blue Plaid looks sad, lonely and old…not like the regal Kid’s Throne that it once was.

Inside my car, however, it’s roomy and smells good.  Now that Blue Plaid is gone, something tells me that it has been carrying around more than just 12 years of memories inside.

Savoring the Moment

It’s Back to School time and I for one am thrilled.  Back to routine, back to schedules, back to kids using their minds instead of their thumbs (video games and TV clickers have gotten some serious mileage in the two weeks since camp ended).  Laundry was done, clothes were laid out and hair was washed as we prepared for Day 1.

My oldest began 7th grade at a new private school but luckily, Andy works there and had the lay of the land down.  While it didn’t make it worry-free for Ben (far from it…when an adolescent actually ADMITS to being nervous, you know it’s serious), all the preparations had been made.  He had finished his summer reading, had a closet full of collared shirts and even brand new sneakers that actually fit him.  I owe all of that to his Dad.

IMG_8260Georgia, however, seemed to fall under my jurisdiction and clearly, I had dropped the ball.  She spent the day before school finishing the 10 pages left in her summer math book (whoops), and hunkered down in my office while I worked.  A matholympics done at a snail’s pace, she finally finished at 7:34 pm and I told myself that it would be fresher in her memory this way.  Before going to bed, I tried to play the part of the organized mom by suggesting we pack her bag for the First Day of School.  And that’s where it all unraveled.

Upon pulling the backpack from a dusty corner of her room, I was floored by how heavy it was and as the words left my mouth, I wanted to pull them back in.

“Why is this so heavy?  What’s inside?”

Oh. THAT would be everything that’s been sitting in there since the last day of school.  In other words…Mom of the Year never even went through her bag to see what she had done in second grade.  Everything from her pencil box to her journal and even the note from the incoming teacher on what the kids should be armed with for third grade was in there (I REALLY could have used that before bedtime); even her pink fleece jacket was stuffed at the bottom (mystery solved).  To be honest, I was actually relieved that I didn’t find an empty carton of milk and bag of rotten grapes in there too.  Guess I got lucky.

ImageIt occurred to me that June seems like a lifetime ago.  I can’t remember how busy the last day of school was (my guess now is VERY) or what she wore or even what the date was, but life got so crazy that I forgot to stop and savor the moment.  I decided to fix that immediately by pulling out her journal and we read some of the passages together.  What I found out was pretty amazing.

Georgia won her soccer game 6-1 in September and had fun meeting her cousins’ goats in October.  She played with a bunny named Thumper in November, and was so proud of how her Christmas tree looked.  Staying up until midnight on New Years Eve made her year and the Easter Bunny brought her hair elastics and nail polish and hair clips (she loves Easter).  She also declared that if she were President, she would make a law never to hurt anyone because “if you do you could go to jail.  I know you wouldn’t want that.”

I realized that so often as parents, we forget to slow down.  We need to remember that It’s ok to say no to volunteering for another committee or to meeting people after work or even (gasp!) to take a day off once in a while.  It all goes so fast and while I’m glad that I have Georgia’s journal to keep forever, I’m sad that I missed that moment with her in June.  Never again.

After all, I could be raising one heck of a future President.  Time to step it up.

The Well-Dressed Man

Much is written about birth order and what it says about you. Supposedly, middle children are peacemakers and creative while the youngest are highly social and unconventional.

Although the oldest child is said to be authoritative, a perfectionist and driven, I realized that there is another characteristic that I would like to add:

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Ben, 2004 at age 3. Designer duds abound.

Extremely well-dressed.

While going through Ben’s hand-me-downs for Quinn, I was struck by the sheer volume and quality of his 2004 attire. I can’t believe that I didn’t remember it, but apparently, Ben had a better wardrobe as a three-year old than I have as an adult.

Seriously.

It was insane. I found about five pairs each of jeans, corduroys (both wide- and baby-wale) and khakis in addition to chinos in every color of the rainbow. There were enough sweaters to outfit an entire school system and even the t-shirts – multitudes of them – were brand name.

Of course, the kicker was the eight-piece collection of Ralph Lauren button down shirts that I hung up in Quinn’s closet…a closet with racks that are hardly ever used since t-shirts and shorts live crumpled up in a drawer.

I had to wonder…why, in the name of all that is holy, did Ben have SO MANY CLOTHES?!

It struck me that because he was my first child, I spent a fortune on his wardrobe and the novelty of dressing this little boy hadn’t yet worn off. Aside from the extra disposable income that I had as a mother of one, I used to love shopping for him. Whereas now I groan when I see pants getting too short, I would delight in the fact that this meant another lunchtime trip to TJ Maxx.  I’m quite sure that I must have deposited my check, paid the bills and then spent every last cent on size 3T sweater vests.

Although Georgia is my second child, she IS the first girl so she too had her fair share of new clothes. However, life had gotten busy (and expensive) so where I had turned my nose up at offers of hand-me-downs for Ben, I happily accepted them for Georgia. Last year, my sister gave her a few bags of clothes from a friend and when she found that they included – gasp! – some Justice tops, she was thrilled. As you can imagine, they became staples in her wardrobe.

photo-47

Quinn, age 3 1/2. Brand name hand-me-downs from head to (bare) toe.

And then there is child #3. Poor little Quinn, destined for 11-year old worn jeans and sweaters, knowing that the only new items in his drawers will be underwear and socks. He’ll be resigned to wearing button-down Ralph Lauren shirts from the last decade with corduroys to match. And sweater vests? They will be SO last season.

Luckily for me, I don’t feel the need to dress them like little J. Crew models anymore. Ben may have strutted the halls of his Preschool wearing collared shirts and khakis, but after many kids and years of experience, t-shirts and jeans are perfectly fine. With just one child, buttoning a three-year old’s oxford in the morning is fun; with multiple kids all running late for school, it’s like trying to nail jello to a tree.

Of course, now that Quinn has a whole new wardrobe of primo threads he looks like a million bucks. I suppose I should be thankful that I went to such extremes to dress Ben the way I did, as they now fit Quinn perfectly. And even though the only time he’s worn one of those button down shirts was on picture day, I’ll try to work them into the rotation.

As for those sweater vests? I can’t promise anything.

Confessions of a 41-year old Mom

As parents we like to believe that our children see us as perfect adults who have all the answers.  And while they are young, we may actually have them fooled…but it’s fleeting.  As they get older (and mouthier), they start calling us out on those deep dark secrets that we’ve hidden for so many years.

Recently I found my 12-year old and his friend watching a movie that, well, let’s just say had grossed out even me.  He said, “Don’t worry Mom, I won’t tell anyone.  You know I’ve seen worse.”  And in a way, it was true.  At that moment I realized it was time to come clean about my own dirty parenting secrets, so here goes.

  1. Even though I roll my eyes when the kids demand to listen to their Top 40 Pop radio in MY car, there are a few of them that I actually like.  No, LOVE.  As in, when-I’m-in-the-car-by-myself-I-crank-the-volume kind of love.  “Troublemaker” by Olly Murs and Flo Rida comes to mind, as does “Blurred Lines.”  And when it’s just Ben and me in the car, we jam to Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie.”  The non-edited-for-radio version.  Don’t judge.
  2. photo-42This is a terrible one but since I’m baring all: I hate pushing kids on swings.  I realize that this ranks me like, one tiny rung above Joan Crawford, but for me it is the most mind-numbing activity and the fact that children can do it for hours on end makes it all the more painful.  I see all those happy Moms, smiling and pushing, smiling and pushing…and on the surface I try to keep up appearances but on the inside I’d swear my teeth actually itch.  I’m not proud.
  3. I hate broccoli.  I mean, I had Ben and Georgia fooled for years…or rather, I had become very adept at distraction and sleight of hand whenever they would notice that they were eating it and I was not.  I have tried my whole life to like it as I know it’s SO good for you and of course I want to lead by example, but the truth of the matter is that I simply cannot stand it.  I can stomach broccoli if it’s buried deep inside a quiche or drowning in melted cheese but really, I would eat wood chips if they were prepared that way.
  4. photo-36During the summer, we often count trips to the swimming pool as bathing.  I really try to have them take a shower or bathe at least every other day but sometimes there is so much going on between camp and work and baseball and neighborhood friends that by the time they saunter on home, it’s dark and I’m tired and, well…they’re sort of clean.  All hail, chlorine!
  5. I’ve mentioned the age-inappropriate movie that Ben was watching, but there’s more.  The older kids watch “Big Brother,” which is SO dumb that you can almost hear your IQ dropping during the course of an episode.  Georgia and Ben have seen “Jaws” and love it (at least they have great taste but still, it’s terrifying).  And one time I smiled as Georgia and Quinn were snuggled up under a blanket, looking so cute watching TV, only to realize that they were watching “The Hunger Games.”  Quinn is 3 1/2.  Needless to say, that was flipped off immediately but still?  Oh, Mother of the Year.
  6. photo-41Despite my complaining, I’ve grown to love Elvis the dog.  Sure, he still poops on the dining room rug now and then and always has a crusty tail (because he drools in his crate and then rolls in it) and did I mention that he suffers from separation anxiety?  Despite it all, that mangy mutt has found a place in my heart.  Of course, now it’s a dirty corner of my heart that smells like dog but still, there it is.  Ugh.

So while I realize that I am far from perfect, I ask you honestly, what parent is?  Maybe the kids will see that I don’t judge other Moms because people in glass houses don’t throw stones and therefore acceptance is what is paramount.  Yeah, that’s the grand teaching that I’ll impart upon them…not that it’s okay to dress up like a pickle while you swim through vinegar on national television in hopes of winning $500,000.  It’s really all about acceptance.

That’s my gift to my children.  And to my fellow imperfect parents.  Ya’lls are welcome.

“I wish I were an only child” and other heartwarming sentiments

“MOMMMMM, Ben (insert abusive act here) me!”

“No, I didn’t.  Georgia, I didn’t even TOUCH you!”

“Yes you did, you pushed me to the ground!”

“Mom, I wish I were an only child.”

photo-31

Smiles brought to you by threats and ice cream.

Groannnnn…

I don’t know about you, but at my house it seems as though the kids spend 97% of their time actually looking for ways to annoy each other.  I daresay it’s actual sport at Chez Shumway; so much so that even the 3 1/2 year old has gotten into the game and ever the competitive child, has bypassed J.V. and gone straight to the starting Varsity lineup.

Take for example, Sunday morning.  I awoke to Quinn “Bullhorn” Shumway climbing into bed with us around 7:15 and demanding to watch “the movie that I watch yesterday with the man.”  Huh?

I digress.

So there we were, enjoying some quiet time with the little guy (quiet because we both had pillows over our heads) while the older two seemed to be downstairs in the playroom peacefully watching something else.  Of course, they could have been “peacefully watching Platoon” but as long as there was no arguing then who was I to judge?  I came downstairs around 7:45 and while pouring myself a cup of coffee, the kerfuffle ensued:

“Ben hit me!”  “No I didn’t!”  “Yes you did!”  “NO, GEORGIA, I DIDN’T.”  “OOOWWWWWW!  MOMMMMM!”

At that point, who really needs caffeine?

We have tried reasoning, threatening, ignoring, everything (they’ll probably put the quote “I don’t care!  SELF-GOVERN!” on my tombstone).  We’ve explained that if they fight with each other, they will both get in trouble so remember to think about that before running to Andy and me.  If they work to resolve the dispute – which is usually over uber-important issues like one’s feet touching the other’s leg, one breathing too heavily, or Heaven forbid, the deadliest of all sins, changing the channel from one’s favorite tv show – then we will applaud their diplomacy rather than send them to their rooms.

Another (oft ignored) suggestion – albeit somewhat radical – is this: if your brother/sister is annoying you, go to one of the 14 other rooms in the house.  Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to Quinn as, at 3 1/2, he desperately craves the company of others and will follow you wherever you go.  He has so mastered his craft of annoying the other two that they have to literally hide from him to escape his reign of terror.  While Ben and Georgia may  have such skewed versions of the truth that COMPLETELY contradict one another, Quinn is totally irrational which makes it like trying to reason with a crazy person.

“Mom, Quinn just broke my Lego plane that I built.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Quinn, we all just saw you do it.  Pick it up.”

“I didn’t play with the cars and yesterday at camp when my counseluh tells me to swim with a noodle, I go in the pool and my friend Jonathan went under water…”

You get the idea.

I’m told that at some point, this will pass.  I mean, my father used to refer to my younger sister as my sparring partner and now we’re best friends, so I’ve got to assume that they’ll grow out of it.  In the meantime, however, I’ll be hoping for some sort of Olympic “Annoying” Event in which my children can bring home the gold.  Ain’t no one can touch these three.

Either that, or make sure there’s a pillow within reach at all times.  Positioned correctly, they can bring peace to any household.