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.

    photo

    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

36023_403162804355_6116600_n

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.

20936_244028934355_1412378_n

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.

Image

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.

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.