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.

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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.

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Math iz hurd: Parenting Word Problems

As the kids are getting ready to begin their summer math homework (with two weeks until the first day of school, I daresay we’re way ahead of schedule), I found myself trying to work through a few real-world word problems of my own.  There’s a bottle of wine to that savvy parent who can find the correct answers and score 100 on the following test.  Of course, I’ll hand deliver that bottle and sit down and drink it with you because let’s face it, it’s been a long, LONG summer but still…begin!

  1. photo-44There are three children and two adults who are home between the hours of noon and 9:00pm (when they go to bed), and they eat both lunch and dinner in the kitchen.  At the beginning of the day, there are a total 36 drinking cups of different sizes and shapes.  Explain in detail how, at the end of the day, there are zero clean cups left in the cabinet and the previously empty dishwasher can barely close due to the overflowing top rack.
  2. A busy Mom goes to the grocery store at 5:15 with $25 in cash and a list of six things she needs to make Pasta Bolognese.  If she races out of the store at 6:00 with 34 items crammed into the two bags she brought, which credit card was she forced to use?
  3. photo-43An 8-year old girl decides that she MUST begin a new craft at once.  4.3 seconds after making said decision, she demands that she be taken to AC Moore immediately (aka “The Seventh Circle of Flourescent-Lit Hell”) to buy Rainbow Loom.  After three hours, she has produced 11 bracelets using 75% of the 600 colored rubber bands and left them in various places around the house.  If she was able to create 46 gimp keychains and 29 friendship bracelets over the previous seven weeks of camp, how many months will her mother spend finding these crafts strewn about her home?
  4. A 41-year old woman notices that it’s time to color her hair, lest she continue to look like a squirrel with a gray stripe running down her part.  She spends one hour at night with the 5G-Light Golden Chestnut bottle (her signature shade of brown), smothers her face in anti-wrinkle cream before drinking two big glasses of water – hydration is the key to looking young – and goes to bed.  What is the probability that she wakes up the following morning with a zit the size of Saturn planted squarely on her chin?  Explain how her entire body reminds her that she’s getting old yet her skin behaves as though it’s mid-puberty.
  5. If five people in a family have 10 feet total, why are there currently 43 – that’s right, an odd number – total shoes in the family’s mudroom?photo-45

Please submit your answers by the first day of school and for those apple-polishers out there, remember that extra credit WILL be given.  This tired teacher reminds you that “if you want an A, give Cabernet.”

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.

The Big Gross-Out

I had decided to write this week’s post on Quinn’s beloved blanket, “Battie” (pronounced “Bah-ttie”).  While making a list of Battie’s qualities that make him so lovable (apparently he’s male), I kept coming back to the same adjectives: dirty, gray, crunchy, and gross.  Upon further investigation, I realized that many of the most well-loved child treasures are, well…

Gross.

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The “Lollipop” on Quinn’s Battie

Take, for example, the aforementioned Battie.  Once a soft, creme-colored nubby blanket with dark brown edging and a pocket that held a tiny cow, it is now a funky smelling, crunchy gray square that has been used for everything from nighttime snuggling to wiping one’s nose.  I know, gross, right?  Georgia actually had the original Battie: a 2005 model given to her as a baby from my friend Lisa.  Her Battie began its life as a fluffy pink blanket but over the years has morphed into the brown, 195 square inch germ-fest that it now is.  Since both Batties are downright nasty, one would think that they are interchangeable but NO, those kids can (literally) smell a fake a mile away.  The major distinction is that Quinn’s Battie hosts a tiny tag on the back that he hooks his thumb through while dragging around.  This tag is called “The Lollipop.”  I don’t even want to know why.

Another gross-out kid fave?  Nasty bed sheets.  I have no idea how, but when I was a kid my mom had us strip the beds once a week and we then got new, fresh sheets to sleep on.  I didn’t appreciate it then but LAWD what I wouldn’t give for that now.  Anyway, this working mom does the best she can but sometimes things fall through the cracks and recently, Ben’s bed sheets have been among them.  When I finally pulled up his shade last month and cracked a window (while gasping for fresh air), I noticed that the sheet was ripped.  And when I say “ripped” I mean TORN from the headboard right down to the foot of the bed, naked mattress staring back at me.  When asked how long it had been that way he gave me an “I dunno” shrug and asked to leave the sheets on there.  Apparently, he liked them.  Gross.

Not to be outdone by her brothers, Georgia is known for loving an item of clothing so much that she’ll try to wear it for as long as humanly possible without EVER taking it off.  Be it a pair of neon-and-blinking Justice short-shorts, her one-size too small denim cutoffs (also a Justice find) or the newest addition, a Taylor Swift concert tee shirt, she is a firm believer in the mantra “Go Big or Go Home.”  And when it comes to her wardrobe, that translates to “Wear-it-to-camp-then-to-bed-then-to-camp-again-then-to-bed-and-if-you-can-pull-it-off-to-camp-one-more-time.”  She amazes me with her Ninja-like moves as she tries to escape my clutches, sliding through the kitchen door and into Andy’s van as he backs out of the driveway.  She may be dirty, but she’s clever and quick.  Gross…but really fast.

This may all seem like normal kid behavior but for someone who can’t fall asleep unless the kitchen is cleaned and her feet are freshly washed, this kind of stuff baffles me.  I mean sure, my office may have magazines all over the floor and my desk is never organized but at least it’s clean in there.  Neat, no…but clean, yes.

Anything else is just gross.

Happy Campers

photo-36I have a love/hate relationship with summer camp.  Don’t get me wrong; my children look forward to the warm sunny days filled with swimming and archery as though they are Christmas in July, and for that I’m grateful.  It’s just that with every yin there’s a yang, and while the benefits of camp don’t appear during the school year, well, neither do the drawbacks.

Things I hate, as a Mom, about Summer Camp

  1. photo-35Damp towels and bathing suits – the only thing worse than coming home to find a pile of these little wet treasures in front of the dryer (not IN the dryer, Heaven forbid) is smelling them when you open their backpacks. The next morning.  Where they have had all night in the dark humidity to grow their otherworldly stink.  Of course, after a few weeks of tackling them as they walk through the door to “train them” into putting them in the dryer and pressing ON, I eventually give up.  I figure that having to put on a funky bathing suit and dry yourself with a moldy towel will teach them a lesson.  It never does.
  2. That Four Letter Word – yes, parents, you all know what I’m talking about.  Lice (I itch just typing it).  The first time you realize your child has it, it’s all consuming; after that you learn that it’s just a potential hazard of camp life and does not whatsoever reflect on your child’s hygiene (despite what I have just called out above).  Luckily I have learned a relatively quick and surefire way to rid your child of this summertime nightmare but still, it makes me groan when the kids head to their first day of camp.  I mean, poor Georgia, with her beautiful curly hair; I guess I should be glad it’s just a couple of bugs and not a family of squirrels living in there.
  3. Packing camp lunches – full disclosure, Andy is the one who really manages this job but as I’m the one who does the food shopping, I’m always amazed at how much lunch meat and snacks they go through on a weekly basis.  27 pounds of sliced turkey and 15  pounds of ham, a 12-foot tower of American cheese and enough bread to put Wonder back in business yet I can’t afford a pedicure?  I consider it a fiduciary win that I’m still able to budget for wine.  A girl’s gotta have priorities, you know.

Things I love, as a Mom, about Summer Camp

  1. “Camp Friends” – Ben gets to hang with Pete and Davis.  Georgia’s besties are Rachel, Molly and Ellie.  Both of them look forward to seeing these kids all year long and LOVE being able to have mysterious buddies from other towns that their school friends don’t know.  And just this morning, 3-year old Quinn announced, “Umm, I have a new friend at camp.  Her name is Izzy.  She’s a kid, not a counseluh.  She is new.”  To see him transform from the shy new kid to head of the welcoming committee for new campers just four weeks later?  Warms the cockles of my heart.
  2. photo-34Daily activities – everyday my tanned and blonde-highlighted children come home and regale us with tales of what they did at camp (we still have to press Ben, but it’s easier than it is during the school year).  From Archery to “Gymnaxticks” (Quinn’s favorite), Wiggles and Giggles to Beading, Dodgeball to kayaking, these kids have a blast.  They even finally explained how Gaga Dodgeball is different than regular Dodgeball (they play in an octagon versus a rectangle), so now after eight years, I get it.  And although I find gimp everywhere from the floor of my car to the shower drain (true story), the 14 new bracelets and keychains I have each summer keep life colorful at the very least.
  3. The End of Day Exhaustion – nothing is better than a child who is so tuckered out from fun and laughing and sun and swimming that they willingly go to bed and even (gasp!) sleep in the next day.  It’s a beautiful thing and worth every penny that I’m spending on the electric bill for the dryer that’s running overtime.

Although my entire summer camp experience was limited to a single two-week Park and Rec Tennis program (that I’m quite sure actually made me worse of a player than I was to begin with), I love that my own kids will have these memories.  Sure, their camp started off as a summertime daycare for us, but it has since morphed into a time of their lives that they’ll never forget with friends they’ll always have.  In a way, I’m actually a little jealous.

I’m even working on a gimp belt.  And not for nothing, it’s pretty awesome.

“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.”

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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.