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.

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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.

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:

Image

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.

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.

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.