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.

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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.

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.”

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.

Superstitious? Nah (knock wood).

As someone who grew up in a family of all girls, my knowledge of baseball could once be summed up in a few words: Fenway, Yaz and hot dogs.  However, after marrying a small town baseball legend and then spending the past seven years behind the outfield fence watching my son play, I’ve picked up a few things.   I finally remember where the short stop stands, when it’s time for a sacrifice bunt and I’m even starting to be able to recognize a change-up.  But nothing is as important in this storied game as it’s superstitions.

Last week Ben’s 12-year old summer baseball team (coached by Andy) was playing in the Cal Ripken District Tournament, and traditions were in full swing (ba dum bum).  For starters, my house stunk to high heaven with the smell of sweaty boy because they were on a winning streak.  Not making sense?  If your last name is Shumway and the past few games have gone your way then there is no cleaning the uniforms because HEAVEN FORBID you wash the luck out them.  That’s right, socks too (I gag just typing this).  The boys go to bed early the night before the tournament and always, ALWAYS visit the loo before they leave for the game.

It sounds insane, I know.  But superstitions are not to be scoffed at. photo-28

The day of the District Championship game, I had a full day of meetings, nervous energy before the 8pm start, and all the ingredients for my Spicy Blueberry Pie.  Despite the fact that a pie is perhaps the most ridiculously hard-to-eat thing that one could possibly want at a ball field, I placed the warm plate outside the Snack Shack and it was a hit.  Then, Georgia pulled the prize out of her Cracker Jacks – a tiny Louisville Slugger sticker – and stuck it on my arm. Random event or Lady Luck?  You decide.

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The boys after their fourth consecutive District title. I am insanely proud.

As the nail-biter went into extra innings and Ben approached the batters box with two outs in the bottom of the 7th and go-ahead run on second base, I took my place behind the outfield fence.  Doing my best Jedi Mind trick to insure that my boy get a base hit instead of strike out and end the game, I held my breath. When he railed the ball to the gap in right field and two runs came bombing across home plate, we all cheered and FINE, I may have cried a little (read: bawled like a little girl).  And when we got home that night, pride was accompanied by relief that Ben had not only delivered when he needed to but also, I would get to wash their funky uniforms and end the stink once and for all.

As the boys headed to the next round of the tournament the following week, I found myself reaching for not only the Cracker Jack sticker but also the blueberries.  I mean, what if I shunned the superstition and the team lost?  Would it not be MY fault?  As it was, I was going to have to wear a different shirt because of a 20-degree increase in temperature (no superstition is worth Sweaty Betty sporting a long sleeved shirt in 97% humidity) so really, could I possibly take that risk? photo-29

I blame my husband and son for this newfound paranoia.  I still take issue with the “Tournament Stench” but I can sort of understand the (ridiculous) logic.  Unfortunately, the team lost in Game 2 of the State Tournament so I suppose in the end, the sticker and the pie didn’t bring the luck that I had hoped they would.

Obviously, it must have been the long sleeved shirt that sat in my drawer.  Damn.

Things I learned on First Communion Weekend

IMG_0096After spending much of the weekend in Church attending not only Georgia’s First Communion but my nephew Mac’s as well, I’d say that I’ve earned the right to act all holier than thou.  In between numerous Hail Marys and trips to the altar, I came up with Alex’s Five Commandments when Attending a Whole Lotta Church.

Though shalt bring small bills.  Why I never remember this is beyond me.  After the first collection on Sunday, I gave myself a mental pat on the back at having stuffed enough $5s and $1s in my wallet to parcel out to all of the kids.  When the second collection came around just minutes afterwards, it was either feast (all $20s) or famine (a CVS receipt and Qdoba loyalty card).

Thou shalt not resist bathing before church.  I’m not sure if it was because I was enforcing two consecutive early morning showers, but both times I was met with eye rolls and backtalk.  Even the blessed little First Communicant herself whined, “but I showered YESTERDAY before church!” as if I had asked her to give up a kidney or, Heaven forbid, floss.  I did what any good Christian mother would do: I threatened her with no cake and eternal damnation.  Eventually, she acquiesced.

THOU SHALT CHARGE THY CAMERA BATTERY BEFORE BIG EVENTS.  iPhones are fantastic when you’re in a pinch but when it comes to getting a clear picture as your child is speed-walking down the aisle, you’ll need an actual camera.  Lest you call me an Apple hater (I am anything but), I give you Exhibit A and B:

IMG_0092 This is my nephew Mac, doing about 65 mph on his way to the altar.

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Here’s Georgia, sprinting back to the family pew.

Thou shalt consider leaving the under-4 set at home.   

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After two days with Quinn on my hip in a hot and crowded church, wearing tight skirts and heels, trying to keep him pious and behaved (read: quiet) for hour-plus masses, I came to the realization that First Communions are simply not the activity for a child like him.  Let’s just say that while I should have been focusing on the sacraments being bestowed upon the First Communicants, I was actually praying for patience and forgiveness for the horrible thoughts I was having.  Amen.

Thou shalt let them eat cake.  FAST.  On both days, as soon as the kids came home from church they asked to dig into their cake and change their clothes. My sister Jennifer had cleverly taken all pictures immediately after mass and let her son have his cake as soon as he finished; the result was a happy (and sugar-buzzed) boy.

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I opted instead to dig my heels in, hold off for cake and presents and take family pictures when we got home.  This resulted in an extremely annoyed family and first class ticket to the very edge of my own sanity.  Behold, the most telling photo of the day (right).

Remember to keep holy The Five Commandments in your heart (and purse) during all church events – baptisms, weddings, funerals or even just a weekend Mass.  If you break even one, well…may God have mercy on your soul.

To Fail or Not to Fail? THAT is the question.

As a parent, it’s a common scenario.

Your child comes home from school one day and casually mentions a project that he or she has been assigned.  It’s a big deal and will be factored into their overall grade.  They are “really looking forward to putting it together.”

ImageThe night before it’s due, you ask how it’s coming.  Suddenly that same kid (who couldn’t wait to begin) mutters that they have taken some notes.  That’s it.

The fury creeps up from inside of you as you’re grabbing them by the scruff of the neck, tossing them in the car and heading to AC Moore to buy poster board, Sharpies and rubber cement.

Grrrrr….

Okay, fellow parents, here’s a tough one.  This subject has been the topic of conversation with many of my friends lately and I have stood on my soapbox, declaring that a failed grade is a lesson worth learning and teaches kids to manage their time wisely and take responsibility.  Yet there I was, forcing my 6th grade son (after arguing with him at a noise level that would wake the dead) to write an outline, scrap his lame attempt at taking the easy route out by starting over, and FINALLY offering to help him create an A+ worthy project.

Oh, what a hypocrite I am.

Now, I will admit…I like to get things right.  While not a complete perfectionist, I will work until the 11th hour to make sure that I turn in something that’s good at the very least (as evidenced by this very story which I am writing the night before I post it).   When I have something due, I make sure that it’s in on time and if I have to work late then that’s my fault.  But why, oh WHY does my 11-year old son not have the same work ethic?

Put simply, because he is, in fact, an 11-year old boy.  There are so many times as a parent that I am baffled at their lack of responsibility when it comes to school, their toys or anything that is valuable to them.  I mean, I certainly get it, why don’t they?  If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus then Children are from a Planet so very VERY far away, and it’s one where nothing (outside of TV watching and X-Box) ever gets accomplished.   Who would want to live like that?

I’ll admit…I didn’t exactly let my son FAIL (I may be too Type A for that, or at least right now) but I did have to let him put together a B-ish science project.  As I watched him quickly scribble the title on the poster board and spell “Animall” with two L’s (oh, my Father the newspaper Editor must have rolled over in his grave), he put his head in his hands in utter defeat.  I figured that this might be my great teaching experience for him as I explained that although he made a mistake, the big win would be in how to fix it.  He suggested that printing out the title on the computer with a black background and white letters and gluing it over the misspelled word would make it look better.  I exhaled as I realized that he had learned something:

We all make mistakes.  Instead of submitting something that isn’t perfect, figure out a great solution.  There’s a life lesson fer ya, kid.

In the end, the project is good.  I mean, it’s no A+ in my book but he admitted his shortcomings, asked for help and actually seemed to enjoy doing it.  And wonder of all wonders, as he went to bed I even got an un-prompted, “Hey Mom, thanks for helping me.”

I may not have the stomach for the failing grade yet, but at least he’s picking up a few life lessons…and so am I.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But just you wait for the project on Rome.  I’m just saying.

What are your thoughts?  Do you let them fail or help them get an A?  PLEASE, comment below!