My Mothers Day Wish List

Dear Andy, Ben, Georgia, Quinn and of course, Elvis,

You all know (at least you BETTER know) that Mothers Day is a mere four days away.  While you have never disappointed me on this, the holiest of days for a harried mom, I am hoping that you could indulge me this year.  I mean, REALLY indulge me.  And I’m not talking about breakfast in bed or a spa day; what I have in mind is even better.

photo-16Ben – You’re a 12 year old boy, and you’re gross.  I get it.   You’re no different than every other guy your age.  But if you could stop coming home from soccer and baseball practice, taking off your nasty socks and leaving them (inside out, of course) in various places on the first floor, I’d appreciate it.  Playing “follow the smell” while pouring my morning coffee is not my idea of starting the day off right.

GeorgiaMy girl.  photo-18You are the one little bit of estrogen-solidarity I have in this crazy house, but my request may not be an easy one.  I beg that you never make me buy you clothes at Justice again.  EVER.  I’ve made no secret of my disdain for this store but after two years, I’ve reached my limit.   I cringe every time you receive another one of their gift cards.  My eyes hurt looking at  the neon t-shirts inside the store, and the bubble gum pop music by One Direction/Bieber/Disney-Diva-du-jour that’s being piped through the speakers makes my teeth itch.  I’ve done it for years.  I know you love it.  But it’s time…let me take you anywhere else.  From the Gap to Newbury Street, we’ll buy you an outfit in a color found on this planet.  It would be the greatest gift you could give.

photo-14Quinn – Well, my boy, your present came two weeks early as you have finally, after six months, mastered the art of pooping on the potty!  I am proud and relieved (no pun intended) that diapers are officially a part of the past.  Granted, you are SO regular that I wonder if you are part earthworm but I’m not complaining.  Now if you can just work on: learning your middle name (Andrew), not dragging the dog across the floor by his collar and that a squirrel is a disgusting rodent not to be approached while cooing, “aww, look at dat cute chick-munk!” then we’ll be good to go.

photo-15Andy – I ask that you clean the Laundry Room.  One of the 700 junk emails I got today was from Real Simple and titled, “The Space You Should Be Cleaning, But Aren’t.”  Against my better judgment (while hoovering lunch at my desk), I read it.  Did you know that we are living in a DEATH TRAP (not to mention pure squalor) by not getting through the 21 steps on the checklist?  Apparently it’s not enough to swipe the fire-hazard-of-a-lint-trap; you need to remove, wash and scrub with a toothbrush to properly clean it.  With a toothbrush, Andy!  And don’t even get me started on disconnecting the dryer hose and getting all the funk inside of THAT thing out.  Anyway, reading this article stressed me out when I realized that I’d never have the time to do it so I’d like for you to handle this.  And you know me well enough that inevitably I’ll be dissatisfied with the job you’re doing and wind up cleaning it myself, but just kick things off and I’ll be one happy mom.

photo-17Elvis – Since I recently learned the hard way that you are one of the four dogs in the history of the world who gets carsick, I’m going to have to ask that you get over your emotional issues and learn to be in the house alone without eating through metal, wood or electrical cords that are plugged into the wall.  Thanks  (and woof).

Guys, I love being your mom.  And if my Mothers Day gets me everything on this list, I will be the luckiest lady in the world.  So make your Mama proud and give me what I really want this year.  I’ll meet you in the Laundry Room.

Love, Mom

Spring has Sprung!

“Spring Fever.” Here in my neighborhood, we’ve got it bad.

ba9f29c684cadcf1eccdfcfcd5d7994fGlobal warming aside, last weekend’s weather gave everyone I know an extra “spring” in their step (ba dum bum) as we got a taste of what’s to come.  As New Englanders, we’re all raised not to trust the Indian Summer or the early snowfall, as the weather can change on a dime.  We know that it can be sunny and warm on a Tuesday and snowing the following night.  We never put those winter boots too far back in the closet and keep flip-flops on hand at all times.

But still, when spring comes to greater Boston, no one can resist giving in to it.

Earlier in the month, the temperature had climbed towards 70 degrees and I was a little thrown by the fact that it was early April.  And although the official First Day of Spring was behind us, I resisted stripping the bed of the soft flannel sheets because with my EXTENSIVE meteorological skills, I came up with (what I thought was) a great explanation:

“The calendar is a bit of a man-made invention,” I explained to Andy.  “Mother Nature adheres more to the phases of the moon than whether it’s April 1st or 30th.”

He really didn’t care (nor did he buy my ridiculous logic), as he would be spending much of the month outside coaching baseball and was happy to not be fighting off hypothermia like he usually does during pre-season.

One of the great phenomenons of spring in New England is that neighbors behave like animals that have been hibernating all winter.  Can’t you just picture the National Geographic Special on spring in the Boston area:

“Like the North American Woodchuck, the pale New Englander carefully peers out her front door as the sun peeks into the dark home.  As the sun warms her pasty skin, she decides that the environment outside of her cave is warm enough to survive in and her young come scurrying through the opening beside her. They have shed their winter coats and having fully molted, are ready to adapt to the warmer climate.”

As all of my neighbors gathered in the street, we remarked on how big the kids had gotten and how long it had been since we’d seen each other.  Balls and bikes came out of garages.  Lawn chairs were pulled out of storage.  Wine was uncorked as we celebrated the long cold months apart and ushered in the spring.  The kids discussed lemonade stands and played with Nerf Guns until it got dark.  Spring Fever had taken over!

Of course, we fear that the cold will return for one last hurrah and we’ll be forced to close the windows and turn the heat back on.  But that taste of spring reminds us all that it’s just around the corner, and here in our neighborhood, we are ready to welcome it back.

But this time, I’ll keep the flannel sheets in the front of the closet. Just in case.

Surprise! It’s Picture Day. AGAIN.

When I was a kid, picture day at school was a big deal.  Your parents picked your package (two 5x7s, four 4x6s and eight wallets) and you handed the envelope to the creepy photographer guy who had set up in the school gym.  In return, you received a cheap black comb and the opportunity to glam yourself up.  The background was blue, you had dressed in your ’70s or ’80s best and beamed a gap-toothed smile.  Six weeks later your elementary school mug was immortalized in the homes of your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It was a carefully managed process.

Scan 39

Nowadays your child arrives home from school on a random Tuesday in April and hands you a packet of 84 pictures taken the week before when they hadn’t showered in three days, wore the sparkliest shirt in their drawer and made a game-time decision that you would really prefer “the laser backdrop.”  Why are these even an option?

Scan 40

I’ll admit…Georgia’s picture pack that came home today was actually pretty tame compared to previous years.  Of course I wish her hair was neater (and cleaner) and she didn’t look like she had just come from a “Dancing with the Stars” competition but hey, it could be worse.  I remember last year’s first grade pictures had her smiling against bright disco-purple and Ben’s fifth grade shot made him appear to be attending school on some nuclear-green planet. Then there was the year that Ben had run out of clean laundry and gone to school one day – unbeknownst to us, on picture day of course – wearing a one-size-too-small red Wildcat t-shirt from High School Musical that was a gift from his grandparents.  Whoops.

Scan 42

When Ben was younger, we were on a really bad roll of Murphy’s Law-type accidents the night before picture day.  With injuries ranging from falling off a ladder (cut between the eyes) to an over-zealous hug (zipper gash to the cheek), we were always waiting for DSS to show up at the door producing photographic evidence of his bruised face as proof that we were knocking him around.  Scan 41And when Georgia was in Pre-K, you can imagine our delight when we found that the photographer had combed her curly hair before snapping a picture..we still lovingly refer to that one as her “Donna Summer ‘do.”

I suppose that bad school pictures are as much a part of growing up as playing soccer or learning to read, and I don’t know why they still matter so much (it’s not like our kids aren’t photographed ten times a day).  But until I get three beauties against tasteful gray backgrounds, showing clean children wearing clean clothes and smiling angelically, I won’t be satisfied.

In the meantime, you can find me riding my Unicorn around town wearing size 2 skinny jeans.


Here we go again.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that I was assuring my children they would be safe, and bad things like the Newtown shooting were really, really rare?  That they shouldn’t be scared because that would never happen to them?

Yet there I was on Monday, witnessing my 8-year old Georgia watch with wide-eyed horror as the news reported that a little boy was among those killed at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.

While I am hardly an expert when it comes to grief counseling, I had been fortunate to find this on Facebook…my friend and children’s book author Peter Reynolds had posted it shortly after the explosions:


I sat Georgia down and asked her if she wanted to talk about it.  “This is the worst month of my life.  Everyone is dying.  Did you know that an 8-year old boy DIED?”

I knew that I couldn’t use the same line I did after Sandy Hook, as she was already beginning to doubt her own safety.  After all, she had stood at that very spot just two years ago to cheer on her own Father as he crossed the finish line.  I thought about Peter’s post and simply told her:

“There are some bad people in this world, and sometimes they do bad things.  But there are SO MANY more good people, and that’s something you need to remember.  Do you know what happens when those bad people try to scare everyone?  The good people get stronger.  They help one another.  They become braver.  And in the end, the bad people lose.  Remember, good will ALWAYS triumph over evil.”

I don’t know if it was the right thing to say or even if she believes it, but I know that I certainly do.  I feel scared, definitely.  Scared that something terrible could happen again in my city.  Scared that my kids will always be looking over their shoulder.  Scared that they will wonder, ”Will it happen to ME today?”

But more than scared, I feel proud.  Proud of the good people that are on my side.  Thankful that Boston is made up of so many heroes and so few victims.  And of course, grateful that my family is safe and happy thanks to those brave men and women that keep them that way.

In the end, all we can do is hug our loved ones and do our best to raise them to be good guys.  After all, what kid wouldn’t want to grow up to be on the winning team?

A plus B equals…um, what does Google say?

Raise your hand if this is a familiar scene in your house:

1b23608786824f479e27167378e942f4Child arrives home from school.  Child dutifully spends 30 minutes doing math homework.  Child brings said homework to parent to check over.  Parent has minor stroke realizing that their sixth grader’s arithmetic skills have now surpassed their own.

Dare I say that the dreaded homework is even more unpleasant for the parents than it is for the kids?

Okay, I may be exaggerating a little, but not by much.  Is it just me, or has math gotten really, really hard?  I remember the big four – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and I always thought that if you had a handle on those then you were in good shape.  Apparently, in the years between elementary school and working full-time where math consists of an excel formula or a number that your calculator spits out, there have been a few developments.

I know.  Shocking.

I’ve never claimed to have all the answers.  I am the first person to raise my hand and ask a question; in fact, the words “I don’t understand, can you explain that again?” will most likely be carved on my tombstone.  However, as a parent you want your kids to think that they can come to you for help and whether it is the correct spelling of “Tennessee” or “How do you do the Waltz?” (that was an actual Georgia question recently), you want to be able to help them as best you can.

I have found there to be five different kinds of Homework Parents.  Which one are you?

  1. The Scholar – this Modern Day Einstein actually understands what Lattice Multiplication is. They might read up on new techniques, be a NASA engineer by trade or still brag about their perfect score on the Math SATs.  Either way, they scare me.  And I may hate them a little.
  2. The Involved Parent – this adult has taken the time to sit with the math teachers at school so that they are prepared for this exact situation.  They are calm and thorough in their explanations and probably sleep with a sixth grade textbook under their pillow (they aren’t fooling anyone).
  3. The Delegator – this Mom and Dad throw money at the problem and hire a tutor for their mathematically challenged offspring.  They say it’s because they want the best for their child and although this is most likely true, let’s face it…they don’t understand it either and can simply afford the hourly rate.  To be honest, I dig this idea; I’m just far too cheap to pull the trigger.
  4. The Realist – this parent knows when they are beat.  Whether math was never their strong suit or it’s just been too long, they’ll admit to the kid that he or she will have to find a different way to get to the mathematical Promised Land.  Asking a teacher for extra help is usually the advice.
  5. The Googler – this pretty much describes Andy and me.  As I’ve stated before, I’m far from perfect and know my shortcomings; however, I don’t admit failure easily so will do what I can to accomplish my goal.  What the good folks at Google have provided is a way to save face, provided you’re not averse to a little extra research.

And so, fear not if you have found yourself scratching your head when asked for help in solving a word problem.  You’re not alone, and it makes you neither a bad parent nor a math dunce; it just makes you busy and real and, well, slightly flawed .  Like it or not, our kids already know that we aren’t perfect.  They don’t need Google to figure that out.

The way I see it, as long as I can pull off a decent waltz, I’m in good shape.

A Time to Take Stock

It’s been a hard week, and therefore I’m going to make this one short.  I’ve experienced loss both firsthand and through the eyes of a best friend and it’s made me realize that time is, indeed, fleeting.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Tell people you love how much they mean to you.  Make every moment count and appreciate what you have, because it could all be gone tomorrow.

This past week has made me think: if today were to be my last, would people say that I lived a good life?  Would my friends and family know that I’m thankful for what they have given me?  Would my children go to bed at night confident that their mother loved them fiercely?

I hope the answer to all of this is yes.  I’m trying my hardest to ensure that it is.

Bon (yeah right) Appetit!

As I was finishing up a conference call around 5:15 tonight, I could smell Andy making dinner downstairs and all I could think of was, “Pasta, AGAIN?”

While I was certainly happy that he was taking care of feeding everyone, the mere thought of eating another strand of spaghetti had me contemplating filling up on the Altoids in my purse instead.  When I asked him why the carbo-loading of late, he looked at me quizzically and asked, “You ARE aware that we have almost no food in the house, aren’t you?”

And then it hit me.  Between snow days for all three kids, multiple soccer practices, baseball pre-season, meetings and, oh yeah, our full time jobs (!?*), I seem to have forgotten the way to the grocery store.

Sound the alarm: the Shumways aren’t eating balanced meals.  AGAIN.

Am I alone here?  Lately I’ve found myself so busy that I’m lucky if Andy and I get to talk for more than two minutes much less gather the family around the dinner table for a meal consisting of meat, a vegetable, a starch, and five tall glasses of milk.

(Sidebar: I just pictured that very scene and almost started to laugh.  Our darkened dining room, filled with a chatty family, good china and a hot dinner rather than a lonely table piled high with stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else in the house?  Stop the madness!)

b57fb7b110c81770c5a95fb752b55248While I love cooking and trying out new recipes, it’s really hard for busy parents with even busier kids to make that happen.  I mean, if I can’t even get to the grocery store, well, there are only so many dinners you can make with a jar of pickles, Dijon mustard, eight eggs and a bunch of wilting kale.

(Actual items in the Shumway refrigerator at this very moment; no exaggeration here.)

There are times when I get a burst of organizational energy (and a quiet week with fewer meetings and sporting events) whereby I will break out recipes, make lists, perhaps even cut a coupon or two and hit the grocery store.  As much as I am so proud of myself when I’m able to accomplish this, it seems to be a bit of a rarity.

When it DOES happen, usually the dinner is cooked and there are only two or three of us around to eat it while it’s hot; the other ones will scarf it down when they return from practice or meetings.  It’s then that I get irritated and think, “did I really just kill myself to make Beef Bourguignon, just to have the kids pick through the vegetables and hoover the meat in less than 60 seconds?”

(Confession: Beef Bourguignon has never been prepared in the 11 years I’ve been a parent; extreme exaggeration on display here.)

At the end of the day, we busy parents do the best we can with whatever we have in the kitchen.  Sometimes our families enjoy a dinner full of vitamins and protein and other times they’ll eat pasta for the fourth time in a week.

Either way, if a chicken nugget and carrot stick is all you have on hand, then serve it with gusto, toss an apple at your child and hug them on their way out the door. Vow to hit the grocery store and do better next time.

As for me, it’s another busy day tomorrow so there’s a good chance I’m serving spicy mustard and kale omelets with a side of pickles for dinner.

With a tall glass of milk. Obviously.

St. Paddy’s Day Dinner!

ImageAs tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to get my Irish on with a traditional dinner just like my Mom, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother would have made.  Like my ancestors, I zipped right over to and made some Irish Soda Bread sans currants (which in my opinion, is a meal ruiner if there ever was one) and a Sheperd’s Pie that would make St. Patrick himself a wee bit o’green with envy (the secret is the beer).  It was a hit with Quinn – who is a little too dopey to realize that he doesn’t like cut up carrots and peas yet – and although the older two picked around the vegetables, there was enough bacon, beef and potatoes to keep them happy.  Make these tomorrow, pair with a beer or glass of wine and you’ve got yourself the perfect St. Paddy’s Day dinner.

(Links for the recipes are above; click on the blue words and they’ll take you over to the site.)

As we finished up I asked the kids if they knew they were Irish and they said yes, of course, because “we have the freckles.”  Yup, them’s my people.  I am so proud.

Erin Go Bragh!

The Perils of Flying. With Kids.

When one travels with children, one becomes astutely aware of little things along the way that can both help and hinder their vacation.

ImageLast Thursday we headed for Logan to catch a 7:45am flight to Florida.  We had pulled the kids from school for a few days so that we could visit Andy’s parents outside of Ft. Myers and despite the heinous snowstorm were able to enjoy some family, fun, and yes, SUNSHINE.

Like any good parents, we packed the unimportant (clothes) while making sure to remember the essentials (electronics) that would be available to tired, cold and bored children at a moment’s notice.  For the most part, we were successful: the kids were not perfect but weren’t intentionally left on the plane either.  We’ll take it.

As we arrived home, I made a mental note of those things that I absolutely love and will never travel without again.  Get yer finger on the printer button, folks…you’ll want to keep this list handy the next time your family is flying to a tropical island, spending a weekend on the cape or even (depending on what kind of seasoned travelers you’re raising) simply driving to the grocery store.

I give to you: A Parent’s Survival Guide to Traveling with Little Monsters Children

DO:      Hit the CVS candy aisle and buy a cheap bag of Dum Dum lollipops.  Not only are they economical and come in a bazillion (nasty) flavors, but your children won’t understand why you laugh when they eat them (it’s because they remind you of the microphone that Bob Barker used while hosting “The Price is Right”).

DON’T: Spring for the expensive Charms Blow Pops.  They cost more, are too cumbersome for a 3-year old’s mouth/attention span and the gum in the middle gets so hard SO FAST that it’s likely to give them a turbo case of TMJ.  Plus, they look to YOU to dispose of the funky gum.  It’s a lose-lose, no matter how you suck it.

ImageDO:      Spend the day before travel charging every iPad/iPhone/laptop/Nook you can find and pack ‘em all in a child-sized carry on.  And before your flight, say a quick Novena that someone at Apple will uphold Steve Jobs’ grand tradition of inventing stuff to keep kids entertained.

DON’T: Get all holier-than-thou with a “When I was a kid, we brought Mad Libs and played License Plate games” attitude.  Times have changed, folks.  Although my parents DID drive my two sisters and me to Florida in a Volkswagen Dasher back in ’82, I’m quite sure they vehemently hated us the entire time and were only thankful that no flight attendants were in the car to hear their thoughts.

DO:      Invest in CVS Detangler if your daughter will be anywhere near a pool.  I have tried them all and while this was a last minute panic-purchase, it may have saved my relationship with the curly-haired Georgia.  I don’t know WHAT is in it (Vegetable Oil?) but I don’t care.  Within minutes it had turned her thick dreadlocks into real hair again.

DON’T: Pay a lot for the fancy herbal stuff because it doesn’t work.  Your daughter will hate you and you will waste at least 20 minutes of cocktail hour swearing at her.  DO NOT TEST THIS THEORY; take my word for it.  You are welcome.

DO:      Let your kids get spoiled, a little.  It’s their vacation too and if they want to have ice cream at 8:45 at night, just remember that it’s short-lived.  A little indulgence never hurt anyone (this rule also applies for adults during the aforementioned cocktail hour).

DON’T: Allow children to take things too far.  Take heed: although they may “be their grandparents’ problem,” that very same loving couple will happily hand them back to you at the airport.  No parent enjoys deprogramming children after vacation, so moderation is key.

ImageJust remember to keep this checklist fastened firmly to the front of the family suitcase or risk watching your very own kids melt down in the middle of baggage claim.  Should that happen though, simply look around, roll your eyes, and deny that “that child” belongs to you.  Just grab your detangler, pop a Dum Dum in your mouth and head straight for the pool.

Ode to Dr. Seuss: Paying respects to a literary genius

In honor of what would have been the 109th birthday of literary genius Theodore Geisel this weekend, I shall don my tallest striped hat and Seuss it up.  To the man who has provided my family and me with countless hours of stories and smiles, might I say “Happy Birthday to You!”


c9c46ff208b788c1b9d1a2404cbb953aWhen I was a mere two years old
My young mind was all yours to mold
I loved Sam I Am
And his Green Eggs and Ham
That first book was pure solid gold

As I got older my library grew
A Lorax!  A Grinch!  A wee Wocket too!
Your creations were fun
Learning had now just begun!
Soon I met Horton and his small quiet Who

As a mother, you can imagine my thrill
For my kids, the Seuss-values to instill!
They loved Hopp-Soup-Snoop
Although he’s just a big Group!
And laughed at Fizza-ma-wizza-ma-dill

They meet Sneetches and young Katy Klopps
My husband smiles as he softly eavesdrops
Ben loved Willy Walloo
While Georgia preferred Cindy Lou-Who
Which character will young Quinn think is tops?

I observe while they chat and they dish
About four silly and colorful fish
“They are both red and blue,
That Fish 1 and Fish 2!”
It’s stuff like this that we all will cherish

They have adored each absurd little quirk
Of one silly Morris McGurk
Sounding out every word
To a kid, nothing’s absurd
They actually like this kind of homework!

Dr. Seuss, you were a rare breed
And your lessons were special indeed
I owe you a lot
For what you have taught
Thanks to you, my children can read!