Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things you never thought you'd hear

Did you know that John likes you?

Want to go see a movie?

Can I call you later?

I think I love you.

I love you.

Your father has cancer. It's bad.

Will you marry me?

You're approved.

Congratulations! Here are the keys to your home.

Your father is too sick to walk you down the aisle.

Your father is too sick to sit in the church.

I do.

Mrs. E.

Congratulations! You have received a full scholarship to the University of Miami.

You're approved.

Here are the keys to your home.

Your house sold.

You might not have kids.

You don't smoke or drink and you're under 35. You'll be pregnant within 6 months.

We don't know your lab results. We've lost your blood. Call back tomorrow.


Yes. The blood test confirms you are pregnant. Congratulations!

It's a boy.


Congratulations! You won teacher of the year.

I'm sorry. He's gone.

Is Abu in heaven now, Mama?

Congratulations! You have achieved National Board Certification.

It's a boy.


Abu is right here with us, Mama. Don't you see him?

I wanted to let you know, the job is yours.

They don't do things over there, the way we do things here.

Your child bit another child.

Another child bit your child.

Your child called another child a**$%#.  Please speak to him about it.

It's a boy.


Your baby's floppy.

If he doesn't make some major improvements, you might want to see a neurologist.

Mom has Parkinson's.

You're going to be an aunt.


Mom fell.

You can breathe. Your baby does not have a tumor.

You're going to be an aunt again.


You need to think of home care options.

You're in charge.

He did great. Is he always so quiet?

You are the best teacher I ever had.

He's a trooper.

He's a fighter.

Can't really say what's going on with him. We'll just have to wait and see.

Mommy, I love you.

Mommy, I missed you.

Thanks, Mom, for doing this.

It's not your fault.

You have a renter.

You made me love math.

I am going to miss you SO MUCH.

I love you.

Pink eye was in this room.

We've deloused the school.

You did a great job.

Ever wonder what your words mean to others? Sometimes, what you say and how you say it leave a lasting impression on people's hearts and minds. The list above is in some sort chronological order, but each statement above has shaped me. These statements have made my heart soar, my pulse race, my soul ache, my heart break.

Words have power.  Power to heal.  Power to strengthen.  Power to weaken.  Power to destroy.

How have other's words shaped you? What statements have stayed with you throughout the years, making you chose your own words carefully? Share.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Holding on, letting go

Much of life is learning when to hold on, learning when to let go. For some of us, that lesson is especially hard, particularly when it comes to family. All too often, we end up holding on to the stuff we should be letting go, and letting go of the stuff that truly matters.

When it comes to parenting, it is much easier to hold on than to let go.

Joshua is coming into his own. No more potty accidents, he can wipe his own ass, and after a major back pack packing boot camp last night, he was able to pack up his nap items by himself. For the last few mornings, Joshua has been a fountain of love. Hugging, kissing, flashing those sweet eyes and chirping in his sweet toddler voice. The letting go has been a challenge, to say the least.

I am happy that he is becoming more self sufficient. But I am a little sad too.

Because my babies are growing up. And as they depend less on me, I find myself wondering how my role as a mother is changing. Don't misunderstand. As much as I loved that newborn stage, where they snuggled and nursed, it was EXHAUSTING. Three times over. And the stages that came after that were no easier. It was hard physical labor, constantly second guessing yourself, never knowing if what you were doing was right or wrong. Wondering when this tiny person would be able to tell you when they felt bad, what hurt, if what you are doing is helping at all.

Tough days. Rewards in gas induced smiles, outstretched, fat arms reaching for you. Sloppy kisses and cooing.

And life goes on. Sloppy kisses make way to grunts of recognition, excited tales of adventures at school. Hand holding at the grocery store parking lot. You take what you can get.

As your children get older, the challenges come in different forms, and you struggle with the decisions you make. Your brain knows the decision is a right one, your heart has a hard time believing it.

Just recently, John and I decided it would be good for Matthew to join a Tween Group at the church where Joshua goes to school. It meant a big deal to me that he try it because he would be able to reconnect with some preschool friends that attend different elementary schools. It meant that he would get to experience different experiences without us. And that was particularly hard for me. Because we have always done things together. Because I never had the opportunity as a child and always wished I had.

But more than that, I am able to see that my older son has a life apart from us. Not in a huge way yet. But it is starting to take shape. And as a parent, that is frightening. It means letting go of your child (to a certain extent) and hoping like hell that the lessons you have been teaching have sunken in, grown roots, been learned.

Yet, we still hold on. To mementos; tiny baby clothes, shaky, uneven happy faces and preschool watercolor masterpieces that help us remember and hold close the babies we once carried, fed, cuddled, and have left us to preschool, elementary school, Tween groups.

So much change. So little time. So many more to come.

For the record, Matthew had an awesome time. I think he really enjoyed doing something outside of the "circle" with kids his own age. I think it made him feel more "grown-up" to have different plans than those of his other brothers. Andrew really enjoyed being the "oldest" while Matthew was gone. He had a great time with Joshua, not having to battle for attention from him. Joshua loved having the attention of just one brother, versus the fight of two over him.

And John and I? We were a little lost, but thinking about the days when there were two instead of three. And then three. And how difficult it was, for a while. And how things seem to be calming down a bit. And how, in spite of all the ass wiping and group activities and new challenges, we miss those days of sweet baby smell and tiny fingers and toes.

And we reevaluate.

We adjust to the new role of parenting that requires less hard physical labor, but more attention to detail and wit.

You go from diaper bags to thinking about handing over a cell phone so that you can keep tabs (Hey, no judgment out there, ok? I am just THINKING about it!).

And the paradigm shifts yet again. You feel unsettled as you charter through new territory and learn to test out your sea legs. You muddle through and pray you are on the right course.

You hold on. And somehow, you never forget how it felt to want to be understood. You remember how it felt when you got to do things on your "own."

And when you see that same expression of surprise and confidence in your own child when you let go a little, you know that you are on the right track.

You let go.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Motherhood's mortal sin

After a hard day today, I was dragging my butt by the time I got home. It was as though all the preparation and moving, spinning and walking, mothering and teaching had finally caught up with me. And because I was so tired, I committed the mortal sin of motherhood.

I attempted to take a nap.

I know, I know. I will plead temporary insanity. Last night's interrogation regarding the "missing" boxes was the straw that broke the camel's back.

When I got Joshua settled watching Little Einstein's (I know, I committed two mortal motherhood sins...I have no excuse) and made sure Matthew was working on homework, I asked Andrew to find something quiet to do. I laid down on the beckoning couch and closed my eyes....

Along with the strains of soothing classical music of Joshua's show, my mind drifted and I could feel myself dozing...and then, the strains of Joshua's very loud electric guitar that Santa, that old bastard, brought last Christmas.

"Guys, can you keep it down just a little. Momma's so tired," I begged.

"Sure Mommy," replied Andrew.

I closed my eyes again. Snoozing was calling, and I was more than eager to heed the call...Andrew's loud voice as he struggled to convince Joshua that he should get that damned electric guitar.

Now, I lost my temper.

"GUYS, PLEASE. Just a few minutes."


Eyes closed. Exhaustion overwhelming me. And the phone rings. A telemarketer. Another remind to myself to re-register on the Do Not Call Registry. Why hadn't I done it yet?

Oh yeah. I work. For money and for the three kids that keep me around for food, laundry and errands.

I gave up my pursuit for a few minutes of sleep.

Rest assured that I recognized the error of my ways. I grumpily got off my couch and was in a vile mood as I prepared dinner for the hungry people who reside in my home.

My efforts were in vain. Apparently, my older son no longer approves of the frozen meatballs he would devour last year. Hubby was thrilled that our salmon was prepared at home, with a side of veggies.

I guess you can't please them all, huh?

As I banged and clanged in the kitchen, I understood why toddlers wake up a wicked kind of mean when their naps aren't long enough. And I remembered why trying to nap is motherhood's greatest mortal sin.

Because you can't get what you so desperately want and need. And since you can't get it, you usually end up even more bone tired (as if that was even possible!) than you were. Plus, you get a healthy dose of guilt for trying to do something so selfish and snapping at your kids for not making it possible.

Another one for my nomination of crappy mother of the year. Don't be jealous, y'all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Liar, liar, pants on fire...

I have one major pet peeve. There are very few things that send me over the edge, but the one thing that always gets me is when someone lies. To my face. Like I am stupid.

Unfortunately, in my line a work, the lies abound and come fast. A teacher can spot a lie a mile away.

So can a mother.

However, children often think that they are much more intelligent than their parents, and often, when feeling particularly bold, will make an attempt to make their point.

The worst is when adults tell lies in a weak attempt to deflect controversy, problems, or conflict. The problem with that theory is that usually, when the lie is discovered, the consequences are much worse.

It seems that there has been a whole lot of lying going on around here. And frankly, I am sick of it.

Our laptop's charger died about a week ago. I called our extended warranty and order a new one under our policy. It was to be delivered today.

My husband was home early due to a rabid migraine. I stayed at work later than usual to keep the children away, since nothing makes a migraine worse than having a house full of loud school aged boys. I picked up Joshua, headed to the local market for some tomatoes and headed home.

We unloaded the car, got in the house. I checked email, paid some bills online and decided to track my package. Imagine my surprise when it said it had been delivered almost 2 hours earlier! I stepped outside, checked the front of the house, the back of the house, called my neighbor to see if they had delivered it by error there. Nothing.

I called the shipping company and was promptly informed that I needed to contact the shipper so that they could initiate a claim. I did just that.

After being passed around to three different departments, and put on hold for 20 minutes, I started to give the man my information when I noticed a box in the playroom that my boys were attempting to restore to order. Shipped today. Open with a packing slip out, confirming what I was now suspecting. With said cord out.

I hastily hung up, mortified. Did what I think just happened, happen?

No one admitted to it.

So no one is allowed back in the playroom until someone 'fesses up.

It would have been easier to spot the liar with the smoking arse, though.

I interrogated everyone in my house under the age of 37. Everyone pleaded innocence, ignorance and shock at being considered a suspect.

There was a lot of finger pointing and prodding mom into thinking that a box can just walk into a house, clear it, and open itself.

I am mad.

But more than that, disappointed. Disappointed that they didn't trust me enough to tell me the truth. Disappointed in myself for badgering them with relentless questioning. Disappointed that I can't uncover the truth.

And the worst part is that I know that I could have handled it differently. I know that I should not have been so irate at being on the phone, telling the man on the other line that the shipping company had most surely NOT delivered what was in my plain sight.

Tonight, I feel like a liar. Because a good mom would have trusted that her kids were telling her the truth. Because I felt like crap when my middle son started tearing up, wondering how to trust me when I was clearly not showing him that I trust him.

Because I alone have made it that much harder for them to tell me the truth.

Truth: I think that damned box did just sprout some legs and walked right into our house, parked itself in by far the coolest room in the house, and decided to disrobe, letting all its cords hang out.

Either that or UPS has gotten a little too efficient in their delivery techniques, you know?

Monday, August 23, 2010

And when you thought nothing else could go wrong...

The first day of school is always a day when you must be ready to fly by the seat of your pants. Traffic is horrendous, school zones are in full effect, harried desperate parents ready to leave their children at school, children who won't wake up. In a nutshell, the converging of all Laws Murphy.

My day was no exception.

For one, I skipped out on the 5:30 am spinning class, mostly because I did not want to be late on my first day. My body took it as a sign that is was a day to sleep in, so I dragged my tired arse out of bed with PLENTY of time to get three sleepy children out of bed and get myself in some form of decent for school. I managed to get everyone moving, even darling Joshua, who has been known to be quite a sourpuss in the morning. He so agreeable this morning, I thought for sure he was kidnapped by aliens. Regardless, he even pooped this morning before school, to my complete delight (have weirder words ever been expressed), because that way he wouldn't have to go at school and have difficulty wiping his own ass.

Because Andrew is now in the "big" school, I had only one drop off. Before we headed out the door, the traditional first day of school picture, backpacks and lunch bags in tow. Three happy, smiling faces.

Got in the car with all my stuff, headed out. The interstate wasn't too bad and I decided to go the scenic route. BIG MISTAKE that cost me a good 40 minutes as I cursed under my breathe, cursed out loud, pounded on the steering wheel and gnashed my teeth. Good Lord, it was going to be a LONG day.

I tried calling my co teacher, M. Unfortunately, she had forgotten her phone at home, as she also has three children who needed primping and prodding to get out of the house. Universe 2, Maria 0, for those of you keeping count.

When I got to work, rushing like a mad woman in platform heels (Yes, I dress up on the first day of school. No need for parents to experience incredible disappointment from looking at their child's teacher and thinking she is a slob) after a whole summer in flip flops, I found my principal near the Main Office where we sign in. Now, I was on time, but I had not arrived as early as I wanted. Universe 3, Maria 0.

I rushed into my classroom with my two sons lagging behind. I couldn't find my co teacher. She was there, but I couldn't recognize her. She shares my philosophy in which we should look like decent human beings on the first day of school, not at all like the slobs we will eventually become as the school year wears on. I hurried to give Matthew his room number and asked him to drop off his brother. Shitty mother of the year goes to Maria...Universe 4, Maria -2.

The class of students are phenomenal! The parents seemed very supportive and willing to be active participants in their child's education. They also knew when to leave the premises. I felt all warm and fuzzy. Then I realized I was just warm. AC unit is still not functioning. Shitty classroom awarded to Maria...

Got through the preliminaries, got them to Physical Education, lunch, to the bathroom, etcetera. Everyone is fine. Everyone is following directions. Suddenly, dark clouds and storms threaten and unleash. Happy first day of school from rainy South Florida. Every year for the last sixteen years. That's what happens when you start school in the middle of hurricane season. Universe 5, Maria -2.

Then, one of the kids exclaim, "Mrs. E! Water is coming in through the ceiling!"

Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. The universe's joke of a classroom is truly a prize. No AC and a leaky ceiling. You know it's bad when the head custodian apologizes for the situation in your room. And if you have ever been a teacher, you know the head custodian NEVER apologizes for ANYTHING...

Dismissal was a rainy one in which we don't recognize parents or students. It was a soggy wet mess.

But I survived.

My kids had an awesome day.

Matthew loved both of his new teachers. I got a phone call from one of them, saying he was just so polite and smart.

Andrew smiled and waved when he saw me in the cafeteria. He was happily relating the day's events later on.

Joshua had a good day. And another bowel movement. And his teacher, whom was Andrew's teacher when he was two, snuck a wipe on his behind, God bless her.

So, all in all, a great day.

But Momma is drained. Needs to sleep.

So she can get up at 4:45 am for her 45 minute walk.

And maybe, that's how I can keep the Universe from kicking my arse tomorrow.

Scratch that.

Tomorrow's election day.

And our school is a polling place.

Just when you thought it was safe to dive back in....you have to go vote too.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Helpful back to school tips or how not to piss off your child's teacher before school starts

As many of you know, I am a school teacher. I have been teaching for sixteen (!) years. Throughout the many years I have educated children, I have encountered all kinds of children and parents. Just so you know, there can be a lot of "problem" children out there, but "bad" parents are by far the worst problem teachers have to deal with throughout the school year.

I have decided to share some helpful tips for all you lucky people who don't start school until AFTER Labor Day, as the good Lord intended.

1. Please do not disturb a teacher before school starts. This means refraining from introducing yourself to said teacher as she is head deep in opened and unopened boxes, when her room closely resembles Hiroshima after the bomb went off or in the full throes of the nervous breakdown that occurs when we realize the summer is over and school starts in a mere four days from now. This also includes sending emails telling her how gifted your child is, asking what supplies to bring. Bear in mind that any of these actions can remind her that the summer is over.

2. If you decide to come and show your child where his or her classroom is, please make yourself scarce. Teachers who need to move boxes, furniture and books do not tend to look where they are going. Once they gain some momentum on their hand trucks, they forge full speed ahead, rarely noticing if they are running over pedestrians. This is especially true of short teachers, such as myself, who usually pack hand trucks and carts to above my eye level, making a line of vision impossible. Consider yourself warned.

3. Please do not tell us how you can't wait to send your child to school, how the summer was endless and your child was driving you nuts because they were bored. You are not making a good first impression. More importantly, your child's teacher not only has to deal with your "angel." She has 36 other little "angels" whose mothers are desperate to unload come the beginning of school. For the record, we are not here to entertain. We are here to educate. You are not inspiring confidence in us when you relate your anecdotes. Truly.

4. We get the issues your child has with homework. We have kids too. We also have classwork assignments that we have to pull teeth in order to get done. You have our sympathy. It is an unpleasant part of parenting. Get over it.

5. Be truthful of your child's strengths and weaknesses. We will figure them out sooner rather than later. It would be nice to have a heads up so we can address it quickly and efficiently and help your child succeed. We like nothing better than to have a successful academic year and confident students, in spite of what you may have heard about us.

6. Don't schedule teacher conferences the first week of school to gossip about your ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Discuss what is pertinent to your child's educational and emotional well being. We don't like tattling from adults either.

7. Please refrain from blaming your child's prior year's teacher for all your child's academic shortcomings. Surely, uninterrupted TV and video games for the last ten weeks did nothing to strengthen their academic progress. The tons of junk food and soda did not help either.

8. Please, please don't put sodas, cookies, chips and candy in your child's lunch box and call it a lunch. Call it what it is. A teacher's nightmare.

9. Teachers are people too. We have many responsibilities and obligations, inside of the classroom and in our personal lives. Please don't get upset if we don't respond within five minutes of you leaving a message in the main office or sending us an email. We are teaching.

10. If we call you with a concern, we are not picking on your child. We truly have your child's best interest at heart. But when push comes to shove, you are ultimately responsible for your child. We know parenting is hard. Most of us have children of our own. We share the same anxieties and insecurities in our own parenting. As teachers, we know your child in a way you will never know, just as parents know their children in ways teachers never know. We get it. But we are here to help.

11. The way to a teacher's heart is through kindness. There are only so many scented soaps we can use and necklace sets we can wear. If you think we have really touched your child's life, write us a letter. Let us know what we did right so that we can do it again and reach another child. Keep in touch with us throughout the years. We love to hear how our students are doing in other grades, as they get older.

12. Be enthusiastic. Your child will pick up on it. It will make all the difference between having a good year and having a phenomenal year!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pardon me...

It is crunch time for teachers in South Florida, as school starts on Monday.  I have been working my tail off, and I promise to devote a few hours this weekend catching up on blog posts, and sharing what's been going on here, including a special list on how NOT to piss off your child's teacher before school starts...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back in the saddle again...

Unfortunately, the new school year is right around the corner. I hate to sound like a sourpuss, but, I am hesitant to be excited this year. I know once I get a whiff of brand new crayons and freshly sharpened pencils, AKA teacher crack, I will more joyful at the expectation of 38 new, eager little minds and personalities to match.

But I have been to work for two days already. Packing. Moving. Doing heavy lifting. Leaving my classroom and moving to a new one. One with little to no storage. One with a joke of a dry erase boards. One with tables so huge and heavy, it took four adult women to move.

I am grateful to God in heaven that I have been physically active this summer. Because if I hadn't, I would be in some SERIOUS pain. More than I am right now, as I clutch the aspirin bottle for dear life.

My co teacher is extending her maternity leave until November. A move I applaud loudly and joyfully. You only have your first baby once. Once the second comes along, you can't physically do all the things you did with baby two as you did with baby one. God bless her, she came in to help with the move. She has packed, shuttled, and escaped many a roach in the last couple of days.

My new co teacher is pretty awesome as well. She is a parent of a former student and was a full time teacher in a life before her three children. She is easing back into the maelstrom of education and I am thrilled that she was assigned to me. She and her kids, along with my two older boys and I, have spent the better part of two days hauling stuff into the universe's joke of a classroom.

Normally, I wouldn't care. But I am having serious issues. Placement of items, where to store books, if we will ever get to open the locked storage room that torments and jeers at us as we perspire and ache as we prepare.

It is funny. When school begins this year, I will have opened SIXTEEN school years. Every year, I feel the anxiety of the deadline of the first day of school as it looms. The unpacking, the sorting, the counting, the endless meetings and trainings, the relearning of colleagues names as we set sail into another year of adventure.

Regardless of how much time passes, the thrill never escapes me. It's as though all the bitching about the moving and changes is cathartic in a way that promises the gleam of my new crop of brains. Brains that I will mold and train, question and challenge, inspire and educate. That thrill of the first day, the eager but nervous smiles, the questioning looks to each other, combined with the heavenly smell of brand new everything is intoxicating.

And it will get me through the crap I will go through with my trusty entourage, the classroom fairies, if you will, to get everything just so for my new kids.

Another batch, another year, same saddle.

And although my legs, arms and back ache like hell, there is no place I would rather be.

Except, maybe, for my old classroom.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Run, Maria, Run...

I just got back from my first day of training. Sande, my neighbor, and I were on our way at 6:15 am. Our Weston team was meeting near the Weston Town Center. Our coaches and mentors had the station really decorated and full of all kinds of goodies for before and after the race.

I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed with the challenge I am embarking on. I think the reality hit me as I was signing in, getting my picture taken by the team banner and putting on my name tag.

Even at 7:00 am, the humidity was unbearable. Our head coach, Samantha, introduced all the mentors, coaches, and captains. After that, she had us break out into our groups and we introduced ourselves. I decided to go with the walking group for now, but will definitely be pushing myself throughout training to do more running than walking come Marathon Day.

We warmed up and we were off. I learned several things during our short course today. One, I will be bringing my water bottle holder next week. Second, I need to get a pacing watch that can be set to notify you of when you can switch from walking to running. I was not too far off from the middle of the pack and was especially happy that I was not with the slowest of the walkers. I did manage to run in short spurts towards the end of our thirty minute session.

Afterwards, our coaches had ice cold water cloths for us. I cannot tell you how good those felt. The actual exercise was not bad, as I can handle an hour long spinning or shadowboxing class. The problem was the heat and humidity! The best part was the stretching afterwards...it felt SO GOOD!

We also had a short informational session regarding the type of equipment we should be looking for. I was glad to have had my brand new running shoes with really great support for my ankles. I didn't even feel the two miles today!

Afterwards, Sande and I headed to Jamba Juice for a treat. We met a lady who did the marathon with Team in Training a couple of years ago. Her six year old son has leukemia and has been battling it for the last three years. I don't think it was a coincidence that we met her today. It really helps to put a face to the people we are trying to help.

I will write more after next week's training. During the week, I will be alternating between cross training, like spinning, and working with the treadmill to get my endurance up. I am so ready for this challenge, and I am so grateful for those cheering me on!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

!!! Intentional Happiness for the week of August 13, 2010

I really missed writing my list of Intentional Happiness items during the time we were away, especially since there were so many instances of them.

Before we left, I made up my mind to run/walk a half-marathon in late January, to benefit The Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I am NOT an athletic person, however, I am REALLY looking forward to meeting this physical challenge. The response from my family and friends has been overwhelming, and when I envision the moment that I cross that finish line and see my husband and sons, I get a huge lump in my throat.

I loved meeting up with our dear friend from high school during our trip. Although our lives are so different, we are all doing things we love and believe in, so that in and of itself is a ton of !!! How many people can say that about what they do?

One of the greatest joys of the trip was to really see how big my boys have gotten. How much more they are capable of doing on their own, how much they enjoy seeing and discovering new places, how well they can navigate the D.C. Metro system. Really, !!!

The last leg of our trip was to spend time in the North Carolina mountains with my brother in law and his wife. I loved how enthusiastic they were to try new things with the boys, how they made sure that we did things that the boys would enjoy, but most of all, how they interact with my guys. They were attentive, inquiring, loving. Witnessing that, I am convinced that they will be wonderful parents some day, if we haven't completely swayed them from EVER procreating!

But what I truly needed the most (and didn't even know that I did) was to be surrounded by nature's astounding beauty. Here are some examples of the things we saw, and how by just looking at those pictures, I am there again, in my own paradise, away from the ick that we encounter every day.

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to see my favorite cousin from New Jersey.  He and his wife also have three boys, aged 13, 11 and almost 6.  My sister, her husband and my nieces joined us.  You would think that it would have been exhausting to have that many children, but honestly, those eight kids had the best time ever on the sandy beach...and their parents relished every moment we got to share together, catching up and marveling at our children. Plus, 15 month baby thighs covered in sand, closely resembling chicken fried steak?  More !!! than you can shake a stick at!

What makes you !!! ? A little late in finding all about the !!! Check out Momalom and Bad Mommy Moments to find the !!! in your everyday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pre-adolescent boys in (D.C.) heat...

When you are just a couple, a road trip is fun. You map out different places to hit before you arrive to your final destination. Your biggest decision is what you will be dining on, without having to consider what other people's palates. You can change your mind on a whim, stay up late, wake up late, skip meals if you want to.

But when you travel with children, even your mode of transportation and how you choose to make your way changes dramatically.

After dropping $350 before we even walked out (and were able to lock) the door, we were desperate to leave reality behind. After a quick pick up of the item we were to deliver to my brother in law, from my in laws, we were off. At dinner, John and I quickly decided that a night of driving was better than stopping part ways, unload the luggage and children, only to awaken at the crack of dawn to not lose a day of fun, vacation sightseeing. When we told the kids, they were thrilled. They know the drill all too well. We stop once before "bed" time to use the potty, and when they awaken, we are that much closer to our destination, not having had to listen to all kinds of ungodly whining, complaining and requests ranging from movie selection to bathroom stops. It works for us.

However, my husband is all too familiar with my typical "let's drive all night" routine. I will usually drive the first shift, eat dinner, continue driving until I get sleepy, usually within the hour of eating. As you can see, this is not the ideal.

This time, though, I was committed to staying up. After the boys had settled in for the night, John and I switched around 10:30 p.m. I was good to go. I had my iPhone loaded with upbeat, loud music and I was determined to be as caffeinated as legally possible. Around midnight or so, we stopped by a McDonalds and I ordered a Mocha Frappe. For some reason, I was mighty hot, even with the AC blowing, and the thought of having hot coffee was as inviting as going as the main meal in a cannibal convention. I had never had one, but, boy, was I hooked!

The hours and miles seemed to melt away. When John roused from his slumber around 3 am, the music was blaring and I was flying high on caffeine, sugar, and pure adrenaline. He could barely recognize the woman sitting next to him. We switched off around 4:30 am, and I tried to sleep a little before the boys arose. We stopped for breakfast in North Carolina and were off.

We rolled into D.C. around 11:30 am. Traffic was hellacious and we soon discovered why as we tried to find our hotel. We noticed that the local park was set up with seemly dozens of tents and signs welcoming the Boy Scouts of America. Yes, folks. Along with the 102 degree heat, it seems that we were going to be sharing the weekend with the Boy Scouts, as they celebrated their 75th Annual National Camporee. Jealous yet?

Of course, our car's AC seemed to be doing a fine job, although I was starting to wonder if the heat outside was too much for it. I did not give it another thought, as we pulled into the hotel's car port while John checked in, only to be blocked in by a taxi driver. I cannot tell you how many profanities came out of my mouth as I tried to get out of there without leaving the driver's side of the car on the car port's columns.

Regardless, we unloaded the children and all the luggage from the van, hauled it upstairs to the room and set out for the Mall. We had friends that were also in town but would be leaving back to Florida in the morning, so we met up with them and saw the National Aquarium and the National Archives, where my boys saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As the day wore on, between the heat and the exhaustion of 24+ hours awake, John and I were closely resembling zombies. All I longed for was a hot shower, and a bed; food was optional. We parted ways with our friends, headed over to Chinatown, got some burgers (oh, the irony!)and went back to the hotel for the evening...I have never gotten three children and myself bathed and in bed sooner.

The following day brought lunch with a high school friend who we have not seen in fifteen years. She was our class valedictorian, went to Georgetown and is working for the State Department. Amber has loved in Gabon, Afghanistan, and Peru, among other places. Never married and without children, she can (I imagine) indulge in every whim, get up and go at a moment's notice. I was surprised that she responded to an email and called with directions to a nearby restaurant to meet for lunch. My friend has not changed too much in fifteen years. It was as though we hit a pause button on our last visit and resumed the conversation at hand, except that there were now three small kids in tow.

Lunch was wonderful, if you can call it lunch. I spent the majority of the time we were at the restaurant hauling Joshua to the bathroom every time he said he needed to go potty. Which was a lot. Like every 30 minutes or so, or when the conversation was getting interesting. Downstairs to the bathroom with my three year old in my arms, upstairs back to the restaurant with my three year old in my arms...the joys of motherhood will bring me fabulous legs, dammit. And a degree in hostile negotiations.

The next challenge came in trying to get him to pick something on the menu. It seemed he wanted his go to staple, macaroni and cheese. When it arrived, (after everyone else's lunch, since he could not be bothered with making up his mind) he was not at all impressed with the $7 kid's entree set before him. He wanted Matthew's chicken strips. So he got Matt's leftovers and I tried to pretend I was cool with the whole parenting thing.

Looking at Amber and hearing her stories of life overseas, I wondered where I went wrong. I wanted to pinpoint where I had lost my way from living the cosmopolitan life that we mothers invariably dream we could have had...when pigs fly.

We said our goodbyes in front of the White House, promised to keep in touch. If I didn't know any better, I would say she was hightailing it a little to get away from us...in spite of the unbearable, flesh melting heat that I have ever encountered...reaffirming to herself that serving her country is still way better than raising children...

We had seen the Museum of Natural History in the morning, so we decided to visit the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial. The beauty of the Reflecting Pool and seeing Matt and Andrew looking out at the breathtaking view from the Lincoln Memorial is something that I will remember always. What simplicity. What grandeur. What heat!

In the midst of all that, thousands upon thousands of Boy Scouts. Around 80,000, but who's counting? They were everywhere. In our hotel, in the Metro, in the Mall, in the museums...everywhere you turned, there were Boy Scouts; often being silly, taking pictures, being loud, being boys.

Now, my husband was an Eagle Scout, many moons ago. I endured many an Eagle Court of Honor in my day. And as much as I would love for my boys to experience the scouting phenomenon, I simply cannot take it on. Scouting should be something they share with their dad. Poor John's work schedule is as unpredictable as Joshua's mood swings, so we have yet to make that commitment.

There was something kind of hysterical about being in that kind of infernal heat, surrounding by that many pre-adolescent boys in uniform. I think I could feel my ovaries shrink, and I can't ascertain if it was from the heat or from the amount of testosterone flooding D.C....

So I did what any other self respecting female would do...I went to hide out in the Art Museum that had a Degas exhibition...and that did not bode well with my all male entourage...

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And so, it begins...

We were scheduled to leave on our vacation early on Thursday afternoon, with John hurrying back from work. I was supposed to have everything packed and ready to be put in the car, with the final arrangements of light timers, raising the air conditioners thermostat, etc. The plan was to hit the road by 4:00 p.m., guaranteeing that we would leave the great state of Florida by midnight.

All wonderful plans. And of course, Murphy's Law knows no bounds...

The realtor handling my mother's condo rental called twice, the last time telling me that I had to come and sign papers. Fine. Hauled tail, signed papers, hauled back. Met a friend for lunch, but forgot her daughter's birthday card and a piece of red velvet cake for her. A tropical storm was looming and heading our way...

But the clincher was the front door.

Our lock has been acting funny for a few months. The key for the double lock would need some coaxing to get it out, re-turning to get it unlocked or locked. It decided to get jammed. As I was getting ready to leave it at my neighbor's house, in case of an emergency. Four hours before we were to depart. After I had told the realtor I was on my way. Before lunch with my friend.

This would not have been a real issue if not for some major points. First, I have a glass sidelight. Second, and most importantly, my door in the garage that leads into the house has not permitted a key within its sacred lock in well over seven years. A born again virgin, if you will.

So, it was crunch time. Delay the trip to fix the lock. Wait until getting back and hope we can get in.


I called a locksmith, on the way to lunch. Before meeting with the realtor. Forgetting the card and cake.

The locksmith came. He did not have a brass lock. Off he goes to his supply store to get one. He returns. He installs. He rekeys. He repeats for the second door. Lock still sticks. He uninstalls and reinstalls.

Hubby comes home and starts hauling loose items from the back yard into the garage, just in case the tropical storm gets frisky while we are gone. He goes out the back door and gets right to work.

Four hours later, we try my key: success. We try my husband's key: FAIL. He uninstalls and rekeys and reinstalls. Key fails. Epically.

I want to be clear that I did not change locks on my husband. There have been times I may have toyed with the thought, but decided that I needed strength in numbers with dealing with my children.

Regardless, his key did not work. I promised to get him a new key upon arrival AFTER the trip I was now thinking may not be such a great idea. 'Cause the start was not going too smoothly, you know?

In the meantime, while the installing/uninstalling/rekeying/whatever was going on in my living room, I was a woman possessed. I ran laundry, folded and put away, I packed and paced. For all five of us. I had children bathe and get dressed. I had a spouse who bathed and got dressed. I got bathed and dressed.

So when the locksmith left at 6:00 p.m., we started packing the car. We set timers in the house, double check the mental list, we load the children in the car, armed with DVD's for the ride. We're off...

Except we don't. Because we can't find the third, hundred dollar, wireless headphone for the van. We unload. We search. We panic. We take the keys out of the car to unlock the door to find a wired replacement headphone. We're off...

Except we don't. Because I can't remember if we locked the back door. Turn around and come home. To find it unlocked. We take the keys out of the car to lock the garage door for the second time.

And this time we are off...to meet Grandma and Granddaddy, an hour and a half later, to pick up a tripod to be delivered in the second leg of our trip...notes given, souvenir money distributed. We're off!

And about halfway out of the state, I remember that I didn't pack my bathing suit. That I need. That I desperately would turn around and get, just thinking about having to go into a fitting room on vacation, to find a replacement...okay, made peace with it.

Stop and get dinner. Get a taste of what Joshua will be like on our twelve day trip. Apparently, food is optional. Being loud about it isn't.

As the kids ate, John and I exchanged conspiring looks.

Decision made.

Tonight, we drive.

All night.

D.C. or bust!

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We're back!!

After a twelve day sabbatical from all things web-related, we are back home, in the comforts of all that we left behind.

In my absence, there was copious note-taking of all the adventures before and during the much anticipated trip. And really, the stuff that happened BEFORE we could even get out the door was pretty unbelievable.

So, dear readers, tomorrow I will try my best to post the Pre-Game portion of our trip...perhaps some pictures...but now, laundry is beckoning me...