Day 14 | 5x5 Challenge | It's a predictable pattern, at least.

5 Minutes (truly, because blogging this should not have even made it to the top of my list tonight): 

I remember my mom telling me once that my Grandma Mary used to have a hamburger roll spread with jam and a cup of her standard coffee—light with cream—after dinner. It was her dessert and a way to unwind. I'm pretty sure she didn't engage in this relaxing ritual when she was a young mom of five kids, also taking care of her ailing parents down the street. It was probably after she retired. In fact, I can't actually even imagine her taking time for her self, as she was always doing stuff for other people. But apparently she did at some point. I thought of her—of this—tonight, out on the deck, sipping my light coffee, feet up while I watched Jules hit baseballs thrown by Jon and Kai find the soccer ball that soon we'd be kicking around as a family (newly discovered World Cup fever). And I just rested there, for a full five minutes.

I bailed on two of my favorite people tonight—pretty last minute—because I was anxious about preparing for another work trip combined with the fact that Kai-guy never goes to sleep. Oh, sure, he goes through the motions: I read him books, tuck him into bed, scratch his back. He sends me off with a hug and a kiss, to find his "favorite blankie." I bring it up, and he fakes like he's going down. Then it begins: the request to read in our room, or at least his room (he typically sleeps on Julian's top bunk). I set him up with books, ask him to just stay quiet and relax. And he complies—momentarily. Then he's on to rearranging furniture and un-organizing drawers. Sometimes he sings. Sometimes he recites—spoken-word, Beatnik style—song lyrics. "Scooby. Doo-by. Doo. Where. Are. You." Tonight, he unearthed a Batman lanyard and an Akron RubberDucks baseball cap, which he was wearing sideways when I walked in. I placed him back in his bed, turned on the overhead light he'd turned on and flipped on his scrolling-underwater-scape nightlight instead. I walked out of the room and into the one where I am now. Ten minutes.

"Mom? Mom? I can't find Teddy."

I go into his room to help locate the tiny bear, who once sported a Mets jersey and now sleeps naked. He was missing. He being Kai, not Teddy. (But Teddy was still missing, too, at this point.) The little imp had transported himself to the top bunk in Julian's room again. There he was sitting, surrounded by two bears who were bigger than Teddy, but had his same light brown fur. Still, no relation. Teddy was under his knee.

"Teddy is under your knee."

"Oh! There he is!"

"I love you. Good night."

"I loooooove you! Good nii-iiiiight!"

Now I am in here. And he is in there. There, where there is rustling. I'm going to pack for tomorrow and he is going to crash—in 45 minutes or so.







I AM interested in sports...culture.

5 Minutes:
When it comes to breeding sports fans, my parents have a strong batting average: 0.666. It'd be even higher if you got bonus points for creating a kid who ends up majoring in sports management and another who has several close friends on the payroll of a professional baseball team. My siblings are sports fanatics. I, on the other hand, am finding my way to sporting events mostly to be a good mom. So far, both of my kids enjoy playing sports; one REALLY seems into watching, too.

I don't dislike sports or sporting events, but I'm more interested in the people playing them—and also those watching. This afternoon, here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head as I sat in the stands of Centennial Field watching a game between the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Connecticut Tigers:
  • I wonder if hearing Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" whenever he walks makes the Bennie guy (Joe Bennie, of the Lake Monsters) hate—or love—his name?
  • Look at them doing those calisthenics down there—I wonder if the team exercises together all the time. Who leads them through those moves?
  • That player from Santa Cruz (I forget which team): Growing up, was he all about "keeping it weird"?
  • I wonder if the Lake Monsters have a marketing person who writes bios about all the players'  favorite foods and such. 
  • That would be fun. 
  • I think I remember a piece in The New Yorker about the marketing person for the Mets doing this. And people finding that fluffy and strange. Maybe I'm making that up. 
  • Still, that would be a fun job. 
  • I can't believe that Olin has never noticed that I put ketchup—not mustard and relish—on my hotdogs. In the FIFTEEN years we've been together. 
  • Mustard and relish on a dog taste good.
  • I think I would have made a great mascot. Dancing and acting without having to talk or sing. How awesome would that be?
  • How often do seagulls often get hit with baseballs? 
This went on and on... Then we came home and watched a bit of the World Cup. My inquiring mind continued:
  • Why is our goalie dressed like a banana?
  • Does that yellow mean something?
  • Why is their goalie wearing green?
  • I'm confused. 
  • I wonder if that big beard makes our goalie hot. Like warm, not attractive. But he is quite attractive. I wonder what he'd look like without that beard.  
My stream of consciousness represents one who is totally uninformed about soccer. But the comment of one of my kids suggests that we're not doing a great job of informing them about world goings-on (or perhaps they're watching too much Chima). Upon learning that Portugal's goal meant that we had not won, he said, "That's REALLY bad."

"No, it's OK. It's really disappointing, but that's how these things go," I told him.

"But wasn't this the war to see if we keep our country?"

Um... no. But wouldn't that be such a better way? 

5 Snaps: 













Day 13 | 5x5 Challenge | Today was long and sweet.

5 Minutes:

It was the longest day and it feels it, in a really good way. At solstice (which, I learned from the

Farmer's Almanac

, occurred at 6:51 am) I was running—about one third of the way done. When I got back, the boys were still asleep and Jon was just pouring his first cup of coffee. We actually got to have a conversation—uninterrupted and not about scheduling. No clue what we actually discussed. The boys woke up and ate breakfast. Jon disappeared upstairs to deal with some laundry (go Olin!), and Jules, Kai and I drew pictures and practiced letters, so, so nicely, for what seemed like a long time.

Then it was summer, full-on. I took the boys to

Last Resort Farm

 to pick berries. When we got there—after a few wrong turns and a 30-minute drive—it was all picked out. But Eugenie, who runs the farm, pointed us toward the kids' field and offered the boys to pick whatever ripe berries they could find. And so we did: Jules intently seeking the the rare red gems and pressing them into my hand, after he'd bitten them in half, to "taste how sweet"; Kai following behind, with a less-precise, more-dramatic picking style. The place was magical. We watched red-winged black birds zip and dip across the sky in some sort of (mating?) chase. We pointed out how the clouds—the kinds kids draw—hung low just above the tops of the long greenhouses. Then we went into the farm stand and bought two of the few remaining pints of the sweetest, reddest pre-picked berries.

When we got home, the next-door neighbor—six, like Jules—had set up a stand to sell lemonade and homemade (AMAZING) donuts. Eventually, a gang of neighborhood kids assembled next door, and then in our backyard, playing on swings and creating scenarios that involved armor and swords. THIS is what summer had always been to me. With Ange and Dan, Jeff and Steve, Missy and Gina. We had bike races. We played GI Joe. We held an Olympics. (Hello, 1984.) We choreographed outdoor performances (most memorable: Billy Joel's "The Longest Time"). We stayed out all day until our moms called us in for dinner.

For dinner, tonight, we packed it all up for the beach. The crowd there was surprisingly sparse—perhaps because it wasn't hot, just warm, and the water was freezing. Its iciness didn't faze Kai a bit, and not really Jules either. But he preferred to stay in the sand, building volcanos and retaining walls for waterways, combing the beach for sea glass. Jules and I hung along the water (bellies full of quinoa salad and cantaloupe), while Jon and Kai went back up for a second course of hot dogs.

We reconvened for one last hurrah at the playground before getting in the car and driving to Archie's for ice cream. Long. Sweet. Today. Let's keep it coming, summer.

Day 7 | 5x5 Challenge | Tag-team

Observation: the 5x5 Creative Challenge isn't the only numerically based, social-sharing centered game in town. There is, of course, #100happydays, a initiative in which you're supposed to post a picture (every day for 100) of something that makes you happy. Today, I read about #7daysofreality—proposed by British mum blogger (who, as it turns out, happens to be a friend of my friend). I love both concepts. Which perhaps is why my 5x5 post today combines perfect moments, pictured, and REALITY, the kind that bites. Until you write about it and it turns out to be pretty funny. 

5 Snaps: 







5 Minutes Writing:
The day began mellow, with both boys obsessively writing in the Star Wars workbooks we bought yesterday at The Flying Pig. These things were such a hit that they insisted that we bring them with us (along with a lunchbox full of crayons and markers) to the farmers' market. So we did. They sat and colored, then climbed the big pine, then each selected a treat—a Rookie root beer for Kai; a Stony Loam Farm egg sandwich for Jules—so nicely. Treats were consumed. Kai and Jon did somersaults in a semi-private part of the lawn. It was idyllic. It was not typical. So we went to the library. WITH OUR DOG.

That's when shit got real. And it wasn't the dog. The boys were running and jumping and loudly talking through the aisles; they were in and out of the little outside reading nook. Jon and I were handing them back and forth while the other of us tried to find a book. It all basically could be characterized as a big parenting fail. We left: me, feeling like we're overly permissible parents raising rude young men and lecturing about proper library decorum; Jon, just looking silently agitated. Our next stop: the school playground, to burn off steam, riding bikes.

Except that no one wanted to ride bikes. They wanted to throw a found softball at each others' heads. I dismissed Jon to go for a run with the dog. And tried to prevent the boys from injuring each other. Which mostly worked. Then Jules found a purple marker and I turned my back. I won't go into the details, as the photos above likely make it quite clear.

But I will say this: A lot of good came out of that little purple autograph. Jon and I, on a date tonight acknowledged the solid tag-team parenting/partnering that happened around it (I insisted on going home for cleaning supplies to fix the mistake; Jon insisted that he be the one to drive back with the boys so I also could get in a run). And, as a family, we'd reviewed an important life lesson:

We all do stupid shit and make mistakes. But almost everything is fixable. And, when you're fixing a mistake, it's good to ask for help.

#realhappy

5/5 Creative Challenge: Day 3

It's my Day Three of The 5/5 Creative Challenge. I'm on a streak. (And totally digging new posts by 5x5-ing friends: Amanda... Hilary. Who's next? Angela? Sarah? Another evolved "by 5" from Anna? My day today felt fleeting and fast in so many ways.

5 Snapshots: 







5 Minutes:
The hum of the dishwasher is both domestic and calm—a contradiction 'round these parts. Today, I edited a story that suggested a white noise machine in the bedroom for better rest, and also recommended stroking your man's hand or doing an activity he really likes, like watching sports, because it will make him feel good and therefore improve your relationship. I cut that part out. 

Both boys are in a flow. Jules is making a end-of-year card for his bus driver. "What comes after the 's' in vacation?"  Uhh....

What does a 16 look like? Kai talks over Jules, who gets frustrated and talks louder. "Mummmyyyy... what's next?" 

"Well, there's actually no S; a T sounds like SH," I tell him, damning the idiosyncratic spellings of the English language when his face starts to crumple. He recovers. Turns out he hadn't even gotten anything down on paper yet. Phew. "So an H comes after the T?" 

"What. Does. A. Six. Teen. Look. Like.??"

I silently draw the figures of a 1 and a 6 on the sheet in front of Kai. Satisfied, he starts to copy them, neatly but backwards. Lately, though, he's had a burst of interest and skill when it comes to scribing. It's cool. 

I spell out the rest of vacation for Jules, recognizing that a tiny mistake could throw him over the edge. He writes it all down and then proceeds to write, on his own, after "I will miss you on summer vacation," "But I will still see you." I am not so sure about that. But I don't say it. I'm trying to check my tendency of squashing magical thinking. In fact, I'm trying to do more magical thinking myself. 

Tap, tap, tap. It's Kai's pen bouncing impatiently on my shoulder. "Now what, Mama?"

My head is spinning. It's all so fast. By the time I react, they're on to the next thing. 




It's (not-perfect) participation | 5/5 Challenge: Day 1

At least 5 days ago, my friend Christina invited me to participate in the 5/5 Challenge Creative Challenge. The gist of it is this: Each day in June, you snap five photos and you write for 5 minutes. And then you post it all on your blog. Finally, I've gotten my shit together enough to give it a go. It sort of worked, if you count mediocre snaps and an interrupted writing session. But that's my life. 

5 Snapshots: 














5 Minutes: 
I hear them from down the hall, in Julian’s room. K is singing, “and I try… and I try and I try…”  J is sighing, exasperated. He’s exhausted. And wants to go to sleep but Kai—who took a monster nap this afternoon—is wired. “Where are you going?” “I’m going to see Mom.” 

Now he is here. No, he is there. At the top of the steps, talking down to me—except that I’m in my room. On my bed—which is covered with piles and piles of clothes. Mine. Pulled out of baskets but not yet put into drawers. It’s this dumb thing I do. 

“Mom, i’m not tired.” I know that this is probably true because when I tried to wake him at 4:30 this afternoon—asking him to play soccer, or to draw with me, he said no. He said he needed space. He said that he wanted to keep sleeping there on that couch. And so I let him—because the weekend was long and busy, with T-ball and swimming and birthday partying and grandparents. He’s awake and now I need space. But I tell him to sit here with me and he does, so sweet, so quiet. And he puts his head on my lap. This silence won’t last, I know.

“That’s a LOT of words.” He’s totally engaged in my typing. And now it’s time to  stop. And time to put this dude to bed. Again. Here we go. 

I suck at stories.

I call myself a writer. Jon is an engineer. Our children—like all children—love stories. And in this family, one of us parents is constantly creating fantastical stories: full of magic and forests, dragons and fairies; the other tells tales of two little brothers who get lost in the woods or boring "mini-shorts" about animals who learn that it's awesome to be different, and it's important to be nice to people.

I am "the other." I suck at telling stories. (Jon rocks but who's comparing.) Sure, my brain churns out fiction but it tends toward character development. I've never really gotten very far with plot. That's why I've only dabbled in short stories and why writing a novel, even a really bad one, feels way harder than running a marathon. But even if I were able to draft a novel with a solid plot, it'd be fraught with family secrets... or it'd circle around one moment, one event, or one meeting that unraveled relationships, or saved a life. I don't know what exactly—but drama kids definitely don't care about.

Nevermind  the topic or tone, anyway. Telling anything on demand, isn't something at which I excel. Particularly at the end of the day. I try. Tonight, I told Julian about a monkey who loves oranges and all the other monkeys make fun of him but his mom tells him that he is so special for loving what he loves and, because she and his dad and his brother collect bananas, the oranges make their dinners more colorful and delicious. This 30-second story was lame-ass and Jules told me so, nicely. And because he was super sleepy and because I actually am a good back rubber, I got off easy.

Not so with Kai. I started with a story of many dinosaurs. His request. This story was about a carnivorous dinosaur who'd decided to become a vegetarian. Kai demanded that I include a pterodactyl, an allosaurus and a "long neck." So I made the allosaurus, a carnivore, the star. Basically, he walked around looking for plants. I named all sorts of plants. I asked Kai to contribute. He added onions. Brilliant. So the plot became that the dinosaur had bad breath and his friends taught him to eat mint. Kai thought this plot lame. He was right.

"Tell me about the long necks."

"What should I tell you about the long necks?" This is what I do. I turn the tables, looking for interaction, or a team-effort exquisite corpse sort of story approach. It never works.

"Long necks are brachiosauruses, Mom," he says, exasperated.

I try my best to think of something, talking about the long-necked brachiosauruses looking for food in trees. It does not suffice. I offer a back rub.

"I want a stooooorrrrry!!!" Kai begins kicking me. For real. Kicking. And punching.

I literally am incapable of producing an acceptable story. I tell him this. He keeps kicking and yelling. I leave, walking downstairs, telling him I won't listen until he can be nice. Moments later, he appears at the bottom of the steps.

"I'm angry at you, Mom." He snarls and growls. Literally. I laugh. He is not joking. This is serious—and I am fucking up. I get serious.

"Why are you angry?"

He runs up stairs, screaming—and sobbing, like his feelings are hurt. I follow. He reiterates that he is "angry at [me]" and turns away from me to face into a large plant in the corner of the hallway. I tell him he needs to talk with me about why he's angry, or to go into his room for some alone time (after he sits on the potty because he forgot to do that earlier and I'm sick of washing sheets... I didn't say that last part). After a bit more snarling and pouting he reveals that he's "very angry at me" because "he wanted more story and a snuggle."

We go back to his bed and I cobble together a tale about a beautiful girl with long green curls and purple basketball shorts. Her name is Sack (Kai's choice). She's sad because her brother is at school and so she has no one to play basketball with. She rounds up a bunch of insect teammates (reminiscent of those in James and the Giant Peach - I have no imagination). They walk to the court and... to be continued. Tomorrow, I'll tell the story of who they encounter there...

This story was incredibly lame. But Kai snuggled it all up with his "favorite blankie" and, with heavy eyes, started nodded off, satisfied.

I feel only defeated, a storytime failure. I'm sure there's a some sort of solution out there for unimaginative parents like me and I'm going to find it. And get more sleep, so that my brain isn't too tired to tell tales. Perhaps I should start reading books about fairies and dragons instead of ones about mothers dying of cancer. I could use a little more magical thinking, across the board. How 'bout you?