Category Archives: Parenting

Weekend Snapshots 61: we’re still standing

Standard

Saturday

img_4056My husband took my daughter to her soccer game in Blacksburg this Saturday. I played hooky and spent the day pottering around in my garden, getting a few more patches of poison ivy rashes on my legs. Meanwhile, my son took himself to his own soccer game, but had to come home early, having badly sprained his ankle. He’ll have to be on crutches for a week or so.

While he convalesced indoors, I kept being drawn outside to admire the flowers. I’ve been especially enamored with the irises I planted a couple years ago. They’ve finally come into their own this year…

I was annoyed, however, to see that a bright orange interloper had popped up in the flower bed.

 

My daughter noticed it immediately and asked “What’s that orange flower?!”

“That’s an iris. They must have sent it by accident with my order.”

I was just about to tell her that I was going to yank it out and replant it in some obscure patch in the backyard when she gushed, “I LOVE it! It’s SO cute!” So, I guess it’s staying…

What’s NOT staying is the huge oak tree, pictured upright just beyond the orange iris in the previous picture. Today it looks like this:

img_4049

Yesterday, I drove home from work through a powerful storm. It was late and I was so thoroughly exhausted that I somehow managed to pull into the driveway without even noticing that the tree had fallen into another huge oak tree, whose top sheared off and took down the fence with it, and fell into the road, blocking traffic coming from the other direction. When I came through the door, the kids came running up from the basement, where they had been cowering in fear.

“Thank goodness you’re home!!! Did you see the tree?!” my daughter asked breathlessly.

“Tree? What tree?”

YOU DIDN’T NOTICE THE TREE?!

She had to drag me to the window to point out the obvious.

Sunday

We sang in the choir all together for the last time. During the service there was a big, mushy send-off for the graduating seniors, including my son, who is heading to college in New York this fall. I was reduced to a quivering mass of exposed nerves, tears, and snot right up front and center in the choir loft. I’m sure I stuck out like a gaudy orange flower, and not in a cute way either.

But…we’re still standing.

Weekend Snapshots 58: Easter Fools Editions

Standard

Friday

We celebrated the start of the kids’ spring break at Maru, the new Korean restaurant on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

img_3495-1

There are some interesting twists on the menu, like kimchi arancini.img_3497

And there are straight classics, like dolsot bibimbap.

The kids loved their bossam, (lettuce wraps).

Saturday

Virginia Bluebells always remind me of this scene in Sleeping Beauty, when the fairy godmothers try to outspell each other to make her dress blue, no pink, no blue!

When my mother-in-law’s primulas start blooming, I know it really is spring at last. 

I took the kids to see Fun Home at LiveArts. The themes and language were far more adult than I was expecting, but the musical was deeply moving and beautifully performed.

img_3522

Sunday

I awoke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of tape being ripped with ferocious intensity. The night before the younger two made their declaration of war. Their older brother asked to be left out of the battle. It took me a moment to figure out that the Great April Fools Easter War of 2018 had officially begun.

The noise I had heard was the sound of the 15 year old taping saran wrap to his sister’s bedroom door. She had frozen his toothbrush in a mug of water the night before. He retaliated by using his Water Pik against her like a makeshift water gun. She in turn attacked him with chalk fingerprints all over his choir robe.

Finally, after singing for two Easter services in a row, we were all feeling rather exhausted.

“Please, let’s stop this. I can’t take anymore,” the 15 year old said as we trudged back to the car.

The 12 year old was exultant: “Does that mean I won?!”

“Yes! You won. I’ll take my punishment. But, please let me do it tomorrow. I just can’t face it today.” (More on that later).

And so an Easter Armistice was declared.

The kids celebrated the end of war with the Easter egg hunt that awaited them back at home…

The biggest hit was the new basketball the Easter bunny left for them…

That evening we sat down to a traditional Easter dinner…if Easter just so happened to coincide with April Fool’s Day…The parents had one last trick up their sleeve:

Oh…and that punishment I mentioned earlier?

img_3609.jpg

img_3610img_3612

Weekend Snapshots 56

Standard

Friday

My daughter’s soccer team was playing in a pre-season tournament in Arlington this weekend. Serendipitously, The Wolves, a Pulitzer-nominated play about a girls’ high school travel soccer team, was having its final run this weekend at the Studio Theatre in DC. My sister got tickets for the three of us and we decided to tell my daughter only that she had a surprise in store.

I picked her up early from school on Friday to make sure we would beat the traffic and make it to DC on time. As we walked to the car, she asked, “So are you going to tell me now what the surprise is, or are you going to make me wait until we get there to find out?”

“You’re just going to have to wait till we get there,” I said, “But remind me…you’ve never had an allergic reaction to any anesthetics, right?”

She merely smirked and rolled her eyes at my clumsy attempt to throw her off the scent.

IMG_3218

It took me to Ruckersville to come up with a second gambit: “Hey! You really like organ meat, don’t you?”

“What’s organ meat?” she asked me, not even looking up as she tap tap tapped away on her phone.

“You know…like, intestines, brain, heart, liver, kidney…,” I said, forcing down the wicked laughter that was bubbling up inside me.

“I’d gladly try organ meat,” the little saucepot replied serenely, not even glancing up from her phone, “but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat it.”

DAMMIT!” I cursed inwardly, frustrated by the girl’s infernal insouciance.

I brooded over the problem all the way up Route 29 until we reached Culpeper, when a devious idea began to form in my brain.

“You did remember to bring a fancy dress and your nice shoes, right?” I casually asked.

My girl whose standard uniform consists of sweatpants and a t-shirt dropped her phone and whipped her head around to look at me with a horrified expression: “Wait, WHAT?!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah, sweet victory!

“OK, you really got me that time,” she said. We collapsed in a paroxysm of laughter, and I could finally relax for the rest of the trip!

Our first stop was the W Hotel and the POV rooftop lounge:

IMG_3215

IMG_3205

Virgin Mojito!

Everything was delicious, but I’m going to dream about the Buñuelo Fritters for the rest of my life. They tasted like impossibly scrumptious, warm air.

IMG_3208

IMG_3227

The pop up “Museum of Contemporary American Teenagers” at the Studio Theatre

IMG_3226

The play was amazing!

Saturday

The tournament didn’t begin until the late afternoon, so we had all morning to relax…

Grandpa & Grandma tested out the new leg massage contraption their favorite son sent them…

 

Lunch at Rice Paper, Grandma’s favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the Eden Center in Falls Church:

IMG_3244

My girl’s own cheering squad, including her grandparents, my sister, and my BFF, turned out in the bitter cold to root for her team…

IMG_3254

BRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

The girls advanced to the finals with two wins under their belts.

 

Sunday

Because of Daylight Savings, we woke up ten minutes before we had to leave for the first game of the day.

We raced out the door with my dad, who decided to play hooky from church to join us on the field. I can’t emphasize enough how exceedingly rare and hardly-to-be-believed-bordering-on-miraculous this was.

IMG_3257

This man skipped church, sat in the freezing cold, and used a porta potty. Now that‘s true love.

 

Good thing they won!

IMG_3289

Tournament Champs!

IMG_3290

 

Youth Sunday & Other Forms of Torture

Standard

We woke up at the crack of dawn to get to church by 8 am for the first of two back to back services led by the youth of the congregation.

A couple weeks ago the boys were asked to perform a Mozart duet as the closing voluntary. Those two short weeks felt like an eternity in hell, during which time I was roasting on a spit in slooooooow motion.

Just learn one page! I exhorted as they sturmed und dranged over the impossibility of pulling it together at such short notice. You can play the first page twice!

Please don’t be mean to your brother! I begged my older son, who becomes a complete tyrant when it comes to music.

You’re getting there! Just keep practicing!!! I nagged for two weeks straight.

Hey, Olympic committee! I totally deserve a gold medal for my performance of a lifetime! And a trip to Disney World. By myself.

duet

And then the church sprung the torture known as “Rite 13” on me. I have now been subjected to this particular agony three times…Thank God it’s the last one I’ll ever have to endure.

IMG_7199

This girl laughed in my face during the whole ceremony as tears leaked out of my eyes, and I guess that was a blessing, because it probably saved me from the ugly crying that would have disgraced us all…

It’s a wrap. I’m going to bed!

The Cat Who Came In From the Cold

Standard

If you’ve been following our story, you may have noticed that our family is gaga for animals. We collect them as casually as people collect, say, matchbooks or Pez dispensers. Oh, look! A _______________! We don’t have one of those yet! You can fill in the blank with any number of the fish, rodents, lagomorphs, and dogs that have passed through our house. My daughter has most recently been drawing up an action plan to convince her father that having a couple of sheep in the paddock out back would not only be a good idea, but essential to her happiness.

She has a tough road ahead of her. My husband is one of two people in our household, who do not think that sharing your space with an abundance of animals is delightful. His mini-me, our second son, rolls his eyes heavenward and heaves a weary sigh whenever a new animal is added to our menagerie. He dutifully helps take care of the dogs, but with no great enthusiasm. Whenever one of us starts talking about adding yet another hamster, or a couple of ducks, or a fish to the mix,  our very own Jiminy Cricket  issues dire predictions about the troubles that are likely to ensue as a result of our animal profligacy. He tries to warn us of our folly, and then eventually throws his hands up in despair and retires to his own bedroom, one of the only places in our house where peace and order reign.

In the past we have considered providing shelter to horses, llamas, goats, ducks, guinea hens, quails, turtles, and even snakes. The one animal I was never tempted to keep was a cat. But…sometimes you choose, and sometimes you are chosen. Parson, a cat we only latterly discovered to be a “she” rather than a “he,” chose us, or rather chose to let us live in her/our house.

My daughter took over Parson’s care and feeding, and we tried to make her as comfortable as possible on our back porch. In the corner of our porch, we installed a pet carrier outfitted with a cozy bed and a self-warming pad. For the two years we’ve lived in our house, Parson has spent her days and nights there. She has expressed satisfaction with our services by rubbing up against our legs when we go out to greet her. Our dopey little dogs have repeatedly tried to make friendly overtures to her, signaling their goodwill with their cocked heads and wagging tails. She will have nothing to do with their foolishness. As soon as she catches sight of them, she hisses at them as if she is ready to start World War III.

The polar vortex had us worrying about Parson. It’s been so cold the kids have now twice had an hour school delay.  One day we opened the door to see if we could coax the cat inside to warm up for awhile. We finally managed to lure her in with some treats, but as soon as the dogs came running up to greet her, she hissed and ran under the oven to hide. She was still there a few hours later when I had to leave the house. I was dreading what I would find when I returned home.

“Did the cat ever come out?” I asked my children when I got back.

“Oh yeah! She came out,” Jiminy Cricket replied casually.

“How did you get her out?”

“I just put some food out in the kitchen and she came out to eat.”

“And she’s back outside now?”

“No.”

No? Where is she?”

“She’s in my room. She likes it there.”

Oh! Well, let’s let her outside so she can go to the bathroom.”

“Not a good idea,” Jiminy Cricket said, shaking his head, “It’s way too cold out there for her.”

“Well, but…how’s she going to go to the bathroom?”

“We set up the guinea pigs’ litter box in my room.”

There are so many reasons for being shocked by these revelations I don’t even know where to begin…

“So what are we going to do with her? She hates the dogs…”

“She’ll live in my room.”

Forever?

“Yep.”

Still shaking my head in wonder, I braced myself for the difficult conversation I was going to have with my husband about the matter. I explained to him our son’s surprising position on the cat.

“Well, that’s no good.”

My heart sank.

“She can’t stay in his room forever.”

“I know…”

“Eventually, I want her to come out and socialize with everyone, including the dogs.”

And that, my friends, is a Christmas miracle.

Senior Babies

Standard

I met some of my best friends at a prenatal exercise class. We were from all walks of life, but we were all going through the same exhilarating and terrifying experience of gestating a human being. Our ranks diminished one by one as our tiny humans made their way into the world. New mothers would disappear for awhile into an all-consuming regime of sleepless nights, the management of endless bodily excretions, and trying to keep a wriggling, mewling creature alive.

Once we managed to fumble our way through those early days, we found each other again. We would get together at each other’s houses, which had all been redecorated in a similar aesthetic featuring bulky plastic baby paraphernalia that sprouted overnight in all of our living rooms like giant, colorful mushrooms after a rain. We called our get togethers “playdates,” but they were not so much for the babies as they were for the mothers.

Every playdate would begin or end with a photo session. We’d line up our babies on a couch like so many sacks of flour and snap merrily away, trying to record the sweet memory for posterity before they toppled over.

Scan 6Scan 5Seventeen years passed like a dream. Recently, I got together again with a couple of those friends and our babies for another photo shoot. This time it was for senior pictures! Our babies are in their last year of high school now and are applying to colleges.

We are lucky to live just down the road from this baby. She grew up to be a delightful combination of sweet and sassy. Whenever we go away, we entrust our entire menagerie to her capable care.

IMG_5485IMG_5474IMG_5601IMG_5654 I visited these twins just days after they were born. They were impossibly tiny and their little legs were still scrunched up tight…They’ve grown into handsome young men who are a credit to their parents.IMG_5542IMG_5551IMG_5560IMG_5460IMG_5433We managed to snap a few photos of this baby before he had to leave to get to his piano lesson…IMG_5413IMG_5416IMG_5420…thereby missing Couch Babies Photo Shoot 2.0:IMG_5578IMG_5528IMG_5625

I may have to cheat a little nowadays to be at the same altitude as this boy…

IMG_1629IMG_1623

…but he’ll always be my baby.

Scan 9Scan 2IMG_1611

 

A Fishy Story

Standard

For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Galatians 6:7 

My children are descended from a long line of liars on both sides of their family tree. From the moment they entered the world, they’ve been raised in an intricate and treacherous web of secrets and lies. It’s exhausting to live like this, but we know no other way. It’s programmed deep in our DNA.

Mostly we lie for benign reasons. Like many parents, we’ve spun tales of Santa and the tooth fairy.

IMG_2606But we’ve also dipped our toes into more questionable acts of deception. For instance, when my oldest son was a toddler he once asked me why a squashed squirrel in the middle of the road wasn’t moving.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 8.36.27 PM

How could I break this kid’s heart?

“Oh, him?” I replied, “He’s just taking a little nap. They do that sometimes.”

Another time I wandered down the feminine product aisle in the grocery store with my second son.

ScanWith his blankie clutched in one chubby fist, he trailed the pointer finger of his other hand along the packages of maxi pads and tampons as we walked down the aisle.

“What are these?” he asked.

“Oh, just ummm…things for women.”

“But, what are they?…Cheese sticks?”

“Yep. Cheese sticks,” I replied. “For women.”

I will admit that there have been more egregious examples of deceit. It’s possible that on an occasion or two, I may have asked my kids not to mention something to their grandparents, “because they’re from another generation and another culture and they wouldn’t understand and we wouldn’t want them to worry or make them sad.”

It was only last week that I realized all these years the little punks have been storing up every single lie ever told in their steel trap brains.

I was driving my 15-year old home from his afterschool activity. As we pulled into our driveway, his older brother happened to pull in right behind us. He emerged from his car, dripping with sweat and lugging the enormous gym bag he insists on carrying everywhere. (It’s actually the large duffle bag I used myself when I was a college student to carry an entire semester’s worth of clothes and books back and forth between my house and campus. I’ve offered more than once to buy him a smaller gym bag, but he’s always demurred, because “it holds all my stuff.”)

But I digress…He had told me that morning he would drive straight from school to the open mat session they were having at his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym, just as he had done the week before.

IMG_0969

So sweet. So innocent. Such liars.

“Oh, hey!” the 15-year-old addressed his older brother as he got out of the car, “So you went boxing again?”

Through the car window, I could see my son shoot daggers at his younger brother with his eyes. He put his fingers up to his lips and curled his lips into a silent, but unmistakable “SHHHHH.”

Busted.

It’s difficult for me to understand the appeal of grappling with a sweaty stranger, yet I’ve let my son do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. When he started talking about doing boxing, however, I put my foot down and told him in no uncertain terms that he would not be allowed to do this. The boy is about to apply to college. Does he really need to get his head bashed in for sport?

I suspended his driving privileges for a couple days and read him the riot act for lying to me about the boxing. When his dad came home and was apprised of the situation, he launched into a lengthy disquisition of his own.

“Even worse than the fact that you went boxing, is the fact that you deliberately lied to us about it…” he said in an injured tone.

My son could bear the hypocrisy no longer. He yelped in fury and began to enumerate the many times we had lied to him and to others.

We all went to bed that night feeling bruised and battered and not unlike that squashed squirrel in the road.

At 1:30 am I awoke from deep slumber to the strong smell of fish frying. Surely this was just one of those nonsensical, yet hyper-realistic dreams?

I stumbled down the stairs to investigate and found my thwarted pugilist standing over a frying pan.

“What the hell are you doing?!” I asked, my eyes squinting in the bright light of the kitchen.

“Frying fish,” my son replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Wh- why are you frying fish at 1:30 in the morning?!”

“I was hungry.”

“Where did you even get the fish?”

“I caught it a couple weeks ago.”

“Well, where has it been all this time?”

“In the chest freezer.”

The exchange was so surreal and yet so banal. I was at a loss.

“The whole house reeks now. Next time you’re hungry, could you please just have a bowl of cereal like a normal person?! And make sure you clean up after yourself when you’re done!” I said and lumbered off to bed.

When I went downstairs the next morning I saw that he had, for the most part, cleaned up his mess. I did find a carefully labelled Ziploc bag left on the counter top that had until very recently contained “two longnosed sunfish fillets.” As I looked around the kitchen I also discovered a gallon jug of canola oil. I stopped buying vegetable oil years ago when I read about its carcinogenic properties.

“Where did this come from?” I wondered out loud.

“Oh!” my daughter piped up, but then immediately stopped herself, “Well…actually I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you.”

She took one look at my face and began to sing like a bird.IMG_1163

“Last week when ‘N’ drove himself back from his piano lesson in Crozet, he stopped off at Great Valu and bought fish and frog legs and that’s when he got the oil too.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 9.08.56 PM

That one in the middle? She’d sell her brothers down the river for a song.

Her response so perfectly reflected our bizarre and dizzying reality. It’s damn near impossible to keep track of what we are or are not supposed to tell each other or what we know or are not supposed to know. Though I hadn’t known about the vegetable oil, I had in fact known about the fish and frog legs. I had seen a small fillet in the fridge, but it disappeared soon after and I had forgotten all about it. As for the frog legs…my son fried them up and ate them the very same day. (And by the way, in case you, like my eccentric son, were wondering? “They taste like river chicken…kind of chickeny and fishy at the same time.”)

“But wait a minute…what about that other fish he bought? Did he already fry that?” I asked.

“No. He bought that fish to feed to his other fish. And he caught the sunfish at his friend’s house to eat himself,” my daughter patiently explained.

IMG_7678

My kid buys groceries for this thing.

“So you knew about the sunfish?”

“Well…yeah,” she answered evasively, wondering if this admission would get her into trouble.

“Did you see it? Was it a whole fish?”

“No. He came home with the fillets. He must have cut it up at his friend’s house.”

“And you saw him stash the fish in the freezer?”

“Yeah.”

“And how come I never saw this ginormous bottle of canola oil until this morning?”

“Oh, that’s because he was hiding it in his gym bag.”