Parenting Boys

Jolted Awake

Only 5 percent of me wants to drive my son to Lexington for a cyclocross race today. The other 95 percent wants to stay home to catch up on laundry and other household chores that need attention. The idea of driving six hours in one day seems like a waste of time. The 5 percent of me that wants to go knows that the one-on-one times with my children go by all too quickly, and I should take advantage of them.

When my second born jolts me awake at 6:45, as promised, I’m still dragging my feet, toying with excuses I can use to bow out of this trip. Reluctantly, I throw on a pair of jeans, brush my teeth, apply a layer of mascara and some deodorant, and scramble around looking for my flip flops. I reason that the t-shirt I wore to bed will suffice because that’s how I roll on days like these.

The sky is still dark. Who gets up this early on the weekend, I ask myself with a pouty face. As Eli settles into his seat to go back to sleep, I drive in silence. I pray. My mind wanders. I try to pray again. I ask God why he created me with ADD. My mind wanders some more.

Then I notice my surroundings. As a sleep-in kind of girl, I often miss the beauty of the dawn. But now I watch in awe as the sky turns all sorts of pinks and purples and the sun creates a golden rim around each cloud. The fog hugs the fields, shrouding the cattle and the crops in a thin milky layer of atmosphere. This is my prayer. No words, just praise and gratitude as I watch God unwrap this gift called morning.

I look over at my son who is now breathing deeply in his slumber. I wonder how often I’ve slept through the dawns of his life. Have I fully embraced the opportunities to see how God is unwrapping the gifts that are contained within him?

Sometimes. Other times I’m tired. Or selfish. Or busy with things that are far less important like laundry and household chores. And as I drive, I’m reminded that it goes so quickly.  Within a few miles, the fog has disappeared and the sky has settled into it’s regular light blue hue. Just like my boys’ childhood, it all moves along so quickly as they change into adolescents, young men and then full grown adults.

But today… today I have this incredible opportunity to watch as Eli puts his perseverance, his devotion and his entire strength to the test.IMG_0963

As he is called up to the start line, the sun full in the sky, I see the determination in his face. The whistle blows. Lap after lap he pushes and pushes. It’s hot, and he is drenched with sweat. He breathes hard as he lifts his bike over the obstacles on the course. He develops a blister on his hand from gripping his handlebars while riding the hills and dips, and as he navigates the hairpin turns with precision. And I don’t miss a moment.

I don’t miss it because my boy jolted me awake this morning. Then God reminded me to stay awake lest I miss the beauty of his creation, both in nature and human endeavor, as I watch my son Eli cross the finish line in a cyclocross race in Lexington. Where I want to be – all 100 percent of me.

Categories: A Day in the Life, Parenting Boys | Tags: | 6 Comments

In the Name of Adventure

I think God laughs when he makes a woman the mom of all boys. He takes a Barbie-loving, bow-wearing, pink-bedroom dwelling, sensitive-hearted girl, and grows her up to a woman who gives birth to testosterone.

My friend John used to say our house had so much testosterone it must flow out of the faucets. I’ll confess, as much as I thought I wanted a little girl, and had to mourn the many things I would never do (read: buy baby dolls, plan manicure dates, and shop for prom dresses), I am delighted God gave me four boys.

Oh believe me, when they were younger I would call my friend Heidi and say, “Talk Girl to me! I can’t take another armpit fart or soda generated burp so loud it rocks the foundation of our home.” Heidi has three boys and she knows how stinky and loud and gross they can be. She also knows what I know: Most boys have an insatiable desire for adventure. (Ask her about her son Jack, sometime.)

So yesterday when my boys asked to go to the lakehouse, I was much obliged – mainly because as much as they love adventure, I love spontaneity. I was eager to ditch the laundry, put off the taxes and leave the house cleaning to another day. We packed some food, grabbed a change of clothes, and loaded the car and a couple of bikes so two of the boys could ride in the morning.

When we arrived, one son quickly unloaded his camera gear and staged his tripod at the end of the dock so he could do long exposures of the clear, star-filled winter sky.

The other three ran to the basement playroom to bounce on the stack of mattresses and kick the soccer ball to at one another. After a late dinner, the three older ones competed in a friendly game of Poker while the youngest watched a bit of the Kentucky versus Florida basketball game.

Poker didn’t last long because the oldest had to check on his camera. The two middles thought it would be fun to take out the kayaks and sneak up on him from the water. As they told me of their plan, I went through a common struggle of all mothers. Do I let them? Or do I not? Is it too dangerous, or just another great adventure?

I let them go — after I laid out the parameters: you must wear a lifevest, not just have it on the kayak. You must stay right next to one another in case one of you gets in trouble. You must be within earshot of the lakehouse. They agreed and bounded outside – on the mild February night – to retrieve the kayaks.

Since their oldest brother saw them launch the kayaks from our small, sandy beach, their sneak attack was foiled. They maneuvered the kayaks around the bubbler which keeps ice from forming around, and therefore damaging, our docks and headed out into the partially frozen lake, guided by the moonlight.

The oldest aimed a second camera toward them and captured them kayaking in the moon’s reflection on the water. After a few minutes, as I walked downstairs to check on the kayakers, my oldest son met me at the bottom of the steps to show me the extraordinary shots he had taken. Seeing that they were safe, I retreated back upstairs to my blanket and cushy chair in the great room to start another episode of Parenthood. Just as Crosby runs into Jasmine on her date with the pediatrician, the kayakers burst into the room to tell me I “have to come down and kayak.”

“It’s amazing. We kayaked through ice,” one said with stardust in his eyes.

“It sounded like the Titanic,” the other described.

As much as I loved their excitement, not one bone in my body wanted to move from that  oversized, luscious chair to put my feet in freezing water and get inside a one-woman boat in the middle of winter.

So why did I find myself kicking off my shoes and peeling off my wool socks to step into that icy water and get inside that bright yellow vessel only a few minutes later? When I posted to Facebook that my boys were kayaking on February 7 by moonlight in Indiana, one friend said, “You’re the coolest mom around.” While it was a sweet comment, I didn’t let them go to be the coolest mom around. And I wasn’t joining them to prove it either.

I went kayaking with my sons because they asked me. And when an opportunity arises to live into a unique experience, especially when it’s an adventure to share with my sons, I seize that moment. I grab on, hold tight, and see where the ride takes us. Tonight it took us through the dark waters of Grandview Lake, illuminated by the (almost) full moon, into a layer of thin ice which, just like my third son said, sounded exactly how I imagine the Titanic sounded as it entered the frigid areas of the Atlantic.

It was an eery sound at first, the scraping of the kayaks against the thin ice. But eventually we stopped paddling and sat under the star-laden sky where the pieces of broken ice clanged together, sounding like wind chimes powered by a gentle breeze. It was beautiful, and – quite frankly –  beyond words.

Fear can cripple us all, and when I think of the potentially dangerous things my sons do, the things I allow my boys to do, I could become paralyzed. I could wring my hands and shout “NO!” at them when they want to ride bikes in downtown Indianapolis traffic and down rugged mountain paths. I could insist they ski and snowboard on the marked trails and avoid going in and out of the trees. I could ground them when they find ways onto rooftops to capture the urban landscape. But I don’t. And sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy for allowing it all.

But I know it’s in their blood. They were created for exploration and adventure. In the book Boys Should be Boys, by Meg Meeker, M.D., she says:

Too many of us parents obsess about healthy diversions that active boys like to do, while not recognizing what is truly dangerous for our boys – like popular music, television and video games that deaden their sensibilities, shut them off from real human interaction, impede the process of maturation, prevent them from burning up energy in useful outdoor exercise, divorce them from their parents and lower their expectations of life.

All of my boys have listened to questionable music and become engaged in video games. They enjoy shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Criminal Minds.” They are not immune to pop-culture, but thankfully they are not consumed by it either. They live lives engaged and passionate for things they love: photography for the eldest, cycling for the second, woodworking for the third, and anything sports related for the youngest.

I have no magic parenting skills and I certainly fall short in my call to parent well. It is by the grace of God, and I believe through the meager prayers I utter and those of my dear boyfriend, who nightly prays specifically for each one, that they have invited me into their adventures, if not physically at least in the recounting of their exciting endeavors.

Through these adventures, they are discovering more of who they are, their strengths and weaknesses, their limits and abilities, and perhaps even birthing new dreams. The lessons from obstacles they face and the pleasure they seek carry over to their daily living and their relationships. I learn so much from each of them, and even though some of these activities cause my heart to stop now and then, I am grateful that they allow me in, that they continue to invite me to play – even if it doesn’t involve Barbies or painting our nails.

Categories: Parenting Boys, Urban Living | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Who Asked You?

I’m not very good at taking constructive criticism. Sometimes because of pride. Mostly because of shame.

Today is one of those days I’ve struggled with shame part. I had warned the boys that we would be going to church this morning. It’s sad that I use the word “warned,” but we’ve gotten out of any sort of routine when it comes to church. Most Sundays when they are not at their dad’s, we elect to sleep in or have “house church,” where we gather together in the family room, read from the Bible and then discuss what we’ve read. We pray together, and we’re done.

But I miss church sometimes. And I miss them going with me. So I warned them because I knew they would whine and come up with 101 excuses not to go. After some arguing and quite frankly some manipulating on my part,  two out of the four actually made it to church.

As for the other two:  one was downright obstinate and church attendance is not a battle in which I wish to enter because I never want my kids to have a bitter taste for faith resulting from being forced into attendance. In other words, I wasn’t willing to totally guilt him into coming with us, especially at his age where he is trying to figure out his faith journey separate from his parents.  The other objector had been coughing up a storm — and nobody wants to sit next to a hacker at church, or anywhere for that matter.

After church, I took the youngest to the NCAA Hall of Champions because he has been asking to do something fun all weekend  and I hate the idea of him sitting in front of the TV or playing video games when he’s begging for an engaging outlet. The second-born has been asking to take his bike to the repair shop so when I returned from the field trip with my youngest, I had  the second-born load his bike in the car. Then the oldest remembered he needed to pick up his guitar, and he wanted to get more driving hours in, so the three of us set off on some errands.

We were just a block from returning home when the oldest, still driving, got too close to another car and clipped the side mirror. We pulled over and rang various neighbors’ door bells to find the owner of the car so we could bear the bad news and offer to pay for damages and exchange insurance information.

By the time I walked in the front door with groceries that my boys did not offer to carry, I was spent. Haggard. Irritable.  Truthfully… I was ready to rip a head off of one of the mice, hiding under my stove, with my bare hands. From the whining about church to the lack of gratitude for being taken to places they asked to go,  to the downright sense of entitlement, I was done.

I walked into the kitchen and looked up and down in disgust at the dirty dishes piled in my sink. I passed the pile of clothes that needed to be put into the washer, and sneered at them. I threw my phone and keys on my bed, not caring if they bounced off and hit the hardwood floors, and I entered my bathroom where I turned on the water to fill my solitary, serene claw foot tub to the hottest temperature possible.

And there I sat and read my book about India. A book that had nothing to do with church, or errands, or car accidents or children with attitudes. I read until my toes looked like the tread on my winter tires.

My boyfriend is smart. He knew it was best to leave me alone.  So he waited. And several minutes after he heard the bathwater drain, he knocked on the door. By then I was in some comfy clothes propped against some pillows in my bed. He sat on the edge of the bed, and started with “You’re a good mom.” And, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way.” And then, “I know you are overwhelmed.”

My arms crossed against my chest. I set my jaw forward. And I set up every invisible wall I have ever constructed for a time like this. What followed was not comfortable. But it wasn’t horrible either. He offered insights on what he saw in my boys and what he thought they really needed from me. None of it was new to me but it was now that I needed to hear it. A lone tear ran down my cheek as I dismissed the defensive linemen around my heart so I could receive the advice he lovingly offered.

Being a single mom is hard. It’s damn hard. When a married woman wonders how she’s going to survive when her husband is out of town for a week,  I try not to throw myself a pity-party knowing that single-parenting is my story every week. Nearly every day of every week, there is no spouse to help with the day-in/day-out —  wake up calls, laundry washing/drying/sorting/folding, breakfast feeding, lunch packing, dinner making, dish washing, grocery shopping, sports-practice running, game attending, band transporting, cheerleading, new shoe shopping, teacher conferencing, homework checking, shower demanding, teeth-brush reminding, full-time working — duties.

And sometimes it wears. me. out. Sometimes I’m too worn down from my children’s complaints, that I give in when I shouldn’t. Sometimes I’m in such desperate need of peace and quiet that I retreat to my bedroom instead of engaging in conversation with my children.

So we single moms (or dads) beat ourselves up an awful lot because we let our boundaries slide or our discipline tank. But thankfully I am fortunate to have a strong man in my life who loves my boys and is willing to step up more if I give him permission. And I have an ex-husband who is active in my boys’ lives and who parents them well… because, my Dear Readers, I can’t do this alone.

I thank my boyfriend for reminding me of that tonight. I didn’t ask him for his advice and I certainly didn’t ask him to do my dishes or make my kids dinner. But he did it because he knew I was swimming in a sea of disappointment and shame that I had not handled my children differently today. He knew that I wanted to have better boundaries and parent with grace instead of with disdain.

If you know a single parent, I encourage you to ask her what she (or he) needs. And ask more than once. Because there will be times when she has all of her plates masterfully spinning in the air without so much as a bobble. But ask again and you may find her slumped over a heap of broken dishes wet from her tears. That is the time she will know she cannot do this parenting thing alone. So pick something practical from the list below and take a bit of the load off –  even if she didn’t ask you.

  1. Make her family dinner. There’s nothing like coming home from work knowing dinner is a ready to heat and eat.
  2. Ask to come visit then unload and load her dishes (or hand wash if she doesn’t have a dishwasher).
  3. Pick her child up from practice or school and, depending on the age, either watch the child at your house for a while, or drop the child off at home.
  4. If she has more than one child, ask if you can help one of them do homework while she helps the other.
  5. Take a load of her laundry home and wash it, dry it and return it folded.
  6. Babysit her children while she takes a nap. Or a bath. Or runs to the store alone.
  7. If her kids go to her ex-spouse’s for a night ask her to do something fun together. Since being single, chances are she doesn’t go out as much any more.
  8. Call her to see if she needs anything when you are running to the grocery and drop off her items on your way home.
  9. If she has a sick child, deliver Gatorade, crackers, Tylenol, etc. Or see if she needs a prescription picked up from the pharmacy.
  10. Pack her kids lunches for the week and deliver them to her labeled and ready to go.


Categories: Divorce, Faith, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys | Leave a comment

The Day Reason Kicked Panic’s Butt

It’s been a seven year tradition: our annual ski trip with two other families. Typically, we ski two days and then visit the local shops or hang out at the rental home one day. This year, we headed into the town of Harbor Springs, Mich., to browse the shops. The first store we walked into was a Paris-inspired boutique with lovely home accessories, clothing and handbags. My friends oohed and ahhed over the cute centerpieces, candles and clothing, while I barely made it two feet inside the doorway. On the table at the entrance was a book titled, “Notes to my Son Before You Go,” by Vesna M. Bailey.

The cover had a beautiful black and white photo of a young boy, standing on some drift wood at the beach. Inside were more stunning photos along with words that the author had both collected from various sources and written herself. Her goal, she said, was to impart wisdom to her son before he leaves home.

My mind went to that place. You know the place. That place where you start to compare yourself on the universal meter of mothering perfection and realize you are nowhere near the perfect mark. You panic, realizing you have not imparted the wisdom or advice that this author has so painstakingly shared with her son. Then a deeper panic sets in when you realize you have only two more years to come up with all of the inspiring, motivating, loving, guiding words to bestow on your child.

And you have nothing. If he were in front of you at that very moment, you would probably stutter or perhaps you might mutter something like, “Don’t forget to put on clean underwear,” or “Treat others as you want to be treated.” But nothing near the definition of wise or inspiring fires across your synapses. And YOU ONLY HAVE TWO YEARS to come up with something good. With words that will really mean something. With catch phrases, meaningful quotes, life-saving advice.

I clutched the book to my heart as I walked, panic-stricken, around the store. I hoped that if I hung on tight enough, the words would pour off the pages and into my bloodstream right up to my brain where I would store every bit of information. Then I would be able to share it piece by piece with my boys. Yes, I would buy this book, read it cover-to-cover and recite the words to my boys until I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were ready to leave home – prepared to be Godly, kind, healthy, well-adjusted, peaceful, strong, joyful leaders of the universe.

Then something happened in between my friend trying on a blue and white striped sweater and her decision to buy a gigantic handbag. I loosened my grip on the book, walked over to the table where I found it and put it down.

Reason had kicked Panic’s butt. Reason told me that I didn’t need someone else’s words to help prepare my boys to leave home. I wasn’t failing as a mother just because I hadn’t written a book of clever phrases or gathered famous quotes.

What my boys needed was what they were getting. What they are getting: Love, prayers, stability (yes, even post-divorce), and tradition to name a few. After I put the book down, I headed to the next store with my head held high. I’m far from perfect in the realm of motherhood, but I am confident that with all the mistakes I make, I’m doing some things right.

Things like providing experiences that will be remembered far beyond the words I may recite to them from a book I picked up one vacation. No, instead I want to impart pictures of grace, love, laughter and belonging in their minds.

IMG_5339So, for example, over Christmas break when they asked to go sledding one night at 9:30 p.m., I said yes. So we donned the snow pants, the boots, the hats and gloves, and threw the sleds in the back of the Suburban. And when the house looked like it had vomited Christmas gifts and wrapping paper after two weeks at home, I let it go until it was time to restore order before heading back to school. And when they asked to take a road trip to the lake with their friends, I set aside my day of reading and writing and loaded the car with warm clothes, junk food and a few friends… because these are the times they’ll remember.

These are the memories we create so that one day, whether any of us actually writes them down, or we simply store them in our hearts and minds, we will write our own book. A book that will serve these boys far beyond the time they leave this home. A book that will not be a generic, store-bought version of nice quotes and generic photos but a book born of personal experiences and treasured stories.

Categories: A Day in the Life of Us, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Urban Living, Vacation | 2 Comments

Faith Like a Child

One morning at the ranch, my 13-year-old, Eli, led devotions on the porch of our cabin. He had us read I Thessalonians 5:16-18 and then, based on a question from his teen devotional Bible, he asked us to list ways God had been good to us. I gave each boy a piece of paper and told them to write 10 things that showed  how God had been good to them.

My youngest deep in thought

I participated, too. My list was made up of bullet points with things like •the gift of my children •the beauty of the mountains •my job, etc. I am truly grateful for every thing I listed, and I believe they are all ways that God has shown me He is good. But I didn’t spend a great deal of time thinking through my list.

My youngest son, on the other hand, thought long and hard as he created his list. There were no bullet points. No sentence fragments. He called me over to him a few times to ask for help, long after I had put my Bible and notebook back in the cabin. One particular sentence caught my breath. He had written, “That we get to see our mom and dad even when they are divorced.”

“Is that okay?” he asked.

“Sure,” I responded. “That is definitely one way God has shown you He is good. Some kids don’t get to see one of their parents when there is a divorce. But you know that both Dad and I love you so much and want to spend time with you. Even though divorce is not what God intended for us, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what any of us truly wanted, God is still showing His goodness through it by the way he cares and provides for you.”

Although I felt liked I stumbled through my explanation, he seemed to agree and went back to writing. Pretty soon he called to me, “Mom, do we have to pay for me to play soccer and baseball?”

I tell him yes and then I hear him say as he writes his next sentence. “That we have enough money for me to play soccer and baseball.”

When I walked over to him a few minutes later, I see how specific he has been in his list. He has mentioned his baseball games in detail, the two families from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that we met in Colorado three years ago and continue to vacation with each year at the ranch, his school and his friends…and then he says to me, “I saved the best one for last.”

“What’s that?” I asked, as I waited for him to write it on his paper.

“That I can be a Christian,” he said with a smile.

He gets it, this child of mine. He understands God’s goodness in every part of his life, even in the pain he has experienced (our divorce). But even more, he gets that being a Christian is not just some label we slap on ourselves. It’s not something he was born with or became just because that’s what his parents are. It’s something he got to choose. And he has chosen it. The evidence of Christ in his life is apparent in the way he loves other and the way he reflects the kindness and grace of Christ. This boy of mine is a constant encouragement to me.

After he finished, we walked back into the cabin together. He tucked his paper inside his Bible, puts it on the table and ran back outside to join his brothers. I grabbed my notebook and opened it up to my list. I added number 11: “I know that God is good to me because I get to witness how He is working in Jaden’s life.”

Categories: Divorce, Faith, Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Vacation | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Vision Versus Reality

As promised, here is a post about our time in Colorado. 

After cleaning up dinner one night at the ranch, I walked out onto the covered porch and saw my four boys on canoes, paddling across the small lake in front of our cabin. I grabbed my camera and followed them along the edge of the lake. The moment seemed so precious to me, probably because my oldest starts tenth grade this fall while my youngest starts fourth grade, and there are fewer activities in which they all enjoy and participate together.

The “perfect” moment

I savored the image of them peacefully canoeing and I continued to shoot pictures. It was a moment I wanted to freeze. My four boys working and playing together. How sweet, I thought.

Until I got close enough to hear them.

“You suck,” one brother said about another’s paddling skills. The other replied with a “you suck,” as they continued their journey toward a low, wooden bridge they cross under by lying down in the canoe and pulling themselves through to the other side.

Ducking to make the pass under the bridge

I would not be deterred from taking photos, however. In fact, I would not be deterred by reality. They would not ruin my delusion of them getting along – beautifully gliding across the water in syncopation. My ignorance of reality worked for a while. Until they came closer and I could hear them talking about who was stronger.

“You are NOT stronger than I am,” one of them said. “You don’t even work out.”

“Obviously I’m stronger because I barely hit you and you cry,” responded the other.

La-la-la-la-la. I plugged my ears. I would hear nothing of it. In fact, in my escape from reality, I heard the conversation completely different. I’m pretty sure I heard one say: “You are right. You are the stronger one.”

To which the other responded, “Oh no, dear brother, you are stronger. Look at your muscles as we row this boat.”

Another piped in, “Brothers! Do not argue. We are all strong, capable young men.”

Oh, who am I kidding? They are boys. And they are brothers. Which means there will always be competition and some trash talk. Regardless of their attitudes toward each other at the time, the fact remains, they were working and playing together. And just because my vision – of how I thought the scene should play out – was different than reality doesn’t matter. I still walked away with some beautiful pictures of my four crazy, competitve kids.

Navigating the waters

Categories: Friends and Family, Parenting Boys, Vacation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Over So Soon?

For months I’ve been anticipating our annual trip to Southwest Colorado. In my mind’s eye I gazed upon the mountain ranges and winding rivers. I took the curvy roads all by memory. I felt the wind blow through my hair as I imagined the windows down on our Chevy Suburban. Two weeks of family bonding, renewed friendships, reflection time and, well, whatever we felt like doing whenever we felt like doing it. That is, whatever you can do at a 9,600 foot elevation backpacking base camp.

We found plenty to do. Whether it’s our on-going family four-square rivalry, frisbee golf (which thank GOD, I was not asked to play this year!), enjoying an ice cream at the Snack Shack in the afternoon at the ranch, or exploring the nearby mountains, the Rio Grande River or the town of Creede, we were never lacking for some sort of fun and adventure. The next few blogs will be specific to our time there.

It’s hard to believe it’s over. I look at the pictures and I long for that place. The place that we call sacred space. It’s a place where the boys and I have made many friends and created an entire litany of inside jokes and memorable stories. Before I get specific with a few of them, I’ll share a few of my favorite scenes via the following photos:

Regan Lake near the ranch One of my favorite little hikes – near Lake San Cristobol

Take my breath away

Categories: Parenting Boys, Vacation | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Everyone Has Stories, Mine Just Happen to Be About Poop

In my last post, I listed ten random items I find in random places. I left number ten off as a shameless gimmick to get you to read this post. I could have simply listed this last item as a bullet point on that post, but the story is worth telling.

All names have been changed to protect the identities of the crazy people involved in this tale, except mine because that would get way too confusing for me.

It was a regular day. I was talking on the phone to my friend Hilga as I ventured through each of my boys’ rooms to gather dirty clothes for another cycle of laundry. As I made my way toward Ashton’s room, a horrid smell hit me.

“Oh my goooooodness,” I exclaimed. “It smells like something died in Ashton’s room.”

Hilga laughed, knowing that Ashton was always creating something. “I can only imagine what concoction he has made this time.”

“Stay on the phone with me,” I told her, “in case I find a dead body or I pass out from whatever it is.”

Hilga kept laughing, probably thanking God it wasn’t her son’s room. I told her it was coming from under his bed. I was sure I would find a dead animal. The suspense was killing both of us, but I’m pretty sure it was killing me more because my sense of smell had already been violated.

I lifted Ashton’s dust ruffle slowly as I knelt down to get a look under the bed. I didn’t see any dead animals. Only a few Matchbox cars, Thomas trains, books and a clear rubbermaid container about the size of a shoebox.

“I don’t see anything, but the smell is overpowering. It has to be something under here,” I said as I started to pull the rubbermaid container out from under the bed.

That is when I screamed.

“What is it?” Hilga asked.

“Oh my gosh!”

“What? What?”

“It’s poop. And pee! Someone has gone to the bathroom in this container and just shoved it under the bed. This is so disgusting.”

At this point, Hilga was laughing hysterically, again thanking God it wasn’t in her house, wafting up her nose.

“Just wait until Ashton gets home. We are going to have a looong talk,” I told Hilga. I promised her I would call her after I talked to him as she was dying to hear his reason for having a box of poop and pee under his bed.

Fast forward a couple hours. When Ashton got home from school, I sat him down and said, “Would you like to tell me WHY there  was a box of poop and pee under your bed, Ashton?”

He barely looked at me, not because he was ashamed or embarrassed but because it was of such little consequence to him. “Oh yeah,” he said, “Jake did that.”

“Jake? But why?”

“I don’t know. I guess he didn’t want to go down the hall to use the bathroom,” Ashton explained, as if he was telling me why Jake wanted to do his homework with a pen rather than a pencil.

I dialed Hilga’s number.

“Did you ask him,” she said without saying hello.

“I did.”


“And it was YOUR son that pooped in Ashton’s box and put it under his bed.”

“No! Are you serious?” Now she was really laughing. “Is that what Ashton said? Oh my gosh, I’ll talk to him right when he gets off the bus.”

So she did. She asked Jake if he had pooped in the box in Ashton’s room.

“Yep,” he said, “And peed, too.”

“But why?” Hilga asked, as I had so often asked my boys when trying to figure out a boy’s mentality in my girly mind.

“Because I wanted to.” And with that Jake ran to play with the neighbor boy.

When she called to report the dialogue and told me, he too, did not seem to think it was a big deal, I asked her if perhaps we should call her neighbor to warn her not to let the boys play unattended for long. We laughed to ourselves and decided we would let the neighbors and our other friends with boys figure all this out on their own. After all, if nothing else, poop makes for a really funny, albiet disgusting, story.

Categories: Parenting Boys, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Why Is There a Salad Spinner Under My Bed?

Several years ago, while making dinner, I searched through cupboard after cupboard for my salad spinner. I had spinach I needed to spin dry and the spinner was nowhere to be found. Until the day I was looking for my other flip flop which I figured had been inadvertently pushed under the bed. I didn’t find the flip flop, but I did find the salad spinner.

“Why is the salad spinner under our bed?” I asked my husband.

“Who kno…,” he started as he was interrupted by a small voice from the room next door. “I was using it to scare the cat.” Oh, right, I thought. Makes perfect sense.

Since the days of the found salad spinner, I have often found basic household items in odd places. I’ve stopped asking why and just accepted that old phrase: boys will be boys. With four of them in my house, it’s bound to be an adventure.

As I opened the pool cover the other day, I saw something floating in the bottom of the shallow end. I pulled out the bike pump. I simply shrugged my shoulders and tossed the now rusty pump into the weed and trash pile of other items that were now too disgusting to salvage: former white socks, a castle project left out in the rain, a soccer cleat that had been buried under a pile of mulch (I could have saved it but I had long since thrown it’s match away since I couldn’t find the other one), half of a nerf football, a wheel to some unknown toy, and a fabric remnant from an old rocking chair.

Here are ten more random items found in random places:

  1. a pocketknife in my black flats (Thankfully, it was closed.)
  2. a book in the grill (It had not been burned, nor was it intended for that purpose. Apparently someone just forgot he put it there. That’s what he said.)
  3. the veggie steamer in the shower
  4. empty pistachio shells in the ice cube tray
  5. dirt from Eli’s shoe in a bowl in the refrigerator (he didn’t want this special vacation dirt to “go bad.”)
  6. a bottle of Axe in the microwave (Thank God I saw this one being placed in said microwave, or I may not be here to write this today.)
  7. several sizes of sticks in the washer (“We wanted to see what it sounded like.”)
  8. a wooden rocking horse’s head on my pillow with the covers pulled up (The Godfather, perhaps?)
  9. a camera tripod in the neighbors yard, along with several dominoes (“We were using them to try and hit the icicles off the neighbors roof.”)
  10. and my very favorite… you will have to read my next blog post to find out. It’s a good one. I promise.

If you have stories to share, leave a comment, I would love to know that my kids aren’t the only crazy.. uh, I mean, creative ones out there.

Categories: Parenting Boys, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Gnome Revisited

Pre-ramble… I just read the blog I wrote last night. It was nearly 1 a.m. when I finished it. I couldn’t think very clearly by then and it shows. My brain hurts from reading it again. All this to say that the deep thoughts are getting set aside for now as I have something a little lighter to share today.

In a previous post called, “A Gnome Under Our Home” which I should link here but don’t have time to figure out how, I talked about a little joke I played with my boys about a gnome living under our home. My friend Rudi even wrote a song for us. I’ll get his permission to post the lyrics soon.

Anyway, I imagined that our family would tell stories for years about this little gnome under our home. We would make up adventures about him and the stories would be told year after year becoming part of our family history.

So when we were camping (me and 6 boys) recently, I asked them if they wanted to play the game where you tell the story one sentence at a time. When it’s your turn you add to the story. I gave them ground rules: no pooping parts, you can’t make the gnome die off until everyone gets to go at least two times, and no crude talk. (Can you tell I’ve played this game with boys before?)

I started by saying: There is a gnome underneath our home.

In my girly mind, I saw the little gnome something like a miniature Gandolf, tired but magical and old. Very old and wise. The boys didn’t think that way. Here is how our story unfolded…

The gnome was old and had lived under our house for over 100 years. He could never get out of the crawlspace… unless he farted which launched him right to the second story. One day an owl crawled under the home and shouted, “It stinks in here.” As the gnome dropped down the vents into the crawlspace again, he saw the Owl and told him why it smelled. The owl, who at first seemed nice, was really evil. Before the gnome knew what was happening, little baby owls with Oozies (I have no idea how to spell that), came out from under the owl and started shooting at the gnome. But the gnome was no dummy. He grabbed his rocket launcher and blasted every last owl baby. But when the rocket launcher blasted, the owl babies suddenly turned into little Spider-owls and climbed all over the walls, making it impossible for the gnome to eradicate them…. (Eradicate is my word but it was something similar)

After that, I’m not sure what happened to our little gnome. But let me assure you, it was a blood bath and I’m not sure who survived, if anyone. In fact, the house may have gone up in flames as well. The point is that my little gnome didn’t exactly have the story I wanted him to have. Poor guy. I would have had him eating cookies and singing show tunes. Maybe not, since I’m pretty sure he’s straight. A little joke for my gay friends. Anyway, it was a prime example of the differences between how boys and girls think. I want beauty and song, and they want violence and bodily noises. 

Living with these boys is always an adventure and most of the time I love it, unless they’re all doing arm farts at the same time. One at a time is okay, but a symphony of arm farts is a little much.

Next week I get to take my niece shopping for her birthday. I am looking forward to the girl time, but in the end I know I was meant to be the mom of boys – gnomes with rocket launchers and all.


Categories: A Day in the Life, Parenting Boys, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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