Tuesday, July 31, 2007


On The Smart One's last day of first grade, he came home with a stack of photos his teacher had taken of him throughout the year. I was touched and impressed that she had taken photos of each child and then made sure the parents had a stack of memories of their student doing all the great things in the classroom that parents don't usually get to see.

So, when we got the school supply lists for the following year, I did not mind a bit supplying the "one roll of 35 mm film - 36 exposures" because I knew these teachers were taking time to preserve memories for the parents of all 20+ students in their classes.

Those were the days when we had to supply, not only crayons, glue sticks (oh my the countless glue sticks) and safety scissors; but also paper towels, two large boxes of kleenex, and antibacterial hand cleanser.

I tried never to complain about the HUGE pile of supplies we had to buy or the HUGE check I had to write for all of those supplies. I learned very early to ADORE teachers. I love teachers. I fall at their feet in admiration. I learned very early that elementary teachers spend not only lots of time, but also lots of their own money to keep their classrooms fun and exciting. In our little school district, we honestly loved all the teachers that taught our children all through elementary school. LOVED them. And junior high and high school teachers? Well, when you have teenagers, you will also adore those who spend their day with DOZENS of them. Willingly. I mean, they CHOOSE to spend their days with our teenagers. So that we don't have to.
I'm just KIDDING! I love my teenagers. But I can love them just as much while they are at school.

But this is not about teachers, as much as they deserve a whole post just for them.

This is about students, and what it takes to get them ready for that first day of school. This is about supply and demand. Or the demand for supplies.
I have an 8th grader and a sophomore. The Princess (my 8th grader) and I went shopping for school supplies yesterday. She still has a list of required items. Things like post-it notes, index cards, markers, looseleaf paper....and twelve red ink pens. TWELVE! One. Dozen. Red. Ink. Pens.

I am incredulous.

I tried to keep it to myself but every now and then a comment would slip out like "I'm still not clear why you need TWELVE red ink pens." I mean I know they grade each other's papers and all, but TWELVE?

I will also admit to getting a little grumpy about the cost of things yesterday.
We got a few things at Staples and after the third very nice employee asked me "Can I help you find anything?" I answered with "Yes, do you have any valium...?"

No, I didn't really say that, but I thought it.
Because I could not find a one-subject notebook for less than $5.00!! FIVE DOLLARS!! For a notebook. One hundred sheets of paper.

So we moved on to the other stores, hoping to find lower prices. And we ended up getting everything we needed except 4x6 ruled index cards - white; and the liquid glue pen. Not glue STICKS, of which I have a thousand, but a liquid glue pen. We also managed to splurge on a really nifty binder for The Princess. It was not on the list, but it has zippers and velcro, and all sorts of pockets and TWO built in accordian files. It also cost more than our lunch at Panera.

Not that I'm complaining. Because to SOME mothers (not me of course) back-to-school time truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

And really, I don't mean me.....

Friday, July 27, 2007


I feared I would have some splainin to do when The Don saw what I had ordered for The Smart One's Birthday.

The Smart One didn't want to do ANYTHING for his 16th birthday. Take his friends out for steak dinners? No. Have friends over for ANY kind of party? No. I realize, now, he wants to keep his birthday completely free so that he can spend the day DRIVING. Plus, he has informed me that none of the guys are having parties. He has invited his grandparents up for pizza tonight (his birthday is tomorrow) so that will be our simple family celbration

He did tell me, however, that he wished we would be in Chicago for his birthday so he could have some lemon raspberry cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. That's really what he wanted for his birthday cake.

So, being the super mama that I am, I went online and ordered two cheesecakes to be delivered NEXT DAY AIR so they'd be here for the grandparents tonight and for all the kids that will most surely be in our house all weekend. I am the mom that makes things happen. Since we all know that ONE SLICE of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake is not cheap, you can imagine how much a whole cake is. And I ordered two. Lemon Raspberry for The Smart One and then an Original Flavor for the Princess. And then, since I was a woman possessed by the idea of making her son's birthday wish come true, I clicked on the NEXT DAY AIR icon when it came to shipping.

But only after sitting at the computer for nearly half an hour debating if it was indeed worth it.

Of course to me it was going to be worth it, but you know how dads can be - not nearly so sentimental and indulgent. So after rehearsing in my mind the justification I would give The Don over this ridiculously indulgent purchase, I made the order. I definitely think these cheesecakes are going to be cheaper than feeding 6 teenage boys at a steakhouse. And I think they will even be cheaper than buying enough groceries to feed them all here. And that is what I told The Don when I informed him of my decision. I just hemmed and hawed and smiled and batted my eyelashes and said "Let's just say it was a BIG splurge. A REALLY big splurge." And he said "How big?" And I told him and he said "Oh that's ok. I thought you were going to say like Five Hundred Dollars."


Fast Forward to this morning.

I had to pick The Princess up from a slumber party and then we were going straight to the mall where she had a hair appointment. I was worried I would miss the Fed Ex man delivering the cheesecakes. So I woke The Smart One and told him to be listening for the doorbell so we wouldn't miss out on our cheesecakes.

And Lo and Behold as we walk out of the mall, there is the Fed Ex man pulling up. This driver delivers to my office and his kids go to school with our kids, so I said "Hey Bart, do you have a package for me?" And he said "Yeah, but I can give it to you now, because I have no other deliveries in your neighborhood." So he found my cheesecakes and let me sign for them right there in the mall parking lot. Well, after teasing me for ordering not just one but TWO .....

Ya gotta love the Fed Ex Man.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The Smart One and I have been in ongoing negotiations for the past year or so regarding redecorating his room. He has his ideas. I have mine. It's not so much that we can't agree on decor, however, as we can't agree on a timeline. He wants me to redecorate his room without having to put him out. Literally and figuratively. Every time he comes up with a plan, he changes his mind when he realizes he might be displaced to the guest room for a few days.
I was going to tackle the project while he was away for wrestling camp, but I had a pulled muscle in my shoulder and was not up to the job.

Now we are on the subject again. Mainly because he has found a Euro Futon at Target that he really wants. It is black. His room is blue an orange. So I think it is the perfect time to do a quick makeover and incorporate black into his room. He wants black and red. I suggested black and tan with touches of red. He literally curled into a ball laughing at that idea. "TAAAANNNN?! Oh, my gosh!"

So now he is throwing out the idea of blue and red. I could go for that, even though the black Euro Futon will not match well. I have long since given up on having my kids' rooms be the magazine pictures I had planned. Their rooms are their spaces. Their personalities. Their expressions. The kids change their sheets, keep their laundry sorted and, for the most part, keep their messes contained in their own spaces. Most importantly, much tension (and I mean MUCH tension) has been released from our home since I quit hounding them about keeping their rooms in magazine picture condition.

So last night, The Smart One was showing me how he had cleaned his room and repositioned the posters on his wall. He also wanted to show me how he intened to make the futon work in his room. I am skeptical but, like I said, it's his room. Anyway, we got into the discussion again about redecorating and I was laying out my plan for him. Again, he was not happy with the idea of being displaced. He just doesn't think the end result will be worth the hassle. And then he said it.

"Just wait until I leave home to do anything. I'll be gone in a few years anyway."

And that is when I stooped to the floor to gather up the pieces of my heart.

Friday, July 20, 2007


So I needed a few things from the store today. I was going to go to Target because it is less chaotic than Wal-Mart; but Target does not carry bananas, so I just got everything at Wal-Mart.

My husband has not been in Wal-Mart since December. He has had it. He reached his limit and boycotted it. I would love to join him but it is a one-stop shop so I still go there. And leave in a bad mood most of the time.

First, I was in the shampoo aisle, along with 30 other people including a mother and her 3 kids.

One of the kids was saying "Mommy, is this it? Is this the one you want? Mom? Mommy? Mommy, is this what you want? Mooommmmmeeee? MOM? Is this the one youe need....?"

In my mind I was screaming "For the love of Pete, answer the child!!!!" But I didn't.

Because I remember. I remember those days, when you are so tired of the little voices that seem to speak to you from the time they wake up to the time they collapse at night. I remember realizing one of my kids had been trying to get my attention. It's like coming out of anesthesia. You hear a voice real faint and distant but you can't seem to tune into it because you are concentrating on reading a label or driving or going to the bathroom. Then the voice seems to gradually get louder and closer until finally you realize someone is speaking to you. So you calmly say "Yes, sweetie. That's the one." When what you really want to say is "Please, Please, Please can you be quiet for a couple minutes while I decide what I need here?" And you mentally make plans to leave them with their father the next time you come to Wal-Mart.

Anyway. After getting everything on my list plus 23 more items, I found an empty checkout. I actually looked around to see if it might be a trick. But it wasn't, so I unloaded my cart so that the very sour looking lady could ring me up without speaking to me or smiling at me. Things were moving along quite well despite the silent treatment when she held up my honey dew melon and said "This is a honey dew, right?" And I said, "Yes, it is" So she checked her price list and said "These ain't cheap." And stopped and gave me a look. I mean a nasty look. Like I was the most irresponsible person on earth to waste $3.68 on a fresh melon. My thought bubble was reading "What the....?" I mean, it wasn't cigarettes, or a video game, or a naughty movie, or liquor (although I thought I'd need some by the end of my shopping trip.) I wonder if she scolds people who buy tobacco products for spending their money foolishly AND endangering their own health. It's fresh fruit, for Pete's sake!!!

Funny she didn't scold me for the big bag of m&m's I bought.
For the children, of course.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


On Tuesday afternoon, The Don told me he was thinking of taking the next day off and driving The Smart One to Chicago to catch a Cubs game. Rather, he was going to let The Smart One do most of the driving since he still needs a few hours before he (sob, gasp) goes to get his license in ten days.

The Don asked if I wanted to go and I said "Uh, no." Because I do not like to sweat. I especially do not like to sweat in the bleachers of a major league baseball game which could go on for HOURS. Then he offered to drop The Princess and me off downtown to do some shopping. Again, I said " Uh, no thanks" because I am trying to curb my shopping habit and I think The Princess would be just as happy staying home with her friends. Turns out that second part wasn't so true, but The Princess manged to fill her day with a THIRD viewing of the Harry Potter movie and general hanging out, pizza eating, and sleep-over behavior at our house.

Anyway. Tuesday evening, The Don told The Smart One of his plan and he was thrilled. See, they had no tickets. The plan was to go up and take their chances with the tickets. I think that adventure in itself was as appealing as seeing the game. I could tell The Smart One was thrilled with this adventure with his dad because, when The Don told him about it he said, "You're kidding? Cool." That constitutes elation from a 16-year-old boy.

It made me think of another Chicago surprise we pulled off when the kids were 6 and 3. We had tickets for a Bulls game and did not tell the kids until we had the suitcases at the door and were ready to leave. I have a picture of The Smart One being handed the tickets by his father. He looked at the tickets and looked up at us with the most beautiful wide-eyed, open mouthed expression a parent could hope for. I would post the picture but it's in a frame on our basement wall, and I do not want to go down and take it out of the frame. Besides there are three 13-yeard old girls asleep down there and I do NOT want to wake them. No, I do not want to wake them AT ALL. Near that picture is the picture of The Smart One throwing his arms around his daddy's waist and squeezing him in thanks for this glorious surprise. That constituted elation ten years ago.

So we got to go watch Michael Jordan peform his magic that night. Some generous banker friend of The Don's had given us these tickets in club seating, so we were pampered all evening and had delicious food, and even I sat in amazement watching the game. And of course, watching my children in their excitement.

The evening, however was a little bit of a let down for The Princess. At that time, she was quite enamored with Scotty Pippen. Scotty had an injury that week and would not be playing. When she realized what we would be doing she said "I'll see Scotty?" And we said "Scotty might be there but he won't be playing because he is hurt." So she said "Then I'm not going."

Now, she is The Princess and all but she was only 3 and we were bigger than her, so we grabbed her little suitcase and plopped her in her carseat and made her suffer through watching the greatest basketball player of all time.

Turns out, she wasn't so disappointed after all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

IT WAS JULY 16, 1991...

And the day was circled in red on my calendar. Because that is the day my first child was due.

Sixteen years ago today, I awoke with anticipation and hope. Early that morning, my doctor's office called. The nurse asked if I could come in for the doctor to check me over real quick, even though I did not have an appointment until later that week. I asked if there was a problem, and she said "No, he just knows this is your due date and he wants to see how you're doing." I would learn a couple years later that most doctors did not have that personal touch.

Anyway, at 40 weeks pregnant and VERRRRRY uncomfortable, I would look in the mirror and wonder how in the world my husband could be in love with Shamu. I would try to make sense of my doctor's conflicting advice: "keep your feet up" and "take plenty of walks." I would spend all of my time wondering if this child was a boy or a girl. I would tell myself that being up all night with a baby wouldn't be so bad. I was awake all night anyway, so I might as well be taking care of a child. And I would rub my stomach and plead with said child "Please, in the name of God and all that is Holy....come today!!"

It would be 12 more days before The Smart One arrived. In those days of waiting, I'm sure I thought I knew what I was in for. It has been beyond my wildest dreams.

But I suppose that is a post for 12 days from now....

Thursday, July 12, 2007


As much as I miss the sweet days when my children were very young, there are many things that are quite nice about having teenagers.

1. They can make their own breakfast - or lunch or supper - if necessary.
2. I never have to enter a bathroom with them again - except to inspect it and remind them to clean it.
3. We no longer have to hire a babysitter. In fact, our daughter IS a babysitter.
4. We go out on dates a lot more (see number 3)
5. Shopping for school supplies is SOOO much easier.
6. We can actually reason with them. Well, sometimes.
7. We do not have to sit through any more silly kid movies. In fact, both of our children have "respectfully" asked that we not be in the theater at the same time as them.
8. I can leave them at home when I go grocery shopping, but make them come out to the van and carry in the heavy stuff when I get home.
The list goes on.

But one of the greatest things about seeing our children grow is getting a glimpse into their character - a preview of the mark they will leave on the world.

I had such a glimpse this evening.

The Princess had a softball tournament game. Our team had not done so well this season. We had only won 3 games before the tournament. We lost our first tournament game, but won tonight, our second. We happened to be playing a team who had won exactly ZERO games, but still....

So after the game we were at Dairy Queen where The Princess was having her favorite DQ meal - a barbecue sandwich and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard. We were there with 3 of her royal teammates. After we had been there a while, we saw several members of the opposing team walk in. When they were all settled at a table, The Princess said to her fellow royals "Hey let's go over and tell them they played a good game." So off they went to chat with their opponents. The Princess told me later about their conversation and that basically each team complimented the other and there was laughter and an all around friendly attitude.

It was just a little thing. Just a brief moment. Just a glimpse.

But in it I, her mother, saw something grand.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I am just starting to read a book I bought years ago - Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World. Perhaps it is too late for me, but I found it as I was cleaning out my closet and decided to at least browse through it.
Upon flipping the pages, I found The Three R's of Logical Consequences. These state that consequences should be:

1. Related to the behavior.
2. Respectful to both child and adult.
3. Reasonable to both child and adult.

This is the sentence that got me thinking: "And, although many adults think spanking is reasonable, you won't find many children who agree."

I can see that. But that is not saying much, seeing as how preschoolers (who, I think receive the majority of spankings) think MANY things are "unreasonable".

For instance, I've seen little ones (mine included) have complete breakdowns over where the ketchup was placed on their plate. Or over the fact that you peeled their apple, when they asked for it to be peeled, but decided that they'd like the peel left intact after all when it was too late. Or over the fact that they simply cannot wear their batman pajamas to the mall AGAIN because they simply must be washed before they decide to wear them to McDonald's. Or over the fact that Mommy insists that Barbie can be naked at home but she must wear clothes to church.

Whether or not you agree with spanking, I do not think we should use a child's idea of "Reasonable" as our guide.

I confess. I spanked my children. There I said it. We did not spank every time we needed to discipline, but we did swat our kids' bottoms every now and then. We did, however, try to use Dr. Dobson's criteria for spanking. I hope I remember these correctly, but I think he said spanking was appropriate:

1. In matters of safety, where you must get a point across quickly, such as a child running into the street or reaching for the burner on the stove.
2. In matters of blatant defiance; when you know the child understood your directions, but chose to disobey anyway.
3. When a child purposely hurts another child. This is when the child has reached the age to know better.
Dobson also says that spanking is unnecessary beyond the age of 8 and that then it only serves to embarrass, because most children that age are capable of understanding other forms of discipline.

I would never encourage somebody to spank their children if it is not what they believe. I would, however, encourage parents to discipline their children SOMEHOW. Somebody told me something about child rearing when I was expecting our first child. She said "We always tried to raise our children in such a way that other people would enjoy them as much as we do."
It was good to keep that in mind - good to be reminded that these children have to go out into the world and interact with others.

Anyway, in the past couple of years, when I come across a spanking debate I will ask my children what they think of spanking. More importantly I will ask them "Do you feel betrayed, or abused, or humiliated, knowing that you were spanked? When you remember being spanked do you feel angry at us?"

And they both scowl at me, as though I've grown a second head, and say "Tuh, NOOOOOOO!"

And I breathe a sigh of relief.