I’ve been accused of many things in my life. Like not knowing (what I consider) my ”asset” from a hole in the ground. Or being a pain in the asset. Or having my head stuck up in that same asset. But one thing I have never been accused of having is a small asset.
I come from a long line of “healthy” women and men. Not particularly large – just . . . healthy. We enjoy growing food, cooking food and eating food. There are a few select deviants, but generally speaking, the members in my family are of a sturdy pioneer stock, ready to march across a mountain if a good meal is involved.
I didn’t see this coming
As luck would have it, one of the deviants happens to be a direct descendant of mine, my 10-year old son, Sam. He started out as one of us – he was a healthy 7 ½ pounds at birth and, at six-months he tipped the scales at 25 lbs. But by his 2nd birthday, I could see that he was unusual, that he wasn’t progressing in the “normal way.” I, like many parents who sense a peculiarity in their child’s behaviors, was afraid to admit my baby was different.
For example, Sam had an odd habit of putting his fork down when he was full. I have witnessed this behavior in others, but never in one so close to me. No matter how much I tempted him with extra helpings, he seemed content with a reasonable portion. More times than not, Sam was persona non grata in the “clean plate club.”
Another red flag – Sam ate his meat and vegetables first. Often times, the breads and the potatoes were left on the plate with Sam’s complaints that he was “too full to finish.” Not only were they left on the plate, but there were actually times when Sam asked for a second helping of meat before he finished his au grats or garlic bread.
In addition, Sam has a lot of energy. He can jump high, run fast and is one of those kids who can vault himself into a convertible with little or no effort. Lately, he has taken to working out and is convinced that I need to do the same. He came into my room last night as I was engrossed in The Biggest Loser and asked if he could speak to me about something serious.
“Of course, honey,” I said. I set my bowl of ice cream down, put the TV on mute and sat up. I do feel it’s important to give the impression that you are listening to your child.
“I thought it would be good if you started an exercise program.” Sam coughed nervously and produced a clip board from behind his back. “I wrote down some things like sit ups and leg lifts that you can do and I can help you.”
Sam, with his little washboard tummy, looked so cute standing there that I just wanted to eat him up. “That is so sweet, Sam. I would love to work out with you.” I glanced at my program on the tube – they were nearing the weigh-in. “Can we start in the morning?”
“Sure, how about 8:00?”
“I’ll be ready, I promise,” I replied as I turned the volume back up. “Now be a good boy and go get mommy a soda to wash down her ice cream?”
As he was leaving, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to have such a thoughtful child. I felt differently though when at 8:00 the next morning, as I was reading the paper and enjoying a carmel latte and double-chocolate biscotti, he showed up with that ridiculous clip board.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Are you serious?” I replied.
“You said you would. I have a whole program for you, 1000 sit-ups, 500 push-ups and some basic cardio.” He looked pretty determined. “You promised.”
“But, I didn’t pinky promise,” I countered. This was a sure fire way to get out of the standard promise contract.
Sam looked so disappointed that a tinge of guilt set in and I began to reevaluate my pinky promise response. Would it really kill me to do 1000 sit-ups? After all, he was making the effort, the least I could do was try, right? I knew Dr. Phil would think it was the right thing to do.
No pain, no gain
So, I did and we made it thru 82 sit-ups and 19 girl push-ups – not so bad for the first day. He made me sign-off on the workout and we agreed (not promised) to implement a workout program in the near future. My schedule has been such that I have not had the opportunity to start the plan, but I can honestly say that it is on my list of things to do.
The whole Sam thing, with the eating and the exercise, did come to a head and I know there comes a time when a parent is forced to face facts and confront the situation. Inevitably, this leads to discussions between husband and wife and inevitably, secrets come out.
It was during one of these sessions that Craig, my husband, admitted to me that he too had been a thin child with a lot of energy. Nothing could have surprised me more. I had always assumed he was like me and my family as I have seen him eat a large deep-dish pizza in a matter of minutes and then work his way through a super-sized tin-roof sundae with never so much as a stomach ache or chronic diarrhea.
The good news is that we have worked through our issues. We have accepted Sam for who he is and I have forgiven my husband for his deception and all in all, we are on the path to recovery. We just need to remember to stop along the way to enjoy a little chocolate now and then.
Because we are all of the same gender, there are common excuses that are acceptable under any circumstances. Having to leave early because of a nail appointment or spa treatment is perfectly acceptable. Sick children, visiting in-laws, cramps or a great sale at Macy’s will also never get you fired.
Our work days usually revolve around food and typical staff meetings start with lattes, baked goods and gossip. Everyone looks forward to lunch where it’s not uncommon for one of the ladies to experiment with a new dish, preferably low-cal and 15 minutes from oven to table.
We have an unusual agenda for meeting, but it serves us well. First items on our to-do list are the complaints. Husbands, then children, then how poorly we’re treated by our husbands and children. Apparently they don’t appreciate the fact that we have given up . . . things for them. But the point is that we girls have each other’s backs. With the exception of Leigha, our newest and youngest member who is still in the “honeymoon” phase of her relationship, we all rise and fall with our comrades regarding their marital woes and home life.
“Dave was a jerk last night,” Mary mentioned at our last meeting.
“Oh, my God, again?” Dawn commented while pouring her third cup of java. “What is with him?” She took a tentative sip from her cup. “By the way, love your earrings.”
“Thanks,” Mary smiled as she tossed her head back. “It’s probably just manopause,” she added, basking in the love and glory we showered upon her. Real friends don’t need to question why. If Mary says Dave was a jerk, then Dave was a jerk and support is garnered. We all commented on Dave’s jerkiness and offered hope that he could turn himself around before he pushed Mary too far.
“Kids caught a flu bug yesterday,” Kristyn said as she set up her laptop. “Both of them sick as a dog last night.”
“That stinks,” Janet offered as she reached for a doughnut.
“Take two,” I whispered, “They’re small. And you look so thin.”
Janet thanked me with her eyes. “Vomit?” she asked Kristyn.
“All over the bathroom floor.” Again, as a group we all sympathized with her particular plight and wished we had a nickel for every time a kid (or in my case, a husband) couldn’t quite make it to the toilet.
“My John is so sweet,” Leigha announced unexpectedly. “Last night he brought me dessert. In bed.”
Everyone stopped talking. Eye rolling is only intended for those who are not present so we all nodded pleasantly and mumbled “that’s nice” while looking away. No one wanted to be the bearer of bad news so we let poor Leigha live in her little fantasy world. It would end soon enough as we all knew – no need to crush her dreams just yet.
“Okay, gals,” I tapped the table with my nail file. “Time to get to work. There’ll be plenty of time to get Rachel’s recipe for goat cheese dip and to discuss the PTA and the crazy new president they just voted in.” I heard the click of the keyboard as the women started making notes. “Kristyn, can you review our strategic business plan for this month and then let’s discuss how to hold on to that 15% increase we saw in revenues last quarter.”
Dawn raised her hand. “Quick question.”
“Shoot,” I said.
“Does anyone know how to remove urine stains from a car seat? Shiloh had an accident on the way to the vet yesterday.”
So our meeting was delayed a few more minutes by a discussion about dog urine and whether or not bleach is the answer. But there comes a time when we know we have to get back to business. It’s tough though, the lines have blurred between family and work, and friends and employees, especially when you work out of your home. But being able to multi-task is essential – if you can brush your teeth while typing an email, you’re good. Throw in waiting on the phone to speak to a teacher and you’re executive material.
What makes it all worth it though, are the relationships we have and we build. I continue to be impressed by the women (and man) that I work with – their integrity, talent and heart continually inspire me.
Life is good.
The following is a true story. And the kind of incident that occurs frequently enough so as to prompt my sister, Becky, to say, “Why do those kinds of things always happen to you?” I’m not sure, but as a writer, I’ve been blessed with a fate that has been sprinkled with unusual and tempered with bizarre. I’m also lucky to be alive (as I’ve been told).
So I’m on my way to visit my mother and Pete in northern Michigan, my boys buckled in the minivan and deeply engrossed in a highly educational DVD. I was bored. We were in no-man’s land – my cell couldn’t get any reception, the boys weren’t fighting and even the satellite radio keep going in and out.
I became obsessed with mastering the cruise control. Keep in mind that in the ten years we have owned a Honda, I had never used this feature, located right in front of me on the steering wheel. But as you may have guessed, I am also blessed with the ability to multi-task. So, not only was I driving a 3000 lb vehicle at 70 mph with my young children and a dog in the back, I was also trying to figure out the mystery of the confusing cruise control.
It was NOT my fault, I repeat, NOT my fault
Here is my disclaimer: Even if I had seen the bale of straw sitting in the middle of the road at the crest of a small hill, it would have been too late to do anything. I hit the bale bomb with a resounding “thud”, and though it’s half the size of a bale of hay, it still packed quite a punch. The car shuddered, the boys threw off their head sets and began screaming, the dog started barking and thick smoke obscured all the windows except the windshield.
So you completely understand the decision I made, I will outline the facts.
1. I was in shock! This is important to keep in mind.
2. We were in the middle of nowhere.
3. My phone didn’t work.
I couldn’t figure out the smoke thing. My car was still running and I didn’t detect any funny sounds, but the heavy dark smoke had enveloped us. I could hear other cars honking (as if I were unaware!), but I was afraid if I pulled over, I would be stuck. I thought I should try to make the Big Rapids exit, two miles up the road.
Suddenly, as I neared the exit, the smoke instantly disappeared. I looked out my rear view mirror and saw a small fireball rolling back down the highway. It came to rest at the side of the road where it promptly burst into a large fireball.
This is where I had my ah hah moment. I had been dragging the bale of straw under my car and the friction had caused it to ignite (the smoke!) and when it burned down enough, I had shaken it loose. I was instantly relieved that we weren’t dead, but I was still visibly upset and I needed to see what kind of damage I had inflicted on my beloved minivan. I pulled off at the intended exit and headed for the only gas station, a mile down the road.
Rule of thumb – Know your Audience
I got out to inspect my beat-up car and immediately started recounting my situation to the large tattooed fellow on the Harley Davidson, getting gas next to me. Remember, I was still in shock. As I was explaining my story, I noticed a smell, a funny smell, one that I recognized from back in the day – the guy reeked of marijuana!
It was just my luck that the biker dude was stoned to the beejezus! The whole area was filled with the stench of pot but I had already engaged him and I didn’t want to appear rude or insult the dope-fiend, so I finished my story.
“Well, that explains it,” he drawled.
“What?” I asked.
“Why you smell like Cheech and Chong.” He nodded towards the van where my two boys’ faces were pressed against the window.
“Me? What do you mean?” I turned around and smoke was still pouring out from every crevice of my van. Smoldering pieces of straw stuck out from the door jams, the windows and even the gas cap. It then came to my attention that the smell of burning straw smells suspiciously like you-know-what. He wasn’t the pot-head - I was!
“I’m a responsible mother! I only did that once,” I gulped, “back in college.”
“I bet you didn’t inhale, either,” he chuckled.
Just then, a small group of fire trucks and police vehicles, their sirens blaring, passed the station, racing out towards the highway.
“Looks like you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy.” The biker/comedian pulled his helmet on. “Good luck,” he said sincerely as he roared off.
The Walk of Shame
I slowly walked in to the gas station and announced to the two gals listening to the police radio that I thought I might be the one who started the brush fire out by the highway. They looked at each other as if they had never started a fire and handed me the phone.
Later, as the police were taking my report, the officer mentioned, more than once, just how lucky we were to be alive.
“You know,” he said as he took my registration, “those gas tanks are made outta plastic. If you’da pulled over with the bale still stuck, the car probably woulda exploded. You’re lucky you hit it straight on,” he added, “most folks would have jerked the steering wheel one way or another, coulda hit a car or veered off the road.”
So, it was a good thing that I didn’t do as common sense would have dictated. By not seeing the straw bale in time and not pulling over immediately, I may have inadvertently done something right. . . by following some crazy, shock induced logic; I may have saved my family from, well, something not good.
“I could have been planning three funerals right now,” my mother commented when we arrived safely in Frankfort. “Four, if you count the dog . . . and this is a busy weekend.”
I do hate to put people out.
Little Max and Sam are a bit of a challenge. Now, I know boys will be boys, but our sweet angels have been known to push the envelope and our biggest challenge is to figure out which household items can be easily converted to weapons.
I’m not talking obvious – sure knives and scissors are considered dangerous by some. But it’s the every-day candle or can of soup that can throw a parent off. Did you realize that a dismantled Lego, when thrown with the right velocity and at the perfect angle, can take out a tooth? Who knew?
Who’s the Boss?
But Craig and I are responsible parents and after a long debate with Max, and to his bitter disappointment, we have decided firearms are off-limits, though the jury’s still out on explosives. I’m not saying that giving a shot-gun to an angry nine year-old with a vendetta is a bad choice, it’s just our choice.
Besides, who needs weapons when good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat can be just as effective? And the bonus is it can be done anywhere. My little guys love to fight at parties, at weddings, on the bus (a favorite), at concerts and movies – really, in just about any public venue you can think of (I think it’s the excitement of having a captive audience). Why, just the other day I broke up an all-out brawl in the meat department at Costco. And I only became involved when the manager had the nerve to ask us to leave.
The best thing about the physical abusive Max and Sam inflict on each other is the colorful language that accompanies the beatings. For an eight and nine year-old, I’ll admit that they have a fairly sophisticated vocabulary.
Though it’s kind of funny, and I don’t know how they got it mixed up, but both my boys are under the impression that the phrase is “damn-god” not the other way around (as in “I’m going to knock his damn-god head off”). How cute is that?
Now Max is my strategic planner. Even when he was two, he knew exactly when to push his just-walking one year-old brother down the steps. He picked on Sam brutally until we showed Sam how effective biting can be. That seemed to even the playing board a bit.
It’s hard to squelch Sam’s fierce determination to retaliate after an unfair business practice by his brother. I’m totally astonished at how long he can sit-in-wait for the perfect opportunity to kick Max in the groin. I have seen him hold out for days before he finds just the right moment. You have to admit it’s a virtue, that kind of patience.
Weapons training for children – are they ever too young?
Sam is considered by some, an expert in managing the staff, or spear as we sometimes refer to it. Our “Sweetie-peetie-pumpkin-pie-Sammer” (my pet name!) is becoming so adept at handling this unique weapon, I’m thinking he could be a contender for the javelin in the 2016 Olympics. Last week I found him working diligently to remove the handle base from my house broom.
“There!” he cried as he stood and began twirling. That five-foot broom handle was turning so fast it was making my head spin.
“Light the ends on fire,” he shouted.
“That seems awfully dangerous,” I yelled back through the wind tunnel. “Can’t we just tape some knives on the end?”
“I want the fire!” he screamed, tossing the stick high into the air. It landed on the roof, between the rake and Craig’s new putter.
We try not to get involved as we have been advised by the “kid whisperer” that it’s best if children learn to negotiate and solve their own problems without the aid of an adult. This strategy does tend to throw people off as it can appear that the parent is ignoring the children’s bickering. This was definitely the case last summer when my good friend, Stacie, came to visit and we took the boys to the beach.
All was going well until Max looked at Sam and smiled. Apparently it was the “ha ha” smile and Sam wasn’t having any. I paid no attention to the threats of drowning or even the slaps that turned to punches. I turned a blind eye to the handfuls of sand that blew our way and only when a rock almost hit Stacie, did I step in and advise her to move her chair.
Of course, I explained our strategy and the theory behind it.
“How’s that working out for you?” she asked, in somewhat of a snotty tone (I thought). But she doesn’t have children so she hasn’t a clue as to what she’s talking about.
Good help is hard to find
It has been difficult to hold on to sitters. There has been more than one teenager that has gone home in tears and never returned. We’re lucky that our current adult sitter, Maria, is an admitted masochist and enjoys the “suffering” the boys impose on her. Though, she was a teensy upset when they locked her in the basement for an hour when they were just three and four. Of course, now it’s a favorite story and almost always gets a laugh at social gatherings. And, Maria’s eye tick has finally disappeared so it’s a win- win for everyone.
I know what you’re thinking and believe me, I feel the same way. . . it’s pretty obvious that the boys get their temperament from my husband and his side of the family. He has admitted as much to me in our family therapy sessions. Craig grew up the oldest of three boys, all two years apart, and there was more than one wall in their house that took an undeserved punch.
But those were the days when children didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in front of the adults that could spank them. We don’t believe in corporal punishment (before nine in the morning), so we are forced to be much more creative. Bribing and begging almost always seem to do the trick.