Speaking of Wood…

Speaking of wood, Kid D is about due for The Talk.  Yes, I mean THE Talk.  He is in the third grade.  Too young, you say?  Seriously, have you ridden on a public school bus?  Have you watched a rerun of Friends on television?  Have you heard of a little thing called the internet?

S-E-X is everywhere.  And it has basically been motor boating my son since he was born.  He just wasn’t aware that boobs could be used as anything but food or a soft pillow until now.  And he has questions… I can see them trying to escape from his little boy mouth.  Mostly I see them now when I am showering and he lingers for a fraction of a second too long in my bathroom.  Then he leaves quickly, muttering, “…nevermind…”  because his little boy brain doesn’t yet know the words he wants to use for the things he wants to ask.  And his body will be changing soon and his friends will be saying things.  And I don’t want him to feel like he is an alien growing a fifth limb.

"Erections sometimes don't know when they're not wanted." - from "What's Happening to Me, " written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

“Erections sometimes don’t know when they’re not wanted.” – from “What’s Happening to Me, ” written by Peter Mayle and illustrated by Arthur Robins

I have several options about how I can handle this.  I can leave some brochures and books on his nightstand for him to peruse at his leisure.  But that seems so isolating and scary, and likely the pages would get stuck together before long.  I could ignore the issue and let him find out on his own, in a more organic way.  But what if he gets the wrong information or has questions or it freaks him out?  At that point, he likely won’t feel comfortable enough to come to me with questions because I never approached him with the facts in the first place.  Then sex becomes a dirty little secret in our house.  And those are NOT feelings that I want my kids to associate with sex, ever (well, the dirty part can be acceptable, but that’s a much more advanced lesson for later).

I learned about sex in a combination of all of the ways listed above.  I regularly organized my mom’s walk-in-closet (honestly, she had a ton of clothes that always ended up on the floor, and it gave me tremendous peace to fold them or hang them back up), and she conveniently left a copy of “What’s Happening to Me?” on a shelf for me to “find” when I was about eleven or twelve.  Little did she know that my cousin, now a lesbian for what that’s worth, had told me all about the nitty gritty when I was at her house for a sleepover.  I was nine.  Any other facts about body development or intercourse or STDs trickled in over the years via sex education classes, Seventeen magazine quizzes, and my friend McWorm, who explained to me in the 7th grade that Dexy’s Midnight Runners most definitely did not want Eileen to hurry up.

Taking what I learned from my own experiences, I went into my own parenting wasteland wishing to make a complete 180 when it came to talking to and teaching my kids about sex.  I’m not judging my parents for not talking to me.  I know firsthand how hard it is to have The Talk, for both the parents AND the kids.  And honestly, my parents didn’t get The Talk from their parents either.  So the dirty little secret is all they knew.  But I was adamant that I would try to make it, if not easy, than at least a smidge easier for my kids to talk to me about all things related to sex.  I would start being open when they were very young and we could build trust from there.  I thought it was a good plan.

When the girls were little, I drove a minivan.  A silver Mazda MPV, pre-sliding doors, but it was still super convenient for the car seat-toting set.  It was also the place where we had some of our best sex talks when they were young.  I was laying the groundwork.  For example:

One morning on the way to carpool, Kid A, who was in 1st grade at the time, asked what I’d be doing while she and her sisters were in school all day.  I took a deep breath and said that I had a doctor’s appointment.

“A well visit, Mommy?  Do you have to get a shot?” asked a very curious Kid B, who was in preschool.  She was used to her own pediatrician.

“Um, no, actually.  I am going to a mommy doctor called an OB/GYN.”  I steadied my nerves and looked straight ahead at the road (talks in the car were most awesome because there was never any eye contact involved).  “The OB stands for ‘obstetrician,’ and that’s a doctor who delivers babies.  I am not pregnant, so I’m not going for that.”

“Whew,” said a smartass Kid A, “‘Cause you’re usually pregnant a lot.”

“No, I am not pregnant right now.  So I am going for the GYN part – the ‘gynecologist…’ ”  I took a very deep breath.  “…and that is a doctor who takes care of your vagina.”

If the girls had brake pedals, we would have skidded out right there in the middle of the road.

“Whaaaaaaaaaat?” squealed both of the older kids.  Kid C toddler-giggled at their reaction.

“There is a doctor just for your your cha-china?”  More giggles from the backseat.

“Yes, ” I answered, determined to be calm and cool and all NBD about sex.  “He will check my weight and my blood pressure and ask me medical questions and do a check to make sure my vagina is all healthy and good. ”

“Well, that’s just like a well visit, Mommy, ” Kid A pointed out.

I was so proud for being straightforward and honest and open about sex with my daughters.  They understood.  I was making progress.  Change is good!  And then Kid B broke me.

“But what about if you make a stinker out of your vagina when the doctor is checking you.  What happens then, Mommy?  If you make a stinker?  Out of your vagina?”

I slammed on the brakes at that point, both figuratively on the conversation and literally on the minivan.  Fortunately, we had just pulled in to the school drop off.  “Have a good day, girls!”  I fake-smiled and waved and completely ignored the final, utterly unnerving question about S-E-X.  I was actually shaking in my seat.  Where was that kid from?

Kids are evil.  They are ornery.  Kids are put on this earth to pulverize their parents’ best intentions into dust particles and then throw them into our faces.  Groundwork, shmoundwork.

Now that I think about it, I’ll wait just a little while longer before I give Kid D The Talk.  He can learn about S-E-X like everybody else, the old-fashioned way… from a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

This Is My Brain On Drugs

This morning Kid E crawled into bed with me around 6 a.m.  This is much improved over his previous habit of crawling in at 1 a.m. or 3 a.m., so I am certainly not complaining.  He also gets a pass because he is a really good cuddler.  Plus, he says some really funny stuff during our pre-dawn chats.

One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that he wakes up with his brain already going 100 miles per hour.  He usually produces a veritable stream of mouth diarrhea during this waking period, with little filter and less sense.

This week at school is Red Ribbon Week.  Red Ribbon Week is part of a campaign promoted each year to educate children about the dangers of using illegal drugs.  The National Family Partnership, formerly the National Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth, started the campaign in the 1980’s as a way to bring the War on Drugs directly to the schools, believing that children of parents who talk to them about drugs are less likely to use them.  The PSA’a “I Learned It By Watching You!” and “This is Your Brain on Drugs (sizzle)” are both right up the NFP’s alley.

On the elementary school level, this translates to an activity each day, to educate the kids and remind them to always say no to drugs.  They sign a pledge, wear crazy hats and pajamas, and go to school dressed as what they want to be when they grow up.

Now take just a second to follow me on this thought process.  Kid E just turned six.  He is in kindergarten.  Luckily, he doesn’t really know anything about drugs yet.  The only thing he knows is that we go to the “drug” store to get medicine for him when he has a sore throat or when mommy doesn’t want to make any more babies with daddy.

I guess that the teachers in charge of Red Ribbon Week have figured this out already and are trying to get one step ahead of the confusion, because Kid E was very busy explaining all of the drug things to me early this morning.

“It is okay to take medicine that the doctor tells you to take, ” he said.

“Mkay,” I mumbled with my head still under the pillow.

“Even though medicine is drugs,” he proudly announced.

“But you shouldn’t do the bad kind, ” he continued, “of drugs.  Bad, bad drugs.  Those drugs are bad news.  But medicine is okay.  Unless you are allergic.  But I’m not allergic to any kinds of medicine, am I mom?  Allergic to medicine – the good stuff – am I allergic mom?”

“Un-uh,” I mumbled.  Then I decided I should make it crystal clear, “No, you are not allergic to any medicines.”

“Good, mom.  That’s good.  I didn’t think so.  I didn’t think I was allergic to any medicines.  So I signed my name.”

“Um, what?” I asked, confused.  “You signed your name to what?”

“The board.  I wrote my name up on the board.”

“For why?”

“I signed my name for free drugs.  On the board.  Because I’m not allergic.  To free drugs.”  Even in the pitch-black room, I could sense that he was smiling proudly.

I stifled a giggle as I corrected him, “I think that you probably signed the board as a pledge to stay drug-free, not to get free drugs.  That’s kind of an important distinction, buddy.”

“Oh, right.  That’s what I meant.  Drug-free, not free drugs, mom.  Oh, and today is pajama day, mom!  Today I get to wear my pajamas to school!”

“Awesome.  I sure hope the pajamas help you learn the difference.  Now, let’s go have breakfast.  I want eggs.”

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

No Tooth, No Money

Last Friday afternoon the boys bounded off the school bus, all limbs and backpacks and sweaty buzz cuts.  It was the start of a four-day weekend, and everybody was bursting with excitement.

“AbunchofmyfriendsaregoingtoplayfootballrightnowintheHall’syardCanIgotooCanIplayCanIgonow HuhCanImomCanImomplease?” Kid D asked before we even reached the house.

“We are going to movie night on the lawn at your aunt’s house right after dinner, but you can go play for a while.  Promise me you’ll call when you get there.  And be home by 5:45.”  I guarantee he didn’t hear anything after “go play,” but he is eight and I’m learning that’s just how eight-year-old boys work/ don’t work.

About and hour or so later, there was a knock-knock-knock at my side door.  In came Kid D, along with Football House Mom II (not to be confused with FHM I – If You Have to Poop, Go Home), and her son.  She led with, “Um, the boys had a little accident…”

I stayed very calm.  Kid D was being brave, but as soon as he saw me the dam broke and the tears started flowing.  FHM II explained that Kid D had collided with another friend and he had apparently lost a tooth as a result.  The blood was flowing generously from his mouth, so I really couldn’t see much of anything.  I asked if they knew where the missing tooth went.  Did it jam up into his gums?  Was it somewhere on the lawn?  Did he swallow it?

“We’re not sure.  It might very well be in the other kid’s head.”  Awesome.

FHM II and her son left to check on the status of the other kid.  I gave Kid D some salt water and told him to start swishing and spitting.  After he cleared away some of the bloody mess, I was able to determine that most if not all of the tooth was indeed gone from his mouth.  The rest should fall out on its own because, luckily, it was a baby tooth.  His permanent front tooth next to the new hole was a slight bit wiggly, but I wasn’t too worried.  And conveniently, we had dentist appointments scheduled for first thing Monday morning so I would have the experts confirm that he was fine in a few days.

I texted with the other kid’s mom and she confirmed that he was hard-headed and doing just fine.  He was worried that he might have a “discussion” from the bump on his head, but there was just a red mark.  No broken skin and no “discussion.”  Whew.

So I had Kid D swish and spit a little while longer so the blood would stop spewing forth.  Then I Motrinned him up and he felt much better.  We even brought FHM II’s kid with us to watch Hotel Transylvania outside at my sister’s house.  It was a beautiful night and the movie was funny and the kids (as well as the grown ups) had a good time.  It was late when we finally got home and put the boys to bed.

The next morning, Kid D was very disappointed.  Apparently, the tooth fairy had failed to make an appearance and he felt gypped.  And surprisingly, he found no solace in my explanation: “I believe the rule is – no tooth, no money.  Sorry, big guy.”

Kid D was having none of that nonsense, so he set out writing a letter to the tooth fairy.  And when I asked how the tooth fairy would know if he was telling the truth or not, he insisted that I sign off on his note as a witness.

Kid D tooth fairy letter

The very next night, the note went on his nightstand, front and center.

And he found this waiting for him in the morning:

Well, I believe that the tooth fairy needs to have more change on hand.

I guess it is “no tooth, no money,” unless you leave a polite, semi-notorized note.

Over the years, our tooth fairy seems to have taken a whole lot of liberties.  Is it just me, or does the tooth fairy seem like she/ he really makes up most stuff up as they go along?  And she/ he really should be better prepared  in the future by having change on hand.  I’m just saying.

P.S.  I also believe that my kids need some more work on spelling.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Crash and Burn Upon Reentry

I am officially back, both in the real world and here in This Is How I Do It-world.  Great trip.  Fun times.  Incredible experiences that gave me a little of the travel bug.  But for now there will be no more exciting travel-around-the-globe stories that are posted two weeks out because I didn’t have internet (gasp!) when they occurred.  I am back to real-time, this-crazy-shit-happened-yesterday posts.

It is very easy for me to leave behind my roles as  Mrs. Sheepdog/ Five Baby Mama any time I go on a trip like I just did.  Right up until the moment I walk out the door, I am making schedules and washing laundry and planning meals and rides and doctor’s appointments.  But the second I pull out of my driveway, I let go.  I figure that I have done my best at preparing for coverage in my absence, and at that point I no longer have control over what happens.  I just let it all go and really enjoy every second of being away.

It’s the reentry that is usually so much harder.

The other day Sheepdog and I were in the kitchen discussing the kids (ours) and the state of the union (also ours).

Sheepdog confessed, “I don’t like where we are right now.”

Ugh.  You’re killing me, husband.

Sheepdog and I are fine.  We really and truly are.  Even he admitted it later.  I promise that I’m not ignoring any problems or issues so that Sheepdog is going to turn to a sympathetic boob-job at his office for comfort.  It is simply that he is not getting enough of my time right now.  It’s also likely that I’m not giving him enough of my vagina right now (I am hormonal and tired, people; I’m not a sex machine), but mostly he just wants my undivided attention.

But these pesky kids are demanding my attention even more loudly.

How in the world did two weeks away lead to so much craziness?

I won’t bore you with the details, but every single one of our kids has something happening in their lives right this moment that requires my immediate attention.  Nobody is sick or in a major crisis or anything, but there are things happening that I need to deal with, or they could get out of control.  It’s pre-crisis management time.

And I’m doing my job as best I can.  But it is definitely stressing me out.  And making me a little snippy.

To make things worse, my home phone rings about six times a day.  Every single call begins with a pause… and then comes the “exciting news” about a painter/ home improvement/ security company that will be in my neighborhood and would like to tell me all about what they can do to make my life better.  I’ve started to ask them point-blank if they can cure teenage depression, or stop a 3rd grader from calling my kid a “fucker” during playground kickball, or cure cancer… easy stuff like that.  Usually they hang up on me.

One day last week I was wound way up in the throes of crazy.  It was after school and I was emailing a teacher, making dinner, supervising homework, and trying to get somebody dressed and ready for baseball.  We had to be out the door in less than ten minutes and I had at least thirty minutes left of shit to do.

Kid A came home from 121 Reach (high schoolers tutoring middle schoolers) to pick up Kid C because both of them have ballet at the same time.  Even though I told her to be ready by 5PM, she wasn’t.  I was standing half in the kitchen/ half in the garage yelling at her for being inconsiderate, holding a spoon covered in red sauce (I was making lasagna).  Kid A had gone back to her car in a teenage huff because she was definitely going to be late now.  Another sales call came through on the house phone.  The boys were running around the yard throwing a football, but nobody had their shoes on or put their gear in the car, like I asked them to do.  Kid B was moping around the house in the middle of it all.

Next thing I know, an inconspicuous white minivan pulls up to my driveway.  I don’t recognize the car or the driver.  I automatically presume that it is a cleaning service or a painter about to put rocks or tape on my newly painted mailbox and I scream at her from the garage, “DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN THAT MAILBOX!” in an admittedly scary, I-am-so-about-to-lose-it-on-you tone.

The woman looks at me quizzically.  Then she says innocently and apologetically, “I was just dropping off an invitation for my daughter’s birthday…”

Well, didn’t I feel like a complete and absolute jackass?

I dismissed the tardy Kid C to Kid A’s car, shook my head and took a very deep breath.  I apologized as best I could to the innocent bystander.  “I’m sure you’re going to totally want to have my kid come to your party now!”  She laughed nervously, said, “No worries” and waved goodbye.

Turns out, I agree with Sheepdog.  “I don’t like where we are right now.”

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Wish me luck for tomorrow…

On Deck

What a crazy/ busy/ exhausting first few weeks of school!  I was so worn out by 4PM on Friday of the first week that I sat down on the couch after the last kid wandered in off her school bus, and I promptly fell asleep for close to two hours.  Right in the middle of all of the kids and all of the chaos.  Granted that I had donated three full bags of platelets at Atlanta Blood Services that morning, but that just pushed me over the edge.  And even after my glorious nap, I went to bed by 9PM.  I think I need to get a little tougher if I’m going to make it through this school year intact.  There’s way too much stuff coming up and happening for us right now!

Kid E started kindergarten a few weeks ago.  He is settling in nicely, making new friends and learning all of the mundane rules that he will have to follow every school year from here on out.  He has already determined that recess and P.E. are “the only good parts of school,” so we have very high hopes for his educational prospects.  He also started playing baseball and, after a rough first day (it turns out he had croup, thus the meltdown at practice), he seems to have settled in nicely.

Kid C has been dancing en pointe for a few months now and is doing really well.  She has learned how to pad-up and tape all of her vast and varied foot and toe injuries, and she has grown accustomed to blood and blisters as a part of her everyday life.  She is looking forward to auditioning for a role in The Snow Queen in just a few weeks.

Kid B is adjusting to high school after a rough academic start.  Her class load is really tough one, so she has to work really hard to keep up.  It wasn’t like that for her in middle school, so she has had to figure some stuff out.  But she just sucked it up and did it, which is awesome.  She also just started soccer season and is tearing it up.  This weekend her team is playing in the Atlanta Cup Tournament and they had three shut-outs before losing a penalty kick-only semi-final 4 – 2.  They have gotten really aggressive on offense and Kid B continues to train hard, make great saves, and be an all-around badass.

On Friday, Kid D got to have the experience of a lifetime.  My brother-in-law is Somebody Important and he knows how much that boy loves baseball.  He set it up so Kid D went down onto Turner Field just before the Marlins v. Braves game and make the announcement over the P.A. and on the Jumbotron… “It’s time for Braves baseball… Let’s PLAY BALL!”  He did a fantastic job and he is still beaming about it.  He looks forward to Quick Pitch and Sports Center playing this clip over and over once he gets drafted by the Braves to actually play ball sometime around 2030 or so.

Kid A is enjoying her final year of high school very much… especially all of the perks that come with being a senior.  She is in the process of completing the common application for colleges, and soon she will fine tune other submissions for a few early admissions, and then even more for regular deadlines.  She is also still dancing ballet and is looking forward to The Snow Queen auditions.

Sheepdog just jumped out a plane for the first (but definitely not the last) time.  He went up with a group of friends on a beautiful Georgia summer day, and experienced the amazing rush of flying in free fall.  Be prepared to watch the video of his leap from 14,000 feet anytime you step foot into our living room, at least for the next few weeks or so.

Today, I am leaving, along with both of my parents, two of my sisters (the third is too pregnant to travel), Kid A (who took Sister D’s spot when she got herself knocked up), three aunts, two uncles, and a handful of family friends, for Barcelona, Spain.  From there, we get on board the Royal Princess for 12 days of travel around the Mediterranean Sea.  We have stops planned in France (Toulon/ Provence), Italy (Florence/ Pisa, Rome, and Naples), Greece (Mykonos), and Turkey (Istanbul and Kusadasi).  Then we travel back, pulling into port in Greece (Athens) and finally, Italy (Venice).

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If you look closely, you can see me on the Lido Deck, sunbathing with a drink in hand.

I have been pretty busy getting the family adjusted to the new school and sports schedules and we are just settling in to the routines.  Now, I’m going to go and screw everything up by leaving Sheepdog to run the show, single-parent style, all while taking the oldest kid (and third driver) away with me for a total of 15 days.  Oh yeah, and he still has that thing called a full-time J-O-B, too.  It’s a very good thing that Sheepdog’s parents are coming to Atlanta to help him out.

I have only been on one other cruise in my lifetime, when I was four or five months pregnant with Kid D.  I went with my mom and all three of my sisters.  It is always fun to be with them, but I didn’t love the cruising part of it as much.  Yet, when my mom and dad proposed this “Trip of a Lifetime,” with all of the amazing destinations on the itinerary, I couldn’t pack my suitcase fast enough.  I have never been to Europe, so I am buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm for the experiences that lie ahead.

Here’s to some amazing things that just happened and even more things on deck.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Decline of the American Farmer

Kid D is in an adjustment phase.  He just started the third grade.  Third grade is kickball at recess.  It is noticing the opposite sex as somehow different than you, but not really caring too much.  It is the last carefree days of single digits.  Third grade is multiplication tables, cursive writing, and how to write a book report.  It is a pivotal year.

I was talking to him about all of the exciting things he will learn over the next few months and he seemed so excited.  Granted, I am a master motivator, but the kid appeared genuinely enthusiastic about all of the new and wonderful wisdom that was to be had.  If knowledge equals power, than he was able to see the path to world domination.

But then came the homework.

It is easy to say, “Eyes on the prize; hands on the plow,” but it is very difficult for an eight or nine-year-old to walk that walk.  There are so many other fun things to do… run through the sprinkler one last time before this summer is gone forever, ride a bike, jump on a friend’s trampoline, play football out in the yard.

“My friend just called and asked if I can jump on his trampoline with the sprinkler underneath of it!  Can I go, mom?  Please, mom?  Can I?”  Homework quickly slips down the to-do list when shiny distractions beckon so aggressively.

Being a stickler for a proper education, but also a supporter of fun (especially the “squeezing out the last drops of summer” stuff), I made him a deal that he could go as soon as he finished his math worksheet.

Smoke poured from the tip of his Dixon-Ticonderoga.  Soon he was finished.  He swore that he had done his best work as he threw the paper in my direction and darted down the street on his bicycle.  When I looked at his homework, this is what I saw:

Kid D math homework

I guess I need to work a little harder on my motivation skills.  Kid D is already over it.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Magic Markers

Every year I take the kids back to school shopping for new supplies.   I usually despise shopping, but I love this particular trip, as I am hot for office supply stores and the wares they peddle.  I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that I get a little tingly every time I go down the padded envelope aisle.  And I have a thing for 5″ X 8″ notepads too.  I like to touch the paper.  My favorite thing is the sound it makes when I fan the pages.  It’s like a magical purring noise. “Puuuuurrrrrrrrr.”  So sexy.  But I digress.

Anyway, each August the kids come with me to Staples and Target to pick out new folders and notebooks and binders.  The younger ones also get rulers and scissors and crayons and index cards.  And everyone gets a new box of markers.  Now, some are classic colors and some are dry erase, some are highlighters and some are washable.  None of them are actually called “magic” anymore, but to me they will always be magical and special, because they mark another important milestone in each kid’s life… the start of a brand new school year.

This year the markers led me to thinking about other milestones in my life and the kids’ lives and how quickly time is passing.  This summer, in particular, seemed to whiz past us in a spectacle of raindrops and road trips and beach sand.  It marked the first summer we didn’t get to relax together as a family (until one week near the very end, which was pretty awesome).

I realized that this marks the last year that all five of my kids will be heading out the door on the first day of school together.  Kid A is starting her senior year in high school.  Next year she will be off at college, starting her own life with some pretty significant new markers of her own.

Then I realized that Kid E still has twelve more “first days of school” ahead of him.  He is not thrilled about this, especially because “school does not have very much Minecraft.”  Sorry, kid.

Kid B started high school this year – a big marker made complicated because her boyfriend also started, but at a different high school.

This is the year that Kid C started dancing en pointe in ballet.  Kid D will begin kid-pitch in baseball next week.  They are in 7th and 3rd grades, respectively, which can be full of all kinds of markers… middle school relationship drama, puberty, playground fights.

Sheepdog and I made it to the 20-year mark of marriage this summer.

And today marks exactly three months since Braden died.

So many markers.  Not all of them are magic.  And not all of them are huge.  But together they become the stories that make up our lives.  So I write them down and take pictures on film and in my mind so we won’t forget.  And we can look back on them and remember each one of the markers and what they meant to us at that time in our lives.  And they will shape us and affect us and make us who we are.  But they can also inspire us to make change, to do more and be more, if that is what we want.  So much possibility can come from those markers, big or small.

And that is truly magical.  Just like the purr of a good notepad.

I get high with a little help from my friends.  You say "toluene and xylene," I say "magic."

I get high with a little help from my friends. You say “toluene and xylene,” I say “magic.”  Source:  Google Images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…