The (Cheerleading) Struggle Is Real

Last night was a perfect storm of parental fandom. Kid D had a baseball game, Kid B had a soccer game, and Kid E went out for a bike ride… all at the same time. With Sheepdog out of town (attending said soccer game with both sets of grandparents), it fell on me to cheer for everyone simultaneously.

I sat in the bleachers at the local baseball park. We just came off a 13-day break in practices and games due to the long Columbus Day holiday weekend, so everybody was rusty, including the fans. The weather during our last game had crept into the 90’s, but we live in Atlanta where the weather is manic, so the forecast called for lows in the 50’s before the game would be over. The mom next to me was wearing shorts (“I refuse to put on pants when I still have a tan!”) but she was prepared with two blankets and her PTA Mafia friends sharing body heat around her.

Kid E joined me at the baseball game, but he doesn’t like to sit still for long. We brought his bike and helmet for entertainment and distraction, and after his nutritious dinner of a soft pretzel and Reese’s cups from the concession stand, he took off to ride like the lead in Breaking Away. But also with instructions to check back in with me after every couple of laps around the track. The park was packed and he is super cute and I will not have anybody stealing my baby.

About a half hour into the baseball game, the soccer game of the season for Kid B’s team began at Glenn Warner Stadium in Annapolis. I’m talking Army vs. Navy and at the service academies that match is no joke. Go Navy! Beat Army!

Like I said, Sheepdog was there in person, but I was home with the others and had to watch online. I tethered my laptop to my cell phone and proceeded to do the 10-second whiplash dance. That’s 10 seconds of watching Kid D’s baseball game, 10 seconds of scanning the park/ bike path for Kid E, and 10 seconds of screen time watching Navy Women’s Soccer.

I think I held down the fort pretty well. It can be tricky, and it was more luck than skill that I was able to see most of the great plays as they happened. Add in a request from Sheepdog to periodically brief him on the status of the baseball game, as well as receiving other notifications from an awesome team dad who lives near the Naval Academy and live texts game updates to a group of us who normally can’t be there in person, a phone call to check-in and let me know what her plans were for the evening from Kid C, as well as a mayday search for Kid E after a no-see for too long (found him, or rather he found me) and a relatively minor bike crash right in front of the concession stand… it was a pretty busy two hours. I had developed an eye twitch, but I got to see it all!

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Kid D has a stellar squat game

Fast-forward to 8-something p.m. Kid E was done riding and had joined me watching both games from the bleachers. The Blue Rocks, Kid D’s team, were up 5-3. Rules in the 13-15 year-old league are that you have to play at least one hour and forty-five minutes, so we started the 5th inning. The home team kind of fell apart (it was cold, it was getting late, and they also had the past two weeks off…) and the Blue Rocks ended up scoring 12 runs. The score was 17-3. The third out against us took FOREVER to happen, but it finally did. All we had to do was get three outs against them and we could all go home.

There exists a kind of surreal, slow-motion recollection of this next part for me. The Army/Navy game was getting wild. Navy tied it 1-1, after having trailed for the whole first half and a good part of the second. The crowd got rowdy after the tying goal was scored, and the play on the field was getting heated. Army got a yellow card. With just minutes left, Navy almost scored, but the goal stayed empty. The Blue Rocks got 2 outs against the other team. We needed JUST ONE MORE. Fans were standing in the bleachers at both games. We were all on edge. The excitement was palpable. I was still doing the 10-second drill back-and-forth, screen-to-field. I kept forgetting to breathe.

Then it happened… I gave the baseball game 10 seconds of my attention (that third and final out was still elusive) and then I switched to watching online as a beautiful, sweet kick went perfectly into Army’s goal. I’m not sure at first if it was live or a replay but I quickly realized that Navy had just scored on Army with 0:44 left in the game!

I jumped up from the baseball bleachers and screamed out, “GOAL!” as loud as humanly possible while the other fans and parents looked at me like, “Does she even know anything about sports?”

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Mama’s Got This

Sheepdog and I had just finished playing a fantastic game of hide and seek late last night, when a text came in from Kid A.  A friend had alerted her that somebody just “hit” our driveway with shaving cream.

I like to refer to myself as "highly procreative" rather than "a slut," but to each his own.

I like to refer to myself as “highly procreative” rather than “a slut,” but to each his own.  D-minus for creativity, Class of 2015.

Ah, Junior/ Senior Wars.  A time when high school kids can play lighthearted pranks upon members of the opposing class.  A little toilet paper here, some shaving cream there.  Some call it a rite of passage.  Some call it fun and funny.

I call it stupid and a ginormous pain in my ass, especially when I am hosing off my driveway in my pajamas at 1 a.m.

The police department calls it vandalism, especially if it escalates.  Shit just got real, yo.  On your permanent record.

There are always going to be fartknockers who wreck it for everybody else.

Sheepdog and I do not condone Junior/ Senior War activity and we do not allow our kids to participate.  But I was alerted via Facebook that some juniors’ houses in the neighborhood got TP’d the night before, so I took precautionary protective measures in anticipation of my senior getting a little something-something, just because.  Cutting down the two river birch trees from the front yard a few years ago wasn’t going to be enough.  I tapped into my Jersey Girl/ Boardwalk Empire roots and asked myself, What would 3-Pops do?  But, since the answer to that question likely involved a baseball bat and some knee caps (not really my style), I decided to go a more technologically advanced route.

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If you mess with her cubs, you had better be prepared to hear from the Mama Tiger (Swiger, like tiger).

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

I love a good penis on the garage door as much as the next girl, but I am a little concerned that all of your penises (and there were many) look like cacti.  If you were drawing from memory, you might want to get that checked by a doctor, Picasso.

An apology would be nice, but I won’t hold my breath.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

All Are Punnish’ed

I was talking to a mom at the baseball field last weekend.  Her son is on Kid D’s team, the Padres.  She also has a daughter in 5th grade and another son in high school.  He is 16.  We were bonding over the scourge of parenting teenagers.  Because that crapfest is more complex than a Gordian knot.

Gordius was the King of the capital city of ancient Phyrigia (located in the Ankara Province of Turkey).  He tied an intricate knot and prophesied that whoever untied it would become the ruler of Asia.  According to ancient tradition (and Wikipedia), Alexander the Great simply walked over and lopped that thing off with his sword.  And guess who was King of Asia from 331 – 323 BC?

Way to think outside the box, ATG!

Way to think outside the box, ATG!

As far as I can tell, one of the big hurdles with kids seems to revolve around one central theme… honesty.  Even the best of them are inclined toward half-truths and omissions.  “It is easier to get forgiveness than permission” is the song of their people.  There are various degrees of lies being told and sundry ‘failed-to-mentions’ which they are failing to mention.  And there does not always seem to be sound reasoning for the lack of candor.  One of my kids lied the other day about taking a shower.  To what end, you dummy?  I just don’t get it.

So, when you kids get caught – oh, and you will get caught – whether it is for throwing a party at your house when your parents go out of town for the weekend, or for picking your boyfriend up before school even though it has been explicitly prohibited because of the very unsafe left turn out of his neighborhood, or for wearing yoga pants out in public even after your father has said very clearly and with very little exception, “NO YOGA PANTS TO SCHOOL,” we, as your parents, have to come up with suitable and effective penances in order to deter this bad habit.

Sheepdog and I over the years have employed penalties that run the standard gamut from ‘go to your room’ to ‘give up your phone.’  We have explained that lying begets more lying, it does no one – the liar or the person being lied to – any good, and, most importantly, it hurts your heart by causing guilt.  It has proven most effective with our kids when there is a retributive theory of justice (the punishment fits the crime), but also when the punishment is tailored to the offender.  I once heard a story from a mom who kept a pile of bricks in her backyard, which she would make her very logical son move from one location to the next for absolutely no purpose whatsoever, whenever he deserved punishment.  Another mom made her daughter hold a sign up at a busy neighborhood intersection that said “I disrespected my parents by twerking at a school dance.”  Now that’s hardcore.  But was it actually effective with those particular kids?  That is the ultimate question when it comes to punishments.

Recently, Kid A was making some bad choices.  Sheepdog and I sat her down and yelled had a discussion with her about the behaviors we wanted her to adjust.  As incentive for her prompt alterations, we decided that she, an 18-year-old girl who has been driving her own car for two years, had to ride the dreaded bus to school.  Dun dun dun!

Who says parenting can't be fun?

Who says parenting can’t be fun?

Shortly after I texted Sheepdog, Kid A sent me a message that her boyfriend had just broken up with her.  It was not a huge surprise given recent events, but she was still sad about it.

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And now she’s all mad at me.  Whatever.  I’m just sitting here, trying to cut my way through this giant knot.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Six Months

Hey, B.

Just checking in…

I’m sure you have lots and lots going on right now.  I figure that you are still going through an orientation kind of period, where you get to learn about all of the amazing options available to you in the afterlife.  Kid A likes to remind us about the things you planned to do after you were done being sick.  Did you learn to speak Arabic yet?  For some reason, the thought of that always makes me giggle.  السرطان لا يزال يمص حتى ولو يمكنك التحدث باللغة العربية الآن.  In case you haven’t gotten around to learning it yet (like me with my Pimsleur Spanish lessons), that says “Cancer still sucks even though you can now speak Arabic.”  At least according to Google Translate it does.  I sure hope I didn’t just write something offensive.

I talk to or text with your mom and dad now and then, and I also see their posts on Facebook.  They miss you something fierce.  Everybody does.  And your brothers and sisters are still figuring everything out, too.  Hell, I can’t even say this silly little prayer to you without crying.  And now I just said “hell” in a prayer.  I am not very good at this, dammit.

I loved, loved, loved when you gave us a tour of “your spots” when we drove through Washington, D.C. this summer.  We don’t normally even drive through the city (we go around), so I knew something was up.  And then Sheepdog got turned around in the same exact place that I got turned around when I was driving to my 25th high school reunion just a few weeks earlier.  Once was “whatever,” but twice couldn’t have been just coincidence.  Then I looked back from my seat and saw Kid A happy-crying as she whispered, “Braden is here.”

Thank you for that.  It was amazing.

Dear God,  That's a very important Kid you've got up there.  Please make sure he is adjusting okay... sometimes he like to play tough.  Oh, and thank you for beautiful orange sunsets.

Dear God, That’s a very important Kid you’ve got up there. Please make sure he is adjusting okay… sometimes he likes to play the tough guy.  Maybe you could give him some extra hugs or something.  Oh, and thank you for beautiful orange sunsets.

I worry about Kid A sometimes.  She still marks your symbol on her wrist every single day.  Then she traces “Come What May” in your handwriting over top of it.  She wants to get it tattooed, but I am making her wait until she turns 18 to do that.  Sheepdog offered to take her across state lines to Alabama (mostly because he is also campaigning for a new tattoo… you remember the biohazard one he wanted you to get because of all of the chemo?) but I put my foot down.  Yes, I am still a rule follower.  And yes, I am still putting my foot down about stuff.  Tattoos are FOREVER.  But I guess that you will be with her forever too, so I get it.

Over all, she has been handling everything pretty well.  She has the distractions of her senior year to keep her busy.  We hardly see her at home.  But I worry about her most when the busy stops.  And every once in a while she will say something that gives me pause.

Like when she said, “I am afraid to get close to anybody because the people I love die.”

And honestly, I didn’t know what to say back.  Because – technically – she is right.  You died.  Everybody dies.  Some die later and some die sooner, but we all die.  It is one of those yin/yang facts of life.  Yet, we can’t guard ourselves so closely that we never let anyone in, either.  So, I hugged her and let her cry about you and I reminded her that she can’t let fear dictate her choices in life.  We keep encouraging her to do more counseling and therapy.  And she has been trying hard to do fun things and meet new people this year, so I think she is going to be okay.  But I will continue to keep an eye on her just in case.

And maybe you can keep doing your surprise drop-ins, too.  In between your Arabic lessons, of course.

I miss you, Kid.

xo

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…

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…

All the Way Home

Last Sunday Kid B asked Sheepdog to take her to the park so she could do some goalkeeper training.  Kid C tagged along and they worked out together for a couple of hours.  There was lots of punting, drop-kicking and goal kicking.  I’m sure there were some dive drills as well.  Afterwards, Sheepdog and Kid C got back into the car.

“We are stopping at the grocery store for a few things on the way home.  You should run back from here,” Sheepdog said to Kid B.

Kid B hates running as much as I do, but she is required to do it for her overall soccer conditioning.  Sheepdog convinced her that is was only about three miles to our house, and he explained the route that cut through a safe neighborhood and kept her (mostly) off of the busy main roads.  She grumbled at him, but nevertheless she put one foot in front of the other and soon she was running.

Run, Forrest, Run.

Run, Forrest, Run.

I had taken both of the boys to the pool for a bit that morning while they were training.  But the weather had taken a turn for the worse, so we were back at the house even before Sheepdog and Kid C returned with their groceries.  I inquired about the missing Kid B.

Sheepdog explained the plan for her to run home with a very proud smile.  I knew that he had been trying to get her to do this for months now.  But I also knew that Kid B didn’t know the route very well and Sheepdog is beyond horrible at giving directions.  I was not happy.

“Did she actually want to run home, or did you force her to do it?”

“She knows it is good for her!”

“Did you show her exactly where to go?”

“No, I didn’t show her… but I told her.”

“It has been a while since you left her.  You even stopped at the store.  Shouldn’t she be home by now?  Does she at least have her phone with her in case she gets lost, or it turns out instead to be 10 miles from there to here?”

“Um… (quietly) no.  But I’m sure she’s fine.”

“Great, Dumbass.  I am going to go give Kid E a bath.  Kid B had better be back under this roof, safe and sound, by the time I am done.  Go get back in your car and drive around to find her if you have to.  Don’t you dare lose one of my babies!”

Sheepdog laughed at me, but I gave him a look so he knew I was not joshing.

A few minutes later, I heard the garage door open and his car was gone.

By the time I finished with bath duty, Kid B and Sheepdog were both standing in the kitchen.  Kid B was sweaty and tired, but she was, indeed, just fine.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and then I asked exactly what happened.  This is what they told me:

Sheepdog’s directions were wrong (well, duh).  First, she got lost in the park.  Then she got lost in the neighborhood.  Eventually, she made it out to the main road and started heading back to our house, but only after she had added a couple of extra miles to her run.  By then, Sheepdog had driven out to find her.  He had the top down on the car and he saw her running on the sidewalk and made a gesture that conveyed, “What’s up?  Where’ve you been?  What’s taking you so long?”

At first, Kid B just smiled back at him.  But then, overcome by frustration from him making her run home and getting lost in the process, on the side of a very busy road, my fourteen-year-old daughter flipped her Dad the bird, real big and dramatic-like.  And then she just kept on running… all the way home.

Coincidentally, I would have done the same, exact thing.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…