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Feb 28

I recently overheard a well-meaning woman offer her unsuspecting friend Amish Friendship Bread. I should’ve told her: “Friends Don’t Let Friends Make Amish Friendship Bread.” But alas, she said, “Yes,” too soon.

 

I wasn’t so enlightened when a friend offered me Amish Friendship Bread “starter.” 

 

“All you have to do is squeeze it and add a few things once in awhile,” my friend encouraged. “It makes really good bread.”

 

Actually, it wasn’t bread when she handed it to me. Rather, it was a fermenting, gooey starter that required daily maintenance to grow and then had to be divided and shared. 

 

I was already stressing about who in the world I would give the starters to, when my children, who happened to be within earshot of the conversation, began their persuasive whining. So — albeit hesitantly — I accepted the bag of sticky-gooey stuff.  

 

And so began a series of very unfortunate culinary events. When I got home, I plopped the bag on the counter and wondered if I would remember to squeeze it several times each day.

 

Turns out, remembering to squeeze was not the problem. With four kids in the house, that bag was squeezed more than udders in a dairy barn. It became an obsession. They could not pass through the kitchen without squeezing. When muddy handprints covered the bag, I drew the line: please wash your hands before squeezing!

 

One day someone squeezed a little too hard, and the Ziploc broke. I didn’t notice until a swarm of gnats had descended and the dog was licking the dripping goop off the cupboard.

 

Normally, I would have just thrown the mess out, but I couldn’t. After all, it was Friendship bread. Amish Friendship bread. And I’d been squeezing for several days. I had a commitment to this goop.

 

So I cleaned up the leak and resealed the bag. And kept a closer eye on the squeezers.  Like friendship, Amish Friendship Bread requires an investment of time: ten days for the starter to mature, or peak or, whatever it is doing as it sits on your counter. 

 

Whoever created this stuff is a marketing genius. Think about it: Who would bake Pyramid-Scheme-Bread? Or 10-Day Pudding Bread? Who would ever agree to give away Pain in the Butt Bread? But Amish Friendship Bread? There you have something that’s hard to turn down.

 

But make no mistake: Amish Friendship Bread is the culinary equivalent of a chain letter. Only I’m sure it multiplies faster, and it’s even harder to give away. 

 

Every day, I would make a mental note of how many more days the starter needed to cure before it could be baked. But as things go, on Culmination Day, I had a mile-long to-do list and it was 9 p.m. before I remembered, “Today is the day!” I wondered what would happen if I waited another day. But the directions said to make it on “Day 10,” and this was the day. 

 

I couldn’t blow it. My friend might find out.

 

I followed the directions carefully, putting the measured portions of starter into Ziplocs to give away, while adding the list of basic ingredients — sugar, flour and milk — to a bowl filled with a large portion of goo. I even added the optional nuts, raisins and apples and sprinkled a greased loaf pan with cinnamon sugar. My kitchen looked like a feature in Martha Stewart Livingpainted by Norman Rockwell. 

 

But as I finished cleaning up, the warm cinnamon smell turned smoky. I peaked in the oven and noticed batter dripping over the edges of the loaf pan. 

 

A quick recheck of the recipe confirmed the problem: the recipe makes two loaves, not one.  Great. Just great. Sweet sentiments quickly turned to seething frustration as the dripping batter erupted into small fires in my oven. 

 

An hour later, the overloaded pan was still spewing goo. As I checked — and re-checked — to see if there was any solid mass to rescue from the fiery furnace, I swore I would never do this again — to anyone.

 

When I finally took that mess out of my oven, it required amateur surgical skills to remove it from the pan. What was purported to be simple and delicious had turned out to be complicated and, well, very burnt.

 

The dear friend who gave me the starter later admitted that she, too, had flunked Amish Friendship Bread on her first go-around. But here is where I begin to wonder which one of us is sane. She asked for — and received — another bag of starter. Me? I quietly dropped the starters that were left in the kitchen garbage and never looked back. 

 

Please don’t tell my friend.

 



Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009  


Mar 14

I recently retired as my boys’ personal hairstylist. I don’t care how much they whine. I will ignore their begging. I’m not doing it again. Ever. 

 

Dealing with my sons’ hair has been a thorn in my side since they showed up over a decade ago. I don’t think I ever got it right. 

 

At first thought, you’d expect my two girls’ hair would cause more problems. But learning to braid, buying the right detangler and finding non-tangley hairbands was a simple task compared to the never-ending chore of keeping the boys’ hair trimmed in a manner that suited them.

 

At our house, my husband insisted the boys get a haircut as soon as they were referred to as “beautiful” or “pretty.” For my boys, that happened relatively early. In fact, it seems they were barely sitting up when my husband thought it was high time they got their first trim. 

 

I approached the task cautiously. But despite the fact that I intentionally started by taking very little off, with each move of the head, the whole operation became increasingly troublesome. I started to think the whole “bowl” concept wasn’t such a bad idea. I’d put anything over their heads if it would block out the distractions that caused sudden head movements, and, consequently, a bad haircut. 

 

It didn’t take long for me to start thinking it was me. I obviously lacked basic haircutting skills. Maybe I should take them to a “professional”? 

 

So sometime during their toddlerhood, I did. 

 

Turns out, a haircut can be just as traumatic as a visit to the dentist. And, the end result isn’t necessarily much better than my own efforts. In fact, sometimes it’s worse. 

 

On one visit to a local barber, my kids observed a small child getting his hair trimmed. His helicopter mother was standing next to him, chatting away to the stylist who pulled out all the tools to transform the kid into a Mini-Me of Ryan Seacrest. The mother paid, and the pair left, but then returned just a few minutes later. 

 

“I’d like my money back,” the woman informed the receptionist. “I asked for a cute haircut, and this is not cute. At all,” she said. 

 

The puzzled receptionist asked just what, exactly, was wrong. 

 

“Well, just look at his face,” the mother retorted.

 

And then the poor kid chimed in: “What’s wrong with my face, Mama?” 

 

I think my boys almost bolted out the door right then, but for an uncontrollable case of the giggles that left them immobile. 

Because, you know what? The Mom had a point. And while I know the little kid couldn’t do much about his face, the way it interacted with his new haircut wasn’t attractive. Really. 

 

After that incident I agreed to trim my boys up at home again. I invested in a pair of electric sheers for the son who likes a “GI,” or what one friend calls, “high and tight.” But every time I used the buzzers, he accused me of cutting his hair crooked. 

 

“Look,” I finally said. “This gismo cuts everything the same length. If something is crooked, it must be your skull.” 

 

My other son fared no better. He inherited a double cowlick from some distant kin and always seemed to twitch just as I got to that section of his head. The result? All high, but not at all tight. Much as he’d like to, he can’t wear a baseball cap 24/7 until another bad haircut-by-me grows out. 

 

So I’ve finally decided to let someone else mess up my kids’ hair, and let them deal with the boys’ bellyaching. After all, I’m going to make enough mistakes as a Mom. When it comes to their hair, why not pay to get off the hook?

 

Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.


Other articles by Hallie Bandy:

Friends don't let friends wear granny panties.

One sick mom, 2 sick boys and one new computer system equalled trouble

The Tooth Fairy is one of the biggest nuisances ever invented for moms

When you have kids, reality literally stinks sometimes
The Trials of Friendship Bread

Of Sex Talks and Awkward Filters

Female Facial Hair: Starts at puberty and continues rest of our lives.

An Orthodontic Alignment

No More Birthday Party Madness

Can't A Kid Pee In Peace?

Lunch With A Side of Baby Ruth Bars

Reality Check-Up



© ShareWiK Media Group, LLC 2009  

Mar 28

I was only 19 when I decided to get married.   My Mom encouraged the engagement but made it clear she felt I was too naïve to be married.  And so she made it her mission to provide me with what she termed, “a dose of reality,” creating and/or putting me in situations to prove how displaced my romantic notions were. 

 

One such event included a family dinner with relatives.  But not even she could have known how the evening would unfold.

 

My husband-to-be certainly didn’t suspect a thing.  He thought an invitation to dinner meant he would be fed, enjoy some chitchat, tell a few jokes and earn some goodwill with his future in-laws.

 

Our hosts were a young couple with three preschool children, all of whom had contracted a stomach virus with some seriously wicked symptoms.  Noxious smells and the stench of Lysol permeated the home as we were greeted with the news, “Not everyone is feeling so hot.”  A few minutes later she asked if someone would please tend to the pasta, since she had to give one of her children an impromptu bath.   

 

“It’s all the way to her socks,” she informed us.  

 

On her way to the stove, my mother passed my fiance and me, mumbling, “Now that is reality!  What do you think?”

 

“It stinks,” my husband-to-be replied.

 

He was right.  And while I probably remain a bit naïve, my husband has never forgotten that evening and has spent our near-quarter-century marriage avoiding any involvement in a reenactment.

 

Which does not mean no one gets sick at our house.  Truth is — and I cringe to admit my mother may have been right — reality does stink.  And when you have kids, there is plenty of it to go around.

 

I thought I’d gotten off easy with my first child, since she only threw up twice in her first two years of life.  While this seemed a very positive quality, what I didn’t realize is that her lack of experience with stomach bugs would render her unable to recognize that horrible sensation that precedes digestive trauma.  So, when she did get sick, it usually arrived with great drama as she informed me, far too late, “Mom, my stomach hur---.” 

 

The second kid, who turned out to be lactose sensitive, made up for the parenting skills my first didn’t require — particularly ironic since I installed white carpet for the nursery just before he was born.  I quickly realized the white carpet was as bad of an idea as giving him cranberry juice when he wasn’t feeling well.

 

By the time the third and fourth kids rolled around, I was a pro at both upchuck prevention and clean up. After all, it’s a fact of life: kids get sick.  A lot.  And of course there are corollary events that involve hot-dog eating, family events and public places.  If you’re a Mom, you learn to deal with it.  Ask for the clean up on aisle four and move on as quickly as possible.  Oh.  And only get leather seats in your car.  It’s SO worth it. 

 

And all this time, that guy who married me despite the gross display of reality we encountered early on, has avoided our offsprings’ smelly realities.  I don’t mind.  We have a very practical policy in our marriage:  only one person needs to deal with unpleasant things.  So, he handles the trash, I handle the laundry.  I handle sick kids, and he handles pet messes.  

 

Now that our kids are older, there is far less for me to handle when it comes to their illnesses.  On the other hand, our cat is a prolific hunter and loves to “share” prime parts with us.  And the dog still gets into the garbage, eats stuff outside that doesn’t agree with him, and then finds a prime spot to unload.

 

The other day, as I was preparing breakfast, I heard the dog heaving … and decided it was time for a nice hot shower.




Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.



Other articles by Hallie Bandy:



Friends don't let friends wear granny panties.

One sick mom, 2 sick boys and one new computer system equalled trouble

The Tooth Fairy is one of the biggest nuisances ever invented for moms

I Fired Myself As My Boys' Barber

The Trials of Friendship Bread

Of Sex Talks and Awkward Filters

Female Facial Hair: Starts at puberty and continues rest of our lives.

An Orthodontic Alignment

No More Birthday Party Madness

Can't A Kid Pee In Peace?

Lunch With A Side of Baby Ruth Bars

Reality Check-Up



©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

 

 


Apr 11

Among the many childhood legends parents are responsible for perpetuating, I have to say that playing the part of Tooth Fairy has to be one of the all-time biggest nuisances ever invented by …  Who did invent this, anyway?  


At least other renowned characters like Santa and the Easter Bunny have somewhat understandable backgrounds.  The Tooth Fairy is a different story.

The entire tradition makes me a little apprehensive.  A grown up, princess-like creature — yes, a stranger — sneaks into your child’s room at night, takes the tooth from under her pillow, and leaves cash. 


This is supposed to be a sweet childhood fantasy?


I know there are plenty of overachiever parents who feel differently.  A friend told me: at her house the Tooth Fairy takes each tooth to help build her castle in the sky.  And, “she” leaves the kids letters.


“They believe!” she told me, quite proudly.


I didn’t even bother to ask what the letters say.  I’m sorry.  At the end of the day, when I’ve finally put my kids to bed, the last thing I want to do is pen a letter under the pseudonym, “Tooth Fairy.”  I don’t even know what to do with the little pieces of calcium.    

It’s a relentless job.  I have four kiddos.  My math tells me I could potentially retrieve 80 teeth in my Tooth Fairy role.  I think I probably have about half that many in a zip-lock in my underwear drawer.


And I’ll be honest: my kids are lucky I’ve gotten around to that many.


I had good intentions in the early days.  My first kid was slow to lose her teeth.  So slow, in fact, that her permanent teeth grew in alongside the baby teeth.  It didn’t seem to bother her, and she refused any help in dislodging them. 


You would think with the long wait, I would have been prepared.   But, no.  When the tooth finally fell out, my cash was depleted.  Creatively, I found a new bottle of pink nail polish.  Perfect.  Not only was she thrilled with the nail polish, she continued to play along with the creative items the tooth fairy often brought her in lieu of cash — hair clips, chocolate, new socks.  I think she actually thought “her” Tooth Fairy was cool.

Not so with my second child.  As soon as his first tooth was loose, he told me flat out: “Other kids get money from the tooth fairy.  Tell her:  I want money!”


He didn’t even really lose his first teeth.  He let the Dentist pull them.  He probably saw an opportunity for a revenue stream, because he put them straightaway under his pillow, with a reminder to me about the cash. 


Of course, I forgot all about it.


“She FORGOT!!  Mooooommmmm!  The Tooth Fairy FORGOT ME!!” he wailed the next morning.


“Oh, no, honey.  She didn’t forget,” I said, trying to think of something. 


And then it struck me, and I explained:  “It’s my fault, honey.  I didn’t place the call in time.”

I could see from his face the explanation was working.

 

“Let me call that 800 number again,” I said.  “I’ll make sure you’re on her route tonight.” 


That explanation became my cover-up for the next several years.  I’d call that 800 number and the Tooth Fairy’s polite customer service staff always had a perfectly believable explanation.

“She was overbooked last night.”

“She said she came by, but she couldn’t find the tooth.”

“Their office is closed for the holiday.  It’s a special Tooth Fairy holiday.”

“You’ve hit your quota for this month.  She’ll have to come next month.”


I’m not sure when they finally figured out I’d made it all up, but one day my third child didn’t bother putting his tooth under his pillow.  Instead, he put it in a plastic bag and hung it on his bulletin board, next to an envelope labeled, in capital letters, “TOOTH FAIRY—PLEASE PUT MONEY IN HERE.”  


And, about a week later, the Tooth Fairy finally put some cash in the envelope. 


My youngest has just started losing her teeth and she’s already working the system.

“Can you call the tooth fairy hotline,” she asks, handing me her latest lost tooth. “You can tell her she can come this weekend if it’s really busy.”

After a long pause to see if I’m really listening, she adds:

“And, if she’s bringing nail polish, please tell her I like dark pink.”


Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.




©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

 

Apr 25

I’ve always had a fascination with Marie Osmond. Yes, I realize she’s not as cool as Lady Gaga or as sleek and hip as Beyonce’, but Marie gets it.

Real life.  
 
She’s a survivorDivorce. Fainting on Dancing with the Stars.  And most recently, there is the tragic death of her son to a drug-overdose. Yet, each time I see her smiling, hands on hips and 50 pounds lighter on those Jenny Craig commercials, I see a survivor who knows how to simply put one foot in front of the other to keep going.  Like the time she handed her house keys and seven children over to her nanny, telling her to call her husband before she spoke these parting words: “I’m outta here.”
 
Marie took off, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and checked in to a motel where she probably heard the sound of silence for the first time in years.
 
I’ve been thinking a lot about Marie lately.  I only have one child but there are days when I feel like if I hear the word, “Mama!” one more time, I might hand the keys over to the nanny and take off as well.  Except, I don’t have a nanny. And I only have one child, my daughter, Chloe.
 
On a particularly tough day, when Chloe was going through yet another one of her quirky developmental phases and my husband, Mike was working too much and my mother was calling a little too often, I closed my eyes and thought of Marie.
 
What was it like to feel such despair that your only solution was to get up and go?
 
In the years since, I have often wondered if Marie ever relived that moment when she got in her car and heard the engine turn over?  Did she remember glancing in the rear view mirror for even a split second? Did Marie wonder if the nanny remembered the way her daughter liked to be tucked in at night? Or the promise she made to her son to help him break in a new baseball mitt before the season started?
 
Or did she just gun it out of the driveway and think only of the wide-open road and that quiet motel room where she could get an uninterrupted night’s sleep? I hoped she had room service and On-demand movies.
I like the fantasy—especially the On-demand movie part—but I realize I could never trust someone else with the details of my family’s life that might turn into sweeter memories later.  Like the way I kiss Chloe’s neck and promise to love her “to infinity and beyond” each night.
 
Granted, Marie’s run up the Pacific Coast Highway turned into a media circus.  But through it, she brought greater awareness about post partum depression and the role alternative medicines and acupuncture played in her recovery. Marie gave hope to millions of women who suffer from PPD and to those, like me, who just want to sit for a moment with a hot cup of tea next to an open window where we can feel the breeze without anyone needing something from us.
 
The moral of the story is that Marie came back to her husband, her kids and a new book deal. The “paper roses” Marie described her chart-topping song defined womanhood as the artful navigation between what we wish for and what we sometimes have to wait for, like good results from a medical test, a good night’s sleep, or our child saying, “Thank you,” and actually meaning it.
 
So, unlike Marie, I will stay put and work on savoring those moments, knowing I will be home, waiting, and watching with gratitude as they unfold. 

Former CNN anchor, Carol Lin is the mother of one daughter and the co-founder of TulaHealth.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.  Visit her on the web at CarolLinReporting.com.

 


 

More Carol Lin articles, click here.



©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010
 

Jun 06

Boys like fire  - and guns.  And if I ever questioned this fact, experiences have taught me otherwise. 

 

I distinctly remember when my boys were toddlers, one saw me light a match in the kitchen.  He ran to tell his brother, “I know how to make fire!” 

 

Note to self: hide matches.

 

I’m convinced it’s in their genes.  Because my husband is all about it, too.

 

We bought our farmette in the spring, and spent the majority of the long, hot Kentucky summer making the house livable. All the while my husband kept reminding me, there was land to clear.  Seemed he couldn’t wait.  He had a new chain saw.  The possibilities were endless.

 

We wrapped on the big projects by the time the kids started school mid-August.  It was time to clear some wooded area.  We hired one of his college students to help.

 

In the cool of the early morning, with the manly hum of the chain saw, they were undaunted.  They began sawing down the dead trees and started a fire to burn the wood.  By late morning, the heat and humidity began to get the best of them.  Still determined, my husband came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea:  eliminate the hauling and dragging.  Cut the trees so they fall directly into the fire.

 

That afternoon, when I went outside to wait for my kids to get off the bus, there was a lovely area of cleared land… and plumes of flame and smoke billowing from a two-story pile of brush at the edge of the woods.  As I stood there, someone pulled into the drive and introduced himself as the local Volunteer Fire Marshall.  “I’ve got a truck on the way,” he informed me. 

 

And that is why, when my children got off the bus from their first day of school in the new town, there was a fire truck in our driveway. 

 

 “We just got training last week on how to put out brush fires,” the firemen told my husband. “We got it taken care of, sir.   No charge, this time.”

 

After dinner, we looked out to see three-foot flames erupting from the pile of ashes those fireman made when they were “taking care of” the brush fire.

 

A few weeks later, apparently impressed by his father’s fire-making skills, one son made what he initially thought was an unsuccessful attempt to start a fire, using only a magnifying glass on a pile of twigs.  He grew tired of what turned out to be a very slow process and abandoned the effort, leaving the magnifying glass behind.  Awhile later, we were eating lunch when my daughter looked outside and announced, “The woods are on fire!” 

 

And that is why, when he produced his “All About Me” poster in school, the caption under the photo – a shot of him sitting, head-in-blackened-hands – read, “It’s kinda discouraging when everyone gets all mad at you for starting a forest fire.  It’s not like I committed a crime or anything.”

 

Trouble is, when there is a no-burn order in effect, it is a crime. 

 

I’ll tell you all about that in my next column.

 

Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Jun 20

Boys’ fascination with fire is unlimited.  If they see a lighter, they will pick it up and flick it on and off.  If there is a box of matches, they will light – at least - one. 

 

Last fall, I was running errands with my husband and two of our kids, leaving my oldest home with her younger brother.  My son had chores to do, and she … needed to do teenage-girl things, like talk on the phone and update facebook. 

 

They were certainly capable of staying alone, so I headed out for a round of stops and never gave it another thought.  Until I was paying for a haircut and my phone rang. 

 

It was my daughter.  Still mid-transaction, I handed the phone to my older son and told him to answer:  “See what she needs.”  As soon as he said “hello,” his face changed.  “He did WHAT?” was all I heard, as he walked away.  I quickly signed the receipt and chased him down.

 

“What is going on?” I asked, trying to imagine what kind of trouble my son could possibly cause while performing a simple household chore.

 

“He set the woods on fire,” was the reply.  Which was, of course, not at all the answer I had anticipated. 

 

Apparently, while cleaning the mudroom, chore-boy had found the family pyrotechnic arsenal and decided to take a “firecracker break.”  And, apparently, he didn’t stop to think about the ramifications of tossing a firecracker near a hay bale, in the woods, when it had not rained for three months. 

 

That is, until the hay bale exploded. 

 

And everything around it began to burn. 

 

Our 20-minute drive home seemed to go in slow motion as I gave my husband the usual, “what’s the worst that can happen,” pep talk.  In this case, the worst-case-scenario was pretty darn bad.  There was nothing but thick, dry forest between us and the Kentucky River, several miles away.  As I realized that, I made him promise: “Please wait 24 hours before administering discipline.” 

 

We arrived to see black smoke billowing from the large hay bale the guys use for archery practice, and our neighbor’s extremely long hose running from our spigot to the smoldering mess. 

 

My son told me later, when the hay bale exploded, he ran to the house, and told his sister … who screamed, and began texting her friends.  That was when he ran out the door to get a hose, and our neighbor happened to see him.  “He looked real panicky,” the neighbor told me later.  “I could see something was wrong.” 

 

As my fuming husband marched down to take over putting out the fire, I began accessing the damage.  There was half an acre or so of charred grass, but, fortunately, the fire had not reached any of the dried-out trees at the edge of the forest.   

 

Just as I thought we had things in hand, as if to ensure my dear husband reached the pinnacle of sheer frustration, our wheaton-colored hound dog sniffed the air, took off running and did a stop-drop-and-roll routine in the charred grass.  When he was done, he was completely blackened.  My daughter and I were doubled over laughing, and quickly offered to bathe him.  Which was when we realized the hose being used to put out the fire was attached to the hot water spigot. 

 

At that point, it was hard to tell whether the smoke was coming from the hot water steam, the fire itself, or my husband.  I decided to let the men finish the job and returned to the house to make dinner.

 

When I finally sat down that evening, my daughter’s facebook status update read: “I’m glad our house is still standing, my Dad didn’t burst a blood vessel, and no man will turn down the opportunity to put out a fire.”

 

And later, when I thanked our neighbor profusely for all his help, he replied, simply, “I’d a-been awful mad if he’d burned them woods down before deer season.”

 

Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

 

 


Jul 04

My husband has always carried a pocket knife.  And, he likes to remind me it comes in handy when I need to open a package or dress road kill.  (Okay, I’ve never had to dress roadkill.  I would hope the same is true for him, but I’m afraid to ask.) 

 

My boys were quite young when they expressed an interest in having a knife of their own, and I probably gave in sooner than I should have.  But living in the country, it seemed an appropriate right of passage.  They needed something to mark trails and clear brush. 

 

Trouble is, sometimes we venture outside our rural abode, and things are a little different in the big city.

 

Awhile back, I took the kids on the proverbial family educational trip to Washington D.C.  We were excitedly standing in line for our first tour of the museums on the Mall, when my son looked at me, panicked.  “The sign says, ‘no knives.’”

 

“Of course it does,” I replied.  And then I paused, as the obvious dawned.  “You have your pocket knife, don’t you?”

 

He nodded, somewhat sheepishly, though I could tell he really was wondering why on earth anyone had such a silly rule.

 

Nice as security officers were, certain exceptions can’t be made.  Not to worry.  My resourceful son somewhat brilliantly connived to hide his knife in bushes outside each and every one of the museums we visited.  He set the alarm on his watch to go off about the time we expected to be done, and so was reminded to collect his precious possession.

 

Annoyed as I was that day, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise.  In fact, I should have thought to tell him, “Don’t bring your knife.”

 

Because he never leaves home without this essential accessory.

 

The summer prior, we enjoyed some extended family time.  Apparently, my sister-in-law hasn’t gotten the memo on boys needing pocket knives, and her son was left frustrated when he tried to open the (really cool) gift we’d purchased for him.  Not to worry.  My son whipped out his handy-dandy pocket knife to assist in removing the stubborn plastic packaging.

 

I don’t know any of this from first-hand observation.

 

We learned what happened next when said cousin crashed the adult-conversation party.  Speaking in the strained, slightly lisping, high-pitched voice of a worried pre-pubescent, he urgently announced, “Aunt Hallie:  Joe was trying to help me unwrap my gift, and he appears to have THABBED himself.  He is now bleeding pro-futh-ly.  I think he is th-e-v-e-r-e-l-y injured.”

 

By the time we got to the boy, his face was ashen.  Not being one to deal well with injuries, I grabbed a cloth to clamp the bleeding and led him to the living room, where we both laid on the floor and put our feet up (to prevent passing out).  Meanwhile, some dear soul wiped up the blood, and my husband and his MD-sister assessed the wound.

 

Just what everyone needs on a holiday weekend:  a trip to the ER. 

 

Not to worry, my genius sister-in-law informed me.  “I can fix that with superglue and a butterfly bandage.”

 

And so she did. 

 

Yes, you read that correctly.  My MD sister-in-law made a quick trip to Target, bought superglue and a butterfly bandage and patched up my son’s gaping knife wound.  Cost: $5.00, not including the gum she purchased impulsively when checking out. 

 

To keep everything in place, she decided to wrap the hand in gauze.  And as she struggled to open the package, my husband, of course, was there with his pocket knife …

 

Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010 

 


Jul 19

My oldest son, Sean came home for a visit last weekend.  He doesn’t get home much anymore, having moved to New York City six months ago to begin his first ”real” job with an accounting firm.  In fact, last weekend was his first trip home since Christmas.  

 

I suppose that’s the problem with children: they grow up.  And leave home.  And live their own lives.    

 

And I suppose that’s the problem with being a mother of sons:  You miss them, feel displaced when they move out of your house and into their own place.  And as soon as you shut the door of their new apartment, you know—I mean, you really know -- you are no longer a major part of the week-by-week, day-by-day and often, the moment-by-moment of their lives.   

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be. 

 

After my first son was born, my oldest sister called to congratulate me, and then said this:  “The trouble with having boys is that every significant benchmark in their life is just another good-bye.” 

 

I thought about her words as a hairline crack made its way across my heart when I walked Sean into kindergarten, his first full day away from me, ever.

 

“Have a great day, bud,” I said as he ran in, giving me a brief wave, never even turning around.  To this day, he doesn’t know that I sat in my car and cried for 30 minutes. 

 

I recalled my sister’s words again when I dropped my second son at sleep away camp, helped my third son pack for a mission trip and watched my fourth son walk across the stage at his 5th grade graduation.  

 

It seems that more than usual, the past nine months have been filled with significant benchmarks in all of my sons’ lives.  Not only did my oldest graduate from college and move to NYC, but my second son, 20, is studying in Europe; my third son, 16, got his driver’s license and my youngest, 14, came downstairs one morning and was suddenly taller than I am.   And just like my youngest’s jump in height, all of these benchmarks seemingly happened overnight. 

 

As much as I want them to explore the world, learn to drive and yes, grow taller than me, I would be lying if I didn’t confess that a tiny part of me really misses snuggling with them every night or hearing them say, like my son, Tom did when he was 3, “I want to marry you when I grow up.”   

 

But I also know, in order to maintain a relationship with my sons as they leave home, I have to let them go and be hands-off—no demands on their time, no expectations of their visits home, no messages left on their cell phones that hint, even slightly, that I still need them. 

 

Recently, when I was having lunch with my friend, Kris, her phone kept ringing and she kept ignoring it. 

 

“Do you need to get that?” I finally asked.

 

“Nah, it’s just the girls,” she said, referring to her two oldest daughters and sounding somewhat exasperated. “They call All. The. Time.”  As we continued our lunch, I realized Kris wasn’t exaggerating. 

 

Her two oldest daughters are grown and living on their own. But more often than not, her daughters’ numbers pop up in Kris’ caller ID five or six times a day – just the girls wanting to discuss the minutia of their day with their mother. 

 

I can’t even imagine.  And more importantly, I'm not sure I want to. 

 

Whenever I meet a man whose siblings are all brothers, I ask, “Do you still love your mother?”  They always chuckle and answer, “Of course.”  And their wives always corroborate their stories of maternal love. 

 

When I ask, “How often do you call her?” most admit, “Not often enough.”   

 

I’m quickly on my way to becoming that mother whose boys call every so often to just “check in.”   I get it; I even understand it.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time; it’s even mentioned in the Bible and at most marriage ceremonies: A husband will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. 

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

My boys will never know how often I look at the pictures of the four of them scattered around my house and long to have them back in my nest, bickering, laughing and asking me what’s for dinner.  The ghosts of their childhoods continuously haunt me, teasing a smile from my lips at every memory.  It is my little secret. 

 

It’s not as though I want to go back or even have them living in my basement forever. It’s just that the quickness with which they move from wanting to kiss you constantly and tell you everything to not even calling can give a mom whiplash.  And just as nothing prepares you for being a mother in the first place, nothing prepares you for saying good-bye in tiny, spread-over-time, painful increments.

 

So, when my sons do call, I regale them with tales of the robust life I am enjoying with their father, my circle of friends and the challenges of running a small business.  I am happy, busy and content, learning new things, traveling and as far as they know, not missing them much at all.  

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Aug 01

When we relocated to Central Kentucky, I had a relatively short list of requirements for the home we wanted to purchase:  three bedrooms, two baths, a laundry room. 

 

My husband's list was even shorter.  "I want a place where I can walk out the back door, shoot my shotgun and not have anyone ask questions,” he said.  

 

Don’t get the wrong impression.  My husband is a college professor.  He moves about society without garnering undue attention to himself.  He looks normal.  But when it comes to being in touch with his estrogen, he won’t get near that thin pink line. 

 

He’s a manly man. 

 

I always knew he liked to hunt.  Over the years, I encouraged his annual pheasant-hunting outings and dutifully prepared game for the family.  But when he added this gun-shootin’ criteria to our home-shopping list, my eyes opened to a side of him that had heretofore remained unfamiliar to me.

 

In the country, we have plenty of wild animals that run away and mind their own business.  They’re not a problem. But wild animals that show no fear of humans are a problem.  And we don’t have a nice white truck to come “take care of the problem” like they do in the city.

 

Sure enough, we weren’t living in our house one week when it became obvious there was a varmint about.   Turned out to be a coon — a very bold coon, roaming our deck.

 

When the initial shot rang out from the upper deck, my Father, who was visiting to help with some renovating, yelled, “Hey!  What’s going on?”

 

So much for nobody asking questions.

 

But that was just the beginning of what has become an ongoing quest to protect our property from — and rid the world of — varmints.  And in our locale, there are plenty.  Skunks.  Opossums.  Snakes.  Coons.  And feral cats.

 

I know.  I get a nightly report. 

 

“Got somethin’ messin’ around the compost pile,” he’ll say. 

 

“Hadn’t noticed,” I respond in all honesty. 

 

No matter.  He’s on it.

 

There are several methods for dispatching varmints.  One of his favorites is what is officially known as a “Have a Hart” trap.  The makers of the trap offer it as a humane option for relocating unwanted animals. 

 

That’s now how we use it.

 

I call it the “Have a Shot” trap.  Because once the pesky varmint is in the trap, its fate is sealed. 

 

Our trap has reinforcements, which were installed after the Summer of Super Coon, who managed to bust out of the trap.  Twice. 

 

But sometimes critters show up unexpectedly.  Like when he’s closing up the chicken coop for the night and a mean ole possum backs out of the henhouse door.  That’s when a pitchfork comes in real handy. 

 

That’s right.  I always get the report.  Just wish I didn’t have to see it the next day.

 

Somehow, though, his wish for the unquestioned shot from the upper deck remained elusive far longer than I would have thought.

 

And then some neighborhood cats started fighting. 

 

For those of you who are only familiar with domesticated felines, I probably need to explain the country cat situation.  We keep them as pets, but not like declawed, housebound city cats.  Our felines are acquired to help with pest control.  They hunt stuff too small to shoot:  mice, voles, snakes.  And they love it.  But there are other cats in the country.  Strays that people drop off, who become part of the woodland wildlife.  And they can be as troublesome as the brazen ‘coon or opossum. 

 

Cat fights take place in the wee small hours of the morning.  They are loud, nasty and annoying.

 

It was late summer — cool enough for us to sleep with the windows open — and some cats decided to make a nightly ritual of fighting in the pasture behind our house.   My husband made sure he was ready.  Each night, he’d unlock the gun cabinet and wait.

 

Turns out our neighbor had the same idea.  Because one night, we heard the screeching, then a couple shots from the neighbor’s back porch, and then silence.

 

I had forgotten all about it the next morning when I woke up before everyone else to tend to our toddler daughter and the new puppy.  They were both early risers, so we headed outside—me, with child in arms and the young hound-puppy loping about. 

 

All at once, the puppy lurched toward what appeared to be a mound of fur in the garden.  In the brief moment that I realized my neighbor hadn’t quite finished the job the night before, I managed to grab the pup, while still holding the child and yell, “WOUNDED CAT!”

 

In a moment, the screen door to the upper deck opened, and my skivvy-clad husband appeared, gun in hand to finish the job. 

 

One shot, and back to bed.

 

No questions asked.


Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010 

 

Aug 15

I have yet to meet a child over the age of six who willingly volunteers to take part in household tasks.  But, as a grownup, I’m required to inform them: if a family is to function efficiently, there are certain things that every child should be willing and able to do.
 
At our house, we have a rather straightforward method of assigning chores.  There are chores that our kids do simply because they are able-bodied members of our family:  make their beds, put everything in its place, study, and sign up to do dishes twice a week.  There are also jobs that they can sign up for in order to receive an allowance. 
 
Honestly, I believe I’m doing them a favor, giving them life skills training. 
 
Of course, not everyone sees it that way.
 
I know it’s not just me.  There are other parents who expect kids to contribute.  Some kids just accept the assignments and move on. 
 
And then there are kids who spend an hour arguing about whether or not they should be forced to do a five-minute job.   
 
I have one who can hold an hour-long soliloquy on the injustice of any task.  And he usually follows with a performance of “The Song that Gets on Everybody’s Nerves.”  He can sing it for hours.  He sings it with a French accent, a southern accent.  He sings it doggy-style. 
 
And the title really delivers.
 
We all try to clear the house when it’s his night to do dishes.
 
While I am steadfastly determined that he will not wear me down, he seems equally determined to try. 
 
Recently, I decided it was time for my boys to learn to put clean sheets on their bed. Honestly, I’m not trying to torture them.  I just want them to have some basic life skills.  I mean really, do they think Mommy is going to show up to their dorm room to change the bed?
 
I showed them the basics of pulling the fitted sheet taught and making a neat hospital corner.  One son grasped the concept quickly, made his bed and went on with his life. 
 
And then there was the other son, who is, apparently, significantly challenged by this sort of practical exercise in spatial intelligence.  His first attempt was a wadded, tangled mess.  His second attempt was a lumpy, wrinkled mess. 
 
And then he refused another attempt. 
 
I try to be reasonable.  Really, I do.  I told him:  the bed doesn’t have to be perfect.  But it has to look like you can sleep in it.  I offered to help; he declined.  So I took a long look at the lumpy, bumpy bed and said, “call if you need help, but don’t leave the room until the bed is made.”  I left, closing the door in hopes of muffling the inevitable “It’s Not Fair” lecture, followed by the nerve-irritating musical performance.
 
It’s a fact of parenting that as soon as you think you’ve got the right answer, you realize you’ve asked the wrong question.
 
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was not hearing the fit I had been certain my son would throw.  In a brief moment of optimism, I wondered if he had actually decided to make the bed. 
 
Quietly, I walked back upstairs and opened the door to his room. 
 
I’m not sure if I really thought I’d see a neatly made bed.  But of course I didn’t.  Nor did I see my son.  Instead, there was an open window, a climbing rope, and a grappling hook attached securely to the bed. 
 
In the brief moments it took to survey the situation and come to the realization that he had climbed out of a second-story window to avoid putting sheets on his bed, I heard the go-kart engine revving up, and the voice of my older daughter behind me.  (It was she who just knew the grappling hook would be the perfect Christmas gift for her younger brother.)  “I saw him on his way down,” she said. 
 
I’m not sure if he thought the go-kart was the fastest getaway, or if he just figured once he was out the window, the stealth portion of the mission was complete.  Either way, I knew it was going to be much easier to make his bed than try to make him come back and do it — that day.
 
But that doesn’t mean he’s worn me down.  I’m not going to change my mind about making the bed.  I’m just going to make sure he puts the grappling hook in its place first.


Humor writer, Hallie Bandy, is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.
 
More Hallie Bandy articles, click
here.
 
©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010 


Jan 17

As a mother of four boys, I often hear, “Oh, you must have your hands full with four boys.”

 

Hands full?  It’s my ears that are full, listening to guffaws and giggles after the mention of male private parts and inappropriate bodily noises.   Not to mention the flabbergasting things I have to say to keep them from killing themselves, someone else and/or each other.

 

In one day, I’ve scolded, “A light bulb will not cook the creepy crawlers,” and, “Of course the dog’s invisible fence collar will work when it’s around your brother’s neck!”

 

When I saw my third son, who was then 5-years old, holding a garbage bag over his head , getting ready to jump over the top edge of our (very high) tree fort, I quickly yelled, “STOP! A garbage bag is a terrible parachute!” 

 

Unfortunately, I knew that because his older brothers had tried the same thing when they were around that age.

 

One son seemed to be particularly fascinated with sticking things in other people’s ears.  After one such incident which required a trip to the principal’s office for my son and a trip to the ER for his friend, out of my mouth flew, “Why did you think that was a good idea?” 

 

“Because I wanted to see if it would come out his other ear,” he said, seemingly perplexed I could ask such a stupid question.   A month or so later, I had to ask this same son, “Why didn’t you see if the Legos would come through your digestive tract first, instead of making your little brother eat them?” 

 

On another trip to the hospital ER, I had to ask of my youngest son, “Why did you think wearing Superman underpants would enable you to fly off of the top bunk?”

 

Saying this stuff defies logic and makes you feel as crazy after it comes out of your mouth as the behavior that solicited it. 

 

Many-a-dinner has been interrupted with flatulence.  I tried to put a curb on it by requiring them to put money into my “Swine Fine Bucket” every time they “slipped.”  That is, until I overheard one of them bragging about being the most flatulent at the dinner table. 

 

That night we discussed setting higher goals.

 

I remember the moment they added the word “booger” to their repertoire, substituting the phrase, “you know what,” for “booger,” so as not to get a rise out of me.

 

“You know what is on the window, you know what is on the chair, you know what is on the table, you know what is in my hair,” my oldest sang with glee, making his younger brothers collapse to the floor in laughter.

 

I didn’t want to, but the situation actually called for me to say, “Ok boys, let’s not discuss or sing about boogers anymore!” 

 

I’ve admonished, “Don’t smear peanut butter on the dog; don’t use the Spaghetti-O sauce to write your name on the counter” and, “Fuss all you want, you’re NOT having ketchup on your cereal.”  I’ve also said, “Please do not eat your sleeve,” Do not use your sleeve to wipe your nose,” and “Stop chewing holes in your shirt collar.”

 

Answers to questions about whether or not they washed their hands before eating were cut off prematurely with, “And having the dog lick them doesn’t count!” 

 

Dirt used to be one of my boys’ favorite collections, which never bothered me until my second son tried to plant flowers and vegetables in his pockets—not forgetting that seeds need plenty of water to grow and a few earthworms probably would help, too.  After my washing machine clogged with and, dirt and seeds, flooding both the laundry room and the basement, a new rule was laid down: No more gardening in your pants. 

 

I’ve had to beg all of my kids, at one time or another, to stop biting the dog, stop licking the dog, stop eating the dog’s food and to stop drinking the poor dog’s water. 

 

I have also been forced to say, “Don’t paint on your brother,” “Your brother didn’t need a haircut today,” “Quit eating the soap,” and “What did you think was inside this pillow?” 

 

After one particular long day of begging, bargaining, pleading and cajoling, I was really looking forward to a long, solitary soak in my tub.  As I sank down in the bubbles, I landed on something sharp and gritty.  Pulling a fistful of very sandy, very dirty army men from the bottom made me realize I’d have to start the next day with yet another edict: No more building bunkers for their army men in my bathtub.

 

My boys are now 23, 20, 17 and 14.  The messes they make now are bigger and tend to cost more to clean up.  Bodily noises still crack them up, they still can’t keep their hands off of each other and they never want to wear coats, even when it’s snowing outside.  And though my oldest lives on his own and the rest are relatively self-sufficient, I still can’t believe some of the stuff I have to say to correct them.  

 

Take this morning, for instance.  I had to ask the two youngest to stop jumping and tapping both hands on top of the doorframe every time they walked into the kitchen.   Every doorframe in my house is thick with fingerprints.    

 

And then, minutes later, my second son, who was running late for church, took his bowl of instant oatmeal in the car and actually wanted to carry it into church with him to finish eating.     

 

That’s right.  I actually had to say…   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and co-founder and editor-in-chief of ShareWIK.com
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    

 

At some point or another the topic of sex—or lack there of –  often comes up in my coaching with women.  Depleted sexual drive is a common hazard of motherhood, and hard to avoid.  The good news: it does not have to be a permanent condition.


     About 14 years ago – sometime after the birth of my first child and before the birth of my second – I addressed the problem, myself.  I reclaimed my sexuality.


     Years of pregnancy, nursing, sleep deprivation and post-delivery issues had taken their toll.  

Our sex life was limited.  We had fallen into a stereotypical pattern that I was too exhausted to see. You know the scenario:  he wants it, she doesn’t (or doesn’t care), he requests (or begs), she submits, he retreats for a while, she feels she’s bought some time. And the cycle begins again. 


     There is a sitcom nature to the situation that would be hysterical if it weren’t so horrifying. But there we were.  Our sex life was reduced to a dance not unlike a third date in high school – ‘Can he get some?’ ‘Will she let him?’


     I’m not really sure what flipped the switch for me, but I do remember a conversation with a girlfriend that turned my stomach.   Was she really setting up sex as a bargaining chip with her spouse?  Seriously, trading out for laundry support? Is this what partnership in a marriage is really about?


     When I turned my attention to myself, I was none too pleased with what I saw.  My body, once an instrument of desire and pleasure, had transitioned to a growth and feeding zone. And it seemed to have gotten stuck. I had lost connection with my own sexuality.


     How had our hot-steamy-early-marriage ended up like this? More importantly, what was I going to do about it?


Sex Is Important – Even for Moms!

     One thing was clear: it wasn’t okay with me that I had retired my sexual drive in my early thirties.  That had to change! With a background as a sexual health educator, I understood the importance of human sexuality.  Frankly, sex had always been an important factor in my life and relationships. And it wasn’t just a gift for my darling husband – it was something that I loved for myself.


     So I openly declared that the time had come to recapture my desire for sex. I can’t say I was motivated for all the right reasons.  Rather, there was a principle involved.  I had given up so much of myself in the transition to motherhood (a topic for another blog) that I confess to some resentment. My husband’s life didn’t seem to have changed all that much.  Why should parenthood preclude sexual desire for me, on top of everything else?


     Admittedly, bitterness and resentment are not the most powerful of aphrodisiacs. My initial declaration needed a little more depth to create the change I wanted.  After all, humans only change when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the perceived pain of changing.


     So I started talking to friends. I talked with my darling husband (who, you can imagine, was not terribly upset with my decision).  And I started talking to myself.   A lot. Awareness, I discovered, was a powerful motivator for change.  Once I saw what was happening, it was a lot harder to continue my traditional “Not now, I’m too exhausted,” role.  It’s not that I wanted leather, but I could stand a little lace.


     There were many little steps along the road to reclaiming my sexuality.  The most effective was a modern, married version of the “sock on the door” message to a college roommate (you know, the room is occupied, come back in an hour). 


Tinker Bell Means Sex 

     Here’s what we did. While at the Disney store with our daughter one day (don’t get horrified, just go with me), we bought a Tinker-Bell candle.  Tink is playful, and a little naughty, and was a perfect messenger for us. 


     We put the candle on top of the dresser in the bedroom.  Whenever one of us was interested in sexual play, we’d light the candle.  The other of us could then decide:  do I blow the candle out, signaling a clear decision for sleep? Or do I let the candle burn, knowing that tomorrow morning might be harder than usual, but probably well worth the sleep deprivation.


     My husband stocked up on votives and matches, and we had a deal. The critical part was that we both had to make a conscious choice. Now I can’t say that the change was immediate, or that our sex life resumed any level of “normalcy” until our youngest child turned about six (when Tink was replaced with votives around the room).  I CAN say that we were conscious of it.  We paid attention.  We knew that it was important. And we did something about it.


     For most people, sexuality is a critical component of our lives, though we shy away from that acknowledgment. People need touch, and intimacy, and connection, all of which can be found in a healthy sexual relationship.  


     Most important is to recognize that our sexuality is an expression of our own human needs, not (just) an offering to fulfill someone else’s.   And let’s be serious – it’s a lot more fun than …  well, let’s just say it’s a great way to Live on Purpose! 

 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Executive Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Aug 14

My oldest son, Sean, came home for a visit last weekend.  He doesn’t get home much anymore, having moved to New York City six months ago to begin his first ”real” job with an accounting firm.  In fact, last weekend was his first trip home since Christmas.  

 

I suppose that’s the problem with children: they grow up. And leave home.  And live their own lives.    

 

And I suppose that’s the problem with being a mother of sons:  You miss them, feel displaced when they move out of your house and into their own place.  And as soon as you shut the door of their new apartment, you know—I mean, you really know -- you are no longer a major part of the week-by-week, day-by-day and often, the moment-by-moment of their lives.   

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be. 

 

After my first son was born, my oldest sister called to congratulate me, and then said this:  “The trouble with having boys is that every significant benchmark in their life is just another good-bye.” 

 

I thought about her words as a hairline crack made its way across my heart when I walked Sean into kindergarten, his first full day away from me, ever.

 

“Have a great day, bud,” I said as he ran in, giving me a brief wave, never even turning around.  To this day, he doesn’t know that I sat in my car and cried for 30 minutes. 

 

I recalled my sister’s words again when I dropped my second son at sleep away camp, helped my third son pack for a mission trip and watched my fourth son walk across the stage at his 5th grade graduation.  

 

It seems that more than usual, the past nine months have been filled with significant benchmarks in all of my sons’ lives.  Not only did my oldest graduate from college and move to NYC, but my second son, 20, is studying in Europe; my third son, 16, got his driver’s license and my youngest, 14, came downstairs one morning and was suddenly taller than I am.   And just like my youngest’s jump in height, all of these benchmarks seemingly happened overnight. 

 

As much as I want them to explore the world, learn to drive and yes, grow taller than me, I would be lying if I didn’t confess that a tiny part of me really misses snuggling with them every night or hearing them say, like my son, Tom did when he was 3, “I want to marry you when I grow up.”   

 

But I also know, in order to maintain a relationship with my sons as they leave home, I have to let them go and be hands-off—no demands on their time, no expectations of their visits home, no messages left on their cell phones that hint, even slightly, that I still need them. 

 

Recently, when I was having lunch with my friend, Kris, her phone kept ringing and she kept ignoring it. 

 

“Do you need to get that?” I finally asked.

 

“Nah, it’s just the girls,” she said, referring to her two oldest daughters and sounding somewhat exasperated. “They call All. The. Time.”  As we continued our lunch, I realized Kris wasn’t exaggerating. 

 

Her two oldest daughters are grown and living on their own. But more often than not, her daughters’ numbers pop up in Kris’ caller ID five or six times a day – just the girls wanting to discuss the minutia of their day with their mother. 

 

I can’t even imagine.  And more importantly, I'm not sure I want to. 

 

Whenever I meet a man whose siblings are all brothers, I ask, “Do you still love your mother?”  They always chuckle and answer, “Of course.”  And their wives always corroborate their stories of maternal love. 

 

When I ask, “How often do you call her?” most admit, “Not often enough.”   

 

I’m quickly on my way to becoming that mother whose boys call every so often to just “check in.”   I get it; I even understand it.  It’s been that way since the beginning of time; it’s even mentioned in the Bible and at most marriage ceremonies: A husband will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife. 

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

My boys will never know how often I look at the pictures of the four of them scattered around my house and long to have them back in my nest, bickering, laughing and asking me what’s for dinner.  The ghosts of their childhoods continuously haunt me, teasing a smile from my lips at every memory.  It is my little secret. 

 

It’s not as though I want to go back or even have them living in my basement forever. It’s just that the quickness with which they move from wanting to kiss you constantly and tell you everything to not even calling can give a mom whiplash. And just as nothing prepares you for being a mother in the first place, nothing prepares you for saying good-bye in tiny, spread-over-time, painful increments.

 

So, when my sons do call, I regale them with tales of the robust life I am enjoying with their father, my circle of friends and the challenges of running a small business.  I am happy, busy and content, learning new things, traveling and as far as they know, not missing them much at all.  

 

Exactly the way it’s supposed to be.   

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.  

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Aug 28

I am the proud owner of a new dog named Rudy.  I didn’t need Rudy.  Nor did I really want him.    

 

But at the time, I was moving my oldest son out of our home and into his own apartment in New York City, helping my second son pack for a semester in Italy, congratulating my third son on passing his driver’s test and realizing that I suddenly had to look up to my fourth son, who was too tall (not to mention, way too cool) to snuggle with anymore.  

 

It was either get a puppy or throw myself at my children’s feet, begging them not to grow up and leave me.  And since I am too old to throw myself at anything (or anyone) without hurting myself, I went the puppy route. 

 

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  One of my sisters, who is eight years older than I, always says perimenopausal women past childbearing age need to stay away from puppies and kittens. Of course, since she is my older sister, I ignored her.  I thought I could handle my drying uterus and my kids leaving.  But as Rudy is my witness, I was wrong.  Obviously.  

 

And now, as he devotedly follows me from room to room wagging his tail and looking up at me like I am the best thing that ever happened to him, my fluctuating hormones and I are left to wonder, “What-now?”    

 

Recently, I was asked to put together a resume—an exercise I haven’t done in at least 10 years.

 

Since I was eight, I wanted to grow up and be a journalist.  I studied journalism in school and did all the appropriate internships. My goal was to work for a major newspaper and I told everyone who would listen I didn’t want to marry until I was 30; didn't want to have kids until I was at least 35.  I wanted to work.

 

But love—and then life—derailed those dreams as I walked down the aisle at 22, followed closely by one baby after another.   

 

On paper, my work life skips around as my husband and I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to Cleveland to Australia and back to Cleveland again.  Oh, I was able to carve out a fairly impressive variety of writing and editing gigs between moving boxes, bad nannies, diaper changes, day care situations that didn’t work out, naps and carpools.  I was able to freelance for major newspapers, national magazines, National Public Radio (NPR), online news organizations and even dabbled in TV.  I can proudly look back and say I was a working journalist, winning major national awards and racking up skill sets I wouldn’t have been able to achieve if I had worked for just one news organization.  And though all of this is accurate, it isn’t the entire story of the uphill battle I waged almost daily to pursue it. 

 

For most of my boys’ lives, I have routinely gotten up at 3:30 am to get a couple hours of work in before getting them up and off to school.  I’d pack in a full days work while they were at school and then work some more after I tucked them in at night.

 

When they were all in school full-time, I jumped at the opportunity to parlay years of freelance experience into a fulltime job.  (On my second day of work, my youngest, home from sick from school, slept under my desk in the newsroom all day.)     

 

A couple of years later, we moved yet again.  I cobbled together all of my freelance experience and my full-time work to create the media company I currently run, and that is (finally) taking off.  Once again, I am up at 3:30 am, mindful not to schedule travel when my sons have a cross-country meet or tennis match.  

 

Having been married 27 years and spending the last 24 years raising children, I'm well aware that being a wife and mother require one compromise after another.  I have spent decades eating all-cheese pizza instead of what I really wanted: mushrooms and black olives. 

 

Now, I really want to have my pizza with mushrooms and black olives.    

 

My friend, Ronnie, recently wrote a blog about her lack of dreams—or more accurately, the fact that her life as a mother and wife revolves around making others’ dreams a reality.  Her daughter’s dream to go to law school, her husband’s dream of a mountain house, her other daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.

 

When I told her I was going to use her blog as a launching pad for my next column, she told me she thinks people believe most women have created their own path; that they are who they have made themselves to be.  But she says her life was never that way; that she has rarely had the opportunity to express herself or fulfill her dreams; instead, she has put her life and her desires on the backburner. 

 

Like Ronnie, I have often been my husband’s and my sons’ dream maker.  But I hope my best is still to come.  Why?  Because I am still that little girl staying up way past my bedtime, huddled with a flashlight filling reams of paper with words because if I didn’t get them out, I was sure I would explode.    

 

I know I am luckier than many working moms.  I have been able to both work and witness nearly all the moments of my kids’ wonder.  I also know my turn is coming--still a few years out until my youngest heads to college, but I must confess envisioning the day when I am able to work without worrying about what to make for dinner keeps me folding their laundry and picking up dirty socks with a smile on my face.    

 

In the meantime, I will continue to do what I need to do--what I love to do--as a working mom: rescheduling meetings because of sick kids, juggling my work day so I am available to bring enchiladas to Spanish class; finding a way to be at every single swim meet.   

 

My boys just walked in from school and called to Rudy, who was sound asleep under my desk, his head on my feet.  Rudy looked up at me, as though asking permission to greet them.

 

“Go on, boy!” I say, and like a shot, he’s out the door of my office. 

 

And I am alone.   


And I am okay with that.


At least until dinner time.  

 

 

Diana Keough is the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sep 25

I remember as a young mother reading Virginia Woolf’s words that noted for a woman to write, she needed a room of her own and freedom from interruption and thinking to myself, “I could really use that.”  So I set up a room of my own—an office to work and write—and warned my sons that they could only disturb me if the house was on fire or they were bleeding. 

 

But as the years went by and my sons grew along with my career, a room of my own was no longer enough.  Because as long as my husband or my kids were in the house, my instinct as a wife and mother to please and be available to others made me switch from anticipating inspiration to wanting to meet everyone’s needs.     

 

Lately, I must confess, I’ve been feeling a bit lost, tired and sort of disconnected from others—something I know happens whenever I’m feeling disconnected from myself and my “inner core.”   What I needed was time away by myself to recharge my batteries, to hear myself think and get back to the core of my inner stillness.  No kids.  No husband.  No distractions.  No noise (especially no football games).

 

Last weekend, I got my wish.  I rented a cabin an hour north of home, and packed nothing but comfortable clothes, a bag of books and my journals. 

 

When I first walked into the cabin, I felt relieved to be alone and excited about the prospect of spending an entire weekend by myself, with no plans and no expectations to be somewhere or please someone.  But I also felt restless, wondering what I should do first?   I had to kill the impulse to be productive, to accomplish a “goal” and work down a “to do” list.    My first desire was to read a book without distraction—no checking emails or text messages; no getting up to thaw meat for dinner; no wondering if the dogs needed water or if I needed to switch the white clothes from the washer to the dryer. 

 

It might not seem as if fulfilling the desire to read would be a big deal, but growing up, my worth was often measured in productivity.   Saturdays were filled with chore lists and most activities—no matter how mundane—had clear goals.  Daydreaming was often met with, “Don’t just sit there, DO SOMETHING!”  So just watching a fly circle my soda can, a bee land on a black-eyed Susan or a hummingbird discover the feeder for the first time felt like stolen moments, done in secret.   As a child, I remember watching a rabbit makes its way from the shelter of the pines in our back yard to the garden and feeling something I now know as “joy,” bubble up from my belly to my heart, making it swell.  Funny what you remember, when you give yourself some time.    

 

In my solitary cabin, after I filled my ice bucket and unpacked, I forced myself to sit on the couch and close my eyes; I willed myself to breathe in and out, giving myself permission to just…be.  I pulled a book out of my bag, grabbed my journal and a pen and headed to the front porch swing. 

 

I couldn’t stop smiling. 

 

I always thought my desire to be spend time alone was unique to me; that other women were completely happy shuttling children to and fro, making brownies for birthday party celebrations at school and making sure their husbands were happy and that dinner was on the table each night.  I thought other women were content to be mom, wife, chauffeur, nurse, cook, teacher and house manager and satisfied to walk out of their house every morning, their calendars synched, without a hair out of place. 

 

I have always envied that. 

 

But the more I shared with friends about where and how I was going to spend my weekend alone, and how, the more I realized that most women are trying to find that inner stillness and a balance that doesn’t involve giving ourselves away piece by piece to our families, the PTA and the high school football concessions.   

 

Like most women, I always take on much more than I should because I have this incredible desire to be everything to everyone.  I want to be a great mom to my kids, a great wife to my husband, a great colleague and a great volunteer.  But all that greatness requires a constant giving out of myself until sooner rather than later, I have nothing left to give.    

 

And like so many women, I run on empty.    

 

My friend, Elaine said that her new motto is:  You can do everything, but you can't do it all at the same time!  As a coach, she said she spends a lot of time with women doing the opposite of what you'd expect a coach to do—not getting them to do more but instead, helping them find a way to do what they want out to do out of passion, not obligation. 

 

In her book, Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote:

 

            Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life—when one is alone.  Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.  The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the saint, to pray.  But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.  She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.”

 

Over the course of the weekend, I spent time in prayer, read five books, filled an entire journal with thoughts and excerpts from some of the books I read and outlines for new columns (this one included).  In the stillness, I heard God’s voice and felt long-needed comfort.  The books fed my soul; the writing, unleashed my imagination and let creativity seep in once again.  I left my room only twice in 72 hours.      

 

As I packed up, it began to rain.  Into my bag, I tucked the pen that came with the room—the pen I used all weekend to journal.  That pen now sits here on my desk, forever reminding me that I need to be alone for part of each year—a few days, a week, if possible; and without a doubt, a few minutes each day so that I can be still, keep in touch with my core.    

 

Because if I don’t, I will have nothing left to give to my family, my friends or most importantly, myself.   

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer prize nominated journalist and the mother of four sons.  She is also the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Sep 25
It’s true. God often answers prayers in ways we never imagined.
 
People look at my fourth child, who is six years younger than her next sibling, and assume that she was a “surprise.”  But really, she was an answer to prayer.
 
It just wasn’t the kind of prayer you might expect. 
 
We didn’t pray we would be able to conceive.  We didn't have to.  It was never an issue for us.  I married young, so we waited several years to start our family.  But once we started, I had two children in less than three years.  Those two broke us in pretty easily, so we were naïve enough to think we must be doing something right, and thought we should have more.
 
Of course, when things are so well balanced – two parents, two kids; two boys, two girls -  there doesn’t seem to be a “right” time to add a third child.    I started asking friends, why they had only two kids, or when they decided to add the third…  and I got plenty of interesting answers.  One friend said, “I just knew, when we sat down to dinner, someone was missing.”
 
Ironically, as I was trying to decide when to have that third child, I realized that what I thought had been a really bad case of stomach flu was really morning sickness.
 
Yup, I was pregnant. 
 
Even though I hadn’t planned it. 
 
These things happen.
 
Surprise!
 
And then the third child arrived.   And nothing was ever the same.
 
Due to a miscommunication in scheduling, my midwives were both going to be out of town the weekend before he was due.  “Go home and put your feet up,” were my instructions.  And, I followed them.  I promise I did.
 
But then, my water broke.
 
And two hours later, child number three arrived.  That’s right, zero to baby in two hours.
 
I made it to the delivery just in time for the nurse to scream, “I need a doctor NOW.”  Apparently whoever was handling admitting that morning sensed the urgency and told my husband he could fill out paperwork later.  So he arrived, breathless, in time to greet our son, cut the cord, and tell me, “Don’t ever do this to me again.”
 
As if I was planning a repeat event.
 
And that’s when the fun began.  If you want to call it that.
 
Three kids under the age of five is a stretch for anyone, and when one of the kids is “one of those kids,” it’s enough to make anyone question her sanity on a daily basis.
 
Our third child cried louder, slept less, took more risks, and knew how to push everyone’s buttons.   He climbed out of his crib before most kids can sit up.  And when he climbed out, he wreaked havoc – or hid.  Which meant that, post nap-time, I either had to clean up a mess, or locate a baby.
 
He disappeared in public, too.  Our entire church was on lock-down one Sunday because I turned my head at the wrong moment.  Fortunately, after 30 long minutes, we realized no one had taken him.  He had just decided to go wait for the rest of the family where we had hung our coats (which, in our large church, was the equivalent of a football field away).  But he didn’t tell us.  He wasn’t talking – yet. 
 
When he did finally start talking, it was primarily a tool to instigate more trouble.  Or express his very firm opinions. 
 
Being a stay-at-home Mom can be lonely and desperate at times, particularly when there is still a nap schedule to keep — or deal with when it’s not kept.  Everything requires extra effort, the to-do list never ends, and any “me time” is often spent asleep.  There are certainly intangible rewards, and priceless moments of family bonding that I would never trade.  But for most of us, giving up the second salary means we aren’t able to afford some of the luxuries that would make up for the long days – and nights - of thankless tasks.
 
I remember thinking a medically induced coma sounded like a vacation. 
 
At some point, I stood in my living room, and prayed, aloud: “God, don’t ever let me forget what it is like to have little kids.”
 
Maybe it was the day the bean-bag chair exploded and the electromagnetically charged pellets went everywhere.  Or maybe it was another incident with diaper contents.  Or the up-teenth call to poison control. 
 
I don’t exactly remember the circumstances, but I remember that prayer, feeling alone with a mess, determined that I would do my best to help young mothers, once my own kids grew up.
 
But that doesn’t mean I’ve always remembered that prayer.  The memory of that day was tucked neatly away with the toys, crib and baby equipment that I was, for some reason, determined to use, just one more time.  Trouble was, I didn’t have any cooperation.  I would mention a fourth kid, and my husband would say, “You have one who is the equivalent of four.  Isn’t that enough?”

No birth control is quite as effective as the presence of young children.  Anyone's, really.  But especially your own.
 
Someone was missing from our table, though, and I knew it. 
 
And, after five years, I managed to wear my husband down.
 
And so we have our youngest.  And a fresh reminder that sometimes leaving the house is far more complicated than it should be.  That life is messy. That Moms of young children need help and encouragement.
 
A reminder that I asked God not to let me forget.
 
Humor writer Hallie Bandy is the mother of four children and lives on a farmette in rural Kentucky--both of which provide more than enough fodder for her writing.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.
 
More Hallie Bandy articles, click here.
  
©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC  
Jan 02

As many women know, being a wife, mother and well, a woman, means you often must lead a life of compromise.  

This column I wrote in August seemed to resonate with many women who, like me, had to make--and continue to make--a choice between pursuing their dreams or helping their husband's and children pursue theirs.  It continues to remain in the top 10 most read blogs, along with the one I wrote that said, among other things, that every benchmark in a son's life is just another good-bye.  

Most of the women who wrote to me after this was published said they did what they did without regret.  One woman said that she feels she turned 50, then 60 and now looks back on her life with nothing to show for it.  

I don't feel that way.  At.  All.  As my boys continue to leave home to pursue the dreams their father and I have equipped them to follow, I, too, have no regrets.      

--Diana 


My Dreams Took A Back Burner To Sons' Dreams.  Will It Ever Be My Turn?  


I am the proud owner of a new dog named Rudy.  I didn’t need Rudy.  Nor did I really want him.    

 

But at the time, I was moving my oldest son out of our home and into his own apartment in New York City, helping my second son pack for a semester in Italy, congratulating my third son on passing his driver’s test and realizing that I suddenly had to look up to my fourth son, who was too tall (not to mention, way too cool) to snuggle with me anymore.  

 

It was either get a puppy or throw myself at my children’s feet, begging them not to grow up and leave me.  And since I am too old to throw myself at anything (or anyone) without hurting myself, I went the puppy route. 

 

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  One of my sisters, who is eight years older than I, always says perimenopausal women past childbearing age need to stay away from puppies and kittens. Of course, since she is my older sister, I ignored her.  I thought I could handle my drying uterus and my kids leaving.  But as Rudy is my witness, I was wrong.  Obviously.  

 

And now, as he devotedly follows me from room to room wagging his tail and looking up at me like I am the best thing that ever happened to him, my fluctuating hormones and I are left to wonder, “What-now?”    

 

Recently, I was asked to put together a resume—an exercise I haven’t done in at least 10 years.

 

Since I was eight, I wanted to grow up and be a journalist.  I studied journalism in school and did all the appropriate internships. My goal was to work for a major newspaper and I told everyone who would listen I didn’t want to marry until I was 30; didn't want to have kids until I was at least 35.  I wanted to work.

 

But love—and then life—derailed those dreams as I walked down the aisle at 22, followed closely by one baby after another.   

 

On paper, my work life skips around as my husband and I moved from Honolulu to San Francisco to Cleveland to Australia and back to Cleveland again.  Oh, I was able to carve out a fairly impressive variety of writing and editing gigs between moving boxes, bad nannies, diaper changes, day care situations that didn’t work out, naps and carpools.  I was able to freelance for major newspapers, national magazines, National Public Radio (NPR), online news organizations and even dabbled in TV.  I can proudly look back and say I was a working journalist, winning major national awards and racking up skill sets I wouldn’t have been able to achieve if I had worked for just one news organization.  And though all of this is accurate, it isn’t the entire story of the uphill battle I waged almost daily to pursue it. 

 

For most of my boys’ lives, I have routinely gotten up at 3:30 am to get a couple hours of work in before getting them up and off to school.  I’d pack in a full days work while they were at school and then work some more after I tucked them in at night.

 

When they were all in school full-time, I jumped at the opportunity to parlay years of freelance experience into a fulltime job.  (On my second day of work, my youngest, home from sick from school, slept under my desk in the newsroom all day.)     

 

A couple of years later, we moved yet again.  I cobbled together all of my freelance experience and my full-time work to create the media company I currently run, and that is (finally) taking off.  Once again, I am up at 3:30 am, mindful not to schedule travel when my sons have a cross-country meet or tennis match.  

 

Having been married 27 years and spending the last 24 years raising children, I'm well aware that being a wife and mother require one compromise after another.  I have spent decades eating all-cheese pizza instead of what I really wanted: mushrooms and black olives. 

 

Now, I really want to have my pizza with mushrooms and black olives.    

 

My friend, Ronnie, recently wrote a blog about her lack of dreams—or more accurately, the fact that her life as a mother and wife revolves around making others’ dreams a reality.  Her daughter’s dream to go to law school, her husband’s dream of a mountain house, her other daughter’s dream of becoming a doctor.

 

When I told her I was going to use her blog as a launching pad for my next column, she told me she thinks people believe most women have created their own path; that they are who they have made themselves to be.  But she says her life was never that way; that she has rarely had the opportunity to express herself or fulfill her dreams; instead, she has put her life and her desires on the backburner. 

 

Like Ronnie, I have often been my husband’s and my sons’ dream maker.  But I hope my best is still to come.  Why?  Because I am still that little girl staying up way past my bedtime, huddled with a flashlight filling reams of paper with words because if I didn’t get them out, I was sure I would explode.    

 

I know I am luckier than many working moms.  I have been able to both work and witness nearly all the moments of my kids’ wonder.  I also know my turn is coming--still a few years out until my youngest heads to college, but I must confess envisioning the day when I am able to work without worrying about what to make for dinner keeps me folding their laundry and picking up dirty socks with a smile on my face.    

 

In the meantime, I will continue to do what I need to do--what I love to do--as a working mom: rescheduling meetings because of sick kids, juggling my work day so I am available to bring enchiladas to Spanish class; finding a way to be at every single swim meet.   

 

My boys just walked in from school and called to Rudy, who was sound asleep under my desk, his head on my feet.  Rudy looked up at me, as though asking permission to greet them.

 

“Go on, boy!” I say, and like a shot, he’s out the door of my office. 

 

And I am alone.   


And I am okay with that.


At least until dinner time.  

 

 

Diana Keough is a Pulitzer prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com.

 

For more Diana Keough articles, click here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 02

I swear they heard us coming, those grocery store employees, and felt helpless to protect themselves against the onslaught of “hungry-family-of-six-passing-through-on-way-home-from-church.”  We had trouble written all over us, and we didn’t disappoint.


I just wanted to pick up a few things for lunch, really.  A little of this, a little of that.  A quick stop, I promised my four boys.  They respond with the cacophony of loud, whiny protestations that echo in the grocery store’s foyer, making us the center of attention before we’re officially in the store.


After wrestling my 2-year old into the grocery cart seat, I’m so thankful for the belt that will keep him in one place, legally.  I have to beat the other three boys off the cart while they climb all over each other jockeying for the “chosen boys to sit in cart” position, yanking on each other’s shirts.  One of them must’ve missed Tommy’s shirt and grabbed his pants instead, ‘cause there he is, his little white bum exposed to the entire produce section.  For a split second, there’s blessedly rare silence, as we all realize Tommy's standing there mooning the cantaloupe.


“You made me naked,” Tommy yells, cranking back his arm and planting a fist firmly in the gut of one of his older brothers, who responds in kind.  We’ve made our usual grand entrance, and I still haven’t put a single thing in my cart.  In fact, I’m beginning to forget what I needed besides a vacation.


“Twinkle, twinkle little star,” my littlest one sings as loud as he can, breaking the rhythm only to scream out the name of things he recognizes on the store’s shelves as they whiz by him.  I know we have exactly 30 seconds before recognition turn to temper tantrum, so I start giving out, “Please go get” assignments to the older guys, two of whom are trying to take swipes at each other, while the other one informs me about all the things he just can’t live without.


“What was that all about?’” my husband asks, peeking around a corner, arms loaded with stuff I’m pretty sure we don’t need.


“It’s over, hon. You can pretend you’re with us again,” I suggest, but instead he dumps the junk and goes in search of more, leaving me alone with my little crooner. 


A sweet, kind-looking older woman notices my cherubic-faced singing angel and says, “Oh, isn’t he darling?”  To which he responds with a rippingly loud Austin Powers-accented, “Yeaaaaaaaaah babeeeeeeeey!”  The color drains from her face, as she backs away with a shocked and horrified expression.  I’m not sure if she’s going to throw up or what, but I’m fairly certain she’s listening to my blubbering vows that I would never, ever, in a million years, let my two-year-old watch a movie like that.


“In fact, I’ve never seen that movie either, really, I swear.  Ya gotta believe me, please,” I cry to her retreating back, praying she won’t report me to the authorities.


“Jesus wuvs me dis I know,” he begins to warble.


“Oh, nice try,” I tell him, trying to find room in the cart to place the first item actually on my list.  But the thing is heaped so high with enough calorie-loaded, sugar-packed, neon-colored and artificially sweetened stuff to make even the Easter Bunny sick and I still don’t know what we’re going to have for lunch.


When I meet up with everyone at the checkout, the two middle boys are still swinging at each other.  Only now, they’re arguing about which of the superheroes wear blue tights, while my husband tries to balance yet another bag of chips on top of the hundred boxes of dry cereal.


“All boys, huh?” the woman in front of me ask, holding the hands of her two wide-eyed, apprehensive little girls who are mesmerized by the constant motion of my tussling little bear cubs.  I was about to tell her how blessed I feel to have all these boys when my “little blessings” start threatening to depants Tommy again.  Amid Tommy’s shrieks and pleas for mercy, all I can do is croak back, “Yeah, all boys.”


Two hundred dollars later we’re outta there as the door closes behind us and the employees, as well as the remaining customers, heave a collective sigh of relief, I’m certain.


“Any ideas for lunch?” my husband asks on the way to the car.


“Yeah.  How ‘bout some chips and dry cereal?” 


Diana Keough is a Pulitzer- Prize nominated journalist, the mother of four sons and CEO,Editor-in-Chief of ShareWIK.com. 
   


 

Read more Diana Keough articles, here. 
 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC    


I am form-avoidant. I have no good reason for this aversion. I can read. My typing is fast. I adore pens and paper. I’m a professional writer: need a speech, a white paper, a press release, an article, a 50,000 word manuscript, an op-ed, a newspaper blurb, a witty Facebook status? I’m your woman. Just don’t make me answer questions on a line as big as a staple.  


I grow tired of the irrelevance. Does it matter if I’m a Mr. or Mrs.? Why do I need to write my address again? It’s on the form you mailed me! It is stored on every computer of every marketer in the free world! Get it from them!




The school district forms, which I’m forced to do or my kids will be home from 8:30 a.m.  to 3 p.m., are more complex than a corporate merger. Does your child have allergies? What is the cell phone number of your closest relative that is not actually your relative? What is your mother’s address where she lived when she was 12? How is your child getting home? Does your child have any fears? When was his last tetanus shot? Were there any problems at birth? If so, state the doctor’s address and describe the caesarean delivery, along with the address of any forceps provider.  Can you link your grocery card to the school? What is your grocery card number? What is your driver’s license number? Please state why you are showing a ticket for speeding in 1986. The officer’s name and address?


I always clear an afternoon to fill out the forms. My sarcasm gets the better of me. I write, “IT IS THE SAME ADDRESS and LIFE STORY AS LAST YEAR! You’ve GOT TO HAVE THIS stored SOMEWHERE!” However, guilt envelopes me, and I don’t want the school secretaries to talk about me. I’m actually nice, just form-challenged. So, I resign myself to answering questions. I move on to cafeteria, bus and then school nurse forms. Everyone needs our address. (Why don’t they share it? Plus, it’s not like any of them visit me.) Then the kids bring home their fundraising forms. (I direct the kids to make sure people fill out their addresses. If I don’t like to do my own forms, there’s no way I’m doing someone else’s.)


After 4.5 hours and a swollen, bloodied hand, I consider tequila shots for the pain emanating from the wrist. It is a sign to stop. The PTA forms loom. (I admit it. I miss PTA deadlines not because I’m a conscientious objector, it’s because I’m not done filling out forms.)


I pause to remember the visit to the family doctor’s office for my kids’ physicals. The receptionist ordered me to “sit and fill out these forms.” My mouth dropped open. Three sets of forms, one for each kid. History, insurance, and privacy forms. The paperwork resembled the ancient text of the King James Bible.


“There must be a mistake,” I said. “We’re already patients. We’ve filled out these forms last year.”


“Well, HIPA and office policy make us do this every year,” she said.


“That’s ridiculous,” I stated. “It’s the same address, phone, insurance and health history! And we’ve gone here for all visits, so you should have any notes of updates to our health.”


“Ma’am,” she said. I knew I am in trouble. “Ma’am” is only for troublemakers. “You have to fill these out. It’s policy.”


“But it’s the same history. I can see if I changed something, but I haven’t.”


She refused to take her clipboard back. Against my free will, I filled out forms for the next hour, sitting in the waiting room with three children, writing “SAME AS LAST YEAR” on each form.


Then I pause to remember my experience at the vet. The dog was complaining it was her turn--she had an ear infection. They didn’t make me write the dog’s health history (I would’ve written: OBESE KLEPTOMANIAC.) They didn’t ask insurance information. (Because I do not have dog insurance.) Everything has been entered into the computer before, and I am jubilant.

I contemplated asking the vet to manage my doc's office, schools and sports teams. There are no forms here in vet land, only slobber, dander and adoration. They are living well.

 



Kristine Meldrum Denholm is an award-winning freelance writer published in books, magazines, newspapers and e-pubs.  Visit with her here, Facebook or find her on Twitter @writerandmom.


For more Kristine Meldrum Denholm  columns, click here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC.

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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