Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brief Blogging Break: Back on July 1

Please pardon me whilest I taketh a brief blogging interlude until Friday, July 1, when I shall return in all my pop culture and politics blogging glory and explaineth my absence.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Short Dispatches from the Nut House

Bands, Bands . . . Everywhere are Bands

The Youngest Boy had his first concert with his school band last week. He played the xylophone, rather unenthusiastically I might add. After years of attending his older brother’s school band concerts – The Eldest Boy plays the drums and other percussion instruments – we thought that The Youngest Boy would feel proud to perform in his own while his family watched from the audience. In reality, all he was sincerely focused on was whether I’d take the kids out for ice cream afterwards because The Eldest Boy and his buds went out for ice cream after their concert the week prior.

Speaking of bands . . . The Eldest Boy has become so enamored of drumming and jazz (an affinity inspired by his awesome band teacher) that, for his middle school biography project he read a book about famed drummer Buddy Rich, a contemporary of Frank Sinatra. After reading the Rich bio, the 12-year-old sounds like a member of the Greatest Generation as he frequently drops references to Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, the Chairman of the Board and Mel Torme.

I See Exit Signs and Naked People

What, pray tell, was the highlight of a recent trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with the Picket Fence Post family? If you asked The Youngest Boy he'd tell you it would be seeing what he called “the glorious exit sign.” And then all of us using it. He was no fan of the new Art of the Americas wing because he said it contained too much furniture for his taste. (“Chairs are not art!” exclaimed the 9-year-old critic.)

Meanwhile all three kids were disturbed by the multitude of naked people depicted in paintings and in sculptures throughout the museum. No matter how The Spouse and I tried to tell them that the human body is considered beautiful, they scoffed. Apparently The Spouse and I were sick for saying so. And not "sick" in that good, “cool” way.

It’s All Black & Gold

The Spouse took The Youngest Boy to the parade in Boston on Saturday celebrating the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins. I took a pass on the parade as The Girl, The Eldest Boy and I had vital Father’s Day stuff to accomplish. However the three of us did watch the festivities on TV. Three separate TVs in fact. The Spouse had texted us to tell us where on the parade route they were so that we could text them back with updates about where the team was and approximately how long it would take before they arrived at their location.

But back to the TVs . . . The Girl, The Eldest Boy and I were under the delusion that we’d be able to spot our loved ones on TV so we each took up a position watching a different local stations' coverage of the parade to see if we could see them. Yeah, with a million+ people in attendance, of course we’d see The Spouse and The Youngest Boy.

Photographic Evidence

The three kiddos just brought home their school yearbooks and, while perusing one of them this afternoon I stumbled across photographic evidence that The Youngest Boy blew off my attempts to keep him warm during the winter. (This is the kid who gave me grief when I wouldn't let him wear shorts to school in freezing temperatures.) In one group photo taken on the playground, where snow is heaped all over the place, there’s The Youngest Boy, in sweatpants and a short sleeve T-shirt surrounded by his buddies who were wearing winter coats and winter hats. Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Three for a Thursday: Must-Read Parenting Article, TV Dads & Bruins Prevail

You Really Should Read This Article

The Atlantic's July/August issue has a provocative piece about the price children pay when their parents try to shield them from hurt, try to do everything for them and just focus on making the kids happy (I’m so guilty of the last one).

The end result? Unhappy twenty- and thirtysomethings who are ticked and disillusioned to discover that, once that they’re on their own, life isn’t all unicorns and rainbows people don’t constantly tell you you’re awesome and it seems like your entire happy childhood was somehow a lie.

Therapist Lori Gottlieb, also a mother, wrote that she’s seen a growing number of twentysomething and young thirtysomething patients who praise their parents but have had trouble “choosing or committing to a satisfying career path, struggled with relationships and just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose.”

Gottlieb quoted psychologist and author Wendy Mogel saying, “Well-intentioned parents have been metabolizing [children’s] anxiety for them their entire childhoods so they don’t know how to deal with it when they grow up.”

A Los Angeles family psychologist added: “We’re confusing our own needs with our kids’ needs and calling it good parenting . . . I can’t tell you how often I have to say to parents that they’re putting too much emphasis on their kids’ feelings because of their own issues. If a therapist is telling you to pay less attention to your kid’s feelings, you know something has gone way out of whack.”

TV Dads: From the Doting to the Dreadful

In honor of Father’s Day, I surveyed today’s primetime dads and found that for every doting and devoted dad (like Parenthood’s Adam Braverman and Friday Night Lights’ Eric Taylor) there are also some dreadful drunks who no one would want to have as a paternal role model (like Mad Men’s Don Draper and Rescue Me’s Tommy Gavin).

I also left room for the lovable dopey dads like Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy who has a heart of gold and the common sense of a paper clip. The video above showcases how one of Phil's "big" ideas -- using the family's minivan to advertise his real estate business -- backfired. Big time.

Image credit: AP/MetroWest Daily News
Bruins Prevail

The entire Picket Fence Post family, including Max the dog, were up last night watching the Boston Bruins net their first Stanley Cup victory in 39 years while the boys wore Bs shirts and drank out of Bruins cups.

Once the game concluded, the boys ran out to the garage and honked the horns and then raced back into the house and replayed over and over the footage of Zdeno Chara hoisting the Cup over his head and shouting with glee. The Girl, who was happy for the team and the region, finally said, “Can I please go to bed now?” some 10 minutes after the game ended.

Now we learn that there will be what the mayor of Boston called a “rolling rally” in the Hub for the Bruins on Saturday. Provided The Youngest Boy doesn’t have a Little League playoff game on that day, I’m sure the Picket Fence Post kids are going to clamor to go downtown to celebrate.

These kids are so spoiled what with New Englanders being able to revel in this win, along with World Series victories, Super Bowl wins and an NBA championship over the past decade. When I was a kid, aside from the Celtics’ winning streak in the 80s, most New England teams were pretty bad and rooting for a team, like the Red Sox, mostly meant that you’d get your heart broken.

Image credit: AP/MetroWest Daily News.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Surprises in the Backpack

The other night I decided to go through The Youngest Boy’s backpack because I didn’t really buy his story that he had no papers, no homework, no nothing to give to me.

What I found in there, aside from a couple of smelly zip-up sweatshirts, were three notes addressed to The Spouse and I, as the parents of The Youngest Boy. The notes told us that we owed the school cafeteria varying amounts of money. The totals in the individual notes never surpassed $10.
And I was dumbfounded. Each morning The Spouse or I ask the kids if they need lunch money. They are quite comfortable with pilfering small bills from my purse or from The Spouse's wallet. Oftentimes, we only have tens or twenties and have to hand them over. (I'm not very good at following up and demanding change, to be honest, though I suppose I should start holding them accountable for said change.)

So how in the world could we have had a deficit with the school cafeteria, which now probably thought we were deadbeats for not responding to three different notes which never made it out of The Youngest Boy’s backpack? (Seriously, trusting a 9-year-old to give us notes telling us we owe money isn't the smoothest of moves.)

The Youngest Boy swore up and down that he was all square with the cafeteria folks. Claimed that he checked today and confirmed that fact.

All of this makes me suspicious as to what’s really going on here. Is the 9-year-old giving money to someone else? Is he buying more food (like extra milks, double lunches) or stupid stuff at the student store, then using his own cash to make up the difference? The answers from the 9-year-old are insufficient to satiate my curiosity.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Go B's: The Youngest Boy Finally Got His Bruins' Sign

We finally got our acts together in the Picket Fence Post family . . . at least when it comes to showing our support for the Boston Bruins.

Prior to the Bruins tying up the Stanley Cup finals two games to two last night, The Youngest Boy sat down at the kitchen table to devise his pro-Bruins sign for our front door. The Spouse and I tried to offer suggestions -- I thought that a giant Bruins logo with the word "BELIEVE" beneath it, like we've seen all around the city of Boston (see left) would be cool -- but he only wanted parental assistance with making the circle around the "B," nothing else.

In the end, The Youngest Boy was so proud of his sign, which featured his sketch of the Stanley Cup and names of some of his favorite players. As we pulled out of the driveway this morning on the way to bring the kids to school, The Youngest Boy was enjoying a happy kind of bliss because he'd just watched the final minutes of the Bruins' victory last night. (Since these games start so late -- 8 p.m. on school nights! -- we've been DVRing at least the third period of each game and The Youngest Boy gets up early and watches the game the following morning.)

Who would've thought that I'd be living in a home with a Bruins sign on the door? Guess that's what happens when you have a youth hockey player in the house.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Disgruntled Dispatches from the Kitchen

I’m having a senior moment and I’m only in my 40s. Found in the microwave oven this afternoon: Leftover roasted sweet potatoes I had heated up yesterday to go along with a pretty good dinner I'd made but then completely forgot about. Sadly, this is not the first time I've left food in the microwave overnight in the past year.

And while I'm on the subject of the kitchen and food, you know those kids of mine who barely eat the dinners I make for them – last night I spent 1.5 hours preparing dinner and they barely ate any of it,  seriously, their refusal to eat the healthy meals I make is really cheesing me off – they’re eating everything else in the house but dinner and rendering our pantry looking like a photo of a Leningrad grocery store with barren shelves as they complain that there's nothing to eat.

Given that the eldest two Picket Fence Post kids are nearly teenagers (God help me) and The Youngest Boy’s appetite is voracious -- except for good old Mom’s homemade dinners of course -- I think I’m going to be spending way more time than I’d like in the grocery store this summer. The grocery bill is going to bankrupt me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quick Hits from the Picket Fence Post Family

Mangling the Bike Tire

Scene: Backing out of garage to drive The Girl to soccer practice. A loud crunch followed.

Action: I got out to discover that I’d run over the front tire of a kid’s bike. A boy visiting the house had parked his bike behind my car. He said he’d leaned it up against the bush, next to the garage door. Whether he did or whether he didn't (or whether it fell over), is irrelevenat. The bike tire wound up being crunched nonetheless.

Conclusion: We’ve offered to pay for a replacement. No word from the kid’s parents on a pricetag though.

Fun with Tornado Warnings

The Picket Fence Post family spent some quality time in The Spouse’s basement home office last week after the weather forecasters were predicting – erroneously it turned out – that a powerful storm cell was headed in our direction, a cell that had already spawned deadly and destructive tornadic activity in western Massachusetts.

I set The Girl and The Youngest Boy up with snacks, a laptop computer, headphones and Malcolm in the Middle DVDs while I watched the TV news with The Eldest Boy and I Tweeted up a storm (no pun intended). I freaked out a bit when we received a warning call on our home phone from authorities suggesting that we “seek shelter” but tried (probably unsuccessfully) to keep it all cool on the outside as I kept in touch with my folks who live in the Springfield area which was hit with tornados. (They were fine).

The following day, The Eldest Boy came home from school and told me “no one” he knew had gone to the basement during the storm (a fact that other parents with whom I later spoke refuted). But then again, The Eldest Boy likes to paint me as an overcautious helicopter parent, and is fond of making sport of his old mom.

Permit Me This One Tangent . . .

When you’re a parent on the sidelines of a youth sporting event and you see that a kid on your kid’s team has been struggling, it’s not helpful to start smack-talking about how much he's stinking up the joint. Seriously. Plus, you never know if that kid’s parents are sitting nearby. Consider this a public service announcement.

Bruins Mania

I’m feeling a tad guilty at the moment. When the Boston Red Sox were in the World Series in 2004 and 2007, I, ever the enthusiastic fan, made signs which said, “Go Sox” and put them in our front windows.

However when the Celtics were in the NBA Finals, I didn’t put signs in the windows. It’s not that I didn’t care if they won or lost. We in the Picket Fence Post family watched the Finals and rooted for the C’s, but I wouldn’t say that any of us are totally nuts for the team like The Spouse and I are for the Sox.

But when the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup finals, The Youngest Boy, our resident hockey player, was so jazzed about it that he asked me if we could put signs in the windows like we did in 2007. I said that we would because it’s only fair.

The sad part is, like the Bruins (last night’s game notwithstanding), we’ve kind of gotten off to a slow start what with youth soccer and baseball games, school projects and the like haven’t gotten around to making those signs yet. But now that the Bruins have kick-started their finals play with last night’s shellacking of Vancouver, I’m hoping that’ll kick-start our sign making.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dealing with the Sports Dad/Coach: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose

The Spouse is a great youth sports coach. There have been families who've specifically requested that their kids be placed on his team. He’s calm, reasonable and doesn’t put his own ego out there on the court or ball field. It's all about the kids. The recreational teams he coaches are intended to teach children how to play a game and how to work together, and his efforts and attitudes reflect that. From time to time, I’ve joked with him that he’s like the Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights) of the youth coaching set, particularly when he's making an end-of-the-game speech and awarding the game ball to a Little League player who stood out.

All three of the Picket Fence Post kids have greatly appreciated the fact that he’s coached them in one sport or another for years. (I put in two years as The Girl’s soccer coach when she was little, two seasons as a head coach, two as an assistant.)

Then came this Little League season. And I think the competitive pressure is getting to him. This year, more than any of the other years, I’ve watched him stress out over the batting order, over the pitching roster, over the fact that many of the practices were rained out and the team went on to lose tons of consecutive games. (They’ve won two to date.)

In the meantime, The Youngest Boy has lost some of his at-bat mojo because he was hit in the back by a hard pitch during a game. Now when he’s at the plate, he tends to back away and swing late. It’s messed him all up.

All of this has led to The Spouse wearing this pained look on his face during (and after) games when he’s frustrated because he feels pressure for his team to win, even though there’s been insufficient time for the team to practice and address their weaknesses. No matter how many times I tell him that it’s “just Little League,” they’re “just little kids,” I’m not really helping to improve his mood . . . though an after-game cocktail has seemed to loosen him up.

I so much want him to be able to take a few steps back and enjoy the silly insanity of it all, to see that he's coaching a group of kids who still find it amusing to make fart noises with their arm pits, climb the chain link fence around the dugout, giggle when someone says "balls" and who don't understand why it's necessary to shower after a game. When The Spouse is inspired and amused, it can be contagious, and that's a good thing.

As for The Youngest Boy feeling timid about stepping into the batter’s box, I hope that more, low-pressure visits to the batting cage will help improve matters. If not, then a nice ice cream cone or a slushy after the game seems to lift everyone's spirits.