Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three for Thursday: Dead Plants, 'Good' Food & Dog Meets Crab

Why I Hate Gardening: Stuff Dies

The crisp plant (pictured on the right) is only the latest in a long, tragic string of untimely deaths experienced by plant life that I've foolishly purchased or some hopeful soul has given me in the hopes that maybe THIS time I would develop a green thumb and the plant would thrive.

I usually start off strong when I buy plants, with a resolve to water them every day, shower them with loving care, sing them arias and read Yeats' poems aloud to the growing beauties.

Then real life kicks in. I get busy with work/writing stuff, kid stuff, house stuff, Max the dog stuff and I forget all about the plants which don't have the power to nag but are needy little buggers which require constistent attention. And when it comes to getting attention, the plants, sadly, are at the bottom of my priority list, hence the plant crisps currently weeping on my front door step.

What Do You Consider 'Good' Food?

Speaking of needing attention . . . now that it's summer and school is out, the offspring are lamenting that we cannot keep enough "good" food in the house for more than 24-48 hours. Now I'm not talking about Michelle Obama's definition of "good" food, I'm talkin' the three resident middle schoolers' definition, which is radically different.

Items they consider atrociously unedible but which I'm constantly pushing on them: Granola bars, frozen real fruit bars, actual fruit (of the non-berry variety), crackers, "healthy" cereal, cheese and any form of vegetable.

Items they consider "good" and which they think I plot to deny them: Any kind of cookies (except ones that anyone could consider healthy like oatmeal), ice cream (except raspberry-chocolate, The Spouse's favorite, at which they turn up their noses), tortilla chips (not the multi-grain kind), Goldfish crackers, anything The Girl bakes (around which her brothers swarm like aggressive seagulls) and pastries, the more sugar the better.

As I was lugging the many, many bags of groceries I'd purchased into the house today with The Girl, The Eldest Boy decided to take a quick inventory of the snacks I'd purchased. He initially declared the sugar cookies I'd purchased lame, though he changed his mind after The Spouse noted that they were tasty. He was unimpressed by the multi-grain tortilla chips, yogurt, fresh fruit, Life cereal and 100-calorie bags of snacks I'd gotten. He did, however, perk up at the sight of the "sugar buns" I'd picked up at a local farmers' market, as well as at the makings of the blueberry/raspberry shortcake I'd bought, particularly the whipped cream topping. The Youngest Boy wasn't available to comment on the groceries, although he'd remarked that there was "nothing" in the house this morning and I caved in to his complaints by taking him to Dunkin' Donuts. (Selfishly, I had to. We were out of coffee, which can be dangerous.)

I predict that by early Sunday -- although that may be too optimistic a time frame -- the plaintive wails of self-described "deprived" children will once again echo throughout my kitchen.

A Dog and a Crab Get Totally Cute

I was really in the mood for something silly and completely lacking in substance when I came across this video of a dog and a crab meeting cute at the edge of the ocean (however I'd bet the crab would take issue with calling it "cute").

Watching the video rekindled those smoldering "I want another dog" embers just a tad.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Now There are THREE Middle Schoolers in the House

The Youngest Boy (who recently gave me the green light to once again mention him in this space) has just left his elementary school days behind him. In September, he'll be movin' on up to the big middle school to join his elder siblings who'll be entering the eighth grade.

How this will work is anyone's guess as all three of them haven't been students in the same school before. (The Youngest Boy once attended pre-school in the same building as his elder siblings but there was no interaction between the pre-schoolers and the rest of the school population.) Will it go smoothly? Will there be resentment? Will the "vigorous" disputes the two boys have here at home spill out into the middle school hallways?

The three Picket Fence Post kids have quite varied personalities and don't really resemble one another much. One's quiet but determined, one's also determined but gregarious and the talkative one just collected an "award" for having the "best sense of humor." (A future Robin Williams-esque class clown?) Two play soccer and basketball while the other plays hockey and lacrosse. Two participate in bands at school (The Youngest Boy, a percussionist, joked to The Elder Boy that he's coming after his spot on one of the middle school bands) and one is active on the student council. Two are utterly addicted to video games and one is obsessed with voraciously reading books and watching Make It Or Break It episodes on my iPad, usually surrendering the device to me, under extreme duress, with .5 percent of its battery remaining.

So when The Youngest Boy walks into the middle school as a sixth grader in the fall, I hope he'll be able to carve out his own niche there and not simply morph into another incarnation of The Eldest Boy or The Girl, albeit with wildly curly hair and omnipresent sports jerseys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June is the New December: Parents' Busiest Time of the Year

End of the season parties for sports teams.

End of the year bashes/barbecues at school.

End of the year school award ceremonies.

End of the year soirees for other extra curricular activities.

End of the year concerts/performances.

Gifts/thank you notes for the teachers, coaches and after-school activity supervisors.

Birthday parties.

Last-minute school projects.

Sports tryouts/evaluations for next fall's teams.

Making (or buying, shhh!) baked goods for one (or more) of those end of the year events.

Father's Day. (It's THIS Sunday!)

Did I forget anything, other than the fact that I still have to bring the kids shopping for Father's Day? I'm constantly forgetting something. It's that time of year, to forget stuff thereby requiring me to make a mad dash to the house of the person who's collecting money for a gift for the soccer coach (or for a class gift, etc.).

It's racing to the mall for a four-hour odyssey (seriously) of trying to help your teenage daughter to find the right bathing suit for the pool party, tomorrow, because last year's version so doesn't fit any more.

It's realizing that your eldest son's soccer game has been rescheduled (for the second time) on the same night as your youngest son's band concert. (And your youngest son, you notice minutes before you have to leave for the concert, has outgrown his "good" pants and you have to pilfer some from your oldest son's closet without him noticing because he'd be annoyed.) It's then realizing that your daughter's make-up soccer game is slated for the same night as your eldest son's band concert. Of course it is.

It's scurrying about for the components of a solar oven for your grade schooler's project as well as trying to find time when he can work on the project with another student. And it's due this week, the week of all the concerts, make-up games and parties. Plus your daughter has an orthodontist appointment to get her palate extender removed and braces placed upon her teeth, at the same time she has a math and a science test and she's freaking out about it all.

While December may be insane with all the pressure for holiday perfection and a mammoth quantity of shopping to tackle, I think the end of the school year has now surpassed it in terms of busyness. The month of June is packed with sweet, melancholy moments that make parents proud -- the sad end of things, the culmination of a year or a season's worth of work -- all at the same time.

Then *poof!* it's summer and all of it comes to a jarring end. And the kids complain, with nary a trace of irony, that there's nothing to do and they're bored.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Random Notes from Suburbia: Pi, 'Dogs in the City,' Overzealous Sports Mom & Being Tardy

Pi in the Sky

As part of a school math competition to see how many digits of pi students could accurately remember, The Girl was able to recall, hold onto your hats, 102 of them. Seriously. I have no idea how she did it. I have trouble remembering where I leave my car in the grocery store parking lot. I'm not all that far removed from being the lady who frantically hunts around everywhere for her glasses only to have someone point out that they're
perched atop her head.

This was a reason for celebration and parental pride, at least initially, that, with seeming ease, The Girl could rattle off all those numbers. She even fared well when her brothers asked her to name random digits like the 22nd or 47the digit and they checked her accuracy.

Then the situation took a sinister turn.

"Hey, I'll bet she could memorize your credit card numbers," The Eldest Boy said as he raised his eyebrows.

Uh oh.

'Dogs in the City:' My Summer Shame

I hate -- I mean hate, hate, hate, hate -- reality TV shows. Other than the first two seasons of Survivor which aired some 10+ years ago, I haven't been a regular viewer of any reality programs because I find them to be 1) contrived 2) encourage bad behavior to nab ratings and all the accouterments accompanying reality show success (i.e. -- Snooki on the best seller list) 3) are wildly manipulated by the shows' producers and are in no way "reality" and 4) take prime-time slots and jobs away from screenwriters and all the other professionals who put together scripted television shows.

That being said . . . before a Celtics game aired the other night (Go Green y'all), I was flipping through the stations and happened upon this new CBS show Dogs in the City. And, I'm ashamed to admit, I liked it, given that I'm so into all things canine these days. (For those of you wondering whether I've dropped the notion of getting a second dog to join Max our Havanese/Wheaten, I haven't, much to The Spouse's chagrin.)

Not only did I fall in love with the dogs on the silly show, but I learned a few things about pet training and was astonished by the idiocy of some of the dogs' owners. The woman who brought her dog to work with her after the dog had bitten a number of people and regularly lunged at her employees when they walked into her office? Really, that was a question, whether that dog belonged in an office setting?

Dogs in the City, I'm afraid to say, is destined to become my summer TV shame. Who can resist a skateboarding bulldog named Beefy who has separation anxiety?

Overzealous Sports Mom

Scene: An afternoon lacrosse game being played by boys, ages 10-12.

Featuring: A woman who was, I'm guessing, the mother or close female relative of the goalie for the opposing team. Or else she was a complete lunatic who happened to know the name of the goalie and felt perfectly comfortable screaming at him.

Some of the woman's best quotes, bellowed loudly from her comfortable perch on her folding chair on the sidelines, included:

"[NAME OMITTED]! Come on! Block that [NAME OMITTED]!"

"[NAME OMITTED]! Toughen up!"

"[NAME OMITTED]! Don't flinch at the ball! You're the goalie! That's what the pads are for!"

Going through my head: "Hey lady, why don't you go stand in the goal, wearing lacrosse pads, and let me hurl hard lacrosse balls at your head and see if you flinch! He's a kid for god's sake!"

I think this lady needs to watch the video below, about one high school athlete helping out another at a state championship meet to remind herself of why we have kids participate in sports: To build character, learn teamwork and create the good, healthy habits of staying physically active. It's not about berating and harassing from the cheap seats.

Unfortunately, I'm willing to bet that the woman who was yelling all of that garbage at the pediatric goalie wouldn't be at all impressed with how the high school runner helped out another, which is a sad, sad commentary of where youth sports parents are today.

Being Tardy

The Eldest Boy was participating in an event where the school band was going to be performing "The Star Spangled Banner," among other tunes, which was a very good thing, except that the band was performing at an event about 45 minutes or so away from our house. And we had to get there in rush hour traffic. And The Girl, The Youngest Boy and I had to wait for The Spouse to get home from work -- battling through rush hour traffic -- BEFORE jumping into the car to drive to The Eldest Boy's event.

We arrived just AFTER his band completed their musical performance. Oh yeah, I got your Parents of the Year right here buddy.

Image credits: This web site and Brian Friedman/CBS.