Waking up every day (well - most days) striving to be the best parent I can be

and even if I'm not earning an "A," I'm finding the humor in every day moments

and situations.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Career Planning

For many years now, Secret Service has said he wants to be a pilot when he grows up.  He has always loved everything about flying, airplanes, even airports.  He spends many, MANY hours on a simulator, flying as a virtual pilot on Southwest, United and American airlines.  When Secret isn't flying (or sometimes when he is multi-tasking), he is watching TV or playing video games.  Recently, Secret discovered the TV series, Grey's Anatomy, and has been working his way through it episode by episode.

I have come to believe that Secret thinks by watching these shows, he's taking an on-line class that is preparing him to become a doctor.  Since starting this course of instruction, if someone complains of an ache or pain, Secrets' head pops up.  He listens intently and then wonders aloud if they've got a cardiac problem or a brain tumor.

Science Girl and I have been attempting to encourage Secret to put as much effort in at school as he does pursuing his hobbies.  We have said that if he wants to be a pilot, he'll need to earn excellent grades to demonstrate that he's got what it takes to be responsible for an expensive airplane and the lives of numerous passengers.  When we spoke not long ago, Secret smiled.  "Don't worry, he said, "if I can't be a pilot, I have a back up plan."  This was news to us. We looked at him expectantly.  "I can be a neurosurgeon," he said, confidently.  Science Girl and I exchanged glances.

School isn't all that relevant for Secret.  He thinks he can successfully fly a plane and operate on a brain.   What else is there to learn?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Gratitude

Sitting at the kitchen table in my pajamas, drinking coffee, thinking about gratitude on this Thanksgiving morning.  While Science Girl makes breakfast, the boys are watching the Macy's parade.  The dog wanders around looking for scraps, the cat positions himself on the top of the couch, a sunbeam warming him.

In the spirit of the day, the mood is bright.  Science Girl summons us to the table for bagels, eggs and a large platter of fruit.  The boys are cheerful, happy, healthy.  They are talking about the new video game Sport purchased yesterday, wondering if the neighbors will be available to toss the football.  Later, they will throw each other down on the floor in some type of non-sanctioned wrestling moves which will end in angry words and tears.  But for  now, we are all engaged in pleasant mealtime conversation.

I look around the table, aware that this isn't the life I had pictured for myself.  I didn't have any conscious thought of being attracted to women until I was in my twenties, so as a teenager when I imagined my future, it would not have included Science Girl, now seated to my right.  And while I always knew that someday I wanted to be a mother, I didn't imagine I'd be the adoptive mother of two Latin American boys.  I smile looking at my sons - both smart, funny and handsome.

In my gratitude, there is a sense of wonder.  I'm grateful that even though as a teen I lacked the foresight to know what would make me feel happy and fulfilled, life gave it to me anyway.  Today, I take a moment to be thankful for surprises.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


We have lived in our house for almost five years and although the boys have their own bathroom, they have preferred to shower in ours.  This summer, Science Girl decided this practice had gone on long enough, she didn't want to share the bathroom with them anymore and insisted that they do their ablutions in their own bathroom.  This decree was met with shock, resistance and the five stages of grief.  First, the boys were in complete denial.  "Us?"  "Not us!"  Then they were angry.  "Why do we have to leave the Master bathroom?"  "Why is it that the parents automatically get it?"  They bellowed that it wasn't fair.  Science Girl stayed firm.

They calmed down and attempted to negotiate.  Secret Service graciously agreed to shower in his own bathroom if we installed a special shower head and replaced the (like new) shower curtain with a glass door.   Sport amiably agreed to stay out of our bathroom as long as we accepted swimming as a substitute for showering and didn't make him shower until Autumn.  When these efforts weren't successful, the boys fell into a depression, both too sad and dejected to shower.  Science Girl and I had to cajole and threaten to get them into the shower.  Several times during this phase, Secret pretended to shower.  Luckily, he always had a "tell," typically emerging from a shampoo with his hair dry.  Sport actually entered the shower and stood under the running water.  The problem was that it was to about the count of 10 - Mississippi.  Sport developed a speedy shower routine that we believe consists of one hand rubbing a minuscule drop of shampoo through his hair while the other hand simultaneously swipes a bar of soap over his genitals while simultaneously rinsing and climbing out.

Tonight, brought me hope that we are moving into the acceptance phase.  After being told fifteen times to get into the shower, Secret did and his hair was damp upon completion.   And, Sport stayed in the water to the count of 25 - Mississippi.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Guests

As summer wraps up, I'm already feeling nostalgic for what was.  We were fortunate to host a lot of out-of-town guests, the first of which was one of my sisters, called "Aunt Skinnybones" and her husband, who I refer to as "Uncle Scout."

As her name implies, Aunt Skinnybones is slim and trim, in part from walking each day as she commutes via public transportation from Brooklyn to her job in Manhattan.  In addition, Aunt Skinnybones exercises by biking through the park, and doing goodness-knows-what with a trainer.  Aunt Skinnybones is also organized and efficient.  Nothing makes her happier than to stand in my closet and encourage and supervise me in discarding torn, stained, outgrown, unfashionable clothes for donation to charity or the garbage.

Uncle Scout earned his Eagle Scout as a teenager, and seems most likely to survive any calamity armed only with a roll of duct tape, a pocket knife and a safety pin. Uncle Scout could probably survive in a forest by eating wood chips, leaves and berries.  However, at our house, he wants to eat fruit.  In anticipation of one of his visits, I lay in a large supply of oranges, apples, bananas, grapes and strawberries.  For whatever reason, many times I buy a pineapple.  The first year, Uncle Scout carefully examined the pineapple and announced it wasn't ready to be consumed.  Their visit ended and he and my sister left, the pineapple still intact.  About three days later, I came home to find a message on the machine.  There was no greeting, but I recognized Uncle Scout's voice.  He simply said, "Cut the pineapple."  We did and it was delicious.  Since he was over 1,000 miles away, we don't know how he knew it was ripe.

We also had a visit from my aunt, "Aunt Sushi" who came to take care of us when Science Girl was away on a prolonged business trip.  Aunt Sushi, a Japanese food lover, helped me by keeping Sport occupied while I drove Secret Service to play baseball and spending time with Secret while Sport was in camp.  Aunt Sushi cooked for us, took us out to dinner one night and maintained good humor as the boys chased, wrestled, and shot each other with Nerf weaponry.  She displayed coordination by dodging balls that barely missed her head and remained calm when the boys responded to any request by first saying no.

We also had an annual visit from Science Girl's brother, "Uncle Sweet Tooth" and his 6 year old son, "the German boy" who traveled from their home in Germany to see us.  When they arrived "the German boy" was well-behaved and well-adjusted, playing quietly with puzzles, drawing pictures, reading books.  However, after 10 days with Secret and Sport, while his dad ate Oreo's and M & M's, he had developed a glazed look like my boys and was drinking soda like it was the elixir of the gods, humming the Sponge bob song (learned from hours of TV viewing), and repeatedly playing a ridiculous electronic game called, "kick the boss."  He's been back  home for a while now, I hope he's back to normal - not everyone can adjust to our lifestyle.

Monday, May 28, 2012

While You Were Sleeping

In our community, it is commonplace for children to invite each other to sleepover.  When I grew up, we called these "slumber parties" and I didn't go to many, my father thinking it wasn't a good idea.  My dad never felt the need to give me an explanation for his veto, but as a parent myself, I understand there are potential pitfalls when you let your child sleep at someone else's home.

When my boys were younger, I was very concerned about their safety.  I am still concerned, but now I am also increasingly exhausted.  (Almost 15 years on the job does that to you.)  Over the years, at times, the boys have been invited to sleepover at a child's house whose family we don't know.  In those cases, I call the family to find out about them.  These are awkward conversations.  Without offending the parents, I am attempting to discover if they have loaded guns sitting around, if they are drunks or drug addicts or have poor sexual boundaries.  I have found that coming right out and asking those questions puts people off and even if you ask directly, you are not guaranteed that they will answer truthfully.
When Secret Service was in 4th grade, a boy whose family we did not know invited him to a birthday sleepover.  We took him over and spoke to the parents to assure that they'd take good care of our darling.  I gave Secret the same words of advice I always give when dropping my kids off at someones house - remember to say thank you and flush the toilet.  Then, we went on our way.  The next day, we returned to pick up our boy.  He was in a cheerful, effervescent mood.  As soon as we got into the car, he excitedly told us he'd discovered a wonderful show, Family Guy, and had stayed up all night watching episodes.  As we turned the corner, we told him that we were headed to Lowe's to buy a new refrigerator, and he suddenly became irritable.  Secret grumbled that he was tired and wanted to go home to sleep.  When we arrived at the store, he snarled at us and crumbled into a heap, saying he was unable to walk.  Science Girl and I loaded him into a shopping cart and wheeled him around the store, looking at appliances.  Every now and again, he'd lift his head and mumble something but mostly, he was out of it, not waking to start his day until 5 PM.

A couple of weeks later, the new refrigerator was delivered.  As they wheeled it in, Secret looked surprised and confused.  "When did we buy that?" he said.  "While you were sleeping," we responded.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sleeping Through the Night

My friend is a new mom and one of her goals for her tiny son is that he sleep through the night.  I am fortunate in that regard.  At our house, we are at the perfect intersection of children sleeping through the night and not yet having to wait up for teenagers to come home.

Secret Service has always been a good sleeper.  (So important in a baby.)  Sport, easy-going in most regards, has more often struggled in this department.  It sometimes still happens that we put Sport to bed and a couple of hours later, he pops up and announces he can't sleep. 

Getting children to sleep is an art.  When they were younger, Science Girl and I spent countless hours rocking them, singing to them, reading bedtime stories.  And at the end of a long day, it was always good fun to get to search the house to find the stuffed animal that they wanted to sleep with that night.

One of our go-to-sleep strategies was to make their bedrooms a place they'd want to be.  A couple of years ago, we went to buy a bed for our guest room and while at the store, both boys became enamored with the temperpedic foam beds.  Having no money of their own, the boys were not hindered by budgets, so they didn't see a problem with requesting that we buy them each a bed that cost over $1,000.  At one point in the negotiation, Sport collapsed on the floor model temperpedic mattress and declared that he would not spend another night in his current bed.  Sport proclaimed that now that he had experienced the comfort of a temperpedic, he realized that sleeping on his old bed was like sleeping on rocks.  Luckily, at that same store, there were inexpensive, non-name brand versions and the boys emerged victorious, with  mattresses that Sport said was like "sleeping on a cloud."

Anyway, periodically, one of the boys have asked Science Girl or me to lie down with them while they start to fall asleep.  I remember the last time Secret asked me to lay down with him.  I had several valid reasons why I didn't want to - tired, busy, etc.  But, I thought to myself, he's growing up, how many more times is he going to ask me to do this?  Mostly, he says good night and puts himself to bed. 

The other night, I was comfortable in my own non-temperpedic bed, remote in hand, pajamas on, when Sport called out, "Will you lay down with me?"  I didn't want to get up, but then I wondered, how many more times will he ask.  Secret hasn't asked me to lay down with him for two years.  I put down the remote and went.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hungry Caterpillar

Here, in Denver, school is almost out for the year.  The end of each school year always causes me to reflect and feel nostalgic about the boys growing up.  This year is especially poignant because Sport is completing elementary school.   He's fine about it, of course, my kids adjust better to these developmental changes than I do.  They embrace the changes while I experience some loss with every change they make.  I didn't know this before I became a parent, didn't know that there would be a trace of sadness with every developmental gain.  I was thrilled when they learned to walk and to talk.  So, I was surprised that after they learned to walk, they used those chubby little toddler legs to walk away from me and when they talked, they disagreed with me, saying "no" at every opportunity.  I had always thought that children becoming independent was a good thing, a desirable outcome.  It was only when I was the parent did I realize that it didn't always feel 100 percent good to have them becoming independent from me.

We've had another developmental milestone here.  Secret Service, the boy who grew so slowly that  he was able to wear the same jacket throughout elementary school, has had a growth spurt in this past year.  A couple of months ago, when we measured him, he announced that as soon as he was taller than me, he'd be in charge.  Although I assured him this wasn't the way it worked, I'm not sure I convinced him.  Even without the hope of running the family, Secret seemed determined to grow.  He kept insisting that he was taller than me and I put up a good fight, even styling my hair to be puffier on top and finding tennis shoes with a platform bottom which gave me some additional height.  However, within the last few weeks, I have come to accept that he is now taller than I am.  On one hand, I know this is good.  On the other hand  . . .

Remember the children's book The Hungry Caterpillar?  When the boys were little, I read it to them countless times.  Only recently, I have decided that it is a metaphor about teenagers.  Currently, my boys eat like that caterpillar - one steak, one bushel of strawberries, one family size bag of pretzels, one entire pizza, one gallon of milk.  And soon, just like the caterpillar in the story, the boys will undergo a metamorphosis and emerge . . .  grown up . . . and then fly away, like that caterpillar turned butterfly did.  And, when that happens, I'll be proud and I'll celebrate, with just a twinge of sadness and tears streaming down my face.