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Sock it to me

I just finished a double load of laundry and found myself left with 16…SIXTEEN!!!…unmatched socks. I’m humbled. Honestly, I never thought you guys would top your old record of 11 socks, but that just shows what I get for doubting you boys.

I want you to know I see and appreciate how you’ve gone above and beyond the mundane routes of simply kicking socks under the kitchen table or behind the sofa. Instead, you’ve elevated it to an art form, wedging one sock behind the toilet downstairs but removing the other in a different location entirely.

You’ve left socks upstairs and down, inside and out. Sometimes, I find I’m too gauche to understand it all. Your filling the cup-holder of my car with an especially odiferous piece of artwork…was this an avant garde observation of the transient nature of fashion?

If so, then your abandonment of one lone sock in the middle of the living room rug was obviously a poignant existential statement on the solitary nature of man. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

You boys are truly artists — achieving a level of proficiency I would have thought unattainable until your mid-teens. As your mother, I can only do my part by providing you with an ongoing supply of your chosen medium. I’ve brought in 14 new pairs of socks today, but I know in my heart, exactly half will have disappeared before Thanksgiving.

I anticipate your next installation soon!

Sincerely, your biggest fan and patron,

Mom

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The Party Starts When We Arrive

Jack’s pediatrician visit fell at an awkward point in the afternoon requiring me to check all four boys out early and lug the whole shebang with me. You never realize how small those exam rooms are until you try to cram five people in them — six if you count Dr. Hamm. To free up floor space, I’d allowed two to play plumber under the sink and the other two were playing auto mechanic under the examining table. I figured we’d just load up on the free hand-sanitizer at check out.

This freed up enough space for Dr. Hamm to actually enter the room and do his job — something that gets iffier as the kid-to-grown-up ratio increases. Once we were finally done, then came the task of herding my plumbers and auto-mechanics out of their new playroom and down the hall to check out. There was the usual jostling and pushing at the doorway, but public school rules won out, and everyone fell into line behind Jack. At that point, he yelled, “Conga!” and all four boys cha cha-ed down the hall, throwing their hands in the air on every fourth beat.

I don’t often question what we look like to the outside world, having long ago decided it was better not to know. But I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of impression we left behind that day. Not that it makes a difference in how I felt about the whole thing. Watching those four awesome little weirdos dance their way out the door…I can honestly say it was one of the proudest moments I’ve had in parenting. With hearts that happy, everything else will fall into place.

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Not Your Typical Day

Will’s scholastic book order came yesterday. It had the usual slew of crappy stuff (Fly Guy book…with a PEN! Lego book…with a LEGO!), and a few surprises I’d thrown in to make things interesting. One was a little book called Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el.

 

After getting frustrated with his LEGO (which he insisted was not only missing a piece, but was most-likely missing said piece because one of his brothers took it), I strongly suggested Will find something else to do with himself. He chose to read his new ‘dragon book.’

“Mom,” he said running up to me as I was loading the dishwasher, “you’ve got to read this book! It’s so hilarious. He’s a dragon, but he can’t breathe fire. And…and you’ve just GOT to read it!”

“That’s great babe. Just leave it by my chair and I’ll read it in a little while,” I promised.

Later, he asked me again…”Mom, have you read that book yet? Wasn’t it great?”

I cited some terribly important grown up task, such as washing towels or picking up the living room, but assured him I’d get to it ASAP. “Okay, but tell me when you do,” he said, and skipped off to play.

At bedtime, after tucking in several boys of various sizes, helping the sick one blow his nose, and assuring another that robots DO in fact need sleep, I found myself beside the bed of my smallest boy. He was already curled on his side wearing his red striped jammies that Santa brought last year. I noticed his ankles and wrist bones poking well beyond the white cuffs, but decided against making him change. I tucked Huge Sock Monkey against his back, placed Old Sock Monkey in his arms, and pulled the covers tight around them all. As I leaned in for one last kiss and snuggle, he whispered, “Don’t forget to read the dragon book mom.”

I promised I wouldn’t forget, blew a raspberry on his cheek, and then…quicker than the darkness fell as I turned out the light…forgot completely as the endless lists of “To Be Done” began scrolling through my head.

Today, as I puttered about doing grown up things like folding towels in perfect thirds, emptying garbage cans, and fishing stray socks out of hard to reach places, I happened across the Dragon Book.

I looked around me at the chaos and clutter. The words “hell” and “hand basket” came to mind. But instead of putting it off until I could make my coffee or run that one important errand, I immediately sat myself down to read. Not Your Typical Dragon was…is…a sweet and wonderful sort of story where you reach the last page and turn right back to the beginning for another go-round. I giggled at first, then laughed right out loud, the echoes chasing each other through the empty rooms.

And when I reached that last page, I cried. Because keeping the house is hard. Because small boys grow big so fast. Because this isn’t the first time I’ve chosen to put a broom in my hand instead of a boy in my lap. Because sometimes there’s no turning back the pages, so you have to savor your first and only read through. There will be time, and time, and time again I tell myself. But those white cuffs on his jammies tell the real story.

Four hours til school is out. Four hours until the fun can begin again. Until then, I’ll scurry and dust and motor far and wide, so when they come home…when it really counts…I can focus on the important things. Like little boy snuggles and dragons who breathe whipped cream. For now, this is what REALLY matters.

Posted in Books, Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting.


School Picture Day

Dear School Picture Studio:

Thank you for once again making my gorgeous boys look like demented serial killers. Washed out ones, at that. Your decision to point the flash directly at their painfully Caucasian faces was unbelievably affective at hiding where their faces end and that stunning impressionist background begins.

And those poses! Incredible!* I can truly say I’ve seen nothing like them…at least not since this time last year. Was Tom about to sneeze?

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Did you tell Jack to do his impression of a woodchuck?

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I don’t know what was happening with Sam,

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but I hope you called the nurse right after you snapped a pic for his medical file.

And Will?

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Well…he just looks obnoxious. So kudos, I guess, for capturing his essence.

Can’t wait for Spring Portraits. Or maybe we should just save time and photoshop them leaning on a plastic column in front of a woodland glade. That never goes out of style…possibly because it was never in style to begin with, but that’s neither here nor there. Enjoy the money that I and every other parent will shell out for our precious babies’ pictures, regardless of quality. This is a great scam…I mean FUNDRAISER you’ve got going on.

Sincerely, Jodi B.

*These aren’t the actual photographs for copyright reasons, but I think I’ve captured the essence.

Posted in Kids, Rants & Raves, Uncategorized.


On Motherhood

There are some days that should really come with a rewind option…or an emergency eject.

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized.


Book Review: Barbara Delinsky’s “Sweet Salt Air”

I recently received an Advanced Copy of Barbara Delinsky’s latest novel Sweet Salt Air. This isn’t the first ARC I’ve ever gotten, but usually I have to decline reviewing them simply because I’m too busy to read/write/think straight.

Why did this one make it past my usual hurdles? Three reasons, I think.

First, a sweet soul at Wunderkind PR actually followed up to make sure I’d gotten my copy. I’m a sucker for a personal touch. Also, I can well remember my early days in marketing and of being the anxious newbie on the other end of that exchange.

Second, it arrived just before we left for a week at the beach… meaning I would actually have time to read an entire book instead of my regular routine of ‘Read three sentences. Stop to wipe someone’s bottom. Read same three sentences. Stop to make drinks and snacks. Lose place completely. Skim previous chapter to find those familiar three sentences — just as the cry of the latest casualty sounds in the playroom.’ You know…the usual.

Third, the novel had a really intriguing blurb. “Charlotte and Nicole were once the best of friends, spending summers together in Nicole’s coastal island house off of Maine. But many years, and many secrets have kept the women apart. For Nicole, what comes to light could destroy her marriage, but it could also save her husband. For Charlotte, the truth could cost her Nicole’s friendship, but could also free her to love again. And her chance may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.”

Best friends separated by a terrible secret? Love it. A picturesque island off the coast of Maine? Yes, please. Throw in the troubled bad boy and this novel has “BEACH READ” written all over it. The sort of book that was made to have sand imbedded in its spine. I was three days into my week of sea and sand before Sweet Salt Air made it out of my suitcase, but it became my boon companion for the remainder of the week. Between Hermit Crab Races, Sand Castle Building Contests, and The Search For The Perfect Shell, I escaped to the small island of Quinnipeague and all its secrets. Secrets with a capital “S.”

I think what I liked most about Delinsky’s writing is her complete commitment to the characters. You really get to know the two leads, Nicole and Charlotte, including past events which factor into their current decision making. Delinsky impressed me in that she manages to convey those important details deftly, never leaving me feeling as if I’d just been buried under a giant “info dump” paragraph. There were plenty of times when one character or another reacted in a way I might not have, yet it was perfectly in keeping with that character’s personality and history.

Another thing that makes this book stand out is the attention to setting. Sensory immersion might be a better descriptor. I’ve never been to Maine in real life, but I now have a very strong mental picture of the fictional island of Quinnipeague — from the sight of its rocky beaches, to the taste of the local chowder, and especially the scent of valerian in Cecily Cole’s fabled gardens.

Technically, I think this book falls into the category of ‘Literary Fiction,’ but it reads more like contemporary romance to me. There’s mention of sex here and there, but none of the sort that is so lurid and detailed you worry a full-color diagram is lurking on the next page.

All in all, I’d peg this as an ideal summer read. It’s well-written with interesting characters and a well-delivered plot. Events that might seem far-fetched are fully believable in context — which is my litmus test for a good writer. Barbara Delinsky delivers what she promises on the back cover, a novel of “deeply buried secrets, heartfelt drama and a stunningly emotional love story.” I do love truth in advertising.

GIVEAWAY ALERT!!

Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered for a chance to win my sand-encrusted copy of Sweet Salt Air. Tweet this review (be sure to include @TheDrunch so I’ll see it) and you’ll receive a second chance to win. Share this review on your blog or FB page (send me a screenshot of your FB feed or a link to your blog post) and you’ll receive an ADDITIONAL chance to win. Entries will be accepted through midnight on June 23rd (that’s a whole week, y’all).

If you can’t stand waiting another second, Sweet Salt Air hits the open market on Tuesday. Click the link below to preorder your copy in hard-cover or Kindle edition.

 

As I mentioned before, I received my ARC of Sweet Salt Air free of charge and with no strings attached from Wunderkind PR. If I’d hated it, you’d be the first to know.

 

 

Posted in Books.

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Not My Job

I’ve just cleaned what I assume is raccoon poop out of the boys’ tree house. Let me write that again in case you missed it.

I’ve just cleaned RACCOON POOP out of the boys’ tree house. Are you nauseated yet? Good, then that makes two of us.

Can I tell you how FAR outside my job description that falls? I signed on for cuddly babies who would smell like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. What I got were a bunch of projectile vomiting, poop slinging primates who have done nothing since their birth but push me far, far, FAR outside my comfort zone. I’m scarred by the things I know now. I’d love to list them in detail, but a) I don’t have that kind of time, and b) I’m afraid you’ll never read another thing I write. Let’s just say I know things only medical professionals should know. If only I could bill Blue Cross, I’d have a tidy little sum for all the medical procedures I’ve carried out within the confines of our insane asylum…I mean home. I’d go so far as to say anything involving poop, snot, vomit, or urine has become my “specialty.”

Thankfully, most issues involving blood have happened while Jason’s on the job. But I have to think he’s getting off easy. His solution for absolutely everything is superglue. Got a cut? Superglue it shut. Facial scarring? Not a problem. Chicks dig scars.

Talk about your one trick pony.

But Jason’s at work, and superglue was not an option on this one anyway. So I’m the one climbing backward out of a treehouse holding a leaky bag of raccoon poop.

Now that the worst is over, I plan to find I nice quiet corner and sniff some Johnson’s Baby Shampoo until the nausea passes.

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Rants & Raves, Uncategorized.

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Great Expectations

I make no bones about it. I expect a lot from my boys. They bathe themselves and wash their own hair. They pick out their clothes each morning and dress themselves down to their shoes. They (mostly) make their own snacks and clean the table when they’re done eating. Honestly, they do a great job…most of the time.

So when their grandma offered to let them spend a night or two — something we hope to repeat a few times over the summer — I decided it was time they learn to pack their own bag. I went over the required items: 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, swim trunks, pajamas,  toothbrush and a stuffed animal friend. I reiterated it individually to each boy, talking about when they’d need each item, and why two of some things might be good to have. They scurried to comply, excited about their new responsibility and in a hurry to get to grandma’s. A big hurry.

At our kid-free dinner later that night, I related to their dad how they were all standing by the door with bags in hand when I finished drying my hair. “All I had to do was load them in the car, and we were on our way!” I bragged.

The next morning, his mother called with a question. “Did Jodi actually check their bags before they left?

“Umm…maybe not. Why?

“Well, nobody packed any pajamas. Sam doesn’t have any underwear. And I guess Jack planned on going to the park without pants.”

Perhaps my expectations were a bit on the high side. Oh, well…they first time’s always a trial run at our house anyway. How about you? Am I nuts to expect so much?

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized.


Flashback

Today, I flashed back to fourth grade at Valley Jr. High. Particularly PE, which I loathed above all things — including long division. Not that I have anything against PE in theory. In fact, objectively, I’d say it’s a very good idea. But as an uncoordinated fat kid, I found it wasn’t exactly my wheelhouse. So oftentimes I sat out citing one sprain or another. Honestly, I only ever participated long enough to acquire the injury required to sit out the rest of the week. Thankfully, my tendency to faceplant with even the slightest provocation made my task an easy one.

The best part of all that sitting out was socializing with whoever else might be out of play that day. This particular day, the small group of non-participaters included my cousin Misty, a very sweet girl who loved to talk. Best of all she loved to hear me sing. And I liked nothing better than taking requests. “Ooh, Jodi,” she said. “Do ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ I just love that one.” It so happens, I did, too. And I launched into a very passable rendition, if I do say so myself.

Now the better I like a song, the louder I tend to sing it, so Misty wasn’t my only audience that day. As I wrapped up the final verse — the one advising mothers to guard their children from doing what I had done — I happened to meet the gaze of our PE teacher. Our very disapproving PE teacher. We’ll refer to her as Ms. No Name to protect the guilty…er innocent. Now she never REALLY approved of me in the first place. I’ve mentioned I was fat and uncoordinated, and to her way of thinking that meant I was lazy and didn’t try hard enough. Perhaps I didn’t. But I chose to focus on my other talents. You know, like singing the blues. Because if anyone can truly feel the emotion of that genre, it’s a fat fourth grader. And that day my small cadre of gimps, coughers, pukers and shirkers awarded me with a nice round of applause on that final note.

It was too much for  Ms. No Name. She shook her head sadly and wondered what kind of parents would let a child of my age be exposed to such a song. I cocked an eyebrow. Because even in the fourth grade, you didn’t talk about my family. She looked away, and no more was said. But I really wish I could go back and answer that question.

I’ll tell you what kind of parents I had. Parents that, despite being of a painfully religious bent, still recognized that music was a gift from God. And just like our human emotions it ran the gamut from joy to sorrow. I’d like to ask her to read the book of Psalms and pay particular attention to the fact that mixed in amongst the glory and praise, there are songs of loss and regret. My parents believed that music was beautiful and powerful, whether or not your key slipped from major to minor. And they didn’t say, “Don’t listen to Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash because they do drugs.” And they never censored Queen or Elton John or David Bowie because they looked funny or lived their lives a different way. They let the music speak for itself.

Best of all they recognized that one little fat girl had a voice as nimble and swift as any fourth grader’s feet could ever hope to be. They were the kind of parents who knew the inside of a song was a good place to rest, to hide, to recharge, to mourn, to laugh. They gave me the world in an 8-track, the full history of human emotion written in grooves on vinyl.

That’s the kind of parents I had, Ms. No Name. Thanks for asking.

 

 

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Rants & Raves, Uncategorized.


Conversations With Tom

Me: Goodnight, Tommy Boy. You were great today. I’m super proud of you.
Tom: Well…I did pout three times during the UNO game.
Me: Yeah, but they weren’t very big pouts.
Tom: I was trying to hold it in.
Me: I could tell.

I think the trick to raising a good boy is having reasonable expectations. Remembering to find something positive to say every single day. And doling out bear hugs no matter what.

Posted in Conversations with God, Family & Relationships, Kids, Uncategorized.

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