Monthly Archives: September 2012

Novel ideas….


For the past few weeks, I’ve been hanging out, two days a week with Mary P; not to be confused with Mary Alice.  Funny how Irish women, tend to have “Mary” names (for the record, my middle name is…Mary).  What has made this experience so much fun is Mary P is in control of her faculties.  She’s 92 years of age and loves to tell me stories of what it was like growing up in Syracuse, NY; getting married and then moving here to raise a family. “My kids keep telling me I should be writing all these stories down…so they can pass them onto their kids.  You would think by now they would have created their own stories to pass down…” She tells me, just before opening up another chapter in her life.

When I first came to her house to interview, I was nervous.  I brought along my references; just to cover my bases and was a little frightened that I wouldn’t be able to make it work.  Mary P put me right at ease.  She took one look at me and said, “Ah, kid, red hair, I always wanted a child with red hair”.  Her daughter Colleen looked at her mom and said, “Mom, ask her what her maiden name is…”  She did and I responded.  “Oh, your Irish too?  You’re in kid”.

Mary P had twelve children.  One of her favorite stories involves her husband, when they were first engaged.  “He asked me how many children I wanted to have.  I said, ‘Oh seven or eight’. Well that almost ended the engagement right there and then.  He was thinking more like three or four”.  Then she laughs.  I sometimes study her face, when she’s telling me these stories.  You can see a wisp of a smile cross her face,  at the feelings these memories have evoked.

Mary P is similar to my own Dad, in that they still have elephant sized memories and can recall the smallest of details, like the color of dress she wore to her sisters christening, 80+ years ago.  The other day I was telling her about my father’s family and for the life of me, I had forgotten the names of my Grandmother’s sisters.  In fact I could only remember one of the sisters–but couldn’t recall her name.  I look at her with wonder that her memory at 92 is so much sharper than mine at 48. “Marsha, we didn’t have the distractions you have in your life today.  We only had children.” Another time she’ll say “I’ve noticed lately I’m having trouble recalling some names.  It’ll come to me in the middle of the night you know…”  I smile when she says things like that and say “Well at least you have an excuse…”

We’re a good team.  I get to brag about my children and she continues to bless me with her history, charm and witticisms.   “Did you know I went to fat camp as a kid?  Not because I was too fat, but because I was too thin.  Can you imagine…?  I gained 22 pounds before I was sent back home”.  No I can’t imagine, except while listening to Mary P.




and now…something different…


The boy bounced through the foyer yesterday and proclaimed, “Mama?  This has been the best day ever!!”  “Really?” I asked almost in shock.  The boy is never this happy.  “Why so?” I replied.  “Well first of all, I only have one piece of immediate homework.” He said. “As opposed to what other kind of homework?” I asked. “Well, I have a few things in math I’m still working on…”  “Were they due today and you left them here?”  I asked, knowing that has been his modus operandi for the last few years.  “No, I’m just going over them a little closer and making corrections to them.”  I stopped for a moment to study this boy standing in front of me.  “Oh so you can understand the subject better?” I asked.  “No, I just want to get a good grade in the class.  If that means I have to do a little more work, I’ll do it.”

Who are you and where is my son?

“What else about this day made it special?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know what put him in such good spirits. “Well we had a fire drill today, which knocked out an entire section of one of my classes.  That was a definite bonus for the day.” He said wearing a giant smile.  Laughing I had to agree.  “Anything else?” I wondered. “Well remember when I told you about the quiz bowl team…?”

Evidently the school is sponsoring a quiz bowl team, composed of students and a few alternates; to compete with other area schools. The boy came home last week all excited at the prospect of joining the team.   “Well it turns out the school had an overwhelming response from students wanting to be on the team and so I had to take a test on Tuesday to see if I qualified.”  “Have you heard anything?” I wondered.  “Well, because the response was so large,  they decided to have two teams of four with three alternates each…”  “Well, okay, so…what does that mean for you?” I asked impatiently awaiting his response.  “Well she told me I made one of the teams and we even had a little practice session.  I of course answered correctly concerning the Taj Mahal.” “That’s great bay!”  “Eh, the question wasn’t to difficult” he replied, misunderstanding my enthusiasm.   “Now you’re going to have to tell me when you have the team competitions so your dad and I can come.” I said.  “Don’t worry mom, I’m sure the school will notify you.”

“Is there anything else?” I asked, though I figured we had covered everything.  He looked around the kitchen for a moment and then smiled and said, “Oh and the icing on the cake?  You bought Hostess donuts!”

I smiled at his inclusion of (me) my impulse purchase.



The doll if given the choice to sit in front of the television wasting her brain to mush; via the Disney channel or reading a book, enticing that same brain to travel to far off worlds; would pick TV in a heart beat.  The other day, I had enough.  The constant drone of the television put me into a bad mood and I declared, “The TV is off for the remainder of the day!  Find something else to do…read a book or latch hook a rug. Here’s a novel idea-clean your room; go outside, do anything that does not involve watching the television or playing on the computer”.  The doll looked insulted.

“Mom, I need to talk to you about reading…” The doll said as she approached.  “I don’t have a book here to read.” “Considering your brother has a million books, I’m sure we can find one that’s right for you…” I offered.  “No, mom, you don’t understand…” she began again.  “The thing is….” As she tried to find words to express her strong dislike for reading-over watching television, she mustered some crocodile tears to fill her eyes.  I tried my best not to laugh, as I watched her set her self.  I knew this was her way of telling me, “I’m not reading regardless what you want!” “…The thing is, I have a hard time when I’m reading.  It’s like the words are too many and I lose my place and then I have to start all over again and it’s frustrating”.  “I know doll, I do that too.  Sometimes I re-read the same paragraph several times until I finally get what they’re saying.” I said, trying to relate.

Shaking her head back and forth she tried again, “No you don’t get it.  Sometimes there are words that I have a hard time understanding.”  “Yes I know”. I replied.  “No you don’t.  These words I don’t understand and then nothing makes sense.” She tried again.  “Doll, that’s when you get a dictionary and look up the word and its meaning…”  “I don’t want a dictionary!” she shouted at me.  “Using a dictionary is easy…it’s alphabetical…” “So?” The doll interrupted. “So…you can find the word your having trouble with and get it’s definition.”  I replied.  Looking back at me with disgust she said, “Mom a dictionary is just a bunch of words.” “Yes that’s the point” I reminded.  “Why would I want to read more words when I don’t want to read the words in the book to begin with?”  She said driving her point home.

I couldn’t help myself and laughed.  The doll told on herself and didn’t realize.  “Doll, I’m not laughing at your predicament.  I’m laughing because you’re making this so much harder than it has to be.  I get that you don’t like to read or don’t feel like reading today.  But the God’s honest truth is, you can’t go through life without reading.”  “I know Mom!” she seethed.  “Doll, be mad at me all you want, but guess what?  That doesn’t change the fact that reading is actually fun…if you get your head out of the Disney Channel…”.  Standing up in utter disgust, she said firmly, “You are wrong mom.  Besides all the boy’s books stink.  So…I’m going to latch hook a rug instead…in front of the TV”.  “Okay doll, so long as the TV is turned off.”

Storming off I wondered, if she had a dictionary handy, she would have thrown it at my head.  Harder to read that way…but effective in other ways.


where has all the niceness gone…


“Doll, you need to clean your hamster cages” I informed her last night.  “Brownie” the current rodent resident, has three different cages to roam around in, which allows for a very aromatic area in her room.  “MOM STOP! I WILL CLEAN THEM IN THE MORNING!” she bellowed at me.  “Doll, I’m not deaf, you need to clean them out”.  “I don’t want to clean them tonight, I’m going to clean them in the MORNING” she returned.  “What are you doing tonight, besides watching TV that is so pressing, that you cannot clean at least one cage right now?” I asked.  The expression on her face along with the way she was posturing looked to me like someone about to blow her top.  “What is going on with you?” I asked concerned.  Instead she rolled her eyes and said, “I don’t have a problem you do!”

Who are you and where the hell is my nice little girl? I thought.

Well, we all know the answer to that one don’t we?  Hormones have taken my daughter and replaced her with this new and not so improved model. Unfortunately, these ugly days are not just limited to the doll; the boy has exhibited some not so nice behavior as well. This weekend-especially where their mouths are concerned.  “Shut up Boy!”  “Your insistence to subject our eyes to this crud on TV really shows your limited intelligence” “Shut Up Boy!”  “Kids, can we try to not insult one another for a ten minute period please?”  Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Now I realize, I am on the brink of the attitude filled mouth syndrome which will come to full strength in the next few years, however, I wouldn’t mind having one afternoon…or even one hour without snide comments, general dislikes hurled not only at each other, but their parents as well.

Wishful thinking…I know.


numbers game…


The doll’s Volley Ball season continued on Saturday as we watched the girls feet glued to their positions.  “Doll you need to move your feet” I said to her.  In return I received a glare, the mouthed words of “I KNOW!” and then later an “It wasn’t my ball to get…” excuse.  Sometimes being a spectator and mom is very difficult. In all honesty, the mom’s try very hard not to laugh while watching the kids sometimes, ill reactions to the balls coming at their heads.  It does take courage to play and I should remember that.

We were asked to bring along another girl from the team, who coincidentally has the same first name as the doll and very similar middle names.  As the day wore on, the doll inevitably asked if her doppelganger could stay the night.  Seeing we had no real plans  beyond the Volley Ball games, we agreed.  “So, I don’t mistake to whom I’m speaking to, I’m going to call you “Thing one and Thing two alright?” I said to the girls.  The doll rolled her eyes and said, “MOM” with enough attitude I wondered what happened to my nice little girl…

As the weekend rolled on, the girls watched the dreaded Disney channel ad nausea and played on my laptop. When I suggested they play a board game I was again shot dirty looks.  “What?  Does everything have to be electronically fed to you?” I asked, apparently to myself, as they wandered away in an attitude fueled huff.  At one point in the day, I came out of my hiding place in the basement to see what the kids were up to.  When I entered the living  room, I found the boy, sitting on the love seat, playing solitaire on his Nook.  “Where’s the girls?” I asked.   “They’re in the doll’s bedroom playing on the laptop.  They were out here earlier looking for your credit card.”  “Wha?” I asked, taken aback by what he’d just said.  “They were looking for your credit card but couldn’t find your purse.”

As you can imagine, I made a quick bee-line to the doll’s room.  “Doll, what are you doing?”  Both girls sat atop the doll’s top bunk and were playing on the laptop.  “We’re just playing a game” she said all innocent like.” A quick glance at the other girl and I wondered if the innocent look on her face was truly innocent. “What’s this I hear about you wanting my credit card number?” I asked.  “Oh, we were just playing a game where we needed a number and we couldn’t think of one, so we thought we’d use your credit card number.  But since we couldn’t find it, we decided to play a different game.”  Um yeah, no… I thought.

“Honestly doll?   If you tell me the truth…” I began.  “Mom, I am telling you the truth it was just a number game.”  “A number game with my credit card where you buy unwanted filth on the computer…” shot through my head.  Instead I smiled back at them and began to realize, my daughter believes I was born yesterday.  “Doll, just so we’re clear…my credit card number NEVER gets input into a computer site for any reason, do you understand?”  “Mom I don’t know why you’re getting so weird-ed out…it was just a number we wanted to play between us.” She replied with a smile on her face.  “Yep and if that’s true, I have land in the Florida Everglades to sell you…” I said as I exited the room.

But still I wonder;  Dear God, what purchase will my next credit card bill have on it…?


determination amongst siblings…


The boy as of late has been driving me nuts.  I know, I know, but he keeps finding new ways to see if my head will explode.  His recent incarnation has been to talk like a baby; mispronouncing words and using a God-awful tone of voice that I would love to send into a new dimension.  I needed to come up with a way for him to see this behavior was a detriment to his growth, or else he would continue to torture me with it.  How in the hell was I gonna make this work?

“Hi mommy wommy!”  “I wove woo mommy” “Mommy I w~o~v~e  da way you woves me”, are just a few of his examples.  “Are you kidding me?”  I wanted to scream! Ugh blech–makes me want to gag!

I got angry, but decided to try reason…

“Boy, you never ever in a million years ever talked to me like that when you were a baby boy.  In fact you’ve always sounded like an encyclopedia.  Please stop talking in these tones and voices.” I implored.  “Owee Kaywee” he replied.  I could hear finger nails on the chalk board of my brain in the background. “No seriously, drop the baby talk.  You never called me MOMMY  you called me mama.  I like Mama or Mom.  Please no more Mommy talk.” I replied.  “Well I used to say aWAAAAle when I said Whale or GOL when I meant Gold fish” He announced.  “Yes, when you were just two years old you did say those words.  But never that mushy ookie junk you said earlier.”

The doll meanwhile, overhearing our conversation came in and asked, “What were some of the words I used to say?”  In that moment all I can think of is her familiar catch phrase “Boo boo baa baa!” which elicits a smile and giggle from her.  “Aren’t there any other words I used to say that sounded funny?”  In a moment of weakness, I lie and say, “Ah doll, there are too many to list…”

Truth is I don’t remember.  Hell I barely remember yesterday; yet I remember almost all of the boys’ words.  First born children tend to have their mother’s full attention for little details, while the next child lives in the shadows.  “Doll, you were funny as a baby, scooting around on your rear…” I say, trying to turn the conversation away from language skills.  “You were a determined little kid too” I say with a smile.  “What do you mean?” she asks.  “We never knew the door to your brother’s room did not latch, until you came along.”  “Why?”  “Because for some reason, you determined the boy’s room was the place to be, and you kicked the door open to get inside.”

By now the boy and doll are both laughing at the memory I’ve invoked and he has thankfully returned to talking like an encyclopedia-which reminds me I need to look up some words.  Let’s just hope he stays in the present and out of his pretend semantic past.




45 and not a point less…


Yesterday when the doll arrived home from school we had a simple conversation:

M:  Hi Doll, how as school?”

D:  Hi Mom, fine.”

M: Did you eat your lunch?”

D: Yes

M: Do you have any homework?

D: No

M: Any infractions?

D: Huh?

M: Are they teaching you anything other than monosyllabic words?

D: What? Can I call a friend to come and play here?

M: I don’t care.  By the way, I moved your rodent into the kitchen for you, so the dog wouldn’t get too curious with her in the living room… Perhaps you should do something with him?”

D: She’s a her-Mom

M: Potato, potata…in the rodent world  it makes no difference to me

D: You’re mean!

M: Any chance you might say anything using two syllables in the next few minutes?  Otherwise this conversation will get stale. (The doll shot me her, ‘I don’t like how you’re talking to me’ look before she replied)

D: We’ll see.


Later as the afternoon progressed, she approached me with an interesting idea.  Truth be told, I think we had had a similar conversation earlier, however I did not agree to the terms she was offering, therefore, a deal had not been struck.   “So mom, right now I have 16 and a half AR (Accelerated Reader) points, which are more than I have ever had before.  How many would I need to get in order to receive a Kindle Fire for Christmas.”  “How many do you have now?” I asked to be sure she wasn’t propagating more than she really had.  “I have 16 and a half points.” she replied.  “Hmm, How about 80.”  I suggested.  “Eighty!!  Are you nuts?   I’ll never reach that number!!!” she yelled, kind of disgusted I would even suggest a number that high.  “How about 25” she announced.

I decided to be a bit more reasonable.  “50” I said and the negotiations began.  “30!” The doll countered.  “45” I came back.  I thought I might drop it to 40, but began having too much fun teasing that high number over her head–like a carrot for a horse. “35!?”She tried. “45” I maintained my resolve.  “No fair mom…if I make it to 40 and fall short…then I don’t even get the Kindle Fire.” She argued.  “Kindle reader” I came back.  “But the boy got a Nook that has internet access, why can’t I?”

We hadn’t even settled on a number yet and here we were arguing about the reward.  “Well, if you’ll recall, you’re brother lost his Nook due to too much internet use for most of last winter and spring.  The tablet was supposed to be for READING, not much more.” I replied.  “Well, I’m not like the boy…I only go onto YouTube and watch music videos.”   “Uh, huh, not building much confidence with me doll” I said.  “Well, if I make it to 40 points I should get a Kindle Fire” she reiterated.  “No” I replied, “You need to make it to 45 points and not a point less” I came back. “How about 35?” the doll tried.  “You’re going the wrong way.  45 not a point less”. I tried again. “Okay, how about 50?” she said on accident.  “Okay, 50! Let’s shake…” I replied, trying to shake her hand.  “Wait, no I meant 40!” the doll exclaimed, desperately trying to hide her right hand from me.  “Doll…45 points are my final offer”.  She pretended to say 40–and then added five under her breath, several times before I said, “That’s it, I’m taking my offer off the table…”  “Mom, wait.  FINE 45 it is…for a Kindle Fire”.   Smiling, I shook her hand and said “Deal”.

For those of you who find this exchange kind of silly, consider this.  Two years ago, we struggled with getting the doll to read anything.  While the boy is a voracious reader, she wants nothing to do with reading.  Somehow, last Spring, the librarian at her school found books she was interested in and she began reading…slowly but well enough to reach her first AR goal ever.  Currently she’s reading better and I only want to encourage that. If she doesn’t make it to 45 points between now and Christmas, I don’t think she’ll be disappointed.  I know I won’t be. Plus, it takes one more Christmas present off our lists…