Monday, December 21, 2009

THAT kind of parent

Charlie has started wrestling and it has truly been quite an experience so far.

Now let me start by saying that Charlie is just about 7 years old (for those of you that don't know or have forgotten). It is a very freaky thing to see such a little boy locked in mortal hand to hand combat with some other little boy that is just as wiry and fast and strong as he is. And therein lies the problem...

Charlie is the kind of kid where his whole life, everything has been easy, everything comes naturally - from sports - like baseball, football, soccer, running - to things like schoolwork, making friends and actually having a sense of style - to the even more basic skill of really enjoying himself pretty much no matter where he is or what he's doing.

***Enter the sport of wrestling.****

Well practice was all just learning in a fun kind of way so it was very exciting at first. I was thrilled because the coaches are tough - tough in a good way. They don't take any kind of nonsense from the kids and practices themselves are very disciplined - and Charlie was really listening and paying attention and trying his best (i.e. not goofing off). THEN we had our first match. Oh boy, talk about tough - in that Charlie, the kid who is used to being the best at almost everything he does, and having it all come oh so easily, had to deal with getting his ass kicked around by kids better and stronger than him. And he proceeded to walk off the mat in the middle of his 4th match and have quite the tantrum, which included crying, storming and stomping all the way up a set of bleachers...and you must remember the acoustics in a gym. I was mortified.

I was not mortified that he felt so horrible. I mean yes, I felt bad that he was mother wants to see her kid so totally unhappy...but mostly, God forgive me, I was mortified because I was very VERY embarrassed. Thankfully, as I mentioned, he is still so young and junior wrestling is apparently notorious for tears and meltdowns. But his reaction was still a little extreme even within these parameters...And Tom and I are making him continue with the program, even though he would probably take us up on it if we said "OK you can quit." But not so that he redeems himself - and us - in future matches and tournaments by managing to hold it together. But so that he learns a few pretty darn valuable lessons that apply to life in general:

1 - Not everything in life is going to be easy and sometimes you have to fight tooth and nail for what you want. Don't expect things to be handed over on a silver platter with little or no effort on your part.

2 - When things get difficult, you try harder. You DO NOT quit.

3 - Sometimes, you are going to lose. And yes, it sucks when you do. And no, you don't get a trophy anyway.

4 - As good as you may be, at some point, you are going to come across someone who is better than you

5 - Respect authority...your superiors have the power to make your life not so fun. Be aware of that - and act accordingly.

6 - You are a boy - and sometimes it is not only appropriate but it is expected that you be aggressive.

Now let me say that Max is involved in Track, Cross Country and Academic ventures such as Debate and annual County Spelling Bees where many of these same lessons apply. And yes, he has wanted to quit each one of these several times. And Tom and I are as tough on him as we are with Charlie. But things have never been as easy for Max...which is another blog post completely.

We enforce participation in these activities because we both strongly feel that learning to act appropriately while competing with your peers can help build the kind of mental fortitude that generally seems to be lacking these days. There is truly something wrong with so many kids in this country. There is this sense of entitlement, a disregard of values and what seems to be an overall lack of respect for ANYTHING that doesn't make them feel good...and Tom and I find this absolutely appalling. We want to do whatever we can to help prevent this from happening to our kids.

And not that this is the only reason it's happening - but this seems to kind of sum up what's happening. In most kids' activities they don't keep score, no one loses, everyone gets a trophy and if they don't want to practice during practice and they'd rather run crazy or pick daisies...hey! That's ok! Let's not force them to do anything that might make them uncomfortable or tax them in any way, shape or form! Take it easy on them! And let's expect that they take it easy on each other and not get competitive or aggressive, why should they? Yes, it is football, one of the most vicious sports EVER but it's going to be a tie score anyway! It should be shocking if a kid gets up in another kids face and actually BLOCKS him! And if there is a kid that is naturally good at what he is doing - well...then by all means, let's let him slack off, be disrespectful to coaches and make fun of those who may not have his talent. After all, he'll be in the big leagues some day - he's going to beat those 1 in 50 bazillion odds against him...let's start to pay homage now.

And we all know this is what real life is like. You always get to pick who you work with. You always get the job you want for the most money possible. If you don't like something you're working on or decide hey! I'm not much for parenting this can always just stop what you're doing and move on to the next thing. You can tell your boss to go jump in a lake whenever and as often as you please. You never ever have to do anything that makes you pay the bills or give a presentation or wash dishes or carry a car seat with a 15 lb baby strapped inside or even fix a toilet. And if you did...well by God you should get a trophy for it! If some a-hole hits you, well shucks you don't have to hit him back. And if you do happen to be good at something then we all know you are allowed to act however you want and treat people as poorly as you think they deserve.

OK so that last sentence is unfortunately what real life is like - but you get my drift with the rest of it...right???

Yes, Charlie is 7. And wrestling makes him immensely uncomfortable for a whole multitude of reasons. Many parents would let him quit...even encourage him to quit. But Tom and I are THOSE kinds of parents. We feel there is a lot to learn from true competition, not the nonsense kind that's happening these days - and it's never too early to start teaching kids these lessons.

So if you're looking for me to tell me what you think, you'll find me on the sidelines - I'll be the short blonde with the big mouth...cheering her kids on!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cardio as Religion

So I just got back from a 10.5 mile run, which is in fact a personal distance record for me. It took me close to forever, which pretty much goes without saying, but I did it. Sadly, I did not come back from this run a size 4. You chuckle...but there is a part of me that is honestly surprised by this. For real! I mean, you run that far for that long you think you'd just shrink to almost nothing, right? Yeah. Wrong. But, anyway, 2.6 miles to go and I have a 1/2 marathon under my belt. You can all pat me on my size 8 (ish) back now.

But as I was running, two questions burned in my mind - - - how on earth did I get to this point and why the hell do I stay here i.e. why do I continue to do this to myself?

Well, as far as the "how did I get to this point" question goes - how it all started is really not terribly glamorous or inspiring. It was not a situation where I felt compelled to be more healthy or look better. I did not push myself and track my progress as I got stronger and better and faster. It was more an issue of having to walk multiple dogs and getting impatient and pissed off with how long it took so I would break into a jog - and it just went from there. Soon the jogging spurts were longer, which probably directly correlated with the smoke dissipating from my system.

You see, I used to smoke - really smoke. As in not one of these "I can take it or leave it" bullsh*t smokers that seem to be prevalent these days. I smoked like I meant it and then smoked some more. Air travel was pure hell. OK lets be honest an hour long meeting was pure hell. You know how the human body is like 80% water or some such pretty shocking figure like that? My body was 80% tobacco smoke. I made Phillip Morris proud.

But suddenly, out of nowhere, one cold February day almost 3 years ago, I quit. Again, not because I wanted to be healthy or because I had any inspiring desire to live longer for the sake of my kids - it just plain started to irritate me. Budd Lake is effing cold in the middle of February. The "needing" of a cigarette at inopportune moments - like when it is 4 degrees outside - just got to be too much for me to take. So, instead of going on my freezing cold porch to smoke I just said the hell with it - and that was that. That's not to say quitting was even more pure hell than air travel - and I will admit I still want a cigarette to this day - but I kicked it and its over and hopefully I will never have to deal with that whole hot mess ever again.

So that was how it went. The smoke cloud lifted its way out of my system, the running became more frequent and I went for longer periods of time without stopping...until I was counting miles instead of minutes. It got to "ok I did 3, maybe I can do 3.5? ok did that for a few weeks, now maybe 5?" and on it went until today's 10.5.

The bigger question is why do I keep doing this? Seriously, it's more like physical punishment. As I sit here and assess how I feel I can honestly tell you that practically everything from my waist down hurts. My hips, my behind, my quads, my hammies, my calves, my shins, my heels, my arches, the balls of my feet and the second and third toes on my right foot. And I am bound to get a headache later. But I can keep going because most importantly, my knees and ankles don't hurt. And shockingly, I can breathe - except maybe on the really big hills.

I certainly don't do it because I look better. As I sit here and assess how I look after months and months of running, combined with occasional walking, lap swimming, elliptical machine sessions, sit ups, push ups, weights, pilates - I can honestly say that my forearms look really good. But I keep going, because now I'm really scared to think about how I would look if I didn't. I'd loose my awesome forearms at the very least.

In assessing the long distance routes, I have to admit they are not at all relaxing. In order to get the distance, I have to go on main roads - many of which do not have sidewalks. There is not a lot of pavement between the white line on the side of road and where the uneven ground begins - and all along it is covered with sticks, acorns, leaves, trash, hidden divots...all manner of things that can easily produce a broken ankle. But it is understood that this little sliver of pavement is your allotted space if you are a pedestrian...staying on it often times makes it feel as though you are trying to run on a balance beam. Which makes it very interesting when you and the Pocono Produce 18 wheeler need to share the skinny little bridge crossing the Musconetcong River. It also makes it very interesting when you are running by the high school and loads of 17 year old boys are driving their broken down Tercel hatchbacks at Mach 8 to get back to the school before study hall ends and someone notices they are gone. But the most interesting of all was today's run - I was chased by an enormous Great Dane. Boy was he big! I half expected Shaggy and the gang to come barrelling around the corner behind him to lure me into some ridiculous trap and then try to take off my mask.

But I keep going, because once you've done long distance you have to keep trying to go further. You learn to block out the extraneous. And there are the peaceful runs through the woods and past the lake that quiet the mind and are good for the soul.

So get here I did, and stay here I will, and talking like Yoda I will not continue - I'm not entirely sure I answered the "whys" of it all, why running has indeed become a religion for me - but I guess when it all comes down to it, it may hurt like hell, I may not look a heck of a lot better for it, and it may at times be death defying, but it really and truly does feel good.

Keep in mind I am saying that while still sitting down....!!!!

As always, would love to hear everyone's thoughts/experiences etc!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Books that have Bummed Me Out

I don't do a lot that is terribly interesting, so it's not always easy to come up with something to write about. But one thing I do - I read...a lot. Interestingly enough, it is not because I am unemployed and have time on my hands - I have always been this way. Those of you that know me are nodding your heads - and you all know that for the most part, I turned off my TV in like, 1998. I am always the person who sees previews for movies and says, the book.

I am always looking for good fiction - anything imaginative, exciting - anything that moves me in any way. Which is pretty much what anybody is looking for I suppose. Funny thing about me is that I will keep reading a book until it's bitter end - even if I hate it. I can only think of a handful of books that I actually put down before they ended (one that comes to mind is "PS - I Love You" which was so predictable and sappy I couldn't take it anymore). Is muscling through books I am hating a huge waste of hours in my life? Yeah, probably - but I just always have to know what happens. Even if I groan and moan and carry on about how awful it was. Perhaps it's a sickness? an obsession? A form of OCD maybe? Not sure. It's simply part of what makes me tick.

I do have favorite authors, as any big reader does - my "go to" guys, books I will buy - in hard cover even - because I am sure that I will enjoy them. Or, there are books that I will buy because I have heard good things about them. And then there are books that I buy because they are part of a series, and I just have to know how it all ends.

But lately I have to say that much of the "tried and true" that I have been buying and reading has been disappointing to say the least. And I'm here to tell you about it so you don't waste your money and/or your time reading a bunch of crap, even if I did. And if these are books you read already - I am sorry. But maybe you can commiserate with me on their crappiness. Or yell at me because you thought they were awesome.

BUT just so you don't walk away from reading this thinking I am Johnny Raincloud, I will try to recommend similar "alternates" that I did actually enjoy a great deal.

The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown

OK, seriously Dan...can I call you Dan?...The DaVinci Code came out in what, 2003? That's 6 years...and this is the crap you came up with during all that time? WTF? I feel very strongly about this because I really REALLY liked The DaVinci Code as well as Angels and Demons. What a great mind this author has! I kept at this book, pretty much non-stop for 2 days because I was so sure it would get good, some spark of greatness similar to his other novels would make its way to the surface. And it never did. In fact it just kept getting worse. I found it difficult to really care about the Freemasons and what they've been up to. The end was so anticlimactic and I honestly am not even sure what the whole Noetics thing is, or what real relevance it had to the storyline, other than filler copy. And really? A sensory deprivation tank with breathable liquid in someones secret basement? Come on. The piece of tarp slowing Langdon's free fall from a helicopter thousands of feet in the air (Angels and Demons) was more plausible - and that was completely over the top. What a letdown! THUMBS DOWN MR BROWN.

Read instead: His two "non-Robert Langdon" books, Deception Point and/or Digital Fortress. You could also try the author Steve Berry, a lot of his stuff is similar but not so hyped up that you expect the world from it. It's good - not great, but good and is definitely in the same genre.

The Hour I First Believed - Wally Lamb

This may top the list on complete total utter disappointments in all my days of reading books. I looked forward to this book for years and years, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True are two of my favorite books of all time. And then Wally comes up with this monstrosity. It started out very good, it seemed very promising - but then BANG - every socially sensitive topic got thrown in, and it became this disorganized, pieced-together Frankenstein plot - post traumatic stress, economic difficulties, drug addiction, adultery, dysfunctional family life, suicide resulting from military service in the Middle East, inter-racial marriage, same sex marriage - oh, you name it, it was in here. What a horror show. I was so seriously bummed out by this book - its badness affected me for days.

Read Instead: I am not even sure what to recommend in its place, Wally Lamb's stories are so uniquely moving and insightful - it's hard to come up with something even remotely comparable. The closest books I can think of would be Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (what a wonderful, amazing book!) or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (if you haven't read that gem already). And if you haven't read the first two Wally Lamb books I mentioned - I can't recommend them enough.

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

I really enjoy Dennis Lehane books, they are usually exciting, nail-biting crime/thrillers (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) and I make it a point to read all of his stuff. But this most recent book was just plain boring. It was about the formation of the union and subsequent strike of the Boston Police Department in the early 1900's. Zzzzzzzzz. I couldn't get into it, but my mother-in-law really liked it. Guess you just have to be into the subject matter?

Read Instead: There are any number of historical fiction books that are soooo much better. Just depends what "history" you prefer. I haven't come across anything good about America during this certain timeframe - has anybody else?

The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer

Oh my I'm going to upset a lot of people but I have to say these books are just the worst. I can understand the teen obsession with them, but all of us adults that have become infatuated by this story? Don't get it. I have finished the 3rd one and refuse to move forward until the next book comes out in paperback...or someone else buys it and I can borrow it. I honestly dislike almost every character including Bella's mother, who plays such a minor role, its shocking that Ms. Meyer manages to make her so easily unlikeable with so few "appearances." I have had it with Edward "chuckling" and being oh-so-amused with Bella and her teen angst antics and am so sick Bella moaning and groaning and rolling her eyes and otherwise being a total pill. These two haven't ever had one meaningful conversation and yet they have this supposed intense love that just came out of nowhere. They stare at each other a lot. That's about it. Why she doesn't go with the hot werewolf instead of the cold-as-marble vampire is beyond me. Do I hate these books? Sure do. Will I keep reading them? Of course. I have to know how it ends.

Read Instead: Want a comparable love story? Read any trashy Harlequin Romance. At least they might actually have some decent sex scenes in them.

Interested in Young Adult fiction? There are so many better options out there (and in my humble opinion this is where the truly imaginative fiction should check out this section in the bookstore.) It just goes without saying that Harry Potter kicks the Twilight series' ass. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Going Bovine by Libba Bray and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak are just a few in this genre that have the McVicar thumbs up.

Want a good vampire book? Salem's Lot by Stephen King is always a classic. Anne Rice who pretty much started this vampire love affair has a couple of good ones, Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat are awesome. And I think the best vampire book I've read is Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist - really creepy and its originality manages to stand out in this overcrowded sea of vampire books.

And finally, interested in Stephenie Meyer? Read her book for grown ups, The Host. A very original and interesting story that proves that she can actually write.

Well that's about it I think. I could do more, but this was getting long! Perhaps I will have additional bok review installments. Please, comments! LOVING THEM!- even if you want to disagree! Would love some lively discussion! So glad I fixed that annoying little feature...

Friday, November 6, 2009

2009 Christmas Lists

So first things first, I must apologize for the whole "posting comments" thing. I honestly do not know what I am doing wrong, all of my settings seem to be what they should be in order for people to "write in" - which is, quite honestly, half the reason I started doing this in the first place. So if anybody cares to email me and let me know wtf I need to do in order to get the comments thing up and running I would be forever in your debt. Well, not really. But I would appreciate it.

Secondly, my kids had three half-days and two full days off from school this week, for parent/teacher conferences and the NJEA conference. Seriously? What is this conference and what teacher actually attends? Well, regardless of the reason for it, this extra added bonus time at home for the kids couldn't come at a worse time. We are in between fall and winter sports/activities and they have waaay too much free time on their hands. And they mostly while away the hours by watching YouTube, playing Call of Duty on the PS3 (man do I hate that machine) and/or fighting with each other.

And did I mention Tom was away most of this week? Yeah. It was a good time.

The point I am trying to make is that after a very full week of YouTube Watchdogging, playing referee to ridiculous verbal exchanges and physical entanglements, listening to the sounds of machine gun fire and dying men spewing from my television - combined with all the normal domestic disturbances - it wasn't quite the environment that fostered free-flowing prose. So, I haven't exactly been as prolific on this blog as I would like.

But before I get to the real reason I started writing today, let me give a big fat shout out to my friend Cindy - she helped me solve the b'day party dilemma by recommending a nearby indoor party venue that should be perfect! Of course, I haven't done anything about it yet (see previous blog that details my birthday party planning "ability") but I am positive it will be absolutely perfect! Thanks Cindy!

OK - so...the kids have been putting together their Christmas lists, mostly at the requests of their grandparents so they can start the annual "Christmas Present Competition." But really, this year I'm glad for it, too. It is getting more and more difficult to navigate what is appropriate and affordable - and have it be something kids actually want.

So in an effort to make this easier on us all, Charlie went through the Target Holiday Toy catalog and circled all of the items he wanted. And as I look through these items I realize that we are really no better off than we were before he did this. Most of what he circled he would never ever play with. And I have vowed - for the hundredth time but hopefully this time it will stick - to NOT spend a fortune on Christmas toys for the sake of spending a fortune on Christmas toys. Especially those toys that spark a Merry Christmas "G--Damn It" Festival when I have to assemble them.

Charlie has items like the "Star Wars Deluxe Vehicle" circled. OK, not so bad - if it weren't for the fact that I just threw away about 3 of these deluxe vehicles because he hadn't touched them in 3 years - and the fact that this new one he wants is $64.99! What??!! And that's on sale! Then there is the G.I. Joe Accelerator Duke Figure that is eerily reminiscent of a gigantic Batman action figure I just put in the donation pile. And it wasn't even a question of him not touching it for a few years, I really don't think he EVER played with it. Then there is the $99.99 G.I. Joe Pit Mobile Headquarters, guaranteed to fall apart as soon as Charlie and his friend Sean launch their first "air strike" against it. There is the ever-present Nerf gun circled, but man do I hate those things, those damn darts get lost within the first 10 minutes of opening the packaging. Then they turn up in the weirdest places - darts in the pantry mixed in with the soup, darts in my underwear drawer, darts in the dogs' poop...I can explain the dogs' poop, but my underwear drawer? Before you ask...I have no idea.

But honestly the very best one is the Mindflex - which touts it will "move objects with brainwave activity!" and shows a very intense 8 year old with some bizarre looking headgear on, concentrating with every ounce of his being on floating a foam ball through a plastic hoop. First of all...yeah, that toy'll work. Second of all - even assuming it did work - this just doesn't seem like Charlie's kind of toy. Mostly because it involves intense thought. Now I love Charlie and I'm not saying he is not bright, he absolutely IS! but...well...he's Charlie. His idea of literary genius is the "Ricky Ricotta and his Giant Robot" series. And he wants a toy that's all about brainwave activity? Hmmm.

But Tom thinks we should get the Mindflex anyway - he thinks it would be really cool to hook it up to Junior.

Now Max is getting to a really difficult age for Christmas gifts. He's out of toys. He's not into clothes yet. He's still a little too young for a bunch of electronics. That pretty much leaves one games. And boy does his Christmas list show it. The problem is these PS3 games are bazillions of dollars, and the net $$ total of the games he listed is equal to about 1 year's tuition at Princeton. Well, maybe not Princeton...but definitely Rutgers.

He also wants Rosetta Stone for the German language. Oh, Max. So very you.

But one of the items on Max's list that made me stop and give pause was the request for a "PWND" t-shirt. I asked him what on earth this was and he said "it's 'poned,' Mom" in an exasperated tone - as if that explained everything and by God what is wrong with you Mom that you don't know that?? Well I asked could he please give me a definition of "poned" and his answer (verbatim) was "complete domination or shutdown of a person, place or thing." Huh? I mean, I just recently figured out what "LMAO" means. Now what is this "PWND" all about? It seems a little...overwhelming...for a t-shirt. Oh, Max.

Appropriate or no - his grandmother got it for him already (of course). I'm really just hoping he doesn't end up wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the rally cry for the Skinheads or something. Because he would have no idea and I would be the one trying to explain it to the Principal.

So goes our Holiday Joy. But I think the real joy will be seeing the wonders of Junior's brainwaves set the Mindflex ablaze with activity.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birthday Party Blues

Since the upcoming weeks aren't busy enough - what with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years on the way - I have assigned myself an awesome project to keep myself from getting too bored - (yeah, ok...)

I really need to get on top of a birthday party for Charlie. His birthday is in between Christmas and New Years and the poor kid always seems to get the shaft. Mind you he has never complained, God Bless him, but this year he had to endure a massive party for Max's birthday/graduation. The event for Max was so huge that I don't think we can let Charlie's birthday slide by this year without at least a decent amount of fanfare. And considering the fact that I am unemployed, I have no excuse not to take the time to make this happen for him.

Anyone who knows me knows that birthdays are just not my forte. When working, I could barely get birthday cards in the mail and when I did, it was anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks late. OK. Bad example. I still struggle with this. SO...a better example would be that when I was working I could barely get the book of stamps to get birthday cards in the mail. So you can imagine my ineptitude at planning an entire party. With invitations and everything? Dealing with RSVP calls? Oh my. You may as well have asked me to scale Everest than have asked me to get a cake with a for-real personalized message. So I managed one "organized" party for Charlie throughout the course of his 6 years. Last year when he said he didn't want a party, I sure didn't press the matter (oh Honey well OF COURSE you don't have to have a birthday party, you don't have to do ANYTHING you don't want to do).

But this year, no such luck. Discussions started as early as July, as a result of aforementioned Birthday/Graduation party for Max. Fortunately at the time, but unfortunately for me now, that party was at the end of June and revolved around the biggest, most obnoxious inflatable water slide you have ever seen on our front yard. It entertained hoards of kids for hours and hours. It is a tough act to follow in the best of circumstances...much less in the dead of winter.

So anyway first thing I have to tackle is the "where." I know that I sure as heck do not want all these kids in my house. I have a lot of trouble - well, ok perhaps it is a slight phobia - of a concentrated number of things - living things - in one place. A bird, a fish, a bug - all imminently "dealable" when they're on their own, or even in a group of two or three. But flocks of birds, schools of fish - even the recent ladybug swarms - all disturb me greatly, not so much because of the actual creatures themselves but because there are so darn many of them. Same theory applies with kids - one on one, I'm fine, everything's great - but put a large group of children in one small area? Two words: Hibbidy BaJibbidies. (You've seen Madagascar, right?) So, no - it would be better if this event is not in my own house. Way too confined.

Charlie desperately wants a "sledding" party, but I certainly can't guarantee snow. And I think renting a snow making machine is out of the question. Plus you know what would happen - all of these children would go sledding for all of 10 minutes and then want to come inside for the rest of the 2 hours that I would have them. And then I would end up lining them up against a wall and alphabetizing them (see previous blog post).

All of the other places just seem so done to death. On top of the fact that they all seem to be so very expensive. The one reasonably priced place is the one place that is a close second (my house being first) in the "never going to happen" category and that is the bowling alley. I can't take another bowling party. I just can't. And Charlie won't do cooking. That's "a girl party."

So I remain stuck.

The next thing to tackle is the theme - you know, Spiderman, Transformers, Harry Potter - Charlie is at an age where he is starting to grow out of these kinds of things. On top of which he changes his mind every couple of days. But you can't not have a theme, right? This can make or break the party for birthday boy/girl. One of my favorite stories of all time is about a birthday party theme.

In the Northeast, as many of us are aware, it is not uncommon for religion to play less than what you might call a leading role in our lives. One of my dear friends and her husband, who spent their whole lives here in the Northeast, relocated to the south. Needless to say, religion played a larger part in the lives of their new friends and neighbors. One summer, in an effort to better integrate - and quite frankly in an effort to get a few hours to herself, my friend sent her kids to a Vacation Bible School. It was great - the kids played games, sang songs, listened to stories - they were very excited about what they were learning and would recount it all in great detail each day. They were hooked on the Bible and all it had to offer - so hooked that her 5 year old son asked if he could please have a "Jesus" birthday party.

Now please don't get me wrong I think it's wonderful that Jesus was elevated to Number One Super Hero status in this boy's eyes, worthy of being the THEME to his birthday party. Not Spidey. Not Optimus Prime. Not even the NY Yankees. He wanted Jesus. That is just THE BEST. But what is even better is my imagination taking that further - to the Jesus cone-shaped hats, the Jesus napkins and tablecloth, the Jesus goody bags. Again, I mean no harm or offense - I don't know, maybe this stuff exists? I've just never seen it - not in any Party City around here anyway.

Sadly, Charlie really only has the vaguest notion of Jesus, so I don't think I'll be having the same issue my friend had. I think maybe we'll make due w/ the NY Giants.

So - what I am hoping for is maybe some of you might have some 7 year old "100% boy" Winter birthday party suggestions? Please let me know - would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Now What?

OK I have hit rock bottom or should I say rock boredom. It took 10 months but I have officially become b-o-r-e-d. Want to know what I did yesterday? I alphabetized all of our DVD's. Something which, granted, needed to be done, it was so annoying trying to find anything - but this little project basically justified my existence for the day. Not cool.

I suppose anybody who is reading this already knows that I am among the ranks of the Unemployed (hence the title of the blog) and yes, I - we - my husband and I that is - are choosing that I remain as such. And so far, this decision has been a-o.k. with me.

I have mastered getting to various sports practices on time WITH all the necessary older son Max runs cross country so as long as he has some form of footwear on we're pretty much set. Flag football for 6 year old Charlie is another story. You've got a mouthpiece, water bottle, cleats, football pants, practice shirt - and he's supposed to wear a cup but since it came up to his belly button we figured he'd be all right without it for this season, anyway. Anyway the point is - a lot of stuff. Hard to get right. Tom (said husband) and I once sent him to a FLAG FOOTBALL practice without his FLAGS. Swift. But that's in the past, now I can get it all together - plus some trail mix for snack - with my eyes closed. Very helpful now that the season is over.

I am happy to report that I have a house that is almost always presentable and I really don't ever fall behind on the laundry. It took me almost 20 years of living on my own to figure out that if you do a little bit at a time, you don't have to clean for hours and hours and waste an entire day. I certainly don't like doing it any more than I used to but being around to get it done sure does take the edge off of the hate.

I am around for homework and I make sure my kids get it done as soon as they come home from school. I provide help and yes, "motivation" when necessary. ("You will not TOUCH that Playstation OR the computer until this is done - correctly AND neatly!" I have boys, you have to add "neatly" to those kinds of statements)

I exercise almost every morning. I either run or walk, almost always with a dog or two. I used to go with all three at once but that got a little out of hand once Ollie, the puppy, got big and really, really strong and apparently impervious to the pain of the medieval torture spiked collar we use to walk him. I scared the pants off some lady and her dog one morning when walking all three of mine and as we passed each other, all three started barking at her like they were going to tear out her - and her dog's - throats. Lovely. We'll have no more of that. But Junior is usually my running dog. Because he never poops, well - not out on our runs, anyway. I'm sure he poops at other times. So the non-stop, totally forward-motion he's got is a plus. The other two get walked. Lately Ollie gets to go on the trails I found in the woods. I took Minnie to the trails once, she kept running too far away. I think perhaps she was trying to escape the insanity of our household, she's not really a "people" dog. Come to think of it she's not really "another dog" dog either - she's pretty much just pissed off at almost everyone except my father. It's very strange.

I cook a lot now. And I am pretty good at it. Simple stuff, anyway. Leave the fancy dishes for Tom - I'm all about beef stew, turkey chili, quesadillas, baked ziti - you get my drift. Anything my kids will eat with gusto. The dishes may not come off the pages of Food and Wine (in fact often times they come off the pages of the Wookie Cookie cookbook) but at least they are homemade. When I was working it was not rare for me to throw bowls of Coco Krispies (which were not homemade, in case you were wondering) at my children for dinner while I continued to bang out emails and review piles and piles of galley proofs that awaited my approval before they could be submitted to clients. My "work from home" job turned out to be more work than any "work at the office" job could ever EVER be.

And I shudder to think of those days and I can safely say that I do not ever want to go back to that.

But honestly, taxiing kids to sports events, cleaning, cooking and dare I say alphabetizing (I did all of the fiction books in our library and the spice rack prior to tackling the DVD's) have become a bit mundane. These things used to be a huge challenge for me because they were so very different than what I did on a daily basis. But now...not so much. I still like exercising, I just wish it worked better.

So - I suppose this all finally brings me to my point - this blog. I need an outlet. I need to know if there are any of you out there that are going through the same things - or going through anything remotely similar. Or something completely different, I don't care - just let me know! I honestly don't know what I'm doing or what I'm going to say on any on-going basis but my guess is that it will largely revolve around me, a former Vice President and Director of a company, finding myself as the New Suzy Homemaker. And how this Suzy Homemaker position is waaaay harder than any VP/Director job could possibly be.

It could get interesting...