idle hands are the devil’s workshop

We are currently at the halfway point of my children’s two-week spring break. Ten days ago, I was so excited for all this time together. This morning, my thoughts run more along the lines of: sweet heavens, can’t they just go back to school already? 

Who ever decided that grade-schoolers needed two weeks off each spring? I had exactly zero spring break as a youngster; all we got off was Good Friday, and I had to spend half of that in church. But somewhere along the line, in parts of the Northeast at least, the second half of March became extended vacation territory for children, although it’s the rare grownup that can take that time off with them.

I can, and I am so so grateful for that, seriously, but my husband looked just a little too happy going off to the office this morning while the caterwauling and “weenie-kicking” continued in the background. Idle hands are indeed the devil’s workshop, or at least the devil’s haircut, and I can attest to that because I was interrupted by each of my three children while I typed just this last sentence.  

When people have nothing else to do, bad bad stuff can happen. Case in point: when my third baby was 11 days late arriving into the world, I cut my toenails way, way too short. I could hardly walk (not that that was so easy already, with an 11-day-late baby). I thought I learned my lesson that day about doing personal grooming as a last-ditch effort to stave off existential ennui. But apparently not, because this weekend I found myself in the waiting room of my local urgent care facility because I had, while “cleaning” my ear with a Q-Tip, lodged a ball of wax so deeply in my hair that I was deaf on one side. Deaf to all, that is, but the insistent ringing/tinnitus that resulted. 

It was kind of nice not to be able to hear my kids fighting to my starboard side, but definitely unsettling. So then I did something else that 1) is bad and 2) one only does when really bored: I sought a self-cure on the internet. After pouring a bunch of olive oil in my ear, and only then reading it would take about five days for it to work, I decided to quit putting anything else in my ear, at all, and seek professional help.

It took two professionals, forty minutes, and multiple techniques to unblock my ear. But hey, it was a whole morning’s excursion!  (what finally worked: a combination of hydrogen peroxide and a Water Pik, set on high.) 

Today it’s pouring rain, which is actually kind of nice, for a change of pace. Once I finish typing this we’re all off for a field trip at Target.  Anything to keep me from sticking another Q Tip in my ear.

Have you ever done anything regrettable out of complete and total boredom?

picture from, who says when her kids get bored, she lets them fingerpaint the inside of the dishwasher. Totally doing that when we get home from Target.  

one of my all time favorites

I’m on vacation with my kids this week, and so I’m posting a rerun of one of my all-time favorite kid stories, this one from almost four years ago. Hope you enjoy! 
Connor and Seamus were sitting together at the picnic table, eating dinner, calmly munching their corn on the cob.
SEAMUS: I hafta get something.
He goes inside. A moment later he sticks his head out the screen door.
SEAMUS: Connor. Did you know I touched a poop?
CONNOR: Really?
Connor and I wait for the rest of the story. But apparently, that is the whole story. So after a moment:
MOMMY: Seamus. Did you REALLY touch your poop?
Seamus looks at me like that’s the dumbest thing he’s ever heard.
SEAMUS: Not MY poop, Mommy. Somebody else’s poop.
MOMMY: Somebody else’s poop that was in the toilet?
Seamus starts to lose his patience.
SEAMUS: NO, Mommy! Somebody else’s poop that was AT CAMP!
MOMMY: (processing this) In the toilet at camp?
Seamus loses it.
SEAMUS: NO!! Somebody else’s poop that was at camp ON THE FLOOR!!
CONNOR: There was poop on the floor at camp?
SEAMUS: That’s what I was trying to TELL YOU!!
MOMMY: Whose poop was it?
SEAMUS: I DON’T KNOW!! I just touched it!
Connor and Mommy take this in.
MOMMY: And then what happened, Seamus?
SEAMUS: Nuffin. Nobody said anyfing.
Seamus goes back inside. Connor and Mommy contemplate all of this in their hearts.
The End
Seriously, that’s the end. Seamus won’t say another word about it. He gets furious if I bring it up; he has said everything he intends to on the matter.
I, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about this incident. I am haunted by its ramifications, both hygienic and psychosocial. Not to mention, wondering how a turd ends up by itself on the floor. I told my mother this whole story, and she, with nearly forty years of mothering experience, had this pearl of wisdom to offer:
“Sometimes, you just have to accept: you’re never going to get the whole story.”

my culturally deprived children, part two

A mom sidled up to me at a baby shower yesterday. “So, tomorrow’s a big day for you guys!” she said.

“Totally,” I said, sipping my peach nectar, hoping she’d enlighten me a little more as to just what we were both talking about. 

“With Seamus and all,” she added, seeing my confusion.

**blank stare**

“With it being St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow,” she said slowly, wondering if I was possibly having some sort of brain malfunction right there in the dining room.

I seriously had no idea today was going to be March 17th until that moment.

“So what do you guys do?” she asked.

“Uh. Not much,” I said. “We’re not really that into it.”

“Into being IRISH?” she said. “But your kids’ names…”

“No, we like being Irish,” I said. “It’s just that St. Patrick’s Day… doesn’t have that much to do with it.”

And really, does it? I could have kept my kids out of school today– as I write this, I sit about two miles from the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world, happening right now. 

But it is about the least child-friendly place I can imagine (and I’m saying that freely admitting I’ve never been there– please no hate mail). Parade day is more about being rip-roaring drunk than being Irish, if you get my drift. In fact, I’m going to go on record: a lei is not traditionally Gaelic, either, and so that man in the picture at left with the green ‘fro may not even be Irish. Except every March 17th.

Still, I feel the pressure to step up and do something today- after all it was just last week that I was publicly shamed by my family’s lack of culturally significant object. I managed to get Seamus out the door in a green T-shirt this morning (totally relieved he owned one), and Maggie wore some shamrock ponytail holders I scrounged up from the bottom of a shoebox of hair accoutrements. But that hardly seems sufficient. I could just buy some shamrock cupcakes or something, but I already hate how St. Valentine’s Day has become a week-long parade of candy and baked goods, and if it’s Gaelic traditions I’m after I don’t think St. Patrick ever ate a cupcake.

Besides the wearing o’ the green, Wikipedia‘s traditional St. Patrick’s Day suggestions are church-going (whoops) and a 24-hour ban-lift on whatever you gave up for Lent. OK, so everybody can have some chocolate. But that doesn’t seem very culturally significant either.

Anyone do anything fun with their kids for St. Patrick’s Day? I want to have a better answer (as the mother of Connor, Seamus, and Maggie) for next year…

If you are so inclined, might you consider clicking below and voting for this blog as one of Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms? There are some other great blogs on there (like my friend Margaret’s Short Fat Dictator) but Mother Load could use a few clicks, if you know what I’m saying.  Slainte! 

I’m the kind of sick that means I can’t go to school

“NOT the kind of sick that means I can’t go to ballet,” my 3 year old clarified, standing in the hallway yesterday morning. “Just the kind of sick that means I can’t go to school.”

Just so you get the full picture, this is how she looked when she said it.

This is how my daughter likes to roll these days: backpack, purse, lunchbox, baby. She watches me trudge around New York City like a sherpa with my laptop and Seamus’s soccer cleats and fourteen other bags, so it’s my fault. 

I had a LOT to do yesterday. This was not what I wanted to hear. “Never mind, you are going to school,” I said.

“But Mommy,” she whined, “my tummy hurts.”

Connor (my 8-year-old) overheard her. “My tummy still hurts too,” he said, which he had been saying since Friday. He seemed fine to me. Then he threw up Saturday night.  But 36 uneventful hours had passed since then. 

“We are both staying home,” Maggie announced with great finality, “since we have two sick tummies.”

Then they frittered away a pleasurable day watching TV and playing with their toys while I got about 25% of what I needed to accomplish done. And while they didn’t eat much, they didn’t complain of stomach pains once, either. (And Maggie was right: she wasn’t the kind of sick that meant she couldn’t enjoy ballet class as thoroughly as usual.) 

This morning, after a full night’s sleep and a toaster waffle with syrup, Maggie said, “I think my tummy hurts again.”

“Mine isn’t really good either,” Connor offered, having just finished an absolutely enormous bowl of Raisin Bran.

“You are GOING TO SCHOOL,” I growled, because I couldn’t take another day of moping around. So I took them, and I dropped them off, trying to ignore that Connor did look a little peaked under the eyes.

Now I’m sitting here trying to get work done with 1 1/2 eyes on my cell phone, waiting for the school nurse to call. 

With my luck, it’ll be Seamus that yaks.

How do you decide whether your kids are sick enough to stay home, in the absence of any measurable symptoms? 

If you live in the Dallas TX area– or know someone who does– please spread the word: I’ll be doing my one-woman show MOTHER LOAD at the Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie, TX on April 1 and 2 (get your tickets here). I’ll also be giving the morning keynote address at Project Mom in Dallas on Saturday, April 1. Hope to see some of you there! 

the first day your child gives YOU advice

I pretty much hate skiing. I’m trying, but there it is. I’ve done it three times now, and as I explained here and here, I was doing just fine without Chamonix on my bucket list, but my 5 and 7 year old boys were learning, and I wanted them to see that it was a worthy enterprise to step out of one’s comfort zone. And so last winter, I vowed to learn with them. 

Then I let them go a time or two with Daddy (and without me, for whatever lame reason I could make up) and now my two boys are crazy good, doing jumps and black-diamond runs while I do a white-knuckled granny trip or two down the bunny slope with a ski instructor. Last Saturday, they kept breezing by on their way to the “Iron Horse” run to watch me, and I kept gritting my teeth and trying to look like I was having fun, but it was icy and the instructor was giving me twenty things to concentrate on at once, and I just wanted to be done.

I got my reprieve when Connor said his gloves were all wet and I sooo unselfishly offered to take him into the lodge for lunch while my 6 year old and my husband did another run. As we sat over our french fries, Connor asked me if I had had fun.

ME: No. Not really. Is that okay to say? My hands hurt from gripping the poles so hard. All I’m doing is trying not to fall. 

My eight-year-old nodded sagely.

CONNOR: Yeah. If you worry too much, sometimes it can be hard to focus.


ME: Yeah. Yeah, that was it exactly.

CONNOR: And you need to focus. The next time you go up there, I want you to say: I’m going to do a really good job. I’m going to do a really good job. 

ME: … okay.

CONNOR: I want you to focus on just that. And then you won’t worry anymore. Okay, Mom?

Here was why I had come up to the mountain that day, why I had spent a hundred dollars on a ski lesson and skis and poles and helmet and a new set of mittens. It was to have the enormous privilege of having one of my children give me wonderful advice. It was to have that brief telescopic look at why it’s going to be okay when my children are all grown up: they are going to be such delightful people to know.