Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mothers of Boys


            When I was a kid I was all about dressing up and things that sparkle. I don’t remember any toys—not that I didn’t have any. I spent most of my time in my parents’ living room dancing to whatever records (yup those black vinyl things) happened to be around. I would end each dance with a big sweeping curtsy. The best gift I ever received was a garbage bag filled with hand-me-down dance recital costumes from my cousins. It was a dream come true.
            God has a fantastic sense of humor. I am now the mother of two boys—mud pie making, plastic sword wielding, rock collecting, bear hug giving boys. They are Cub Scouts who play soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring. They love slapstick humor and fart jokes. They look under rocks for bugs. In short, they are boys and that’s why I’m linking up with Boy Mom Blog Hop over at the M.O.B. Society’s website.

Mothers of Boys

            Welcome to my blog, my name is Victoria, sometimes known as Vickie, but usually called Mom or Owen and James’ Mom. I started this blog almost a year ago right after I turned thirty-nine (hence the name of the blog). During the evenings or when my kids are in school I work part time selling furniture. It isn’t the job of my dreams, but it allows me the flexibility I need to raise my kids, be involved with community theatre, and write. I blog about family, creativity, fitness, and food, but most often about my adventures with my two boys. They have a wonderful relationship and are very different from one another.
            Owen is nine-years-old and takes being the oldest very seriously. He is always concerned about the well being of his little brother. He is smart, conscientious, funny, and fiercely loyal. He is shy for the first 30 seconds you meet, then he’ll talk your ear off for hours. He loves Legos, Star Wars, Transformers, paper airplanes, and loud music. His favorite books at the moment are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, anything in graphic novel format, and anything related to Star Wars.
            James is seven and is a skinny little “big man on campus”.  He becomes friends with just about everyone he meets. The worst moment of his life was the day we dropped Owen off at preschool for the first time and he realized he wasn’t going. All those kids and he couldn’t stay to play—it took me 20 minutes to get him into his car seat. He loves animals, puzzles, games, and anything the other kids are doing. James has a lot in common with Curious George.
            The final cast member in the comedy of my life is my husband Dan. We’ve been married for fifteen years. He’s smart, funny, patient, honest, a great dad, handsome, and talented. It still amazes me that this wonderful relationship started at a college keg party. So in addition to believing that God has a sense of humor, I also believe in miracles.
            Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I can’t wait to start reading and meeting more of the ladies linking up with the M.O.B.!

Friday, July 29, 2011

TRDC: The Gift

 Today’s post is based on a prompt from The Red Dress Club. Our assignment was to revise an old piece. I found this flash fiction story I wrote for an on-line writing class I took in the spring of 2010. The class inspired me to start writing again and eventually to start this blog. It was great to look back and realize how much I’ve grown as a writer and have the chance to really improve one of my first stories. The original prompt for this story was to begin with the sentence, “Pat knew for a long time that a clairvoyant gift was a mixed blessing.” My favorite part of rewriting this story was getting rid of that opening sentence!

The Gift
Pat’s gift was limited. Her clairvoyance never reached beyond the ringing telephone. Her husband often remarked that they didn’t need caller ID. He would look at her when the phone rang. “Don’t bother,” she would say while preparing dinner, “it’s only a telemarketer.”  Pat’s mother had the gift too. One of her earliest memories was of her mother, elbow deep in soapy water when the phone rang saying, “Can you answer that honey? I think it’s my brother. He’s probably having a bad day.”
Today the sound of the phone made her chest feel cold. Pat didn’t know who was on the other end of the line. She only knew they were calling with bad news. Pat considered not answering it. Maybe if she didn’t pick up the phone the bad thing might never happen. Shaking off the nonsense of that thought, she picked up the phone with a trembling hand, “Hello?”
“Hello. Mrs. Jones?”
“Yes.”
“This is Lorraine from Dr. Fenton’s office.”
Pat’s annual physical had been a few days before. She sat down at her kitchen table and fumbled with her teacup. The amber liquid splashed onto the linen placemat. “Oh? Hello Lorraine. What can I do for you?”
“I’m just calling to let you know your blood tests all came back normal.”
“Normal?”
“Yes. Everything is fine. CBC came back normal. Cholesterol is normal—in fact it’s quite good. We won’t need see you again for another year unless anything come up.” Reported Lorraine.
“Really?” Pat tried to slow her breathing. “Well, thanks for calling. You have a good afternoon Lorraine”
“Thanks. You too Mrs. Jones.”
Pat hung up the phone. The cold feeling in her chest remained. She breathed deeply, willing herself to relax. “It was nothing silly,” she told herself. “You were worried over nothing.”
Lorraine tucked the report back into the folder labeled Pamela Jones and prepared to make the next call. These were the toughest. She had to be vague and give as little information as possible—just get the patient back in to see the doctor and have more tests done. She took a deep breath as the phone rang.
“Hello?”
 “Hello. Mrs. Jones? This is Lorraine from Dr. Fenton’s office.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning to Let Someone Else do the Work

            Both of my boys have summer birthdays. So for the past six years, we have thrown a huge family barbeque to celebrate both birthdays. We invite family and friends and fire up the grill and have a great time. It has gotten bigger every year. I throw another detail into the mix each year. The first year it was just food, drinks, a cake and a little favor for the kids to take home. Then there was a pinata. Next organized games. And then prizes. It was exhausting, but I loved it. Entertaining is fun for me. I’m a planner at heart and this kind of thing is right up my alley.
            Because we celebrated a day other than either boys’ actual birthday we also had smaller celebrations with just the four of us on their days. Owen wanted to play mini golf and go out for pizza. James wanted to see a movie (plus popcorn and candy) and have dinner at an Italian restaurant. And there were presents. What’s a birthday without presents? By the time August rolled around our credit card bill was a little scary.
            So this year I told the boys we needed to scale back. We could either throw the “in-between party” (as it has come to be known) or they could have individual celebrations. But we wouldn’t do both. They had always envied their friends’ mid-winter celebrations at bowling alleys, gymnastics facilities, and other indoor venues. So it was no surprise they chose to celebrate individually away from home. We had Owen’s party at a local mini-golf place. My preparation involved, making a couple of phone calls, ordering a cake, putting together goody bags (which the boys helped with), and handing over my credit card.

The party cost me a small fraction of hosting a party at home the way I’ve been doing it and I didn’t make myself (or my husband) nuts preparing. I'm beginning to understand why no one I know has children's parties at their homes these days. As you can see, the kids had a great time. It was a fun and relaxing day for all of us—now that’s something to celebrate.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cheap Therapy

            Yesterday was one of those days. I had signed the kids up for a sports camp all week so I could work day shifts at my job. I wouldn’t be making much money—but I really prefer working days to nights and the financial trade off seemed worth it to me. We have a great summer program run through the school system here. The kids can choose from six different sports and the cost is very reasonable.
Then my car broke down Wednesday night while Owen and I were shopping for a birthday present for James. I had it towed to my mechanic and called my manager to say I wouldn’t be at work the next day. I felt a little guilty because we’re really short staffed right now, but I didn’t see an alternative.
            My neighbor was kind enough to lend me her car to bring the boys to camp. I was a nervous wreck—my car is a ten-year-old Windstar with 111,000 miles on it. Her car is a Jaguar that has half the miles and is rarely used to transport juice box wielding little boys.
            It took most of the day for the mechanic to figure out what was wrong with the car. It wouldn’t stall out for him so he had to keep taking it out to drive. Finally in the afternoon he called to say it was the cam sensor and it would cost about $400 to fix. That’s the second $400 repair bill in less than two weeks. Also, the part wouldn’t be in until the next day, which meant another day of missed work unless I rented a car.
            I called around and renting a car would cost me slightly more than I would earn if I went to work on Friday. I made another guilt-ridden call to my manager and explained the situation. I was feeling worse and worse. I couldn’t shake that “everything sucks” feeling that had taken over my brain. I had put out around $280 to send the boys to camp so I could work this week and I only ended up working six hours. Plus I had a $400 repair bill on my hands.
            My husband came home from work a little early so he could pick up the kids from camp. He asked me if I wanted to go to the gym after dinner. No, I didn’t want to go to the gym. I wanted to wallow on the couch with some chocolate ice cream and watch old episodes of Dr. Who (my current obsession) on Netflix. But I couldn’t be a slug in the face of Dan’s dedication to fitness, so I grabbed my iPod and laced up my Sauconys after dinner.
            Dan went to kickboxing, which is really intense and held in an un-air-conditioned gym. I’m not quite as insane dedicated as he is so I went to the nice cool fitness center and found a treadmill. I jogged for the first ten minutes or so wishing I had never left the couch. My foot hurt, my knees ached, and even with air conditioning I felt hot. I pushed myself to stay on the treadmill and slowly started to unwind. My body warmed up and stopped aching. The tension came out of my body along with the sweat. I started putting things in perspective.
            So, my car was broken down. It happens. I was missing work. But I had a job to go to in the first place. I was paying for the kids to go to camp. They were having a great time and I had managed to get a few things done around the house. I was going to feel like I owed favors to the coworkers who were covering for me. Big deal—what goes around comes around.
            By the time I had been on the treadmill for 45 minutes I was calmer and happier. I started working out to be thinner and stronger. I stick with it for what it does to my mind and spirit. I don’t make time for exercise as often as I did when my boys were younger. But I’m always happy when I do. Besides, I still managed to watch a little Dr. Who and I didn’t need the ice cream anymore.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lucky Seven

            One of the first things they teach you in writing classes is to avoid clich├ęs. But I find it difficult to mark my Childrens' birthdays without saying things like, "It seems like yesterday..."? So today, in honor of my baby’s seventh birthday, I’m breaking the rules. After all, he loves to break rules.


A Perfect Baby Boy

A Bundle of Joy

I Could Eat Him Up!

They get so big, so fast!




Time flies when you're having fun!

Happy Birthday James!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Williamsburg, Continued

This post is a continuation of my earlier post Destination Williamsburg.

            On Wednesday we were ready for some non-historical fun and headed to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Since our boys have never been to a major theme park like Disney or Six Flags before, I warned them that they should prepare themselves to be standing in long lines for all of the rides. We also discussed the fact that there would be rides they wouldn’t be able to go on just yet—and more importantly we talked about the fact that there would be rides Owen would be old enough for, but not James. As the youngest (and shortest) of four kids myself, I know how disappointing it can be to be the only kid too small for something. Fortunately, at Busch Gardens, kids can get measured as soon as they walk into the part and get a list of rides they’re tall enough to go on. James was happy to see that there were more rides on his list than we were likely to get to in one day.
            Our family only split up twice so Owen could go on “bigger” kids rides. James didn’t mind since I let him play one of the games. I normally don’t shell out the money for games at fairs and parks because I’m cheap frugal. But since Owen was getting the opportunity to go on a roller coaster called Apollo’s Chariot I made an exception. James won a stuffed blue monkey playing “Whack a Hun” against me. Blue Monkey (his name, according to James) quickly became James’ best friend and went on all of the rides with us. There was a scary moment when he was left in the bumper cars, but we were happily reunited.
Monkey buckled up and ready for take-off!
            Owen emerged from Apollo’s Chariot feeling slightly queasy and “scared half to death!” Apparently some of the ladies on the ride gave him props for his bravery. He didn’t ask to go on another big coaster. I think maybe he felt like James got the better part of the deal—getting a monkey and not getting terrified and nauseous. Sometimes it is good to be the little one.
            There are plenty of rides for younger kids at Busch Gardens. I was pleasantly surprised how much my kids liked the Sesame Street area of the park. I’m sure if you asked, they would tell you it’s a TV show for babies, but it was one of the few attractions they wanted to visit a second time. I love it when my kids want to act their age.
            The temperature was well into the 90’s the day we went to Busch Gardens so it wasn’t crowded and I was wrong about the long lines. We never waited longer than five minutes, so we went on lots of rides. It also meant that by 4:00 we were all very hot, very tired and ready to head home. We left with smiles on our faces, memories in our hearts, and a little blue monkey.

            We spent the next couple of days taking in Yorktown Victory Center and the Jamestown Settlement. The boys were still having fun, but I could see James getting a little “historied out”. He had seen all the cannon firing demonstrations he needed to for a while and was more interested in  chasing dragonflies and chickens (both are abundant in the places we visited). We packed up our gear on Friday and headed to Maryland for a few days with family before we went home. It was a great trip and I learned a few things along the way.
            1.) You can buy wine at Target in Virginia—and fireworks! What a great state!
            2.) Wearing a Red Sox cap outside of New England is a great conversation starter.
            3.) I must be from Massachusetts, because courteous drivers really confuse me.
            4.) Vacations are way too short.
            5.) I like grits. With butter. Everything is better with butter.
            6.) If you tell people you’re from the Boston are they expect you to sound like they do on “Cheers”. Blame my high school drama teacher for putting those r’s back where they belong.
            7.) No matter how great a trip it was, it’s nice to be home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Destination Williamsburg

 
            If you’re a regular reader, you may be asking yourself, “Where have you been Vickie?” Rest assured, all is well in my little world. My family took a much-needed vacation to Williamsburg, VA. I had every intention of keeping up my blog from the road. But, frankly, I was having too much fun with my family to spend much time on the computer. I checked e-mail and facebook a grand total of three times while we were away. I put so much effort this summer trying to get my kids to unplug, I finally took my own medicine.
            We set out at 3:00 AM Monday morning. The timing worked out beautifully—too early for morning rush hour traffic in NYC and too early for afternoon rush hour in Baltimore and DC. The kids slept on and off until we stopped for breakfast midway down the New Jersey Turnpike. I had packed them both bags filled with books, Mad Libs, notebooks, markers and their handheld electronic games. We were about 2 hours outside our destination before I needed to fire up the portable DVD player. 

Owen's Artwork
            We were in very heavy traffic just past Richmond, VA when the car lost power. Dan limped the van over to the right hand shoulder. The temperature was well into the 90s, we were eleven hours from home and our car was dead. A very nice man stopped and jumped our car. It started but as soon as we disconnected the jumper cables the engine cut out again. Fortunately a AAA tow truck arrived eventually and took us to a local garage. I have to shout out to Jack AKA The Car Doctor of Williamsburg in Tuano, Virginia who thought this was a lousy way to start a vacation. He had already finished his work for the day but went out of his way to pick up the part we needed (an alternator) and got us back on the road within an hour and a half. He even let us into a curio shop he owns so we could get out of the heat. The kids were restless by then (understandably so!) but my husband came up with the brilliant suggestion of playing “I Spy” while we waited. The shop was full of ceramic statues, figures and pictures. It kept us occupied until Jack had finished the work. An hour later we were on our way.
            We arranged to stay in a two-bedroom condo called Greensprings Vacation Resort. I was sure the pictures we had seen online were too good to be true. Could the pool be as lovely as the photos on Expedia? Had they been taken at just the right angle so the rooms would appear more spacious? I’m happy to say my cynicism was unjustified. The facility was beautiful. The resort has and indoor and outdoor pools, a number of playgrounds, and plenty of planned activities. Our condo had recently been renovated and we had two bedrooms, two full bathrooms—both with Jacuzzi tubs, fully equipped kitchen, washer and dryer, dining room, living room and terrace. We got a really good rate through a friend who owns timeshare points through the group. But the price of $250 listed on the various websites I checked would have been worth it. We’ve found staying in a condo or apartment set up works out much better for us than a hotel or motel. It’s nice to be able to put the boys to bed in their own room for the night and I love the flexibility of being able to prepare a few meals myself. Even with a lot of restaurants now offering healthier options on children’s menus these days, I can’t escape the fear that my kids are going to wake up one morning with a crispy breaded coating from eating out so much.
            Tuesday morning we went to Colonial Williamsburg, which was less than twenty minutes from our condo. We started off with a guided tour with an interpreter who told us about the restoration of Williamsburg. She was very interesting, but the boys were getting antsy. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before they were drawing water from a well:

and playing the games colonial children played:

and learning how to prime, load and fire a musket:

And learning their lesson...

Twice.

       Pretty soon we were hot and exhausted so we stopped to have lunch at The Shield’s Tavern. There were menu choices from both the 18th and the 21st centuries—I had an authentic colonial Rueben. Okay, okay, the only one of us who got into the 18th century spirit for lunch was my husband Dan—he ordered bangers and mash. The kids of course had their daily dose of chicken fingers and hot dogs (big surprise!).

       After we took a break from the Virginia summer sun it was time to have some more adventures. The Military encampment was probably the boys’ favorite part of the day. They got to throw tomahawks (fortunately the heads were leather rather than iron or stone):

and learned how to fire a cannon:


But it wasn’t all weaponry. We visited the Powell House where the boys helped in the garden and kitchen and even learned to make a needle book to take home.

Now if I can only get them to do this at home!

Owen confided to me that Williamsburg was much more fun than he expected it to be. I think he suspected this would be an “educational” trip and was wary of it. But getting his hands dirty in history turned out to be a blast. And that was just the first day of our trip. More to come!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Flowers in the Garden

I like flowers as much as the next girl. But there is something particularly exciting about seeing these sort of flowers in the garden.

zucchini
green beans


tomatoes 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Unplugging our Summer


...in which Victoria realizes she isn't Super Mom
            In a fit of trying to be summertime super-mom, last Monday I announced to my children that they would each have only two hours of “plugged-in” time per day during vacation. Much to my surprise my kids thought that seemed pretty reasonable. I suggested that they carve out four 30-minute blocks to play video games, surf the web or watch TV. I’m not vehemently opposed to electronic entertainment, I simply want the boys to make choices and not just flip on the TV the second they get bored. This way they won’t waste 30 minutes of valuable time watching something they really don’t care about.
            The first day was a bit painful. By 8:00 am I had already yelled at Owen to stop pouting and let me make breakfast. Things improved slowly as the day went on. I found that asking them to help me with various tasks had two possible results. Sometimes it kept them occupied and other times it was the motivation they needed to find something else to do. They were happy to help me load the dishwasher and put the food away after breakfast. But when I needed to spend some time weeding the garden they suddenly wanted to swing on the swing set. We had our ups and downs but by midday they began constructing a fort out of blankets, chairs and pillows in their play area. It was loud in my house, but they weren’t watching TV and they weren’t pestering me or complaining they were bored.
            I had a little more planned for them on Tuesday. We loaded the bikes into the van and went to the park. Both kids have just stopped using training wheels and are enthusiastic to hone their skills. Unfortunately our street is terrible for a beginning cyclist. So the park is a great solution since there are paths to ride on and no cars to worry about. I did need to worry about them mowing down the occasional hapless pedestrian. But it wasn’t especially crowded on a Tuesday morning. They got tired and hot (and super mom forgot to bring water bottles) so we headed over to a shady play area for a while. They met a bunch of new kids.  They played on the teeter-totter, climbed rocks, slid down the slide and even played cops and robbers. I didn’t know today’s children even knew how to play cops and robbers! They were getting fresh air, using their imagination, and not watching TV. I was in Mommy heaven.
            Now if you’re waiting to hear that Wednesday got even better, sorry to disappoint. It was clear on Wednesday that this unplugged thing works best if Mom has a plan and I didn’t. We were going to help make decorations for Vacation Bible School at church at noon, so I figured getting through the first few hours unplugged wouldn’t be a big problem. I gave in and allowed extra TV time just so I could get some ironing done. I would clearly be a more unplugged Mom if I had a maid.
            By Thursday I learned my lesson and did I have a plan! We got haircuts, went to the library, I took them to the Y (free babysitting while I worked out!), and then we went to family swim at the Youth Division Y. It worked like a charm, the kids hardly plugged in all day. There was just one problem. I had to go to work at 6:00. By 2:00 I was so tired I could hardly stand.
So I’ve figured out the some of the secrets to getting the kids away from TV and computers. This week I’m going to figure out how to balance it out so I’m not a zombie by the time I go to work. Anyone have any ideas?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Bear!

            I have started and stopped and re-started this post a dozen times. Nine years ago today I first met this guy:


            He came in to my life nine years ago today, shrieking because someone took him out of the place that had been his warm and cozy home for forty one and a half weeks. Fortunately, he stopped screaming after he was in my arms for a while. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And before I could blink, he looked like this:


            Soon he was sitting up and crawling and getting into mischief:



            It seems like only ten minutes later he was ready for the first day of kindergarten:



            And today, he’s nine. He can dress himself, read, write, ride a bike, make a sandwich, drive me crazy, talk my ears off, and make me laugh. He is funny, affectionate, warm, bright, honest, strong and a great big brother. But he’s still my baby. Happy Birthday Little Bear.



Saturday, July 2, 2011

Avocado Dip

            Last summer I was making my friend Pat’s fabulous recipe for avocado salsa from her family cookbook. It called for a bottle of Italian dressing, which I didn’t have in the house. So I improvised with what I had on hand. The dip was a huge success and I was asked to make it for a couple of other gatherings that summer.
            I found myself making it again this morning and decided it would be fun to share it with you all our there in cyberspace. This recipe is a breeze if you have a food processor—just be sure and chop the avocados by hand or you’ll end up with something more like guacamole. I wish you all a wonderful weekend with family and friends. Happy Birthday America!

Avocado Dip


4 plum tomatoes—seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup red onion—finely chopped

2 medium avocados

1/2 t. salt

2 T. chopped parsley

1 or 2 cloves of garlic—minced or pressed

The juice of 1 lime

cider vinegar (approximately 1/4 cup)

1 T. honey

3 T. extra virgin olive oil

additional salt and pepper to taste


1.) Stir onions & tomatoes together with salt in a sieve or strainer and set aside. The salt will help the liquid leave the vegetables so your dip will be thicker.

2.) Dressing: Juice lime into a measuring cup. Add enough vinegar to make 1/2 cup. Add honey & olive oil and set aside

4.) Chop avocados and place into a bowl. Whisk dressing thoroughly and toss with the avocados.

5.) Add remaining ingredients, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least one hour. Keeps for two or three days.

6.) Serve with tortilla chips.