Sunday, March 30, 2008

Einie, Mienie, Miney, ...where's Moe...


Because we take two cars, head counts are always dicey things. Today I discovered my second son had lagged on getting dressed. I was just about to head out when he showed up dressed for mass, and thus I did a quick text message to make sure I wasn't leaving behind any non sentient beings when we headed out the door. Then I made a run through of the house to double check.

I am haunted by the story of my uncle being left at mass to walk home because his parents took two cars.


Yesterday, my kids helped unpack the car and it was raining. So I made several soggy trips and begged the children to get their things. Putting the baby in the high chair and beginning the process of serving snack, reminding people to put away their things and preparing for homework, I did a head count...where was cupie doll?...

I look outside. Cupie doll is busy splashing puddles. She has taken off her shoes and is wallowing in the glorious rain and mud. The doors to the car on every side are open, allowing the car to experience the same joy as she.


My children are the masters of hide and seek on Sunday when I demand my weekly child tribute in the form of one hour of cleaning. Putting on "Enchanted's "Happy Working Song," does help though, as do props.

One daughter will happily scrub all the bathrooms if offered a pair of plastic yellow gloves. My second son willingly weilds the swifter mop. The oldest can be told to vacumn a floor and does it. What happens though, is after I've given out specific tasks,some of the kids view these as the maximum amount necessary to return to DSland or Civ IV or Pokemon or want my sixty minutes.

I have explained why I need this time before...with exponents and time management, with bribes of bonus allowances for the best worker, and even treats of ice cream on Sunday...and with threats of making it 2 hours if I fail to get my one...still, I was unprepared for the lengths to which one of my children went to ensure she could avoid work.

She is the quiet one. The one who in games of hide and seek can throw a cloak over herself and not be seen. She created a cave. A cave in the back basement. A cave complete with a bean bag pillow, a night light, her DS gameboy, easter chocolate and her. I admit, after combing the house three times, I failed to check behind the stairs of the back basement, though I did search the back for stragglers over at the comics stash...she must have held her breath when I returned a second and third time.

After twenty minutes of increasingly serious searching failed to find her, I felt a slight panic.., I began calling. I summoned the children and they began calling and searching, checking closets and beds and bathrooms I had checked before.


But a two year old can find anything she wishes. Cupie doll loves playing with her older quiet sister's gameboy, so she naturally went to the back basement, pulled back the covers that made the cave such a lovely hiding place and muscled in a spot on the beanbag with her sister and started poaching the foil wrapped chocolate eggs. I might add, she doesn't bother with such pesky details as unwrapping chocolate. That's a waste of time one could spend chewing chocolately goodness.

After dinner that night, I even peeled a few chocolate kisses as a reward.

Some may have noticed I've used a few older pieces and the tone has been less light as of late. There is a reason.

We are execting our ninth child, a son. This news, while joyful, has been a bit overwhelming to all of us. We also know that he will have Downs Syndrome, but what that will mean remains to be seen. The process of testing and waiting for results has cut into my energy to write and craft and maintain this blog, as has preparing for the Erma Bombeck conference this weekend. I will try to return to my normal chipper sunnier self and if you see that the chocolate for your brain is running more dark than milk, drop me a line, it helps for feedback. it ever so Humble

Author's Note: This is an older piece that never oddly enough, found a home. I hope you enjoy it. --Sherry

We lived in a middle aged home from the time we were a family of six to our most recent child. There were at least 15 projects we could do, caulking, the hole in the kids’ room from that “it wasn’t a fight” incident and replacing the roof of 20 years would be amongst my first of the honey we need to do list. The plaid wall paper I meant to tear down the day I moved in, kept getting put off for that unknown time when we’d have more time. Faulty wiring in the kitchen ceiling made the lights flicker whenever someone upstairs jumped. The bathroom desperately needed some newer color than Colonel Mustard yellow. Given unlimited time and money, I would have worked to make our first home more hip and hospitable, but merely beginning the process often lead to unpleasant discoveries of how much more remained to be done.

We were planning to transform the garage into a master bedroom, surrendering the upstairs to the children. We had a contractor come in to look at the possibilities but discovered the garage had no foundation or footers. It was four walls held up by a roof and no small amount of faith in the seismic stability of Maryland. To do our plan, we’d have to knock down the garage, pour a foundation and add a sizable 50K to our budget.

The bathroom was also on the short list for revising when we discovered the tub was substandard and there was no actual room to use to put in a normal tub unless we wanted to surrender a toilet. The avocado green shrinky dink tub stayed.

When we got serious about repainting the upstairs, we decided to do it ourselves. For the boy’s room, we had chosen white paint with a dark blue trim. My husband and I had been working on the boys’ room for two days when our oldest, then eleven asked if he could help. We agreed and he happily went upstairs without us. Half an hour later, I heard a scream. The scream was one of pure agony from an adult at something unthinkable. Our son had reversed the colors and as such, there was a wide 6 foot large ameoba shaped blue swath across a once white wall, with no small amount of blue speckled on the floor. I took the children out to McDonald’s while my husband did damage control.

We had needed to replace the carpet anyway so this just accelerated the process.

Replacing the yellow smoke filled carpet with hard woods, I discovered that “new stuff” in an old home doesn’t seem to cope well. I never worried about spilt juice with the old carpet, or about mud or much of anything, it was so sad and old it had become useful in that one couldn’t hurt it.

Staring at the pretty white planks of freshly cut wood, I barked at the kids to remove their shoes and made them use sippy cups even if they were over the age of 4. I swept and dust mopped it every day. I was married to the new floor for as long as it screamed “I’m new!” at everything else. Normally, my children provide sufficient abuse to any object to erase that “new” smell within a week. In this case, they showed great restraint and it took over three months. Relief came finally when my two-year-old daughter who loves to draw, found the one permanent marker in the house and used it to play tic-tac-toe on the floors. It stunned me how little I cried. I put away the marker up high and put a coffee table over it, but not before showing her how to draw the line through the three X’s. I didn’t sweep that night. Now I could relax, the floor was part of the family.

As we struggled to maintain homeostasis in our old home we told ourselves, “Our next house will be new.” When we started looking for a bigger home, viewing those gleaming walls and bare rooms in the suped-up McMansions and the soaring prices made me nervous like I was a kid who had entered an antique store. The homes looked like the HOA would fine you if your blinds need dusting.

We finally settled on a gorgeous house that looked as though it had never experienced a stray crayola mark. For a pristine place to become ours it would have to accept the possibility of crayons and fingerprints everywhere. I suddenly felt at least grateful for our old broken-in home that held layers of memories in addition to all the coats of paint and do it yourself wall patches. For all its flaws, that old home could take on my family and my family was equally unafraid of taking on it. Still, we needed to move.

Our new home with it’s brass and crystal chandilliers and Tuscan colors I think sometimes winces as the toddler plays the piano with her bottom or the eight year old sends parachutes down from the second floor and floats homemade spaceships with balloons to the cathedral high ceiling. I hope as it comes to cope with the many sized hand prints that grace it’s walls, it feels more than the grime and residue of my children’s latest snacks, it feels like less of a show pony and more of a home.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Picking the Nominee for the DNC, Some Alternate Venues...

Scores of articles have been written about how letting the process go to the convention floor could cause massive fall out for the Democratic party. Here are a few modest solutions to the current problem of picking the candidate for the job.

Beauty Pageant Method

Okay, We have the candidates and Hillary won the Evening Gown competition hands down but our judges had to concede the swimsuit to Barack…so it comes to the critical personality question. If you were given the nomination, what would you do?

Hillary: “I’d be honored. So very honored. I’m sorry, I’m human. I’d cry. Yes…I’m crying even now, just thinking about it. It would be the most moving experience of my life since those little kids waited on the tarmac for me in Bosnia despite heavy sniper fire.”

Barack: “It would be a sign…a sign that the nation was ready for change. Our world would step forward into the light, and all the past sins of America, brought forth by the evil Republicans and oppressive majorities everywhere, would be righted in that moment. We would as Americans, again have the audacity to hope that people could just make ends meet on $257,000 a year via public service.”

What about Mr. Congeniality? Al Gore: “It’s a good thing they dropped the talent part of this competition…though I am known for my sparkling sense of humor. About the question, what would happen if I were given the Democratic Nomination for the 2008 election…hmmm…well, I’d have to say that the Planet would breathe easy again, knowing Oscar Winning Carbon Credit buying Putting the Salt back in the Earth type people were trying to again be in charge.”

The Iron Candidate

Place the potential presidents in a real work situation on live reality television.

Hillary, you have thirty minutes to draft a speech that will move the majority of Republicans to vote in favor of more taxes. You may use any means necessary but in addition to that, you also must cope with a major Bill First Husband Gaffe where he appeared to come on to the French President’s wife. There is no working phone and the only media outlet availble at the moment is Fox News. Go.

Barack, your proposed policy on health care just got stalled in committee in part because Hillary has lead a charge against you in the Senate, creating massive grid lock on every proposal unless you agree to appoint her Supreme Court Justice. What do you do? Also, your former pastor wants to know when he’s coming to dinner. You may not use esoteric or mystical language in your response.

Deal or No Deal

Someone needs to contact Howie Mandel and see if he’s interested in emceeing the Denver Democratic National Committee Convention. He could bring all fifty of his babettes –and that would make Bill happy, even if his wife lost the nomination.

They could put the remaining super delegate votes in the briefcases and let the two contenders duke it out answering questions and being goaded on to pick which number…do you want briefcase number six…possibly holding a super Super delegate card, allocating 500 votes to you, or the guarantee of briefcase number 42, wherein you’ll find a secure twenty.

It would at least eliminate the possibility of the convention ending in pure riots and chaos with accusations of stealing, if people could just shake their heads, “Man, she should have picked twenty-six. I knew it! The hot blonde always has the best prize!”

imagine how much damage and mischief I could manage if we only had cable...or go to to see what people more plugged into popular culture than me can manage...

Reading Lessons

"Why should I read these when better versions are availble on DVD?" It was hard to beat the logical issues raised by one so young. Saying "The books are richer." didn't satisfy the way a good musical number with singing crabs could.

With my first child, I read to him every day from the time he was two. I was obsessive about it and sure enough, my diligence bore fruit. He entered Kindergarten already a solid reader. By second grade, he was handling the third Harry Potter book when it first came out without my help.

My subsequent daughter took a little bit longer, but dove into big books as soon as she got the hang of things. My third child, always striving to ensure I didn’t mistake her for her older sister, held out on falling in love with reading until third grade. Then she discovered…if you’re reading, Mom doesn’t make you clean…and it became a favorite and preferred activity.

Three kids past third grade, three solid readers…a good track record.

But numbers have begun to wear down my endurance for returning to Green Eggs and Ham and Curious George. I have allowed the later children to delve into questionable reading material like Captain Underpants –in part because my son would read with his older brother –and I didn’t have to look at it.

For my fiver, she delighted in such fare as "Tinker bell finds Her Place," a story so sugary I considered the possibility of injecting insulin after the fifth reading. Plus, reading aloud, both my son and daughter like interrupting and that drives me nuts. They are not into the reading world yet, not in the transported way my older three are. The words haven't yet successfully cast a spell over their brains.

When I introduced Charlotte’s Web, my son wanted to know when we’d get to the part where the gosling danced with the pig. In the Gingerbread Man, my kids asked where Donkey and Shrek were. My daughter was thoroughly put out by the unhappy ending of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, and they were completely outraged by the way some authors had the audacity to rework the stories of Winnie the Pooh, Stuart Little, and even Harry Potter. My son, being a visual learner saw books as being so old fashioned. "I'll just wait until the movie version.”

I wanted my son and daughter to take to reading with a bit more enthusiasm than they do vegetables, or my husband does leftovers.

Being a good mom, I summoned my inner Sebastian…(Sung to “Under the Sea”)

“Inside a book…
Inside a book…
The story is better
A real Page turner
Just Take a Look!
Those Words Create a bigger scene
Of a Place You’ve Never Been!
And in Full Color
If You Take the Trouble
To Just Read a Book..”

Maybe I’d have fared better if we hadn’t been in the library, or if I had a backup band of singing bass and clams.

However, he did grudgingly put back the movie book version of the Pirates of the Caribbean Part III and agree to check out “The Trumpeter Swan.” (the assigned book for the next book report). And she checked out the original Peter Pan. "Tinker Bell is in this one too!" she told me in a knowing half secret. "The librarian told me!"

I picked out "The Rough Faced Girl," an American Indian version of Cinderella and a younger version of "The Once and Future King."

Eyeing me with suspicion, my son glared at my selection. "I bet it doesn't have any pictures."
Some day they’ll thank me I’m sure.

In the meantime, I’m going to work on my Swan and Dance number.

For more reading material as exciting and entertaining and transporting as dancing fish, try!

Wasabi Awards of 2008

There perhaps is no greater minefield in the world than the relationship between a woman and a mother’s son. Mother-in-laws get a bad rap in television, in movies and in story books. The Evil step-mother, the Wicked Queen, it doesn’t matter where you turn, if there is a mother and a son and a third person enters the picture—a female, there is friction.

Nominees for the Wasabi-in-law of 2008 are as follows. For those who don't venture into the world of Sushi, it is a horseradish based garnish that has a sharp acrid taste and I presume is used to avoid tasting the rawness of the fish.

The following are snippets from various friends over the years who have given actual MIL stories that in many cases, were more intense than I describe. Living life that sharp seems neither real nor possible. In all cases, names have been changed to protect if not the innocent, the related.

Sue of Carol County, MD, MIL cut her picture out of a family shot of her and the kids in a photo album. “Where is my head?” Sue asked. MIL: “Well, it wasn’t a good shot of you…your eyes were red and you looked really tired.” Sue had been recovering from recent surgery. Finding the cut head in the wastebasket, they glue-sticked it back into place. No word on how the subsequent Easter Dinner went has been available.

Lisa of Oneida, New York, MIL sat down at the table at dinner. Food had been placed in a buffet style on the island. When Lisa brought her own plate to the table filled with food, MIL took the plate from her and proceeded to eat. When Lisa started to protest, MIL explained, “You were up.”

Kathy of Santa Clara, CA, MIL gave her a vacuum for Christmas. She also keeps a picture of her son’s ex on the mantle at her home and once sent a beautiful silver framed picture of her son and his former wife as a birthday present to her son. When asked about it, she said, “It’s a good picture of him. He looks so happy.”

There is still time to put in your nominee for the Wasabi Award for MIL. They’ll be collected and submitted to the Wordtree press to see if we can create a Your Chicken Soup isn’t as Good as Mom’s type book for the Soul.

I will conceed that one day, God willing, people will want to marry my offspring. I fully expect to be a nominee in at least three if not five of the subsequent award years following nuptials. If not, clearly I am falling down on the job.

*Author’s Disclaimer: My mother-in-law is wonderful. She adores our children, she’s nice to me and in no way inspired any of this post. My husband says my Mom rocks too!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cap Crib Sheet for the Crib Set

Over the past two years of writing humor pieces, my focus has been squarely on translating the many moods and meanings of phrases uttered by my offspring. Today, in light of my more mature children raising the question of equal time, I humbly offer this crib sheet for Common Adult Phrases, CAP for short. Use with disgression as dialects vary according to the mood and level of exhaustion of the pertinent adult.

CAP warning: "I'm Bored." This phrase, perhaps more than any other causes instant irritation in any adult, related or otherwise. We translate it to mean, "Entertain me! For I, the magnificent child crave a diversion." Avoid variants like "There's nothing to do." as they also get filtered as "I can be bribed with food, a new toy or the promise of something really big." As a mother, there is really only one appropriate response to such a statement. Work. "Here's a toilet brush. Go scrub. Do your homework, read a book. Fold laundry." Understand I will continue to put forth unpleasant options that serve my own purposes until you stop saying it or come up with your own alternative. Consider it a forbidden phrase, like Voldemort.

CAP approved translation of "Be quiet." Adults seldom celebrate opposite day. We actually mean what we say. When we have a phone call, it is not time to play orchestra with pots and pans or even real instruments. Miscellaneous screaming and yelling to test the acoustics of a room is also taboo when Mom is holding that rectangular object up next to her ear and trying to speak.

CAP approved meaning of phrase uttered: "I'm going to the bathroom." Like you, we also suffer from the affliction of being actual animals. We occasionally, like you, need to be alone. I promise, just because the door is locked and we aren't responding to your lamb like bleating in the other room, doesn't mean we've grabbed the keys, hit the gas and abandoned ship. Five minutes is all we're talking here. Even hitting your sister can hold for 300 seconds. Just spend the time anticipating the satisfying sound of the smack when I'm back in operational mode and able to step in and stop the violence.

CAP understanding of a tendency of Adults in communication: "Put a coat on...or any variant of redirection about clothing." You are kids. You are busy. You have walls to scribble, toys to play with, hidden stashes of food to eat, you don't have time to mess with such mundane things as climate appropriate attire. Being boring adults, we pay attention to such items as the weather and the news and school memos. So we really do know that you have to wear red, white and blue on election day, and that you're supposed to wear black pants and a white shirt for the band concert. We feel concern that you have a light poncho and it's forecasting 30 mile winds and cold rain this afternoon. Likewise, years of experience have taught us, the Hawaiian shirt in mid January is a no go, ditto on the shorts, and that white socks with dark pants are always icky.

CAP explained: "Did you...brush your teeth?" "Today?" "This morning?" "With toothpaste?" Mom and Dad are doing fine financially, thank you very much for your concern. We appreciate your attempts to economize by cutting back on such indulgent niceties as personal hygiene. Trust us when we say with great love in our hearts, we'll take out a loan if necessary, but bathe regularly, use soap and shampoo, and brush your teeth.

CAP Origin: “Absolutely Not.” “Nyet.” “Not Happening.” “I don’t think so.” “Not in this lifetime.” “Never.” “Stop now.” “Cease!” Parents like to build children’s vocabulary and we get tired of saying the same thing over and over again, so all of these phrases are variants of the same thing, the need by appointed legal guardians of you minors to express disapproval. You now will do better on your SAT’s as you have mastered ten different ways to say “NO.” Especially now that you understand what they mean.

CAP Motto and sub text translation of all prior CAPs: “We love you.” Adults are never ironic or sarcastic when uttering this phrase, although sometimes we are reminding ourselves of this crucial fact when we say it.

for more humor never lost in the translation, try!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Five Questions...Maybe Six...

I keep thinking of doing a 24 hours in my day type entry in this blog but every time I’ve considered the possibility, I’ve quite honestly lost my nerve. The trick to comedy is never to reveal everything, always have a joke in spare. I admit, my reserve of jokes have as of late, run a bit thin. SAHM’s, writers, whatever you may be, you can’t pour out if nothing is being poured in. So I’ve embarked on a quest to replenish my stories and my spirit to allow this blog to continue.

One should also recognize that good comedy is modeled out of pain and suffering. I haven’t been suffering as of late enough for my art apparently. Though I admit I thought when toddler 1 and toddler II took out the giant sized rewards bag of M&m’s for pottying and dumped them on the hard wood floors and went stomping, I thought I just might be feeling pain then.

When my daughter in kindergarten came home with a report card that said she didn’t know her numbers up to 20, we began doing drills. For some reason, the number fifteen appears to be something of a mental stumbling block for her. Even saying fifteen fifteen times in a row did not institute recall. Tucking her in at the end of the day, she apologized to me for not remembering the number. I said, “Which number?” She said, “I don’t know.”

There are days when treading water is all one can do, and today was one of those days. My son was caught up in a book and missed his bus stop by several miles. He called to be rescued. I had just unloaded the car.

The toddlers found a squirt bottle of body wash and sprayed the bathroom shower and tub while I was feeding the baby. I had just cleaned the bathroom.

They then played car with the laundry baskets. This meant dumping the contents of the laundry baskets. I had just folded the laundry.

That primal scream you sensed around noon today, it was me.

When things get this rough, all I have left that I can do is pray. God gets a lot of “I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think so. No.” I never win these arguments with the Almighty.

Then my daughter got in the car and talked about how her social studies teacher said it cost $250,000.00 to raise a kid from birth to age 21. I point out that technically, I’m off the hook three years earlier than that as she’s legally an adult at 18. I figured that probably saves me a minimum the area of $160,000.00. She counters that she hasn’t cost that much so far, and asks where’s the 90K to date?

I told her I’m a below average kind of parent.

The day to day momwork sometimes becomes so oppressive sometimes that I can forget to have fun. So I resolved earlier this year to have each of my kids ask a question when they came home from school to help: “Did you read? Did you write? Did you exercise? Did you play the piano? Did you pray? Did you play?”

Usually, on a good day, I managed to execute a yes for three of these questions.
And so the day goes on and I help with homework, I take kids to baseball, I bring dinner to the practice so we can eat. We sit and wait for the day to end. Tucking in each of my overwhelming blessings, my son asks me if I played today. Yes I did. I played pool and shot a good round, and when my daughter was doing push-ups at basketball practice, I showed her up by matching her push up for push up, with better form.

As such, I’m going to add the question, "Did you show off?"

And see how many days I can go with the answer being “Yes.”

for more modest humor, and some that shows off better, try!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Few Easter Thoughts

Every Sunday, we go to mass and some days, mass is easier than others. Knowing there were chocolate bunnies and eggs to find made some of our crew a bit squirrely for the 8:30. My oldest was in Florida, my two oldest girls altar serving, and my husband and I were left to deal with our eight year old --not a morning son, our sentimental fiver and what are affectionately referred to as the "non sentient" crowd.

The Non Sentients began by entering the pew and announcing to anyone within earshot --the entire church, that the Easter Bunny had brought Chocolate. The four year old began then flapping like a bird for joy.

Then the organ played a practice Alleluia, he felt the need to flap and say the word, "Flap. Flap. Flap."

Still, his joy was infectious and I soon had a flock of would be flamingos.

Faced with flapping toddlers in a crowded church, I tried to suggest that this wasn't the time. Looking around, the other toddlers stuck in stiff Easter dresses followed my son's cue and began their own immitations of a faithful flock.

The opening music fortunately stopped the toddlers from taking flight but I was struck by their response to Easter for the rest of mass.

Happy Easter. May we all be so happy we could fly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fiddler at Work

Inspired by my husband and his new work toy...with apologies to lovers of "Matchmaker Matchmaker everywhere..."

Blackberry, Blackberry
Filter my spam.
Don’t make me check
At three a.m.

Blackberry, Blackberry
Leave me alone
For I’m in my bed
At Home.

I know you’re convenient and easy.
I know you’re efficient for work.
I know you improve productivity
But I find you more of a chore than a perk!

Blackberry, Blackberry
Wherever I go
The boss asks about work
And I can’t say no.

Blackberry, Blackberry
You’re like a great eye
A Corporate
merciless spy.

I’ve tried fleeing from you by camping
I’ve tried hiding on the deep ocean blue.
I’ve even gone to Pennsylvania Dutch country
But found emails there waiting, Four hundred and two.

Blackberry, Blackberry
You’re never off.
You don’t view weekends
As time one can sloth.

Blackberry, Blackberry
Please go away
And give to me
A perfect day

Please Give to me
One day work free
an inefficient work free day!

Have a blessed Good Friday Everyone...
If I were a rich man, I wouldn't blog for free, but there are more poor comics out there, go visit them too at!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Opening Lines

I've got 3 weeks to get ready for Erma's a bit of my routine, still a work in progress...

"Hello, my name is Sherry Antonetti and I'm a mother of eight children. Now when you are a mom of that many, sometimes it's hard to transition to the adult world. So to the man at the table last night, whose wine I substituted with apple juice...and put in a sippy cup, and whose meat I cut, I'm very very sorry."

"I hadn't planned to come to this workshop, but then I had this dream. Anyone here have toddlers? Then you know who Bob the Builder is, yellow hat, blue overalls, talks with machines that are all primary colors and have googly eyes. He has a partner Wendy with a blonde pony tail and a cell phone, and they chant "Can We do it?" "Yes We Can!"

Anyway, when you have a dream about Bob and Wendy...
having a post coital conversation...
He's in a robe. She's in a button down shirt...
There's reminants of dinner on the table...maybe a fire softly flickering...
When you have THAT sort of a dream...

It's time for an intervention.

I told my husband about this dream.
Now we have a pretty good marriage, seventeen and a half years.
I told my husband about this dream, and he booked me on the next flight to Dayton.

It's been great. I've really enjoyed myself...I have all this time.
Seriously...what do you people do all day? I've brushed my teeth six times already...
just because I can.

I'm thinking of going to the gift store and buying some floss.

Yes...I'm living the dream...

Now raising eight kids is scary. Every time we have a new kid, it's scary. But you know the rule, if you want to stop being scared about something, do something even I thought I'd try stand up comedy.

It's pretty cool.

There aren't many things at the age of 41 that one can do that are "cool" that don't involve the distinct possibility of major medical insurance being necessary...unless you count the possibility of psychological counseling for subconcious abuse of animated characters...

Parenting eight...
It's kind of like long as you don't drop any of the balls that are in the air, you're okay. My problem? I never really learned to juggle past three...

I mean...when we had one or two, we had as my husband called it, man to man coverage.
Two kids...two adults...easy.
Three and four and five...we switched to zone defense and we bought a mini-van.

Six, Seven and Eight I haven't been on time for something since 2005. We're trying to run out the biological clock.

But it's fun...sometimes we'll go to the airport and just walk through the terminal en masse just to watch the terror on the business travelers faces....I know what you're thinking....that was you?

We get stopped and asked questions often.
people ask questions like "Don't you know how this works?"
and I say "Yeah, you see Wendy and Bob..."

"You don't work do you?" I'm sorry, but if the word Mom or Dad is associated with you in anyway as a moniker, you's just the compensation packages that vary.

"I guess that's okay if you can afford them all.."

I got news for people. No one says, "According to my economic indicators, we can afford eight children so let's get to it!"

But the biggest question of all I get....and I conceed the most common, is "Why?"
Now I could get spiritual on all you people and say they're gifts from God which they are, or religious and mention that I am a practicing Catholic, which I am, but the real reason is I'm still working through some issues from middle school when I got a report card and the teacher wrote, "Sherry is Very Talented but a perpetual underachiever...."

I'm not sure but I think I showed her.
for humor that isn't always trying to overcompensate, try!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New at Subway, Eat Fresh...

It always happens this way.

I was going to drive to Austin for a graduate class. My husband shut the door, handed me a diet coke through the open window and said, “Drive safely, don’t speed. I love you.”

I got busted going 87 miles on 290 North, Bonnie Raitt blasting on my CD player, half way there.

After spending a week dieting and exercising, and discussing healthy eating habits with my children, my oldest caught me making my super fabulous extra bad for you fudge sauce for ice cream sundaes…and of course alerted the others, such that I had to share and suffer lectures from my children about being healthy.

This latest come-uppance comes courtesy of my son.

Friday was the beginning of his spring break. He came home. He promptly unplugged completely. The backpack sat at the front door, unopened, unmoved, unloved for four days. My husband asked him at a band meeting after the band leader made reference to report cards…”Where’s yours, son?” “Oh. It’s in my backpack.” He replied indifferently, and rattled off his grades.

Four days…four days and it never occurred to him to mention his report card. I was off.

Pointing out that if he couldn’t get out of being lost in space long enough to remember a report card, maybe he shouldn’t be sent on a band trip for five days to Florida, I started listing the other examples of him forgetting things earlier in the year. His gym shoes, his wallet and his lunch bag all had been casualties of carelessness.

I was working up a full head of steam and hitting my stride, talking about being responsible, about paying attention to your surroundings and to detail, how adulthood required this on a daily and systemic basis…and…the phone rang.

That afternoon, I had picked up sandwiches for dinner. I had left my cell phone at Subway.

So, I’m ordering a toasted Crow with provolone and some humble pie dressing to go.
for more tasty helpings of humilty and hilarity, try! It's so much easier when someone else gets taught a lesson.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Olympus as you never knew it...

When we only had two, of course we spent a lot of time inventing nick names for our young prodigy. They were wonderful, these two, Apollo and Athena. Why Greek gods? We thought them that promising and enjoyed the compare and contrast of their temperaments that such names allowed. And besides, we were comic book collecting, RPG playing, LOTR loving star trek watching geeks –this is what geeks do.

Apollo, god of music and light and reason, of course fit our gentle son’s personality. He was not a fighter, at least not with his fists.

Athena, pensive, tempermental and seemingly low maintenance until displeased, helped us to create our favorite phrase for describing her, like a goddess, easily amused, but also like a goddess, more easily perturbed. She also had her father’s heart wrapped around his finger.

Then Artemis showed up, and a cloud shadowed Athena’s face for a time. I have to share Dad? This is so wrong. While Apollo shined on…benevolently looking after his two sisters and indulging their daily competitions with each other –you know…girls. Artemis was also inscrutable, she'd be sweet and easy going one minute, and shut down another. She loved Athena but also loved driving her nuts by squirreling away time with Zeus. How come I never get fought over? Apollo remained unbothered by this sisterly rivalry. He’d roll his eyes with the smug knowledge of understanding that only a five year old could muster.

Then Hermes showed up. From the get go, he lived up to his Greek namesake, driving his older brother quite mad. He disassembled Lego models that had stood for years, made deals with his brother to not touch magic card decks in return for additional allowance, (yes a two year old can run an extortion racket, or at least this one did). He ran around the house at lightning speed, screaming to the point of inducing panic, causing his mother to ponder whether he was in fact the god of Nature rather than the swift footed glib brother of Apollo.

Alas, such were the golden days of Olympus

Hermes’ next sister showed up and he didn’t forgive us until a brother showed up two years later. Apollo actually thought this was great and regularly pointed out that “the replacement baby” had shown up because Hermes was so uncooperative. Zeus and I had to intervene. With her endless love of all things sparkly, pink, girlish and pretty, no one had any doubt who this blonde blue eyed goddess was. She got a glimpse of the ocean at the tender age of 1. The money quote sealed her as having been born of the water. “Mine.” Arms outstretched in a sign of hugging the whole Atlantic. Aphrodite claimed her title.

The next son, we struggled to name to continue the template. We hadn’t thought this far. Ares, Poseidon, and Hades, none of them seemed appropriate or terribly desirable. Bacchus also struck a wrong note. Fortunately, our son solved the problem for us by becoming addicted to the Disney video that became his Greek god name. The only problem was, when I read him the actual story of Hercules, he demanded to know “Where Pegasus was?” and telling him that Pegasus belonged to a different Greek hero of mythology didn’t satisfy.

With the birth of our next two daughters, the structure began to break down. We were out of goddesses that fit our daughter’s temperaments. Demeter? No, she’s mine. Hestia? No, that was mine too. Hera? Also mine. (Trust me, I need the harvest, hearth and wrath of three goddesses to get through the day), and the left over demi-goddesses were limited in appeal. Eris –goddess of discord? Thanks, no. Nike, spirit of Victory –debatable as to the gender. Persephone –raped and carried to the underground …ew…no. Helen of Troy, Penelope? What to do…and then…as before, the children solved it for us.

The two year old cupie doll came to discover her inner goddess name –the other day, in the early hours of the morning, she awakened. She went downstairs to the kitchen. After emptying the Cinnamon toast crunch and dancing the flakes into the floor, she channeled other artistic muses and scribbled on four walls using red marker, and filled in the window pane on the front door with black. Hungry from her artistic endeavors, she opened the freezer and got out the ice cream and had that for an early breakfast all before waking us up by pushing the panic button on my car keys.

Loki anyone?

The baby still needs to discover her moniker, but honestly, I’m not in any real hurry.

P.S. sorry this is a day late, but yesterday I did taxes, so by the end of the day, nothing was funny. For less taxing humor, try!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Future Politicians in the Family

My daughter doesn’t accept correction easily. She’s five and a quick study of her two older sisters. As such, she is quite convinced that she has everything figured out. For example, the other day I came upon her as her drink spilled all over the table, chair, her outfit and the floor. Grabbing paper towels to clean it up, I said the obvious. “You should be more careful. You dropped your cup.”

She folded her arms and gave me a cold corrective stare.
“I did Not.” She pouted at me.

“Yes. You did.” I couldn’t believe she would argue the point.
“I saw it.”

“NO I DIDN’T.” She shouted back.

Irritated, I stopped cleaning the mess. “Alright then, what happened?”

“I didn’t drop the cup. It fell.”

I suddenly understood that in her world, nothing she did was actually wrong as long as she could omit herself from the picture.

The technique remains the same even as children age. When my oldest was preparing for a special evening out at the local high school, he came down the stairs in jeans and a t-shirt. I explained that this tour of the school was about first impressions both ways and that he needed to dress up a bit. He went back upstairs.

My mom was visiting. She saw him come down, button down shirt and a tie and sensed he still needed a bit of sprucing.

“Did you brush your teeth?” she asked.
“Yes.” He said without looking or smiling.

“I don’t mean during your lifetime.”
He looked down.

“Did you brush your teeth today?”

He still wasn’t making direct eye contact.

Mom is a veteran of these things.
“This afternoon?”

Up the stairs he went.

Perhaps it is a consequence of living so close to the beltway where language only holds as much meaning as the speaker and the listener invests. Having such skilled negotiators for children requires that the parents be thinking two or three steps ahead with each and every utterance.

“Did you hit your sister?”

“No.” My son responds.

The sister is screaming, howling, proclaiming to all the world of her outrage at his having injured her and then denied it.

“Why is she crying?”

Rather than directly lie, a severely punishable offense, he shrugs his shoulders.

Knowing I can guess the actual series of events, I chose my next words carefully.

“Did you in any way, inadvertently or intentionally, touch your sister in some fashion that might have caused her to be unhappy with you?”

“What does inadvertently mean?”
“By accident.”

“What was the question?”
“Did you hurt your sister whether or not you meant to?”

He looks down at his feet, buying time to figure a way out of Mom’s verbal trap.
Resorting to a time tested trick of politicians, he tries blaming the accuser,
“She started it.”

Mental yoga aside, they’ll be ready for a career in Washington by the time they leave home.

for more non partisan fun, try!

20 days until Erma Bobmeck Conference...guess I better start working on being funny.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mental Dim Sum and Sons

No unifying theme today, just some odds and ends I found amusing and in some cases, profound.
If you've never eaten Dim Sum, think of having a dinner entirely of appetizers. Heart's Delight or Jewels that tug on the heart is the concept to consider here --Tapas, or French courses, the idea is little snatches of yumminess that satisfy.

First: Happy birthday to my four year old. He's potty trained, so I can officially celebrate the anniversary of his birth. He told me, I'm allowed.

Second: We went out to dinner last night and the waiter showed up with a sunday and Sombrero for my birthday boy. When they put on the hat, he stuck his lower lip out and shrunk down to the size of a ball, he looked like a Mexican mushoom with that big hat on his head, but when the ice cream showed up...suddenly that hat was his very favor thing.

Third: And now a word from our sponsor. I don't get many comments. I don't get huge amounts of traffic. Aproximately 20 or so people visit this blog a day. The high water mark was 106 and that was with a serious plug from the Ironic Catholic, a brilliant blog I admire greatly.

The other day, I knew I had arrived on the blogosphere. I got my first Spam comment. I have printed it here minus their plugs to give due homage to the people who indicated I had entered the big was in response to the Sous Chef piece.

A critical underpinning of a healthy diet is unque... A critical underpinning of a healthy diet is unquestionably the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, many adults do not like these fine foods - so kids are the concern. Anyone interested in getting kids to develop a friendly attitude towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at a new book called “Insert title here.” Great for kids of all ages – children even learn their alphabet through produce poems and then go on to more mature activities. Out only six months it is already being used in educational programs. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer Sir SPAM A Lot and Other Notable Quotable writer SPAM Jr. You can learn more at SPAM SPAM SPAM AND MORE
Publish Reject "

I'm sure it's a splendiferous book, postively "unque" and I'd have even given it a looksee if I thought a human had read my post.

And lasty,
Why I should really be both terribly pleased and worried:

Found my middle son's artwork.
He had drawn a rosary.

He made a list entitled "Pray For Every Night"
Here is the list, punctuation included.

1. boy twins.
2. Mom and Dad.
3. poor people.
4. My brother.
5. Everyone!!

I am in big big big trouble.

Don't forget, you can find more laughs at! They're funny even when I'm not.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Personal Ad

Okay, sometimes I just need to stretch the silly muscles a bit...maybe I got carried away...
assignment in writing workshop online --create a commercial or a personal ad. I sort of merged them...

Tired of worn out, ignorant beer bellied dope smoking losers? Looking for Mr. Big Right Rich Perfect Goodbar for You? Thinking of giving up those speed dating questionnaire selected "perfect someone" match experiences at lunch because the best you've seen is a retread whose idea of a fun Friday night is beating a bunch of 12 year olds at the local comic book store in a game of Dungeons and Dragons, followed by an all night viewing of Star Wars I, II and III in order with Klingon subtitles (wrote his own program for all his DVD’s) and the director's commentary?

Then here is the guy for you.

He Slices, he dices, he rolls on his belly like a reptile kind of like a Ginsu Knife if a piece of cutlery could engage in vaguely sexual physical acts! If you long to experience that once in a life time type of life long love, the kind that makes you drop million dollar pieces of jewelry into the ocean, fly across the country to meet a total stranger in a tall building now screened heavily by homeland security, phone now!

Yes, this is the man that will inspire you to talk to yourself on moonlit nights on balconies and drink poison if you think he is dead, and enjoy spaghetti and meatballs as mandolins and accordions play in the background, accompanied by male Sicilian voices. This man will so inflame your imagination that you will feel compelled to name all 26 kids, fifteen dogs, forty seven gold fish and your bible after him.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Declaration of Independence

The Right to Liberty

The other day was Prize day. We awarded our almost four year old with a cool metal swivel seat tricycle (think big wheel) for becoming potty trained. He has about an accident a day but diapers are no longer part of the routine. No longer a toddler, he was a full fledged “kid” with all the rights and privileges therein, allowance, solo baths, and his own not a hand me down bike.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Picking up the box, hearing the parts inside shift, I knew I was in for it, but the vision of my son’s happy eyes when he feasted on the red and black shiny new wheels over road my common sense. I would be Ubermom for a few minutes in my son’s eyes.

Johnny Boo was at pre-school. When I picked him up, I explained there was a big treat waiting for him. He pestered me all the way home for clues. Amazingly, saying it had three wheels elicited the deductive guess of a Robot Dinosaur which sent me mentally scurrying and worrying, would there be let down?

No, the box picture was sufficient to earn “Thank you! It’s my favors. My very favors thing.” From him. Satisfied, I opened the box and momentarily hyperventilated at the eight screws, sixteen washers, two large bolts and several metal components that resembled a fossil dig of bicycle parts. The directions were alas, only in Spanish, which I never learned.

Freedom of Speech

When I explained this might be difficult to my son, he brightly answered, “I speak Spanish…Hola.”

Okay, with translator help like that, I could still follow the pictures. Self censorship followed for the next twenty minutes.

Right to Assemble Peacefully

By this point outside on the first Spring feeling day of 2008, my daughter wanted to help too. She kept picking up the parts, leading me to scramble to keep everything together. The wind sent the box and directions flying, sending Johnny Boo and me running in opposite directions while Cupie Doll examined the screws and washers undeterred.

With my legs covering the washers and screws, the metal parts splayed over my lap, the directions weighted down by my cell phone and the wrench, with Cupie Doll and the baby strapped into the stroller howling in protest, I began the process of making a bike. I won’t say potty training was easier.

Right against Self Incrimination

Twenty five minutes later, the bike sat waiting it’s maiden voyage –but I sent the prize winner in to the bathroom, I thought it would be bad form if he christened it on it’s opening run.
The pedals were too far for his legs.

“I can’t reach.” He struggled, he wanted to enjoy the bike but it was essentially useless in this state.

Back over my legs again, fifteen minutes of hassle later, the bike was ready.

Johnny Boo had gone inside to watch cartoons.

Returning with the promise of cookies and juice as a snack, he got on the bike. The brake was a source of great interest and our first drive halted every two feet as he kept squeezing the handle. “I know how to stop!” he said delightedly. He then tried the pedals. His legs were still about an inch short for easy movement, but he could do it. His eyes glimmered with the knowledge, he had WHEELS.

Freedom of Petition

“Can we go for a ride?”
“Yes.” I pushed the stroller alongside him as we leisurely moved down the hill. “Can we go downtown?”

I should have asked a question at this point, but I was savoring the first of Spring sunshine and the cool breeze and the satisfaction of having made something work for a change...I was in my “I’m Ubermom” moment. Not quite listening, I said, “Yes.”

We came to the mail box and I made the turn for us to go back up the driveway.

Johnny Boo’s face darkened. “You said we could go downtown!” He folded his arms angrily.
That Ubermom feeling faded away.

“Downtown! Where Dad Works!” He sounded exasperated. How could Mom be this dense?

Due Process

Explaining that 20 miles on a tricycle in heavy traffic is not possible. He was three year old, he had a bike. That was supposed to mean freedom.

He felt betrayed.

After trying to reason with him, I opted for a 21st century solution and handed him the cell phone. “Here, talk to Dad.”

Freedom of the Press

As my two year old helped push him back up the hill while I pushed the stroller, he chatted with his father “I’m driving Dad, but Mom doesn’t know how to get to Downtown so I can’t come visit you.” He explained. I need a spin doctor.

Right to A Speedy Trial

Back at the house, I broke out the juice and cookie snack, “Do you like your prize?” I asked?
“Yes. But it can’t go downtown.” He said as he looked mournfully out the window at it parked on the driveway.

Woman’s Sufferage

My daughter had thoughtfully pocketed the tools needed to assemble his prize and stood next to his bike, pretending to fix it.

Maybe I’ll let her do it herself when she becomes potty trained. Visions of giving her a kid tool kit that she could play with made me briefly smile at the idea of her creative energies being channeled in a positive manner. I’d be an Ubermom again for providing her with the proper outlet for her intuitive curious nature. Her smile would beam and it would be a beautiful moment in mothering…

for more fully protected by the Constitution slices of humor, try!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Where did My Inspiration Go...

Last week, I spent the bulk of my time editing.

My son had a project in English.

It was supposed to be a journal of his life and suffering. The premise was to imitate an author who wrote about his life and explained that suffering allowed him to see the world more clearly, to recognize how societal norms perpetuated pain and suffering. The kids were then supposed to look at their own lives for patterns to discern about the nature of reality.

The trouble is, he's fourteen and grew up in a reasonably normal home. He wasn't abused. He's never seen his parents fight where they threw things. He's never done drugs. He has friends. He's had academic and personal success already in his life, getting a scholarship and making honor role consistently in grammar school. We've never lost everything, had to sell his baseball card collection or had more than the emotional equivalent of a skinned knee in terms of life experience that might have traumatized him.

Unless you count the summer of Lyme disease, that rotted, but it was second grade. It's been a while. I think he's over it.

So the topics: The first time I tasted Alchohol, The first time I defied Authority, The First Time He Got in a Fight, the First Day of School, had a sing song element to them that made my son sound like Polly-Anna.

His great conflict to date? Refusing to eat refried beans served by his parents. This was his great suffering.

First day of School? Preschool memory of meeting the person who would become his best friend.

First taste of Alchohol --he made it up, since the teacher said "Receiving the Eucharist didn't count." I said, "Didn't count for what?"

Trying to pull something of depth out of a surface driven life that is essentially at this point unscathed and unscarred, we focused on his blessings. But I pointed out that if his premise was that only through suffering could one come to understand the true nature of the world, I should serve him beans daily.

He said I was full of beans.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Relative Math

God had proclaimed a snow day.

The County had declared a two hour delay.

The Jesuits apparently have a chronological system all unto themselves. A two hour delay means school starts at 9:20 a.m. So my son arrived via bus and Metro at school forty minutes late. He was assigned JUG. (Justice Under God, detention for all those non S.J. educated).

My argument that 2 hours+an 8 o’clock starting time equals ten could not defeat the emotionally indifferent “Did you read the parent’s handbook?”

I don't read instruction manuals either but usally, in English, 2 hour delays mean 2 hour delays.

My other kids got the day off in its entirety.
I lost my car keys.

Seven children fed, dressed, coated, mittened, scarfed and hatted even! Seven children loaded into the car with lunches packed for four. Seven children sitting waiting for Mom to drive them…and she can’t find her keys.

Even worse, Mom thinks she knows where the keys are…somewhere under the snow from shoveling the night before to clear the walk.

Now I could have just called and said, “Car trouble,” but with four children at the same school, odds were the truth would have come out anyway. I could just see my five year old brightly marching into her classroom to explain she got the day off because Mommy couldn’t find her car keys. So I ‘fessed up to the school. The secretary was still laughing when she hung up.


So the kids pile out of the car and explode into the home. By the time I unload my stuff and the baby, they have scattered to the four corners of the world, one on computer, two playing Nintendo, two are raiding the refrigerator for a second breakfast and one has buried herself back in the blankets with a book. Blowing my whistle (a’la Captain Von Trap), I summoned the horde.

Do any of you know what exponents are?

The two oldest raise their hands, eager to show off to the others what they know.

“Good.” I thrust a calculator in one child’s hands and a pencil and paper in the other’s.

“ You. Add this up. You. Check her math.”

You, all six of you come in the door. You drop your coats –those of you that can, (6), and gloves (12), scarves (6), hats (6), lunch boxes (4), backpacks (5), shoes (14), socks (13) how does that happen? and the baby comes in with her car seat, blanket, baby bag and then you add my purse and bag and coat and I have…seventy two things to put away. Add to that five beds to make…, the eight meals already served, the spoons, cups, plates and napkins, (32 items) and you’re lucky we even got in the car!

They are all looking at me blinking, waiting for the grande finale.

If you would like to eat before nine o’clock tonight…message received before she’s even finished pushing buttons to give me a grand total…they began scrambling.

Lessons learned…The Miracle of Compound Interest

I still haven’t found my keys. I've reshoveled the walk and walked the yard where I might have dropped them. I remember losing my student id and keys in the snow in Southbend Freshman year in early October. In April, I found them thawing by the sidewalk. At least it isn't as long a wait.

We’ll be able to drive tomorrow regardless, I’ll cannibalize my husband’s keys, but I have offered a ten dollar reward after offering a two dollar award and having no takers even for a cursory search. When I asked my son why he wasn’t interested in the new bounty being offered, he smiled, “Well, I have a lot of shopping to do for Birthday month.”


“I figure if I wait a few more hours, you’ll raise the reward to $20.00.”
"Fink!" I'm thinking. "Fat chance." I say. "I could buy a whole new set of keys for that."

Birthday month is the season from March 8 to April 13th, when one cousin, two sons and two daughters have celebrations honoring the days they first started making their needs publically known. Usually Easter is sandwiched somewhere in there too, so it is a time overflowing with cake and celebration despite Lent.

We suffer our sack cloths and ashes in other ways…

Any parent who has ever accidentally won at Candy Land knows the game was designed by someone who either really hated kids or loved punishing grown-ups. Being a snow day and unable to go anywhere, I couldn’t weasel out of playing it by giving the adult excuse of “Have to run errands.”

So we played. It just doesn’t satisfy a three year old or a two to say “Good game.” So I go in planning to throw the game. On more than one occasion, I have deliberately miscounted to avoid the great slide of doom for my offspring, or self sacrificed and sent my own piece careening down so I could endure another 15 minutes of spinning the dial and moving the little happy people up the ladder.

It is a tedious experience, such that I have considered adding numbers to the number wheel like 20 and 15 to speed up the pace. Then it hit me. Those Jesuits used Candyland Math to get through the day.

So What Have I Learned?

Thinking of creating a Parent Manual with the option of an Evening two hour delay which would require that bed time be moved up 80 minutes in the event of a snow day or a mental emergency on the part of an adult.

I summoned the kids. "I'm setting the timer." I push 30 minutes. "The bounty for the keys is 10 dollars. If the keys are found in the next 30 minutes, you will get the ten bucks. After that, you get nothing but thanks."

Candyland toddler girl found the keys in five minutes. Wonder if I can swap the ten spot for another round of Candyland.

Moral: There is none, except don't lose your keys and try!

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!