My Three Little Hearts

Mr. Ornery comes by his nickname very respectfully. He earns it almost every day. You might even call him Mr. Mischievous. Mr. Where Did You Say the Line was Drawn? Mr. Rascall. He drives me absolutely nuts. He’s gorgeous with tight brown ringlets. His lower lip is slightly fuller than his upper and curls into a delicious smile. His body is toned and athletic. He giggles when you tickle him.

And he talks back. He loves to throw rocks. He barrels down hillsides on a flimsy plastic Big Wheeler. He jumps the speed bump on his Razor scooter. He is a daredevil. He attacks life and attacks it hard.

And I worry about him. We drove home the other night from Super Tall Guy’s baseball game and reviewed the preceding couple hours in which I had to curb Mr. Ornery’s behaviors several times. We got to the topic of misbehaving so much that other people, complete strangers, start to tell you to stop doing whatever you’re doing. I start down the thread of if you’re not listening to your Mom, then other people will step in. Super Tall Guy brings up that eventually “the police will come and take you to jail.”

Of all three of my boys, the middle one, Mr. Ornery, carries that highest risk. And it pains me.

After they crashed from their “I’m so tired, I’m obnoxious” highs into snoring slumbers, I sat down to catch up a little on the last season of Scandal. That was probably not a good idea as the episode was about a teenager shot by police. A brown body in the streets guarded fiercely by a grieving father. And the love of this father and all that the father had done to protect his son touched my soul…. and yet there he was…gone. I wept.

When they are born, you carry them and cuddle them. You meet their every need and you think this little bundle is perfection. You think about how this angel will grow and live and change the world someday. You delight in the dreams and the potential. You burst with pride and inexplicable love. You don’t realize at that moment that one day they will throw rocks at the neighbor’s lawn chairs just for fun.zoo

You can’t imagine them turning to drugs or alcohol and dropping out of college to go to rehab. You can’t even imagine them locked behind bars. You never dream of them dead.

When your heart and your soul are walking around in some other little being, you fear the decisions they might make, and you weep.

Each and every day, I say to these boys: My job is to love you and protect you. And every decision I make, whether you like it or not, is based on those two principals. Always and forever and no matter what, I will love and protect.

My three little hearts

Come closer

Stay nearer

Listen and learn

My little men.

Your Mama loves you so

Be good to my heart.

 

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Baked Goods and Boys’ Behavior (and a recipe)

Tonight I made cookies again. Even though I didn’t really feel like it. I just made a batch of chocolate-chip cookies yesterday for my friend and her husband’s 40th birthday party cookie table. Several neighbors were delighted to receive the “spare” cookies yesterday and the boys nibbled on quite a few.

cookiesTomorrow a new neighbor will be receiving a plate of cookies. I never met him before, but we all did this evening. Apparently at least two out of four of the “older boys” thought it would be a good idea to “annoy the old man” and ring his doorbell and run away.  I turned to look down the street of the townhome community to see him emerge from his house and exchange words with the boys that I couldn’t hear. As he turned to come my way, yelling “whose kids are these?” I jumped up to claim them. “Well, they need to stop ringing my doorbell when I’m trying to eat. It’s annoying.” “Yes,” I agreed, “that would be.”

My sister left with her kids and I sent mine to their rooms. It is a bit difficult to get the “real story” out of them, especially when Mr. Ornery challenges me with “Well, if you’re asking for a story, Mom, then a story is not real, is it?” Sigh….

Then brilliance hit me. When you do something “mean” to someone, one of your consequences is to be “nice” to that person. (We’ve tried this a bit between brothers, but it got hard to keep finding “nice things” they needed to do.) I informed them that they would be taking a plate of cookies to said neighbor and apologize to him. They will be squirming. They hate to be embarrassed. “Super Tall Guy has to carry the plate,” says Mr. Ornery as he settles into bed. Yet, they will learn and grow. For simply “talking” to them isn’t enough. “Grounding” them isn’t powerful enough (yet, that is, when they don’t have enough to miss out on). We’ll see how it unfolds tomorrow. There could be a lot of cookies leaving our house over the next few months or maybe, hopefully, only when I feel like baking!

I was planning to post tonight about baking anyway. I asked Mr. Ornery if he wanted me to make chocolate chip cookies or Crazy Good Brownies for the neighbor. We love Crazy Good Brownies. A friend in medical school made them for me several times and I just had to have the recipe. They are delicious in batter form (especially if you lick both the chocolate batter and the cream cheese spoons at the same time!). They are incredible right out of the oven in moist, gooey chocolate-chip melting form. And they are awesome once cool (even directly from the freezer where they will stay until needed for the last-minute-what-am-I-going-to-take-into-work moments).

People love it when I bring them Crazy Good Brownies. I made them frequently for my colleagues in residency. I make them for just about every party that I’m assigned “dessert.” I make them for staff at work. I make them for game night with the cousins! I love sharing the brownies and the recipe because it’s so good to make a person smile. This contrasts one of my graduate school classmates who would not share her “secret family” recipe (can’t even remember what it was for), but really – unless you’re making millions on it in the food industry, spread a little joy!

So here’s how to make Crazy Good Brownies: (btw, my chocolate chip cookies come from the back of the Nestle chip bag with only Giant Eagle margarine and removing them from the oven just before they seem done ….though I haven’t figured out the baking quirks of this new home’s oven yet!).

Crazy Good Brownies

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease (with cooking spray) a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Brownies

  1. Melt 2 sticks (1 cup) margarine (microwave 1 minute).
  2. Place margarine in mixer and add:
    1. 2 cups sugar
    2. 2 tsp vanilla
  3. Add 3 eggs and mix
  4. Mix in ¾ cups of baking cocoa
  5. Then add:
    1. 1 ¼ cup flour
    2. ½ tsp baking powder
    3. ¼ tsp salt
  6. Mix in 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  7. Pour most of brownie mix into pan, saving out about 1 cup.

Cream Cheese Topping

  1. Whip 8 oz cream cheese in mixer.
  2. Add ¼ cup sugar.
  3. Add 1 egg and a dash of salt.
  4. Stir in ¾ cup mini chocolate chips.

Spread cream cheese topping over brownie mix. Glop spoonfuls of set-aside brownie mix onto the cream cheese topping.

Bake for 35-40 minutes (until cream cheese topping turns light brown).

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Parenting Boys (and girls) 102: Starting School

Dear Mr/Mrs Teacher,

I truly expected to get this year off to a more organized start. Apparently not (and apparently I forgot to read last year’s post about how I was most certainly going to be better this year!).  Despite how it might appear, I want you to know that I highly value education for my child. After all, I am personally a “highly educated” individual with a BS in elementary education (no less) and a MS degree and a PhD and even an MD degree. Yet, despite all those initials trailing my name, I am unable to remember to check the homework folder on a daily basis. It’s a character flaw.

In the spirit of true confessions, I’m sorry to say that I have also not yet cut apart those addition and subtraction “flashcards” to begin practicing. I’m pretty sure that someday that card stock paper and a pair of scissors will be in the same vicinity and I’ll get to it. It just hasn’t been today or yesterday or the day before….

Also, we read for about 10 minutes every night (I mean, most nights, well, I mean on those nights that I’m not already falling asleep reading to the other brothers) and as it always feels like 20 minutes, I’m hoping that counts for our “daily” reading time.

I would also like some clarification of the terms “homework” and “please practice” that you clearly have ink stamps to use on their papers. “Homework,” I take it, is something that you definitely expect to be completed and returned the next day…in the ideal world. On the other hand, the “please practice” pages are something that can go into the ‘papers that I intend to deal with at some later point that is not tonight because the kid is already asleep‘ stack. Is that accurate?

In the same vein, is it okay to skip the night’s homework assignment if the 6-year-oldcrumpled is in the “I-will-crush-and-crumble-all-paper-in-my-sight” kind of mood? I doubt the morning will be any better, but I’ll try to get him reading Nan the Cat as soon as possible!

Just a couple more questions. When my son is on the list for “Star Student of the Week” for January 11th, is that something you expect me to keep track of or will you be providing some kind of reminder system post holiday chaos so that the poor guy isn’t identified as having “Loser Mother of the Year” for the week?

Also, I hope that you got the “mystery student” paper bag with 5 tiny objects that are somehow reflective of my son that I dropped off around lunch time on the day it was due? Maybe you might have given him a chance to show his bag that afternoon so he wouldn’t feel left out. (Oh, I guess that would defeat the purpose of guessing who it belonged to. Huh, just thought of that. Nevermind. On the other hand, will we get that bag back soon? We could use the hockey puck this weekend and I’m worried the crab leg to signify having been to the beach might increase in stench intensity soon. Just wondering.)

And finally, that Class Dojo app that now beeps incessantly on my smartphone dojo to inform me that the kiddo has yet again received a “ -1 for talking to neighbors” – will you be continuing that all year or is this just a first-month fad that we’re all going to get tired of PDQ? (My gram liked to use that for Pretty Darn Quick. I’m thinking Positively Definitely Quitting!).

I think that sums up my apologies and questions for now, day 10 of the new school year. It’s likely some continuing confusion might linger, but once I get the house unpacked and the kids’ sports schedules imprinted, we should start on a better trajectory.

Thank you for your patience and even more importantly, thank you for loving “education” so much that you passionately teach at least 20 energetic kids every day and gracefully cope with many more quirky parents. It’s a challenging job and a huge responsibility and I’m thankful that you are there to give my kid a hug when he needs it, a pat on the back when deserved, and a push in the right direction when necessary.

Please let me know if I can help in any way (other than the obvious stuff that I clearly should be doing and haven’t yet).

Yours gratefully,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting Boys 101: The Cup

“You are going to wear a cup.”

His eyes went wide as his brain tried to figure out how a drinking cup was going to go on his body. We stood in the “baseball” section of Dicks Sporting Goods. His younger brothers raced around the aisles and in and out of the baseball pants neatly organized on baseball
circular hangers. They each held a $19.99 pair of red baseball gloves that they were sure Mom was going to purchase for them as soon as she finished some eye-to-eye conversation with Super Tall Guy.

“It’s called a cup. It’s protection for your balls.”

Blank stare as he contemplated how a baseball had anything to do with this and needed to be on his body.

“Super Tall Guy,” I whispered, “boys wear these shorts when they play baseball. There is a hard piece of plastic called a cup which is to protect their private area from getting hit with a ball.”

I’m NOT wearing that!” he stressed.

“Oh yes, you are.”

No way – it will make me look big down there. I don’t want to be big. People will notice.”

I laughed inwardly, “Honey, apparently guys want to be big down there” 🙂

“Now into the fitting room.”

I’m NOT trying that on.”

“Oh yes, you are. And hurry up, we’re going to be late for your second practice.”

Tell them to get out of the room.”

Right – you want me tell wild, maniac 4- and 6-year-old dudes to sit quietly outside the fitting room door (without peeking under the door)?!?  “Okay, Mr. Ornery and The Little Guy, sit here while Mom helps Super Tall Guy.”

“Now, honey…quick….put this on.”

His dark brown skin turned a nice shade of pink.

It was Friday evening, the first day of baseball practice. Shelley, the assistant coach, was taking a break and we stood together at the fence talking about boys. She has three as well, though her youngest is eleven. We commiserated a bit before I asked her what my son will “need” for baseball (and what items are “nice” but not essential for the burgeoning kid-sport budget).
  1. Cleats – right….because those are different than soccer cleats (which we have) and football cleats (so that parents can spend a fortune if kids play different sports!)
  2. Baseball pants – huh, don’t have any of those yet…
  3. Glove – got that! (birthday gift this year just for fun)
  4. Bat is not essential but most boys bring their own – got that! (from the birthday. It’s metal, it’s dangerous and has sat in a closet for months to avoid concussing other children)
  5. She didn’t mention ball cap, but from the look of the field, Super Tall Guy is the only one who’s mother can’t remember to grab one from the house!
  6. And cup. “Okay, tell me honestly about that,” I said. “Because I’m clueless.”  She laughed, “I was too.”

I love parents. I love parents of boys, especially of just boys, because they get it!  They know that the kids are dusty because they just somersaulted down the hill. They know that I just opened the minivan door in the parking lot and found the younger two buck naked in there! They know that we spent the entire beach vacation arguing over who was sitting beside whom. They know that I search for a Mute button while pointing a remote at the boys. They know that the couch pillows are torn and duct-taped together from pillow fights and couch trampoline events. They just know. And I know to turn to them and start the conversation because sometimes I need to be reminded that yes, the boys are “normal” and “going to be okay” and will “eventually grow up.”

My job is to love and encourage and protect (every inch of them) along the way!