Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where Have You Gone Troy Bolton?

Shortly after she turned 12, I found a framed movie poster leaning up against a wall in my bedroom. It was the High School Musical poster I’d given her a few years ago.

She was done with it, she said. Maybe her younger cousin would like it, she suggested.

That wasn’t all.

When she told me what music she wanted me to load onto the new iPod The Spouse and I got her for her birthday, left off the list of tunes were all the High School Musical songs, the Cheetah Girls tunes and the Hannah Montana music.

“Really? You don’t want any of these songs?” I asked, surprised that I suddenly cared about music sung by the characters of Troy Bolton, Gabriella Montez and Sharpay Evans.

She glanced at the ground and said plaintively, “Mooomm!” slightly embarrassed that I cared that she was moving on, musically speaking.

Have I heard, “Breaking Free” for the last time in our house? Is this goodbye to High School Musical? Sure, the franchise drove me crazy when I heard their songs non-stop, but now I think I’m really gonna miss them. And that shocks me.

Image credit: Disney.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

'Mad Men's' Betty Francis (Formerly Mrs. Draper) Continues Her Campaign for Mother of the Year

For anyone who saw Sunday night’s Mad Men, the scenes between Betty and her 10-year-old daughter Sally were tough to watch.

First Betty slapped Sally across the face after learning that, in a desperate cry for attention, Sally cut her hair when she was staying with her father. Then, in another scene, Betty threatened to cut off Sally’s fingers after the mother of one of Sally’s friends found Sally touching herself and promptly drove the kid home.

Come to think of it, other than Mona Sterling whose daughter got married last season, are there any mothers from Mad Men who could be considered “good moms?” I’m drawing a blank. . .

(The actress who plays Betty, January Jones, did a Q&A about the challenge of acting out the slapping scene with Kiernan Shipka. She once cut her hair when she was a girl.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Supply Shopping: It's Not Just About Pencils Any More

There was this one scene from the movie You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan, who played the owner of a children’s bookstore, is happily arranging freshly sharpened pencils on her check-out counter after her e-mail “pen pal” had written to her, "Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

All those lovely, nostalgic thoughts about the promise of the new school year can get me in the mood for autumn, but any poetic sentiments I might’ve been holding about the smell of freshly sharpened pencils were immediately eclipsed the moment I walked into the store (two separate stores, actually) to buy my kids' school supplies. Why? Because back to school time is no longer just about some pencils and notebooks and maybe a new backpack. It’s about these dang school supply lists whose items parents are supposed to buy because schools no longer provide the stuff.

I spent this afternoon racing back and forth in a wildly disorganized fashion through the packed, disorganized aisles of Target and Staples with the three Picket Fence Post kids trying to locate the items on their school supply lists. I started off hoping that we’d get this done quickly, sans drama, but alas, it wasn’t long before I started getting cranky and frustrated.

(The Youngest Boy suggested that after we found the school supplies that we pick out school clothes. This proposal was swiftly rejected. I told him there was no way that I was doing that again without his father in tow. I’ve been down that road before, taking the three of ‘em clothing shopping alone. Wound up sweating, racing from one changing room to the next, trying to get the right sizes, demanding that they show me the clothing on their bodies to check how they fit, arguing with them . . . not doin’ that again solo if I can help it.)

If you can believe it, Target was out of block erasers. They were also out of those sturdy, 100-page composition books with the black and white covers. I must’ve looked five times in the school supply and office supply sections, but had no luck. When I was finally resorted to asking a clerk about those items, he shrugged and led me to another guy who was nice but gave me that, “Boy are you late lady,” look and said, “Sorry, we’re all out of those.”

Later at Staples, the kids could only find these fairly expensive erasers, and I needed to buy a total of 24 of them. I refused to believe that Staples would be completely out of those pink block erasers, so I asked a sales clerk there if those were the only erasers Staples had in stock and he . . . you guessed it . . . shrugged his shoulders. I later found cheaper, Staples-brand pink erasers, no thanks to that guy.

And for what, pray tell, were we shopping? Here’s the exact list that my fourth grader’s teacher sent to him:

“1 pair of Fiskar pointed-tip kid scissors

2 large glue sticks

2 packages of 12 #2 pencils with erasers

1 box of 8 ct. Crayola washable markers (conical tip, fat)

2 Ultra fine tip black Sharpie markers

1 box of 24 ct. Crayola Colored Pencils

1 – Sharpie Accent Highlighter

7 twin pocket folders, one of each color: red, green, blue, purple, orange, yellow, white

2 twin pocket folders – your choice of color or pattern

3 (100 pg. wide ruled) Mead Composition books, black and white firm marble covers

2 Black 3-ring binders (1/2”)

1 package (100 sheets) 3 hole punched line paper

1 plastic pencil box

4 packages of “super sticky” post-it notes (3”X3” size, solid colors)

2 rolls of scotch tape – clear

2 boxes of tissues”

We couldn’t find a white pocket folder, so we bought a clear plastic one. The only pointed-tip kid scissors were larger and for older kids, but I bought them anyway. (Speaking of which, why do we have to keep bringing in a new pair of scissors every year? Where did the ones we bought last year go? Why can't the kids put their names on their stuff and be responsible for their own scissors?)

Here’s the recommended supply list for the two older children, who are starting sixth grade next week:

“8 Two Pocket Folders, one each- red, yellow, blue, green, purple, orange, and two colors of your choice

24 Pencils

12 Red Pens

12 Erasers

Ruler (Vinyl)


Package of Index Cards

You will also need an assignment book or planner. [The Middle School] assignment book may be purchased for $5.00 when school reopens. If you choose not to purchase a [Middle School] planner, please bring your own planner on the first day of school.”

Additionally, in a letter sent home to the middle schoolers by the principal, the students were told they also needed “a notebook.”

Total cost of all of the above supplies (not including the “extras” the kids wanted/said they needed, like stuff for the middle school lockers, multi-subject notebooks and expandable folders to keep their papers organized, etc.): $81.45.

Me, I’d be happy with a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Notes from a 9-Day Canadian Odyssey

Family vacations can be memory-making and fun, but they're double-edged swords, which can leave you with the distinct feeling that what you really need after the family vacation concludes is a RELAXING one, particularly after traveling 1,100 miles in the car with three kids.

It had been four years since The Spouse and I had taken a long road trip with the Picket Fence Post kids. The last time was when we went to New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. The Spouse thought we were clearly due so he planned a road trip to Montreal and Quebec City with a one-night stop in North Conway, New Hampshire to break up the ride home.

Thus we took off -- armed with a borrowed portable DVD player for the car and a bunch of used DVDs – and headed for the land where more people speak French than English. And let me tell ya, the four years of French The Spouse took in high school . . . totally useless. I'd taken Spanish in high school and, while I brought a couple of English/French books with me and tried to remember some key phrases, every time I was face-to-face with a French speaker, Spanish words started involuntarily popping up in my mind and I had to stop and fumble around in my brain for the right word. Most of the time I wound up just smiling mutely like some kind of idiot.

By the end of the trip, the three kids were comfortable saying, “hello,” “please” and “thank you,” as well as saying in French that they didn’t know how to speak French, how to ask someone if they spoke English and how to inquire where the toilet was located.

What they weren’t comfortable with was eating cuisine that didn't resemble American "kid fare." Every night, after a long day of traipsing around Canadian landmarks (La Citadelle, the Quebec parliament building, Old Quebec City, Parc Olympique, the botanical gardens in Montreal), we’d face the evening battle royal over where to go for dinner and what to eat when we got there. The Spouse and I only made them have one “fancy” meal where we all were served soup, salad, steaks and “frites.” Two out of the three Picket Fence Post kids were miserable all the way through the dinner, which, I will admit, we were having at a later hour than the kids were used to, contributing to their ire. On most other evenings, it felt like a Herculean struggle to try to lobby them to eat anything other than pizza, a hamburger/cheeseburger, some version of chicken fingers or pasta with "red sauce." On the side.

Not to mention that there were all these little fights that, by the end of the week, had picked away at my patience until there was nothing at all left. It was the non-stop bickering over the small stuff that really got to me, like who got to push the hotel elevator buttons, who got to open the hotel door with the cool key card, who went first on the escalator, who had to sit in the middle seat in the car, who "crossed the invisible line" in the car, why there weren't better snacks in the car, who got to sit next to The Spouse at meals, who got to sleep on the cot and who had to share the other bed with a sibling, especially The Youngest Boy who was apt to roll all around the bed.

I think the stress had started taking a toll by the time we got to the Citadelle for a tour and to witness the changing of the guard ceremony. The soldiers were all decked out in red uniforms and the black English hats (they're dressed like the guards in front of Buckingham Palace). During the ceremony, they marched around the parade area, submitted to an inspection by a superior, guards in the band played some music and one soldier brought out this ceremonial goat named Batisse, the latest in a long line of regimental goats. As we stood there in the hot sun and kept telling our 9-year-old to chill out and stop bellyaching, I started feeling punchy, so I started making whispered inappropriate jokes including telling the kids that after the guard members who were going off duty were inspected, the least prepared soldier would get shot in the knee as punishment. Terrible, I know, but what can I say, I was tired and cranky. The Spouse, appealled, set the kids straight – “No one’s getting shot!” – nonetheless, the children kept giving me sidelong glances as if they weren’t too sure about how this ceremony was going to conclude. (Fear not, there was no bloodshed.)

On the vacation’s lone rainy day, we went to the aquarium near Quebec City and saw some cool walruses and a whole mess of really ugly fish, then headed in the direction of this insane indoor amusement park at a shopping mall called MegaParc. Only problem was, the directions we’d received from our hotel's concierge didn’t happen to mention that there was a detour along the route. Said detour – the detour signs led us nowhere -- had us lost for quite some time as we kept circling around and around. The directions and crude map drawn by a French-only speaking clerk at a random store we'd passed were moderately helpful, while the offspring kept reminding us that they were hungry (I plied them with Jolly Rancher candies), that they needed to use the toilet and were sick of being in the car. I was with ‘em. On all three counts. Eventually, we found the place and man, was it loud in there what with an indoor Ferris wheel, roller coaster, bumper cars (which I feared would put my back out as the impact of hitting another object was so intense), spinning rides, rock climbing, a carousel, etc.

Amusing moments:

-- The kids telling us after our first historic tour that they were all done with this tour business. When The Spouse told ‘em they might very well learn something from the tours, he was informed that it was summer and summer was no time for learnin’ stuff.

-- Everyone was greatly amused that when you muted the TV in our Quebec it said, “Silence” on the TV screen.

-- When we arrived at one particular hotel we decided to be cheapskates and parked our own vehicle in the parking garage, lugging our stuff from the garage to the front desk. The route took us up and down seven flights of stairs -- the kids' luggage loudly slamming against the stairs -- and to an ancient, potentially killer elevator that nearly closed on The Youngest Boy, clipped his shirt sleeve a bit. Okay, so that’s not funny, exactly, but we joked about it during our hours on the road, that and getting shot in the knee for being ill-prepared the changing of the guard ceremony.

Now we're back and on the precipice of a new school year. Hockey practice starts for The Youngest Boy this week -- all of our first forays into playing on a hockey team (pray for me to locate my patience) -- and we still have to go back-to-school shopping and tackle that supply list. Our Canadian odyssey already seems like it was a long time ago.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We'll Be Back After This Brief Break . . .

Not to be alarmed my Picket Fence Post peeps, but I'll be taking a break from blogging for the next week to recharge the writing/blogging brain.

When I return to this space I'll bring y'all fresh tales and anecdotes from the front lines of suburbia.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

'The Kids are All Right:' Parents are Parents

*Cross-posted from Notes from the Asylum.*

The Spouse kindly agreed to accompany me to the movies last week where I dragged him to see The Kids are All Right, the new Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo flick.

By the time we left the theater, we were convinced that the whole point of the film was this: Regardless of the fact that the main couple was comprised of two women who had raised two children, ages 15 and 18 (they each got pregnant with donor sperm from the same guy), their gender didn’t really matter all that much. What DID matter most was the fact that raising children changed their relationship, challenged it and sometimes obscured the romantic partners’ ability to see one another as they really are, not simply a collection of assorted weaknesses and flaws that can prove irritating.

In my pop culture column this week I wrote about the commonalities I felt I had with the film’s characters, saying, “. . . I felt as though I was observing some of the similar challenges facing my marriage to my husband being played out on the silver screen, witnessing the inevitable scars child-rearing, and life in general, can cause to a relationship.”

Appliance Shopping from Hell

Just for the record: I hate shopping for big-ticket items.

Hate it with the passion of, as the saying goes, a thousand suns.

The Spouse and I recently walked into a store to look for stackable washer/dryer units (because our not-even-6-year-old, stacked, all-in-one unit is ALREADY kaput) as well as a new fridge (ours is 12 years old and dying, leaking water all on the floor, not cooling uniformly) and all the different features on all the appliances make it insanely difficult to compare costs.

Plus there’s this whole, “This’ll only last you maybe 10 years” business, but, The Spouse and I were told, the number of years something like a washer or a dryer will last depends on how much washing we do (three kids, all in sports) which makes any wild guesstimate as to how long an appliance will last pretty much a stab in the dark.

When it came to looking at refrigerators, The Youngest Boy, whom we took along shopping with us, only wanted to know if the surface would still be able to hold magnets (and therefore his pictures), his biggest concern, and if there’s a cool ice maker.

We wound up leaving the store after a very kind salesperson dumped all this information on us which made us feel all the more confused than before we walked in there. Samsung is now making washers and dryers, when did that happen? There are these “steam” options for dryers, fans that circulate air in the washers, anti-microbial features, vibration controls, eco-settings . . . which only got me wondering how environmental these units can really be if we’re just going to have to replace them in less than 10 years because the companies which produce these units make it cost-ineffective to have them repaired.

Did I mention that I hate shopping for appliances?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Peaches & the Puking Puppy

Over the past few days, Max, our one-year-old Mini-Wheat, has been puking. (He’s got a few favorite spots in the house in which to do this, I'm learning.)

He's not doing it constantly and they don't involve full-body heaves or anything. It's been happening sporadically, so sporadically that I can’t seem to figure out if it’s his food that’s making him ill (we started giving him new food two+ weeks ago, but the getting sick part has only been happening in the past few days) or perhaps he’s gotten into something else, but then again when DOESN’T he do that?

My working theory is that it’s the peaches.

We’ve been living in our house for nearly six years and it was only last year -- when we'd only allow him out in the yard while leashed -- when a small tree our back yard started sprouting peaches. (Up until then, we had no idea it was a fruit-bearing tree. Last summer, we noticed that its limbs were starting to bend over, heavy with fruit, when it finally dawned on us that those were peaches. No green thumbs in our house. Nor rocket scientists, apparently.)

Peaches have now started falling from the tree and onto the grass. We’ve been finding pits in the yard. We suspect Max has been eating them. The pup has tried to smuggle some smaller pieces of fruit into the house without us noticing by putting his head down, so we can't see the peach in his mouth, hoping we won’t notice. (It’s worked a couple of times.)

Hopefully, this is just attributable to the peaches, however, more detective work will be required.

Sometimes We All Need an Escape Chute

When I opened up my Facebook account yesterday, I saw a post from a friend of mine who is obviously a kindred spirit when it comes to this whole parenting thing.

She wrote: “I am seriously getting depressed. If I see one more post about what a perfect family day someone had I am going to scream. My kids are driving me crazy and they are driving each other crazy. Nothing is perfect or idyllic here more like a slow boil with the chance to bubble over at any second.”

Her post seemed to have opened up a spigot of frustration as a chorus of similar parental sentiments followed in the comments section. Moms and dads chimed in with their not-so-nice feelings about the oftentimes aggravating, overheated days of summer. One person said that her kids constantly shouting “Mom!” were starting to make her feel like a “homicidal maniac.” Another joked that she’s only going to respond to her children calling for her when they refer to her as “Your Majesty." (Not a bad idea.)

I tossed my less-than-ideal summer observations into the mix, admitting that this week I’ve hidden from the Picket Fence Post kids in the garage so I could carry on an uninterrupted telephone conversation. (I could hear them looking for me but I said nothing as I sat there in the dark. No, I'm not proud.) Yesterday, I intentionally let them rug rats waste away the morning hours in front of the TV because they were driving me nuts and I needed the time to finish some work without being harassed.

There must be something in the air, because this morning I read a page one story in the New York Times about a flight attendant who, like some of these parents, has had enough. When a passenger on a New York-bound flight left his seat to get the belongings he'd stowed in the overhead compartment after the plane had touched down but it was not yet safe for passengers to leave their seats, a longtime airline attendant, Steven Slater, told the passenger he had to sit down. Here’s how the rest of this weirdly inspiring story played out, according to the Times:

“The passenger defied [the flight attendant]. Mr. Slater reached the passenger just as he pulled down his luggage [from the overhead compartment], which hit Mr. Slater in the head.

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. After citing his 20 years in the airline industry, he blurted out, ‘That’s enough.’ He then activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.”

He paused, however, to grab two beers from the service cart before jumping down the slide and running across the tarmac to the employee parking lot, the paper reported. (Unfortunately, Slater was arrested and charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment.)

The comments on the Times web site about this story cracked me up. “I am having one of these [evacuation chutes] installed in every meeting room,” one person said, adding, “Haven’t we all wanted to hit the ‘escape button?”

Another said, “I wish my office had an evacuation slide.”

And for parents with young kids who spend summer days behaving like kids – meaning tormenting their siblings, challenging/harassing their parents and acting like the immature little creatures they are – don’t we all sometimes need an escape chute, an evacuation slide? Or at least a darkened garage to slip off to when Mommy needs a time out?

UPDATE: Apparently Steven Slater has already been christened a "folk hero," according to New York Magazine. There are Free Steven Slater T-shirts, a Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund and even a move to try to get folks to contact JetBlue on his behalf.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lobbying to Stay Home Alone by Reenacting Scenes from a Sitcom and Making Me a Sandwich

I was going to make them accompany me.

All three of them.

To a business meeting.

I had a meeting scheduled in the next town over in the middle of the day. Our babysitter was unavailable and The Spouse couldn’t work from home, so I told the Picket Fence Post kids (ages 9, almost 12 and almost 12), “Sorry guys, but you’re going to have to come with me.”

Cue the whining, followed quickly by the enthusiastic pleading from the older two, “Why of course our dear mother, we can be trusted to be left home alone, and besides, you yourself have said we older children could soon babysit.”

I’ve frequently left the kids alone for short periods of time, but I try not to saddle the elder two with their younger brother who can be a handful (who isn’t at age 9?) too often. It just causes friction when they tell him what to do and he resents it.

However they didn’t exactly help their case on this particular occasion when the two boys started fighting over whether someone “took” something from the other’s room and the alleged thief ran and hid in his bedroom with the purloined object.

I heard them arguing and fighting while I was trying to take a shower and get ready. While still in a towel, hair dripping wet, I stormed over to the door to the hallway and shouted, “That’s it! EVERYONE’S coming with me. You people can’t handle it!” Then I slammed the door shut.

Minutes later, the three of them – with whom I’ve recently been watching season one episodes of Malcolm in the Middle -- started reenacting scenes from the second episode, “Red Dress” where, as a response to their mother’s punishments, the TV sitcom kids wanted to show how gleeful and cooperative they were and joined hands, danced in a circle while singing, pretending like they were all one lovey-dovey bunch of siblings.

But my kids took things further. Once I made my way to the kitchen, I discovered that my trio had made me a turkey sandwich, fetched me a glass of ice water, unilaterally offered to rub my shoulders as I ate and even presented me with the sandals I was going to wear – no lie – on a pillow.

“Fine,” I said, relenting to their charming though utterly transparent, ham-handed lobbying campaign, “but this is a test. If you three cannot get along, if you fight and things don’t work well, you’re not going to be left alone any time soon and will have to come with me to meetings.”

If there were any problems, I never heard about them. They wisely kept their traps shut. Nor did I find find evidence of any scuffles shoved into corners or stuffed down into bottom of the trashcan.


Image credit: Fox via Fancast.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Don't Care What Supermodels Have to Say About Parenting

Dear Supermodel with One Child Who Likes to Tell Other Mothers How to Parent,

I do not care what you think I should do while I raise my kids.


I don’t want to hear it.

I don’t want to be faced – in every media outlet – with your holier-than-thou declarations that you know better than I do what’s best for my three kids . . . particularly when you don’t even follow your own decree because, well, you know, you’re so much better than the rest of us peasants, so much more important.

Here's my unsolicited advice for you: Better not to raise the ire of mothers across the globe with your pronouncements that there should be a worldwide law forcing all women to breastfeed their babies for six months (when you breastfed your own kid for three weeks). Instead, keep your pampered, sanctimommy views to yourself. It’d tick off far fewer people if you just tell interviewers that you’re lucky, you know you’re lucky and leave it at that.



Monday, August 2, 2010

'Army Wives' Takes on Single Parenting When Mommy's Deployed Overseas

While researching my latest column about a recent ripped-from-the-headlines story on Army Wives about the legal troubles facing a single mom who was threatened with court martial for failing to deploy when  childcare for her baby fell through, I happened upon a few stunning statistics about parenting and the military:

-- There are more than 70,500 single parents on the active duty in the U.S. military, which makes up about five percent of the U.S. military, reported the Associated Press.

-- More than 100,000 female soldiers who have served and/or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are mothers, the New York Times reported, adding, “The vast majority are primary caregivers, and a third are single mothers.”

-- A U.S. major general overseeing operations in Northern Iraq was pressured into backing off of a controversial directive he'd given last year threatening a soldier who “becomes pregnant or impregnates another service member, including married couples assigned to the same unit” with a possible court martial or disciplinary action.” The policy was vigorously assailed by many folks including four female U.S. Senators.

In the wake of the recent Army Wives episode, I looked at how a single mom who was slated to deploy but didn't when her childcare plans were kaflooey played out in real life earlier this year, as well as on the fictional realm of Army Wives, in my weekly Mommy Tracked pop culture and politics column.

Summer Shorts: Patriots' Training Camp, Badminton Tourney Gets Competitive & Youthful Protesters

After a neighbor of ours raved about going to the New England Patriots’ training camp -- on a field next to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough -- The Spouse and I roused our kids early on Saturday morning, slathered everyone with sunscreen, threw some food at ‘em and dragged the lot of ‘em to a hilly spot of grass overlooking the playing field.

And sat there.

And sat there.

In the blazing sun.

Until the players came onto the field. Many were wearing gray T-shirts and shorts, none with names or numbers on the back. There was virtually no contact (they weren't wearing pads) and it looked like they were casually walking through of plays for a while as the coaches held playbooks aloft for the players to see. C-SPAN is more riveting.

The fans sitting around us were busy trying to figure out who was who. “Is THAT Tom Brady? Is Randy Moss over there? I can’t tell. Where’s Belichick?”

And there was whining. Lots of it. From my kids and from the grown-ups. I was ready to pack it in as I too was bored, was getting fried in the sun and was tired of telling the kids that I wasn’t going to spend $47 on a bottle of water or a freeze pop or whatever else the vendors were selling as they gingerly stepped around the Patriots fans sitting there on the grass or sitting in the bleachers around the field.

However . . . the mood changed like a fast-moving late afternoon summer storm when a handful of players decided to walk over to the edges of the field – behind the ropes that keep them separated from the riffraff that is the fans – and sign autographs. That’s when the three Picket Fence Post kids perked up considerably, seeing as though there were standing right in front. Despite the efforts of aggressive fans and rude teenagers who shoved my children and pushed my kids’ hands out of the way by harshly lowering their arms on top of my kids’ arms, the children were able to snare some autographs from Patriots players and stand within arms length of some of their favorites.

Yes, one even got a "signature" from Tom Brady, doing his best Justin Bieber impersonation with that ridiculous mop of hair, though it was covered by a cap on this particular morning. As he walked along the edge of the playing field along the rope line, he grabbed The Youngest Boy’s football from his hands and signed it with my son’s Sharpie. This is what it looks like:

Yes, we’re all underwhelmed. Plus no one will believe that that's Brady's so-called "signature."

However the kids got enough signatures from players (Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko and Brandon McGowan) that The Eldest Boy clamored to return to see the training camp on Sunday morning with The Spouse, which he did and came back smiling as one kind player, Cornerback Darius Butler, signed my son’s football card.

Badminton Tourney Gets Competitive

A few weeks ago, The Spouse put up a giant volleyball/badminton net in the backyard with the idea that the kids would have a ready-made activity to do when we said, “Go outside and play.” It’s worked out somewhat well, as they have played together, though my refereeing skills have been requested more frequently than I’d like.

But I personally hadn’t set foot on that spot of lawn in order to play badminton until this weekend, after the kids said they didn’t think I could play. (Doing yoga doesn’t exactly cut it in their eyes as a physical activity.) Yes, proving to the children that I can be athletic – my pride was hurt by the implications of their assertions – drove me to participate in a family badminton tournament and, once I shook off the rust, I wasn’t half bad. The following day we played a second tournament. The only downside to all this badminton: Getting into an argument with The Spouse when his trash talking and bellyaching about whether the birdie was out or in went too far.

Youthful Protesters

I recently took The Girl to see Eclipse – as I promised her I would when she saw the trailers a few months ago (though I think we’re going to hold off on seeing Breaking Dawn together when it comes to theaters) – and the two boys who were left behind with The Spouse were ticked. That’s putting it mildly.

The Spouse was in his office doing some work when the boys decided to treat him like he was a one-man G-8 summit and they were radical environmental protesters. For example, they made signs, which they toted into The Spouse’s office until he kicked them out, complaining of their treatment. (See above.)

Then they attempted armed resistance -- we are in Minuteman territory, after all -- toting Nerf guns into The Spouse's office while The Eldest Boy slid a tape recorder into the room with his hummed version of the Jaws theme playing (No, I don't get it either.) and demanded to be taken to a local laser tag establishment.

Unfortunately for them, The Spouse does not negotiate with pint-sized terrorists.