31 January 2011

Dances With Wolves

Raising so many boys is like managing a pack of dogs. Obedience training is essential, and speaking in short commands works best. Every pack has an alpha dog, a title I assumed was mine because I am most often dealing with the litter. But when The Captain is home, the whole structure rejiggers. It's the testosterone. The Captain is our dominant male but, lately, the older pups have been questioning his authority.

Normally, say, if this were a bunch of wolves, the alpha would squelch a challenger and the others would fall in line. But our pack is not so homogeneous. We have a mix of breeds, from lap dogs to Leonbergers. Each one requires a specialized form of discipline. This is a challenge for The Captain. Especially when dealing with Three.

Three is virtually untrainable. In fact, I would go so far as to say Three is a cat. He's happy to live with us because we feed and pet him, but he's not willing to do anything for us in return. He's almost pathologically self-centered, which can be...irritating. And when you point this out to him, he looks at you with a mixture of disbelief and disdain, which can be...infuriating.

So, The Captain and Three had one of their dog versus cat fights this weekend. Lots of hissing and snarling, claws out, teeth bared. It ended with Three asking if he could go live with his best friend, which would actually be a good fit--they're cat people. But because we aren't allowed to give away our children (I've checked), I threw some estrogen on the fire and smoothed things over. The Captain apologized, and we went back to our daily dance, which lately has been less box-step and more cha-cha: one step forward, three steps back. We're going to keep Three, because we love him, even if we don't understand him. We're dog people, and he's one of our pack.

29 January 2011

Hi. I'm Megan, and I'm an Addict

I stopped using drugs twenty-three years ago. Lots of people get clean, not all of them stay that way, and for most, it takes more than one stay at rehab to get the job done. I was lucky, or blessed, that the first time did the trick. I think it was because one of the counselors told me he wasn't sure I'd make it, and I was young and pissy enough that my reaction was, "Fuck you, old man!" (He was probably 35). I have lots of recovery under my belt, but that doesn't mean I'm not an addict anymore. And this week I recognized I am powerless over blogging. I'm not saying I need an intervention just yet, but if things don't settle down over the next few weeks, I may need to call in Dr. Drew.

This all started innocently enough. My mother kindly gave me a book (my first taste) about finding a literary agent. (Rule #1 is have a completed manuscript, and we all know that isn't yet true. But she's my mom, so her job is to have blind faith in me.) Flipping through the index prompted me to join the (gateway drug)national chapter of Romance Writers of America, and a trip to their website led me to register for their upcoming conference in New York. Then I had a conversation with my friend Lyric, who said (lighting the bong), "You should really join The Betties. They're a great group of gals, lots of them are writers, and then maybe you'll know some people at the conference."

So I went to the Lucy March website, and , indeed, they are a bunch of awesome dames, and I was hooked. Who wouldn't want to be like them? So, I would check in, just in the morning at first, and then (popping pills) at the end of the day, too, and I would read some of their blogs, until I thought, "That seems fun. I think I'll give it a try." And it's so easy to start-there are websites to set you up! Of course, I had to labor over backgrounds, and what each  particular font would convey, and I'm still futzing, because I discovered a Mad Men avatar program, so I added a picture, and now I'm up (snorting a line) every night writing the next day's post, but it's all good, right, because I love writing!

Today, I was reading a blog written by a (very handsome) former literary agent turned author. I found it on the slippery slope- linked to another writer's blog, that was linked to Lucy March. He had posted the Ten Commandments of Writing. One was to stop before you lose your spouse, children, or, I presume, mind. So, today I decided to loosen the tourniquet before I start tapping a vein, and take the weekend off. I'm going to visit with the Captain and the kiddies.

But I'll be back on Monday.

28 January 2011

They Both Have, And Are, Dicks

Boys are not like girls. You know that. Specifically, my boys don't share their feelings like girls might, although Three and Five come close, but with more violent imagery. My boys don't scream and cry at eachother, they just belittle and threaten. In short, they are dicks.

This is most apparent in the interaction between Two and Three. Years ago, they were thick as thieves. Two years apart in age, they were Frick and Frack, Donald and Goofy, Chandler and Joey. We have photographic proof. The age difference didn't matter when they were 11 and 9, but it is huge now that they are 15 and 13. Two is a good kid, but he can be ever so slightly superior and dismissive in tone, especially with Three. And he is absolutely not above calling him names, or pointing out his physical failings.

I think Three would like to still be friends with Two, but has been pushed away often enough that he's now just plain angry. This leads to seething, and descriptions of murder ("I'm going to lie in my bed and wait until he's asleep, and then I'm going to slit his throat. Just like that."). Then I get pissed off, drag in Two to make him apologize, punch Three when he flips him the bird, listen to them jaw about who said what, until I lose my mind and tell them to grow the fuck up.

Stunned silence. "Nice mouth, Mom."

Then I go watch Four and Five playing together on their bed. For now.

26 January 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Hot Summer

Long Ago I Thought It Pretty

The snow is falling in flat, fat clumps
relentless in its assault,
as if driven to cover the sins
of all that came before it.
Whitewash to hide the black ice below,
veneer over treachery.

When you start writing bad, angry poetry, you know you've had one too many snow days.  Like every other mother in the Continental United States, I've had it with this weather.  In the beginning, I didn't mind the days off from school, because it lessened my load. Homework, basketball, play practice- all this takes up a considerable amount of my time, especially when it involves wrangling the ADD-ers. I like a lazy day as much as the next guy. But I don't think of snow days as fun. I don't bake cookies, and happily bundle up my kids to go play outside. I grumble as I get them ready, because I know as soon as the last one goes out the door, the first one will be back. And often, I am called to rescue someone who thought it smart to try and sled across the boulders and through the woods. I prefer the indoors.

But we've been inside so much lately, my laziness has turned to outright sloth. As I write this, I am staring at this morning's dishes. It's dinner time. I have no interest in picking up at all, because it's become an overwhelming task at this point. The foyer is so littered with gloves and boots, one can no longer find the bench to sit and remove one's gloves and boots. There is mail everywhere, toys strewn from one room to the next, and the garbage looks like it's being managed by the New York Department of Sanitation.

Speaking of New York, the Captain opted to stay in tonight, so he can actually get to work tomorrow. This is inventory month, and although he has returned most nights to our home, he's really been at work for the past four weeks. This is the most important part of his very important job, so I don't begrudge him. Mostly, I just miss him. We created this mess together, and it's more fun to clean it up that way.

Oh my God, the phone is ringing.  It's the school...

Call Me Goldilocks

 For the purposes of this blog, I'll call my dear husband the Captain. He's the leader of his hockey team, and, God bless him,  the one steering this crowded family dinghy toward our future. Plus, it has a nice romance novel ring to it.

For all the years we've had children, the Captain has been blissfully unaware of the nocturnal activity in our home. Children would slumber and wake, wander from their room to ours, climb in our bed, over and between us, and barely interrupt the rhythm of his snoring. Sometimes, after one was already burrowed, another would arrive and wiggle in, leaving just enough room for my hips and shoulders to cling to the mattress as my butt dangled off the side. More than once, a third boy has come calling, only to be turned away like Joseph at the inn. Then I leave my bed to share their manger. This always makes for an interesting morning as the Captain wanders from room to room, searching for his missing wife.

As the boys have grown older, this happens less often. But the other night, Three wandered in around 3 a.m. and told me he was afraid of dying. I'd been hopped up on Sudafed for days trying to fight a cold and I'd had a lousy night's sleep, waking almost every hour. So, in a real Mother-of-the-Year moment, I lifted the covers and told him I would surely kill him if  he didn't go back to sleep and get up for school in three hours. Your Honor, between snow days and sick days, I hadn't had one day alone all week! He did fall back to sleep, tucked under my arm. As much of him as can fit anyway, because he is larger than me now. In the morning, I'm sure the Captain could only tell the lumps apart by the blond hair sticking out from the covers.

I still snuggle with the little boys at bedtime. Their twin beds are pushed together because they wanted one big bed to play on, but there is a gap between the two mattresses. This is my spot. If I start the night curled up against Four, Five keeps track of the time, and will alert me when it's time to move by calling, ever so gently, "Hey, still waiting over here!" So,  I try to rest my head on Four's pillow and my legs under Five's sheets, thus dividing myself as equally as possible between them.

Four is a veritable furnace, so I gravitate toward him on these cold nights. Five inevitably follows, slowly scooching across the bed until he is flat up against me, a spindly arm tucked up and in my shirtsleeve, as close as he can get to actually being back in the womb. I usually tell them I can only stay five minutes, but once I'm wedged between them, I don't mind lingering. Because I know from experience, in both the good and the bad, they won't always be this way. I'm going to enjoy it while I can, because the night will surely come when I threaten to kill them.

25 January 2011

The Sneaky Message of Change

By winter's end, I will have the ass of a twenty-five year-old. Okay, not really. But I may have the ass of a thirty-five year old, which would make it ten years younger than the ass I am currently dragging up and down my VERY  steep driveway as I climb up, UP, UP  to my van. The Kia is fun, and a little mysterious ( it's Korean, not Japanese!), with many great features, not the least being the reduced cost I paid scooping it up at the end of the model year. But it sucks in the snow. To be fair, my fancy-schmancy Honda sucked too, and my twisty tarmac is a challenge for any vehicle without all-wheel drive. So, the Kia has been parked up at the top of the driveway for an eternity now, because we've been stuck in an endless loop of wintry mixes.

As I was trudging up today, I thought about how, if I didn't slip and fall, this would be great exercise. I could really lift those aging buns, because that's what we all want, isn't it? Less cellulite, fewer wrinkles, yadda yadda. I'm not immune to the messages touting eternal youth. But you know what? There are quite a few things about me that have improved with age. And not just the things we think are important-Self-esteem, Knowledge, Patience-but honest-to-goodness shallow stuff, like looks. I peer in the mirror, and I like my face more than I did when I was thirty-five. Granted, I usually have my glasses off, and everything is a bit Doris Day fuzzy, but even so, I feel more attractive and more confident than I did ten years ago. I'm going with it, and  today you should recognize something about yourself that you like more than you did last decade. Screw eternal youth-I was kind of stupid in my early twenties.

So I've learned to tune-out the change messages for me, but I still haven't given up trying to change my kids. It's an on-going battle between the Zen me and the willful me. As some of you may know, Boys One and Four are both autistic, falling at different points on the spectrum, and each with his own strengths and needs.

Four joined a recreational basketball team this year. Team sports are a challenge, and tonight he was in no mood to practice. I was filling in as the coach for ten minutes, until the real one could arrive, and I was trying to manage the other boys, so I just let Four sit on the court. And then he wandered off to see what Five was playing on the Nintendo DS, and got hit in the mouth with an errant ball. And that was the end of that. He took himself out of practice, I lost track of him, and then he was backstage, opening the curtains. I went to retrieve him, and the situation escalated.

The Zen me would have been very calm, but the willful me thought this just might be the time that threats and intimidation would do the trick. Not so much. Suffice it to say, we left, with Four loudly wishing he could be adopted into a family that didn't have a mother like me, "Missy!", before I "helped" him, (like a Trooper might) climb in and buckle up. He apologized later, and I felt crappy for losing my cool. He is who he is- I know this- and I can really only control my own reactions. I forget this, OFTEN, and not just about him, but all the other penii as well.

I think change is a messy proposition, dressed up like a tarty model, and sent down the runway each season in new clothes to make us want it. This year I'm shopping thrift store, and working on acceptance.

24 January 2011

Into the Wild Blue-ish Yonder

This is my first blog, and therefore, I really have no idea what I'm doing. But this wouldn't be the first time that's been true, so here we go. This is the year I've decided to get serious about my writing career. As serious as one can be when so many lives depend upon me. But let's be honest-they're only getting one seventh of my attention anyway. And I'm not even including the dog. So, if I steal a little bit of time away from each one, I doubt they'll even notice. Except for Boy Five. He notices everything, and I am a constant source of disappointment. I may post a sidebar entitled "How I Failed Five" to keep track of all the ways I've let him down. If I knew how to create a sidebar.

But I don't want this blog to be about everything I do wrong. Who has the space for that-physically or psychically? Instead, let's focus on what we're doing well-or fairly well, if that's all we can muster. Today, I created a blog! What did you do?