It’s a Good Thing He’s Cute

4 Apr

How distracting do you have to be to others to have your pencil supply limited and monitored? D’s teacher, a woman who had him pegged on day one with the comment on a worksheet, “Duncan, please pay attention in class and read the directions,” sent me this email. Her analysis of him is so spot-on, Duncan couldn’t even disagree with her comments on his most recent report card.

“Hi Ali,

Could you send Duncan to school on Monday with a fresh supply of sharpened pencils. He is repeatedly breaking the pencil points and removing the metal tops and erasers from the pencils he has here. He is constantly resharpening them, I believe, in an effort to avoid work. Since he also peels off the wrapping of decorative ones, please just give him regular yellow wooden pencils (not mechanical ones- those come with a host of other distractions).

I will keep the supply with me so he can grab one when needed but not have them nearby to play with during work time.”

Boys’ Night Out

28 Mar

This afternoon, the boys and I were out driving around, doing errands. All great kid conversations happen in the car, if you weren’t aware.  D asked me, “Can we have a boys’ night out?” My first thought was slightly sad because I wouldn’t be included, but I immediately regained my senses and thought, a night, home alone, by myself, with quiet? “Of course you can.”

O then explained what boys’ night out entailed. “Basically, boys go out without any girls and have a ton of fun.” I’m pretty sure the boys and I do not share an idea of what constitutes  a ton of fun. O continued on to say that they would take their friend A with them and $100. They would “buy a hotel and with the leftover, buy a bunch of cheesy fries.” I am not setting foot in whatever hotel they can get for $100 less cheesy fries for four growing boys, so it works out that I’m not invited.

They wanted to do a boys’ night out with their Dad tonight, and D asked if we had a lot of laundry to do. “Yes, we do,” I replied, not understanding his hint. “Good,” he says, “you can stay home and do the laundry when we go out.” He was lucky I was driving and he was out of arm’s reach. I suggested Sunday, when I am working, and they debated inviting their friends A and E. “But if we call it a boys’ night out, E can’t come,” O sympathized. D, without a pause replied, “but she doesn’t have boobs.” “We’ll have to call it kids’ night out,” O compromised.

Apparently, boobs are the criteria by which one is excluded from boys’ night out. Certainly explains why I wasn’t invited.


You Might Be a Mom of Boys (Part 2)…

22 Mar

1. If you have ever explained to someone what it is okay or not okay to store in one’s boots.

2. If you have ever tucked a small child into his “man cave,” aka his closet.

3. If you have ever scrubbed the word poop or butt off your child’s body, and simultaneously felt grateful they aren’t able to write small enough to label their penises.

4. If your 11-year-old still believes you are being unreasonable when you suggest he comb his hair and change his underwear EVERY day.

5. If the word ball, used in any context, sends your whole house into a fit of hysterical giggles.

6. If your kids hide their faces until it is safe to look again during any commercial perceived as being for girls.

7. If there are more Lego weapons in your house than any other single object.

8. If there is a bathroom in your home designated for boys that could put many public restrooms to shame.

9. If you have ever made a rule against punching someone else’s penis.

How to Fly Under the Radar

2 Feb

Oliver is away for the weekend and last night the boys and I had Owen’s best friend Christopher and his little sister Isabella sleep over. As I am sure Moms of large families will tell you, there is a point when more kids does not necessarily equal more work. Even if Chris and Isabella weren’t the nicest, easiest kids, that would be true of adding a couple of friends to your three boys. 

They ate pizza, played Minecraft together, and built a fort to sleep in. When it was time to go to bed, everyone got tucked in and kissed goodnight (at least the younger ones), Owen and Chris in Owen’s room, and Duncan, Calum, and Isabella in Duncan’s room. 

Within the first ten minutes, I had told the three younger kids to quiet down and go to sleep several times. They were climbing out of their sleeping bags, changing their pajamas, laughing and talking loudly. Not once did I have to speak to Owen and Chris, not because they were sleeping, but because they were smart. They went into Owen’s room, closed the door, and, as I learned in the morning, built a Minecraft version of our entire house. I did not hear a single giggle out of them.

And that is why they got to stay up until 11:30. They reinforced what both Oliver and I had proven in our own school careers: kids who are generally good and more importantly, being quiet, will get away with more than everyone else.

Super Mom or Lunatic?

22 Jan

Since I have been sick for the past couple of days, I haven’t gotten much done around my house. Today, I planned to make up for that.  I had stuff to check off my to-do list and a ton of cleaning to do. I got up at 7:00 and caught up on my emails, Facebook, and Words with Friends games (see how well I’m doing already?). I got Duncan out of bed to start getting ready for school. While making his lunch and his and Calum’s breakfast, I started cleaning up the kitchen.

I decided that it was finally time to bring the compost outside and put it in the bin, a job which had someone done it three days ago, would have been much quicker and less gross. I scrubbed out the small container, which led to having to rinse off everything in the sink, run the disposal, and get rid of the smelly old refried beans that I had intended to throw away yesterday but forgot. I wanted to load the dishwasher, but it was already full of clean dishes and I wanted the kids to empty it first. I gave the dog her thyroid meds and remembered I needed to make a vet appointment, so I counted out all the meds to see how long I had.

After dropping Duncan off at school (4 degrees is way too cold to walk) and discovering my new credit card in the mail, I sat down at the computer to work on my to-do list. I activated my credit card so that I could change my card on my paypal account and then pay for the boots I won on ebay yesterday. I called the vet to make an appointment and then decided to get other phone calls out of the way. I signed Owen and Duncan up for snowboard lessons and then posted a message on Facebook looking for recommendations for a new dentist, neither of which actually involved the phone, but I did call my husband to ask about our dental insurance. By this point, I had several recommendations for dentists, but none seemed to be listed on our insurance and I realized I don’t at all understand how dental insurance works, so I decided to abandon my search for another day.

I went back into the kitchen to make coffee and eggs, realized it was 9:30 and Owen was still sleeping, so went upstairs to wake him up. While making my breakfast, I picked up some more stuff around the kitchen. I had Owen and Calum empty the dishwasher so that I could do the dishes. I noticed that I hadn’t vacuumed in awhile and made a mental note to do that at some point today. I gave Owen my iPad to work on his essay and then went back into the kitchen to finally do the dishes. Calum was looking for another breakfast, so I made him a sandwich. I then got my iPad back from Owen for long enough to add cheese and bread to my grocery list. I decided to teach Owen how to make bread and that Calum needed a bath before school. I spent several minutes darting back and forth from the bathtub to the bread maker, helping each.

After dropping Calum off at school, I noticed I hadn’t checked on my chickens yet, so I let them out and collected the eggs. While attempting to fill up the nearly-empty, frozen waterer, I discovered a funny ice formation from the outside faucet and decided I needed a picture of it. I went inside to get my camera, outside to try to get the water working, got chicken poop on my pants, remembered I had wanted to do laundry today and hadn’t started yet, discovered it was still really cold and windy and that I didn’t want to walk to get the boys after school. So I went in to change the after school plans on the computerized system before they turned it off for the day, went back outside to take the picture, inside for warm water, lugged it all down to the chickens, and finally came inside. I also remembered to make an appointment to get the oxygen sensor in my car fixed.

I realized I was hungry and started to make lunch. I took the skins off all the chick peas that I had been cooking on the stove all morning and started chopping up veggies to eat with them. I figured it would make sense to chop up veggies for dinner at the same time since I wanted to marinate them with some tofu. I chopped veggies for two meals simultaneously, in two separate bowls. When I went to get the salad dressing out of the fridge, I conceded it was finally time to get rid of the weird green salad dressing I don’t like, so I dumped it down the drain and recycled the bottle. There was no garbage bag in the garbage since I had removed it earlier with the smelly beans, so I started a pile of trash on the counter. I took my iPad from Owen again to more stuff to the grocery list and checked my email. Since Owen wasn’t doing anything, I sent him upstairs for dirty laundry. I mixed up my lunch, sliced the tofu, started eating my lunch, dumped the salad dressing into the tofu and veggies, added salad dressing to the grocery list, put a bag in the garbage, threw away the piles of garbage and chick pea skins, and thought about doing some writing. I cleaned up the rest of the kitchen, started a load of laundry, discovered my tofu and veggies still sitting on the counter and put them in the fridge, and then sat down at the computer to write and eat my lunch.

I looked briefly at Facebook, read an article or two, checked my dentist post, and finally logged into wordpress. I was interrupted from the computer a number of times to help Owen (twice with his essay, once his math, once to admire his lego hairbrush, six times to answer ridiculous questions, and too many times to count to refocus him on what he should have been doing – and no, the irony is not lost on me). I also got up once to look for the dog, once to check on the bread, and once on the laundry. I moved the wet clothes into the dryer, went upstairs to get the rest of the dirty laundry, discovering on the way, my hair dryer that needed to get put away from warming up the bread machine, the pile of clean clothes I have been swearing to fold for the last two days, and my tea pot. I put away the hair dryer and tea pot, brought the laundry downstairs, ignoring the clean clothes, and started another load of laundry. I noticed my dryer timer wasn’t working again and set the stove timer so I wouldn’t forget about the dryer and burn down my house.

I then realized that I had 30 minutes before I go pick up the kids and that I hadn’t vacuumed, folded the clean clothes, done nearly enough schoolwork with Owen, taken a shower, or even gotten fully dressed. I know that research shows multi-tasking is not as efficient as people believe it is, but honestly, it’s the only way I know how to get anything done. I wonder if later, in retrospect, my done list will be impressive or pitiful.

After school, boys have homework to do and I have grocery shopping to do. Just thinking about it all, I need a nap or a drink, but first I need to get the anadama out of the bread machine, vacuum, deal with the sobbing five-year-old, and take a shower.

Owen The Odd

15 Jan

Do you ever have one of those moments that sums you up perfectly? This afternoon, I was sitting on the couch when Owen came running into the room, and said, “Hey, Mommy, watch this!”

He was sporting the same navy blue shirt, too short pants (the downside of being a skinny Frates boy is that all pants become too short for you long before they fit around your waste), mis-matched socks, and characteristic disheveled Owen hair he had all day. To this ensemble, he had added a red ninja mask, a plastic samurai sword strapped to his back with a homemade rope sheath of some sort, and a Lego gun. This wasn’t just any Lego gun; he had actually made a gun that shoots rubber bands (his current favorite Lego contraption) and a Lego holster that connected to a belt to hold the gun. 

He came into the room, posed in front of me, dramatically pulled the Lego gun from its holster, making sure he had my full attention, and promptly shot himself in the leg. He then asked me if I wanted to take a picture of him, but somehow, the moment was gone. And a picture would not have done it justice.

Every Conversation With My Children

8 Jan

In the past several months, all three of my children have become completely obsessed with the game Minecraft. If you don’t know what this is, ask any kid between the ages of seven and twelve. Don’t ask me; I still have no idea. The thing about kids and their obsessions is that they think everyone else on the planet shares their same level of enthusiasm for the topic. It’s really hard to explain to them that you don’t.

The following is what nearly every conversation with my children over the past few months has sounded like:

“Mommy, you want to know something amazing?”

Not really. “Sure.”

“I got 1,000 diamonds and iron pants in the nether portal.”


“Yeah. There was a glitch and Hero Brian ate all my chickens, so I have to go tame some more with carrots.”

“I had to put it on peaceful because a zombie ghost Enderman ate my pig.”

“________ doesn’t like to play on survival because his lava pick axe doesn’t work.”

“And did you know that on the next edition of the pocket edition, they’re going to put creepers in it and they never had that before!”


“What kind of mod do you think I should use? I have to build a new bed for my world because __________ destroyed it.”

“___________ is killing their cows! Tell him to stop. Aren’t you happy that I’m a vegetarian in minecraft?


I am quite certain that I got many of these details mixed up, but as I’ve tried to explain to my children about a million times, as much as I want to like what they are interested in, I just can’t.


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