gillis and her big mouth

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Month: March, 2014

Phone Call From Mom

She calls.
Or I call
weekly or so.
Weather, the kids, her health, who died,
these are our topics
now that Dad is gone.

She tells me she is okay
She is always okay
Even yesterday when
she said she had been crying
Crying off and on for most of the day
she was okay.

She who does not cry
Claimed she could not cry
Never learned how
Would never cry in front of us
Did not cry at his passing
Did not cry at his funeral
is now crying.

Maybe she is
after all.


Another Year Older

My son asked me today if, on his fifth birthday, he could have a birthday. He said this after we attended a first birthday party for his second cousin. The party was barnyard-themed complete with a cardboard barn to play in, tractor shaped cookies, and a cake that the folks at Cake Boss would have trouble duplicating. The place was done up in gingham and John Deere green. Guests came in overalls and plaid. Grown up men in overalls. That was the level of buy in going on there.

I tried to explain that he had, in fact, already had four birthdays, that they came (and were acknowledged by this family by the way) yearly, and that he would certainly have one when he turned five. I knew what we wanted. We both knew what he wanted. I was just trying to stave off the begging for a themed party with non-related children in attendance. I shook off his line of questioning and he eventually fell asleep.

His birthday is coming later this spring and he needs to feel celebrated. I don’t want to have his preschool class here for a party so we need to figure out a way to creat an event that satisfies both of our needs. I’m hoping that inviting his two closest classmates, along with cousins, might do the trick. I did throw more elaborate events for his older sister’s birthdays, but at that time I was still in the same age range as the parents of her friends. Much less awkward to have them in the house. There were themes-superhero dress up, rock and roll, luau, pirates. Games to fit the themes- dress up relay, interactive rounds of Clue, and obstacle courses. The cakes were made to look like beaches, guitars, superheroes and pirates. And the goodie bags? Stuffed with thematic toys from Oriental Trading company. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. No way I can do those things again. Maybe a trip to the bowling alley or park? Oh well, there’s still a few weeks left to figure it out.

There’s Always Next Week

5 Signs that it’s been a long week and I’ve allowed my standards to drop dangerously low:

1. Yogurt raisins seemed like a perfectly reasonable dinner choice. For me.

2. Spending $20 more on an item so I didn’t have to find a parking spot and walk a block made perfect sense.

3.Unfolded clean clothes left dangerously close to the dirty pile led to sniffing the kids’ clothes before letting them wear anything.

4.Lingering effects from a cold made #3 inconclusive, so several loads of clothing were rewashed.They now sit in a wrinkled pile. Very close to the dirty clothes pile.

5. Letting my kid chew gum after I realized he hadn’t brushed his teeth before we left the house was my best option.

Living one step up from a feral state is a temporary thing.

I tell myself this as I feel the crunch of sand under my feet. In my own kitchen.

I have to believe this. If I thought this would go indefinitely I would run screaming into the traffic. 


Not So Great Woods

We drove past the sign for the xfinity center exit. I have no idea what xfinity produces, markets, or gets probable subsidies for, but the company name is vaguely familiar to me so it must be vaguely successful. Successful enough to have the current naming rights to the outdoor concert venue that I remember as Great Woods back in the 80s. The glory days when our waistbands rose nearly as high as our permed hairstyles. The concert hall has had several names since then, and I’d be hard pressed to catch UB40 or The Cure playing there this summer, but still, it rankled me. As if I had the right to be offended by the newest name. As if I had a say in corporate naming of any kind. But still. The greed of it all irked me. If we have to deal with TD Bank North Garden instead of the venerable Boston Garden, or Gillette Stadium, not Foxboro, can’t they leave the smaller concert venues alone? There’s a seasonal, tented hall near the harbor which I mentally call Voldemort because its name is never to be repeated from one summer to the next. Some things should not be so disposable. Some contracts should be long enough to outlive a generation. I hope I never live to see the Red Sox play at Dunkin’ Field…

Kindergarten Orientation

We perched on round cafeteria seats as the power point flashed up on the screen. In between anxiety attacks about readiness (Wait, the kids are supposed to be reading before coming to kindergarten?) I scoped out the crowd. I was glad to see some gray heads in the room and hoped they were parents and not grandparents. Maybe I wouldn’t be the oldest mother in the group after all. The teachers each took turns introducing themselves and the curriculum (Wait, they do more than play, sing, learn to share, and take turns in kindergarten?) and I looked around again. I was beginning to feel a little better about things when I realized my kid was actually one of the quieter ones in this crowd. He was displaying some fine self control. Even if it was fear-based, I’d take it. He was sitting, not running, not shouting, not crying. Thank goodness, I was then free to pass judgment on the families with the unruly kids.

We toured the classrooms and I took a look at the lengthy intake sheet for registration. Apparently I missed the memo about   keeping extensive records of my son’s developmental  milestones along the way as evidenced by the number of questions I could not answer. Like, when did he first crawl? Probably the first time I pissed him off by not handing him something he really wanted like toy or a cracker. I was pretty proud of myself for knowing his first word, “duhwa.” It was a version of his sister’s name that bears little resemblance to her actual name, but it did the trick. She knew he was calling her and she responded. Beyond that, I could no more state when he spoke his first two-word phrase or first sentence than I could tell them the atomic mass of cobalt. Wait, actually I could tell them the atomic mass of cobalt because I could look that up. According to my sources it’s 58.933195 ± 0.000005 u. Go ahead, check it. Seriously, did these folks think I was Martha-freaking-Stewart with a series of baby books full of this stuff? I could have told them about the first time his language skills made me sit up and take notice because it happened recently when he answered my scream of, “Get in the car– NOW!” with the response, ” But I haven’t finished gathering my selected items to bring in my toy bag yet!!”  That one got my attention. I dropped my bag containing the items I had selected while I processed what he said. I also have no idea when he first walked. I know, I know, that’s a biggie, but I didn’t document it, so I can only guess that happened around one year and it hasn’t stopped since. He’s advanced to performing acts of  parkour around the house these days, he has some mad ninja skills, and as he likes to remind us, he’s got the moves like Jagger.

Other questions also had me stumped. Do we have any concerns about our son? Ummm, yep. We do. Yes we do. We’re concerned that his hearing is impaired because while he can clearly hear a plastic bag crinkle from two rooms away, he cannot hear us call him for dinner from this same distance. We worry that perhaps he has a developmental disorder when he laughs uproariously like a drunken swashbuckler in our face as we threaten/sanction/remove him for doing things that are unsafe/unsanitary/unsavory. We are also concerned that he seems able to build intricate things with Legos and blocks but is unable to flush a toilet consistently. Likewise, his ability to eat things like fish sticks he has dunked into chocolate milk coupled with his  inability to choke down a single cooked carrot without gagging has us, if not concerned, then puzzled. I hope these concerns will all be addressed by the curriculum in kindergarten.

Another favorite question asked if  he showed signs of special ability in areas such as music, athletics, or art. That seemed dependent on what “special” meant in this case. If an ability to sing the same line of the same song with the same intonation and same volume 40-50 times in a row from the back seat of a car out of arm’s reach is considered a special musical ability, then, yes, he has a gift. If drawing elaborate maps on himself and the furniture counts as artistic expression, he has that too. His athletic ability has been hampered thus far by the laws of gravity and the space-time continuum, but with time he may find ways to over come that as well. I think the school will be unwrapping his gifts for quite some time.

With this line of questions taxing me, I finally admitted that I needed to take this registration packet home to mull over so that the lies I crafted sounded at least plausible and made it seem like we were sincerely trying to raise a decent human being.  We packed up and headed out. In the car, we debriefed about the visit and I had to break the news to the little guy that kindergarten did not start until the fall. He thought he’d be heading in there the next morning. He thought about it for moment then said, “That’s ok, maybe by then all the classrooms will have real Legos. I’ll only go to a classroom with real Legos in it.”  Good luck kindergarten.


And the Season Ends

It was an ugly cry. Racked with sobs and a face full of fluids, she cried and cried for a good fifteen minutes. Those of us gathered around her tried to offer comfort. She was having none of it. It was a monumentally sad moment for her, and an uncomfortable moment for the rest of us. Teammates had gone on their way. Some had deliberately avoided goodbyes of any kind, but she had insisted on waiting for the coach to come out of the bathroom. She needed to give him a proper hug and thank him for all of his work on her behalf. As she threw her arms around him, he hugged her back awkwardly as we looked on. He chuckled and reddened as she continued to sob and sputter. He graciously thanked her for all of the hard work she had put in during the season and he told her she could call him, anytime, if she needed any help on the court. He’d work with her on her shot or ball handling. They both knew she’d never call him and the only time she’d be seeing him again was when they ran into each other as one team’s practice was ending and another team’s practice was beginning. She was moving on to the next  level and he was staying with the group she was leaving. He was pushing her out of the nest that she had carefully feathered and thrived in, but she wasn’t ready to go. He knew she’d fly, and so he pushed her, Just like that.

Six Word Story About Being a Travel Basketball Family

Double elimination tournament makes weekend long.

Ocean in Winter

The ocean of winter is no coconut oil
rainbow umbrella
frisbee and picnic beach.

The ocean of winter is formidable.
Winter ocean is what the pilgrims crossed.
The hypothermia sea reminds us
we are specks to be blown about.

The ocean of winter does not coddle us,
does not allow to think we are its equal.
There is no peaceful floating here.

In winter we are not lulled
by the sound of the waves
into a sunshiny stupor,
we are put on high alert.
Each crash repeats the same message.

Summer is lovely, but much too easy.
Winter’s beauty is fierce
and only those who show similar strength
will ever know its power.


I am tap tap tapping away with my cocktail sausage fingers on my iPhone in order to complete this blog post. It is part of a month long writing challenge that I blog every day during the month of March. Unfortunately this challenge overlaps with travel basketball season, and I am rarely home to settle in and reflect so these posts are inconsistent at best.

This weekend we are traveling to Cape Cod, and our “resort” has a finicky wifi set up so I must use my phone service to write this post. In this room I see not one but two copies of the same art print. They are hung on the same wall separated by a small stand housing a television.

Another quirky perk of this resort is that they consider ping pong tables and arcade games fitness equipment. There are vending machines and a pool, but not restaurant so we went next door to a great British themed pub. On our way to and from the pub, we enjoyed a striking view of a power plant.

Here’s hoping the girls play well and I get some wifi service.



Spine Poem-Day 19 Slice of Life Challenge


Wake up missing
Far far away
When the Breast Fairy comes
Dress your family in corduroy and denim
Dark at the roots
The help
Carry me down
Then we came to the end.

(Hey, I never claimed it was a good spine poem…)