Friday, May 22, 2015

Five on Friday: Games Young People Play (A Double Feature!)

You know kids, they only think they want toys. The novelty of a new Lego set or racetrack wears off in about five minutes--but games they create with their siblings last and last. In between the ever-present bickering lately (I'm hearing a lot about Mercury being in retrograde, can that stop now? Please?) are bouts of all five kids playing these awesome games they've made up together. It's been making me reminisce about the games I used to play with my sisters when we were growing up.  So for today's Five on Friday list, a double feature!

Games we played:

1. CAVEY: Played in the play yard where the swing set and play house were. My sister J and neighbor H lived in the little house and I was a caveman named (you guessed it) Cavey who constantly messed things up and wasn't allowed in the house. Hey, wait a minute . . . 

2. DOCTOR, DOCTOR: One sister would leave the room while the other three tangled up with each other in a human knot on the floor and then shouted, "Doctor! Doctor!" Other sister came back and had to detangle the knot.

3.  ORPHANS: So many games revolved around being shipwrecked, lost in the woods or somehow otherwise becoming oprhaned and having to live on our own. I blame Disney.

4.  NURSE GOODLADY:  Once when my younger sister got sick at the end of the summer I thought it would be fun to help take care of her and so I became Nurse Goodlady (we were very creative with the names, as you can tell). She got better. I got Scarlet Fever. Not even joking.

5. YOU CAN'T COME IN HERE:  I'll admit, I was trying to freak my sister out with this but then it turned into a game. We'd sit at the kitchen table doing nothing and then I'd look up at the door and say in a spooky voice, "You . . . can't . . . come . . . in . . . here!" Then we'd run and scream and jump on my parents' bed and kick each other's legs. That was fun, apparently.

Games they play:

1. MURPHY'S LAW: Try to come up with the worst possible thing you could say in various scenarios. Vote on winner.

2. FLOOR IS LAVA: Just what it sounds like. You can't touch the floor so elaborate paths made up of pillows, couch cushions, jackets, etc. are strewn about to be able to safely get around the house.

3. PANDA BRAWL: A variation on #2 in which you try to push your siblings into the lava.

4.  FIRST IMPRESSIONS: One person says the name of a well-known book or movie character and a line to say. Everyone else has to say the line the way the character would and then there is a vote to choose the best one. I was recently the champ in speaking like The Incredible's Frozone in saying, "The wisteria is growing like crazy." (Though G said it was too much like regular old Samuel L. Jackson and not enough like Frozone I still won.)

5. GRAVITY'S SIDEWAYS: In which they basically slither around on the floor grabbing on to furniture in order to not float up and away. A variation called "MOUNTAIN CLIMBER" is pretty much the same but involves a grappling hook (which I believe is a plastic pirate's hook-hand and some yarn).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Five on Friday: Mother's Day Goodness

I don't really get into Mother's Day all that much. I don't expect my family to spend money on gifts and the last thing I'd ever want is for my children to bring food to my bed. I mainly want the kids to be nice to me and make me cute things, which is what I'd like on any given day.

Well they were nice to me and did make me cute things so I suppose that counts as a successful Mother's Day. Here are some highlights from the day:

1. Kids helping me in the garden for hours with minimal complaint (okay fine an occasional, "IT'S MOTHER'S DAY" reminder was needed when someone started to whine).

2. This card. "Why is my hair blonde?" "I couldn't find a brown marker."

3. The "Klee-Nar" robot. "This is just a prototype for the real one you'll make me one day, right?" "Nope."

4. These AMAZING hand drawn cards, a set of six villainesses, by my oldest daughter (that came with a really special letter that made me cry)

 5. And FOUR plants . . . see that one all the way on the right? That Z brought home on Thursday but told me was for his oldest sister? Apparently it was all just a ruse. He said that so he could give it to ME on Sunday (and no, he didn't just say that to save face, this story was confirmed by sister and Daddy-O). What a cute little sneak.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Five on Friday: House Rules

A recent online discussion revolved around what your family's house rules were. House rules? I couldn't think of any off the top of my head but after a few days I realized we do have a (very) few hard and fast rules. They are:

1. If it's yellow, let it mellow (and of course, if it's brown flush it down).

2. No nakey butts at the dinner table. Just throw some underwear on, dude.

3. If you're outside it's socks off or shoes on. It's just that easy.

4. Play first, homework later.

5. No vomiting on the astro-turf.

Yes, that bedroom has astro-turf on the floor. And no vomit.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Five on Friday: Sure Signs of Spring (Serendip Style)

 Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping and . . .

1. I don't have to fight to get my oldest son outside.
My "Indoor person" when he got to meet one of his heroes, Jeff Kinney (author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid")

2. Some things smell great (like line dried clothes and sheets) and some things smell terrible (like my sweaty children)

3. The tub looks like this when they're done:
Me: Ew. Z: Wow. We're awesome.

4. I was able to clean and decorate the dining room on Wednesday (when I happened to have time) for a party here on Saturday because we dine al fresco now! Nobody has used or messed up the dining room all week!

5. People keep sending me links about World Naked Gardening Day because we did participate and share a fun photo shoot on Facebook two years ago. My neighbors love me.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Vagina is Angry

“MY VAGINA IS ANGRY!” shouted one of my cast mates when it was her turn to perform in The Vagina Monologues. She owned that scene—adding witty adlibbed lines and hysterical expressions to make a powerful piece memorable and humorous.

I think the majority of my cast mates, being college students that were decades younger than me, might have related to it more than I did.  My middle-aged vagina has become accustomed to the nuisances the author complained about: dry cotton tampons, cold metal medical specula, etc. But the energy with which it was performed made it one of my favorite monologues.

Backstage on our closing night, one of those much younger women stood behind me and whispered my name. I turned around to see what she wanted. She said nothing; I thought maybe I misheard. But the way she was standing there staring at me, so expectantly, I knew she must have said it. “Yes?”  Another moment passed leaving me wondering what was going on before she took a deep breath and said, “My friend raped me when I was sixteen. I’ve been trying to tell you for so long.”

Hugs and tears and tears and hugs. Suddenly I was the one with nothing to say to a survivor. I told her that the pain---it subsides, but lasts forever. That time passes and you think you’re healed and then it comes up in the most surprising ways again. I told her I was there for her at any time if she needed to talk. I remembered my own advice to others and told her I was so sorry, so very sorry.

The timing was awkward as we both had to perform again but I was grateful that in that moment she was able to find her courage and tell me what she had been trying to say for so long. I had the time to go find a quiet place for a minute to decompress and shake off my sorrow to get through the rest of the show.

Later when I thought of her again, this time I had the thought, MY vagina is ANGRY! So angry that it belongs to a part of this fucked up sisterhood that shouldn’t exist, this band of survivors. In high school and college, I never believed the statistics I had heard: one in five, four, three women in the world were survivors of sexual abuse or assault. Clearly those statistics were erroneous, amped up numbers to scare us into good girl submission.

I don’t disbelieve that anymore. I can’t. Because I’ve lost count of how many women have told me that they, too, are members of this sorority. Some of them had never told anyone else, some had never told their families. Some offered no details; just “it happened to me, too.” Some were so grateful to have a sympathetic ear to unload on. And it’s true that we are eternally bonded now in ways that we weren’t before.

And even though I say I wish I had never been inducted, ultimately I feel there’s a reason for me to be here. For the ones waiting for someone to tell, for the ones that wished they were brave enough to speak out: I will listen and I will speak.

So much of the social activism I participate in has to do with inclusion: equal rights, access and opportunity. But I will always try to try to keep as many other people—girls and women, boys and men—out of this club as I can. I will fight to keep this club as exclusive as possible.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Five on Friday: An Art-full week

Between my birthday on Tuesday and the kids' Open Houses at school, there's been a lot of kid-generated art in my life this week. Here are some highlights:

1. Birthday cards from my kids . . . if you didn't see on Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram), G made me a fantastic card because I told him he had to. (See it here: Queen Mommy) B made me one on her own and it took an entirely different direction (of course because they're so different in so many ways). She made this lovely drawing of me as an Earth Mama ("Look! With your greys in one nice, chunky, Cruella Deville-ish streak like you want!")  encircling the Earth in my arms and my five kids playing on the swing set. I adore this card, and this kid:

2. Not one but TWO birthday crowns. It's a shame I only have one head.  My youngest tried to steal back the yellow one she made for me but I managed to keep it.

3. Lots of giant cards. My favorite is Z's signature drawing of cookie trucks (on the left with all the M birds)

4. At the school last night, this was hanging up . . . a picture Z made explaining what he'd be like if he were a dinosaur. In typical him fashion, it's part fierce and part gentle (and he wonders why I want to eat his face):

5. Lastly was the "gym show" at the Open House last night. My older kids never did a gym show in 3rd grade, I wasn't sure what it was going to be or if I'd like it. WRONG! I LOVED it. This was E's grand finale and his little arm sticking out when it wasn't supposed to be. I have really no idea what the heck is happening here but I couldn't possibly have enjoyed it more:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Geeks Vs. Jocks (otherwise entitled Play Nicely with Your Brother)

Originally featured on:

Like my mother used to say to me, so I say to my son: “If you’re going to sit around and read on such a nice day, at least take the book outside!”

This kid is a reader. He surprised us all by teaching himself to read by age five. He went in to kindergarten reading chapter books and finished kindergarten tearing through anthologies . . . of Calvin and Hobbes. (I immediately realized allowing him to read those books was either absolutely brilliant or completely idiotic of me.)

But he doesn’t move much. He doesn’t decide to go outside on his own much. So when I shoo him out he rises without looking up at all. He’ll keep his book at eye level and stand up, walk to the door (sometimes tripping over a toy or bumping into someone or thing) and resume his reclined position on a chair outside, having never skipped a word.

Sometimes just being outside with the book is enough to appease me. Other times it’s not, so I tell him it’s time to put it down and actually be active and interact with people. One day last summer was one of those days. I told him he could help me weed the vegetable garden or he could go play.

Then while I was weeding by myself, I could I overhear him playing with his two younger brothers in the yard. Now those two boys never have to be sent outside. Athletic and active, they are in the yard as long as the sun is out, kicking, throwing, climbing, riding.  Just as their older brother was always drawn to books, these two have always been attracted to action. “Mommy, tell me ALL the sports,” E said at age 4. “I want to play ALL of the sports.”

Despite their differences, they still admire many things about their nerdy-cool older brother: his book smarts, his drawing abilities and his superhero knowledge in particular. As I worked, I could hear G leading them in a rollicking game of pretend “laser-saber” fights and the younger boys were eating it up. “See?” I thought to myself, “Wasn’t it so smart of me to force him to play?”

Later they set up the sprinkler and I could hear the three boys having fun together while getting wet and muddy. My always-inquisitive six year old Z asked how the sprinkler worked. G, my knowledgeable twelve year old, began explaining. I smiled, once again congratulating myself for getting the geek and the jocks happily interacting. I know G’s patience level with the younger guys can be pretty low sometimes so I felt proud of him for taking the time to explain things for them. I tuned back in to their conversation and heard, “And then, when the water travels from the hose to the top of the sprinkler, the pressure causes the hamster inside to start running in circles and . . .”

“MOM???” Z called.
“NO,” I answered, anticipating his question.
“I was going to ask if you if there’s a hamster---“
“I know. No.”

Despite G’s temporary foray into playing the role of Calvin’s Dad (I knew letting him read those books was going to come back to haunt me), the boys continued to play really nicely together all afternoon. They even began filming their own superhero movie. As I was making dinner, I heard a costumed Z run into the dining room and fall down, hard. I cringed, waiting for the crying—and instead heard G help him up and ask, “Are you okay?” I peeked in to the dining room to see his reaction.

He brushed himself off, sniffed and nodded.

“The upside is that the shot looked really cool because you actually fell!” G enthused. It was exactly what Z needed to hear to shake it off and get back to filming.

This time I pat myself on the back without regret. Sure, my geek-child will someday look back with fondness at the time that he was able to wile away so many summer hours lost in a book and my jock-boys will reminisce the same way about hours of unadulterated outside play. But those won’t be the times they’ll reminisce about together at holidays as adults. Those won’t be the stories they tell their own children about. These times that they played together, the geek and the jocks, afternoons filled with teasing, filth, joy, injury and encouragement . . . those are the experiences that shape a childhood and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood.

Here’s to redefining  “play nicely with your brother.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Five on Friday: One More Spring Birthday Boy to Celebrate

The last of the boys' spring birthdays was this week with my E turning 9 on Tuesday. Here are some of my favorite E-moments from over the years:

1. Him (age 4.5): Mommy, did you play sports in high school?
Me: No, but I was in shows.
Him: Oh, you weren't too sportable?
Me (suppressing laughter): No, not too sportable.
Him: Well I am very sportific.

2. (Age 5) He likes to approach doors that he knows open automatically and extend his arms and declare "FORCE OF THE POWER!" to make them open by his magic.

3. (Age 6)  "Some people at school say I'm a girl if I wear nail polish." 
Thus beginning (another) discussion on this topic, which concluded with him saying: "Yeah! And what if people said that only boys could clean house? That's not true! And what if people said only girls could...fix a roof? That's not true!"

(same discussion, age 8: "If anyone at school says anything about my nail polish, Ill just say, "no offense but that's just how I rock my style" )

4. (First lost tooth on last day of kindergarten) Before bed he said to me, "I know the tooth fairy is not real. It's just a person in a costume."
"But E . . . we lock the door at night when we're sleeping, how could that person get in?"
"We lock the door?"
His jaw dropped, literally. "Don't lock the door!!!!"

5. (Age 6) Second (!!!) phone call from a girl.  I told my oldest to go eavesdrop and see what they were talking about. She returned and said, "I went over there and he was saying, "your DOG says HI??" After five minutes he got off the phone so I asked, "So what did she want, just to chit chat?"
He answered, "We talked about the Super Bowl mostly."