Looking for Something Funny to Write

Since Christmas morning, when my best friend’s mother unexpectedly passed away, I have wanted to write something that would make my friend smile.

I keep waiting for my boys to say or do something funny.

I keep hoping I will be struck by a laugh-out-loud moment. That if I just wait one more day, I will stumble upon something that will make my friend smile.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I just want to give her a second of not thinking about her mom, even when I know that those seconds will not come for a while.

I guess that I have to be open to funny for it to happen. And I too am sad.

Then tonight, while talking to her on the phone, she made me laugh.

And suddenly I remembered that last night, at the dinner table, my husband made my nine-year-old snort milk through his nose. My ten-year-old claims chicken came out of his. And they laughed and laughed and laughed like only kids can – my husband included. And though I rolled my eyes, that just made them all laugh more.

And my housekeeper and I had a long discussion pointing at a calendar, and we decided with me trying to speak Spanish and her trying to speak English, that she would either take vacation next week or come clean the house. Can’t tell you what we decided. I think she knows I left it up to her. I think we agreed on a vacation. My friend will blame our not-so-good Spanish teacher when the housekeeper arrives next week with the house trashed and us all in our pajamas.

And when my car went dead today, it took more than three hours to get it charged because my neighbor thought it was the starter then left for work. And the rest of our neighbors are out of town. When my friends finally came to the rescue, they arrived in stages with two cars, three kids, wet hair and no coats in 20-degree weather. My crazy dog raced up and down the yard, barking and kicking up mulch mixed with snow because the car drama kept growing and growing. Not laugh-out-loud, but once the car started, the image took on a funny Norman Rockwell hue.

And when my five year old and his friend were discovered in serious conversation during the playdate that saved the car drama day, they said, “We’re just talking.”

“About what?”

“About how our big brothers are mean to us.”

And my friend, who was watching them during the car debacle, said, “Well you have a lot in common in then. Do you want to play a new game?”

“Nope, we still have a lot to talk about.”

Maybe when things get bad, you just need to know it’s okay to laugh at the little things. To smile through the pain when one moment makes us forget what we are going through even if it lasts just the blink of an eye before reality sinks in again. Those moments will eventually build on each other so that whole days go by when we feel happy again. When we can think of what is lost or those we miss without such intense sorrow. When we are open to the funny things that happen every day.

The amazing thing is when the person suffering the most is the one who reminds of us that. Who releases us to laugh with them.


Prom Night: Then and Now

Parents at my sons’ school hosted 80s Prom Night this weekend as a fundraiser on behalf of the Parents’ Association. The buzz beforehand made it sound like fun. So my friends and I discovered a local thrift shop called Flossy McGrew’s, which has racks of clothes hanging together by decade. Trying on 80s prom dresses had us all giggling like schoolgirls, trying to zip things we had no business zipping, and worrying that we would miss carpool.

With the dress picked out, I got my husband a matching cummerbund. Then we invited some parents over for drinks before the big dance.

It was a blast. Best night I’ve had in a while. And I keep thinking of the differences between my high school prom in June of 1985 and this one.

In 1985, I wore a much nicer dress. It was black. Classic, but admittedly with a bow in matching material. This time I picked the dress for the bow, the red rosebuds around the neckline, and its overall tackiness. No need to look good as long as it fit. And no worries if someone else wore the same dress.

In 1985, I drank less.

In 1985, I ate more. We went to a Japanese steakhouse, where they cooked at the table, and I thought I’d gone to heaven.

In 1985, I wore a corsage that annoyed me and flat shoes.

In 1985, no one complained about crow’s feet in the prom photos.

In 1985, I don’t think I danced as much, or had as much fun doing it.

In 1985, there was tons of relationship drama. And friend drama. And who knows what kind of drama I didn’t know about.

In 1985, the after-party was better than the prom, and I stayed up past midnight.

In 1985, my knees weren’t so old, and didn’t hurt the next day…

… after all that dancing in heels and a dress that itched.

Since Him

As of October 30, my husband and I have been married for 13 years. We were together for more than a handful of years before that. There was life before him, and life since him. I still think of life before him as this very long, adventure-filled journey in which I grew up, learned everything I know, and became the person he first met and who I am today. I also keep thinking that it was much, much longer than my life since him. Post-him life has sped by. There is no way, in my mind until I count it out, that we have been together that long.

This anniversary, doing the math, I realized that while pre-him life remains slightly longer, it’s not by much. And I also realized that I have grown up, learned a lot, gone on quite a few adventures, and keep becoming who I am today with him in the years since him.

We have lived together in four cities, built lives there and moved on. We have hiked the Grand Canyon and the trails of Crested Butte. We have skied more mountains than I ever imagined getting down and surviving. We have explored Napa Valley and the streets of New Orleans. We have compared pizza in New York and Chicago. We have debated politics in many restaurants over many bottles of wine – some good and some bad. We have danced badly and sung Sweet Caroline together many times. We have fought while trying to read a map and drive at the same time. We have been to the horse races and nearly ten major league baseball parks. We have watched hundreds of Cape Cod sunsets together, though my first was when I was eight. We have gone to two weddings in Ireland and walked the West Highland Way of Scotland. We have laughed at ourselves and each other a lot. We have had three children, one of whom is already ten. We have changed diapers, cleaned up their puke, watched them walk, learn to talk, survive a broken an arm, learn to read, ride a bike, make a basket, try for a touchdown in the street. We have taken them to Niagara Falls, the Air and Space Museum, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and Bahamas.

I remember being ten like it was yesterday. Like it was during the since him era.

But when I think of all the things we have done together, I realize how long ago since him began. And how much fun we’ve had since then.

The Changing of the Guards

There is a day I dread every year, and I have wished it away since I can remember.

It’s the first day every summer when the newly trained lifeguards twirl their first whistles. It means that the veteran guards have returned to college. That the swim team has disbanded. That the neighborhood kids are all getting reacquainted with their school friends.

It shows when the new, still-in-high-school guards wear their sweatshirts in the suddenly brisk mornings. There is a melancholy in the afternoon light, as if the pool itself knows it will soon be drained, abandoned by its children with only leaves collecting and rotting on the top of the tarp that covers it.

I have nothing against the newly trained guards. I was one once myself a long time ago, eager, alert, proud to be a pool elder, empowered by my new whistle and the height of my chair.

I just know that their first day on the job is the harbinger of the changing seasons, the end of another glorious, happy summer.

Stay-At-Home Mom Seeks Job

Dear [insert Prospective Employer]:

I am sending you my resume in the hope that you do not care that I took a decade off from my career to raise three wonderful boys. I know the economy is tight, and you have received hundreds of resumes for this position. The resumes, I am sure, come from bright young stars who have been paying their dues this last decade while I have stepped away. Their skills have kept up with constantly evolving technology, and they are hungry. The only thing they care about is doing well by the Company and rising in your ranks.

I know you feel like I rejected you for the call of motherhood. I know I am not up to date on the latest industry trends. And yes, I will always leave work if my sons need me. I will ask to come in late so I can read stories in their school library. I will ask to leave early to see them play in a concert or dunk in a basketball game.

Still, you should hire me. Ten years ago, I was getting a promotion every six months because I was so good at what I did. And frankly, I did not deserve it as much as I do now. Motherhood has made me a much stronger candidate:

1) My negotiation skills are certainly in the top 99th percentile. I have resolved countless arguments over who gets to go first, who gets the toy, and who gets to sit in which seat of the car. The mediation is quick, decisive, and there are never lingering doubts about the course of action o follow or hard feelings.
2) I can multitask with the best of them. I have a high-energy, physician-husband, three wild and loud young boys, and a 60-pound, slightly insane puppy. I can help with homework, cook delicious lettuce wraps, respond to requests for a snack, break up a fight, help the youngest in the potty and convince the puppy to drop whatever toy she is eating… all at the same time.
3) I am a consummate listener. I do not need everyone to hear me roar. I have learned that listening to the needs of others gets me further. The second I hear a slight whine in my eight year old boy’s voice, I know he needs to eat something. Hearing that empowers me to strike preemptively and avoid hours of obnoxiousness. This will prove invaluable in building and maintaining your client relationships.
4) I can project manage my way out of anything… even without your new project management software. I just packed the entire family up for a two-week vacation and did not forget a thing.
5) I am one of the quickest learners you will find. I have kept up with my boys’ Internet and social media skills – and they move much faster than large organizations – before they stumble upon things they shouldn’t or hack into the school’s database…or worse.
6) I have adopted stellar stress management tools since I packed up my office. Since getting my oldest through third grade “Job Reports”, I have gained confidence that all deadlines get met. And you don’t have to pull all-nighters to do it. No stress.
7) I am comfortable in a leadership position. I have been ruling a small dictatorship since you saw me last.
8) My commitment to a mission has been tested in the extreme. Almost 14 years of marriage with three boys, and I didn’t run out when my husband brought home the already mentioned 60-pound insane puppy.

So, [insert Prospective Employer], while I understand that the ten-year gap on my resume scares you, and you doubt my commitment to your team – both completely reasonable, I admit – I am your girl.

You couldn’t make a better hire. The last ten years of motherhood are proof.

One more thing – I now wear the cloak of optimism, because as a mother I have seen that everything has a way of working out. I still believe that you are going to call, and I would love the opportunity to put on a 10-year old suit and a new pair of heels for an interview.

All the best,

Why Moms Should be Friends with the Moms of their Children’s Friends

It’s all about staying sane and laughing.

This week, I organized two small events. The first was dinner out with a few friends – each of whom has a fourth grader like me. The second was a few hours at JumpStreet (an indoor trampoline park) for some kids in my son’s class.

I like the moms who showed up to both a lot. I would have chosen them as good friends without my sons having chosen their sons and daughters as friends. So it worked out well for me.

At the dinner, we talked about everything from healthcare policy to traveling with kids, pop culture to dieting in our forties. We shared airplane horror stories that included people being mean, pushing your seat back, bringing peanut butter sandwiches and breastmilk through security, and the airline industry’s apparent refusal to make an effort to seat families together. We talked about Tom and Katie’s divorce, People Magazine as a necessary tool if you have girls, and how the reason for dieting and exercising is shifting for us (we may be resigned to the fact that supermodel bodies are out of the question, but not getting out of breath when we carry the laundry upstairs is still attainable).

At the trampoline park, with our kids stopping by periodically to request money for video games (No!), vending machines (No!) and band-aids (Oh, sweetie, what happened?!), we snuck in funny stories about our children and summer adventures.

By the time I returned home, I felt sane again. I had had a total of five hours of adult conversation. I had laughed at myself and the foibles and follies of my friends. I had told stories about the concerning behavior of my sons, thinking they were suffering from some unique form of “torture your mother” and pre-adolescent angst only to learn that all their friends were behaving the same way.

My children are not impossibly unique or behaving strangely. When they upset me, somewhere down the block or around the corner a friend of mine is getting similarly upset over her child. When I can’t sleep because I am worried about them, at least one of my friends is tossing and turning too. When they make me laugh because they are the cutest guys on the planet, a friend is grinning from ear to ear watching her goofball do something equally laugh-out-loud amusing. My boys are good. They are wonderful. They will very likely survive the teen years without jail time. They love me even when they roll their eyes, stomp their feet, cross their arms, or decide to be mad at the world for an hour.

…and I am not alone. I have my friends.