My Team 50.0

The big five-OMG is just around the corner. Friends and family began asking how I wanted to mark the beginning of the next half century almost a year before it was due, so I felt some obligation to not try to ignore this one birthday.

Just before Thanksgiving, I remembered Thing1’s birthday climb a year earlier to the top of Mount Equinox in Manchester, VT and decided that would be a fun activity (I swear I was completely sober). We thought about doing it as a fund-raiser for a charity that helps children with Ulcerative Colitis. As I investigated, though, I realized a mountain climb in April in Vermont could still involve snowshoes in some parts and would certainly exclude family members who can’t climb on a completely dry day. Finally, wanting to make health and family part of ‘my day’, I settled on running a fundraising 5K with Thing1 and Thing2 and extended family.

There was only one problem with the plan.

It means running a 5K.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, but, even though I’m roughly the shape of a cream-filled donut (and, at the time of this writing may contain almost as much chocolate), I will not be rolling across the finish line in a wheelbarrow.

Which means running that 5K.

Enter Thing1 with his concerned but not reproachful fitness training approach.

Thing1, you may recall, had his entire colon removed at the end of October and then had everything reconfigured in December. You could say it involved a couple of big operations — so big they kept us in the hospital until our bill for 2018 finished its own 500k. He should, by all rights, be still recovering.

Somehow, however, Thing1 is in better shape than the rest of his family, a fact that made him the de-facto personal trainer for Team Barlow. He takes his duties seriously, mapping out a hiking route each day (lots of hills and huffing and puffing), telling us that by the end of March it will be a running route (lots of dubious looks from his team).

The first day, I had to stop in the middle of the first hill. I had to stop in the middle of the second hill. When I stopped in the middle of the third hill, Thing2 stopped with me.

Thing1 was always just a bit ahead, often at the top swell of the hill, waiting for us. He would make a lousy drill sergeant (he’s too nice), but, as he called, “You can do it,” to me/us for the umpteenth time, I thought for umpteenth time what a great superhero he is (his super power is inspiration).

The next day I didn’t have to stop until the third hill. Thing1 was running ahead and then running back to ‘keep it challenging” (yeah,he said it going up a hill). Thing2 was running ahead and then walking slowly to give me time to catch up.

By the third day, I had started running bits and pieces of the route (I still have to stop for a second on the last hill). Today, we’ll walk/run for the fourth time.

I know the race route will be on one of the flatter roads in Vermont, flat being a relative term here, but we are keeping this route until ‘my day’ at the end of April. We may not be running the entire route by then, but my team will be finishing it together.

It’s a good way to kick off the next half-century.

Commando Parenting

I always said if any kid of mine where is the teeniest bit artistically inclined, I would encourage the heck out of that inclination. Thing2 is, and I do, but I swear that if there is a God up there, he or she has finely honed sense of humor.

I was a slob as a kid. I collected everything and threw away almost nothing. I had drawings on little scraps of paper and stole my mom‘s scissors for drawings and creations. She never expressly said she hoped I’d have a kid just like me, but I think in the back of her mind she must’ve known that it be a pretty good revenge.

She’s getting it.

Thing2’s room has gone from being inspirational to hazmat training ground. His creativity has gone high-tech, so boxes of pencils, markers, and half-filled sketchbooks share space with a DIY Recording studio where he swears he’s going to make animated films to make George Lucas drool. It’s also filled with empty popcorn bags and scraps of paper and – you guessed it – Mom’s stolen scissors.

I have drawn several lines in the sand to get him to clean it. Carefully delineated boundaries worked beautifully with Thing1, but, despite his volcanic colon, he can be pretty obsessive about keeping his space organized. It took only one full-scale clean out of his room to help him make the jump from messy tween to fastidious young adult.

One thing I’m finding about artistically-inclined offspring, however, is that simply bulldozing the room doesn’t get the point across. It just creates more canvas. So I’m taking a new tactic today.

As I carried out a little clutter control this morning in the rest of the house, I noted that my creative kid had left “his” iPad and ten-year-old computer in the living room, presumably after shooting footage for a fan-fiction movie he’s been scripting. The iPad is old, but it still works so it wasn’t going into that sty of a room where we might invent the first human to iPad virus. I decided to hide it in ours until the room gets clean.

Hiding precious objects gets rooms superficially clean quickly, but today I mean business. I want it actually clean. On my next trip back to the living room, I picked up the laptop to find a hiding place for it. I had almost passed his room when I thought of the perfect place. I went into his room and moved some of the carnage away from the bunkbed. I put the laptop in the safe little nook behind the bunkbed and then put the carnage back.

I figure about 4PM, I’ll either be up for parent of the year or getting a visit from child protective services — right after he hears he can the laptop back when he can find it.

Sunshine Good Day

Halloween happy

Jack was born in the summer.  By default, our summer travel routine and the vacation plans of most of his classmates made most of his birthday celebrations quite a bit smaller and tamer than the circus-like orgies of cake and presents that are depicted as normal and desirable in movies or ads.  His birthdays are often spent with family doing something special at the beach or going to a favorite museum.

We knew that  six-year-old Thing2’s October birthday made the more traditional kid birthday party more likely.  He’s seven today, and we planned his birthday over the weekend.  Watching Jack’s interest in traditional kid birthday parties (even when we offered) begin to fade when he was around nine, I know there won’t be many of these left.

Thing2, the Big Guy and I decided he should invite his classmates, and a few weeks ago, I filled his backpack with his homework, lunch, and seventeen invitations.  Knowing that not everyone RSVPs for kids’ parties, the Big Guy and I got the house ready for a halloween-themed party on Columbus Day Weekend. 

Three kids and their moms showed up.

At first I was a little nervous about Thing2’s reaction to the dearth of kids (and presents, of course), but he didn’t seem to notice.  For two hours, the kids cavorted in the sun and the leaves for two hours.  They beat apart and divided the treasure from a piñata filled with candy for 16 kids.  There was no pin-the-tail on the donkey or other party games.  Instead, they screamed and laughed as they chased each other through and around the house.  The Big Guy in his Herman Munster costume and I as Lily Munster sat at the table with the three other moms getting to know each other a little better than we do at the bus stop.

Thirteen-year-old Jack’s own memories of these few traditional kid parties are often impressions of sunny days, the details blurred by distance.  I know this day will blend into the collection of parties we’ve thrown for Thing2 as well.  But I’m hoping that his memory is marking that, while a larger party would have been fun too, sometimes less really is more.

Grounders

Grounded

It’s Saturday morning, and we’re off to T-ball.  Almost all our Saturdays involve some morning sport with one or both of the boys.  In winter it’s the perfect antidote to cabin fever, but this morning it’s helping get me grounded again.

A weekend away at the Cape led to a week of catching up at work and at home.  I forgot most of what I wanted to write about, and substituting marathon digital days for family face time was hardly inspiring.  As we drive down the hills from our house to the main road, it’s impossible not to notice the intense green that’s overtaken the mountains with the longer days.  I know that’s not where I’ll find my inspiration today, but I will find it.

We’re a little late getting to T-ball, and the boys have to run to get from the parking lot to the field in time for the first at bat.  By the time we get to the dugout, twelve-year-old Thing1 is helping the coaches and six-year-old Thing2 is zipping around the bases and racing bunted balls to first base.  It’s one of the few times I don’t have my camera with me, and all I can do is watch and let the rhythm of the day get me grounded in our lovely rut again.  And that’s where the inspiration will be.

The Hairy Edge

Photo

Maybe if it hadn’t been a snow day filled with lolling about and lying around, this milestone might have gone unnoticed.  But twelve-year-old Thing1, getting as big as a good-natured Goliath these days, made the mistake of mentioning that he wanted a shower on a slow news day.  The Big Guy and I looked at our son and then back at each other, the same question on our minds.

I think the Big Guy was the first to ask Goliath point blank if there was a girl involved.  Our firstborn immediately rebuffed such a ridiculous suggestion.  His hair was too long, he said.  It was too warm and he needed to cool off.  

I don’t mean to imply that Goliath doesn’t shower regularly.  But anyone who’s raised or raising boys will concur that there comes a phase in their lives when they develop severe soap allergies, as evidenced – at our house – by the sounds of cajoling and pleading (and that’s the parents) that commence many evenings just after supper time.  We have heard every excuse for why Goliath and his six-year-old tormenter, David, should abstain from contact with cleanliness.  They don’t feel dirty.  They’re just going to get dirty again tomorrow.  They’re trying to save water and (going after our off-grid Achille’s heels) electricity.  So when we haven’t had to cajole or plead for not just one night, but three in a row, it’s a major event.

The Big Guy and I didn’t contest any further his earnest contention that a sudden romantic interest was not at the source of this sudden spate of elective hygiene.  Once Goliath cleared his place and retreated to his half-hour shower, however, the Big Guy and I looked at each other, realizing we are getting closer and closer to the scary hairy edge of being parents of a full-fledged teenager.  And as frightening as that thought is, the scarier idea is just how fast it’s all going.