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Last weekend, Medium called a family meeting. We haven’t had one in months and I had no idea what triggered her to think of it.

She explained her problem and clearly communicated her expectations for our behavior. We raised our eyebrows (I may have smirked a little) and nodded understandingly. Every one of us promised to do better in the future.

We dispersed to our posts in front of various screens and quite frankly, I forgot the whole thing.

That is, until this morning, when I staggered into the bathroom for a shower and found this written reminder of my girl’s instructions:

Protected by Ziploc

She is her mother’s daughter. The “…or else” was implied.

“Chop, chop, chippity, chop! Cut off the bottom and cut off the top! Whatever’s left, you put in the pot!”

“Hey! Where’d my butt go?”

When was the last time you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? When was it that you couldn’t speak because your body was in paroxysms of G-rated pleasure? When can you recall being so full of joy nothing else in the world mattered except your own happiness?

My children are in that moment, right now.

It’s a beautiful day outside but the two of them are inside, repeating this obnoxious song ad nauseum, talking about their butts, and laughing and laughing and laughing.

They’re about 30 seconds to one minute away from someone having a meltdown but I don’t have the heart to stop their frivolity. They’ll learn all too soon that moments like these are fleeting and precious and that they should enjoy them whenever they can.

I want to laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

Maybe tomorrow? Will that work for you?

Yes, I’m a Harry Potter geek. I’m not going to apologize for it. If I could, I’d be going to the midnight viewing of HP7, part deux, but I digress. This rant is not about having to wait two whole days to get my HP fix. No, this morning’s tizzy is brought to you by Small and Large, children of modest intelligence possessing supremely selective hearing.

After a particularly fun and busy weekend filled with good friends, chainsaws, bikes and baseball games, our whole family has a “case of the Mondays.” Both of my boys realized they forgot essential equipment for their day while we were en route to their separate drop-off points. These concurrent memory lapses required me to turn the car around and go home to retrieve the items, wasting my time and two gallons of gas and putting us 20 minutes behind schedule. Adding to my stress was the fact that both boys were supposed to be dropped off at 9 a.m. at locations 4 miles apart.

I told Liam to tuck and roll when I threw him and his stuff out of the car. It was a gravel parking lot. I’m sure he’s just fine.

How’s your day going? Anything you’d like to rant about? Feel free to howl about it in the comments section.

This rant is from a friend in D.C.:

“Parents, please stop allowing your children to put their mouths on the railings when riding on the Metro. I barely want to sit on the seats fully clothed and I cannot even imagine the amount of germs partying on those railings and handlebars. Just saying…”

I wholly agree. Then again, if it keeps them quiet…

 

My family is no more (or less) dysfunctional than others—like most, we have our secrets and quirks. However, on the holidays, we drag out our best behavior along with the good china and we gather together. Each of us strives to avoid the hot button issues that we know will ignite old arguments and we all uphold the small traditions to which we are accustomed, at least obligingly if not effortlessly.

As a teenager, I was far less accommodating. I would sulk in corners and make disparaging remarks, then disappear before the dishes were cleared from the table. I’m not sure how my parents withstood my insufferable attitude.

Now, with every passing holiday, I appreciate my family’s particular flavor of dysfunction a little more. Although I cannot dispute that we are an acquired taste, it is one that I prefer over any other.

My husband and I, along with Small, Medium and Large, celebrated Thanksgiving day with my parents, my sister, and my brother and his family. Our blessing went like this:

“BlessusoLordforthesethygifts,whichweareabouttoreceivethroughthybountythrough
ChristoLord,Amen.”

“Give food to the needy,” my mother added her normal intercession.

“And world peace,” my husband said quietly.

I shot him the Not Now look.

“Oh, yes,” said my mother, gathering momentum for a longer prayer. “And bring our troops home safely and….”

“Yes, yes. That’s fine,” my non-Catholic father interrupted. “Let’s eat.”

Driving home after feasting like Kings—an incredible meal that I know took my mother all week to prepare—I asked the kids what they were thankful for.

“Family,” said Liam.

“Yeah, family,” said Nora. “And for the stars.”

Pleased, I turned in my seat to look at our littlest angel.

“What are you thankful for, Henry?”

“I am thankful for….mythelf,” he said smugly.

I guess he hasn’t acquired the taste as yet.

We spent the weekend in Boston with the kids—packing in the memories like sardines in a can. The Children’s Museum. The Barking Crab. Nantasket Beach. The Red Parrot. U2 at Gillette Stadium (this last was only for Liam and Brendan). We stopped fifty miles from home to return the borrowed stroller to my in-laws and to pick up our other car. I offered to drive the sedan in a selfish ploy for an hour of peace and quiet.

“Anyone coming with?” I called, hurling myself from the still moving vehicle. “No? See you at home!”

I was opening the car’s door when I heard the van pull in behind me. It had been too good to be true.

“Medium and Large are coming with you,” my husband announced, gripping the steering wheel with one hand and his Blackberry with the other. He continued perusing his email inbox and didn’t notice the glare I gave him.

“Are you kidding?”

“Nope. They want to be with you.”

I am almost never alone. This is one of the hard truths I have faced while morphing from Woman-With-A-Career to OINK. I am constantly accompanied by, or in the company of, others. Usually very small others. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a people person. I like people and I like to believe that they like me. But there are times when I pause to think longingly about closing the door to my office and sending the calls to voicemail; about the rental cars where I listened to whatever caught my fancy on the radio; about the airports where I sat blanketed in anonymity—just a speck in the endlessly amusing spectacle of humanity.

In those spaces, no little voices were ordering me to turn up the volume on “Crazy Frog,” whining about needing a snack ten minutes after we finished breakfast, sobbing that someone had poked them. And while I had other voices in my head—the ones reminding me to finish this proposal or that brief, nagging me to return phone calls and emails, chastising me for being the parent who was always late picking up her kids from daycare—they were all my own.

I miss my own company.

My husband interrupted my reverie. “Liam didn’t want you to be lonely.” The side of the van slid open and Liam jumped out, followed closely by his sister. In spite of myself, I was touched by my son’s thoughtfulness. He gave me an awkward, one-armed hug and ducked his head. He and Nora scurried off.

“Well, that was sweet of them.” I tried to sound positive.

My husband chuckled. “Nora is only coming with you because she wants to be with Liam. When Liam worried you’d be lonely, she told us, ‘Mommy’s not lonely–she’s fine! Liam, you stay with me!’”

Either she knows me better than I realize or she is more like me than I know.

I love my kids, but what I need is a Fortress of Solitude.

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