Mother is a Verb

Mother is a Verb

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas 1998

Oh! You'd better watch out, Christmas is near...
I really don't have time for a letter this year...
Nicki's been home sick for two weeks!
She's there when I am sleeping; she's there when I'm awake; She knows if she is bad or good,
She'll still be there for goodness sake! Oh!

To sympathizers far and near:

1998 was the year the kids discovered the musical...following their debut in My Fair Lady last winter, was a rousing Cabaret in June, and a whirlwind Wizrd of Oz in August with even Nicki masquerading as a munchkin. Currently the house is alive with The Sound Of Music-the kids insist on singing every song loud and clear! We've found that adjusting the lyrics slightly pretty much covers life as we know it-so try humming the tunes as you read along with the songs.

(You are Sixteen Going on Seventeen...)
Kris is nine years going on ten years...the mall is a sacred spot.
New clothes are cool: We bought them for school...
So why are jeans all she's got??!
She is nine years headed for teen years...fourth grade sure seems tough;
Sleepovers rule and friends can be cruel...
I think that I've seen enough!

(Raindrops on Roses)
Snowdays on school days and food filled with sugar
Bellbottoms, skateboards, and cool words like" booger"
Funny old movies and crushing with Dad
These are a few of Will's favorite fads.
When the kitchen's closed, when there's a dress code,
When he's feeling sad...
We simply give in on some favorite thing,
And then we don't feel so bad.

(Edelweiss, edelweiss...)
Kevin dear, was it the tubes in your ears? Every morning you wake us.
Cheerful but loud, you're heard in a crowd. Why does quiet forsake us?
Bundle of nerves, may you keep all your verve,
Keep all your verve forever.
Kevin dear, though we no longer hear...bless your loud laugh forever.

(Doe, a deer, a female deer...)
Oh, our Nicki, our willful Nicki; Pray a drop of patience more
"Pee" a word, I hear a lot; "Ha!" a favorite nonsequitur.
"No!" a favorite of us all; "Ma!" a word to follow "No!"
"He", a favorite one to blame
Which will bring us back to Oh, oh, oh,oh...

(Climb Every Mountain...)
Play every golf course, Drive high and far;
Follow every fairway, till you shoot under par.
A par that will need every hour you can give...
Every weekend of your life, for as long as you live.

Phil started the year off on the infamous Atkins diet. I had good intentions of joining him, but 10 hours into Day One he informed me of the "no vino" component and I was out. CHEERS!
After three weeks without carbs, Phil was a lean, mean (and I mean, mean) workout machine which made for some rousing conversations: "56 reps, you don't say?" Of course it was all worth it as his golf game came within a stroke of the club championship in September and an envy-producing 73 at Augusta two weeks ago. As for work, well let's suffice it to say there's a good reason why they call it that!

(High on a Hill was a Lonely Goatherd...)
Out in the car was the crazy mother, lay--eeo-dl, lay-ee-o0dl, lay-ee-oo
Driving back and forth, the chaufeer, their mother, ley-ee o-dl, lay-eeod-l, lay-ee-oo...

Actually this year my new motto is Carpool or Bust!
After a taste of indolence during seven sweet weeks on the Jersey Shore with no to-do list,
I've begun to appreciate the beauty of a half-full calendar, and time set aside for the 3 Rs: Reading, running, and relaxing with Phil and the troops. This is not to say that there isn't always something I should be doing ...only that I'm not necessarily doing it as much as I used to!

We have a lot to be thankful for this year: a 'both sides of the family' reunion in Sea Island Georgia last spring (the site of our first date for those who are interested). Thanksgiving with my whole family, and Christmas with most of Phil's. Not to mention that three out of four kids can tie their own shoes, ride their own bikes, and wipe their own...well you get the picture!

Our house is filled with the sound of music, with songs they have sung a hundred times...but the house fills my heart with the sound of children; my heart wants to savor every song it hears.

Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday and New Year!

With much love,
Gretchen, Phil, Kristen, Will, Kevin, & Nicki

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christmas 1997

To Our Friends Far and Wide,

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true loves gave to me...12 tearful tussles, eleven ear infections, ten trips to Tarrytown, 9 "nah nah nah nahs", eight exceptions to The Golden Rule, seven sib sob stories, six separate snack attacks, five filthy faces, (Phil counts!) four full-blown fevers, three bulging back-packs, two temper tantrums, and a mitten that is missing its mate. 1997 has been music to our ears, or something along those lines. While we used to cringe at Barney's 'I love you, you love me, we're a happy family' now we have the good fortune to listen to 'ifyawannabemalover,first yagottabemahfriend'. Yes, even three-year old Nicki has discovered the Spice Girls. Lawd, have mercy!

As for anyone who decided to stop feeling sorry for me now that three out of four are in school...think again! Think that the fourth is Nicki!! and then think lunches, think field trips, think back-packs, think science fairs, think homework, think privacy...not. Think ballet, and piano, and swimming, and drama, and choir, and Brownies, and Wolfscouts. Think sucker! Think fund-raising, consciousness-raising, flag-raising, tuition-raising, standard -raising, hair-raising. Think anything but hand-raising. I was hoping the kids would start raising their hands to talk to me, but no such luck.

Nicole is 3 now and has been exposed to enough bathrom talk to take her through a residency in gastroenterology, gynecology, or urology at Columbia. She is earthy and irreverent. Her favorite expressions include"I mean, uh duhhhh, Mom!" and "nice pucci-pucci" ala Jungle-to-Jungle-I will not translate. Kevin has hit kindergarten and continues to be our own personal super-hero. His Halloween costume history speaks for itself...see if you detect a theme: SuperMan, Budman (Phil cut three holes in an empty Bud case), Power Ranger, X-Man, Spiderman. He loves Playmobil, computers, and his brother. He never stops moving or making noise, even when he's sleeping. Willie continues to wage war with his siblings and charm everyone else. He likes to eat sweets and wear sweats; loves Beanie Babies (we're 48 and counting); and is largely responsible for our latest mode of family communication-the infamous acronym INF (i.e. It's Not Fair!"). We have also developed some alternate interpretations to suit each of us including "It's not funny!" (Kevin), "It's not free (me), It's not fattening (Phil), "It's not fragile" (Nicki), and It's not from the Gap" (Kristen). Kris is working at recreating herself in the image of Claudia (the coolest member of the Babysitter's Club). She wants clothes and music for Christmas! I repeat, she wants clothes and music for Christmas! Help...$#@#^*%$*%...puberty is just around the corner and I just started sleeping through the night!

Phil is increasingly consumed with the worlds of finance and golf. He has developed a split personality disorder featuring Mike Milken and Nick Faldo. The inside scoop has Nick in the lead...but please keep it quiet-we really need that bonus this year. At home he leads the troops in rousing renditions of the Grinch's theme song and has everyone doing a pretty solid J-E-T-S cheer. We get together occasionally to compare calendars, ATM withdrawal slips, and notes on the latest crisis.

For Christmas, we are asking for a weekend when Aunt Laura get snowed in and we get snowed out, two new sets of matching earplugs, and the continued blessings of close families and and close friends.

We wish you a happy & healthy holiday and plenty of peace & joy in the year ahead!

With Love, Gretchen, Phil, Kristen, Willie, Kevin, and Nicki

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas 1996

Dear Santa et al:

I've been a very, very good girl this year...well, a pretty good girl...all right, a somewhat good girl. Okay, okay, so I've been a raving lunatic who curses out every other car on the road, feeds her kids lollipops before 7 AM, sends out blank party invitations, and threatens telemarketers (and anyone else who calls between 5-8 PM) with severe bodily harm.

Enough true confessions...on with the news. 1996 has been designated the year of the cough. Beyond Nicole's every day asthma-related cough, we've become well-acquainted
with the hacking cough (Willie), the gagging cough (Kevin), and the 'I'm pretending I'm not coughing' cough (Kristen). Then there is the 'I never got around to getting a flu shot' cough (Phil) and the 'What the hell, everyone else in Westchester has it, so why shouldn't I?' cough (me). Thankfully, we no longer have the smoker's cough, and for those of you who never knew, never mind: and for those of you who did-aren't you impressed? So what if I eat a whole bag of popcorn by myself every night, I can still fit through the door, and anyway... didn't I already say "enough true confessions"??!

Kristen is a savvy second grader and an official member of the Babysitters' Club Books Fan Club (guess how much that's going to cost me every month?!) She has big plans and a big heart, is beginning to complain about homework, giggle about boys, and contemplate the true meaning of Christmas.
Willie, at six, has hit his stride: he loves to draw, build forts, watch cartoons, annoy his sibs, and is in continuous training for the 2004 Olympics Men's Gymnastics Team. His two favorite phrases are "It's not fair!" and "I'm still hungry".

Kevin is into transformers, computers and legos. He hates vegetables, rules and "gorls". He frequently threatens us with 'the friend thing'- "if you don't let me do whatever the hell I want (including eating all the Halloween candy in one sitting, tying up my baby sister, and running out in the street naked), then I won't be your friend anymore!"

Nicki is two and invariably infuriating. She has recently discovered hair-pulling as a quick sibling attention-getter and has quite a grip! She loves food, pacifiers, and the Macarena. Two years of having her siblings lord it over her has finally come back to haunt them as her favorite household phrase now is "go away, you dumb baby!".

Phil has been working on his transformation from Type A to Type B with extraordinary success. Having survived a month of self-induced deprivation in September (no caffeine, alcohol, fat or sugar!?!) his body was, for a brief moment, "a temple" (his own words). For all of you former drinking buddies and fellow White Castle-holics, never fear. His body reverted to its natural tavern state well before Columbus Day! He continues to provide the kids with creative and spur-of-the-moment entertainment ranging from huge fort-like rocket ships built from discarded box springs to "I'll give you a quarter if you get me a Bud without shaking it".

We really do have a lot to be thankful for this year: the precious time spent with my brother and his family as they continue battling Batten's Disease with their daughter, Betsy; the huge outpouring of love, support, and help to my parents and our own family while my father weathered back-to-back bypass and aneurism surgery last month. And last, but not least, the fact that for the first time in nearly eight years, our children all sleep through the night (except when they have coughs).

We have been abominable about keeping up with even the closest of friends (we hardly keep up with each other...want proof? I'm not pregnant and we don't have a new baby!) So please forgive us if this is the first time you've heard from us since last Christmas and don't feel bad because it's probably the last time you'll hear from us 'til next! Nevertheless, we wish you a very happy and healthy holiday and plenty of peace and joy in the year ahead.

With Love,
Gretchen & Phil, Kristen, Willie, Kevin, and Nicki

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christmas 1995

Dear Friends,

Tis a year since last Christmas and all through the house
We've had chicken pox, pneumonia, lice, and a mouse.
The kids are oft' nestled snug in our bed,
A knee in Phil's groin, a foot under my head.

Despite hours of trial and error, we've concluded our life doesn't fit into a poem, so back to the prose it is...

Kristen is six and all grown up. She's busy with dance, theatre, first
grade friends & foes, and teaching us all how to use this new computer. Willie is begging for karate classes, eats candy as if it were...candy, and has decided that being younger than Kristen isn't so bad, as long as he's older than Kevin! Kev runs around the house singing the theme song from Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: 'If I could be an only Mom and Dad would treat me like a king' between dire threats that "anyone that don't pee in der pants...dey can't come to my birfday party". Nicole is 16 months old with the temper of a 16 year old with a curfew. She is proficient at clicking on the tv, karate-chopping like the pink Power Ranger, pulling out every pot in the kitchen, while simultaneously turning on the stove, turning off the dishwasher, and throwing my shopping list in the garbage disposal.

Phil is a trooper and has gotten used to the fact that dinner is often burnt, on paper plates or nonexistent. He works from dark to dark, dreams of long summer days with a cold beer and a hot putter, and is wrapped around the fingers of both little girls while continuing to provide wrestlemania - style entertainment for the boys. As for me, I've bought stock in Maxwell House, can drive Route 9 with my eyes closed, and often feel like the Grinch railing against "all that noise, noise, noise"!

Actually, we have a lot to be thankful for this year: the speedy recovery of Phil's dad following a heart attack in January, the joy of watching Nicole grow, walk babble (and karate chop) despite her continuing battle with asthma; the overwhelming outpouring of love, support, and research funds for our niece, Betsy; and the prospect of having our whole family together again for the holidays this year.

For X-Mas I'm asking Santa for a full night's sleep, a child-proof VCR, earplugs, and (Phil are you reading this?) a car phone. Phil would be happy with a single household appliance that worked the first time he hooked it up, a flight that was on time...and that he made in time, and a chance to finish his round at Cypress Point.

As for you, we hope your year is filled with hope, health, peace, and joy!

With Love, Gretchen and Phil, Kristen, Willie, Kevin, and Nicki