Husband, Just Live My Life for Mother's Day

Love of my life, father of my four glorious children…….

I want you to wipe down the wall behind the toilet. It’s a lovely shade of maize and smells faintly of Bourbon Street on a Sunday morning. Start about 6 inches from floor, work your way up. Higher. Yea, I didn’t think that was possible either. Wear gloves. Hazmat suit totally optional.

I want you to fill out all the forms for the next 6 months. That’s right. ALL THE FORMS. The 20 pages I will get next month for school registration renewal, the field trip forms, the insurance forms, the athletic forms, the camp forms, the club forms, the order forms, the return forms, the rebate forms, the warranty forms. Man oh man I am so gonna miss doing that.

I want you to memorize four social security numbers, four shoe sizes, four pant sizes, four shirt sizes, and four underwear sizes. Sizes are subject to change spontaneously and without any type of notice What. So. Ever. There is no systemic, equal, or gradual increase in any or all of these sizes. One day you are buying a size 3 shoe, next week a 7. Go with it.

I want you to cut out coupons for the next 6 months. Alphabetize and file by expiration date, store, and food group.  I want you to know, just plain KNOW what coupons to NOT cut out, and you can’t ask me. Hint: I don’t buy pop-tarts,  everything in the house always needs disinfecting, and we don’t have a cat. And you see that stretchy bra like thingie they sell by mail order on the last page of the coupons? It  looks mighty comfy. I like pink.

I want you to make all the well child doctor appointments for the next year.  Go ahead and make appointment for 7:00 am so they don’t miss school. It’s always easy to get people clean and dressed and in the car by 6:30 a.m. A total ball! Don’t worry, there is drive thru coffee on the way. Drink it fast because it will get cold while you sit in the pediatrician’s waiting room for 2 hours watching a new mom try to console a screaming colicky infant. Bring that hazmat suit you used earlier, to defend against the 2 year old with green snot dripping out of his nose hacking up a lung on your lap. The peds office is blast I tell ya! Remember, you’re the one who didn’t buy the  “I have a headache” excuse. See where it got you?

I want you to gain and lose exactly 28 pounds, four times, and over the course of 40 weeks. Oh wait, really only 20 weeks because over the first 20 you will vomit up your small intestine, as well as what is left of any actual fluid left floating in your  wilting veins. Don’t worry, eventually it’s totally awesome packing on 15 pounds in just one month because you realistically haven’t eaten a morsel in five. Sure, the skin on your stomach won’t know what hit it but come on, stretch marks are IN baby! It’s not like bathing suit season is soon or anything.

I want your penis to triple in size.  Stop it. Don’t get too excited. This will not be for yours or my enjoyment. I would like it to triple in size and at the same time I want the feeling of someone touching it to be painful, annoying, and downright horrible.  Oh, and it has to now nourish a person, as in keep them alive, for like, over a year. And I want you to have to wear the ugliest underwear on the planet for your new awesomely large beverage dispensing penis.  Then suddenly, I want it to shrink to 5 sizes smaller than it was before. There. I feel better now.

I want someone to pull a watermelon out of your lower abdomen after a quick slice and dice with their scalpel. No biggie. Then I want them to  hand you the watermelon, a maxi pad the size of a pool raft, a trial size bottle of baby shampoo and say “Now while you recover, don’t lift anything heavy, like say,  a watermelon. Godspeed!”

I want you to meet me on my running route every day and at several different places, with water, holding a poster that says, “You are hauling ASS hunny! I am soooo  making dinner tonight!”
I want you to pick out both the movie and the restaurant. I swear to God I don’t care. I just cannot make one more damn decision or be in control on ONE. MORE. THING. Just pick it. (No place with TV’s hung high playing ESPN.)

I want you to not bring me breakfast in bed. Do not let my kids make and/or bring me breakfast in bed. Do not let anyone make/bring me breakfast in bed unless their name is Ina Garten, and I have awoken to discover I slept at a Four Seasons last night, on Martha’s Vineyard, next to an open window with a cool breeze wafting in smelling of lavender.  Then, by all means…..

I do not want you to draw me a bath. I want you to erase the drawings in the bathtub. Even the one I ‘accidentally’ made last week when I dropped an entire bottle of red nail polish in there. Sorry about that. I had my foot propped up on the side of the tub, and roughly 3 seconds to try to make 4 toenail-less toes look, well, not so horrific. On that note, don’t buy me cute sandals.

I want you to drink English tea and eat scones with me while I watch Downton Abbey. Don’t talk. Don’t frown. Don’t ask questions. Just sit there and sip, nod, and smile gingerly when Violet cracks a good one. Then clean up and ask me, “Will there be anything else this evening my lady?”

I want you to know that being a mom to your 4 boys (reminder again- YOUR swimmers had the AWOL females)  is the most outrageous, most fatiguing, most mentally taxing, mind numbing, non-stop disaster inducing, tear generating, nerve ending,  aggravatingly thrilling, unbelievably herculean thing I have ever or will ever do. EVER. It is the laughing until it hurts and you cry kind of fun that I never want to stop having. EVER. And I really don’t need flowers, cards, candles, or dinner out. I just need you guys. All of you. All the time. Simple.  But if the spirit moves you to, oh, I dunno, empty the dishwasher, or bring me a cup of coffee……please don’t hesitate. I’ll take it.

A Librarian's 7 Tips to Get Boys to Read

Before I had my own children and was working as a children’s librarian, one of the most frequent questions I got from parents was “How do I get my boys to read?” This perplexed me, as I had grown up a voracious reader, and simply thought all children were born with a natural curiosity and great appreciation for books. I never imagined there to be such a large disparity between genders when it came to literacy. It wasn’t until I looked deeper that I realized there were always more girls and than boys at my toddler and preschool story times. This disparity continued throughout the elementary years, when little girls heavily outnumbered little boys in after school and summer reading program participation, and continued well into adolescence, when boys all but disappeared from 'tween and teen library programs.

Where did they go and why aren’t boys readers?

Why does study after study continue to show boys score significantly less on reading and writing achievement tests than their female counterparts?

Educational researchers have tried to explain this, and among several of the reasons for the disparity includes the very basic principle that the sexes are simply wired differently for literacy. Cultural and societal influences tend to steer boys toward non-literacy related activities, such as more physical competitive sports, while girls, even at pre-kinder ages, show higher verbal maturation and a much stronger desire to enjoy sitting and reading as their favored recreational activity.

It wasn’t until I had my own children, four BOYS, that I understood all of above, as well as huge differences in how boys and girls view books as a whole, and reading for recreation and pleasure. Let’s face it, boys DO NOT sit still, and not high on the top of their to-do list is to kick back, relax, and tear through 20 chapters of an emotional story about vampires and girl crushes.

So just how am I managing to turn my reluctant boy readers into book lovers?

Well, I’ve taken off my mom hat and put on my librarian hat and come up with these tips for all the boy moms out there with the same question, ”How do I get my boys to read?”

1. Books, Books, Everywhere

And I do mean EVERYWHERE. Keep books all over the house, in all the places your boys will be; by their bedside, on the breakfast table to encourage reading over cereal, on coffee tables, end tables, backseats of cars, and even in the bathroom. I always have a basket of books sitting in the boys’ bathroom at all times, and I switch out titles every few days. Set up a book display corner and highlight seasonal and holiday titles, in the same fashion bookstores do in order to entice readers. Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to purchase cheap books to build up your home’s library. Another great tip is to start a book swap co-op with neighbors and friends. Every week boys can meet to exchange books, and you just might find that this will encourage them to “talk” about what they're reading with their peers- a vital step in keeping their reading interest piqued.

2. Adjust Your Idea of What "Reading" Is

Just because your son isn’t devouring thick fiction chapter books at all times doesn’t mean he isn't reading quality material. For boys, consider many different forms of written word as reading; comic books, manga, joke books, magazines, and even blogs are all excellent forms of “reading.” To put it in terms some boys will grasp, consider non-traditional forms of reading as you would consider “practicing” in sports. Baseball players spend hours at batting practice before they step up to the plate in a game, so even reading atypical non-fiction is preparing them to be better critical fiction readers in the future.

3. Boys Gravitate to the Gross, the How-To, and the Survival/Adventure Genres

Hand a boy a book with the word “fart” in the title and you can almost guarantee that boy will give it a look. Don’t let the fact your boys may spend years in phases of reading only one type of genre- the gross one- bother you. They will outgrow this, and it's developmentally age appropriate for boys to gravitate towards topics they find hilarious and can heavily relate to. Boys also do well with reference and list type books, how-to's, almanacs of all kinds, biographies, and anything adventure and survival related. If this is what they want to read, don’t discourage it and attempt to do their book choosing for them. As a matter of fact, teach them to be independent in the library. Which reminds me…..

4. Go to the Library Early, and Often

Make visits to your local library a family habit, and as common as a regular visit to the grocery store. Introduce your children to the librarian, and reiterate the fact this community helper is more than just the woman or man who does story time, rather, it's their job to be able to know all about every book in the library, and to help you find your next favorite. Boys as young as age four can peruse picture book shelves on their own and can and should make their own book choices, as well as have their own library card. Teach elementary aged boys how to read book summaries on book jackets, as well as how to use the library's catalog to search for books on topics of interest to them. Encourage 'tween and teen boys to be involved in the library’s youth programs, even if it’s only as a volunteer for programs for smaller kids. It will keep them coming to the library, using its resources for high school assignments, and ultimately picking up a novel here or there.

5. Listen to Books

If your son insists on having earbuds in his ears all the time, have him try an audiobook. Audible has an impressive collection of children’s audiobooks, and audiobooks are especially suited to boys who don't do well sitting down for long periods of time. My boys listen to audiobooks while shooting hoops, or riding skateboards or scooters in the driveway. (Don't encourage listening anywhere near traffic, as kids need to be able to hear cars.) Also, continue to read aloud to boys well into the middle school years. You can even do it while they are outside playing catch or doing other physical movement. Often I will offer to read only the first chapter of a book, getting them hooked on the story, and then handing it off.

6. Model, Model, Model

Boys not only need to see their mom reading, it's vitally important that boys see other boys, especially their dads, grandpas, uncles, and other male relatives reading. Since boys thrive on competition, bursts of activity, and physical skill based activities, think of ways dads and sons can enjoy reading time as a compliment to something physical. Read the sports page after little league practice, plan a campfire and books night, and even use reading a how-to or home fix it manual as a chance to practice reading comprehension.

7. Embrace the eReader

If always having a tablet in their hands is your son's thing, install a cloud reading app on it. There are thousands of free downloadable digital titles and ebooks available for children from vendors such as Amazon and Nook, as well downloadable titles available to "check out" to your device free from your public library. Sites such as The International Children's Digital Library offers children ages 3-13 free access to the best available children’s literature in more than 40 languages.