Art Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

My blogging days with boys took a much longer hiatus that I anticipated.  I am happy to be lifting my head out of the sea of testosterone and breathing in some much needed reflection on those quirky, funny guys I live with.  Thanks for hanging around!

I am an artistic person.  I am musically inclined and I love to write.  I have a deep appreciation for art, opera, musical theater and botanical arts.  I desperately wanted to pass this affection on to my sons.  Not being very athletic myself, I unreasonably believed I would not be able to relate to their hopes and dreams if they only revolved around a bouncing, thrown or kicked ball.  I love watching sports even if I don’t have an innate ability to participate in them, but what if they asked me questions?  What would I say??  Fortunately, I have boys that enjoy both an artistic side and an athletic inclination.  To my surprise neither of these things has turned out quite the way I thought they would.

While my vision of art might look like a dreamy Monet watercolor or a dramatic aria from Faust, to a teenage boy art is something only they can relate to.  Wallets made of duct tape are art.  Japanese origami folded into the shape of a tank, complete with removable turrets, is also art.  And most recently, white board drawings of their father left in the conference room at work are, indeed, art.

It was one of those days where everyone had to be in four places at once so there was a slight layover at the office my husband and I both share with son #2.  My boys absolutely hate going to our office.  It’s boring.  There are no video games, vending machines or tank origami to occupy their time with so the 5-10 minute wait while we tie up loose ends and grab some paperwork feels like hours.  It should have raised a red flag when son #2 didn’t pipe up a bit when the 10 minute wait became 30 as my husband and I busied ourselves with what we were required to do in order to shuffle him off to the next mission on the family calendar.   It wasn’t until our coworker opened the whiteboard a few days later as she met with a client that we discovered “the art”.

 

 

Notice the captions depicting the different qualities of my husband’s physique such as;  “Flawlessly bald head”, “thick eye brows”, and the ever descriptive “fat” with arrows highlighting the correct anatomy.  Not to mention the important conversations he has with clients on a regular basis emphasized as “blah blah blah, finances and stuff.”  As luck would have it, our coworker and her client were amused and even suggested I take a picture of the whiteboard before they talked about “finances and stuff” themselves.

I also run across many other forms of art around my house like attacking marbles.

Or still life photos of lego Star Wars figurines:

And bathroom mirror selfies taken with my phone:

Who says art is lost on young men?  I am constantly surrounded by it.  It just looks slightly different than Monet.

 

A Slap In The Face

To paraphrase Mel Brooks:  “Sometimes it’s good to be Queen.”

Nothing has made that more apparent then when I watch my boys interact with their dad.  The greeting my husband gets on a pretty regular basis is not one I’d cialis price appreciate, but among men it is a warm and friendly salutation.  It’s not a hug, a fist bump or even the nonchalant backward jerk of the head.  It’s a slap in the face.

Literally, a slap in the face.

 

Sitting down for the family meal the other night son #4 says “Heeeeeeey Dad!” and open hand slaps him in the face.  My husband, doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.  Not only is this a perfectly acceptable, he answers #4 with a “Heeeeeeeey.”

Not even 30 seconds later #2, who is 3 years older and about a foot taller, walks up behind his chair and says “Hi Dad, How was work?” as he whacks the back of his shorn head.  “Not bad.”, he says rubbing his glossy dome.  “Awesome”, #2 says as he balls up a fist and plows it into my husband’s right shoulder, after which they smile and laugh.

After our meal is completed the father of my children is engaged in conversation with son #3.  He is asking about his day, soccer practice and his plans for the evening.  This son has a good two inches of height on his dad, so in order to look him in the eye, my husband has to tilt his head up just a bit.  As #3 answers each questions, he playfully (read:painfully) accentuates each and every word with a left slap, then a right slap, left slap, right slap, left slap……..

Hey!!  STOP!!”  my husband finally yells.  “That hurts!”…..then they start laughing.

Why is a human game of whack-a-mole the sign of love among men?  Is a boxing match the ultimate sign of brotherly love?  Will my husband end up with a black eye???

Last week my husband had to go out of town for a few days.  When he walked in the door last night our #4 ran up greeting him with a…..hug…..and said “Awwww, hi Dad, I really missed slapping you!”.

Now that’s love.

The Perfect Mother's Day

I have had more than one Mother’s Day spent trekking from one soccer field to another or schlepping diaper clad babies from parents to in laws.   Now, potty trained and in their teens, my boys tend to want to do their own thing.  This year was probably one of the top Mother’s Day celebrations I have ever had….bar none.  We spent the day at home and it started VERY early.

Son #2 felt the need to wake my husband up at 1am Mother’s Day morning because he had something “very important” that Dad needed to see in the kitchen.   My darling spouse sleeps like the dead….only louder.  Jarring him awake out of his comatose state initiates a lot of snorting noises that sound like a wild boar at the feeding trough and a few four letter words.  “Get up old man….I’m saving your ass.” I hear from the side of the bed.

Needless to say, I am awake.  I realize from the scent rising from downstairs that someone has been baking…….at 1 am.  When my husband returns to bed I ask him if there is a crisis like the dog eating the previous night’s dinner or a small kitchen fire.  There is no emergency.  I am told “You just have a nice kid.”

Son #1 needed to be dropped off at work at 7:30am for a 4 hour shift at his retail job.  I was hoping to use some Mother’s Day guilt that would allow me to stay in bed and have my husband do the driving, however, after the 1am kitchen call, he was back to making those Darth-Vader-meets-sinus-infection sounds.  So I used the patented, spouse approved, flip-and-poke method of “accidentally” waking him up.  He opened one eye and then the snoring got louder.

Faker.

Admitting defeat, I got out of bed, walked into my bathroom and found this note next to a basket of muffins:

 

Now…..”Bojak” is not the given name I call my child.  It is some weird moniker he gave himself this past year.  The guys-only a capella group at school needed to make up t-shirts with their names on the back and he wanted to stand out as original so he changed his name to “Bojak”.  I only hope this is not some sort of permanent replacement of his Christian name that I gave about 7 months of thoughtful consideration to.  The bottom right of the notes says “These flowers may or may not have come from downstairs.”.  ….Well, they may.  My 30 year old nephew came by a few days earlier and gave my mother in law some flowers.  And as every mother of boys knows, once an item enters the house it becomes community property and should have no sentimental value to any one individual.  A few flowers were borrowed and placed in the basket.

Yes…it is the thought that counts.  And this one counted big because I loved every quirky, Bojaky, 1am muffin moment of it.

After dropping my son off at work, I headed off to church where I play the piano.  No one else went with me.  As I left the house everyone was scurrying around cleaning, there was a lot of yelling and even a few tears.  My husband was putting A LOT of thought into food shopping for his big culinary performance for my mother and my mother in law who would be joining us for dinner.

Let me precursor this Mother’s Day culinary adventure by explaining that for several days previous, my husband asked me several times how I envisioned my Mother’s Day.  I told him.  Nothing big.  I just want to have my mom and your mom over and you can throw something on the grill.  Our crack dealer meat guys (see previous post) had stopped by the office just a couple of days prior so he was all set with meat but he felt he needed to make a complete show of the side dishes and have a Korean BBQ theme to the meal…..and why not throw in a couple of lobster tails, some tofu and Szechwan hot sauce. This man makes less than 5 meals a year, however, each and every one of them must be a 5 star production that uses each and every pan and pot I own.  Ingredients, regardless of what is already obtained and in the house, usually total $200 and there is lots and lots of butter and a drink with rum in it.

I like butter and rum so it’s all good.

Before my church gig started, I had already received two calls from home looking for the car keys.  By the time I got back he was just returning from the store with all of the ancillary ingredients.  Then he sent me to the store for the 4 things he forgot.  All in all, the meal was fabulous.

We followed dinner with a game of Clue and a very entertaining game of Scattegories; that game where the spin of the dice gives you a letter and you have to come up with a word describing 12 different categories.  I discovered the word “douche bag” is a title, “genocide” can you get fired from a job and “overweight zebras” have stripes (indeed they do).

All in all….it was an absolutely perfect mother’s day.  I enjoyed the final hours listening to the dishwasher make its 3rd run of the day and reminiscing that this year, I wasn’t that mom that caught her toddler at the Mother’s Day brunch licking the carrots and then putting them back on the buffet line nor did I spend it in my car going from 40 miles north of the city to 30 miles south of the city for soccer games 1 hour apart and above all, I wasn’t alone at a spa or drinking bloody marys with the girls.

I spent it with a group of lovely young men (and one old one) and it was perfect.

Table Manners

Table manners are important.  This was something that was impressed upon me at a very young age. viagra from canada

  Behavior at the table speaks volumes about you, especially in a public place.  I remember being strongly reprimanded by my parents for poor dinner table etiquette.  At one point, we even had a bank with a list of rules and corresponding fines on the center of the table.  No doubt this was placed here by my frustrated parents that never seemed to enjoy a meal in peace with their five children.  The rules included things like “Don’t feed the dog under the table.”, “Ask to have something passed to you instead of reaching across.”, “Don’t eat with your elbows on the table.”, and the ever important “No swearing.”.

I reflect back on my childhood dinner experiences and remember the worst things done at the table were verbal.  Those would be the things that tried the patience of my long suffering parents.  Yelling at a brother or sister or complaining that the food was subpar was probably some of the worst offenses.  But, never; I mean NEVER, would any of us have dreamed of doing what my family does at the table.

I’m not talking an accidental slip of some gas followed by blushed cheeks and an apology.  I’m talking about full-out, earth shaking belches that the neighbors could hear.  Usually followed by a fist pump or a high five, those burps are highly entertaining for everyone around the table except me.  Not to be outdone by someone else, the next guy around the table tries to burp louder and longer than the last gas-infused kid.

The first time, even the second or third time, I can laugh along.  Sure, one burp can be funny and spark a chain reaction.  I’m not a complete stick in the mud.  But it is as if they have just uncovered the body’s ability to release gastric build up; a new discovery each and every meal…..possibly in the name of science. And science is a frontier that must be explored. But after about the forth replay of this belching game, I’m done.

Come on!”, I say, “Give me a break!  Don’t burp at the table.  It’s disgusting and I’m eating here.” Just as the apology is about to leave the lips of my 5 little angels and calm and decorum is reinstated at the family meal, the gentleman sitting to my right leans over, looks at me right in the eye while his entire chair reverberates with a sound similar to the truck slamming on the Jake Brake.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????

Let me clarify who the person sitting to my right is.  I’ll give you a hint; he’s bald, over the age of 50 and once told me that I smelled like roses.  In other words; MY HUSBAND JUST FARTED IN MY GENERAL DIRECTION!!!!

Et tu Brutus?

Of course, this brilliant development on my attempt to have a protocol lesson on table manners has just been trumped.  As if there was not enough entertainment value happening before the head-table-flatulence, now this entire meal has credits worthy of a Comedy Central show in my boy’s eyes.

Dad farted.  Therefore a burp is a mere misdemeanor.

At this point everyone is laughing hysterically.  Everyone but me.  I am completely grossed out.  I fantasize and immediately play out scenarios in my mind that next time (and yes, there will be a next time), I will get up from the table, grab my keys, and go to a nice quiet restaurant where classical music is played in the background and abnormally large plates serve surprisingly small amounts of food.  These are plates I will not wash and food I did not cook, and I will enjoy every minute of it.

A girl can dream right?

Meat in Bulk

There’s a guy that comes by my office selling wholesale, restaurant quality meat out of his truck.  I know what you’re thinking…..it sounds a little fishy.  Who buys meat off a truck?  Well, I do.  I can tell you from experience that this meat is legit.  After all, this is Chicago and if you are true second city, you have to “have a guy” that sells meat.  I gotta guy. The stuff my guy sells is amazing, and he knows it.  He will gladly push you the first box of prime, aged, melt-in-your-mouth, perfectly marbled rib eyes for next to nothing because he knows you will come back, slobbering and crazed for more.  This has earned him his well deserved nickname……..The Crack Dealer.

Once he found out my husband and I were feeding a small army of carnivores he has just happened to “be in the neighborhood” about twice a month.  Just last week he came in to see if I needed anything.  Of course I am in dire need of hundreds of dollars worth of steaks, lamb chops, polish sausage and Kobe burgers.  What self respecting mother isn’t?  At the end of the workday I pull into the driveway, walk into the house and give the usual instructions:

Me:  “Hey guys, go empty out the back of the truck.  I have food in there to put in the freezer.”

Sons 2-4:  “Really?  Is it crack dealer meat???”

Me:  “Yes.  Lots of it.  And he threw in a 3 pound package of bacon.”

Chorus of boys:  “Yeessssssssssssss!”

Only then, as I hear those words of gratitude fall from the lips of my blessed little darlings do I realize I’m the only mother on the block that lets her children refer to anyone as “The Crack Dealer”.  I make a mental note to myself to lecture the boys over our dinner of marinated skirt steak about being very selective where they utter the words “mom knows a crack dealer”.

One thing is for sure, over the course of the last 18 years I have found very creative ways to feed the meat eating habits of six men.  The invention of wholesale bulk stores like Sam’s and Costco are something akin to a messenger of God telling me I have a meat tree growing in the back yard.  I am currently having conversations with one of my high school friends about buying one of her heritage pigs and giving the slaughter house my cut order.  I can make at least 15 different meals out of bacon alone.

One of the most telling signs of our meat eating addiction was several years ago when #4 was in pre-school and we had a family night at the school.  It was a craft project making table runners for our family Thanksgiving table.  You could bring in photos and they had cute cut outs of scrap paper to glue onto the runner that was then put through a laminating machine.  I gave all six of my men a paper leaf and wrote on the top “I am thankful for”.  I asked them to write in just a couple of words something they were grateful for.  Just like all the other families, my guys were grateful for “family”, “Uncle Herb”, “Grandma and Abuela”, all the usual suspects.  But my four year old was just learning letters and needed some help.  It was then he asked….

“How do you spell MEAT?”

 

WMDs

One thing I was very insistent on when raising my boys was trying to maintain a decorum of non-violence.  The moment son #1 came out of the womb I solemnly vowed to have a strict “no guns” rule at which my husband verbally patted me on the head and said “Yeah, um….ok.”  This is pretty easy to achieve for about a year when all the toys are nonfunctioning color blocked blobs developed to attract the attention of a six month old.

Once my little boy reached about 18-24 months of age, it was apparent this diplomat-in-the-making watermark was going out the window.  Every single toy in the house became a weapon of some sort.  It didn’t matter if it was his beloved sleepy time stuffed Barney.  The dinosaur also doubled as a battering ram for monster trucks.  Toy cars never simply raced or followed a track; they collided and exploded with countless casualties.   It didn’t matter how hard I would try to steer my little darling to peace loving activities like sidewalk chalk and building blocks, because as soon as I would leave the room I would hear self play babble that sounded like “bee-ew, bee-ew, bee-ew”.  He had fashioned a gun made out of lego blocks as big as his head.

I considered the fact that maybe “this” boy was just different and my next child would be the harbinger of peace and all things lovely.  However, son #2 was born in camouflage and was smashing GI Joes together until they decapitated themselves a year later.  As a matter of fact, now at 15, his world pretty much revolves around, bacon, military history, and duct tape.  Sons 3, 4, and 5 have me hiding all things ceramic and pretty much followed suit.

I would not claim defeat.  I still felt strongly that I should do my best impression of NATO, and call an arms treaty.  TV Viewing privledges we contained only to PBS for 10 years.  I read them stories about choo choo trains that had positive outlooks.  I even made sure all my boys went to church and heard a lot of nonviolent preaching.

A few Christmases ago, my 90 year old great Uncle Willard built beautiful crucifixes for everyone in my large extended family.  Out of solid oak he had handmade each member of my generation a cross about 10 inches high, stained them a lovely honey color and signed his name to the back if each one.  Each of our children also received a 6 inch high cross similar to the larger “family” crucifix.  I’m certain it was Uncle Willard’s intent that each child hung that cross in their room.  However, my five boys immediately flipped those crosses upside down and held sword fights in the car on the way home.

Yes, you read that right.  My five blessings from God where waging war, gladiator style, with the very wood that symbolized the salvation of the world.

I was battling a fictional, allbeit, fully armed enemy.  To a boy, everything is better with an explosion, crash or zombies.  All is right and well knowing that somewhere in the world there might be ninja stars with their name on it….and that badass costume that goes with it.  Vacations are meant to be planned around decommissioned air craft carriers, civil war battle sights and the occasional sporting event.

I concede.

I have left the raising of the future ambassadors of the world to those of you with multiple gender households.  Now, I just go with the flow and pray to the god of sword fighting that there’s enough duct tape and bacon at my disposal to amuse them all while I get a pedicure.

The Power of the Axe

I often think that if detecting odors was an Olympic event, I would win the gold.  I have been able to sniff out all sorts of rank smells, from a rotting food under a bed to stinky socks mindlessly returned to the dresser.  After 18 years of dedicated service through motherhood, my sniffer is now highly attuned to every delicate imbalance in the bouquet of the universe.

In the last couple of years there has been a shift in the odor of things.  Pubescent boys across the country have been embracing a new substance that will forever change the fragrance of this planet. 

It’s called AXE.  It comes in many forms; body spray, underarm deodorant, shampoo and body soap.  Short of burning the nose hairs right out of my schnozzle, nothing has managed to mask “man smell” better than this ground breaking substance.  Not only will it cloak the tang of the one adorning it, but it will perfume a 20 foot radius around the individual for all to enjoy.  Walk on any high school football stadium and take a whiff.  Because as all things with teenage boys, nothing is in moderation, and I promise you will not be prepared for the musky scented garland that will accost your olfactory. 

It is blessed relief.

Never was this more apparent than in my recent family vacation that involved boating and swimming in 90+ degree weather.  I was sitting in the back seat of the boat transporting my six men and a dog knowing, full well, that I was the only individual in the afore mentioned boat that had sufficiently showered in the last 24 hours.  Some individuals had gone into the lake water adding the ingredient of fishiness to mix of “nature”, wet dog and sweat.  As the boat climbed up to speeds past 30mph, I was second guessing my wisdom of my downwind seat selection.  It was then I beheld the power of the AXE.   The lake breeze flowed through my hair as we skimmed across the glass like surface but only the pleasant aroma of “Essence – 24 hour invisible solid” wafted to the backseat.  As I beheld this minor miracle I embraced a sense why is herpes contagious (scent) of gratitude and asked myself, “What is that fresh manly scent?”.  Only to remind myself, “Ah yes………it’s Axe.”

Thank you, Unilever.  I am forever indebted to your chemical prowess.