Confessions of an Alligator

I’m having bad thoughts. Really bad thoughts. What the hell is wrong with me? Am I all alone in this?

Finally, the swirling mass of words formed into coherent sentences and I confessed to my husband that if I had been an alligator yesterday, I would have eaten one of my children (this particular child will henceforth be known as ‘Baby Gator’). The only thing that stopped me was time and social convention.

Why an alligator? On our trip to New Orleans this year, we learned that the male alligators will sometimes eat their babies. I know I’m not a male, but work with me, people. Obviously, we can only speculate as to why they would use such a tactic to deal with their wayward young.

Maybe it was the whining about:

how inconvenient it is having someone come in every two weeks to clean their nesting area

how awkward it is to have to play with his/her alligator siblings

how it’s not fair that the alligator siblings got a snake or a rabbit for dinner and Baby Gator got just a turtle, etc.

– OR –

Maybe it was the storming and stomping around exclaiming why everything was the Daddy Alligator’s fault:

the bayou is too wet

the world spinning

the weather is hot

the rodents are too small, etc.

When I take all of that into consideration, I have some sympathy for the Alligator that uses this extreme measure in dealing with his young. Sure, you don’t want to be impulsive. Also, sleeping on it might be a prudent action.

So that’s what I did – I’d been sleeping on it, sitting on it and thinking about it for a couple of days. However, yesterday after hearing the last and final straw-of-a-whine from Baby Gator, I promptly picked my head off of the floor (it popped off in an effort to release the steam that had been accumulating) and quickly returned it to its rightful spot. Then, I uttered a mild and mature, “Shut it!” as I left the room.

Huh? Okay, maybe not the most mature response, but what else could I do? It was either that or eat Baby Gator.

Since I’m not an Alligator and I am a human, I’m sure that the eating of Baby Gator would not have been well-received as a viable parenting practice. And,  I’m confident that this parental act would definitely be considered as thinking “outside the box”, and not in a good way.

So what do you do with teenagers? You would think that I would know how to handle most situations by now, but clearly I haven’t figured it out. What’s the deal? Am I getting slower in my old age? Is my skull getting thicker? I feel like I’m losing my mojo and I’m a little rattled. All I need is a confidence boost.

I do recognize that this Fall will be bringing a lot of changes for our family and I’m sure this is mostly responsible for the current of craziness coursing through our house. I suppose I need to keep all of this in mind as I deal with our Baby Gators.

But, oh. My. Goodness. Give me the strength. Please.

Inappropriate Dinner Topics for Children

Well, well, well. We had an interesting dinner tonight – it was just 4 of us ’cause Rachel had to work (we decided that this conversation would have taken a completely different turn had she been present. A lot of “Oh My God-ing! This is not appropriate! I’m leaving!”)

We were just shootin’ the breeze about my husband’s work  and I was joking with him that the only reason he invites me to work social functions is because I can talk to anyone (I mean it. If I can’t get you talking about something, then, well, you just might be boring and hopeless). I’m the uber-social side of our twosome. 

Then, Maddie (14 yo) chimed in with, “Mommy, he invites you because you’re his trophy wife.”  Awe, isn’t she sweet? After Mike and I stopped laughing, we explained that I’m not really a trophy wife.

Maybe you’re wondering, “What is the definition of a trophy wife?” Mike shared with the table that, according to ESPN (apparently experts on trophy wives), the age of a trophy wife equals half of the age of the husband plus 5 years.

Thus, AofTW = AofH/2 + 5

I thought to myself,“Okay, I’ll buy that.”

Are you “Modern Family” fans? We are! Maddie, starting to get the gist of a trophy wife, wondered if Gloria counted as a trophy wife. Mike reflected that Gloria was probably 35 years old and Jay was likely 6o years old, so the math would work. Maddie nodded her head like, “A-ha”.

Then, the kids started calculating the age of Mike’s actual trophy wife. Daddy confirmed with the kids that he was indeed, 46. So the kids started doing the math….”Hmmm…half of 46 is 23 plus 5 equals 28. Daddy’s trophy wife would be 28 years old!”.

Thus, confirming that I’m not daddy’s trophy wife.

Then, the kids started calculating how old my husband would be if I were the trophy wife.  Whoa, the head calculators were humming!  Jack was talking through the math process aloud along with Maddie and came to the conclusion that my got-rocks hubs would be 80 years old (I’m 45).

We were all giggling and laughing about my “old hubs” and then Jack (11 yo), while snorting and guffawing, asks, “What are we talking about?”

Then, we all started laughing!!!

We, again explained the concept of the trophy wife to Jack. And, then he says, “Mommy, are you going to blog about this?” I was already two steps ahead of that boy!

Mike told the kids that they will likely never encounter a story problem like this one on their math tests. So, true.

But, we did come up with a story problem for all of you based on the premise that the age of the Trophy Wife equals half of the age of the Husband plus 5 years. Here it is:

Hubby and Wifey divorce and both are age 45. Wifey remarries and becomes a trophy wife to her New Love. The Hubby remarries a Trophy Wife of his own. What is the difference in the ages of the New Love and the New Trophy Wife?

The person with the right answer gets a free subscription to The Engledow Chronicles!

By the way, my son came up with the title of this post. Kinda sad, right?

Mommy, I Already Looked in There!

Yesterday was one of those days. Yep, it was my monthly “What if I just ran away?” day. Does everyone have these days, or is it just me? If it’s just me, don’t tell me. I’d like to think I’m not alone. I just picture myself getting in Mike’s Sporty Acura (leaving him the Minivan) and driving off into the sunset….

I’d been on the run from the time I got up until the time I got home from work. I usually get home about two minutes before Jack gets off of the bus, but some days he beats me home.  When this happens, he’s supposed to call me. I got a call yesterday:

Me & Jack:  ‘Hey, Bud!” “Hey, Mommy.”

Me:  “I’ll be home in 4 minutes. What’s your homework like?”

Jack:  “The obvious project (reading journal), math and spelling. Uh, mommy?”

Me:  “Yeah, Bud.”

Jack:  “Uh, well, I lost my reading journal. I got to the bus stop and my backpack was unzipped. It might have fallen out.”

Side Note: Ah, the reading journal. It’s our twice-a-quarter torture. He is required to read two books a quarter and write about them in a particular composition notebook (there are rules and a required structure). He has to write almost 3 pages each time. He LOVES reading and HATES writing. So, he usually waits until the last minute (like this time) and it’s about a 3 hour ordeal. BTW, the due dates are stated at the beginning of the school year – these are not surprise assignments.

Me:  “What??? You walked out of the house with a completely unzipped backpack on your back, and you think that the composition notebook fell out?”

Side Note: Really?  How in the hell do you not notice that your backpack is unzipped and splayed open while you’re putting it on your back!?

Jack:  “Yeah, but I noticed it was open when I got to the bus stop (it’s two houses down).”

Me:  “You zipped it up then, right?” {Please say, ‘yes.’}

Jack:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Well, it couldn’t have gone far. It has to be in the garage or somewhere between the house and the bus stop. When I get home, you can go hunt for it.”

Jack:  “Okay, Mommy.”

When I got home, the Great Composition Notebook Hunt was on! While he searched outside, I searched the backpack (even though it had already been searched “thoroughly”). OMG – that backpack looked like a bomb had gone off in it. I’ve been trying to take a somewhat hands off approach this year to try to ease both him and me into his first year of junior high next year. If you haven’t read my prior posts, I can be somewhat of micro-manager. In this spirit of being “hands off” I haven’t been checking his backpack (this is HUGE for me). He needs to learn be responsible, right?

How’s that hands-offy-thingy working out for us? Apparently, not well! There were lots of papers in there – some graded (all A’s – darn good thing) and some informational items for the parents (that are past due). {Silent Scream} Guess what else was in there? Yep, the reading journal aka composition notebook. When he said he looked in the backpack, who’s backpack did he look in? Did he even really look? I guess we need to go over the definition of a “thorough search”.

Crisis averted. Jack began working on his journal entry.

Then, I had to pay the bills. Ugh. It always makes me grumpy. I’m getting into the groove and then….everyone else started coming home. “Mommy, can I go workout at the Monon? Mommy, when’s dinner because I’m going to walk the dog. Mommy, what’s for dinner? Mommy, what time do we need to leave for my band meeting?”

The hubs came home early to save me (okay, not really). It was just my good fortune. Could he please take Jack to the band meeting? Yes, he will. It’s a damn good thing because I’m on Mommy overload and he just brought home my get-a-way car. I could have been gone in a blink, but I had decided to scrubbed the escape plan for the time being.

Since I decided to stick around, I made Jack and Mike scrambled eggs and toast for dinner so they could skedaddle (you don’t hear that word very often do you?). Then Rachel came home from working out and Maddie walked in the door with Jasper. “When’s dinner?” “What’s for dinner?”

Before I could answer, they took one look at their poor mother and volunteered to make their own dinners (smart girls). Sometimes it takes awhile, but eventually their Spidy-senses kick in.

Tomorrow is always another day 🙂

Lost Flowers and Life Plans

Talking with my kids can be so very entertaining. Have I said that before? It seems that the funniest conversations occur mostly in the car (sometimes at the dinner table). I guess it’s because we spend a lot of time driving the kids hither and yon.

Here are snippets of some recent car talks.

Allegory & Virginity

All five of us are in the car on the way to one of Jack’s Orff concerts when Rachel starts telling a funny story about her fashion teacher (whom she loves, by the way) – Mrs. Fashion shared with them an allegory (or parable – a symbolic narrative) before they left on spring break. This particular parable was intended to communicate to the girls (there are no boys in her class) that they should value their virginity and not to give it away to just anyone. {Something about a girl handing out flowers to anyone and everyone – I can’t quite recall the whole thing.}

When she finished telling us the “story”, I asked her, “She’s talking about virginity, right?” I wanted to confirm with Ray that her fashion teacher was actually talking to the class about virginity. That’s a little unusual, right? I don’t remember my high school teachers talking to me about that, but, then again, I didn’t take sewing class (oops! I mean, fashion).  

I couldn’t really argue with the point that Mrs. Fashion was trying to make.

Anyway, back to the car. . . . . .Rachel, now embarrassed by my inquiry, answered in true teenage fashion, “Oh My God, Mommy! Yes, that’s what it means. Why do you always do that?”  It was something like that.  She knows me pretty well by now, so why did she risk it? It must be her immature frontal lobe (as she repeatedly reminds us).

Jack, sitting patiently throughout this whole discussion, asks, “What is virginity?”.

Now, I’m not one to shy away from a question. I’d rather the kids hear the answers from me or Mike than someone else.  And, “they” say that when kids ask the questions, parents need to provide them with thoughtful, age-appropriate, honest answers. Right?

However, Rachel and Maddie immediately put the kibosh on the impromptu sex talk with excessive “Oh My God-ing” and ” Mommy, not NOW-ing”.  It’s almost become a game now. You know, the game known as How Quickly Can I Get My Girls to Say, “OMG”?  It’s really almost too easy, but still fun.

I told Jack that daddy would talk to him later about it (I can’t verify that this ever happened).

The Life Plan

Last Friday, Jack and I were in the car going to the doctor about his allergies (allergy season sucks!). He is an uber talker especially when his sisters are MIA. I usually just have to nod my head or say, “uh-huh” and he can keep on talking and talking and ……..

On this  particular day, I got a peek into that 11-yr-old brain of his. He has his whole life planned out and it revolves around basketball, Hoop Dreams, if you will. My 4 foot 10 inch boy, told me:

“First, I have to make the Junior High team.  Mommy, do you think I can make the Junior High team?”

“Then, I’m going to make the High School team, play for some college and then get picked up by the Pacers.”

Mike repeatedly tells me to quit asking him what Plan B is – a kid needs to have his dreams. I’m just supposed to listen.  Okay, he’s right.

 So instead, I just asked Jack , “What are you  going to study in college, buddy?”  (that doesn’t sounds dream-squashing, does it?)

“I think I’m going to study quantum physics. [huh?]  I’m not sure what that is but I really like physics. Physics is cool.”

He really makes me smile. I don’t know about you, but when I was 11 I’m not sure I even knew the word “physics”, let alone “quantum physics”! Of course, with the internet, the History Channel and Mythbusters the world is much bigger place now.


I hope you enjoyed this installment of  The Engledow Chats!

My Hoarder in Training

I have a confession to make, I think we have a hoarder in training (HiT) in our house. Yeah, I know. Scary.

Is there any hope? What can we do? Anything?

It began at early age, and I when I look back to her early years,  I know I ignored the early warning signs. Both of us did. And, these red flags continue today, but now it’s too late. There’s no goin’ back.

Sign #1

The HiT was a toddler, maybe 2 years old and it was a typical weekday morning. I was in a hurry, as usual, because my morning routine involved dropping her off at daycare and then driving in rush hour traffic 30 minutes to get to my downtown office. Argghhh, this was not the morning to misplace my keys. Frick! Where could they be? (Our house was about 900 square feet – there weren’t a lot of hiding places for keys in our first house.)

I was racing around like a mad-woman looking for my keys and beginning to panic, getting the cold sweats, panting (my boss at the time was not that understanding). If I remember correctly, the hubs hadn’t left yet, so I took his key to my car and his house key because I usually got home first.

Off I went (without my keys), tried to get something done at work (while being distracted by my key dilemma), picked up the HiT from daycare , went home and probably started dinner. I don’t know if it was that night or a couple of days from that fateful day, but eventually we did find my keys. Where?

Well, in my daughter’s little pink Fisher-Price plastic purse. Of course! Why didn’t I look there first :)?

What made me finally open her purse? I really have no idea. But, Mike and I found a random assortment of items in that purse – my keys, a coaster, some of her small toys. Things that she just picked up as she strolled through the house like a bag lady.

After that, when anything went missing, we looked in all of her bags, backpacks and purses.

Sign #2

When she was a little older, maybe 7 ish, I bought her a package of gummy Life Savers. Have you ever seen one of these packages? The gummies come in a plastic tray which holds them individually (kind of like an egg carton).

This is a reconstruction of the conversation that occurred later in her bedroom (I think we were cleaning it up or going through her clothes):

Me: “HiT, when you’re done with your candy, you need to  throw the this away (holding the tray and wrapper). It’s trash.”

HiT: “Mommy, it’s not trash!  I think the tray is cool.  I may need it for something later like for a project.”

Me: “Honey, this is trash.  I really don’t think you should keep it. Will you keep every tray?”

HiT: “Mommy! No, I won’t. I promise. Just this one.”

I walked out of her bedroom shaking my head and thinking, “Oh, no!”

Other hoarding evidence as she has gotten older:

She loves, loves, loves antique stores (can’t leave a store without buying something – last purchase, which was yesterday, was a ceramic owl (huh?). “Mommy, it was only a dollar!”)

She is a shopaholic (shoes, clothes, scarves, fingernail polish (even though she has no nails to speak of), purses, etc.) 

She buys about 5 pairs of sunglasses each summer

I bet she has a purse for every other day of year (I may be exaggerating a bit.)

She says that when she is older, she wants to live on a farm (chuckle!) so she can own multiple dogs, and other barnyard animals

She loves watching the following shows: American Pickers, Extreme Couponing (on TLC). I will admit that she hasn’t started watching Hoarding: Buried Alive (on TLC). On second thought,. . . . maybe she should.

Um, she “cleaned” out her room and produced four grocery bags of stuff for Goodwill. I was thrilled…..until I looked in her room. It. Looked. Exactly. The. Same. (Oh, Powers That Be, help us!)

Now, I will tell you that I think it runs in her genetic code (NOT from my side). My husband is a reformed hoarder (like a 2 on a scale of 1-10). I, as you might imagine, don’t hold on to much (I totally get this from my dad). I keep what is necessary and toss the rest (I do keep some keepsakes – I’m not completely dead inside). 

My favorite “hoarder” story on the hubs: The hubs graduated from college in the Spring of 1988 and we got married in February of 1991. When we moved into our apartment and merged our stuff, it was a revelation for both of us.  We rented a 2-bedroom apartment and used the extra bedroom for stuff we didn’t know what to do with.  One day, we started going through the room in preparation for the move into our FIRST HOUSE and there, sitting innocently, was his backpack.

It still looked full. Wait, it was still heavy. What was in there? (Mine was cleaned out the day after graduation and has remained empty since). I hurry and open it wondering what awaited me . . . .there are textbooks, notebooks and something that is round, black and hard.  What the hell is it? It rattled when I shook it. Maybe some ancient Indian musical instrument?

I show Mike his backpack and apparently it’s a time capsule of his last day of school, literally. On the last day of college, he just moved his backpack “as is” to his first apartment shared with his BFF, Jud, and then this backpack moved (undisturbed) to his second apartment (where he lived alone) and then it moved to its final destination – our first apartment. The round, dark, black thing that rattles? An orange. Yep, an orange that petrified in his backpack.

Oh, my. Our HiT comes by it honestly.

I do love that girl so much and she cracks me up when she talks about all of the dogs, and possibly the cow, she is going to own on her farm, etc. She promises us that her dorm room and subsequent apartment won’t be buried in ceramic owls when she is on her own – Mike and I just laugh to ourselves especially when we see the trail of evidence  that she leaves throughout the house……..

Both Mike and I have told her that we just don’t want to find her literally buried in her farmhouse under piles of stuff! She has assured us that she won’t bury herself alive.

We’ll just have to see 🙂

Fear & Manipulation: A Mother’s Trade Secret

My kids bought me a book for Christmas and I love it. I love it so much that I feel the need to share it with you.

It makes me laugh aloud when I’m reading it (if your child takes piano lessons at that place on Old Meridian on Wednesdays, then,”yes”, I’m the nut that sits there by myself reading and laughing). I can’t control it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that made me lose control like this. It’s weird.

The book is Raising the Perfect Child through Guilt and Manipulation by Elizabeth Beckwith. I wish I was part of a book club that was reading it so I could discuss it with people. She has already prepared some interesting discussion questions for us at the end of each chapter! (Sample discussion question from Chapter 3: “What are some fears that are healthy to impose upon your own child?”)

You may be thinking that I should be a little pissed that my kids thought of me when they saw the title of the book, but I’m not. They know their mommy (they all still call me this, even my junior) pretty well.

I’m only on Chapter 8 (out of 11), but I’ve already decided that Elizabeth and I could be close friends if we lived in the same area. I love her sense of humor.

So far, my favorite Chapter is #3:  How to Scare the Crap Out of Your Child (in a Positive Way). I read this chapter and was nodding my head throughout the whole thing (while laughing, of course).

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 3. She has a chart in the book of a scenario, the typical parent response, and the recommended alternative.

Sample from the chart:

Scenario:  “I’m thinking of getting a tattoo.”

Popular Response: “You’re not getting a tattoo and that’s final!”

Alternative Response: “A tattoo is forever, you know. You want to be ninety years old with a sun on your lower back? Remember what happened to Gary up the block? He got a tattoo, and next thing you know the poor kid’s got hepatitis.”

Then, she follows the chart with, “All roads lead to death. That was my mantra as a child.”

I can relate to this a lot. Not so much with my own parents, but with my maternal grandma (right, Beth?). Elizabeth’s mom reminds me a little bit of my grandma Helen. She didn’t have the hard edge of the author’s mother, but she had Chapter 3 down pat but in a softer way.

My sister and I used to stay with my grandparents for two weeks out of every summer.  They lived two states away (in WV) and it was a way for us to get to hang with them more. I remember one time I was running out of the house barefoot (I never wore shoes as kid) with my WV-friends and as I was leaving the house I grabbed a Coke. This is back in day when Cokes were still in glass bottles. 

I could hear my grandma yelling after me, “Jennifer, should you take that coke bottle with you? Be careful with that! Maybe you should put some shoes on! You’ll drop that bottle and then step on the glass and slice your foot open!!!”

I will say that I ignored her advice that day and still ran with the killer coke bottle while remaining shoeless, BUT, I was always mindful of NOT dropping the coke bottle so they wouldn’t have to amputate my useless foot later.

Grandma Helen was definitely a trendsetter. Back in the ’70s, she was already scaring the crap out of her grandchildren in positive way. Still to this day, I can’t look at a glass container of any sort without thinking about impending doom and an emergency room visit.

You can ask my kids – I’ve taken on Grandma Helen’s tactics that way. They will attest to the fact that I can link any activity to serious danger or death if given enough time. I do try to control myself a bit because I don’t want them to be completely neurotic. Fortunately, they also have a father that is the complete opposite and can balance me out a bit.

Well, I need to get back to my book. Won’t someone else pick up a copy so I have someone to laugh with? Surely, someone else out there can read this book with a knowing nod thinking (and laughing), “Yep, I already do that!” -or- “Wow, I need to try that.” -or- “Whoa, Elizabeth’s mom could have been mine!”.

A Boy and His Hair

My son thought I should write a blog post about his big transformation that occurred yesterday. So, here it is. He went from a pre-teen-Bieber-look back to the little-boy-look.




Haircuts these days are getting tough on me. Why in the world would haircuts be tough? Because of my worrier personality, my brain is constantly spiraling out of control (I know I’m not the only one out there). Watching Jack sit in the big chair getting his hair buzzed allowed me to drift off into my own little world (which can be a scary place sometimes!). My mind starts the usual rambling, one thought leading to another (kind of like the book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Do you know that book?).

It went something like this…, look at all that hair, I’m glad he’s getting it buzzed, how long will he let me make his hair decisions?, will this be the last haircut where I have a say?, I can’t believe he will be in junior high next year, whoa Maddie will be a freshman and Rachel will be a senior, when will my boy stop holding my hand in public?, who am I kidding – that will stop this year, will he stay the same sweet, loving boy?, will he be as challenging as the girls were in junior high?, will he be okay in junior high?, where did the time go?, I’m glad he still looks little boyish with the buzz cut, how long will that last?, when will Jack get his growth spurt?, how will Jack handle Rachel going to college?, how will Maddie handle it?, how will I handle it?, what am I going to do when the kids are slowly leaving the house?, what am I going to do with myself and my bigass family-schedule wall calendar when I have no one to organize?, …….

And, then, gratefully, the haircut was over. He hopped out of the chair, I paid the barber and then gave my boy a B-I-G hug like he was leaving for college the next day. He looked at me like, “huh?”. Then two seconds later, I got the super big grin (love that grin).

Whew! I exhaust myself.  

He will be turning 11 soon and will be entering junior high as a 6th grader. He’s my baby and I will probably cry harder the first day of school in August 2011 than any other 1st day of school (even harder than when I drove my oldest to school on her first day of 1st grade – back then I thought that was the beginning of the end of the “baby” years.).

I was wrong. The 2011-2012 school year will be the official end of the “baby” years for the Engledows. My youngest will be entering junior high, my middle one will be a freshman at the high school and my oldest will be a senior in high school.  – waaaahhhhh!-

I know that these are just more milestones in our lives that can’t be avoided (like turning 40). They just need to be embraced. For me these milestones will be harder to embrace than the typical ones we encounter at the beginning of our lives – getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, turning 21, graduating from college, getting your first job, getting your first apartment, getting married, buying your first house, starting a family….

All of these early milestones are about adding to our lives in some way (gaining freedom, independence, adding family) and I chased those down as fast as time would allow – I couldn’t wait!

The ones I’m beginning to experience now seem to be about letting go and that’s a weird feeling. I’m definitely not running toward these dang things – these milestones will be dragging me by my hair, while I’m kicking and screaming the entire way.

But, as people will tell me, “It’s a part of life and there’s no reason to dwell on it and make yourself crazy.”

Of course, they (dad) are absolutely right and I’ll get to work on that straight away. It’s always a work in progress for me.

Good-bye, baby years….