Personal Entries

Don’t pee on the couch

Karen and her kids, Emily and Patrick, have come down for dinner.   Karen and Emily sit down to keep me company while I finish cooking, and the boys head into the living room and the PS3.  Patrick, 12,  is the last boy to leave the kitchen.

“Hey Patrick,” I say, “don’t pee on my couch, OK?”


“Please try not to pee on the couch?”

“Miss Katie, why would I pee on the couch?”  The boy is understandably perplexed.  I’ve known him since he was a year old, and he’s never peed on anything in my house.

“I have no idea,” I tell him now, “but the bathroom is right there if you need it, OK?”

“But…why…..  Why would I pee on your couch?

I don’t know.”  I say. ” But just don’t, ok?”

His head cocked to the side and his eyebrows knitted, Patrick heads into the living room while Karen grins at me, shaking her head slowly from side to side.

In a moment Patrick returns.

“When did I pee on your couch?”  Patrick demands of me.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

Through a fit of giggles, Emily shouts at her younger brother, “JUST DON’T PEE ON THE COUCH, Patrick!”

“No, wait. ” I put up my hand to forestall another outburst from Emily.  “He was about to tell us when he peed on the couch.”

“I DIDN’T PEE ON THE COUCH!” Patrick exclaims.

“OK.  If you say so, I believe you.”

“I didn’t.”  He insists.

“That’s great!  And I really appreciate that.”

“So…why are you telling me not to pee on the couch?”

“Because it’s a leather couch, and once that smell gets into it, there is just no getting it out.  I don’t want to have to replace the couch.  It’s expensive.”

“But… why do you think I’m going to pee on the couch?”

“Patrick,” Karen puts up a hand to stop her son’s questions, and with each word clearly articulated says,   “just   do   not   pee   on   that   couch. “

“But, why would—“

“Just don’t!” Karen orders.

As Patrick leaves the kitchen, Karen, Emily and I double over in silent laughter. Each of us knows what will happen next, and almost immediately, it does.

Matt bursts into the kitchen, “Why did you tell Patrick not to pee on the couch?”

“Because I don’t want him to pee on the couch,” I explain.

No one should pee on the couch,” adds Karen.

“When did he pee on the couch?!” Matt demands.

We didn’t say he did.  We just don’t want him to pee on the couch.”

“You shouldn’t be peeing on the couch, either.” Karen informs Matt.

“I’m not going to pee on the couch,” says Matt.

“I hope not…..” But Karen sounds dubious.

“I’ve never peed on the couch!”  Insists Matt.

“You sure? ” I ask him, “You haven’t? “


“We don’t know.”

And then suddenly the kitchen is full of  boys, all talking at once, all insisting that they have NEVER peed on my couch or any other couch, anywhere.  Ever.

“And no one said you did!”  I explain, “And we want you to keep up the good work.”

Karen sums it up for them, “Don’t pee on the couch. It should go without saying.  Now, we’ll call you when it’s time to eat.”

Muttering and confused, indignant and questioning each others’ urinary histories, the boys leave the kitchen to return to their game.

“And don’t pee on the chairs, either! ”  Emily calls out.

Really, how do people amuse themselves when they don’t have children?


Personal Entries

Full of awesome

Matt had the best weekend in the history of ever, because his team won their age group finals at this weekend’s soccer tournament.

Awesomeness in motion

The boys’ Dad took them to their Sunday morning games, and this is the text message exchange I had with Matt after his last regular game win, letting me know that there was more awesomeness to come:


Matt always introduces himself to me at the start of every phone call and text. Otherwise, I might not know who he is. I love him so much.

The finals were seriously badass, going into overtime AND requiring ten penalty kicks (one made by Matt) to decide the game.  The final game was similar to the World Cup finals, in case you’re trying to picture it.

Matt is now so full of soccer awesome, you could poke him with a stick and awesome would ooze out.  You could squeeze him like a sponge, and you’d soon be standing in a puddle of rainbow-colored soccer awesome.  He is the valedictorian of soccer awesomeness.

AND, if you want any part of any of his four games reenacted?  He can do that for you, because he is also the valedictorian of soccer play reenactment.

Such awesomeness is very tiring, however, especially for one so young.  The boy and his awesomeness  have gone to bed early this evening.

Personal Entries

Don’t be stupid, don’t die

Listen closely. Do you hear that voice?  The one saying, “Cam, please be careful! Please?”

That’s me.

This is what my parenting has been reduced to: urging boys to be careful. That’s it.   I feed them and implore them not to be too stupid;  not to die.  This might seem like a small job, but any teenage boy will tell you that being stupid and almost dying is the teenage boy’s goal.

What the video doesn’t show is me, moments before, calling out the window:

“Who’s on the bike?  Is that Cam?”

“Yes M’am!”  Said Cam, who is a very nice boy.

“Oh Cam, honey, I thought you were smart.”  I said to Cam, who is very smart.

“No, I’m stupid!”  Cam answered, and all the other boys cheered.

What you see, above, is what they did all day, only pausing to have a contest to determine who could stand outside in their bare feet the longest.

You might think that the purpose of sledding is to go down a hill as fast as you can, but you’d be wrong.  The purpose of sledding is to see who can most dramatically and inventively come closest to fracturing their skull, and if I had a dollar for every time I called out, “I DO NOT want to go to the hospital today,” I’d be a wealthy woman.

Be careful, don’t be too stupid, don’t die:  It’s more work than you think.


Personal Entries

So he stomped on my chest

Oh honey, it's not "his self."


“I only stomped on his chest GENTLY!”  Says Riley.

Ri is shaking his head from side to side, holding both hands up in a gesture of innocence and surrender.  Clearly, someone is overreacting to having their chest stomped upon gently, and Ri is a bit disgusted.

I’m already annoyed with Matt and Ri, as they are supposed to be doing their homework while I work on dinner. They’ve wandered away to play Nerf basketball, and my repeated requests to return to their homework have been ignored.  Now Riley pointedly returns to his homework; he has no time for divas fussing about a gentle chest-stomping when there is homework to be done.

“You stomped on his chest gently?,” I ask. ” Is that anything like the time you pushed him into the banister playfully?  Maybe next time you can smack him upside the head with a two-by-four jokingly?”

“It wasn’t hard and he kept saying ‘BRICK,’ and–“

But I can’t hear the rest of  Riley’s answer, because Matt has  joined us in the kitchen, and has a lot to say about his chest injury. Their words are a jumble: “youLAUGHED  yousaidBRICK YOUstompedonmyCHEST NOTHARD!”

“You know what?” I say, cutting them both off,  “No!  I don’t want to even hear it.  You were supposed to be doing homework, you weren’t listening, and you two work this out. “

I tell them to each get a piece of paper, sit down and write out what happened, and then hear each other out.

Riley’s hands go back up, “I’m just trying to do my homework–“

Jake is home on break, and he advises Riley,  “Dude, you should listen before she beats the crap out of you, nicely.”

“And then maybe we should bury him in the backyard, gently?”  I add.

Jake and I agree that this is a good plan, and we discuss all my options while the two younger boys scribble out their conflict.

Today, days later, I find Matt’s paper.  We’re going to need to work on grammar, among so many, many other things.

Personal Entries

Tournament + Katie = No

I don’t think I’m a good fit for the boys’ out-of-town soccer tournaments.   I’m not sure that I’m equipped for that level and type of stress.

Mike has always handled these away trips, and so Riley’s tournament in Richmond this weekend was my first.   Mike seemed surprised when I volunteered for this trip, but I was adamant:  I felt as if I was missing out on something, and so I would be taking the boys to the Richmond tournament.

Ima tell ya why I won’t be doing this again.

1. Hotels often have balconies. This one did. The first four floors sported balconies overlooking the lobby (why? WHY?).  Does picking up your teammates and acting as if you are going to throw them four floors to their death ever get old? No! In fact it gets better each time someone does it, because each successive attempt is that much more out of control; that much more fueled by rising adrenaline and unbridled testosterone.  It is an awesome, awesome game, blogosphere, and you missed it.

“Guys!  Stop!  Please!”  I’d say.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”  The thirteen-year-olds would say.

2. They go out, and they can’t get back in. Because all the team’s rooms were clustered together, there was a great need to go in and out of our room. In and out.  In and out.  But the IN part was difficult because my boys had lost two keys and demagnetized a third by Saturday morning, and I was not handing over the last key.

Every time I’d hear the door click shut, I’d hold my breath, waiting for it….. Two minutes later:  Bang, bang, bang, bang.

“Mom! It’s me!  Mom! Mom! Can you let me in? Mom! Mom!”

And then, a chorus of:

“Dude!  Your Mom locked you out!”

“Aw, man, Riley’s Mom locked him out!”

“Your Mom hates you because you suck!”

I’d open the door to a sea of disappointed thirteen year old faces (it was much better when Riley’s Mom had locked him out because he sucked), only to have Riley grab his cell phone and head back out for another five minutes.

And, repeat.

3. “Hotel Tag” in the parking lot after dark is not a good game.

4. Hotels have hallways, and soccer players have balls. Lots and lots of balls.

5. Eating in public with a team of thirteen year old boys is a stressful thing. The spitball fight.  The cup of team-concocted “soup,” passed around with dares to drink it.  The way they kept putting the “soup” in front of me, because the way Ms. Stein gagged was hysterical. The sneaking off to the bathroom to dump the “soup” in the toilet.  The cup that went into the toilet.  The young, pregnant waitress who looked with terror upon her future by the time we left.

We left her an enormous tip, but really, is there any tip big enough to compensate for the soccer team-induced, pre-partum disillusionment in parenthood which she must be feeling?  No.  No, there isn’t.

6. Hotels have hair dryers. I don’t understand this: every drip of water on Matt’s body or clothing called for the use of the built-in hair dryer in the bathroom.   I’d never before realized how wet Matt must perpetually be.

Having just fallen asleep, I awoke at 10 o’clock to “ZZZHHHHHH!!!”

“Honey, what are you doing?”  I asked.

“I had a wet spot on my sleeve.  I dried it.” Said Matt.

And the next morning, “honey what are you doing?”

“I’m just warming up my clothes in case they’re wet.” Said Matt.

“Well…..are they wet?”

“I don’t think so.” Said Matt.

7.  Driving with a car full of thirteen-year olds is challenging. Especially when they sing this song to each other, whilst rubbing each other’s heads.

After that, they needed to sing it to inanimate objects.  “Soft shin guard, warm shin guard….”

Most challenging was when they decided to sing it to me, while trying to rub my head.  “Soft Ms. Stein, warm Ms. Stein, little ball of fur……”

I feel their behavior was why I kept getting lost.



Personal Entries

The joy club

As I go through life and meet new people, I sometimes meet another mother of three or more boys.  In a check-out line,  at a sporting event, a school function– those moments when we knock up against strangers long enough to engage in small talk.  Upon realizing this commonality, there always follows a small, silent exchange;  a moment of recognition and appreciation.   We meet each other’s eyes, break into a grin, shake our heads and roll our eyes: boys.

My mother’s sister, Joni, and her husband, Tom, have five boys.  There is a very special place in Heaven for Joni and my Uncle Tom.  They will have a full staff who jump to do whatever they say, the first time they say it, complementing them on their wisdom.  No one will require emergency medical care after five o’clock.

Clockwise from top left: Mike, (married to the awesome Cory, Dad to two) 36, Tom (musician and headed to college) 18, Bob (soon to be married) 31, Tim (college student and skate gangsta) 23, and John (USAF stud) 22

Growing up, I used to be baffled by the things I heard my Aunt and Uncle say.

“Don’t give them that key!”  Joni would say,  “They’ll just go put it in the outlets.”

Why, I’d think, would nine, ten, eleven- year-olds put a key in an outlet? They’re old enough to understand the danger at the age.

“Don’t tell them the light goes out when you close the refrigerator door,” Tom would say, “they’ll put each other in there.”

THAT is ridiculous.  They wouldn’t get into the refrigerator.

Joni and Tom were part of a club I had not yet joined, and now I understand what I did not then:  with boys, you must constantly suspend all common sense and consider the most unreasonable thing to do at any given time. Then, you must assume your sons will think of something worse to do.

They might not have put that key into the outlet when they were younger, but now that they know they can be electrocuted, they will spend hours attempting to electrocute themselves and each other.

And yes, they would get into the refrigerator.   I know this because I am constantly telling my boys to let each other out of the dryer.

Three seems to be the magic number.  Two boys can think of some really stupid things to do, but throw in the third and now you have an audience. Add an audience, and that last trace of common sense disappears.

I thought of my Aunt and Uncle tonight, as I said goodnight to Matt.

Matt fell asleep on the couch, and as Jake carried him up to bed, he woke.  As he neared the bed, he twisted and torqued like a hooked pickerel, flinging himself out of Jake’s arms and face-first into the wall over his bed. BAM…thunk.  And because that is all shades of AWESOME, he burst out laughing.

Laughter is the rallying cry for boys, and so Riley came running.  Seeing Jake in Matt’s room, he headed straight for him, ramming him with his head to cause as much pain as he possibly could.

“My NUTS!” Yelled Jake.

Jake, in turn, beat the snot out of Riley, causing him as much pain as he could.

“My NUUUUTS!” Yelled Riley, as Jake picked him up by his testicles, it seems,  and threw him onto the bed.

I had followed Jake as he carried his brother upstairs, and now, as I sat on the bed with Matt, his two brothers put on the Sunday Night Show.

“THIS is why I’ve always had the rule of no brothers in each other’s room at bedtime!” I say.

“I’ll take care of it, Mom!”  Says my oldest son.  And he grabs Riley by the ankles, and drags him from the room.    THUNK, face-down, off the bed and onto the floor. AHHHH, as the rug rubs the skin off his face.  THUNK, against the door frame.

Riley, at the last minute, grabs my leg and attempts to pull me with him.  My leg doesn’t bend at a 90° angle sideways, and in the midst of the craziness the most natural reaction is to laugh and hang onto the boy beside me.  Matt and I are dragged halfway off the bed before Riley releases his grip.

I spend the next half hour beside my laughing son, my gaze swiveling between him to my left, and his brothers to my right.  Matt, the youngest, big-eyed and freckled,  head thrown back as he laughs deep belly laughs at his brothers’ antics.  Jake,  standing bouncer-like in the doorway, hands held together to protect his crotch as Riley gleefully attempts to batter his way into the room, again and again.

“My nuuuuuuuts!” Yells Riley, as Jake drags him away from the doorway once again,  “He’s dragging me by my nuuuuuuuuts!”

For a half an hour I find myself crying out warnings and orders; setting limits which are not so much ignored at not heard through the laughter.

“Be careful of his head and his spine!  WATCH HIS NECK!  His HEAD, HIS HEAD!”  I plead.

“DO NOT  get that gun out at this hour.  NO WEAPONS AT ELEVEN O’CLOCK AT NIGHT!”  I order.

“Put the cap back on that deodorant!  Put the cap on that deodorant!”  I command, and then,   ” Oh yuuuuck! Now I have deodorant all over my arm.  Ew.”

“OK, let’s not move the furniture right now, LET’S NOT MOVE THE FURNITURE!”

As I sit beside my laughing son, I’m aware of how fleeting this time is, and I think of my Aunt and Uncle.  What do Tom and Joni feel as their boys get older and head off into the world?  My youngest cousin is eighteen, and only two boys are still at home.  Are Tom and Joni ready for a bit of quiet, or will they miss the ridiculous out-of-control of so many boys?  Is it heart-breaking, or a relief?   Both?

I think of my Aunt and Uncle in my first defined memories of them: the weekend of their wedding, almost forty years ago.  Joni: a red-haired, round-faced teenager, and Tom: youth-slim and dark-haired, dashing, and a bit cocky.

They’ve had quite a ride, and I’m sure it’s not what they imagined it would be.  Is it ever?

Tom, Joni, John (USAF)

More than time and all else in life combined, Tom and Joni’s boys have made them what they are today;  that half-wild, rough-sweet mass of constantly moving boy has been their life.  Their sons are the Sun around which their world has revolved, and at this moment I feel so lucky to be a member of the same club.

To be the mother in a house full of boys is joy, pure joy.


Personal Entries

I worry when it’s quiet

Sometimes, I question the wisdom of my “no TV until 7:00 pm” policy.

“Find something to do, or I’ll find something for you to do,” I said.

“Bored people are boring people,” I said.

“You’ll have to use your own brain, because I’m using mine right now, ” I said.


And then I walk into the kitchen to find four boys all tied to chairs with gags in their mouths.

I found this note later, and it explains so much.  Sort of.


Personal Entries

Wanna play drums on my nuts?

Afraid of retaliation after kneeing his older brother in the groin several times, Riley now has both his soccer shinguards stuck down the front of his jeans.  It’s not particularly comfortable to walk around this way, but it makes a great sound when you energetically play drums on your crotch.

“Hey Mom, wanna play drums on my nuts?”

“Um, no thanks.  I think I’m good, thanks.”

“Reeeally?  You don’t know what you’re missing…”

“It’s an incredible offer,  but maybe some other time, yo.”

 He shakes his head in disbelief.  “Crazy.” 

And away he wanders, happily drumming his nuts.

Personal Entries

A sock on his thing

The boys and their friends are watching music videos on YouTube,  our neighbor Dylon pulling up videos of the songs he’s recently learned to play on his guitar.

“We should start a band!  Can I learn to play the drums?”  Matt asks me.  “I’ll be the drummer!”

“No,” says Riley, “I want the drums!  Then I can dress like the drummer in the Red Hot Chili Peppers!”

Huh.  As far as I know the drummer for the Chili Peppers dresses normally.  But, I also know how very impressed Riley was to learn that the Chili Peppers have performed live wearing practically nothing.  He’s also impressed by No Doubt’s drummer, who often wears faux fur thongs while performing.  I wonder if these rock legends (perhaps mixed with thoughts of Animal from The Muppet Show),  have combined in his mind to create one Super Badass Drummer who wears….not much.  Whatever the image in his mind,  it’s impressive enough to make him think drums are the only way to go.

“OK,”  Matt agrees, “I’ll be the bass player then,  but who’ll sing ‘shoop, shoop’ in the background?”

“We need girls for that.”  Dylon says this with authority.  He knows what it takes to make a good band, man.

“Oh!” I say, “Miss Jill and I can be the ‘shoop, shoop” girls!”  I demonstrate my best hip swaying, slightly bored-looking shoop, shoop.  It’s pretty impressive.

Riley agrees to Jill and I being the shoop, shoop girls, with one caveat: “But you and Miss Jill can’t dress sexy, because that would just be weird.”

“Honey, Miss Jill and I can’t help our innate sexiness, and you just have to accept it.  And no one would even know we were your mothers!”

“Yes they would!  Because when I’m drumming all I’ll wear is a sock on my thing, and if you’re there you’ll say, Riley Stein! Put on some pants! That’s inappropriate!  You can’t wear a sock on your thing!”

“That’s what I’d say about you wearing a sock on your thing?” I ask.

“Yeah,” says Ri. “You wouldn’t like it.”

Personal Entries

All I did was sit on his face

At the airport with the boys, waiting in line to board their flight north to Mike,  I quickly run through my parting routine.

iPods safely tucked away?  Yes.

I’ll wait until your flight is in the air before I leave the airport, so no worries,  I’m here. OK?  OK.

You know you’re precious and I love you, RIGHT?  Yes, yes, OK, Mom, OK.

A kiss for each of my babies, and then I put my hand on my hip and point my finger at them each, in turn.  I’m not aware I’ve made this gesture, but I will be in just a minute.

To Jake:  “NO. Bossing.  Do NOT boss your brothers.”

To Riley:  “Do NOT instigate.  Yeah, I see that grin on your face, son.  Do NOT antagonize.”

To Matt:  ” Don’t get defensive. Just don’t go looking for a fight, OK?”

And they all start talking at once.  Well Matt and Jake do.  Riley puts his hand on his hip and starts shaking his finger at me, mimicking me, a huge grin on his face.

“Mom. Mom,”  says Jake, hands up and palms out, a physical gesture urging me to be reasonable, to stop being so alarmist.  ” I won’t boss.  I’m not going to boss them. I’ll just help them if they need it.”

The man in line behind them has to turn away as he begins to laugh.

“Sweetie, the line between bossing and unrequested help is such a fine one, and I just don’t think you have the  subtlety needed to handle walking that line.  Don’t. Help.”  One of the very best things about Jake is his ability to laugh at himself, and at this he laughs as he hugs me to him in a rough teenage boy hug, and tells me he loves me.

During this exchange Matt has been running a monologue. ” I am not defensive, I DON’T look for a fight.  I am NOT defensive.  Ri starts all the fights.  All I did was sit on his face, and he PUNCHED me in the head.  What?  I can’t even defend myself?”


“I’m not allowed to even sit on the COUCH?”

“Dude.”  I have no idea when the face-sitting-head-punching occurred, but I’m certainly reassured, now, that Matt won’t be defensive and look for a fight.


“Oh baby, I love you so much.”  I’m going to miss the little pacifist, and I grab him and squish him into a hug so overblown and athletic he stops his bitching and laughs.

“Mooooooom, I can’t breeeeaath!”

And as I hug him I look at my Riley.  Riley, grinning, eyebrow cocked, not-so-subtly pointing to Matt.  His brother’s head has just popped off in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, and he didn’t even need to say a word.

All I can do is sigh, roll my eyes, and love them with all my heart.