Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wholy Shirt!

There have been studies that say given the choice between cleaning the house and taking care of small children,  most people would choose to clean the house.  This has nothing to do with the fact that people love their children immensely, rather it has to do with how incredibly frustrating and irritating children can be.  There, I said it.  (This is, of course, not news to any parent.)

New clothes came in the mail today, and for once, I had ordered Tiny Pants his own brand-spanking-new shirts, instead of relegating him to wearing his brother's hand-me downs. Tiny Pants decided he wanted to wear four shirts to school today, at the same time, both under and over a pair of overalls he can barely manage to undo to go to the bathroom without help.  I thought it was a bad plan. He thought it was brilliant and the pinnacle of fashion.

Trying to convince a four year old that they are wrong and can't do what they want is like teaching a pig to sing; it irritates the teacher and frustrates the pig.  There were tears. There were glowering stares. There was an unspoken threat on a looming tantrum, and that was just me. 

Four year olds brains don't reason in the way adult brains do. I tried logic. Nothing doing. Eventually I got him down to two shirts underneath the overalls and one on top.  Now, all you people without kids are thinking, "Just put your foot down!"  These people have not learned that you will never win a battle of wills with a four year old. Ever.

I waited him out, and planted the seed that he might, just maybe, get paint on his new hoodie at school.  Right before it was time to go, he took off shirt #3 of his own volition. 

What did I get out of the experience? A sense of satisfaction that I eventually won? No. Pride that he made the preferred decision on his own? Nope. I got something more valuable than all of that.  Birth control.  Spend an hour or two with a persnickety four year old, and your uterus just may jump out of your body and run down the street.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How We Obtained a Cat

I was hesitant to get a cat.  

1. Cats are a long commitment.
2. Cats will require veterinary expenditures of an unknown amount over their lifetime.
3. Cats come with cat boxes that no one cleans but Mama

However, I like cats.  My boys had wanted another pet since the guinea pig had died a year previously, and I figured a cat was a hardier animal. Daddy had a dog and a cat at his house (my cat, to clarify) and we just had a dog since the unfortunate guinea pig death that will require Big Pants to spend years in therapy, I'm sure. Daddy's cat was nearing the end of her days, and the guinea pig -sized void was about to be increased to a cat and guinea pig sized void in their lives.

Still, I wouldn't have done anything about it if a dear friend hadn't had a stray cat give birth to kittens in her house.  We went and visited the kittens as soon as their eyes opened.  They begged.  I considered.  I was filled with fear of commitment like a twenty year old man.

I bought cat food, cat litter and a cute little dish set for the kitten I was not entirely sure I wanted to obtain. I called my vet and discussed shot schedules and costs and timing of neutering, and continued wavering.

Finally they were ready to leave their mother, and with great trepidation I went sans kids to pick out a kitten.  They boys had their favorites, of course, but seeing as it would be my responsibility, I figured I should get the one I really liked. I took the cutest one they had. 

I brought the little guy home (yes, now my household consisted of two male children, a male dog, and a male cat) where he promptly hissed at me and hid under the furniture.

 I dragged him out and put him on the bed, where i promptly took a bunch of cute kitten pictures, at least until I noticed a flea on his leg. The vet had told me they could give him a mega flea pill if he in fact, had fleas, but I had neglected to pick it up.  I had fifteen minutes to get to the vet, so kitten went in a box and I ran. I fear flea infestation almost as much as lice infestation.

Kitten was given a pill and some topical stuff, and I spent the evening with him on my bed, cooing over his impossible cuteness.  Well, I did for about five minutes, until slightly dead but not entirely dead fleas started dropping off him onto my white sheet. Aaaaaaaaack!  There were more fleas than a 2 pound animal could possibly hide on his body, and they weren't entirely dead.  They were hopping. In my bed. On the bottom sheet, not on top of the comforter, because I have no foresight, apparently.

Kitten was combed against his will and allowed to return to his hiding place under the dresser while I washed everything and vacuumed thoroughly. Kitten was named in a less elaborate naming ceremony than I had envisioned due to the time spent in flea-de-infestation-ing. 

 I knew if I let the kids name him it would take days or weeks of arguing, and he'd wind up named after a football player or cartoon character, so I was claiming naming rights for myself. I would like to say I held him up to the sun, smeared ashes or crushed ochre on his forehead and said, "I Name You Grunion!" but that didn't happen. I'm not sure I even looked into his eyes and said his name with great reverence.  In fact, I'm not sure I even told him that "Grunion" was a name that belonged to him, or asked his opinion of it. I just assumed he'd figure it out.

Grunion, by the way, are fish that come up on shore to breed and lay their eggs.  They are an unusual fish, but not particularly attractive. 

image credit:

Still, I loved naming a cat after a fish, and Grunion has a nice ring to it. 

In a weird twist of fate, their father's cat was put to sleep the same day I obtained the kitten surprise for them. I hadn't planned it as a transition animal but it  did ease their grief, or taught them to stuff their feelings and replace the dead with the living.  I'm sure it will come out in therapy one day.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Three Weird Ways I'm Like my Mother

The kids and I just got home from a visit with my moms (plural intended).  I completely envy people who live in the same town as their parents.  It was great to have people that I love deeply to chat with at the playground, and to help make sandwiches and manage the chaos my children bring everywhere they go.  It was great fun sending the children to pounce on them to wake them up in the morning.

When you live in the same town as your parents, I think you don't appreciate all the little things you have in common with them.  I don't mean marveling over matching wrinkle patterns on foreheads, standards of cleanliness or even the phraseology of any individual family.  I mean the little weird stuff other people don't notice.

For example:

My mother will fill a glass of water, drink most of it, and leave a little bit in the glass right next to the sink.  One could say that the sink is right there, just dump it out and get fresh water next time.  But I understand this!  I do the same thing, and I always wondered why I always do this!  I saw the cup, and I got it!  It's not my fault! It's heredity!  We are a water conservation people!

One of my moms asked if I wanted to take the kids to a certain beach.  I did not.  I read a news article a few years back about someone who lost a leg to a shark at that particular beach in two feet of water. Now, I know this isn't a rational reason not to go to this beach, but still, I wasn't going.  The other beach with no remnants of human blood was fine with me.

I told my other mom, "No, I don't want to go there. I have a completely irrational reason I'll tell you later." (I didn't want to mention leg-eating sharks in front of the boys.)

My mom replies, "OK, we won't go there.  We totally believe in irrational reasons."  

Bless her heart, she wasn't being sarcastic. She went on to tell me of how she had a dream that  I drowned at this campground we frequented every summer, and after her dream we never went back, even though we had been going to the same place for years. 

Lastly, they have the same appreciation for the finer things in life.  As a stylish, sophisticated woman, I have some standards. Apparently, my moms have the exact same high standards.  While wandering through a botanical garden, I asked if they had a bathroom.

"Oh, they have a very nice bathroom! It doesn't even smell!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to Fly with Children

This is long, I'm sorry. It's not meant to be funny, it's meant to be a how-to manual. If you just want funny, come back tomorrow.

Flying is different than driving. Your children are not locked up in car seats, there are other people who can be irritated by your children very easily, and you can't bring everything you own. It's manageable, though, with a little preparation, even if you don't own a DS hand held electronic gaming device.

As a child, my brother and I flew from New York to Alaska a few times a year, starting when I was four. By the time I was 10 or 11 we flew "unaccompanied minor" with flight attendants helping us change planes, and by 13 I did it totally on my own, navigating airports and boredom with alacrity. I know a lot about being a kid on an airplane. 

I started taking my kids on airplanes by myself when they were 9 months old and three years, respectively, and have done so at least once a year since.  We are travel pros, and I am always complimented on their awesome plane behavior by random strangers.  

Here are some tips if you are planning a flight with your own little monsters and no adult back up.

1. Your kids will either view this as an amazing adventure, or a horrendous torture.  If you are relaxed and non-stressed, they will be, too.  Kids feed off your anxiety.

2. Smile at people.  Realize that everyone looking at you is dreading your children melting more than you are, and they will be excessively grateful when your kids don't.  Just smiling at employees has gotten me moved to the front of the security line, gotten extra snacks on the plane, and once gotten us invited into the cockpit of a 747 and allowed to sit in the captain's seat. 

3. Every airline I have ever used checks car seats for free.  Tape your name and phone number to the bottom because there is nowhere to tie those ID tags to.

4. An umbrella stroller is a must for little legs under the age of five. I use it to carry the car seats into the airport, and also as a luggage cart. An older kid can ride on the back of an umbrella stroller (with the little one in the proper seat) until about age 6. If you child is too little for an umbrella stroller, use a front facing baby carrier. This also works well as a means of restraining an older baby on the flight when he or she wants to run all over the plane. Strollers also work as high chairs once you reach your destination.  You know those moving walkways that say "no strollers"? I ignore the signs. I am capable of managing to push an umbrella stroller on a moving walkway and even chew gum at the same time. No one has ever stopped me. (Don't sue me if you fall on our face, though.) I also yell, "On feet" at escalators, and the little guy jumps out of the stroller and I carry it on the escalator. I never have time to find an elevator.

5. If you have a second child walking beside the stroller, give them a designated spot.  I tell the big one that my left side is his "spot". When I glance down in a moment of panic, I look in one spot, I don't have to scan both sides.   

 6. Wear a backpack as your carry-on. It will get heavy, and one strap bags tend to swing around and peg the older child in the head.  Understand that your backpack is not for you. Go the the Dollar Store and fill it with toys, activity kits, and food. Let them pack whatever toys they want in their own backpacks, but realize that on the plane nothing they brought will have any appeal to them at all.  Their toy collection will have merit once you reach your destination, but on the plane they are pretty useless. 

7. If you have a laptop, bring a few DVDs and earphones. If you don't have a splitter, just give each kid one earpiece. If you're lucky, you'll get a plane that has TVs on it, but most of them don't. I'm always bringing my laptop anyway, so it doubles up as a DVD player. Although some planes have outlets under the seat, most do not, so your car DVD player will be useless. Some planes have in-flight wifi, but again, you can't count on this for netflix, and even the ones that do don't always allow streaming of video. 

8. Remember, it is you against them. This is the time to focus on survival, not nutrition. Be prepared to feed the kids every 15 minutes, and I don't mean carrots. You don't want them to puke from too much candy, but bring things they won't whine about eating.  On a two hour plane ride, have 8 snacks. Also, bring an empty ziploc bag for all the sticky things you give them, they lick once and hand back to you.  I once spent a very long 20 minutes holding two sticky lollipops and a wad of gum waiting for the plane to reach cruising altitude.

9.  During take off and landing, the pressure change will hurt their ears if they aren't chewing/swallowing.  If they are too little for gum, bring skittles, laffy taffy, lollipops or sippy cups. If they nurse, nurse 'em. People would rather see a boob than hear a baby scream.

10. With children under the age of 7, avoid flights longer than two hours. You are better off with two shorter flights. Also, pay attention to flight times.  You know your kids, and although mine are morning people who love to leave the house at 5:00am, not every child is like this. Bringing a child on a flight past their bedtime is asking for trouble.

11. Be prepared for the security line.  Wear slip-on shoes and skip a belt. Kids don't have to remove their shoes anymore, but will have to remove coats. We leave our winter coats in the car in we are flying south. It's just not worth the hassle.  When we are waiting in the security line I tell my kids that the security people are looking for hamsters in people's luggage. This reminds the TSA to be nice to the kids - they are small and easily scared. It always makes the screeners smile and be extra sweet to the kids.  It also confuses the kids enough so they don't start thinking about real scary things they may be looking for; they spend the time trying to figure out why so many people bring hamsters on vacation.  Also, talk to your kids about what to expect.  They will have to walk through the metal detector by themselves, and they will freak less is they understand what is going to happen.  

Note: I have never been asked to send the kids through the full body scan. They just use the old-fashioned walk through metal detector. 

12. Try and arrange for an hour lay over between flights. Too much time will make you crazy, and too little will make you run too fast.  If you miss your plane you will be sitting in an airport for hours.  Detroit is the only airport I have even seen that has a play area.

13. When all else fails, play the squiggle game. It works for kids of many age levels and all you need is a pen and a bit of paper. You can do this on the edges of in-flight magazines or old boarding passes, in a pinch. It's very simple. 

You draw a squiggle:

Then the other person has to make a picture out of it:

It's a great time killer.

14. Realize that when you land your children will be "done" but your relatives won't be.  You have one job; get your kids fed and out of the car as soon as possible. They don't want to stand around jawing in the airport, or take the long way to drive by your old high school. They want their travel to be done, and now they need something healthy or they will be sick to their stomach and cranky. 

15. One thing I occasionally forget is that the trip home requires the same amount of preparation.  Now you have tired, worn-out children who have eaten all the snacks and used up all the surprises from the outbound flight. Just because you bought them toys/souvenirs on your trip does not mean they will be satisfied with this on the plane.  If you were smart, you brought return trip toys/snacks with you or snuck off to a Dollar Store while on vacation. If you are like me, you are now out of everything and considering hitting up the airport gift shop.

Note: Some of you don't believe in bribing children for good behavior. Some of you don't believe it is your job to entertain children or buy them surprises for trips.  That is fine.  You can also take some of the toys that are under the couch or otherwise long forgotten instead of buying new toys.  You can bake cookies instead of bringing candy, and make them handmade travel journals to draw and write in, if you prefer. What you do need to do is have something novel for them, even if it is just a pretty shell or rock they can pretend is their pet. As long as you are mindful that travel is hard on little guys, that time moves backward on airplanes, and that nothing they own will entertain them and the flight attendant will bring you no food, you will be fine.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Name Calling

Kids eat your memory and make you stupid, or at least stupider than you were pre-kids.

When I was a kid, there was nothing that enraged me more than a parent calling me by the wrong name. My dad would call me by my brother's name (I am a GIRL, for the record) or the dog's name.  The dog's name was the ultimate humiliation.

As a parent, I have done this to my own children.  You open your mouth, and stupid comes out.  You know which child is which.  You know which one is the dog. All of this does not matter when a glass of milk is free-falling onto the carpet.  You yell someone's name.

I have, as I believe I have mentioned, two boys.  They are about a foot in height and two and a half years in age apart.  They are easy to distinguish from each other. I always know who I mean.

I have solved the issue by rarely calling my kids by name.  In real life, not just the blogisphere, I call my youngest Tiny Pants.  He loves it.  He tells me he will always be my Tiny Pants, no matter how big he grows. He is slightly small for his age, and I sometimes think he is refusing to grow just so he can remain Tiny Pants.

I call my oldest, Big One.  He does not particularly care for it.  He has pointed out that Big One has two syllables, as does his proper name. He asserts that it would take no more effort to say his actual name.  He is right, in theory, but what he doesn't understand is that the wires in my brain that connect coherent thought with speech are shorted out when I see a glass of milk headed for the carpet. I revert to cave mama, "Big One! Make milk stop! No hit floor! NOW! Unga! Unga!"

Because I am very grown up and mature, when I am confronted I do the only possible thing I can.  I turn it around on him. I explain that if he and his brother both went to bed nicely and stayed in bed all night I wouldn't be so tired and I would be able to think more clearly.  I do realize that my brain has been so stupefied since pregnancy that this will not really help, but any chance I get to encourage them to sleep must be seized. And let's be honest, sleep isn't going to hurt.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Eyebrow Alopecia

I like to say that I'm not vain. I am practical, in that I will chose a nap over a shower, and I often am startled to realize that even though I looked in the mirror at my clothes, I forgot to look at my hair until I was in the car.  I was raised by lesbians - I can spurn fashion with the best of them.

However, not so deep down, I am vain. My children were startled to learn (through photographic evidence acquired in the baby book mentioned in a previous blog) that my hair isn't really the color it appears, and that they, in fact, have no memory of me with my natural hair color.  I don't wear makeup most days, but I do care about how I look. (Note: I had a chalazion cyst last year that has made it impossible to wear eye makeup everyday, even if I wanted to due to sensitivity of my eyes. When you have a cyst type object an inch long on your eyelid for 10 months, you get really afraid of reoccurrence.)

My views on beauty have changed over the years. I may not be aging gracefully, but I'm not going into my forties kicking and screaming, either. The older I get, the more I recognize beauty in non-traditional forms.  For example, I saw a man at the pool with huge, well-defined pecs and 6-pack abs, and my first thought was that he looked deformed. I saw a cheerleader TV show, and thought the teenagers looked imbalanced with big boobs and no tummy or hips to speak of.  They seemed to defy the laws of nature, and I feared they might topple over.  Perhaps because I no longer fit the beauty standard of a  hard stomached, non-wrinkled 20-something year old, I no longer aspire to be one.

That being said, my vanity comes out in strange ways.  I choose to obsess about random body parts that no one else notices.  Lately it is my eyebrows.  I have recently noticed that I have a bald spot in my right brow.  Eyebrow alopecia. Normally, when the boys are taking a bath, I sit in the bathroom with them and clean the sink, paint my toenails, or pluck errant hairs to pass the time, or, lately, obsess about random uncooperating body parts.

This brings us back to the eyebrow. I have a vague memory of maybe waxing too much brow, but perhaps it's a pimple, an ingrown hair, too dry of skin, or old age that's too blame.  My mother's eyebrows abandoned her almost entirely as she aged - perhaps it is heredity! 

I actually feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach over this from time to time.  I know it's silly.  I know I'm not about to be discovered at the next middle-aged divorced Miss America or something. I know no one else probably will notice (except for a perfect eyebrow connoisseur). 

I'm currently debating moisturizers, eye brow pencils, bangs and Jungian therapy. Advice is welcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day - Men Can't Win

I think Valentine's Day peaked for me in 4th Grade. 

1. My mom gave me a small heart-shaped box of chocolates at breakfast. She did this every Valentine's Day, but for some reason I was always completely surprised by it. I was a little slow, I think.

2. We got to do fun arts and crafts at school, including making a mailbox for our valentines.  Mine had a mouse on it, that I made with a heart:

3. Every kid had to give every other kid in class a valentine, so you got like 28-32 little cute cards, some of them with candy or stickers or something.

4. We had some sort of class party involving mailing our Valentines, followed by giggling and discussing who gave what to whom while drinking red punch and eating heart shaped cookies.

5. There were no boyfriends.

Once boyfriends got into the picture, Valentine's Day tanked.  If you didn't have a boyfriend, the day started with high hopes of getting an unexpected Valentine from some unknown and previously undiscovered cute boy.  I don't recall this actually happening in my life, but there was a widely circulated urban legend or two on the topic I believed in until I was, um, 30.  The unknown Valentine never came, and the day ended in self-pity.

A bad boyfriend wasn't any better than no boyfriend- in some ways, it was worse.  No one else was going to seek you out to be their Valentine, and the one you had was being a horrible disappointment.

Even if you had a good, most awesome, best-est in the world type of boyfriend, he only gave you one Valentine, not 32, and you probably didn't get to do any arts and crafts.  Really, there was no way to top 4th grade. 

Valentine's Day is, I think, a set-up to make everyone feel bad about themselves, and buy lots of chocolate on clearance the day after.  Women, let's be honest, there is no gift that is going to make up for all the decades of bad Valentine's Days that have come before.  We have PTVDD (Post Traumatic Valentine's Day Disorder).

Women on Valentine's Day: surf Pintrest etc. for cute heart shaped breakfast and dessert items, pour over cards for hours looking for the "perfect" one, buy present for Honey and new outfit for ourselves, plan hair, makeup, undergarments, dinner reservations, paint toes in holiday theme. Raise expectation levels through the roof.

Men on Valentine's Day: buy present, ask Honey where they want to go eat, practice "duck and cover" techniques.

Case in Point: I had a friend in my college years (college round one) who was living with her boyfriend.  He was Officially Awesome: sweet, nice, didn't smell.  She spent one Valentine's Day incensed at him all day because she knew he was going to forget.  She was so pissed, she refused to get him a present or card.  He came home with a 20 pound Russell Stover heart and she was slightly embarrassed, but also still mad because he couldn't prove he planned it in advance and didn't just stop on the way home from work out and bought the biggest thing he could find out of desperation.

Men can't win. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homework Avoidance

There is nothing like homework to make me want to clean the house, or work on my blog, or play a board game with the kids, or give the dog a bath.  As soon as I open my textbook, I am struck with an overwhelmingly urgent need to knit tiny booties for the fish, but first, I must learn to knit.  Luckily I have a book to teach me how to do this, but no needles, so I must go to the store and purchase knitting needles and a craft-kit to occupy my kids so I can keep those precious fishes' tiny fins warm this winter.  

Ok, not really.  But in the time it took me to answer 10 of my math problems, I also checked my Facebook 7 times, read email in 2 accounts, texted 3 people, did 5 jumping jacks (I swear my butt was getting larger by the minute, and I could feel blood clots forming in my legs) and started 2 blog entries.  I also participated in my other class's discussion board, hugged the cat against his will a few times. let the dog out and in again and drank a can of diet coke. I now feel a great Homework Manifesto coming on that must be written down immediately, before I forget it.  I must make sure to document my objection to the word "subtended" for all of humankind.  This is clearly more important than finding the area of a parallelogram.  It reminds me of the little protest signs I doodled on my math folder in high school that read "Down With Math."  (See, I was articulate and clever at a young age.)

Next, I poured myself a glass of wine.  Note to Readers: Math and Wine don't mix. Wine and blogging, wine and housekeeping, wine and a lot of other things, ok, but wine and math, no. I no longer cared about finding the circumference of a circle, or of anything else. Although, now that I think of it, I should find the circumference of the fat rat terrier sleeping next to me.  That would be fun and educational, with the added bonus of irritating the dog. But first, I should pay some bills. Paying bills is important. It is necessary. So is printing off my insurance cards and doing my taxes.

I have the perfect excuse for not doing homework - the kids are at Daddy's.  My seven year old loves to sit on my lap and "help" me do my math.  He takes his brother's toy cash register (which is also a working calculator) and calculates the numbers I give him, and recites the answer to me.  It is educational and bonding.  If I were to do all of my math homework without him, he might miss out on an awesome personal growth/parental bonding moment, and that would be bad parenting. So I paid one bill and checked Facebook two more times, and considered posting a 10-minute play I just read and loved to my writer's group. Because all of that is way more important that finding the density of a cylinder. 

Here's why: something marvelous has been invented called the internet.  If, for some odd reason, I need to know the circumference of anything, I can type it into my preferred search engine and get the right answer, every time.  What I can't  do is use my search engine to spend quality time with the kids, clean my house, or torment the cat.  Therefore, it is a simple matter of economy.  I need to do what only I can do. Not math. Down with Math.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baby Book

My first born has a beautiful baby book. My stepmother used to sell Precious Memories or Happy Moments or whatever it was called scrap-booking stuff, and she made sure I was well stocked with primo materials. I have a calendar page for every month of his first year of life, complete with photos and die-cut little duckies and stickers.  I noted things like the first time he chased a cat, when he spoke, or looked like he might be thinking about speaking. I noted every sniffle and smile and nap for posterity.  

My second born has a mini book with the first 24 snapshots ever taken of him slipped into molded pages . That's it.  As the second child, myself, I had no baby book either, so I know it's not just me. 

He started asking where his baby book was. "Ummm, it's imaginary" I wanted to reply, but didn't.  Instead I printed out 67 pictures taken mostly by phone cameras and found an empty purple suede photo album to put them in, and started rummaging through drawers to find "stuff".

It has a hospital baby hat, worn by one of them. The hospitals here use the same baby hats, so it could belong to either, but as I was low on baby #2 mementos, it became his.  I even found a teensy tiny wooden clothes pin to use to keep it in place.  (Awe! So Precious!) I found some baby themed die cut duckies and used them to fill in the empty holes in the album, which look sort of eerie against the black background, for the record.

I found my hospital bracelet from his birth, but not his.  I figured that was close enough.

In my rummaging, I found two calendar pages I made way back when I thought I might be able to maintain the baby book standard. They talked a lot about his brother, too, but mentioned when he first said "Mama", when he crawled, and for some odd reason, when he ate a cat furball.  

Boy #2 was ecstatic.  He started asking me all those same questions I asked my mother, like when he said his brother's name, and what date and time he first walked.  And I came up dry. I had no f-ing idea, and nothing written down to look back on. I didn't have "congratulations on your new baby" cards, first birthday invitations, or lists of cute things he said.  What I had was a purple suede album half-filled with dark and out of focus pictures in a somewhat chronological order, and a lot of gaps.  (There're some stellar photos there too, interspersed between the others. I mention that only to feel better about myself.)

Because we live in a digital age, I can go back and rummage through my computer and print the pictures of his first birthday and second Halloween.  Maybe my mother snapped some pics at Christmas, because I was too busy picking up wrapping paper and making sure each child opened a gift at the exact same time to take more than one picture (with my phone, of course) each year.

All I can hope is that someday he will have more than one child and understand.  I never loved him less, I just lost the ability to document it along the way.

original image:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Call to Bikini Action

Dear Victoria's Secret,

Please stop sending me emails out your latest bikini catalog.
You're messing with my Zen.

Only Mama

I have a body. (Surprise! I'm not a talking head!)  It is not exactly the body I came with. I have modified my body, not through plastic surgery, piercing, or tattoos, but through child birth.  I thought it faired well after two pregnancies, but as time goes on, I can see that things that stretch don't always go back exactly the same way.  I'm actually pretty ok with this.  I'm nearly 40, and I'm ok with looking like a hot 40 year old.  I don't want to be 20, and I don't want to look 20. 

That being said, I have to say I miss bikini season.  I would rather look great in a one piece than a little past my prime in a two-piece, but I really don't like it one bit that my bikini days are gone. (I am tempted to post 10 year old photos here to prove I once had excellent bikini days, but that will serve nothing. Enjoy these dogs in swimwear, instead.)

I think we should be able to opt-out of bikini catalogs.  I think Venus swimwear, Frederick's of Hollywood, and Victoria's Secret should send out catalogs of awesome sexy things that hide your stomach, and come in the mail with indirect soft lighting.  

I know what you are thinking; it's February. I know!  Please join me in a letter writing campaign not only banning bikini catalogs being sent to people mourning their youth, but also that no bikini catalog can be created before May 1st. It's time to take action!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Favorite Sleep Stories

Sleep is a funny thing.  I used to sleep a lot before I had kids. You could say it was my favorite hobby. I was a big baby about sleep, and had this theory that if I didn't get enough I would be miserable. I have actually cried real tears (pre-kids) because I couldn't sleep. Once the dog farting kept waking me up, and I was blubbering like a two year old because I was going to be tired the next day.  Wuss.  I had no idea what true sleep-deprivation was.

I had first one baby, then two, and I think it's safe to say I have never slept the same. The sound of one tiny foot hitting the floorboard in the middle of the night is enough to wake any mother.  For some reason it doesn't seem to have the same effect on fathers, I'm not sure why.

My ex and I got a puppy before we had kids. This puppy needed to be walked in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter.  We lived in an apartment, so taking the puppy outside involved clothes and a leash, not just opening the back door.

We decided to take turns taking the puppy out, seeing as we both worked full-time. It was a good plan, except for one problem; he never got up. He could sleep through the puppy barking and I could not. Well, he said he didn't wake up, but I didn't believe him. I was pretty sure he was awake and just lying there waiting for me to deal with the puppy.  I was a lighter sleeper, and once I was up, I was up, so I might as well get up and take the dog out. 

I asserted that it wasn't fair, but night after night, he snored (sometimes with a pillow over his head to block the barking) and I got up and walked the dog.  He contended I should try the pillow trick and complain less. 

I was exhausted and fed up of being the only one to get up in the middle of the night, every night, that I did the only rational thing. The next time the puppy woke up and my ex just pretended not to hear, I kicked him. Hard. And pretended I was asleep.

We had a colossal row. The biggest, loudest fight of our marriage. I argued that he pawned off the dog on me every night,  He claimed the puppy never woke him up. He felt the act of kicking him was violent behavior and unacceptable. I contended that I kicked him in my sleep and must have been having a bad dream. Yup, I lied like a rug.

We made up, and life went on, but I didn't confess for years. It wasn't until our first child was born that I cracked.  When we both had reached a state of complete sleep deprivation, I finally confessed that on that night years ago I kicked him on purpose.  We both laughed.  We had no idea how tired we could be and live, back before kids, when we only had the puppy. 

It took me a long time to learn to nap while the children were awake. No matter how tired I was, I just couldn't relax enough to fall asleep. I had friends who did it, but I just wasn't a good enough sleeper, or tired enough, I guess.  Now they are older, and naps are easier and safer, but I don't know if I will ever love them more than the day they gave me my first nap.

About a year after I had been a single mother, I finally got my first nap.  It was the day after my birthday, and I had stayed up too late the night before. Somehow, I had managed to fall asleep to some children's show while the kids were running around the living room.  The oldest, then four, woke me up once to tell me the baby was trying to eat my necklace. I was rescued my necklace and managed to fall asleep again.  While I slept, the big one went into the kitchen and brought my birthday cake into the living room.  The little guy (18 months) sat next to it and licked all the frosting off, while his big brother used his hands to feed himself.  When I woke up, it looked like a cake-bomb had gone off on the carpeting.  All I could think was that it was totally worth it to get an hour's sleep.

Call me crazy, but I miss those days.  Life was harder with tiny ones, but also sweeter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pawning off my Work on my 4 Year Old

I had no blog ideas today, so I decided to make Tiny Pants do my work for me. (I also got him to vacuum.) I don't keep a Mama journal of cute things he said, so I thought this might sort of serve as capturing a moment in his developmental history.  Or something. Apparently, he wasn't much in the mood for being particularly witty and entertaining either, but at least I can blame him if it bombs.

Q:  How tall is mama? 
A:  39. 
Q:  39 What? 
A. 39.5 
(Well, now, that clears things up.)

Q:  How much does mama weigh? 
A: 5 pounds

Q: How old is Mama? 
A: 39 

Q:  What is Mama really good at? 
A:  Homework

Q: What is Mama not so good at? 
A: Playing catch. You get hit with the ball in the head a lot.

Q: How are you and Mama the same?
A: Cuz we are in the same family.

Q: How are you and Mama different?
A: We aren't different. We are exactly the same.

Q: What is your favorite game to play with Mama? 
A: I would say my favorite game to play with you is pig. 
Q: How do you play pig? 
A: You pretend to be a flying cow. You said I could say a made-up game.

Q: How tall are you? 
A: 1
Q: How much do you weigh?
A:  zero.
Q: How old are you? 
A: 1
Q: You're not one.
A:  Yes I am. The ski mask is new so I am one.
(Ah, the youthful exuberance from new clothes. I know it well!)

Q: What are you really good at?
A:  Looking at magazines to look for stuff to get for my birthday.

Q: What are you not so good at?  
A: Catching or throwing or hitting a golf ball with a golf club.

Q: What's your favorite thing in the whole world?  
A:  You.

Flying Cow, by Tiny Pants

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Defying the Manifesto

As a child I made mental notes of all the ways I thought my parents or teachers were screwing up and vowed never to do those things when I got to reign superior over children of my own. As an adult, I have gained an understanding about a lot of things my mother did or didn't do, and nothing has made me understand her more than having my own kids.

Because I never wrote my list down, I have forgotten a lot of the specifics of my list, but  a few of the most important ones are etched permanently in my mind. I have even discussed some of my manifesto with my children.

This has not always been to my advantage, in fact, it could be said that it is another situation where I have explained too much to those little walking data recorders. 

Mama: "If you two don't stop fighting, I am going to beat you with a big stick!"

Big Pants: "Mama, you can't hit kids. It's against the law."

Mama: "No, Honey, it's not against the law. You can legally hit your children, just not too 
hard or too often."

Big Pants: "But Mama, you don't believe in hitting children.  It would be bad parenting. You said so in your Manifesto." *

Foiled again!  I am cursed with children who listen and remember too much.

Recently, though, I went against my sacred childhood manifesto. It was wrong, it was something I said I would never, ever do, yet I did it with the defiance of a teenager and I'm still only quasi-sorry.

Here's what happened:
Tiny Pants had to go to a speech therapy evaluation at the local elementary school.  I was carrying him up the sidewalk to the (wrong) door, and noticed he had breakfast remnants (ok, chocolate) adhered to his face in a somewhat permanent-looking way. I had no wipey. I didn't even have a kleenex. I was struck by the thought that my kid and I were about to be judged by a group of professionals we had never met in a school we did not even attend. In general, I feel like a dirty-faced four year old is relatively acceptable, but for some reason on this particular day I did not. Not at all.

I did what fine mothers have done for generations, and which I swore I would never, ever, ever, under no circumstances ever do. I spit on my fingers and wiped his face.

Because I talk too much, as I did it I confessed that this was something I swore I would never do.

Mama: "Tiny Pants, I swore I would never,ever, do this, but…"
(extends saliva covered fingers and smears over sweet unsuspecting cheek)

Tiny: "Mama! You are covering me with slobber! I smell like Mama slobber!"

Mama: "I know Honey, but it was an emergency."

We went to our appointment, and I assumed the matter was settled. It wasn't. When we picked up the big one from school, Tiny ratted me out to his brother.

Tiny Pants: "You will never guess what Mama did to me today."

Big Pants: "What?"

Tiny Pants: "Something she said she would never do."
(Pauses for dramatic effect and looks at me with great accusation.)
"She rubbed slobber on my face!"

Big Pants: "Ewww!"

Sigh. I remember the smell of parental slobber applied to my face. I remember trying to avoid the application of parental slobber at all costs. I swore I would never spit on a napkin and rub it on my children. I vowed to be the mother who always had a wipey. And yet, I did it. And you know what? I'm not sorry.


*Empty Threat Backstory:

I have, on occasion, threatened to beat my children. Disclaimer: this has never been said out of anger, or as a result of children doing something actually beat-worthy. It's only used as an empty threat when children are being mildly irritating, because, well, it's my mother's fault. She always threatened to beat us to a "bloody pulp" and the words have rolled smoothly off my tongue a few times.I always knew she wouldn't ever do it, it was her way of saying, "kids, you're getting close to pushing it too far," and I follow in her fine example. Just as I was never afraid of the bloody pulp threat, my kids aren't either.

Once we were at the grocery store, and after listening to me beg endlessly for candy, my mother threatened to beat me "within an inch of my life." The (probably childless) adult in line was about to call the police, but luckily I laughed and didn't look at all afraid. From then on, my mother tried her hardest to contain her threats to places out of earshot of well-meaning people.

**Thank you Microsoft for your free clip art**