Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An ode to Crocs.


I love Crocs. Can I give them a shout-out?

I personally don’t own a pair for myself. I'm told they're super comfortable, but I just haven't gone down that road yet. I don't think I plan to. However, my kids have several pairs in various colors.

I first discovered these “squooshy,” rubbery shoes in a boutique a few years ago. Initially I couldn’t believe that people were letting their kids walk around town in these clown-like shoes. It looked like a parade of a little nurses and chefs. I decided to give them a try though, and I bought each of my boys a pair for the summer. We were soon hooked. They loved their Crocs, and the shoes’ cuteness won me over. Annabel got her first pair as soon as she could walk.

However, can I register a couple complaints about the Crocs we adore?

My first complaint: I can’t deal with the problem that my sister and I have dubbed, “Croc toes.” Yuck. Now that the warmer weather has returned and my kids are playing outside more, “Croc toes” has returned in full force.

“Croc toes” is a pretty nasty affliction. Can I get some reprieve?

What is “Croc toes” you ask? Let me explain. I love that there are little air holes in the tops and sides to keep the kids from sweating, but the amount of dirt that enters is just gross. Maybe it’s just me, but I do not relish cleaning the dirt that gets caked, and I mean caked, under little toenails. Add a little dirt toe jam and it’s enough to make me retch.

I can handle poop and vomit. (As long as it’s my own kids doing said pooping and vomiting.) It’s part of my job description. But constantly having to scrape dirt from under toenails every night in the summer just sends me over the edge. I've taught my older boys how to use a nail brush for the job, and they actually think it's fun. (Who knew? Showers, they hate, but cleaning their feet with a toenail brush is fun? Go figure.) After they reach a certain age, I just can't do it anymore.

I guess my kids could just wear socks with their Crocs but you try getting a boy to put white ankle length sweat socks on in 80-degree weather. Yeah, good luck with that one. I even made up a little song called, “Socks ‘n Crocs,” but it was not a one-hit wonder.

My second complaint: Crocs, in all their rubbery goodness, have ruined an entire generation of kids who do not know how to tie their shoes. Velcro is also an accomplice.

Didn’t we learn to tie our shoes way back in kindergarten? Not anymore. Kindergarten is a big deal. Haven't you heard? Kindergarten is the new first grade. They’re too busy doing stuff like reading and writing to stop and learn how to tie shoes. Sheesh, what is this world coming to? (She says with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.)

Thus, it is up to parents to teach their children how to tie their shoes, and you can guess how well that one is working out. It’s not.

Charlie, my 2nd grader, can tie his shoes, but it takes him a long time, and he can never get it “tight enough,” as he says. Henry, my first grader, gets the general concept but hasn’t mastered it. My kids have to wear white tennis shoes with their Catholic school uniforms, and Henry refuses to wear anything but Velcro shoes. It looks cute on a first grader, but I picture him being a 30-year old businessman someday who wears Velcro wing-tip shoes with his suit to work. Or dark brown Crocs.

I know this is our fault. Bill and I have tried. We have tried “bunny ears” and the “loopty loop” tricks. Frustration usually takes over from all parties involved, and we give up too easily.

I know what I’ll be doing this summer. I’m going to home school the kids in “Shoe-tying 101”. Wish me luck. It can’t be that hard, right?

Henry and Charlie can both read very well, and they even know how to do basic multiplication and division. But for some reason learning how to tie their shoes is like learning Chinese.

I’ve just decided what to do. I’ll confiscate all the Crocs, flip-flops and Velcro in the house!

Yeah right.

I know I’m a little nutty, but not that crazy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's the thought that counts, right?

Mother’s Day is my favorite holiday of the whole year. Of course if you know me, you’d think my favorite holiday is Christmas because I start playing Christmas music in late October, but truly, I love Mother’s Day.

Bill and the kids usually spoil me for the day, and what mom doesn’t need that at least one day a year, right? I love the handmade gifts from the kids, and I love how they pitch in to help make me breakfast in bed, and a nice dinner. I also love the sappy cards they give me, and the kisses and hugs.

Now that Easter is over, and Mother’s Day is on May 10 this year, the advertisements for Mother’s Day have begun. JCPenney, Kohl’s and Macy’s all have circulars this week featuring gift ideas for Mom such as perfume, clothing, purses, and jewelry. These are the standard gift ideas, and they are good ones. However, there was one particular ad that caught my eye, and it made me laugh. KitchenAid has a 4-page fold out circular that says, “Celebrate Mother’s Day with Special Offers From KitchenAid.”

Yeah right.

The mom pictured in the ad is smiling, but I’m sure she's thinking, “A mixer? Really? After dropping all those hints about jewelry, I get metal. But instead of it being a precious metal, it’s a big hunkin’ metal mixer.”

Let me just say that I have a KitchenAid mixer and I love it. KitchenAid makes the mother (pun intended) of all mixers. It makes baking a pure joy. However, a mixer does not a Mother’s Day gift make.

Maybe this is just my opinion, but appliances are a big no-no for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or any other day designed to make a woman feel truly special and treasured.

Clearly, men are behind this advertisement, and I don’t begrudge the KitchenAid company for trying to capitalize on this holiday’s moneymaking potential. Everybody needs to make a buck, especially during this recession.

But men need to know that there are only two times when it is appropriate to give a woman an appliance for a gift:

1.) If it is her wedding and she has registered for appliances.

2.) If she has explicitly asked for a specific appliance. By explicitly asking, I mean she must say something to the effect of, “Honey, I would like you to get me a toaster for (insert holiday or special occasion here). If she says, “Geez, I’m so bummed our toaster is broken, I’ll have to get a new one soon,” then do NOT buy her one as a gift. She is just telling you that the toaster is broken and she will buy one soon. This rule does not apply to diamonds or jewelry. If she says, “Wow, look at Jenny’s new diamond tennis bracelet from Bob. I love it,” then this is her passive aggressive way of asking you to buy her a tennis bracelet.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are a slew of Moms out there that are just dying to get a new mixer, or toaster or coffeemaker for Mother’s Day, and I am sorry if I have offended you. I am not one of them.

I do not expect Bill and the kids to spend a lot of money on me for Mother’s Day, and store-bought gifts are great. But I would like a gift that does NOT require work on my part, at least for a day. Work, as in, “Hey mom, we bought you this great mixer, now get to work making that chocolate chip banana bread we love so much!”

Bill learned this lesson the hard way. One year I had casually mentioned that I might want to get a toaster oven. However, I was not asking him to buy me one. My wonderful husband is attentive though, and on Mother’s Day 2002 he bought me a large, gleaming, stainless steel toaster oven. This thing cost over $100, and he was so proud of himself. Of course I said, “Oooohh…how nice! Just what I wanted!” and all the other things you say when someone buys you a gift, whether or not you like it.

But as the old saying goes “you can put lipstick on a pig, and it’s still a pig,” I just thought to myself, “I don’t care if this toaster oven is the fanciest one on the market, and it can toast a bagel perfectly, or even fold laundry for me, it’s still a toaster oven!” But I said nothing to Bill. It’s the thought that counts, right? He was proud of himself, thinking he got me something that I asked for (I did not) and that I would love. I was determined not to be a spoiled brat, and just suck it up and use the darn toaster oven, even though it was the size of a small microwave, and took up way too much precious counter space.

Sidenote: On this particular Mother’s Day in 2002, I was 6 weeks postpartum with Henry, my second child. I was hormonal, tired, leaking breast milk, I was feeling fat, and to top it all off, Henry was projectile vomiting constantly and losing weight. (We soon found out later he had an allergy to the dairy in my breast milk and regular formula.)

Over the next few days the notion of the toaster oven got stuck in my head. In my hormonal haze, I was getting annoyed that I just carried and delivered our second child (I was on bedrest with Henry from 29 weeks on) and I couldn’t believe that all I got was a stinkin’ toaster oven. A stinkin’ toaster oven.

I decided that I had to speak up and tell Bill the truth, and I asked him if he would mind if I returned the toaster oven. He was genuinely shocked, and couldn’t believe I didn’t like it. That was when I laid down the “no appliance rule” (electronics like iPods and the like are okay and are not considered appliances) in our marriage. Now when I ooh and ahh over a Dyson vacuum or a brand-new Rowenta iron, he knows better.

Bill said he appreciated the gift guidance. Honesty is a good thing for a marriage, isn’t it? Everyone was happy. I blamed my hormones at the time, but I’m glad I said something.

In all seriousness, I do know that it is really the thought that counts, and I’m just as happy with a clay pinch-pot vase handmade by one of my kids as I am with a new purse. If it weren’t for Bill and the kids, I wouldn’t be a mother. It is because of them that I am able to have this awesome job, and this life experience.

But I am only human. Sometimes a little bling is a nice thought too, isn’t it?

Friday, April 24, 2009

A girl who knows what she wants

The other morning I heard Annabel on the baby monitor chattering away in her crib.

I love to hear her talking to herself when no one else is around. “Mommy Daddy Daddy Mommy,” she said in a sing-song voice.

I went into her bedroom with a big smile on my face, ready to greet her for the day.

“Hi sweetie! Good morning!” I said exuberantly.

“Hi Mom. I’m poopin’. Come back later,” my two-year old calmly replied.

I laughed, thinking she was being silly, and tried to pick her up out of the crib.

Instead, she looked at me seriously and said firmly, but politely, once more, “I’m poopin’. Come back.”

Well she told me. Apparently “poopin’” in one’s pants is serious business. But as I stood outside her door I thought to myself, “Here is a gal to knows how to ask for what she wants.”

I admire her assertiveness at two years of age. I am glad that my daughter is self-confident.

My little Annabel taught me something. Granted, the lesson was learned through pooping, but it was a lesson learned nonetheless.

People will still respect you when you are firm, but polite, and ask for what you want and need. It's not necessary to always be a people-pleaser. Like me.

I thought of Annabel later that day when I was making dinner and the phone rang. It was the Tru-Green guy calling to talk to me about the health of my lawn. He wanted to discuss nitrogen levels and weed control. Sorry, don’t care buddy. I pay you to make my lawn grow, and keep it green and weed-free. Other than that, it’s all blah, blah, blah.

But instead I stood there and politely listened to his spiel while I absentmindedly stirred my pasta, and my eyes glazed over. I should have told him I was busy, but instead, I let him continue. I wanted to be nice.

Maybe I should have taken a page out of Annabel’s playbook and said, “Sorry, I’m poopin’. Call back later.”

That would’ve really gotten rid of the guy.

Maybe next time. Hey, a gal can dream, can't she?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Call me sappy.

You might as well nickname me “Maple,” because I am full of sap. I’m a very emotional person. I wouldn’t say that I’m sensitive, because my feelings don’t get hurt easily; rather, I am emotional. I cry easily, and I love it. I get choked up when my third son brings me a bouquet of dandelions. I get choked up when my daughter says, “I lubs you Mommy.”Now I am getting choked up again when I think about my oldest, who is making his First Communion next Saturday, May 2.

Motherhood is the great contradiction. One minute we are wishing our children would just get through that tough phase, whatever it may be, and the next minute we are wishing we could stop them from growing up so fast.

There is something about your firstborn child. I’m not saying that they are the favorite child, or the preferred child. I am just saying that with your firstborn child you hit those milestones for the first time together. They, in a sense, teach you how to be a parent. When I breastfed him for the first time I had no idea what I was doing. But my newborn boy taught me how to do it, and by the time his siblings came along I was an expert. When I potty-trained my firstborn son, I was clueless as to how to do it the right way, but we learned together. My other three kids have taught me countless lessons as well. Kind of ironic, huh? Is the parent the teacher, or is it the other way around?

I have tried my best to savor babyhood and now childhood with my kids, but alas, it still doesn’t stop time, and time passes way too quickly. I keep a diary of the funny things my kids do and say, and now I have this blog to help me remember these days and to put things in perspective. I also write each of my kids a letter around their birthday every year, recounting the last year of the life, and describing the events and milestones that occurred. It’s hard to believe that my oldest son's stack of letters has grown to be eight letters high.

What other job has the moments that parenthood has? Do you think people keep diaries of their days and milestones at an accounting firm? Do you think they try and savor the moment when a colleague brought them a cup of coffee? I think not. This job has many difficult and frustrating moments, but I’m finding that most days, even the boring and mundane ones are to be savored because all too soon they will be a memory.

Things have gotten fuzzy over the years as our lives have gotten busier and more children have been added to our brood, but I still remember the exact moment that I found out I was pregnant with each of my kids, and I still remember the exact moment when each of my kids was born, and how I felt. It’s like I heard a camera-like click go off in my brain, forever preserving those moments in time. What I don’t remember as well is the bad stuff. I don’t remember every pregnancy complaint, or every punishment I’ve ever had to give. After all, if all we ever remembered was the bad stuff, who would ever take on this job? I believe it’s God’s way of keeping the world going. He blesses parents with selective memory.

Last night my boy said he wanted to practice for his First Communion. He said he is nervous that he won’t get it right. So he put milk in a plastic wine glass, squirted a few drops of strawberry syrup in it, and called it “wine.” Then he put some Girl Scout shortbread cookies in a bowl and called it “bread.” He told me I was the priest. He folded his hands and walked down the long “aisle.” (our front hall) Then as I, “Father Clare”, held up the Girl Scout shortbread cookie and said, “The Body of Christ,” I got choked up again. Bill and the boys laughed at me. My oldest son said, “Mooooommm! Are you going to cry AGAIN?”

Yes Charlie, I am going to cry. And I am going to savor and enjoy every last minute of it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Say “cheese”! Please?

Don’t you wish it was that simple? I could line up all four of my kids, tell them to say "cheese”, they would all smile simultaneously, and then…click! Ha. Only fools think like that.

I, like most parents, love taking pictures of my kids. The invention of the digital camera makes this job even easier. I honestly don’t know how my parents (they had six kids) ever took the annual Christmas picture or any posed family picture without one. I guess they just clicked a bunch of times, crossed their fingers, and hoped that one of the pictures looked halfway decent.

Yesterday was Easter, so it was one of the few days out of the year that my whole family is scrubbed down, dressed up and looking good all at the same time. Is it too much to ask for a picture to document the day? Apparently it is.

Candid photos are great, and they’re actually some of the favorite ones I have of my kids. I love to snap little shots of them playing together when they don’t think I’m watching, or at random sweet little moments. But this is different. I wanted a family picture. I wanted a picture I could put in a tabletop frame. I wanted a picture where I could see all their faces clearly. I also…gasp…wanted a picture in which they are all smiling. At the same time. I know these kinds of pictures exist. I have seen them on my friends’ Facebook pages.

There is a science to taking the family picture, and it varies for every family. You want to take the picture when everyone is not too tired, too hungry, too cranky, too wet, has to potty, or has “scrumply” socks (Henry’s word). As parents, it is our job to find that perfect moment and pounce on it. Yesterday, Bill and I fed the kids breakfast, let them have a little (read: a pound of chocolate per child) Easter candy, and dressed them in their Easter duds. Phew. All was good. Time to get the camera!

We lined them up together. “Stand close together and smile! This is going to be really quick,” I said. Famous last words. One kid poked another. Another one wouldn’t stand too close. No one would smile at the same time. Tears ensued. The pleading and the threatening began. (I started it.)

My kids actually get along most of the time. But the minute the camera comes out and I want them to pose together, (the operative word being “pose”) all heck breaks loose. Maybe it’s the dressing up part. Dress clothes make kids “itchy”. Or so I’m told.

Charlie said, “Mom, can’t you see we don’t want to do this? Can we just go to church now?”

I snapped back, “Look Charlie. Moms want pictures of their kids all together. Get over it. Some day when you’re a parent you’re going to want pictures of your kids too. Now just stand still and smile and we can leave.” I know. You’re thinking to yourself, “What a tender moment between mother and son...”

In the end, I was happy with the picture I took. It was perfect in all its imperfectness. The picture highlighted my kids’ personalities, and I know I will look back at it someday with a smile. They say that "a picture is worth a thousand words," but sometimes it's more like five thousand, because there is a story behind it.

Perhaps yesterday will come to mind when I am a Grandma and I am watching my own children struggling to get their little ones to sit still for a picture, and I will think to myself...

“Ha. Told you so.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

“Dude, a tampon is NOT a sword!”

A mere ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine every uttering those seven words in succession. Now I say things that make me take a step back and think, “Did I really just say that?” I think I understand what they’re talking about on reality television shows when the characters complain about being edited poorly, or their words being taken out of context. God forbid they had a camera in my house. These “one-liners” I find myself uttering so frequently would come back to haunt me.

Sidenote: I love to open the windows in our home when it’s a nice day, but often wonder if my neighbors hear me yelling these “one-liners”. So far they have been too kind to tell me. Thank you kind neighbors. You have allowed me to keep my dignity intact. For now.

Back to tampons and swords. My house was unusually quiet one afternoon. Quiet usually means trouble. I found George and Annabel upstairs in my master bathroom having a “light saber” battle with tampons. Yes, tampons. (They were unused, of course. Do you think we’re totally uncivilized around here?) Herein lies my parenting dilemma. They were actually playing together very nicely and having a good time. Do I let them turn my tampons into toys and get a few minutes peace, or do I tell them to stop? Snap out of it, Clare! It’s a tampon!

Alas, a Playtex tampon does not a toy make. I told them to stop.

“George, a tampon is NOT a sword!” I said.

“Yeah, Mom. It’s not a sword. It’s a light saber,” George calmly replied. “What’s a tampon?”

Not touching that one.

Whenever Henry remotely senses that George is in the slightest amount of trouble, he runs to the scene and he gawks. He relishes these moments.

Henry’s sensors went off. He just knew that somewhere in the house, George was about to get in trouble. There are skid marks up the stairs as Henry runs into my bathroom. “Ooh…George is in trouble for playing with Mom’s ‘privacy’ stuff!” He is practically giddy with excitement at this point. “Naughty step for George! “ Henry says.

“Henry, stay out of this! He’s not in trouble. He’s just going to put all this stuff away.”

I came back a few moments later and found them sticking panti-liners to my bathtub.

“Guys! Panti-liners are NOT stickers!”

Ugh. I just did it again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Corn is a vegetable, right?

No, actually corn is a grain. But I like to tell myself it’s a vegetable because it’s just about the only one my kids will eat. Well, they do eat tomato sauce on their pizza and in their spaghetti, so at least they’re getting some veggie power there. What? Oh crap. That’s right. Tomatoes are a fruit. So let’s see…I guess just about the only vegetable they will eat is a potato. It still counts if it’s fried, right?

Last year I saw an episode of “the Oprah Winfrey Show” featuring Jessica Seinfeld and her new book, “Deceptively Delicious”. Her book features family-friendly recipes that are healthy because you sneak vegetable purees into them. Her kids loved it! Jerry Seinfeld loved it! Oprah loved it! Chocolate brownies made with carrot and spinach purees that still taste good? Well then I would love it too! Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with pumpkin and yellow squash purees? I was giddy with excitement just thinking about all the ways that I was going to give my kids their veggies! But sneaky me, they would never know it! “Mommy of the Year Award”, here I come!

I went out and bought the book the next day. The recipes look simple and quick, the pictures make the food look mouth-watering, and most of the ingredients are stuff I have in my own pantry. Except for the vegetable purees. No problem. Jessica said she plans her meals in advance and she and Jerry spend every Sunday night steaming a week’s worth of veggies, then pureeing them and putting them in little Ziploc baggies. She said it gave them time together to bond, and they would talk about their week. Huh. Healthy food for my family, and bonding time with my husband? Check, and check!

I pictured us tucking our little angels into bed on Sunday nights, then going down to our kitchen hand-in-hand. Bill would say to me, “Time to puree the cauliflowers and butternut squash, my love.” Then he would gaze longingly into my eyes as I leaned over the steamer basket and I would say, “Plug in the food processor, snookums, time to puree the beets.” Well, maybe that’s a little exaggeration, but you get the idea.

I wish I could tell you that her recipes are as delectable as they look, but unfortunately I have not made a single one. Zero. It’s not that I don’t like to cook. I really enjoy cooking, and do it several times a week. But the puree thing was far beyond my realm of effort. Jessica’s book is wonderful, and I’m sure her recipes are too. But the thing I think she forgot to mention was that her staff had already folded and put away all her laundry, vacuumed her house, swept the floors, and made the children’s school lunches for the next day. When she is done pureeing all her vegetables, someone else comes in to clean up the mess in the morning. It works for the Seinfelds, but it doesn’t work for us.

The last thing I want to do on a Sunday night, (or any night for that matter) is puree carrots. Or red peppers. Or sweet potatoes. I am proud of myself if I remember to take off my makeup or brush my teeth before I pass out in my bed. So Jessica, can you please do us lazy moms a favor and market and sell your own purees? That way our kids get the veggies, and we get more sleepy time. Sleepy time is good. I guess I could just use baby food as the purees, but unfortunately they don’t make cauliflower and red pepper purees.

I guess if I had some “people” then I could tap into this idea and its extraordinary money-making potential for lazy moms everywhere, but alas, I am “people”-less.

For now I will stick to my old ways of bribing my kids to eat their veggies. “Asparagus makes your pee smell! Let’s see if that’s true!” (If you have a boy, they will fall for this. At least once.)

We were eating broccoli with our pasta recently, and I said to Bill (rather loudly so the kids would hear it), “I love broccoli, but I probably shouldn’t eat too much of it because it makes me sooooo gassy. I just don’t want to fart too much tonight.” Well apparently those words are like poetry to a young boy! I looked over and saw my three guys munching on…

Broccoli.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where the Heck Are Max and Ruby’s Parents Anyway?

If you have a child born sometime after the year 2000, chances are you’ve pondered this question. My sister and I were discussing this very topic a few weeks ago. Apparently we are not the only people who have ever wondered about the status of these two orphan bunnies, because there are Facebook groups and pages dedicated to the question of their parentage or lack thereof. My point about these bunnies is this: why do I care? Why do I care that Ruby is too bossy? Why do I care that she has to watch Max all day under no adult supervision with the exception of the occasional visit from Grandma? Why do I care that Max seems to be about 3 years old, yet he barely speaks? (Get that bunny to speech therapy!) And who the heck is that Baby Huffington?

Several years ago I used to ponder life’s really important questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” “What should I choose for my major?” “What am I really put on this planet to accomplish?” Now I find myself thinking about cartoon bunnies. That's what this job does to you. It scrambles your brain with its once philosophical, intelligent thoughts and churns out thoughts about bunnies. (And don’t even get me started on Dora and her monkey running over mountains and rivers without the slightest help from anyone over the age of 18. "Hola! Is this Child and Family Services? Yes, I would like to register a complaint.")

Awhile ago some mom friends and I were drinking wine and discussing TV shows for kids. Somehow we got to talking about “The Wiggles.” (I know. You wish you were there. It sounds riveting, doesn't it?) My friend broached the topic. She said, “If you had to “marry” (actually she said something a lot more crude than “marry”, or even "sleep with," but I try to keep this blog somewhat G-rated, so use your imagination) a Wiggle, which one would it be?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” I said through my laughter.

“Really, Clare? You’ve never had to endure episode after episode of the Wiggles going on and on about fruit salad and Dorothy the Dinosaur and thought to yourself, ‘Hmm…they’re men. I wondered what it would be like to “marry” a Wiggle?’”

“Nope. Can’t say that I have.” (This is a lie, of course.)

So she said, “Well what if someone held a gun to your head and made you “marry” a Wiggle?”

Okay, I don’t know what kind of messed up country or political situation I’m living in where people hold guns to women’s heads demanding that they “marry” Wiggles, but I digress. I decided to play along. I said something like, “Well, the answer to that one is simple. Anthony. But only if someone held a gun to my head. Who knows anything about the new "yellow" guy that replaced Greg, Murray's way too nerdy and he wouldn’t put down his guitar long enough, and Jeff is always falling asleep.” (And who needs that? Am I right, ladies?)

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who thinks about these things. Now, don’t get me wrong. Children’s television is very high quality these days. It’s educational, interesting, colorful, and musical. But once you reach adulthood, it messes with your head. You start over-analyzing the minutiae. What happened to the days when I had crushes on rock stars? Now I’m questioning the sex appeal of the Wiggles with my girlfriends? I find myself wishing Caillou’s mom would de-frump herself, get rid of that peter-pan collared monstrosity she always wears EVERY DAY, and change into a hip wardrobe. (Ever hear of bootcut jeans, mother of Caillou?) I also have a favorite Backyardigan. (Spunky little Uniqua, of course.) I wonder why Swiper the Fox just doesn’t give it up already. (They're on to you, sneaky little dude.) And what the hell is up with the demented gang from "Yo Gabba Gabba?" DJ Lance Rock? Muno the big, long, red thing with one eye? Who dreamed him up as a character in a kids' TV show?

It doesn’t get much better when they get older. My two oldest sons watch “Hannah Montana” and I found myself snorting (yes, I actually snorted) with laughter recently when Hannah’s brother Jackson made his armpit fart. Who me?

I tell myself to enjoy it though, because my children’s enjoyment of this innocent programming means that they aren’t jaded yet. My two youngest children still help Steve (or Joe) find all three of "Blue’s Clues", and actually get excited every time he solves it. They still sing along with "the Backyardigans" on their imaginary journeys. Max is pretty darn funny to them, and it also hasn’t occurred to them that something is a little off with those two aforementioned bunnies and their constant lack of supervision. Charlie and Henry are "too old" for Nick Jr. and Noggin, but they still laugh at crazy antics of Hannah Montana, Zack and Cody et al on the Disney Channel.

I shall enjoy it while it lasts, because too soon they will be begging me to let them attend the latest R-rated movie with their friends, and telling me I’m such mean for not letting them see it. It’s much easier now.

But I do have one more important question that bothers me from time to time: Who the heck names their kid Caillou? And why does he have a voice that grates on my last nerve?

Monday, April 6, 2009

How Do ‘Fishies’ Poop?

Well, well, well. I wish I knew the answer to that question, because apparently my children think I’m a font of endless knowledge. I am prone to knowing useless trivia, but mostly I’m just really good at sounding like I know what I’m talking about. I often wonder at what age my children will think to themselves, “Sheesh. I think mom just fudged her way through that answer. She just fed us a pile of you-know-what. That lady does not know what she’s talking about.” Honestly, I’ve never thought about how or why ‘fishies’ poop. They just do. But my 4-year old son needed an answer, and gosh darn-it-all if I wasn’t going to give him one. So I answered him in the best way I knew how. I said, “Well, ‘fishies’ poop through their ‘fishie’ butts. They’re kind of like our butts but without cheeks.” He bought it too. Hook, line and sinker. (pun intended)

This is my first blog entry and I’m exceedingly proud of myself for finally getting my act together to do what every self-respecting modern mom should do: blog. All the “cool kids” are doing it, right? I finally got a Facebook page, so I must continue my jaunt along the highway of modern technology; thus I now have my very own blog. And I can say whatever I want! Choppy sentence fragments and all! My life is frustrating, exhausting, chaotic and exasperating. But in a really good way. I feel that it’s worth documenting, if only for the purpose of giving my kids a few laughs some day when they are older. I guess I picture us sitting around the table in some future scenario and yukking it up about the all the times they drove Mom crazy.

I have four children. These four little people have been my biggest joy and on some days my biggest headache. I strive not to be a “complainer” mom. Yes, I’m tired, but so are all mothers! Yes, I’m bored some days, but so are all mothers! Nobody wants to hear about this. At least I don’t. I do, however, love hearing stories that I can relate to about motherhood that make me laugh, and make me feel a little less crazy. I consider myself both a realist and an optimist. In other words, I do complain, but I try to do it in a funny way, because I know this job is tough, but it’s also great. My husband Bill and I wake up every morning wanting to do the absolute best job we can raising these little “blessings” of ours. Some days we feel like we fall short. But all in all we can’t and won’t give up. Every day is a lesson. I have always had a pretty good sense of humor and I try not to take myself too seriously. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart or humor. I can laugh or scream. I choose to laugh. (Well, most of the time. I have been known to scream in exasperation.)

Here’s a little background info on our children:

My oldest son, Charlie is 8 years old. We named him Charlie because Bill said, “Who doesn’t like a guy named Charlie?” And he was right. He’s friendly, helpful, a good student, and relishes his role as our oldest child.

Our second son, Henry came along 16 months after Charlie. He is 7 years old. Henry is inquisitive, smart, and has an amazing memory for the most intricate details.

George is 4 (and ‘a half’ as he likes to say—he loves to give himself those extra few months of age. You’ll never catch me saying I’m 34 and 1/2. I’d love to say I’m 25…plus 9.). He is our third son. He’s smart, energetic and loyal to those he loves. If you ever need a spontaneous hug, he’s your man. He’s a true Gentle Giant.

Annabel is 2 years old, and she is our fourth child. She also has the distinction of being our one and only girl. Now let me just say that I was never one of those mothers that HAD to have a girl. I never prayed to God to bring me a little pink ballerina. I just always prayed to God for healthy children, and I’m a firm believer in the preschool mantra, “You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.” Besides, I have five sisters, (yes, I said FIVE) and they are my best friends. That being said, I’ve lived with enough women in my lifetime to know that estrogen is great in small doses, but in large doses…well…it can get a little scary. (If you’d like me to regale you with stories of hair-pulling, stolen sweaters and sister subterfuge, then I’ll save that for another day. By the way, the thing they say about women’s menstrual cycles lining up when they live together? Totally true. PMS times 4 or 5 at a time is not a pretty sight.) I figured that if I never had a daughter, but if I ever needed some girl time, I could call on one of my sisters. I also adored being the mother of boys, and did NOT need the pity of people who felt like my life would be incomplete without a daughter. So when I was pregnant with my fourth child, I honestly started to worry, “What if this one IS a girl? Will I know what to do with her? Will my boys try to toughen her up by throwing her to the ground in a headlock? And most importantly,where am I going to fit the Barbie Dream House with all this Star Wars crap we’ve accumulated? ” I was also getting sick and tired of people asking me, “Are you going to try for that girl? You need a girl! Every mom needs a girl! What are you going to do if this one is NOT a girl? What are you going to do if you have a fourth BOY?” (One lady even said the word “boy” like one would say “vomit” or “feces”.) So when I was pregnant with our fourth, we brought all three boys with us to the 20-week ultrasound. The technician rubbed the cold gel on my tummy with the wand, poked around for awhile, and then said definitively, “It’s a girl!” As soon as he said that, I cried tears of joy. I just knew instinctively that this was meant to be, and I couldn’t wait to see how a little girl would add a totally new dimension to our family. I looked over at Bill, and my usually calm, not-easily-surprised husband kind of had a face like, “Huh?” But it was Charlie who broke our stunned silence by saying, “NOOOO! I want a brother!” Henry and George echoed in chorus, and Bill assured them that girls are fun, and they would love their sister. To which Charlie replied, “Girls talk too much.” (True, Charlie, very true, but that’s a lesson for another day.) Apparently I had just cursed them with the worst thing of all: a sister. Fast forward two years later and Annabel is the yin to their yang. She’s the perfect balance of girly, with a little tomboy thrown in for good measure. She leads her brothers (and Bill) around on her own little “leash”, and they love every minute of it. That gal’s got moxie. I know I’m making her sound like the "moll" in some 1930’s gangster flick, but she’s got spunk in spades. She softens their rough edges, and they toughen her up in just the right way.

I love watching my kids all together when they are getting along. It gives me a glimpse of their future as adults. I always tell them that they are each other’s best friends, because no one on the planet will know them in the way their sibling does. No one knows you from birth or understands you like a brother or sister. They know all your “stuff” and why you are the way you are. The relationship can be contentious and competitive at times, but I hope that they can look past that, and appreciate the differences they each bring to the relationship. If Bill and I raise four healthy people who love each other, who actually enjoy each other's company, who root for each other, and who are there for each other in support, then I will be a success.