Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mama said what?

I usually don’t like to complain about annoying moms, because I'm probably one of them. Somewhere out there, someone is probably complaining about me. But I guess there’s nothing I can do about that is there?

Please allow me to complain explain.

Today I was at the library with the kids, and there was another mother there that just made me wanted to scream. But I couldn’t. Because that’s rude. And we were at the library. No screaming allowed.

It was a typical trip to the library for us this morning. Charlie and Henry were searching for books in the big kid chapter book section, and George and Annabel were with me in the kids' section, looking for books and playing with puzzles. Like most public libraries, the kids' section of our local library is very family friendly, with an activity table, computers, games, and shelves overflowing with lots of great books.

There was another mother in the kids' section with me today, and she was repeatedly trying to force her two daughters to sit in her lap and read books with her. Both daughters were having none of it. Her older daughter was a cute, spunky little thing, and she looked to be about 3 years old. She clearly wanted nothing to do with the whole sitting-down-and-reading-thing that her mom wanted her to do so badly. The girl wanted to play with the puzzles. But the mother persisted, and kept saying over and over, “We came here to read books today, not to play. Now sit in my lap and let me read to you!” I chuckled to myself and thought, “Good luck, lady. Your daughter has other ideas.”

But that wasn’t the annoying part.

Annabel picked up some hand puppets and started playing with this woman’s younger daughter, who looked to be about her age, 2 years old. The two of them were playing with the puppets, naming what animals the puppets were, and giggling with each other. It was quite adorable. At Annabel’s young age, I always get a kick out of her making a friend. I also didn't think they were being too loud. The kids' section is in the back of the library where a little bit of noise is tolerated. After all, why would the library put all these great toys and games back there if absolutely no noise of any kind was allowed?

Clearly the mom was perturbed that her other daughter wouldn’t sit in her lap and read either. She just wanted to play with Annabel. So after the little girl giggled loudly when Annabel “mooed” with the cow puppet, the mother grabbed her daughter and said quite loudly, “Andrea! (not her real name) We do NOT act wild like this in a library!” Then she harrumphed a bit and continued, “SOME mommies let their kids act like this, but I do NOT! You need to remember OUR family’s rules!”

I guess that means my kids are uncivilized heathens.

It took me about 3 full seconds to realize that this woman just insulted me and my parenting. I swiveled my head and turned to make sure that I was indeed the mommy she was referencing in her diatribe to her daughter.

Um…excuse me? Mama said what? Passive aggressive much?

Lucky for her, I have a thick skin, and I’m not the confrontational type of gal. So I just pretended I didn’t hear her. But little does she know, I have my own blog, and this is how I vent.

So…na na na na poo poo.

Of course I just let Annabel continue her totally appropriate playing with the woman’s daughter.

And because I didn’t think it pissed this lady off enough the first time.

It was actually quite comical watching this woman and her skewed expectations of her two girls. Her children were well-behaved, and very sweet. They were doing exactly what most other 2 and 3 year olds do, but this mom was trying so hard to look like the perfect mother with perfect little daughters, and it just came off as pretentious and incredibly unrealistic.

I also kind of felt sorry for her, because she just looked worn out. She finally acknowledged me and said in a very tired voice, “I can’t wait until preschool starts in the fall. I need a life again.”

And then she said, “I noticed you have four kids. I don’t know how you do it.”

I wanted to say something totally passive-aggressive to get her back, but I took the high road and just said, “It’s not so hard.”

Well, maybe that’s not really the high road. And maybe it’s a teensy bit passive-aggressive.

And it’s also also a total lie. This job is very hard.

But I didn’t really feel like telling her that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The tough questions

There comes a time in every parent’s life when you must answer the really important questions.

Where do babies come from?

Where is heaven?

Why do people die?

Was Michael Jackson black or white?

What?!? Of all the questions one of my kids could ask me about Michael Jackson or his death, this is what I have to answer? That one really stumped me. I’d actually prefer to answer the “Where do babies come from?” question.

Charlie asked me this question this morning as I was watching “Good Morning America.” I almost choked on my Cheerios because this question came out of left field. He said very innocently, "Mom, was Michael Jackson black or white? Because he looks black in some pictures, but then it looks like he turned white. Which one was he?" Umm….how do I answer this tactfully? Gotta think on my feet.

So I said, “Well, he was born black, but then I think he took some medicine and it turned his skin white. But he was still the same person, even if he looked like a totally different person. It doesn't matter. We should always accept people, no matter how they look.”

What?!? Stupid answer, Clare. Or was it the right one?!?

I always overanalyze these situations because I want to say the most appropriate thing. I want to be PC, even with the kids, lest they go around repeating my little “gems” of wisdom to their friends. And they will repeat what you say. Bill and I aim to teach them tolerance and acceptance of others. But we want to do it in a way that doesn't overwhelm them with so much information that we confuse them.

It’s not that I want to shield them from current events. We have talked about the war in Iraq, and the situations in North Korea and Iran. We also talked about the "Jon and Kate" divorce when we were in line at the grocery store and one of them read it on the cover of a tabloid and asked what it meant. Charlie and Henry are 8 years old and 7 years old respectfully, so I think it’s time to let them know that there’s a bigger world out there than what they find in their neighborhood and school. But I do wish I could send the news through a cheesecloth-like strainer some days and only pull out the information I want them to have.

A few weeks ago I had the 5:00 news on as background noise while I was cooking dinner and the kids were playing in another part of the house. There was a teaser for a story about the “pregnant man,” who just had another baby. Of course, Charlie popped in the room, overheard that exact line, and said, “A PREGNANT MAN?!? What?!?” To which I quickly said, “Oh, they were joking!” and flipped the channel. I was flummoxed and didn’t know what to say, so I did what most people do when they are flummoxed: I said nothing. Stupid? Perhaps. But we haven’t had the entire discussion about exactly how women have babies, so how the heck am I going to explain how a “man” has a baby? No thanks. Not ready for that yet.

Back to Michael Jackson.

There has been wall-to-wall news coverage of the untimely death of “the King of Pop,” and Bill and I were discussing it, so we would be dumb to try and shield the kids from it. Besides, I wanted to watch some of the news stories about him. I was a big MJ fan back in the “Thriller” and “Bad” days, before Michael started looking like he hired a toddler with a Play-Doh knife to perform plastic surgery on his face.

As I sat on the couch with Charlie this morning watching the news coverage, I was armed with the remote, ready to flip the channel if a reporter started talking about molestation charges brought up against Michael in the past. Yes, I repeatedly have the discussion with my children to never let anyone touch their privates, but no, I was not interested in having the discussion with regards to the allegations against Michael Jackson. I would rather talk about how great some of his music was, and how he started singing when he was very young.

We had the discussion about death again, although my children are unfortunately a bit familiar with death because their grandpa died unexpectedly in 2007. We also had the discussion about drugs and how bad they are, and how they can ruin your heart and kill you. And yes, I used the word “kill” because I’m perfectly happy to scare the crap out of them if it means protecting them.

I know that life is not all rainbows and unicorns.

But is it wrong of me to let them think that it is for just a little bit longer?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little prison time never hurt anyone.

We have a carpeted, bright and cheery finished basement playroom area that I used to think of as a very nice part of our home.

Until I went down there yesterday.

Our house is only a year old, but this room is aging quickly. Mess is not even a word I would use to describe it.

How about squalor? Is that helping you picture this basement? I would have taken a picture, but even I have my limits on how much I would like to humiliate myself in a public forum. Moldy apple cores. Empty yogurt wrappers. Dirty underwear. Toys covering every square inch of floor space. Chocolate and blue yogurt stains on the carpet.

Ugh.

Double ugh.

The kids love their playroom, so I try not to suck the joy out of life and be OCD or anal-retentive about cleaning it.

As if I have the energy to be OCD.

We just ask that they tidy up their playroom at least once a week so that we can restore a little order to our home. I also have another strict rule for the basement playroom area: absolutely NO food of any kind down there, unless Bill or I have okayed it.

Sound mean? Too bad. I must have this rule, or they would be bringing sippy cups and plates and yogurt wrappers, and goodness knows what else to the basement, and it would sit there and get lost among the wreckage of the toys. And I am not interested in living with mice. Or bugs. Or the constant smell of rancidness assaulting my nostrils.

My kids have consistently ignored this rule, and usually I just make them clean up the food wrappers.

What is that they say about the definition of crazy? Something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Well then call me cri-za-zy because my previous tactics aren't working. The basement is still a mess, and they're still bringing food down there.

So I cracked.

It was bound to happen. Bill and I were helping the boys clean the basement playroom, and I found one of their socks wedged between two couch cushions. Annoyed that they love to take their socks off and shove them in random places, but thinking it wasn't such a big deal, I pulled it out. As I did, a moldy, nasty, ancient strawberry fell out. It was so fuzzy that I thought it was a small mouse. I screamed and dropped it.

“THIS BASEMENT IS DISGUSTING!!!” I yelled.

Then I yelled something about respecting our house and keeping our house clean, but I’m positive that the only thing the boys heard was, “Blah blah blah blabbity blah blah…”

Sometimes in these moments when I’m so mad I can barely speak, I issue these punishments like, “You’re grounded for a week!” Then I find myself immediately regretting it.

Bill shot me a look that said, “Don’t go writing checks your ass can’t cash, lady.”

As I stood there fuming, I took a few deep breaths, and knew that whatever punishment I issued had to be a doozy and had to be memorable if I wanted to get my point across.

So I said, “You are all officially grounded to this basement until it’s clean. And clean means my idea of clean. No shoving crap in cupboards and thinking I won’t notice. No TV, no Wii, no playing outside. Nothing. You will live in this basement until it’s done.”

To which Charlie and Henry responded, “Good. We like it down here. Who cares?”

I said, “Fine. I’m glad you like it down here. Because you’re living down here until it’s done.”

“Good,” Charlie snottily chirped.

“Fine,” I chirped back.

“Good.”

“Fine.”

It went on a few more times until Bill shot me a look that said, “Who’s the adult here, Clare? End it.”

(It’s a good thing Bill and I have a language all our own that doesn’t require speaking. It involves a series of complex looks.)

Oh crap. What did I do? Who’s being punished? It’s sunny and in the 80s and perfect weather to go swimming this week, and I’m stuck in the house with whiny kids who are perfectly happy living in squalor, and have no intention of cleaning the basement?

They were fine for about 2 hours this morning, and kept assuring me, “We don’t care that we can't have TV or outside! We can live without it! We’ll just play down here!”

It was like a game of poker. They were trying to call my bluff, and I had to give them credit. They were trying hard to see if I would cave.

Little did they know that I could wait this thing out for days if necessary.

Mama ain't no chump.

Lucky for me, there was soon dissent in the ranks, and they decided that the idea of being stuck in the basement for all eternity probably wouldn’t be that much fun. When I looked down the stairs, I saw my guys cleaning. Of course they had to argue about who was actually doing the most cleaning, and a few punches were thrown.

Prison messes with your head.

I dangled a carrot in front of them and said they could turn on some music while they were cleaning. After several hours, the whole job was done, and now they “promise, promise, promise” me that there will be no more eating in the basement playroom.

Yeah right. We’ll see how long that lasts.

After all, they might have learned some of this messiness from me.

I mean, have you seen the inside of my purse?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What are the chances?



I would just like to offer up a big, fat “Thank you” to the people at Go-gurt for once again letting down my children.

Sadly, they are not winners of the “Awesome Adventures” sweepstakes contest.

I know. You're just as shocked as I was.

Did I think we were going to win? Most definitely not.

Did my kids think we were going to win? Most definitely.

I wasted about a half hour today entering the disappointing numbers off of a stack of sticky, rancid yogurt wrappers. And GOD FORBID I don’t enter every last wrapper in our house.

The above picture is only a small representation of the wrappers I have helped them to enter.

Usually, I throw these things away. But my kids still have that unbridled sense of optimism, and will slurp that yogurt down their throats because they “just know” that they have the winning number.

Suckers.

At least the yogurt is healthy.

But do I crush their optimism? Absolutely not. That would just be downright mean.

Do I tell them that their chances of winning these things fall somewhere between no and hell no?

No, I do not.

Besides, it’s very cute and entertaining to listen to them discuss what they are going to buy if they win the $10,000 prize on the back of the cereal box. One of them said they would buy a mansion, and treat the family to a fancy vacation.

I know the real estate market is down lately, but I doubt we’ll be finding any mansions for ten Gs.

And a vacation to boot.

But what a sweet, innocent thought.

I figure they have the rest of their lives to live in the reality that their chances of winning the lotto or most contests are slim. But for now, I’ll let them go on blissfully thinking that these things are possible.

Hey, maybe I should take some of that advice to heart.

After all, who knows? Someone has to win these darn contests. Why can’t it be one of them?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What is this?

I have a little brain-teaser for you. What is this curved shaped rubbery object?



Give up?

It’s a boys’ protective cup.

If you got it right, then I’m sure you have a son.

Why am I writing about my oldest son’s protective cup?

Because I have to vent.

And this thing is really starting to gross me out.

My oldest boy plays baseball in the summer and football in the fall. Twice a year this red thing comes out of his underwear drawer for weeks at a time. Do you think it goes back into the underwear drawer where it belongs?

Um, no.

He comes home from a practice or game it ends up on the floor in the kitchen, bathroom, or even food pantry. As soon as I notice, I immediately make him pick it up and put it in his drawer where it belongs. But sometimes I don’t notice it until I see my daughter carrying it around, or my 4-year old son using it as a bridge, and driving a car over it.

It is kind of shaped like a bridge, so I guess my boy's imagination isn’t too far off.

I grew up with 5 sisters, so I’m new to this boy thing. With my oldest, we’re just starting to delve into the world of protective cups, but what the…?

Do all boys/men do this?

Since I don’t think I’ve totally grossed you out yet, hold on to your seat. I may or may not have found the above protective cup in the mouth(s) of one or more of my children at some point in time.

Excuse me while I retch.

I guess the fact that is has rubbery edges makes it an ideal chew toy.

Except that it’s not.

Since this blog entry is probably embarrassing enough to my children, I’m not going to bust any child in particular, but I may have seen one or more of them absentmindedly chewing on it during an episode of “Spongebob.” Or while playing with a toy. Or just because it was there.

If you were to psychoanalyze my kids, you would find that they have somewhat of an oral fixation. They have all either sucked their thumbs, or used a pacifier at some point since birth. Even now, the older ones will chew on the occasional pen cap or pencil.

Seriously. I know I've said it before, but you can’t make this stuff up.

Like I said, I just had to vent.

Speaking of “venting,” the cup has 3 air holes in the top of it for ventilation. I’m sure if the cup didn’t have holes in the top of it, it would become a juice cup for one of my kids. In fact, the reason it crossed my mind to write about it, is because it is constantly showing up in the most random places, like the toy box.

And my kitchen counter.

Yeah, that would be the same kitchen counter where I prepare food for my family on a daily basis.

My son recently wrote his name in pen across the top of it.

Phew. I'm glad. I almost got it confused with my protective cup.

Or my daughter's.

I should just take it away from him, like I would if it were a toy that he kept leaving out, but I can't. He needs it.

Gotta protect my boy.

Oh well. I love these kids.

Crazy, bad habits and all.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Meet and Greet

Summer vacation is here!

Yay!

Yay.

Summer vacation is also the beginning of “fight season” around my house. Charlie and Henry, my two oldest children, are used to being at school most of the day. Now that they are home all day, it’s just “waaaayyy too boring” around here.

Nothing relieves your boredom better than battling it out with a sibling.

It’s not that Charlie and Henry are the ones to blame; rather, all four of my children are to blame.

George is not used to his older brothers being home all day, so his territory is being invaded. Annabel is only 2, but she’s learning how to fight with her brothers just fine. She hasn’t mastered the potty yet, but she has mastered the fine art of saying, “NOOOO! IT’S MINE!”

Ahhh….the sounds of summer in my home.

My kids basically have somewhat of a long-distance relationship in our home for 10 months out of the year. Charlie and Henry go away for a big chunk of the waking hours, and then they come back in the afternoon. George and Annabel get that long-distance euphoria and start to miss their brothers during the day, and are excited to see them when they get home. Just when they all start getting sick of each other, the boys go back to school again. It’s not that they don’t fight during the school year, it’s just that they just do it much more in the summer.

If you were in my home right now, you would have seen that I just had to take a 15-minute break after I typed that last paragraph. I looked up from my laptop just in time to see Henry dump a big bucket of water over George’s head in the backyard. It wouldn’t be so bad on a hot day, but currently, it’s only 62 degrees outside.

Do you think referee uniforms will ever be in style? I feel like I need one.

I would like to have a “Meet and Greet” icebreaker party at my home with the four of them. I’d call it a “Let’s Get Reacquainted With Each Other Party.”

Their personalities are very different, yet very much the same. It’s not that I question their love for each other. They are fiercely protective of each other when put to the test.

However, I do sometimes question their “like” for each other.

At my fantasy "Meet and Greet" party, Charlie could say, “Hi, my name is Charlie. I’m 8 years old. I love sports and long bike rides around the block. I’m prone to the occasional temper tantrum, especially if Mom tells me it’s time to come in the house, and I’m not done playing.”

Henry could say, “Hi, my name is Henry. I’m 7 years old. I enjoy digging in the dirt, riding my scooter, and picking on my little brother George. I am an expert ‘button-pusher’, if you will.“

George’s icebreaker comments could be, “Hi, I’m George. I’m 4 years old and I like to run around non-stop and play all day. I am friendly, but I also enjoy exacting revenge on my older brother Henry. Tattle-taling is my game, George is my name. ”

If Annabel could string together big sentences, she could say, “Hi, I’m Annabel. I’m 2 years old. I like riding my princess bike and pooping in my pants instead of the potty where it belongs. I am daring, and even though I’m only 2, I like to climb on high things and almost give my Mom a heart attack.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? We could just lay it all on the line and get it all out in the open. The good, the bad, and the ugly. That way no one will be surprised when someone else acts a certain way. In my dream scenario, for example, when George realizes that Henry is just pushing his proverbial buttons, he would just avoid him.

Notice how I said it was a “dream scenario.”

I’m not stupid enough to believe any of this would ever happen.

But a gal can have her fantasies, right?

About a year ago, I bought a small dry-erase board for each of my kids. Every night, Bill or I would write a sentence or two on each child’s board saying something nice that we noticed they did that day. (I'm not taking credit on this one. I got the idea from Jo Frost on “Supernanny”.)

Last year when Henry was in kindergarten, he had been working really hard to advance to the next levels on his Xbox 360 game, “Hot Wheels: Beat That!” But of course, little brother George wanted to play it one day while Henry was at school. I let him play, but George accidentally erased all the levels that Henry had achieved, therefore bumping Henry all the way back down to level zero.

I know next to nothing about video games, but Bill said that having all your levels erased is “a big deal”. Who knew?

Henry was trying so hard to control his rage against George and not get angry. So he grabbed George’s dry-erase board and wrote this:



Wasn’t that clever? It’s an insult disguised as a compliment. Very tricky. Bill and I didn’t know what to say to Henry, because he was trying so hard to say something nice, but he was also angry.

So we took a picture of it.

Sidenote: We’ve since graduated from dry-erase boards to a separate notebook for each child, mostly because we wanted to preserve these memories, and show them to the kids one day.

Regardless of summer being the “fight season” around our house, it’s also tons of fun. We always make some great memories, and we get to know each other again.

I actually miss my kids when they are at school all day. When they were little and I had them home with me all day, it was like we were in our own little bubble. Now, they are out in the world, at school, and experiencing things without me.

When did they grow up so fast?

How many times do we moms ask ourselves that unanswerable question?

Throughout the course of the summer though, we always inevitably get used to being around each other all the time.

By the time they start to get sick of each other, it’s time for school once again.

Back to the long-distance relationship.