Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I know it's December 29, but I can still wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Merry, Merry belated Christmas to all of you.

Needless to say, in the whirlwind of the wonderfulness of Christmas, certain things have gone by the wayside in the last week or so, and my blog is one of them. My kids are on Christmas vacation, and home with me all day, which is heavenly. No, really. Do not detect even the slightest hint of sarcasm this time. I absolutely love having them home all day. Bill is off work this week as well, so the coziness and family bonding around here is so sweet that it's cavity-inducing.

And I'm savoring it.

The best part about this Christmas vacation? Nobody around here is bored. Not that they could be if they wanted to. I have declared an official moratorium on boredom, and so far, so good.

Another good thing? It snowed here. Not just a few flakes, but big, fluffy piles of white stuff. Snow and Christmas vacation are copacetic.

Last week I was talking to some girlfriends and we were chatting about how much our kids love to play in the snow. One friend complained how much work it was just to get the kids ready to go outside in this weather. Of course, I agreed, but then I bragged, "Charlie and Henry are so easy these days! They put on their snow pants, boots, hats, coats and gloves all by themselves. THEN, when they are done playing outside, they come in, and put their outside clothing in the dryer, and turn the dryer on!" Jealous much?

Braggy moms can be so annoying. And I was one of them. I was all, "I don't mean to toot my own horn ladies, but....beep, beep! I've got these boys trained."

Yesterday, Charlie and Henry got themselves ready ALL BY THEMSELVES to play outside in the brand-new fresh blanket of snow. They played in the snow with some friends, but were cold after about a half hour and came inside. I greeted them at the door and directed their boots to the rug. Henry took off his coat to reveal a SHORT-SLEEVED shirt underneath his coat. Then, he took off his snow pants to reveal a pair of Adidas SHORTS. Shorts. In 23-degree snowy weather in Ohio. And the socks? It keeps getting better. They were a pair of ultra-short, no-show white socks with holes in them. Whose kid is this? What kind of mother lets their kid go outside for a half-hour in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt?

Who's the cocky mom now?

Yeah. How would I explain that one to the ER doctor? "You know Doc, I'm not sure at all how my boy has hypothermia. He totally had snow pants over those flimsy summer shorts. And that shirt is paper-thin, but at least it has sleeves, even if they are short ones. And those socks? Psshh. That big hole in the toe and the heel is sooo not even noticeable. There was only about 1/2 gallon of snow that melted down into his boots. Who really needs their pinky toe anyway? It's the useless toe."

Charlie and Henry must now go back to passing our rigorous inspection before they play outside in this weather. And the next time you catch me bragging about how I have my boys trained, feel free to mock me.

Back to Christmas.

Bill laughs at me every year because at some point on Christmas Day, I always say to him, "I'm sad." Why am I a little sad on Christmas Day? Because that means it's almost over. Of course we still have another family Christmas celebration happening here at our house on New Year's Day with my parents and sisters and their families, and all my decorations stay up until at least January 2, so it's never over on Christmas Day.

But still.

The radio goes back to playing normal music, the lights and the trees will be down soon, and my house will go from bright and shiny and cozy, to just plain cozy. But cozy is not so bad. Cozy works for me.

If you are one of those people that takes all your Christmas decorations down by December 26 or 27 without a legitimate reason, (i.e. having to travel, etc.) then to you I give a resounding, "BOO."

Did you hear that? Boo. Can't you at least look at that pretty tree until New Year's Day?

Our garbage man is a happy man today. Sorry, Al Gore. Sorry, environment. But really. MOST of our garbage, about 12 out of the 13 miles of it, is recycling.

Blame the packaging industry. It's not my fault that the Fisher-Price Imaginext Batcave came with 2 pounds of packaging and twist ties. Did I mention that I sustained one minor hand injury and several little cuts on my fingers just trying to get Batman, Barbie, twin baby dolls, Tech Deck, Star Wars guys et al out of their packages? Bill helped, of course, but I always strive to be the biggest whiner in our marriage, so that's why I'm telling you about it here, and he is remaining silent. And really, how manly is it to whine, "Dude, I totally shredded my hand on that 'Just Like Mommy' Doll. Man, check out this little cut on my pinky finger. Ouch, dude."

My kids were very sweet and very grateful on Christmas morning and for most of the days leading up to the holidays. They know the real reason for the season. They know whose birthday we are celebrating.

But these kids still love themselves some Santa.

Santa doesn't wrap the gifts he gives to them, so they knew exactly which ones were from him, and which ones were from us. But on Christmas Eve at my parents' house, Bill and I had one of those parenting moments that we were all, "Whose kids are these? Have you seen their parents? Because surely I am not raising someone who would act like that."

This is the part where you're supposed to nod your head and say, "Uh-huh, Clare. Right on sister. Our kids have their spoiled brat moments too. It's not just you." Can you at least humor me, people?

By the time my kids were toddlers, and could speak or understand words, Bill and I have stressed manners. Good manners are HUGE with us. "Please" and "thank you" were always some of their first words. I truly believe that manners and politeness get a person far in this world. As a result, they now know how to behave when receiving a gift, even if it's something they don't like, or, if it's something they already have. They're supposed to say, "Thank you, Aunt, Uncle, Grandma So-and-so! I love it!" Then they're supposed to shut it. Shut. It.

I wonder if training a dog is this easy?

Anyway, Charlie loves Hardy Boys books lately, and Henry totally hearts Nancy Drew. They saw a four-pack of books of each at Costco back in early November, and begged me to buy it for them. I told them to wait for Christmas but they still talked about these books a few weeks later. My boys wanting books in the Age of Video Games? Loves it. "Wow!" I thought, "Bill and I must be doing something right if our boys are asking for books. After all, they do love to read. We are totally taking credit for this." And then I patted myself on the back for my total parental awesomeness.

My parents ended up buying and wrapping up the books for Charlie and Henry. The big unwrap came around on Christmas Eve, and Charlie and Henry both opened them, looked at them, sighed, and then promptly tossed the pack of books down, and said things like, "We don't like these anymore! We wanted a video game!" Whine, whine, cry, whine, cry.

Oh yes, they did.

Doesn't every parent want to hear that stuff? Especially in front of cousins and aunts and uncles they see a couple of times per year? Look at Clare's kids! Wow! How spoiled are they? Kids are starving and going without, especially during this recession, but Clare's kids are all, "Waaa! We hate this stuff! We want more! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Poor us!"

I looked at my boys and I was all, "Whoa. Slow your roll, dudes. SLOW. YOUR. ROLL."

Maybe they were hungry. Over-tired. Over-excited. PMS-ing. Who knows? That might explain the bad behavior, but it does not excuse it. Needless to say, Bill and I had to have another strongly worded chat with them about values and manners and not hurting feelings, especially their beloved grandparents' feelings. It was buckets of fun, especially on Christmas Eve. They apologized to their grandparents, and I think all was well after that unfortunate outburst.

From me and mine, I wish you joy in these last three days of 2009. This year had its challenges for my family and for those we love, but there were many, many bright spots, as I hope there were for you.

We have high hopes for 2010. It's a brand-spankin'-new decade. Can you believe it? Wasn't it just days ago that we were all worried about Y2K blowing up our computers and erasing our bank accounts and making the world come to a grinding halt? Time flies when you're having fun. Which we can happily say that we are, despite challenges and tough moments. Life is good.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Last time I checked, boogers and snot aren't illegal.

Ahhhh. Boogers and snot. Yes, we keep it clee-assy on this here blog o' mine.

Nothing but the best for my readers.

You're welcome.

Bodily fluids anyone? We've got plenty of them around our house these days, specifically coming out of the nose of Annabel. It's like a continuous faucet of yellow mucus. I wipe it away, turn my head, and there is more in its stead.

Anyhoo, she has been Little Miss Snotty McSnotterson since Thanksgiving-ish. On Sunday, it turned into a full-blown flu, complete with fever and a hacking cough, and of course, there was a major showing of our omnipresent friend, Runny Nose. (What a great for a name for a Kentucky Derby racehorse by the way.)

You know your child is sick when they are not interested in movement of any kind. Annabel laid on the couch for the majority of Monday and visited with all her friends from Nick Jr., which was great, since it was "Merry Monday." However, that a-hole, Caillou, kept trying to bust in on all the fun. Luckily I put a stop to that because I was all, "Dude, am-scray. We're watching Dora save Swiper from Santa's Naughty List. PBS is not where it's at today. Hit the skids, baldie." And he disappeared. Just like that. I think he's scared of me, and he should be. I have a remote, and I'm not afraid to use it.

By Tuesday, Annabel was 85% better, and by today, she was about 99.9% back to her normal, active self. Although I must say that she was still very much sporting a runny nose and a cough. But these Christmas presents aren't going to buy themselves, so into the minivan she went with me to Target.

We stopped at the uber-fantabulous Dollar Spot, to see if there were any good stocking stuffers for the kids. Just as I had my eye on a sa-weet little lip balm in the shape of a can of Pepsi, (Henry needs a 12-step program for lip balm in a major way) Annabel started coughing. And coughing. And coughing.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" I asked.

"Yeah mom."

"Do you want some water bottle?"

"No mom."

Okay. Back to checking out a pair of "Cars" socks that I know George will heart.

Cough. Cough. Cough.

Did I mention that there was a lady in the DS with me? (Get down with the Target lingo, peeps.) She kept looking over at Annabel and I, and I could tell she was getting more disgusted by the minute. But it's not like Annabel was snotting (Yes, Grammar Police, at least it sounds better than "boogering". Mmmmkay?) all over the Charlie Brown coloring books or the Hello Kitty hair bows. She was just coughing. Not a pleasant sound, but come on. Surely a child has coughed in the general vicinity of the DS before.

Then this lady spoke to Annabel. "Wow! That's quite a cough you got there! You should be at home resting and not shopping!"

Oh yes she did.

Annabel, my TWO-year old, looked at her, and then looked at me with a Huh?-What-is-the-tall -lady-saying-to-me? kind of face. And then, I kid you not, she coughed up a small portion of her lung right there in the DS.

Well played, Annabel. Well played.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't a small portion of her lung, but it was a hacky, mucousy good one. Seriously lady. Taking it up with a two-year old? I'm standing right here. You've made your passive-aggressive point perfectly. I get it. You're disgusted with us. I'm a sucky mom because I brought my perfectly fine-but-slightly-coughing daughter to Target at Christmastime. People like me aren't fit to be parents. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Walk on, lady. Walk. On. It's a big store. I hear the Thera-Flu aisle calling your name. You might need some after your encounter with Mommy Horrible and Daughter Disgusting Nose. Beat it.

Of course I was just kind of stunned that she would actually say something to not me, but my daughter, so I smiled at her and politely said, "Oh yeah it sounds awful, but she's okay. She's much better now. You should have heard her a few days ago." Then I steered Annabel to another section of the store.

It's called the high road, be-otch. Try it sometime.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas cram session.

I feel like the whole month of December is one big cram session. But in a good way.

I want to cram all the fun in, all the traditions, and some new experiences too. It goes by too quickly. We wait for it all year, and then suddenly it's January, and we're all, "Huh? Where did it go?"

The Christmas season is just all kinds of awesome.

First of all, let it be known. Santa is watching these kids.

It's a fact that I remind them any chance I get.

Santa is the best form of parental bribery there is. However, the threat of him is starting to wear thin on the two older boys. Their belief is starting to wane, mostly in the mind of Charlie, my 9-year old.

Nine-year olds know it all. Surely you knew that. But if not, then see how little you know? If only you were a 9-year old, then you would have known how much 9-year olds know. But I'm sure the same is true for 10-year olds, 11-year olds, and those pesky teenagers.

It's really only a matter of time before the jig is up with Charlie, regarding Santa. I mean, really, how much longer is he going to believe that a bearded fat man drops off presents on the living room floor and then whisks himself back up the chimney? A chimney, by the way, that is fake. Yes, we have a beautiful stone chimney built and attached to the back of our house, but it is just for show. It does nothing but stand there, tall and proud. And that's it. It is not a portal for fat men in red suits. Our fireplace is a gas one that conveniently turns on with a light switch on the wall. The logs are pretty, but fake. Fake. Fake. Fake.

But the sweetest thing about Charlie's age is that he so fervently wants to believe. He wants to think it's all real. He doesn't want logic to settle in. Logic, schmogic.

He wants to believe in the magic.

And far be it from me to ever burst anyone's Santa bubble. If he's 13 and still believes, then so be it.

We have many traditions around our house at this time of year, as I'm sure you do. The kids all love them and look forward to them, but no one around here seems to love the traditions more than my Henry. Something I am learning about his ADHD and his ODD is that he likes to control situations. He doesn't like surprises. So when we hang up the same ornaments every year, and light up the same porcelain houses on the fireplace mantel, and display the same manger scene by the tree, Henry is in heaven. This is his element. Sure, we introduce a new tradition or two every year, but it is he that makes sure that I continue it the next year.

Yesterday after church we decided to take the kids to see Santa at the mall. We knew there would be long lines, but decided to brave the lines anyway. However, the kids were having none of it.

"Santa is scary," George insisted.

"Scary? No he's not."

"Yeah, he is," Henry joined in.

"Really? Well then why is it okay to ask him for presents, and he brings them to you, but you don't want to talk to him?" I asked.

" 'Cause we don't have to see him. He just drops the stuff off. Duh, mom," said Charlie. "He scares me a little bit too. Besides, you can just email him or call him and tell him what we want."

Oh. Duh. Santa 2009 is all about technology. I wonder if it's hard to text with those white gloves on his hand.

Honestly, can I just say that deep down I was relieved? Bill and I weren't about to force them to sit on Santa's lap; therefore, no long lines and waiting. It was win-win for all.

Instead, we decided to finish up a little Christmas shopping. This was a superbly awesome idea to do with two parents and four children on a Sunday afternoon at the mall a few weeks before Christmas. Because it's not like it's crowded or anything.

Fortunately, the kids were good because we bribed them with time at the play place/climbing/2,742 kids-running-out-of-control area.

Bill and I live to bribe these children.

Really though. Bribery and blackmail just sounds so seedy. Let's just call it "offering incentives." Now it sounds like a bonus program. There's nothing better than turning a negative into a positive.

So we're walking through the mall, and to what to my wandering eyes do appear? It was a huge display of Victoria's Secret's brand-new Miraculous Bra! It makes you TWO chest sizes bigger! And lordy knows I need a miracle or two in my chestal regions. The table with all the bras was right at the opening of the store, and I just turned the stroller with Annabel riding in it, and headed towards the display.

With my 4 men in tow.

I know. My brilliant ideas keep on coming.

Why oh why, do I put myself in these situations where I find myself having to explain uncomfortable things to my shorties?

Maybe if Bill were a better mind-reader, then he would just be all, "Hey guys. Let's go over to Gamestop. Or Sears Hardware, or [insert manly store here] while mommy looks at this boring girl stuff." But no. He's all, Victoria's Secret? And a legitimate reason to go in here? Why, thank you very much! Don't mind if I do. DON'T MIND IF I DO.

In my mind, there is nothing salacious about buying a bra. They're utilitarian. Sure, they're pretty, but they just serve a purpose. And in my case, it helps me look like I don't have the chest of a twelve-year old boy that coincidentally has breast-fed four children. So in my defense, I was just thinking, bras? Miraculous Bras? Well I think I'll just check out this display of pillows that you can strap to your chest. Because, let's be honest. That's all they are. Pillows. Seriously you guys. I can't even begin to explain how much padding is needed to make your chest look Miraculous.

Anyway, the next thing I know, my boys, and even little Annabel, are rifling through the drawers of bras on the stands like a group of uncivilized mini-perverts. Pink! Lime Green! Orange! They're all, "Ooooh...look at all the pretty colors!" And I'm so busy looking for my size, that I didn't notice at first until George grabbed a big orange bra, swung it upwards and exclaimed, "Yeah! I like BIG FAT BOOBIES!"

Whaa...?

"Bill, did you hear that?"

"No. What?"

Focus, Bill. They're just mannequins. With fake plastic boobs. Get with the program here. Focus!

"George, what did you just say?" I tenatively asked.

"I like big fat boobies, Mom."

Oh. That's what I thought you said.

That's great. Not only does my 5-year old like boobies, but he likes big, fat ones.

By the way, I have no idea where he heard that word. It's not like it's common vocab around here. Bill insists that I have said it, but I insist that it's a word that I have said out of earshot.

Whatevs. George now knows what boobies are. Big. Fat. Boobies.

Alright. Everyone out of Victoria's Secret. That'll be enough of that. Mommy didn't think that one through. Daddy is a little dumbstruck at the moment.

Don't think that we'll be starting an Annual Family Trip to Victoria's Secret at Christmastime anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A conversation with my 5-year old, George.

George: Mom, what are these toys here? Are these presents for us?

Clare: No, G. Remember those cards we pulled at church? These toys are for the kids on the cards.

George: No fair! Why do they get these toys?

Clare: Because those kids need the toys, and they asked for them. They are kids who don't have a lot of money, and maybe their mommy or daddy doesn't have a job, and can't afford lots of Christmas presents. So we are helping them out by giving them what they want. See, this girl requested Hannah Montana stuff, so we got her a Hannah doll. It's so important to always help others.

(Clare is feeling puffed up and proud at the moral lesson she has just imparted to her child. These are pure pearls of wisdom.)

George: Oh man! No fair!

Clare: George, these toys are for poor kids. You have lots of toys and a nice home. We have to give to others. We have to help others!

George: No fair. I wish I was poor. They get all the cool stuff.

Clare: George! No, you do not wish you were poor! You should be grateful for all you have! Some of these kids might not even have houses or beds, or dinner every night!

George: Yeah, but they're gonna get these toys. So they're lucky.

Clare: (frustrated, deflated, out of words, trying to explain to a 5-year old what "poor" really means) Let's just always give to and help others, George. Okay?

George: Okay, Mom.

Um...yeah. I think it's time to have a chat about values again at this house.