Monday, August 30, 2010

I know I'm supposed to be excited about this moment.

Tomorrow, on August 31, 2010, at exactly 9:00 a.m., my baby starts preschool.

My last child. My little girl.

It's baffling to me that this is even possible, considering that I just gave birth to her. After all, it was mere moments ago that I held her newborn body in my arms, yet here she is, three years old.

Three years old, and independent and spunky as the day is long.

We attended preschool orientation last Wednesday morning for an hour, and my daughter had the audacity to be mad at me because I wouldn't leave. "Mama, leeeeave," she said firmly. "I wanna stay here by myself."

"Today is not the day I leave," I responded. "Your first day is on Tuesday."

Then she cried, not because she was scared to start preschool, but because she couldn't stay there by herself. I was cramping her 3-year old style.

Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Isn't she supposed to cry because I am leaving her?

That independent streak. Gets me every time.

It's not that I want her to cling and cry when I leave. But couldn't she at least pretend to be the tiniest bit devastated that her one-and-only beloved mother is leaving her alone at school for two and a half hours?

Couldn't she just pretend for my sake?

Dang. Three-year olds are so selfish.

For the last decade, it has been a constant. My children's ages are staggered in such a way that there has always been someone with me while another child has started school. Over the last ten years, I have become so used to having at least one child with me at the grocery store, or when I go to a doctor's appointment, or messing up my piles of laundry as I fold them, or fidgeting while I attend a meeting at school, or with me as I lunch with a friend, that it has become second nature. Sure, I have had plenty of moments to myself over the years, but on a regular, daily basis, it is usually me plus one or more of my shorties.

But now, my fourth and final shorty is starting preschool. She's only going to be away from me for a grand total of five hours a week.

I can deal.

More than one person has asked me, "Clare, what are you going to do with all that free time?"

Well, in simple terms, whatever the heck I want to, thankyouverymuch.

Perhaps I will go into a changing room and try on a pair of jeans without a little pair of eyes staring back and me and snickering, "Tee hee...mama. I see your underwears."

Perhaps I will go to Starbucks and just sit and stare at people without having to scold, "Stop touching that or you'll knock over that display of mugs!"

Perhaps I will go to the grocery store and just walk through the aisles. And actually read labels. And check prices. And look at all my choices without having to throw stuff into the cart while chasing a toddler.

Perhaps I will do whatever I darn well please. Because I can. At least for two and half hours every Tuesday and Thursday morning for the next 10 months.

I'm totally excited about this new phase.

I think.

Kind of.

I know I'll get there soon. But right now, as I think of the last ten years of constant, baby-wearing, kid hand-holding, 24/7 parenting, and I realize that my last baby is growing up, I'm just kind of sad.

Growing up is hard to do.

And this time, I'm not talking about my kids.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

School is cool. Enough said.

The first day of the 2010-11 school year is in the books.

I laughed. I cried.

And then I cried.

Can you blame me? My third child started kindergarten, and the sight of him looking all Big Kid in his school uniform started the waterworks.

I was done in by big boy bravado.

The now-traditional "First Day of Shoes" picture was taken, and it has earned spot number 5 in my 365 days of Project Picture. The school-mandated, required white tennis shoes are so blindingly white, that they represent newness, and a fresh start. It was the picture of the day for me, because as I looked at three pairs of little-feet-that-aren't-so-little anymore, the memories came rushing back.

Do you see that pair of feet all the way to the right in the picture? They belong to my 9-year old son. My 9-year old son who now wears MEN'S shoes. As in, shoes big enough to be worn by adult MEN. As in, big people. As in, DUDE, WHO REPLACED MY BABY WITH THIS BIG GUY WITH BOATS FOR FEET? I remember smooshing those same feet in my hands less than a decade ago, kissing them, playing "My Little Piggy," with them, and sticking them all up in my face to play "Peek-a-Boo". Now I can say with all honesty that I don't want those feet anywhere near my face. Or my mouth. Although I positively adore the boy attached to said feet, they are FEET, people. And feet kind of gross me out. Unless they are baby feet. To which I no longer have daily access.


Our morning rush was painless, all breakfast foods were eaten without complaints, the drive to school was traffic-free, and 4 out of 4 of my children actually let me take their picture. I attended the welcome donut breakfast at school and caught up with friends, listened to the kindergarten orientation, and then headed over to the preschool orientation. By 10:30 a.m., I was home again with big plans for the day, which never actually came to fruition, because the up-and-down emotions of the day wore me out completely.

Obviously that required me to pop myself on the couch most of the afternoon and catch up with my old friends Tim Gunn, Michael Kors, Nina Garcia and Heidi Klum.

Seriously. I was one box of bon-bons away from a bad housewife stereotype.

Not my proudest moment.

I did manage to throw some scraps of food at my preschooler and kindergartener (he only had school for an hour on this first day), and I scarfed down a big plate of hummus and pita chips for lunch along with an icy glass of Diet Coke. While lying down. On the couch. In front of the TV. Simultaneously getting crumbs all over the carpet. Because I'm crazy like that.

In other words, I was the Mayor of Lazy City. And the City Council. All rolled into one big pile of lazy.

I loved every minute of it. My house is a mess and I couldn't care less.

I earned this day. It has been a long time coming.

By 2:30, I couldn't wait to see my kids' faces again, and I was thrilled to hear about the day. Although after watching back-to-back Tim Gunn, I almost told them, "Make it work, kids. Make it work." Or, my favorite Tim Gunn-ism, "I am woeful."

But I wasn't feeling woeful at all.

Just happy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I accept the challenge...

I recently celebrated a birthday.

Rhymes with schmirty-fix.

This time of the year always feels like the start of all things new, for obvious reasons. I'm a new age, it's a new school year, and we're going into a new season, fall. The kids have new clothes, new shoes, new school supplies, and they are each starting new grades at school.

Newness. Beginnings.

To commemorate this birthday of mine, I have decided to challenge myself, and it is not a challenge I take lightly, because as I'm sure you can relate, life is busy. Life is chaotic.

But in a good way.

First, some background for you.

I am a horrible photographer. If you want a picture with bad lighting, red eye, and the subject matter to be not at all candid and precious, then I am your gal. Of course, I can manage to eke out the posed pictures, but as I have discovered over the years, posed pictures are necessary, yes, but also quite boring.

Recently I was going through our collection of pictures on iPhoto on our Mac. I was shocked to discover that since we bought our first digital camera in 2000 when our first child was born, we have taken over 11,000 pictures.


I had no idea.

As I said, I'm no Ansel Adams. It's not like I walk around with the big Nikon around my neck, snapping away. Instead, I'm the gal who pulls out the camera for the holidays, important moments and milestones. Important, yes, but life is so much more than this.

I am always disappointed in myself when my kids are having one of those sweet moments, and I will think to myself, "The camera! Where's the camera? I need to capture this!" but by the time I find the stinkin' camera, the moment has passed.

The other day, as I waded through all eleven thousand pictures, I realized that I had a lot more candid shots than I thought.

Like this one.

This picture was taken in April 2004, and it was the first time we took our two oldest children on an airplane. The destination was Disney World. Yes, the posed pictures of the kids in front of Cinderella's castle and standing next to Mickey Mouse were equally as awesome, but this picture particularly touched my heart because of the long-forgotten memory it recalled. My boy had just turned two, and instead of wanting to sit on my lap, he bravely sat buckled in his own seat right next to me, by the window, and shouted, "Ayer-pwane" over and over in pure joy and excitement.

He was among the clouds for the first time, and thankfully, I captured it.

Yay for me.

Also, see that picture all the way at the top of the page? The one right by the title of my blog? The one of four kids putting their toes in the ocean for the very first time ever? I captured that moment. Me, myself and I. I am extremely proud of this picture and the memories that it evokes for Bill and I.

Maybe I'm better at this photography thing than I thought.

As I scrolled through iPhoto, I found more of these types of photographs, and the memories came flooding back. Baking cookies with the kids. A missing tooth. Running through the sprinkler. A smile. A frown. Playing catch with my Dad in the backyard. Hanging the first ornament on the Christmas tree. Two kids hugging.

The real moments that life is made of.

Immediately, an idea came to mind. I decided that I am going to take at least one picture, every day for a year.

I can do it.

Then, in typical Clare fashion, soon after telling myself I would do this, I shelved the idea, because, excuses excuses, life is busy.

However, a few days later, I was reading the latest entry in "Classy Chaos", the blog written by Pauline, a woman I met at the Erma Bombeck Conference I attended in April. She wrote about her latest ambitious challenge, which is to not shop for herself for an entire year. (Brave, brave lady!) As I continued to read, she referenced her previous challenge that she completed in January, which was to take one photo every day for a year. Read about it here.

Wow. I had no idea so many others were doing these kinds of challenges, and the more I dug, I discovered there are websites dedicated to "365 projects".

This is now my 365 Project.  Quite unoriginally, I have dubbed it "Project Picture".

Project Picture started on my 36th birthday and will end on my 37th birthday, unless I decide I want to do Year 2. Or, maybe I will be so sick of my little camera, I will throw it in the nearest river. But as of this moment, I am three days into my challenge, and so far, so good.

Since Bill and I are both amateur photographers, we rock a small, pocket-sized digital Canon camera. Someday, I would love to advance to a big camera with filters and lenses, but alas, I would have no idea how to work such a contraption at this point in my life. That would involve research and learning, and frankly, my brain is already overwhelmed with enough minutiae.

Also, I am too lazy for book learnin'.

Point and shoot is all I have time for these days.

Please join me in my challenge, even if you only have time for one picture a week! The more candid shots the better, and I promise you, you will not regret it. It takes moments a day.

Moments a day to capture the moments of a day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who knew there were so many levels of annoying?

In less than six days, the school bell will ring, signaling the start of the 2010-11 school year.

I'm a little sad about this.

Except for when I'm not.

Like right now.

I know I'm going to miss these kids when they are gone for seven hours out of the day. But just when I go getting all nostalgic about it, one of them calls the other one a poopyhead, a fight ensues, someone starts crying, and I literally start counting the minutes until August 25th at 8:00 a.m.

Really. It's stunning how they have managed to invent new levels of annoying. Just when I thought they've mastered all the Levels of Annoying, much like they have mastered all the levels of Mario Party 8, they go and spring a new level on me, throwing me off my game.

Well played, kids.

Well played.

For instance, I was recently introduced to Level 267, also known as, "Sucker Punch Your Brother In His Junk Just Because You Can And Then Run Out Of The Room And Hide But Soon Start Crying Because WHADDYA KNOW ABOUT THAT, Your Brother Found You And Retaliated By Punching You In Your Junk As Payback."

Or how about Level 278? "Let's Play Tag At Target In The School Supply Section And Almost Knock Over A Display, And When We Tag Each Other We Will Shout, 'No Tagbacks!' For All To Hear."

This Level comes with the added feature of the stink eye from fellow Target customers. I mustered up all the courage I could to NOT go cry underneath a rack of Merona.

Level 278 is, of course, not to be confused with Levels 279 and 280, known as, "Let's Play Tag At CVS" and "Let's Play Tag At The Grocery Store" respectively.

The current bane of my existence is also known as Level 292, or "Let's Ask Mom If We Can Play The Wii/Outside/Computer/Watch Another TV Show And If She Says, 'No,' Ask Again. And If She Says, 'No,' Ask Again. And If She Says, 'No,' Ask Again. And If She Says, 'No,' Ask Again. And If She Says, 'No,' Ask Again. And If She Says 'No,' Ask Again."

Because of Level 301, I have found myself at the grocery store more than usual. Do you know this level? "Let's Snack And Snack And Snack And Snack And Snack All The Live Long Day And Then Complain That We Are Still Hungry."

Perhaps you think I am a mean mother for calling my kids out on their annoying habits.

But we're all annoying.

My kids told me that I yell too much lately. But guess what, kids?!?

I yell because you are being annoying.


It's not like I don't have annoying habits. I do. Just ask my husband. He finds it very annoying that when I buy a new bag of cheese-flavored Chex Mix I only eat the cheesy Chex pieces, and I leave him the rest, which is just a few pretzels and cheese crackers. Unless I'm eating regular Chex Mix. Then I just pick out the Chex pieces and the melba toast, and leave the rest of the mix in the bag for others to salvage, Chex-less and melba-less.

Or, when I eat Rice Krispies, I have to maintain maximum crispiness by only pouring enough Krispies to be covered by a thin layer of milk. My husband is continually baffled by this and is supremely annoyed as he watches me pour Krispies and milk, Krispies and milk, Krispies and milk about 20 times into the bowl instead of just one big bowl, one time. But if I poured myself one big bowl of Rice Krispies, then most of the Krispies would be soggy at the bottom of the bowl by the time I got around to eating them.


But he is not perfect either. I absolutely, positively CANNOT STAND to hear my husband chew peanut butter on bread, especially if it is on a bagels. Bagels are extra chewy, as you know, and just the sound of all that smacking and chewing just SETS MY NERVES OFF. It's like, DUDE. JUST TAKE A BITE, CHEW QUIETLY AND MOVE ON. MUST I HEAR THE PLAY BY PLAY OF THE BAGEL IN YOUR MOUTH?

So I leave the room when the poor man decides to eat his beloved peanut butter on a bagel.

Because I'm a giver like that.

Good thing for my kids, I adore them, despite the Levels of Annoying.

Fortunately, their overall awesomeness outweighs their annoying-ness.

Here's to enjoying and savoring what's left of summer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Marriage is so much more than a forgotten pair of pants.

This weekend, we traveled three hours north to our hometown for a family wedding. My beautiful cousin married her handsome college sweetheart, and of course, family weddings never disappoint in the fun department.

This wedding did not disappoint in the Department o' Fun. It was a great time.

Last Thursday, as we were making the trek north for the wedding weekend, out of the blue, I looked at my husband and said, "You forgot your black dress shoes, didn't you?"

Somehow I just knew it.

I have no idea what prompted me to think of the shoes. I just had a sinking feeling that the shoes were forgotten. We panicked for about 10.5 seconds until we realized that my sister, who lives near us, hadn't left yet. Thankfully, she agreed to pick up the shoes for us and bring them with her, saving us a trip to the shoe store for a new pair.

We had a small chuckle about my husband's forgetfulness when it comes to packing for casual trips. After all, he is notorious for forgetting to pack something important, like a bathing suit. Or underwear. Or a belt. Or a tie. This time it was his shoes.

Problem solved.

Saturday, the day of the wedding, was spent relaxing and then getting ready for the mass at 1:30. We had to leave my mother-in-law's home by 12:30, and we decided to bring the kids with us to the mass only, and not the reception.

Moms and Pops wanted to party and get our dance on, sans children.

While my husband showered, I ironed the dress clothes for all four of my children and helped them get dressed, making sure their shirts were buttoned properly and tucked in, their hair was in place, and shoes were shined. My daughter's dress required extra ironing, and of course, she needed a pretty bow on top of her head.

The last thing I had to do before we walked out the door was get myself dressed.

At 12:20 p.m., a mere ten minutes before we had to walk out the door for the church, Bill called to me from the bedroom with a nervous shout of, "Um....Clare?!?"

It didn't sound good.

I walked in the room, and he sheepishly and frantically admitted to me, "I forgot my black suit pants."

He forgot his black suit pants.

Of course.

"YOU ARE KIDDING ME," was all I could manage to yell say.

He knows better than to joke when we're scrambling to get out the door. Of course he wasn't kidding.

I will spare you the rest of the "conversation", because I don't remember every last word, but basically, I did most of the yelling talking, with Bill peppering the "conversation" with frequent, "I'm sorry"s.


Really. Put yourself in my shoes. You managed to pack YOURSELF AND YOUR FOUR CHILDREN for the weekend, and you didn't forget to pack so much as a single sock or pair of underwear. Your husband had ONE job the day of packing, and that job was to pack HIMSELF. One would think that he would at least DOUBLE-CHECK that the pants were on the hanger with the suit. He managed to NOT forget to pack his flip-flops, or that ratty old t-shirt, but NO. The suit, the ONE outfit that he HAD to wear on Saturday, was missing the pants. One would think he would check that all parts of said suit were present and accounted for.



Now that you have yourself in my frame of mind, just imagine the conversation.

I know. Annoyed, huh?

Bill declared, "I'm going to fix this. I'll run to the store and then meet you at the church. I'm so sorry! I'm going to fix this."

Whatever. Talk to the hand, buddy.

I left for church with all four kids in tow and cartoon steam shooting out of my ears. As we drove off in the minivan, my oldest son looked at his brother and simply said, "Whoa. Daddy is in trou-ble. Trou-ble. Better make it double."

Understatement of the day, dude.

Then it hit me. I was driving to a wedding with my four beautiful children, who just so happen to be four perfect offshoots of my love for this man that I adore, but who was in oh-so-much-trouble-at-the-moment, to witness a young couple, madly in love, about to take the biggest leap of faith that a couple can take together.

If it were any more ironic, it would have been an Alanis Morrissette song.

I gathered up all the perspective I could muster in my still-steaming brain and simply said to my son, "No, Dad's not in trouble. He just made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. Mom is not mad at him anymore."

At first, I realized that I forced myself to say it more for the benefit of my children, but the moment that the words left my lips, I realized that no, I wasn't mad at him anymore. In fact, I couldn't have cared less if he showed up at the mass wearing his khaki pants with a black suit coat.

After all, it was kind of funny. Of course he forgot his suit pants.

Of course.

It wasn't cancer. It wasn't a horrible accident. It was just a pair of forgotten pants.

In the grand scheme of my marriage, this was a pimple. A tiny little pimple. And I have a newsflash for you all that goes something like, "Hey! Guess what! Clare isn't always a peach to live with either! She's not perfect!"

Bill came bounding into the church, smiling, wearing a new pair of black pants (that the store tailored for him right on the spot, no less!) and found our family in the pew with ten minutes to spare. He smiled, reached over our children for my hand, squeezed it, and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry." I smiled back at him.

All was forgiven.

I watched my cousin walk down the aisle with her proud father, and she looked radiant as she saw her groom waiting for her. My throat tightened as I witnessed pure joy.

As I often do at weddings, I think of my own wedding day almost 12 years ago, and I remember that I married this man because he is, quite simply, the best person that I have ever known.

He may have forgotten his suit pants, but he has never, not even one time, let me down in any way that really matters.

And that is all that really matters.

In a marriage, things happen. People get cranky. Garbage doesn't get taken out. Children need disciplining. Alone time is scarce. Laundry piles up. Schedules aren't always in sync. But I have learned that if you go into marriage without a sense of perspective, you will fail.

Bill and I have no plans to fail. We're in it to win it.

Later that evening at the reception, each table had a few sheets of paper, pens, and a note that asked for your best marital advice for the bride and groom. I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but it was something like, "Never forget that you married your best friend. And how can life be boring if this is true? The best stuff is the small stuff. The trips to the grocery store. Working on the house together. The little moments. The best is yet to come!"

Cheesy, yes, but oh-so true.

So very true.

I also wanted to add, "By the way, always double-check your husband's packing for a trip."

But I kept that little nugget of advice to myself.

Best of luck to my cousin and her husband for many years of happiness! Marriage is what you make of it, and here's to making it good.

This is how much we cared about silly little things like missing suit pants later in the evening.

In other words, not at all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oh Target, you did it again.

Target did it to me again.

We went there this morning after church as a family to buy shampoo, sunscreen, twin-sized sheets, and Scotch tape.

And that's it.

Who knew these few things would cost around $200?

Who knew that I also needed a funky little bracelet, Pull-Ups, nail polish, honey-roasted peanuts, packs of socks for each of the kids, a few school supplies, one container of Flarp, (It's like Silly Putty. But it farts. My son has informed me that it's fartaliciously fun. And yes, "fartaliciously" is a word. Also, yes, I do realize that we need a toy around here that farts like I need a hole in my head. But it was $1.00, and has so far, provided endless entertainment since we returned home. It was $1.00 well spent.) and other assorted etcetera of which Target has a vast supply.

Who knew that I would now be the proud owner of this?

If you look closely in the picture, you can see that this is one pound six ounces of cheese balls.


For those of you who failed math, and don't have a head for numbers, the container is about 12 inches high, 7 inches wide, carry the 1, subtract the 4, x times y, add the mass, and then divide the whole thing by 3.41 and you have a FREAKIN' CRAPLOAD OF CHEESE BALLS.

Bill reminded me that people spend more money and buy unnecessary items if they shop for food while hungry.

I will go on record and say that in this instance, my husband is right. Hear that honey? You are RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT. And I am WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. But just this time. Don't go getting a big head over it.

Did I mention that we were all so hungry that I was about to take a bite out of a Merona flip-flop if I didn't get some food in my stomach like five minutes ago?

It was at that moment that the cheese balls found us. They were just sitting on their shelf, in their orange, processed, deliciously disgusting glory, all, "Look at me! I'm a huge container! I'm only $4.99! When was the last time you ate an orange cheese ball anyway? You know you want to buy me!"

I am usually able to resist the begging and pleading of my children, but I just stared at the container like it was a juicy steak. I fed myself a line of b.s. that went, "'s summer. What's the harm? They're just cheese balls! They're like eating air! And look! I can totally reuse this container for the kids toys. So I'm being green! The earth wants me to buy these cheese balls! Because of the container. The reusable one."

Therefore, Clare loves the earth, so she bought the cheese balls. Into the red cart the cheese balls went.

Oh Target, you know I can't quit you.

One more thing. I forgot to buy Scotch tape.

I cannot be trusted at Target.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not my proudest moment.

A few mornings ago, my usually laid-back third child woke up on the proverbial "wrong" side of the bed, and his incessant whining throughout the day reached epic levels.

"I don't want this cereal!"

"I wanna play outside...why can't weeeeeee?!?!?"

"Why can't we go to the pool, Mooooommmm?!?!"

"My brothers are annoying me!!!"

"I wanna eat again!!!"

"I hate this rain!!!"

"Pleeeeeaaasssse can I have some ice cream!!! I don't care if it's almost dinnnnnnneeeerrrr!!!"

I understand that they are plenty of things for my 5-year old boy to complain about. He has a limited number of chores to do. His daily itinerary is: eat, play, go to the bathroom, play, eat, bathroom, play, eat, sleep. Three meals and several delicious snacks are prepared for him each day when he is hungry. Someone is available at his polite request when he needs his shoes tied. Or assistance putting on his bicycle helmet. Or to play Pokemon cards with him. (Even though the word, "Pokemon" should really stand for, "Poke-my-eyeballs-out-because-it's-so-hellaciously-boring".) Or as of 2:30 p.m. on August 5, 2010, when he needs his butt wiped. (Although we're working on that. Kindergarten starts in a few weeks.)

It's a rough life, I tell you.


Sorry. My eyeballs just rolled so far back in my head that I needed a moment to readjust them to the screen.

Much better.

We all need to complain now and again. We are human. We get grumpy. As far as whining children go, I am no stranger to that rodeo. If I had a meltdown every time one of my children whined, then I would have lost it years ago.

9-1/2 years ago, to be exact.

In other words, I can deal. And by "deal", I mean "ignore". In fact, if there was an Olympics for ignoring the incessant whines of my children, I would be all, "EAT MY DUST, MICHAEL PHELPS."

My standard line is, "I'll talk to you when you're not whining about it, and when you can ask nicely." Then I repeat. And repeat again.

You've been there.

Yesterday I put up with my boy's whining from the moment he woke up until the moment his head hit the pillow. I cut him slack because he was tired. But by 8:30 p.m., as I was giving him a bath, he started whining about the new shampoo I just purchased.

"Whyyyyy didn't you buyyyy the other flavor of shampooooooo?!?!? I don't like the way this one smellllllllls!!!"

I should have ignored his whines and kept scrubbing his little head. After all, his bedtime was mere moments away. I could see it on the horizon.

I was almost to the finish line.

Don't feed the monster, Clare. Just don't do it.

Instead, I extended my right index finger, placed it under his chin and turned it upwards, facing me. I stared him straight in the face and screamed, (yes, I said, "screamed", and not "yelled") "LISTEN! I AM SICK, SICK, SICK OF YOUR WHINING TODAY! SICK! OF! IT! I HAVE HAD ENOUGH! ENOUGH OF ALL YOUR WHINING!!!"

Then silence.

My son waited a beat and then his small body started heaving with sobs. Embarrassingly, My first thought was, "Good. That'll teach him not to whine ALL. THE. LIVE. LONG. FREAKIN'. DAY."

But mere seconds later, I felt like complete and total crap.


Like I said. It's not my proudest moment.

I am not a quiet mother. I am not some wilting flower that pleads in a soft voice, "Please kids. Listen to mommy. Please do what I say."

But screaming?

I am better than that. I can do better than that.

Two wrongs don't make a right. They just make for one crying boy, and one mom who feels like an ass.

He was still crying as I dried him off with a towel. I was too angry and fed up to speak coherently, so I sent him off to his room to put on his pajamas. As I was pulling the drain out of the tub to empty the soapy water, I overheard his older brother in the hallway asking him, "Hey. What's wrong with you?"

My 5-year old's reply was curt. "I hate Mommy. She's mean and she scared me."

Again. I'm no stranger to the, "I hate Mommy" rodeo. It happens in this job. I am perfectly willing to be temporarily hated if I have to dole out a punishment that is going to make my child a better person in the end. I have been hated for taking away Nintendo DS', Wiis, TV time, outside play time, and play dates.

But this? Now I'm being hated for scaring my boy, and for obvious reasons, that feels beyond awful.

As I tucked him into his bed that night, he was still crying. I kissed him and I told him I loved him. I told him I was sorry for screaming at him, but I qualified it by telling him he shouldn't whine so much either. He wouldn't look at me, and I left it at that.

This mama doesn't grovel. I apologize, resolve to do better and move on.

And of course, true to form, I felt guilty about it my head for all night. Lucky for Bill, he gets to hear all about it.

Yet another perk of being married to me.

When my son woke the next morning, I expected the cold shoulder. Instead, he came bounding in my room as usual with a hug and a cheerful, "Mornin', Mommy. Can we watch a show together?"

All was forgotten.

I kissed his cheek and replied simply, "Sure. What do you want to watch?"

If only adults could be as resilient as kids.

I let myself off the hook.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Washington D.C., The Final Chapter.

Do you want to know what the Ambien of museums is for me?

Anything to do with air. Or space. Or heaven forbid, both.

My kids were begging to go to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. last week, and I was all, "Sure kids! But how about if we go to (this) museum/(that) museum/(this) exhibit/(this) tour/stick straight pins in our eyeballs first!" In other words, I stalled them as long as I could with other diversions.

The National Museum of American History was my favorite. We got to see Dorothy's ruby red shoes from "The Wizard of Oz", Fonzie's jacket, Archie Bunker's chair, Lincoln's top hat, and my favorite exhibit, the dresses of the First Ladies. My kids ran through that particular exhibit as they were all, "Who wants to look at boring old lady dresses?"

Why I would like to, thankyouverymuch.

The Museum of Natural History was fascinating, with its huge collection of dinosaur bones and other assorted fossils, and the bling of all bling, the Hope Diamond.

This guy was hanging around in the lobby as well.

But soon enough, the day arrived when Bill and I (very reluctantly, and gritting my teeth and fake smiling the whole time, mind you) announced, "Today's the day! Let's go check out the rocket ships/airplanes/astronaut suits/boring-stuff-that-mommy-has-no-interest in." (Bill left out that last part, of course.)

Mama took one for the team.

It's not that I don't appreciate air. Or space. I do, very much. I am totally down with air. O2, CO2, and N2 all the way, baby. I am flabbergasted that people invented huge, heavy steel tubes with wings that can carry a few hundred people at a time and actually fly! Through the air! To faraway places! And as far as outer space is concerned, well. That's beyond amazing.

However, there is something about going to a museum to look at airplanes that I find so incredibly boring.

I'm looking at you too, rocket ships.

And don't think I forgot about you either, boring movies about the planets and the cosmos.

By the way, I'm not 100% sure what a cosmo is, but I'm sure it's a snooze-fest.

But here's the thing. The National Air and Space Museum in D.C. is not so much Ambien as it is a much less potent Tylenol PM or Tylenol Cold. No, I take that back. It's more like a may-or-may-not-cause-drowsiness-so-don't-operate-heavy-machinery dose of Sudafed.

Look at me gushing on them with the compliments and such.

(Disclaimer: I know the above paragraph makes me sound like a big prescription/OTC drug pusher, but it's an analogy, people. I have never taken Ambien before, so I cannot vouch for its purported wonders as a sleep aid, but I will go on record and say that I do loves me a little Tylenol Cold on that rare night when I am stuffed up and my head feels like it's going to explode and I. just. want. to. sleep.)

No, really. I actually enjoyed this museum. And I'm only gritting my teeth ever so slightly, and fake smiling ever so slightly as I write this.

For realsies.

This museum has the cream of the crop of airplanes and space ships, and my kids absolutely, positively hearted the National Museum of Air and Space. They didn't want to leave. As for me, well, I also learned new stuff. Like did you know that Red Baron was a real person, and not just some guy that Snoopy likes to imitate while sitting on the top of his dog house and wearing goggles?

I'm kidding, of course. I was a history minor in college.

Also, what respectable trip to the Air and Space Museum would be complete without giving the kids a taste of astronaut ice cream. Come on, I know you did it at some point when you were a kid. If you have never had the "pleasure" of tasting this concoction, grab your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, sprinkle some chocolate sauce and vanilla extract on it, freeze it for maximum breakage potential, and then eat it. It's not very yum, but it's a rite of passage of childhood, at least for me.

We were lucky enough to score a visit to the White House, something we had to request directly from our congressman about 6 months in advance. I was very appreciative of all the new restrictions as far as what people could bring to the White House. No purse allowed. No camera. No stroller. No water bottles. Nothing. NOTH. ING. It was quite liberating just walking around town not laden down by my usual bags and unnecessary accoutrement. I just had to bring myself, a photo I.D. and a few credit cards. I loved it. If only I could force myself to travel so lightly more often.

The White House itself? Stunning. A must-see.

The National Archives was right up my inner history geek alley. However, I have a small piece of advice to share with you. If you are standing in the National Archives, and you just so happen to be looking at the REAL Constitution, you know, those 200+ year old pieces of paper that are pivotal in our nation's history, which are guarded on each side by two men packing firearms in holsters, and your 9-year old tugs on your arm repeatedly begging you to, "Ask him, Mom! Ask him!" and you look at aforementioned guard nervously and say, " heard that if there is a threat to the of Independence that they up into a vault for protection. Is" then PLEASE try and stop yourself. Just don't do it. Because the guard will totally give you the stink eye, and shake his head (which is the universal sign for, "Hell no, crazy lady"). You will also feel like a totally idiot, and think to yourself, "So this is what it would feel like if I were the ditziest ditzbag in the whole world who stumbled into a Mensa meeting!" You also might skulk away from the exhibit hanging your head in shame for asking such a stupid question.

In my defense, we googled this fact later  when we got back at the hotel, and yes, it is true. According to the National Park Services website, "When not exhibited, the Nation's most precious documents are secured in a fireproof, shockproof, bombproof vault, which is constructed of steel and reinforced concrete and is located below the shrine under the floor of Exhibition Hall. An electrical mechanism automatically lowers them into the vault and raises them back to their positions in the shrine. Other machinery then closes a massive lid of metal and concrete over the vault. These mechanisms can be activated in the event of danger; and, during a power failure, may be operated manually."

So there. Ha. I guess I'm not such an idiot. 

But I learned my lesson. Do NOT talk to the guards while they are doing their job. They will just think you are a crazy tourist who is potentially threatening our nation's most sacred documents, and they will give you the stink eye. They carry guns, people. Don't mess with them.

When I was a child and my family traveled to D.C., I have vivid memories of visiting Arlington National Cemetery, and I wanted to show it to my kids. Yes, it's a heavy topic, but I don't think they are too young to learn about appreciation. Appreciation of freedom. Appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice that far too many have made so that my family and others in these United States can have free, happy, carefree lives. 

FREEDOM, kids. It's pretty darn cool.

I gave them a talk beforehand, and introduced them to the word, "reverence," but I was glad that this sign was there when we walked in to reinforce it.

In other words, shut it, kids. No horseplay. Respect. See the big sign? This means you.

Luckily, they got the message right away. 

As I remembered from so long ago, Arlington National Cemetery is beyond moving. To try to describe it in words would not do it justice. I defy you to enter this place and see the rolling hills of Virginia dotted with far too many white stones and not get a lump in your throat. My kids actually sat in perfect silence (a rarity) as we watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a ceremony that brings a catch to my throat and tears in my eyes the few times I have seen it. My boys were fascinated by the concept that the tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rain or shine, and that the soldiers do their jobs so well. Rather than be bored by doing the same thing over and over again, like most people would be, these men and women walk their 21 steps, stop for 21 steps, turn and walk 21 steps repeatedly throughout the days, weeks, and months with total honor. It is truly a sight to see, and a teachable moment if I have ever seen one. 

The rest of the trip was filled with walking, walking, and more walking, which is what you better plan on doing lots of in D.C. (It's a great excuse to eat ice cream every night, because you burn all those calories during the day.) I could bore you with all the details, but then I'd just be one of those people that's all, "Hey! Come watch my vacation slideshow! Come listen to our vacation minutiae!" and that's just not me. 

I would also like to give a huge shout-out to Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, North Dakota and Montana. Because of you, my kids could not complete their quest to see license plates from all 50 states. Thanks for nothing. I had my doubts about Hawaii, but come on now North Dakota and Kansas! Where you at? Actually, you're probably all smart and flew to D.C. instead of driving. 

Bill went back to work today. I'm experiencing withdrawal from having my husband around all day.

Sigh. Back to normal. Vacation is over.