Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The male brain. Decoded. A little bit.

The boy brain is fascinating indeed.

Hailing from a family of six girls, (I am second in line) I am well-versed in the female brain. It helps that I am a female, yes, but growing up with five different women (plus my mother) exposed me to all kinds of estrogen and girl talk. I can wax poetic on any topic of a girly nature. If you want to talk about what color to paint your toes, or which purse you should buy, or if those shoes match that belt, then I am your gal. On the other hand, growing up with zero point zero brothers (even our dog is a girl) did not give me much insight into the way men think. Yes, I have been with my husband for 18 years and married to him for almost 12, but it is my boys who are truly teaching me how the male brain works.

My brood of three little men, although frustrating and challenging at times, are actually very simple creatures. Feed them and they are happy. Put them to bed when they are tired. Frequently tell them that they are awesome. Repeat.

That last step is important. The male ego bruises easily.

Although I shouldn't talk. I cry easily. That makes us even.

Over the last decade of being a parent, I have found that boys are fascinated with good versus evil, and bad guys versus good guys. If we are driving down a road and see a police car with its bright lights flashing, all necks crane to see if a policeman/woman will slam a bad guy to the pavement and cuff him. It has never happened on our watch, but one can only hope. My boys will sigh loudly as we pass, and say, "Aw. It's just a guy who is speeding. BORING!" Personally, the last thing I would want to witness as I am leisurely driving down the road is police guns being drawn as a perp is caught. No thanks. But that's just me.

Which leads me to the conversations I have with my sons on a daily basis. The topics are wack. I enjoy a wack topic as much as the next gal, but DUDE.

Where do they come up with this stuff?

My daughter likes to talk about pink, princesses, flowers, farts (she has three older brothers as you know), fairies, pink, hearts, pink, sunshine, Barbies, pink, ponies and pink. And sometimes purple.

My boys and I recently spent the entire drive to school, a whole 20 minutes, discussing whether or not certain activities are legal. It was not a conversation I could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

And no, before you ask, I am not worried in the least that I will be spending my golden years visiting them in the State Pen and bringing them cakes with files baked in the middle.

It's just a boy thing.

I hope.

As we were driving along that morning, I saw a runner unsafely running through traffic. I said, "Geez! Look at that guy! That's not safe!" which unwittingly started a conversation about legal matters.

"Mom, if I jumped out of this car right now and starting walking on the other side of [name of the busy road on which we were driving], would that be legal?" my 8-year old asked.

"Well, it wouldn't be safe, and you'd probably get hit by a car and have to go to the hospital and get a thousand stitches, a cast, and some shots, but no, I don't think that would be illegal."

Sidenote: Have I mentioned that I'm a bit of a fearmonger when it comes to safety issues with my children? Better have them afraid of the road than run in the middle of it. The words, "stitches" and "shots" will set any kid on the straight and narrow.

And all is well. I make no excuses for occasionally ruling with fear.

My 9-year old son continued, "That wouldn't be illegal, but if you stood in the middle of the road, then that would be illegal. You would get arrested."

Me: "Blah, blah, blah, SHOTS, blah, blah, STITCHES, blah, blah, blah MAYBE DEATH, blah, blah, blah, DON'T EVER DO THAT."

"Duh, Mom. We would never do that. We're not babies, you know."

"We're not babies" is their new mantra. They would sing it from the rooftops if they could. But then again, I wouldn't let them on any rooftops because of SHOTS, STITCHES, and DEATH.

Hearing the word stitches, my 3-year old daughter yelled, "I don't wanna go to the doctor!"

"Nobody's going to the doctor, honey."

My 5-year old son decided to join the conversation. "Mom. What if we drove our car up to the top of a water slide and drove down. Would that be illegal?"

You can't make this stuff up, people.

"Um...probably? But who would do that?"

Excited and his interest piqued, my 8-year old said, "But Mom! It's not like there's a law saying you couldn't do it, is there?"

They're killing me with this logic.

"Well, no, but it would be impossible. The car would never make it up there. And then you would probably die."

Or get shots. And stitches. And you would have to take lots of yucky medicine, none of it tasting like bubblegum and lollipops.

Sidenote to Congress: I know you're a tad busy as of late, but could you draw up a law making it illegal to drive down water slides just so I can win this one? Mmmmkay? Thanks.

I soon realized that this whole conversation stemmed from bald eagles.

Follow along, people. Did I lose you yet?

Switching gears, my 8-year old shouted, "It's illegal to own ANY part of a bald eagle you guys! They would arrest you at the zoo on the spot if you even picked up a teensy-weensy, little feather!"

Ah. The bald eagle. The puzzle pieces fit together in my brain as I recognized the reason for this random conversation. I felt a small sense of relief that my children were not fantasizing about committing felonius activities.

Allow me to explain.

We were at the zoo a few days before this conversation, and as we were watching a beautiful bald eagle behind a netted area, there was a small sign that said something to the effect of, "It is illegal to own or possess ANY part of a bald eagle, dead or alive."

And that is all we remembered about our trip to the zoo that day.

The zoo had them at the word, "illegal".

At that moment, they fantasized of situations in which hapless people would be walking along in the zoo, innocently pick up an eagle feather not knowing exactly what it was, and...

BAM! 

The next thing you know, those people are wearing orange jumpsuits and serving ten to twenty in the State Pen.

"Guys, I don't think it works like that. You have to knowingly possess or own part of a bald eagle."

Pffffffffffffffffffftttttttttttttttttt.

That was the sound of their excitement dispelling.

But it's not like I could have them believing that the zoo has police staked out in the bushes, guns drawn, waiting to arrest people for finding eagle feathers that probably would never make it outside of the netting anyway.

What kind of mom lets her kid think that? I mean really.

Just a little insight into the male brain for you today, peeps.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 26, 2010

And for my next trick, I will scream my head off.

Whoa.

I have been shopping and readying my house for the almost 30-ish people that will be here this weekend (17 people, including me, my husband and our children, of course, will be sleeping here at Casa de Chaos) in celebration of my 8-year old son's First Communion this Saturday. Of course, I am so proud of my boy, and excited for this milestone, but excitement doesn't clean this house. Or dust this furniture. Or change bedsheets. Or shop for groceries. Those jobs are all mine. (And Bill's. Heaven forbid I leave him out of all the excitement.)
 
As I was down the basement storage area this afternoon getting extra chairs, tables and tablecloths, I died.

I literally saw the light and lived to tell of it.

All because of a snake down my basement.

A water moccasin to be exact. I think. Kind of.

Well, it was at least a highly venomous snake and had large pointy fangs sprouting forth from its triangular-shaped head.

As I was reaching into a box of kitchen stuff, I saw the offender lying in wait. Its scales were shiny, and it was perched on top of a corrugated cardboard lid, mocking me with its tongue and ready to pounce. I swear I heard it say, "Come and get me. I dare you." In the split second between noticing the snake, and screaming my ever-loving head clear off my body, my heart leapt forth my chest, danced around the concrete floor of the basement, and had about ten thousand mini heart attacks, followed by THE BIG ONE.

So this is how it was going to end. It's been real. Nice knowing you, Earth.

Then. Then. Then.

I realized that the snake wasn't moving, because guess what?

Rubber doesn't move, you guys.

Unless, of course, it is wrapped around the wheel of a car. Or in ball form. Yes, the scariest thing I have ever seen with my own two peepers was entirely manmade. As in made by MAN. Not nature.

Boys. You would think by now I would be jaded. I have seen more life-like rubber rats and spiders at this house before, and none of them have ever fazed me in the slightest.

But now this. It has been a long day. Perhaps if I wasn't so preoccupied with finding my beverage tub, or flatware holder, or whatever the heck else made me momentarily lose my precious sanity, I would have thought, "You know what, Clare? That thing is rubber. And besides that, water moccasins don't live in basements of Midwestern states." But no. This is what rushing around does to a person.

I have been foiled again. FOILED. AGAIN.

Clearly, I am losing it. The universe is telling me to slow my roll.

I need to chill out.

At least my kids were amused. I am always glad to be of service for their laughing needs, even if my own heart has just returned to my chest and started to beat at a normal rate once again.

Serenity now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The entrepreneurial force is strong in this one.

This one.

This one has an entrepreneurial spirit.

This one would sell snow to a polar bear.

Or at least he'd try.

Three years ago when he was five, I found him in his bedroom, sitting cross-legged on the floor, a pen in one hand, and my mini Post-It notes in the other. A small pile of toys, mostly Matchbox cars, were scattered before him. I could see that he was writing numbers that resembled price tags and taping them to the roof of each car.

"Sweetie, what's up?"

"I've decided to sell some of my toys, Mom."

"Who are you going to sell them to?"

"Just the kids in the neighborhood. Can I set up a stand in front of the house, so when people drive by, they can stop and buy something?"

I didn't have the heart to tell him, "No," yet. I got down on the floor with him, and picked up a Matchbox car that had surely seen better days. The paint was chipped off the bumpers from having been "crashed" many times. In his best pre-school level handwriting, he had written, "1.50$" on the price tag, misplacing the dollar sign in the cutest way possible.

His face eagerly looked up at mine, waiting for the OK. I hesitated before speaking, my brain working overtime, trying to find the right words that would not crush his fragile spirit.

"Um...sweetie? Um...why did you decide to price this one at $1.50? Did you know they sell them at the store for about 89 cents?" I asked carefully.

He looked at me with a sort of "DUH" look, and I swear I saw the tiniest hint of pity for me in his 5-year old eyes. It was the kind of look that said, "Must I explain EVERYthing to this woman?"

Then he spoke. "Well Mom, if I sold them for the same price we bought them for, then I wouldn't make a profit, would I?"

Oh. Duh. Silly me. Profits.

Impressed, I asked, "How do you know about profits?"

"Daddy told me."

I was rendered momentarily speechless as I looked into his big brown eyes. I did not have the heart to teach him other, slightly more spirit-crushing words such as, "current market value" and "depreciation". That lesson in economics would have to wait.

"Can I have a toy sale, Mom? Pleeeeeeeeeaaassssse?" he begged.

As I often did when I didn't have the heart to tell one of the kids, "No," because their intentions were pure, or when I just didn't know the answer to something, I said, "Well let's see what Daddy thinks when he gets home."

Daddy. He'll have the answer to this situation.

Fortunately, by the time Daddy got home, the question was forgotten and never asked. Out of sight out of mind. A few days later, however, my boy came across his toys with the price tags. He asked again if he could sell his toys to gullible neighborhood kids who were willing to part with $1.50 from their piggy bank, in exchange for a beat-up toy that they could buy new for much less. I don't remember exactly what I said at the time, but I am fairly certain I used some excuse like, "Well, it's raining today, so why don't we talk about a sale when the weather is nicer?"

You know, some less entrepreneurial spirit-crushing answer than a flat-out, "No."

Fast forward to two days ago, Tuesday afternoon.

I was sitting at the desk in our home office, and I was about to make a photocopy. I lifted the lid to our small copy machine/printer/fax machine, and I found this.






My little entrepreneur is at it again.

If you have a difficult time reading a child's handwriting, allow me to translate. "toy sale at [our address]. we have legos, video games, and more. everthing $50 or less so Bring Your friends Bring Your Famliy."

The more I looked, the more copies of this flyer I found. I have no idea how many copies were made, nor how many copies may or may not have been distributed to unsuspecting neighbors.

First of all, no. Do not bring your friends. Do not bring your families. The contents of our playroom are not available for a bargain basement price of $50.00.

However, if you want to add a couple of zeros to that number, we can talk. Like my son, I know a thing or two about making a profit, and I also don't care about little things like current market value, or item depreciation.

I'm kinda ruthless that way.

I asked my boy about this latest moneymaking venture.

He simply answered, "I'm saving for a Super Mario Bros. game, and it's $50."

Oh. Duh. Again. Shame on me for not realizing that selling the entire contents of our playroom would be the perfect answer to this dilemma.

Fortunately, he was able to sweet-talk his two brothers into pooling all their money. They cracked open their piggy banks full of crumpled allowance money, and gifts from generous grandparents, and they came up with the $50 needed for Super Mario Bros. Galaxy or Party or whatever-the-heck-the-brothers-Mario-are-up-to-these-days.

By the way, as a side note, do not pronounce the above as, "Super Mario BROTHERS". I have been told many, many times that it is pronounced, "Super Mario BROS (rhymes with PROSE)". And smack your mouth for thinking anything else. You, as an adult, may have some book-learnin', but you know nothing about the correct pronunciation of abbreviations. Apparently.

If I can get my act together in time, which is doubtful, I will be participating in our neighborhood's garage sale in a few weeks. I have never hosted a garage sale, but I think I'm finally ready to unload some junk awesome stuff.

Please don't be surprised if you stop by our sale and notice that there is a table set up with a little boy manning it. If you look closer, please also don't be surprised that he has priced a pair of used tube socks for $6.00. Or a sea shell for $3.00. Or a ratty t-shirt for $5.00. I might not have the courage to break his little entrepreneurial heart.

Who knows? Maybe someone will fall for his schtick. His big, brown eyes might tug at their heartstrings too, and they'll say, "Can I offer you $5.00 for the tube socks?"

It could happen. As P.T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Erma put the "Bomb" in Bombeck.

Erma Bombeck was the bomb.

For all of you that are not hip enough to know how the "cool kids" speak, I'll have you know that being "the bomb" is a good thing.

Wait. When things are cool, or rad, or awesome, do teenagers still say that they are "the bomb", or did I just age myself by using outdated slang?

Whatevs. I'll still loudly proclaim to the blogosphere that Erma was the bomb. The best. A trail blazer. A national treasure.

I had the pleasure of spending this past Thursday through Sunday at the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop at my beloved alma mater, the University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio. The Erma conference is the only known writer's workshop in the country dedicated only to humor writing. Needless to say, I was a little more than excited to be among funny people at one of my favorite places on the planet for three days. However, soon after I signed up for this conference a few months ago, it hit me. I had never stayed in a hotel room by myself. Ever.

Kind of pathetic for a 35-year old woman, don't you think?

Of course I have stayed in plenty of hotel rooms with my parents and sisters when I was growing up, and now with my husband, but never by myself. The opportunity had just never presented itself. As a stay-at-home mom, it's not like I have the luxury of business trips and expense accounts. Although, I must admit that it has crossed my mind to try and somehow be able to turn the errands that I run on a daily basis into an overnight trip all by myself. After all, being able to sleep soundly for at least 8 hours in a king-sized bed with no interruptions for just one night would be the ultimate luxury.

Somehow I don't think that one would fly with my husband. I can't exactly say, "Corporate called, and they need me at the hotel adjacent to the outlet mall for 24 hours because of an emergency shopping trip." Darn. I totally need to establish an HR department around here that would approve that trip.

Bill was looking forward to taking a few days off of work to spend some time with the kids, and I was more than happy to relinquish my usual duties to hob-nob with writers such as Bill Scheft, Wade Rouse, Katrina Kittle, Loretta LaRoche, Steve Doocy, Gail Collins and W. Bruce Cameron. And Mo Rocca.

Here is the part of my entry where I name-drop, because I got to meet Mo Rocca on Friday, when the "CBS Sunday Morning" show was in attendance to film parts of the conference for an upcoming segment on the show. It's a good thing that my husband is hilarious, snarky, sarcastic and wears glasses, because so does Mo Rocca. And that's my type.

Normally, if I were to see a famous person, I would play it cool. I'd be all, "Oh look. There's Brad Pitt ordering a latte. There's Patrick Dempsey feeding a parking meter." But who am I kidding? I live in the Midwest, where celebrities are not often sighted. So I saw him and I gushed like I was a 12-year old girl standing in front of a Jonas Brother. I was with a few other writer friends, and we asked if we could take a picture with him, and of course he obliged. He asked where I lived and what I did. Because Mo Rocca totally wanted to know, you guys. I don't remember exactly what I said, but my usually articulate self was reduced to a babbling pile of words that came out something like, "Mommyblogger...four kids...writer...Erma Bombeck Conference". You know, something totally SANE. Then I handed him one of my business cards.

As if the funny Mo Rocca is going to read my mommy blog. But a gal can dream, can't she?



That's me on the right, and Jamie on the left, who writes the blog, Interfaithfully Yours. Doesn't he look like he's so into me? Look at his eyes. They're saying, "Dude. I've got a mommyblogger stuck to me. And she's gushing. Do they make a repellant for that? Get. Me. Out. Of. Here."

Call me, Mo.

Anyway, as I walked the campus of the University of Dayton this weekend, I had a light bulb moment when I realized that this was the same place that I found my independence as a 17-year old. At the time, I was scared, out of sorts and trying to figure out who I was as a woman, beyond the loving, protecting fold of my parents and my family. Now, here I was, years later trying to find my independence as a wife and mother, beyond the loving, protective fold of my husband and my children.

I once heard a parenting expert say something to the effect of, "Don't make your children the center of your universe. They should fit into your world, and you should not set it up the other way around, where you are always trying to fit into their world." I have no idea who said this, but I remember the general idea, and I have always tried to follow this mantra.

As a mother, it is so easy to hide behind schedules, after-school activities, carpooling, making dinners, doing laundry, and all the minutiae of life, and forget who I am, and what I want out of life. I could easily say, "I'm too busy with my kids to have time for a hobby." But there is that little creative section of my brain that needs an outlet. I have to write, or create, or make something. I am a better wife and mother because of it.

I have thought of all the other wonderful mothers I know that have talents and hobbies beyond their jobs as mothers, as I wrote about a few months ago in another entry. In fact, at this very moment, a friend of mine who has four children roughly the same age as mine, is running in the Boston Marathon, a very difficult race for which you have to qualify. Running is her "thing", and she is no less an awesome mother because of it. I so admire other mothers who do this job phenomenally, but still manage to stay true to themselves and that little voice in their minds that tells them they can go for it.

That's who I want to be when I grow up.

In fact, I was enjoying myself so much this weekend, and I wasn't pining away for my husband and children like I originally thought I would be. Of course, that made me feel a little bit guilty. However, when I had a little down time in between sessions, I pulled out the book, "Forever Erma", which is a compilation of her essays through the years. I happened to open it to one that she wrote entitled, "When Last Child Goes to School". She wrote this column back in 1966, when it was almost socially unacceptable for mothers to admit that they weren't June Cleaver, and they wanted more out of life than just cooking and cleaning all day.

Erma wrote (of the mothers who were devastated when their last child went off to school): "She's the woman who didn't have many interests going for her in the first place. When the children came along, it was the answer to her problem. Here was her crutch, her ace in the hole, her reason for not having to go outside the home, invent diversions, meet new friends, put up her hair, read a book or function as a woman. She wore her children like a hair shirt and told everyone how they depended upon her - when it was the other way around."

Brilliant.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be that kind of mother.
 
As Erma continued, she wrote about another kind of mother, and this is who I desire to be: "She wanted children too, but for another reason. They fulfilled a strong desire to love, raise and leave as a legacy another human being. But they didn't fulfill her ambitions, her struggle for individuality or her need to make a contribution to this life, no matter how small.
   I have seen women emerge like great beautiful butterflies from a cocoon existence that was limited to naps and peanut butter. I have seen them assume leadership, develop and grow into active citizens, unearth artful talents that surprised everyone - even themselves, revert to skills they had BB (Before Babies), and set about restoring their own personal appearance.
   I have also seen them sink into despondency, scrub the kitchen twice a week to pass the time and mechanically mouth the same old routine, 'I can't...(name anything). I've got the children.'"

As I read those prolific words of Erma's, I realized that I have no reason to feel guilty about wanting to pursue my own dreams. None of us should. I am a good mother and a good wife, and I can still be all of these things without losing myself.

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled in my driveway and ran into my house, ready to get much-needed hugs from Bill and the kids. I shouted, "I'm home!" and five pairs of feet came running from all directions.

"MOMMY WE MISSED YOU!!!" the kids all shouted in chorus.

And then, without missing a beat, they excitedly all wanted to speak at the same time. My 8-year old began, "Mom! Guess what! We got to level 5 in Super Mario Bros!"

Stupid me. I thought they were going to tell me about how miserable they were without me.

My 5-year old continued, while gasping for air, "Mom! Mom! And we bought 'Super Mario Party' with our own money too!"

Ah...the important things in life. Mario and Luigi. Clearly, they had not been pining away, unable to function without me. No one was emotionally ruined from not having me around for three days. They love me and missed me, but they knew I was coming back.

Bill and I are doing something right.

Thanks, Erma. Even though you are no longer on this earth, you continue to inspire this mother. You're still relevant after all these years.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big news!

I got you here with that headline, didn't I?

I'm always hesitant to use the phrase, "Big News!" anymore, because inevitably one of my friends or family will think that I am pregnant again.

Sorry to disappoint you, peeps, but I'm not pregnant.

No, it's not exactly news of that magnitude, but it's big, albeit in my own little world.

I celebrated my 1-year Blogiversary on April 6.

Hold your excitement, please.

As you can see on my blog page, I am now part of the BlogHer Publishing Network. BlogHer is THE website for reading great women bloggers on basically any topic that affects women, from breastfeeding to teenagers to money to retirement. You might agree with the writers, or you might disagree with them. Nonetheless, they will make you think. Or laugh. Or cry. But it's not like I'm kissing up to BlogHer or anything.

Well, you got me. I'm totally kissing up. Mwah. Mwah.

Anyway, I received an email last week from BlogHer asking if they could syndicate one of my articles and feature it on BlogHer's home page.

Um...YES.

And did I mention, YES?!?!

Double YESES? 

Oh, by the way, did I say, HECK YES?!?

Check out the link to my article featured on BlogHer here.

But being a child brought up on television of the 80s, of course when I hear the word "syndicate", I think of television.

Dude. Urkel is syndicated.

George and Weezy are syndicated.

"Half-Pint" and Almonzo are syndicated.

Mrs. Garrett, Blair Warner and Jo Polniaczek are syndicated.

Cousin Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous are syndicated.

Now I'm syndicated.

Well, not really. Just one of my teensy-weensy little silly articles is syndicated. And it's not like it'll be in reruns for eternity.

Don't worry. I'm not all big-headed about it or anything. After all, Urkel will be collecting residuals until he is old and gray from his syndication, whereas I might be able to purchase that Grande latte at Starbucks instead of the Tall one.

But I am happy.

A year ago, I was just a mom of four with a messy minivan, a few potty-training jokes up my sleeve, and a dream, when I decided to start a blog. Now, a year later, I am still a mom of four with a messy minivan, a few potty-training jokes up my sleeve, and a dream, but now a teensy-weensy little corner of my dream has been realized by BlogHer.

Still kissing up, BlogHer, if you are paying attention.

Anyway, I will have you know that my ego is firmly in check. This morning, I thought about shouting, "Hurry up and get your backpacks ready and let's go! Mommy is syndicated now, so you HAVE to listen to me!" 

But my kids could not give one flip about silly little things like syndication.

Syndication, schmindication.

And I'll have you know that getting a teensy-weensy little article of yours syndicated in no way releases you from toilet-scrubbing duties. Or laundry. Or loading the dishwasher.

Sigh. The glamorous life. But really, I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's all good in this motherhood.

Thanks for putting up with me for the last year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An open letter to the pioneer women of the olden days.

First of all, let me just say that I find it highly ironic that I'm writing a letter to pioneer women of long ago. Presumably, all of you ladies are dead.

But that small detail is not going to stop me from writing this letter anyway.

I hope that you all are up in heaven, reading my blog on that great big laptop in the sky. Now pay attention, because I am about to give mad props to you. What are mad props? Well, it's just my way of saying you ladies rock. Er...you are cool. Er...you've got it goin' on. Er...sorry. I don't speak pioneer language of the olden days, so try and follow along the best you can.

Okay. Last weekend, my husband and I took a roadie with our four kids to visit family on a three-hour car trip north. (Pioneer translation: It would take 6 months for you to get there in your covered wagon.)

I know your covered wagons are rad and all, but a car trip? Hold onto your bonnets, ladies. A car is completely covered, not with fabric, but with steel, and it runs on an engine with horsepower, not four-legged animals. In other words, you can get where you're going fast.

You might want to hold onto your aprons now too ladies, because GET. THIS. This "car" of ours has a DVD-player in it. A DVD-player plays movies (perhaps you know them as "moving pictures") on a small screen right in the comfort of your own car! (Believe me. You would have killed for one back in the day.) The best part is that these new-fangled movie things entertain your children while you drive to your destination, allowing you to enjoy a peaceful drive and maybe even a semi-private, uninterrupted conversation with your husband. Bliss.

Do I need to pass the smelling salts yet because of all this excitement?

Yes, some of us modern women resort to such mind-numbing measures in order to maintain some semblance of sanity and order on our road trips, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

It's not like my kids are addicted to it or anything.

Wait. Is twitchiness and randomly reciting lines from their favorite movies a sign of withdrawal? Perhaps I should rethink that last statement.

Anyway, I forgot to bring a single movie with me on this particular trip. Not a one. Not a disc in sight. No problemo, right?

Wrong. Stupid mommy.

The first leg of our trip was fine. We made it to our destination in 3 hours while our kids read books, talked, and we sang, "Imma Be" by the Black-Eyed Peas.

Whoa. I think I just lost you there. Yes, Black-Eyed Peas are a tasty side dish to you, but here in the future, they are my jam. No, not jelly. Not preserves. But jam. Not strawberry jam, but a musical jam. Just think of the dances you do at your barn raisings, and make them a little faster and your skirts way shorter. Way. That's the Black-Eyed Peas.

My head is spinning.

So what is my point? What does any of this have to do with you?

Well, as my husband and I made our 3-hour trek back to our home a few days later, I thought of you and what kind of patience and stamina it must have taken to journey across the country with your families in a covered wagon carrying screaming children and all your earthly possessions.

And you did all of this without throwing one or more of your children out of the back of the wagon and making them walk the rest of the trail.

Ladies, you are the bomb.

That means you're awesome.

Um...it means you're way cool.

Um...you're nice. How does that sound?

Dang pioneer language.

Our 3-hour trek home last Sunday was challenging, to say the least. The first hour of our trip was fine. We talked about our weekend and what we saw and what we did. Then all of our children decided to turn up the volume at the same time, out of sheer boredom.

THE VOICES IN OUR CAR GOT LOUDER AND LOUDER.

Kind of like that. Only louder, whinier and potty mouthier. 

Why is the word "butt" so hilarious to young minds? Riddle me that, pioneer women. Was it the same back in your day? Can you at least humor me and tell me that your children would scream, "POOP" at the top of their lungs across the lonely plains?

My children are good travelers because we have always lived long distance from our extended families, but they have their limits. Last Sunday was a perfect example.

How did you do it ladies? How did you survive your long journey? Did your children whine in the covered wagon? Were they bored out of their skulls with nothing to look at? Did they instigate farting contests...er...contests of flatulent abilities? Perhaps a burping contest to make it interesting? Did your husband insist on driving the car until the light by "E" on the gas gage turned orange, indicating that you were about run out of gas because even though he won't admit it, it secretly gives him a thrill and makes him feel like he's living on the edge?

Wait a minute. Let me try that last question again in words you can understand. Did your husband insist on driving the horses across the plains despite the fact that he knew they were starving and about to pass out from exhaustion, even though he won't admit that it secretly gives him a thrill and makes him feel like he's living on the edge?

Understood, sisters? Am I speaking your language yet?

I admire your perseverance ladies. Without you, the west would have never been settled, because we all know that even though your husband was doing the driving of the horses and playing the role of "boss," you were there making sure chaos did not reign, and your husband did not run out of gas...er...horse power. We all know who the real boss was in that situation.

Do you want to know how I know that? Because if not for you, whining would have taken over, families would have given up, and covered wagons would have stopped somewhere around Illinois. Yep, Illinois would be the "West Coast" of America.

Don't even get me started on your beloved pioneer kids, and what it was like bathe them in a creek probably once a week. Mad props to you again.

And to think I was frustrated because we forgot our DVDs the other day.

Sincerely,

A mom who would have lasted 20 minutes in the pioneer days. 

No, make that 10.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Break is ON.

Oh Spring Break is ON.

It's ON like Donkey Kong.

Actually, I have no idea what that above statement means. But thanks to a little movie that we rented the other day called, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel," my kids now think that everything is hilariously ON like Donkey Kong.

How did the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences skip over this gem of a movie, by the way? Perhaps it was because the Oscars lacks the categories, "Best Farting Scene", or "Most Annoying Voices in a Movie. Ever." I guess we'll never know.

Spring Break is among us, and we are loving it.

I don't like to brag, but I'll have you know that we have been breaking this Spring at a lovely exotic locale known as Our House. Sure, it's not exactly the Ritz Carlton, but we dig it. And the weather? It is HOT in my neck of the woods as of late. Not just warmish, but HOT. And since every good, respectable vacay deserves some water-based activities in a bathing suit, guess what we did yesterday?

We broke out the sprinkler.

Not that I'm exactly parading around the backyard in my bathing suit or anything. The water from the hose is damn cold. C-to-the-O-to-the-L-to-the-D. And I don't do cold water. Or sprinklers. But I'm more than happy to sit in the sun reading my latest issue of "People" while I sun myself so that I can fake people out and make them think that I took a real vacay to the Bahamas. Also, with their current age disparities, it's not often that I find all four of my kids participating in the same activity all together and enjoying it, so it was great watching them frolic in the squirting plastic flower on the lawn in the backyard.

Simple pleasures.

There are a few things that Spring Break has reminded me.

1.) I really like my kids. Of course I love them, but I really like them too. I love who they are becoming,  and I enjoy spending time with them. I miss them during the school year when we see less of each other and extracurricular activities pull them in their own independent directions. I'm cool with their growing independence, and I encourage it, but I still like snuggling with them on the couch, even if it means I have to subject myself to the voices of SIX chipmunks to get said snuggle time.

2.) Vacation is tiring. Every muscle in my body is sore from going. And going. And going. We have been to two parks, on several walks, to various stores, out to eat, had sleepovers with friends, played baseball, kickball, and MY personal favorite, we cleaned out the entire garage. Organizing is fun, peeps. Don't knock it.

3.) Even though I wrote about it last year, I am still fervently anti-popsicle. However, that doesn't mean that my kids don't eat popsicles. Last week, we bought two boxes containing 24 popsicles each. Of those 48, about 16 are left. Dude. That's a lot of stickiness. However, I continue to shut my mouth about the aforementioned undesirable stickiness and I clean it up anyway. Heaven forbid I turn into "Anti-Popsicle Control Freak Mommy, Queen of the Buzzkill", because she sucks. Nevertheless, the stickiness is everywhere. Drips of coagulated popsicle juice are stuck to my hardwood floors, even though most of the popsicle eating is done outside. The little wooden sticks make their way to the grass, no matter how many times I say, "Promise you'll throw away your sticks when you're done!" It's always answered with a sweet little,"Okay, we promise, Mom!" Who knew I gave birth to such popsicle-eating liars? 

What is a downside to Spring Break and all this gorgeous weather? We have four sticky kids who have been playing outside from sun-up to sundown, which means showers or baths EVERY night. Bill and I are not strangers to the Battle of the Bathers, so we have prepared ourselves to rage through these battles nightly. However, the shocker is that my kids have actually looked at their own dirty hands, fingers, knees and toes and said, "Eh. You're right mom. I'm dirty," and bathed of their own omission! Without threats! Without acting like soap and water was going to burn their skin clear off!

Can I get a what-what for clean kids?

So this is what progress feels like. Yes, I do realize that by saying that out loud, I just jinxed myself.

But get a load of this NASTY rumor I heard yesterday. It's a doozie, I assure you.

My kids have been playing outside so much that my 9-year old literally blew through his pair of Crocs. For realsies. They're about a year old, and his big toe just busted right through, breaking the plastic. Or foam. Or whatever the heck space-age material of which those wondrous shoes are crafted.

I understand that not everybody loves Crocs. Yes, they're kind of funny-looking, and yes, the holes in the front are the cause of "Croc toes", an disgusting ailment that I wrote about last year, (refresh your mem here) but I will smack your mouth if you come into my home and say, "I hate Crocs."

Because Crocs rock.

I know tennis shoes are good for serious playing, but Crocs get my tush out the door faster, and really that's all that matters most days. Of course, my kids can't wear them with their school uniforms, but to most other places we go, they slip them on their feet and we're out the door in two seconds flat. And Mommy is happy. And the world is nag-free.

So we headed to the sporting goods store yesterday (which shall remain nameless, because they are the harbinger of the aforementioned NASTY rumor, which has yet to be verified) for our Crocs-buying expedition for the kids, because two of my four were in need of new pairs.

Sporting goods stores are just one big playground for kids, and I usually avoid them without the assistance of my husband. Imagine dropping four marbles on the ground and watching them roll in different directions. Yeah. That's my general experience at a sporting goods store. I turn into a shrew, yelling for my kids to come back to me, but all they see is balls! bats! golf clubs! more balls! and they hear nothing.

I yelled, "EVERYONE OVER BY THE BASEBALL PANTS. NOW."

Baseball season is starting up, and my three boys all need new baseball pants, which happened to be on sale. Mama likes a good sale, so I decided to put off our Crocs-buying until after we were done with baseball equipment. However, did any part of the above sentence say to you, "EVERYONE OVER BY THE JOCK STRAPS AND PROTECTIVE CUPS"? No, it did not. But did I mention that I have three boys? And that is where their brain goes?

Now, of course they all need protective cups. But I do not like to participate in the annual "Ceremonial Buying of the Protective Cup". Let's just say that for obvious reasons, it's not my thang.

But the boys were drawn to that aisle, and Mama had a coupon, and they were on sale. I'm a sucker for a coupon AND a sale (the double-whammy of shopping)...so...our Croc-buying expedition turned into a Crocs-Buying Expedition/Baseball Pant-buying expedition/Protective Cup-buying Expedition. And let me just say that it is not often that I wish I had a video camera with me when shopping with my children, but this is one golden time that I wish I did, because hilarity ensued.

OF COURSE, being male, my 8-year old picked up the BIGGEST protective cup in the whole store and said, "I found it, Mom!" Did I mention this cup was enormous? Like not suitable for humans? I started cracking up, which offended my son at first as he said, "What, mom?"

"Sweetie...um...this one isn't exactly your size." I said. "Let's look on the back of the package at the size charts to see what size you should wear."

My boy turned the package over in his hand and started laughing as he realized what size it was.

The chart indicated that my young boys fell into the "Pee-Wee" category.

Righteous indignation ensued with shouts of, "I am NOT Pee-Wee!!!"

Really, marketing genius at the protective cup company? What male, of any age, wants to fall in the "Pee-Wee" category? Think about that for just a minute.

I assured my boys that none of them are Pee-Wee, and, "It's just a silly name."

"Right on!" they all agreed.

My three-year old daughter picked up a yellow protective cup and exclaimed, "I like the pretty yellow one!"

I directed her attention the the pink baseball helmets.

My five-year old son innocently asked, "Mom, why do I need to wear one of these?"

Never missing a chance to scare their younger brother, my two oldest boys giggled and immediately interjected before I could answer and said, "Because if you don't wear one, and you get hit, your (piece of male anatomy) will fall off and you will DIE."

My five-year old looked fearful, and I said, "Zip it, you two. Sweetie, your brothers are lying to you. Nothing is going to fall off and you won't die."

After that, a loud argument began, with each boy asserting that he was "bigger" than the next. Seriously? The competition starts this young? Oy.

Protective cup-buying. Always good for a laugh.

But that is not the nasty rumor that I referenced earlier. We headed over to the shoe department, where the usual supply of Crocs is plentiful. However, it was sparse, with barely any kids' Crocs. I asked an employee what was up. He said, "Yeah, I think Crocs is going out of business. We're probably not getting anymore Crocs."

DUDE. Be still my beating heart. I kid you not, one of my kids shouted, "NOOOOO!!!"

That's how much this sometimes-lazy Mom loves Crocs. Now I'm going to have to tie four pairs of shoes (that's eight shoes, math freaks!) every time we have to leave the house. Of course my older guys can tie their own shoes, but they whine that they can't, "get them tight enough", or "it takes too long," and let's face it. I need to get out the door most days like five minutes ago; therefore, I have become an enabler. A shoe-tying enabler. I'm not proud of it.

I still don't know if the nasty rumor is true. Anyone want to issue a denial? Pretty please?

Despite our fear of a Crocs corporate collapse, Spring Break is good. Really good. And if it's a preview of summer with this gorgeous weather, I know that summer is going to be one, big, fun, sticky, baseball playing (with all important body parts protected), Crocs-wearing (hopefully), totally exhausting, good time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dear Facebook,

As if you weren't entertaining enough, you had to go and top yourself.

Oh Facebook. You overachiever, you.

Every time I send an email through Facebook, or post a link on my wall, your word verification box never disappoints. In fact, the other day you baffled me when you made me type the words "whale chili" in the little box.

Whale chili? For reals Facebook? You forced me to conjure up an image of a peaceful, majestic whale in a pot on my stove. Shame on you, Facebook. Nothing about whale chili sounds yummy. Or in any way humane. What would PETA say about that particular word verification box?

Don't worry. I'll keep that one just between you and me.

Today, however, you topped yourself. Thanks to you and your quest to prove that I am not a robot, but in fact a real, live human being, you forced me to type these words in the little box today:


Come on now Facebook.

Although I would agree that Tampax is quite newsworthy in and of itself, must I be reminded of this fact when I want to send an email to an old friend?

And how do Kotex and Playtex feel about the shout-out to Tampax? Have you chosen sides in the battle of the feminine hygiene products? Are you drawing a line in the sand on this matter, Facebook? Is this your passive-aggressive way of saying, "Tampax is where it's at"?

Of all of the millions of words to choose from, why these two?

Keep on keepin' on, Facebook.

Signed,

Clare the Amused Mommyblogger