Friday, December 27, 2013

The Holiday Humble-Brag

We're wrapping up 2013.  It's a time for reflection before starting fresh with a whole new year.  In that spirit are the holiday letters our friends and families send in their Christmas cards.  I love these things.  Whether they're funny, serious, sarcastic or conceited, they are my favorite of all weird holiday traditions.  Though, I've never actually written my own for our family. 

The reason for this is twofold.  The first, I struggle enough with the idea of sending Christmas cards.  All I have to do there is sign my name, and I can't pull it together to do even that.  Number 2, my family is awesome.  Every year my holiday letter would be the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  No joke.  I'm not good at editing.  Those reasons (excuses) aside, I want to give the holiday letter a try this year.  But bearing in mind my editorial shortcomings, I thought it best to write our letter in Top 10 form.

Without further ado, I give you...

My Holiday Humble-Brag Countdown!

10. Medical Emergencies  Our children have required an inordinate amount of medical attention this year.  My husband and I could probably have retired in Tahiti with the amount of money we've spent on copays.  (Not really.  But we could probably have vacationed in San Diego for a long weekend or something.)  We've had a brain scan, 3 MRIs, countless X-rays, 5 months worth of doctors visits for the spider bite from hell, a surgery, and 2 broken arms.  2013 has been a somewhat painful experience, both physical and financial.

The latest visit to our orthopedist.  If I was the type to send Christmas cards, I would send one to her.

9.  Fairy Godmother  Over the summer, I became godmother to my beautiful niece, Evelyn.  Only I've insisted that I be referred to strictly as Fairy Godmother.  Because I feel the title suits me.

8.  The Bookworm  Our daughter has taken it upon herself to read every book ever published before she exits the third grade.  She knocked out the Wimpy Kid and Dork Diary books over the summer.  Captain Underpants is so last year.  So she's moved on to stories more suitable to her discerning tastes.  She's read Little Women, White Fang, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Frankenstein, (the dreaded) Moby Dick, and she just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone last night.  All this since school began in August.  We've got the makings of a certified nerd on our hands over here.  It's fantastic. 

7.  Outdoor Science School  5th grade provided my son and me with some seriously amazing opportunities.  We survived the wilderness, daily hikes, snow, questionable culinary offerings, and 3 minute showers at Outdoor Science School.  The boy survived life without constant parent intervention, and I survived life in a cabin with ten 11-year-old girls.  We survived.  And it was a wonderful experience. 
Final Day in Big Bear.  Happy to show off our certificates and to head home to take out and hot showers!


6.  Movie Trailers  My husband has had a busy year at work.  I don't think he loves it too much when I brag about how amazing he is.  (And frankly, I don't want it going to his head.)  But, this is a holiday letter, so brag I must.  The guy is responsible for all of your children forcing you to see Monsters University three times in the theater.  He's the reason your daughter wants that Elsa dress.  He's also why you walk around singing the Demi Levato cover of Let It Go even when your kids aren't home.  (That's not just me, right?)  You're welcome. 

5.  New Car  I got a shiny new Volkswagen Beetle in September.  All I had to do to get it was slam my old car into a minivan.  The daughter and I were ok after the crash, but my beloved Cabrio lost her life while valiantly protecting us.
Cabrio 2002-2013.  RIP




4.  New Cat  Princess Cuddlecakes was adopted in July.  We adopted her as a pet for our daughter, however my husband has claimed her for his own.  (Kittens are man's best friend.)  Not surprisingly though, I am the primary cat feeder, brusher, and litter box cleaner.  So it goes... At least she's cute.

3.  5th Grade Promotion/First Day of 6th Grade  The boy passed 5th grade with flying colors.  Perfect marks, perfect test scores, and the Presidential Academic Excellence Award.  He started 6th grade in honors classes, and is breezing through them.  He finished his first semester of middle school on the honor roll.  (I'll admit, this brag wasn't very humble.)

2.  Mommy's Big Mouth  2013 saw the birth of this blog.  Neglected though it might be, I love it.  And, it's far cheaper than therapy.

1.  The Addition  In May, construction was completed on the addition to our home.  We moved in on Mother's Day and are now happily living in 3 bedrooms.  I have my very own office space adorned with vintage toys, coaching plaques, and pictures of my kids being weirdos.  Most importantly, WE HAVE 2 BATHROOMS!  I cannot possibly overstate the importance of a second bathroom.  We lived with one bathroom for 9 years.  And though no murders actually occurred, they were trying times.  Two bathrooms might actually be the key to a happy family life.  Two bathrooms...and kids who clean up after themselves.

I think I did an excellent job summing up the year we had.  It definitely had moments that left me pulling my hair out, but overall it was a great one.  And as 2013 comes to a close, I'm secure in the belief that the best is yet to come.  Bring it on 2014.  Bring it on.

Monday, December 23, 2013

My return to the blog, and an elf named Cupcake

I made some promises to people that I would start blogging again over winter break. So here I am. It's not that I ever intended to stop writing, it's mostly that I've been busy. I haven't had the time. Not a spare second. 

No, I'm not one of those moms who busies herself with over-scheduled kid activities. When I say I haven't had the time, I mean I'm either working, spending time with my family, or watching Sons of Anarchy. I've been busy.

'Busy' is a relative term.

But now, the glorious days of winter break are upon us. No work, and Sons of Anarchy season 6 just wrapped up, so I've got some free time. 

Coincidentally, I'm making my great blog return on my absolute favorite day of the year. Today is even better than my birthday. December 23. The last day I have to worry about our elf on the shelf till December 2014. 

If you don't currently have an elf residing in your home, you don't know my struggle.

Our elf, Cupcake has caused me many sleepless nights this month. Mostly because I don't plan ahead. It's my own fault. I have no idea what to do with the guy, then I wake up at 4am in a panic. 

I've pulled it off successfully every time. Even if it's just under the wire. But, the stress it causes me is ridiculous. It's actual anxiety. Over a silly stuffed elf doll. There have to be more important things I should be worrying about. 

I've gift wrapped dressers, TPed bedrooms, covered myself in face paint, and decorated the tree with underwear. I've baked muffins, made messes, recreated movie scenes, and I've painted toenails while people were sleeping. 

I'm tired. And I'm almost out of ideas. 

However, as much as I hate the Cupcake stress, I'll keep doing it every year I'm able until my kids tell me to stop. And this is why: they love the silly stuffed elf doll. (At least my daughter does. My son just likes seeing his sister so excited. He's happy to help me on elf duty when I let him.) All the sleepless nights in December are worth it for just one of my daughter's giggles. It's a fair trade. 

I've made it through this elf season with little sleep and lots of coffee; a little Christmas spirit and lots of google searches for "fun elf on the shelf ideas"(non of which were particularly helpful). But, I made it. 

If this was your first season with the elf, you survived. I'm proud of you. And also, I'm sorry. You likely didn't know what you were getting yourself in to. If you're a seasoned elf veteran, you know what to do now:

Plan your last move, and pour some champagne. That sucker's going back in his box tomorrow!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Middle School Blues

The kid spent 5 hours on homework last night.  I'm willing to bet that most CPA's don't take that much work home with them during tax season.  5 hours.  We could've watched 20 episodes of Adventure Time!  We could've driven to Vegas.  We could've flown to Indiana.  We could've sat through a directors cut of Gone With the Wind...with a one hour intermission.  5 hours is a long time. 

Never ending homework.  That's part of our new normal, along with locker combinations, changing clothes in gym class, passing periods, detentions, and those amazingly awkward school dances. 

Middle School.  It's just as bad as I remembered it. 

I'll grant you, I have a slightly different perspective on the thing this time around.  Yet still, I think middle school is akin to one of those exotic rites of passage where 11-year-olds are forced to walk on hot coals, mutilate themselves, battle a wild boar, whatever, to prove they are grown.  The catch is that 11-year-olds aren't grown.  They aren't even a little bit adult.  At all. 

My kid mastered his locker on the first day.  He isn't humiliated in PE.  He has yet to have a swirly.  I guess I should be happy about that.  And I am, but I'm still not a big middle school fan.  

I'm a huge believer in the old African/Hillary Clinton proverb "It takes a village to raise a child."  The village we have built for our children is like a beautifully manicured, gated community somewhere in the hills, with security guards, supportive neighbors, and friendly old ladies who hand out king sized candy bars on Halloween.  Our village kicks ass.  The middle school fits in there too.  It's like the 'new money' neighbor down the road who throws loud parties, and doesn't follow the HOA guidelines.  Though it's lawn sculptures are uglying up the place a bit, I'm sure it serves a purpose in our village.  For the life of me, I don't know what that purpose is. But, I'm sure it serves a purpose. 

I know what you're thinking.  Middle school is necessary to prepare a child for the rigors of high school.  I know you'll tell me they are teaching time management, organization, and self-reliance.  (It's just like you to take their side.)  You'll tell me that they are fostering my son's independence.  I understand those things.  They're all important.  But he's 11.  And, it seems a little much.  

I think what bothers me most about middle school isn't the wasting of precious family time for mind-numbing assignments, or the lack of the one-on-one attention I'm used to from teachers.  It isn't that I'm worried about rabid 8th graders roaming the halls, or the giant decrease in parental involvement.  (Though in my head, those are all pretty sound reasons to hate middle school.)  It's that middle school is turning my little baby boy into an adult.  It's forcing him to brave the hot coals.  He's battling wild boars or whatever every day, and I can't help him.  I just get to hear about it later.  And for that, I hate middle school.  Just like I did when I was 11.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Middle School Stole My Baby

We survived our first week back to school/work. We only have 175 days to go till summer, so we're celebrating at Disneyland. (If you haven't figured this out already, we will celebrate almost anything at Disneyland. The kids remembered to put their dirty socks in the hamper?  DISNEYLAND! Yeah. Anything.) 

My family is still sleeping, so I've busied myself with waving at passing joggers as I shove waffles in my face. I lead a pretty challenging existence, I know. Because I haven't written in a while, I thought I might take a break from the joggers to check in...the joggers, but not the waffles. I can multitask. 

6 days ago middle school happened. I know you're thinking to yourself, "Middle school?  That can't be right. Joanna is only 22. How can she possibly have a child in middle school?"  I know. I think that to myself too. But it's real. It happened. 

The first day, I loaded the kids in the clown car and drove through a fog of nerves and fear to the new school. The parents were told not to park and walk the kids up. We were supposed to park several blocks away, and let the kids walk in on their own. SEVERAL BLOCKS?  Several blocks presents a real problem to my overprotective, control freak nature. But, I gave it a shot anyway. 

The kid got out of the car, and my mouth went dry. I could feel the lump rising in my throat.  It was like I was swallowing little shards of glass. He looked back to me wide-eyed (this was going to be a tearful goodbye, I could just tell) stood there for a moment, then quickly said, "Bye mom!" before slamming the door, and being surrounded by a gaggle of 7th grade girls. 
 
I hate middle school. But my son loves it.

It's been hilarious hearing all his awkward, coming of age stories from the first week. Fighting with combination locks. Finding friends at lunch. Changing for the first time in the gym locker room (horror and humiliation!).  We've all had those experiences. I just wish I could have seen the humor when I was going through them. 

Overall, he's still taking it better than I am. He's becoming independent and self sufficient just like he's supposed to. And I'm standing on the sidelines watching, wondering what the hell happened to the little boy I dropped off at preschool who grabbed the gates and screamed "Don't leave me in this place!" Not saying that's the reaction I wanted him to have to middle school. But one little backwards glance wouldn't have killed him either.  

I guess he's a man now. And that's ok, because men still have mommies. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Teachers are Better Than Me

School is only days away.  I have moved past the denial stage, through anger, bargaining, and depression.  I've made it all the way to acceptance.  This thing is happening.  Might as well embrace it. 

I've stocked up on hand sanitizer, juice boxes and granola bars.  I have tutors' contact info saved to my favorites.  Now I'm just waiting for my first day in a quiet house.  You see, I've got big things planned for when the kids are at school.  (Probably none of which I'll actually accomplish, but I'm planning them just the same.)  I'm going to read a book, use a spa gift card I've been holding onto for 3 years, take a nap, and maybe stop by the gym.  Maybe. 

I can't begin to explain how grateful I am for the people who will make those blissful moments possible. 

Over the course of my parenting years, I've spent a lot of time in classrooms.  A lot of time seeing what teachers are faced with daily.  It's not pretty.  Boogers, back talk, potty accidents, arguments...and then they get to deal with us too.  (I cannot fathom the level of patience a person would need to make it through 30ish parent/teacher conferences.  I am breaking out in hives just thinking about it.)  And the truly strange thing?  Teachers, really truly good teachers, seem to enjoy it.

Teachers are better than me.

When my kids tell me stories at home, my responses are things like "uh huh....yeah....cool..."  When my kids tell their teachers a story, I hear responses like "Then what did you do?  What did he say next?  What did you learn?"  They're better than me.

If my child falls at home, my reaction is a quick "Shake it off."  No kidding.  It could be a compound fracture, and without looking, my first response would be "Shake it off."  My kid falls at school, and the teacher is there to help them up with kind words, a hug, and an ice pack. 

When my kids forget to pack themselves a snack (They are 8 and 11.  Fully old enough to grab an apple from the fridge.  Snack duty isn't my job anymore), then tell me they're hungry?  Yeah, that's too bad.  When a child at school forgets their lunch on a field trip?  I've seen teachers give up their own lunch so the student won't go hungry.  I'm not giving up my lunch for anyone.  Not even to the child with the saddest, puppy dog eyes in the school.  Teachers are so much better.

Sometimes teachers sacrifice time with their own families to be there for ours.  They miss their kids' sporting events for parent nights.  They miss performances for fundraisers.  Some give up their evenings and early mornings to help kids who are falling a little behind.  I don't know that I would wake up an hour earlier than necessary to go over math facts with a child who didn't belong to me.  I don't know that I would wake up an hour earlier than necessary for a child who does belong to me.  I know for sure that I wouldn't miss seeing my son score a touchdown to answer questions at an open house. 

My home is full of love and laughs.  It's full of silliness and big personalities.  A teacher's classroom is full of that stuff too, but it's kept in nice balance with structure, discipline and learning.  That's a balancing act that I haven't mastered.  I've got the discipline thing, ok.  And I own books.  But structure?  Now they're just making me look bad. 

As you can see, there are many reasons I have not chosen to home-school.

I am not a teacher.  I could go to school, study education for years, and get a job teaching, but I doubt even then that I would be a teacher.  I'm fairly certain teachers are born.  Not made.  And as I said, I am thankful for all the teachers who dedicate their lives to providing me with peace 5 days a week throughout the school year.  (That is what they dedicate their lives to, right?  Whatever.  It's an added bonus, anyway.) 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kate Upton, Just Stop

I have posted several times over the past few months about girls demeaning themselves and dressing like tiny, little tramps and making absolutely horrible decisions.  I know I am just one small voice in a sea of internet know-it-alls.  But today I will try again to get my point across, because clearly the people who should be taking notes are not reading my blog.

I'm standing tall on this soapbox yet again because of an article I haven't even read yet.  The Elle interview with the very beautiful Kate Upton. It would probably be smart to read it first and get all the details, but truly, just the highlights make me nauseous.  So let me just say this:  Kate Upton, just stop.  Please.

I have never thought of myself as a feminist.  That's not to say that I didn't love the Spice Girls.  I owned 2 copies of Spice World.  It's not that I think that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or speak only when spoken to.  I never thought of myself as a feminist because I never needed a label.

As far as I'm concerned, If a woman wants to stay home, and have a litter of babies, and bake cookies every day that's great.  (Especially if she gives me some of the cookies.)  And she can. Not because she's a woman, but because she is a patient, caring, determined person.  If a woman wants to work 15 hour days, climb a corporate ladder, and smash a glass ceiling that's great too.  And she can.  Not because she is a woman, but because she is a smart, qualified, determined person.

I never felt the need to be a feminist,  because I think women are smart and powerful enough to fight their own battles.  But now I'm thinking maybe we need a new kind of feminist.  An honest feminist.  So here goes.

The older I get, or more accurately the older my daughter gets, the more I see all the negative ways that women are treated and portrayed.  It scares the hell out of me.

We are belittled.  We are discounted.  We are judged by the shoes we wear, instead of the brains in our heads.  And sometimes, we invite people to value us by our bra sizes, not our IQs.  It's not only men who are the problem.  We are guilty of doing it to each other.  We hold a lot of the responsibility here.  And it's time we're called on it.  People will treat you exactly as you allow them to.

For example, right now I'm discounting Kate Upton a little bit.  Only I'm not discounting her because of her looks like she thinks I am...I'm discounting her because she's acting like an idiot. 

Honestly, I have absolutely nothing against the modeling profession.  I might wish models would eat a cheeseburger now and again so the rest of us wouldn't feel like shit for being normal.  Overall though, I've got no issue.  If that's your thing, do it.  But know, if that's the profession you choose, you will be judged solely on your looks, and not your ability to broker shrewd business deals.  It's the nature of the thing.

I understand Kate Upton's complaints.  I really do.  I don't want to be objectified either.  I am also not a toy.  So to illustrate that, I keep my posing in body paint and barely-there swimsuits in national perv mags to a minimum.  That's the only reason I haven't graced the pages of Sports Illustrated.  Really.  It's definitely not because I've had 2 children who left me with stretch marks that resemble a topographic map of the Rockies.  (Full disclosure: If I had Kate Upton's body, I probably wouldn't feel this way. I would probably walk around naked all the time. And if people wanted to pay me for it, that would be ok.  But I definitely wouldn't whine about it after.)

If she truly felt terrible about the way she was treated after her first SI swimsuit edition, why on earth would she do it again?  Twice.   If she really didn't want to be objectified, why would she do this and allow it to be posted for all the internet to ogle?  (Gentlemen, eyes back in your head please.)  Asking men not to objectify you after that is like asking fish not to swim. 

It's not their fault. (Well, it's not only their fault.)  They are guys. That's what they do. We need to own up to the fact that we are responsible for the way we're perceived. We need to put a little more importance on what books we read than what labels we wear. We need to teach our daughters that stupid isn't cute.  That smart is sexy. That their intellect has value. 

I worry about the way the world will view my own daughter.  I also worry about the way she views herself.  When I compliment her, I always tell her she's smart and kind.  Not just beautiful.  She is capable of much more than being beautiful.  Though she is absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous.  (I may be a little biased.)  Kate Upton is capable of much more too.  But, as unfair as it may seem, she might have to put on some clothes and take her self seriously for people to realize it. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Obama and Ice Cream

I had a full day of fun planned with the monsters.  A full day which at no point included standing in the street, watching for the President.  But that's exactly where we ended up.   I believe I was the only person who accidentally went to see the motorcade as it sped through the streets of our town.  I say 'accidentally' because it took a rather annoying chain of events to get us there, including bowling and terrible service at an ice cream counter. 

We weren't even on the same side of town as the motorcade when our ice cream mission began.  But because I was in a little bit of a snit with the woman at the bowling alley concession stand, we drove somewhere else.  (We'll show you!  We'll eat our Drumsticks elsewhere!)  We walked in, got our treats, and walked out to heavy police presence and some pretty serious crowds.  That was when it dawned on me that, blinded by rage and ice cream deprivation, I had driven right into the road closures.  We were stuck, so we made the best of it. 

We joined the throng of people waiting with iPhones up and Instagram open.

We stood on the curb, ice cream in hand, close enough to reach out and touch the cars as they passed.  I looked over to the kids.  They were properly impressed.  Convinced POTUS was waving back at them through the blacked-out, bulletproof windows of his Cadillac.  I assured them that's exactly what he was doing.  (Though, because I am currently addicted to The West Wing, I know better.  He was probably in the back prepping for The Tonight Show with his press and communications people, who are assuredly not as awesome as CJ Cregg and Sam Seaborn.)

The kids had tons of questions.  Why do they drive so fast?  Why doesn't the President want people to see him in the car?  Why are the police everywhere?  They had no idea that being the president is a dangerous job.  No idea that there are people who would do this man harm because of the office he holds.  No idea of racial intolerance.  They don't know about lobbyists, the Tea Party, Occupy or anyone in between.  I honestly don't think they would care if they knew.  Because they were seeing THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!  He was right in front of them.  For a moment, that's how I chose to see the world too.  No politics, no animosity.  Just history, wonder, and pride. 

My kids teach me lessons daily.  Some of the lessons are things like:  If you open a candy bar within a 3 mile radius of your offspring, you must be prepared to share it.  Other people don't care if you've had enough coffee.  And "I'm exhausted" isn't a valid excuse for anything.  But this one is important.  This one is worth passing on: See the wonder in things.  It rules. 

Kids are better than the rest of us.  That's a fact.  Some are rotten and bratty, sure.  But adults made them that way.  Even the rotten, bratty ones are better than the rest of us.  At one point we were better too.  We should try to get back to that.

Friday, August 2, 2013

T-minus 16 days

Here's something a little dumb to think about, school starts in just over 2 weeks. 

Yes.  16 days from now we'll all be standing in line waiting to meet this year's teacher.  Hoping our little ones didn't forget their #2 pencils, or Crayola Twistables.  Worrying that our big ones will forget their locker combinations, or have a run in with a man-sized 8th grader on their first day of middle school. 

All the kids will look nice and tidy in their new clothes with their hair done just right.  All the dads will be carrying bags filled with supplies, which cost roughly the same as the national debt.  The teachers will be cheerful.  The classrooms will be clean (at least for the first minute or so).  The Pinterest moms will be greeting each other, excited to plan the first class party of the year.

I will be on my 4th or 5th cup of coffee.  I'll probably still be in my pajamas, or maybe my gym clothes if I'm feeling fancy.  My messy hair will likely be shoved under a Colts hat.  With any luck though, I'll be wearing matching shoes.  Mornings aren't really my thing.  Especially on the first day of school.

The first day of school is not my favorite day.  I think that's because I am not particularly thrilled about my kids getting older.  I was perfectly happy when they were 2 and 5.  They were cute.  They thought I was amazing.  And, I understood their pre-k and kindergarten math homework.  Everything was magical.  At least that's how I remember it.

Now I'm dealing with 3rd and 6th graders.  Every year they age, I'm a little more out of my element.  Their math is difficult.  They no longer think I'm that amazing.  In fact, I secretly think that sometimes...every once in a while...they find me annoying.  I know, it's hard to believe. 

Even though they (very infrequently, I'm sure) find me annoying, I love having the kids home for the summer.  Though they fight with each other as naturally as they draw breath, I'm not in a hurry to send them back to the academic salt mines. I'll miss the monsters. But it will be nice to go to Target without them. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seven is the New Eighteen

I'm not having a great 24 hours.  Last night, I watched GI Joe: Retaliation.  (Jon Chu, you owe me an apology.)  Then this morning happened.  I am no longer fit to be around people today.  No amount of coffee can fix it.  I'm going to quit.  Lock myself in my bedroom, watch The West Wing on Netflix, and ponder a new business.  

Yes.  I'm thinking of starting a business.  I'll call it something like Bitch For Hire.  The name pretty well describes the service I'll provide.  Prospective clients can pay me to scream at their insurance companies.  I do it all the time for free.  I figure I might as well profit from my expertise.  I really do excel at being a raging, monstrous bitch.  It's almost a superpower.  The more timid percentage of the population could really benefit.

While you ponder this brilliant idea, let me back up and explain...

I spent the morning at the dentist with a completely freaking insane child.  My sweet daughter ceased to exist.  She was replaced with a tiny, little, human-sized mass of anxiety.  It was ugly.  She was absolutely terrified.  She was a maniac.  She wouldn't even allow the hygienist to take X-rays.  It was not the most fun I've ever had.  In fact, it was not fun at all. 

It's not like she's never been to the dentist before.  We go every 6 months.  The only explanation I can come up with for this borderline mental patient behavior is my daughter's new found total hatred and distrust for all people in scrubs or lab coats.  A little spider bite PTSD.
  
Our dentist didn't seem too invested in the battle, and surrendered fairly quickly.  She referred us to a pediatric dentist in another town. (That's how badly she wanted to get away from us.  She sent us to a dentist in an entirely different town.)  She said it would be best to have the girl sedated for the whole exam.  After what I had witnessed, I didn't think that was a terrible idea.  In fact, I kind of wanted to sedate her for the car ride home.  Or sedate myself.  Whatever.

I took the referral form from the receptionist, and we left the office.  The belligerent little angel was victorious over the evil hygienist, and my humiliation was palpable.  At least my son was leaving with sparkling teeth, and clean bill of dental health.  He was the only evidence that I have any control whatsoever over my offspring.  I may buy him a video game as a reward. (Kid if you're reading this, I love you, but I am not really buying you a video game.  Sorry.)

I called to schedule a new appointment from the car only to find that our insurance won't cover a pediatric dentist.  You see, according to the Mensa members who are responsible for planning out the terms of our medical coverage, you are an adult once you pass the ripe old age of 7.  7?  Seven??  S-E-V-E-N???  You've got to be kidding me. 

The receptionist at the office very patiently explained to me (Apparently she mistook my disbelief for stupidity.  She talked to me like I was Forrest Gump.) that I would need to pay out of pocket, and I'm not eligible for reimbursement.   Zero coverage.  None at all.  The visit, the X-rays, the nitrous and the IV would put us over $300 before she's even treated.  The treatment is additional, and they can't (or won't) price it out until these fees are paid.  Naturally, the treatment wouldn't take place on the day of the initial visit.  We would need to schedule another appointment several days later.  This is done to "make the patient more comfortable".  (This begs the question:  Can a person be uncomfortable in a nitrous haze?  Is it even possible?  I'm no expert, but I kind of thought that was the point.)  That means that we get to pay for everything, except the X-rays, twice.

How much do you think I could get for a gently used kidney?
 
All this brings me to my new venture.  Over the last 6 months or so, for a variety of reasons, I've made many, many calls to our insurance company.  (So many that I'm thinking of looking at properties in Canada.  I hear Saskatchewan is nice.)  This afternoon, yet another unsuspecting service rep will get to take my call.  I pity him/her on a personal level.  I'm sure they are actually nice people.  I'm sure they aren't medical despots lording over the sick and injured.   I'm sure they just needed a job, and only the insurance phone bank was hiring.  Hopefully when I'm done shouting, and cooler heads prevail, we can be friendly.  I'll explain to them that it's just business, and convince them to give my number to other people they're screwing over.  I could use this unfortunate situation to drum up some customers.  Bitch For Hire could my silver lining. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Carlos Danger Strikes Again

Rarely do I have the time to write twice in the same day.  By rarely, I mean this is the first time it has ever happened.  Typically I would use this extra time to do something important.  Like paint my nails, or eat bon-bons.  But my nails are freshly manicured, and bon-bons make me fat.

I once said that I wouldn't write about politics.  And I stand by that.  However, I am all for dishing out life lessons.  I think this post falls more under the life lessons category than the political one.  But I blame Anthony Weiner entirely for this even being on my radar.

Sexting.  It's every parents' nightmare when we hand our puberty addled, hormone fueled adolescents cell phones.  I know your kid isn't doing it.  Mine isn't either.  Because they are innocent little flowers.  And we are amazing and vigilant parents.  But still.  It's a thing.

That must mean adults are the problem. (I'm excluding people in committed relationships here.  If you've been married for half of forever and still sext, good for you.  But ladies, until you get the ring, proceed with caution.) 

I'm talking more about the kind of guys who routinely tweet, text and email naked pics to unsuspecting ladies.  I've been on the receiving end of this, so I'm sure some of you have too.  (Since I logged onto Twitter for the first time, I've seen more naked Asian men than a urologist in Shanghai.  Coincidentally, this is why I don't really care for Twitter.)  I'm curious about these people. The Carlos Dangers of the world.  Why the hell would you ever send naked pictures of yourself to a stranger?  I get sex addiction is a disease, but surely there is a smarter way to be a perv. (Or perhaps I'm just a prude with trust issues.  I guess that's possible too.)

Aside from my curiosity, it also makes me worry that the young ladies involved don't have any kind of positive female role models in their lives.  Maybe no one has ever told them about the blocking option Twitter so graciously provides its users.  Maybe they don't realize you shouldn't sext mayoral candidates.  Maybe they don't know it's not ladylike to get intimate with married men.

So, all you 23 year old vixens with your finger on the send button, I'm volunteering.  I'll be your positive female role model on the topic (No other topics though, as I fear I'm unqualified).  Please read on:
 
Let's start with the basics. Do not send naked pics to anyone who goes by the name Carlos Danger.  Really, don't send naked pics to anyone.  You'll never fulfill your dream of becoming the first female president of these great United States (or whatever your dream is) if your junk is on display on an NSA desktop.  And as soon as you hit send, it will be. Believe it.  Big Brother and all that...

You might also want to take a break from tweeting about how hot you are.  Or that you want to marry your own legs.  Or that all you are is good make up, hair, boobs and tattoos.  Might as well add 'insecurity and attention seeking behaviors' to that list, because that's all people will see.  You are an intelligent, independent, beautiful woman with much to offer. I know you know that, so don't shortchange yourself.  Do not ever give people a reason to discount you. 

My most vital and urgent piece of advice:  Find a better group of girlfriends, because yours suck.  They failed you.  Badly.  Real girlfriends call you out when you're being stupid.  Sexting a married, serial philandering, former congressmen qualifies as stupid.  Even if he's your legislative hero.  Someone should have warned you.  

If all else fails...If you can't figure out how to block him, your friends don't tell you it's stupid, you can't help but tweet ridiculous and demeaning things, and you accidentally find yourself in a sexting relationship with Carlos Danger...well, my final piece of advice is to go get paid. Sell your story to the highest bidder. Use the money for good, or to buy shoes, or crack, or whatever.  Just cash in quick.  Because with any luck at all, nobody will remember your name by next week. 

Dusting Off My Megaphone

The back to school, crazy busy time of year is here again.  I'm off to pick up the middle school enrollment packet this morning. (Barf.  Middle school.  I have a kid in middle school.  That means I'm old, doesn't it?  Don't answer that.)  While I'm not actually in any big hurry to send my kids back to school, I do love the fall sports.  And they start tomorrow.

I have filled out a staggering number of forms.  I've purchased the necessary equipment.  I've sent team emails.  I'm ready to go.

It's funny what youth sports turn parents into.  You can be in mid conversation with other moms at a game.  A completely calm, normal conversation.  And it's commonplace for at least one mother to start screaming, "Don't just stand there!  Run for the ball!"  "Ref!!!  What game are you watching?!?!?!"  or my personal favorite, "TOUCHDOWN!!!!  WOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!!"  Then she'll step right back into the conversation without skipping a beat.  These are my people.  The football/volleyball/soccer/baseball/hockey parents of the world.  It's good, if not loud, company.

We understand each other.  We cheer the loudest.  We wear matching team shirts.  We paint our faces.  We bring snacks.  We always bring snacks.  Our cars are loaded with equipment, coolers, smelly sneakers, and those astonishingly comfortable sports chairs.  (I have managed to shove all this, and an outdoor propane heater for those chilly night games, in the trunk of my tiny clown car.  It's like Tetris in real life.)

Even though we love it, we have been known to complain about different sports programs for kids.  Either they are too competitive, or not competitive enough.  Either the coaches are too strict on the kids, or they're not strict enough (I usually fall in with the latter.  In my head, football practice should be run something like a military boot camp.  R Lee Ermey should be shouting cadence as the boys run drills.)  But all that is white noise.  The only important detail is seeing your kid's smiling face when he/she makes a big play and looks out to find you in the crowd.  I know, I'm a sucker. but it gets me every time.  (I can answer definitively: Yes, there is crying in baseball.  But it's usually just some proud mother in the bleachers.)

There are those few individuals who give all sports parents a bad name.  Those parents or coaches who punch a ref...or a coach...or a kid...and end up on CNN.  Those people are not sports parents.  They are assholes.  And, not because youth sports made them that way.  They were born like that.  They're likely the same people that cut you off on the freeway, and don't hold doors for old ladies.  The people that I've met through our 7 years of nonstop kid leagues are some of the most caring, involved parents I could ever hope to know.  And I love the time I share with them.

I cannot wait to get this season started.  As a coach, a spectator, and as a tired, overworked parent who kind of needs a break.  Tomorrow afternoon, we will run from volleyball practice to football practice with time for a little snack in between.  It gives me a valid excuse to spend a couple hours with my best friends drinking coffee and gossiping (not that we gossip).  Also, the busy afternoon will leave me with very tired children.  Which will provide me with a peaceful evening, where the kids can't wait to crawl into bed.  I haven't had an evening like that since last season.

Thank you organized youth sports.




Friday, July 19, 2013

(I Really Tried to be) The Best Mom Ever

Yesterday was the big day.  The surgery day.  It would seem that the parents involved had a much more difficult time than the child actually having the operation.  I guess that is not surprising.  After all she had Turtle Power, we didn't. My daughter out of her mind on Versed and anesthesia is something I never want to see again for as long as I live.  But, we got through it.  She was home by yesterday afternoon.  Destroying a giant pan of mac and cheese by yesterday evening.  She's still in pain, but according to her "I've taken medicine for 4 months.  I'm not taking any more."  So no pain killers.  She's kind of a bad ass.

She got completely spoiled rotten from our friends and family yesterday.  New dresses, books, coloring books, flowers, cookies, candies...We tried to spoil her too.  I say tried, because thus far I have failed to follow through with our spoiling.  But it's not due to a lack of effort.

The only thing she wanted in the aftermath of the surgery was the new Crayola Marker Maker.  (Thank you so much Disney Channel for playing that commercial 938456984596 times a day.  You're the best!)  So, we went out last night to get her one.  Toys R Us doesn't carry them.  We went to Target.  Nope.  Looked online to discover it is a Wal-Mart exclusive.  Awesome.

 Something you may not know about me:  I believe, while Wal-Mart may not be the root of all evil, it is definitely one of them.  It is the worst place imaginable.  I would rather be locked overnight in a Claire's Boutique with 50 bedazzled tweens, high on cheap nail polish fumes, screeching about One Direction, while listening to dubstep, than have to step foot in a Wal-Mart.  But I love my daughter.  And I promised her the marker maker.

Is this really worth the trouble?  Probably not.
This afternoon, I called to confirm that they were fully stocked with marker makers.  Then I loaded the girl in the car and drove to the arm pit of Los Angeles to the soulless retail giant with high hopes of being named "the best mom ever!"

Everything about the trip was a mistake.  Even Siri didn't want me to go there, as she gave me the wrong directions several times.  We finally found it, and after walking the gauntlet of aggressive panhandlers, made it inside.  It was everything I knew it would be.  Hell on earth.

We put our heads down and muscled through to the toy section.  No marker makers.  We tried the back-to-school Crayola section.  None there either.  We asked for assistance from several people who didn't speak English or were just rude.  (Some of both, I think.)  We finally found someone to take us to the stationery department, where they kept the shelves "fully stocked" with marker makers.  Except there were absolutely no marker makers.

The girl was disappointed, but settled on a $3 dress, which I'm fairly certain was handmade by Chinese orphans in a one room shack with a dirt floor for 19 cents per month.  I feel a little guilty about it, but my daughter looks so cute in coral.

We left Wal-Mart the same way we came, through the obstacle course of panhandlers and methed out homeless ladies who were probably 23, but looked more like 90.  Drove all over the place, because Siri refused to get her shit together, and because I am unfamiliar with the Arm Pit, Los Angeles area.  We finally made it back home after an hour in the car.  

We have decided to order the marker maker online, and possibly never leave the house again.  And it's all because Crayola decided to sell a Wal-Mart exclusive.  At least The Spider Saga is over...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Spider Saga Continues

I am completely preoccupied today.  This morning, I tried to make coffee without water.  Then I fed the dog the cat's food.  I'm out of it.  But, I have an excuse.  For the last 2 weeks or so, I've been dreading July 18.  Now I'm less than 24 hours out, and I have no idea what to do with myself. 

Those of you that know me, or followed me on social media pre-blog, already know the saga of my daughter's spider bite.  The CliffsNotes version:  She was bitten (the doctors say it was a black widow, but for the purpose of this story, we'll call it a venomous, 8-legged, hellbeast) during an egg hunt on Easter Sunday.  And, just about every waking second since then has involved wound care, medications, doctors visits, pain management, and tears.  109 days of this, and the bite still will not heal. 

I hate spiders.

Tomorrow morning, the saga continues.  She will go into surgery to have all the damaged tissue removed.  Hopefully once this is done, the area will heal on it's own.  No more medicine, no more hot saline soaks, no more tears...from either of us. 

I should be happy that we're so close to the end of this story.  But, if I'm being honest.  I am freaking terrified.  The idea of strangers wheeling my unconscious child away from me is just not appealing.  At all.  This is the first time in my 11 years as Mother-in-Chief that anyone besides myself, or my husband, will be in control of one of my children's well being.  I'm driving myself nuts about it. 


I'm a mess of nerves.

And I hate spiders.

My daughter, on the other hand, is handling it like a champ.  We avoided telling her about the surgery, thinking that telling her in advance would just give her more time to worry about it.  I finally had the conversation with her yesterday.  She asked some pretty smart questions (about how much it will hurt after, and what happens if she wakes up while they're working), then she went to watch TMNT.  She's fine.  She's not excited about it or anything.  But, she's anxious to get it over with.  She's ready to have her arm back.  And, she's thrilled to be able to eat all the Reese Cups her grandmother sent her when the surgery is over. 

She's even planned the outfit she's wearing to the hospital.  She's going in full Ninja Turtle regalia, so that everyone there will know that she is tough and brave.  (Yes, I know.  My daughter is awesome.)  She asked me if she's going to act like this kid when it's over.  I promised her that if she does, I'll take video so she can see it.  I think that's what she's hoping for, so at least she'll have a funny story to tell.  The apple doesn't fall far...

I know most of you have been through some sort of scary situation with your kids.  It happens to all of us at some point, and every parent is sensitive to the absolute helplessness of having a sick or injured child.  It sucks.  We all know it.  But in an effort to make it suck a little less, I would love to hear from any of you who have been through something similar.  Or any of you who dread going through something similar.  Words of encouragement, tips for tomorrow, questions I should ask, or maybe there is something you've thought of that I've forgotten to panic about.  I'll take them all and be grateful.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lemonade Stand

Today I endeavored to teach my children an important lesson:  The more junk you want to buy, the more money you need.  The more money you need, the more you have to work.

Kids always want the newest, the latest, the most sparkly.  They can't help it.  I mean, I always want the newest, the latest, and the most sparkly too.  It's human nature.  The trouble is that kids don't have any concept of what it takes to acquire these things.  You have to work to get the money to buy the sparkly stuff.  (Unless, of course, you have a husband who does all the work, so you can stay home and blog all day.)

With this noble lesson in mind, we decided to have a lemonade stand.  I thought a few hours of sitting in the sun, hustling passersby for pocket change would do them good.  I thought they might finish the lemonade themselves then come in with $1.50 to show for their efforts.  I thought after a day of hard labor, they would instantly become grateful for all the things we buy for them.  I thought wrong.

Here's how things really went down:

First, I went to the store to get the plastic cups, sugar, and the missing ingredients for cookies by myself.  The kids stayed home to play with the neighbors.

Then, I picked the lemons and squeezed each one by hand (Enough to make 3 gallons of lemonade.  Around a metric ton of lemons.) by myself.  The kids played video games.

Next, I made the cookies by myself.  The kids ate some.

Then, I moved the tables outside and set up the stand by myself.  The kids colored a sign.

Next, I Instagramed, tweeted, Facebooked, and texted to get the word out.  The kids sat down, and raked in the money. 

When it was all over, I cleaned everything up while the kids counted their earnings.  They divided it up evenly, giving me 0% of the take.  And, because of the sugar expenditure, I ended up in the red.

All told, the kids had a great time.  They made some spending money for the arcade, or the candy store.  It was a fun way to spend an afternoon, made even better with celebratory swimming after.  But, I am pretty sure the only person who really learned the value of a hard day's work was me.   

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mom Panic!

It is Saturday.  We made it.  And nobody died.  Or spent time in an asylum. 

I'm surprising myself by even thinking this, but I'm not sure it was worth it.  It turns out that kids complain a little when moms ask them to do anything, not just turn off games.  It turns out that siblings will always fight a little, not just over controllers.  It turns out that moms will always stress out and convince themselves they're doing something wrong, not just over allowing too much screen time.  Moms will worry themselves over not hosting the proper number of play-dates, making sure their kids are eating vegetables, or whether their child is wearing clean socks.  Moms drive themselves crazy over everything.  Games were just my thing last week.  I'm sure I'll have moved on to some new insecurity by tomorrow.

As I'm writing this, I'm holed up in my office appreciating my coffee and the quiet that the morning provides, and contemplating all my crazy kid-induced anxieties.  It's a rabbit hole I really shouldn't have gone down.  Do I yell too much?  Do I hug enough?  When my kids are grown will they remember all the fun birthday parties, family nights and vacations, or will they only remember the time I summarily banished their video games?  Mom panic.

I know that I am not the only parent who has these thoughts.  My own mother has confessed to me at times that she still has regrets and worries that she did things wrong (For the record, she did everything right.  My mom is a parenting ninja bad-ass.  Just look at how well I turned out.  My sisters too.  We are walking, talking evidence of her mothering superiority.)  My beloved Gran once told me the same types of things.  She said she knew she made mistakes, but everyone does.  The trick is to let yourself off the hook for them.  She told me that I'll make my own mistakes too, because no matter what we do or how hard we try to be perfect we all mess up our kids our own way.  I think of that conversation almost daily.

The more I think about it, the more it amazes me that mothers have this innate ability to worry themselves over the littlest details of everyone's lives, while simultaneously forgetting to feed themselves, or shower.  Moms are funny creatures like that.  I find myself freaking out about my daughter brushing her hair, while I'm flipping my head over and tying mine in a knot.  A hairbrush hasn't touched my head since...well...I don't really remember when.  I worry about my son getting enough protein (he's my growing boy after all) so I'll make him a big breakfast before school.  My breakfast usually consists of a coffee poured hastily in a travel mug.  I even worry about my husband this way, and he is a grown, capable adult.  I worry a lot. 

My point is that maybe instead of worrying about everything and everyone else all the time, I should try teaching by example.  Maybe my daughter would learn to keep her hair neat if I kept my hair neat (lofty goal.)  Maybe the kids would learn that a nutritious breakfast is important if I could manage to eat something before 11am.  Maybe they would learn to keep their rooms tidy if I stopped doing everything for them (I'm very skeptical on this point).

My anti-tech experiment has taught me much more about myself than about the way my kids cope without games.  I didn't expect that.  It's made me all introspective and junk.  Perhaps my next experiment should be an internal one where I just calm the eff down for a week or two.  I'm not sure I can do it without the aid of pharmaceuticals, but it's worth a shot.  I'll let the kids be kids, and maybe I'll actually get a good night's sleep. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 2 and Crappy YouTube Parents

The second day of our tech free week was surprising.  For a couple of reasons.  For one, the boy child offered to add more days without games, just to prove he could.  After the initial morning asks, neither child mentioned games, TV or Minecraft all day.  It was parallel universe weird, and I loved it.  For another, I realized I was right.  The kids really didn't understand why this horrible thing was happening to them.  They thought they were in trouble.  Dummies.  We talked it through, and they understand now that they aren't in trouble.  That I just want a week of peace, and I want to see their faces without the obstruction of the iPad in front of them. Things are good.

I will note that a life with limited technology is freaking exhausting.  Two otherwise self-sufficient tiny people now need my input on everything.  I am required to entertain them in ways I've never needed to before.  So far, the ends are worth the means. 

Since I began this mini boycott, I've received emails, tweets and Facebook posts from people.  Some showing support, some telling me that I am a monster and taking games away is akin to cruel and unusual punishment, some with funny videos and articles attached.  My favorite was this YouTube clip from my brother-in-law.  It feels good to know that whatever my struggles, I am not these parents.  And I don't have this child.

Watching that clip made me think about things.  The way I parent.  The way I talk to my children.  The way I allow my children talk to me.  It also made me think that these parents have lost all control.  I really do try not to judge other people's parenting style.  Except for when they suck at parenting.  And in my ever so humble opinion (which is never actually humble), these people suck at parenting. 

I'm not saying you beat your child with a stick when they act like this.  I'm not even saying you need to raise your voice.  You just calmly walk over to the computer, pull the plug, pick it up, and walk out of the room.  Whether or not you throw the thing out of your car window while doing 90 on the freeway is up to you and your local littering laws.  But, you most definitely do not stand there like an idiot, and have a prolonged argument about when or if your child turns off a game.  You really don't call in your spouse for back up.  Both of you don't need to say "Turn it off."  One parent is enough. 

I know your kid will scream like a banshee.  I know that it will be hard to see your sweet angel so upset.  I know these things.  I just don't care.  Parents and children are not equals.  'Family' is not synonymous with 'debate club'.  I've worked with kids for as long as I can remember.  Long enough to know they have the attention span of a house fly on meth.  They will get over it.  They won't hate you forever.  Maybe a day or two at most.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tech Blackout: Day 1

I am not having fun.  In fact, I think I have made a terrible mistake.  I know I need to stay strong, and that the first day or 2 will be the hardest.  But honestly, the withdrawal is worse than I thought it would be.  The kids are ANGRY.  And, they really don't understand why this horrible thing is happening to them. 

I tried to distract them yesterday.  I took my daughter and our neighbor girls out for makeovers at the local beauty school while my son went ice skating with friends.  That killed about 3 or 4 hours.  Only leaving 12 waking hours for them to complain and act crazy.

It was a very long day.  A long day that ended in a battle, because even though it was nighttime, I still wouldn't let them play their games.  "Mom!  It's night!  What else are we supposed to do?!?"  Sleep.  Stare at a wall.  I don't care, but you're not playing Minecraft.

Today we have another friend over.  I'm taking them to lunch and a movie.  Again, about 3 or 4 hours occupied.  I think I'll have them wash my car afterward to kill more time.  (Actually my car badly needs washed.  I just don't feel like doing it myself.) 

I am hopeful that today is the day they'll forget about games.  I am hopeful, but doubtful as I've already been asked for Minecraft about 9283759486543 times.  In truth, I think today will be a carbon copy of yesterday.  More "I'm bored."  More "Please!  Just for a minute?"  More me with a headache.  This week will be very profitable for the makers of Advil.

I really do have good motives for this experiment.  I am hoping to teach the kids that they can have fun in real life.  That they don't need to be constantly "connected" to be connected.  My intentions are pure.  It's unfortunate that I can't seem to communicate them to my kids.  Maybe if I sent them in a text...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kids+Technology=Jerks

Since the dawn of (modern) time, parents have pondered the question: How much technology is too much for our children? Do we allow them to have access to everything and trust them to police themselves?  Do we use video game, movie and app ratings, and parent restrictions to limit access?  Do we give them 30 minutes of screen time to reward them for taking out the trash and doing the other chores we don't feel like doing?  There are myriad paths parents can choose to take.  I'm not sure which is the correct one, but I know the path that I've been on isn't working for me.  And, here's why:  Technology turns my kids into jerks.

Some parents I know have adopted a 'just say no' philosophy.  No television, no computer, definitely no phones, video games or ipods.  I used to think those people were a little extreme (crazy). Unrealistic even. But I have to admit, the older my kids get, the more I think they might be on to something.

My kids watch tv, because I watch tv. They play video games, because their father plays video games. They have phones, because everyone has a phone.  (And, because I think think it's a safety issue.  I am an overprotective control freak, and putting iPhones in my kids' hands is as close as I can legally come to implanting them with GPS tracking devices.)  I think we do a fairly good job monitoring their use and access to that technology though.  No social media.  We read all their texts.  We keep the passwords for everything secret.  They can't even download music without our permission.  I would give us a solid B+.  (I bumped it down from an A because of those days where I just need some quiet time, so I let them play Minecraft for 2 or 3 hours straight.  It happens.  I'm not proud of it, but I'll cop to it.) I let them play games or watch the Disney Channel for a while when they wake up in the morning.  Then I kick them out of the house and make them play outside.  They read books, have play-dates and go on day trips.  It's not all screens and buttons.

But when it is, things go south in a hurry.  After an hour or so of screen time, I will give the kids a 5 minute warning.  The exchange always goes down something like this...

 "Games off in 5, monsters."

"But, Moooooooooooooooooommmmm.  Can I please just finish this?  I'm almost done.  Really.  Then I'll turn it off.  Promise."

"Ok.  Finish up, then turn it off.  I'll give you an extra couple of minutes, but I really mean it.  Game time is over."

"Alright.  I'm almost done.  Look."

"Sweetheart, I don't know what I'm looking at.  Just turn it off ok?"

"Ok."

20 minutes of reminders from me and 'almost done' from them...

"You've had extra minutes.  Time's up."

No response, which if I'm being honest, pisses me off more than anything in the world probably ever.

"TURN IT OFF RIGHT NOW!"

"Guhhh...I'm almost done. Seriously, mom!"

Then I walk over and press the power button.  Hell hath no fury like a child playing Minecraft scorned.  Voices are raised.  Feet are stomped.  Doors are slammed.  Eventually, they even turn on each other.  One blaming the other for me turning off the game.  It's ridiculous.  It's ugly.

The results are similar when I tell them we don't text while walking through the grocery store, or Disneyland, or anywhere really.  Or, when I tell them that we don't need the iPad to occupy us on 10 minute car rides.  We can actually look out the windows and speak to each other.  Weird, I know, but speaking to each other passes the time too.

While we were on vacation, my son's phone went missing.  Watching him learn to adapt to life without it over the week it was gone was amazing to me.  He read a novel in an afternoon.  He played with his sister.  He spent quality time with his dad with no distractions.  He was extra lovable.  The immediate withdrawal symptoms were trying, but once he got through it, it was all sunshine and rainbows.  Then we got his phone back in the mail...

So, in light of all the unnecessary drama brought into my life by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and inspired by the temporary loss of the boy's iPhone, I am declaring a tech moratorium.  For the rest of this week, my children will live like Laura Ingalls.  They will be forced to play board games, do craft projects, have fun.  They might even have to do things in real life instead of pretending to do them in an app.  I am excited to see how this little experiment will play out.  I'm feeling optimistic, and like a true woman of science, I will be documenting the results here.  So you can laugh at me.



Saturday, July 6, 2013

First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

A friend of mine got married today.  I am over the moon for her, and her husband, and their 2 beautiful boys.  I wish them nothing but the best in their lives together, and in honor of their special day I'd like to pass on some sure-fire tips for a happy marriage. 

I'd like to, but I can't.  There are no sure-fire tips for a happy marriage, because every marriage is different.  I can, however, pass on some tips that have worked for me in all my years of wedded bliss.

1.  Don't be an asshole.  Really.  It's that simple.  Take into account the fact that there are 2 people in the relationship, and they aren't both you.  Husbands have feelings and opinions too...even if they're wrong.  Listen, and don't discount him. 

2.  Dress to impress.  This one is a little 1940s-50s, I know, but I still think it's important.  I like sweat pants as much as (more than) the next girl.  But, when my husband walks in from a long day at work, I don't think he wants me to greet him in the same outfit I wear when I have the stomach flu.

3.  Try to make things easier for each other.  Pack a lunch, iron a shirt, whatever.  Doing those kinds of things doesn't show that you're inferior.  It just shows that you care. 

4.  Have your own interests.  If I had to force myself to pretend that I love video games, I would go completely freaking insane.  I am a nerd.  I like books.  My husband respects that, and I respect that he is a nerd who likes video games.  We can sit next to each other, happily ignoring one another.

5.  Do not gossip about your husband to your girlfriends.  Just don't.  Ever.  You may forgive him for whatever he's done to make you angry, but your girlfriends won't.  They're like elephants.  They'll never forget.  Write it in a diary.  Call your mom.  Get a therapist. Just do not air your dirty laundry. Once it's out there, you can't take it back. 

6.  Victoria's Secret.

7.  Laugh at/with each other.  Everything is easier to deal with when you have a sense of humor.  Housework, kids' tantrums, grocery shopping...there's humor in everything.  Find it together.

That's it.  In nearly 11 years, that's all the wisdom I've acquired.  I'm still learning a little more every day.  But, the one thing I know for sure is that marriage is not a job, though sometimes it does require hard work.  It's more like an adventure.  Enjoy every day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Coffee Addicts Anonymous

Yesterday I celebrated Independence Day in the traditional way. I ate too much, played with sparklers, let my son light smoke bombs, watched some fireworks, and stayed up too late. It was just as the forefathers intended. And, though the hardest thing I had to drink was a water on the rocks, I am nursing a serious holiday hangover today.

I woke up this morning 2 hours later than normal. I was completely out of it. Unmotivated. I had only one thought on my mind. Coffee. 

I actually found myself worried about the number of minutes it would take my coffee maker to produce my first cup. I was almost anxious about it. Like it was an emergency. In those (approximately 3) minutes between hitting that 'brew' button and taking my first sip, I remembered an article I read in The Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago. It was all about how caffeine addiction and withdrawal are now classified as mental health disorders. 

I have liked (loved, needed) coffee my entire adult life. I have made a pot first thing every morning for years and years. During both pregnancies I (very painfully) switched to decaf, but I could never give up the feeling of that warm mug in my hand. However, I never considered my coffee addiction to be a mental disease. I think that's called 'denial'.

I love my coffee, and my coffee loves me too.
According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (World's most boring name. I think The Great Big Book of Crazy is a bit more of an eye-catcher, but whatever.), you have to have 5 of 12 symptoms to be considered intoxicated by caffeine. I have at least 7 most days. That's not a great number. But, my love of...or addiction to, if you must...coffee is so serious that even as I write this, I'm thinking "That means there are 5 symptoms I don't experience.  That's not bad at all!" See?? Denial is awesome.

Also according to The Great Big Book of Crazy, you have to have 3 of 5 symptoms to be diagnosed with caffeine withdrawal. When I'm not exhibiting those first 7, I'm exhibiting all 5 of these. An even worse number. And these symptoms don't mess around.  A headache so severe that it makes me consider an at home DIY lobotomy being one of them.

It's kind of funny to me that the American Psychiatric Association considers it a little bit bonkers if you use caffeine regularly or if you quit using caffeine regularly. You can't really win.

So, the question becomes which mental health disorder do I choose. Do I choose to be all bitchy and headachey, and attempt to kick the habit? Or, do I continue to wake up every morning and push the brew button, meet friends for a latte at my favorite cafe, and continue to be a (somewhat) pleasant and high functioning human? 

The choice is a fairly simple one.  For my own comfort, and for the well-being of my husband and kids, I think I'll stick with the kind of crazy that allows me my coffee each day.  

I am actively deciding to pay no attention to these latest studies and findings.  But, if the American Psychiatric Association releases the next version of it's DSM and expands it to include Amazon.com's lightning deals addiction, I'll start to take it personally. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writer's Block. The Silent Killer.

For a person who always has something to say, I have come down with a ridiculous case of writer's block. It sucks. I am a blank slate. No ideas. None at all. My mind is blinking a giant, neon "VACANCY" sign. 

It's making me crazy. 

I've watched the news hoping to be inspired, but that was a terrible plan. The news is stupid depressing. Commentary on the Zimmerman trial doesn't make for light reading, I will absolutely not write about celebrities and the idiotic names they give their babies, and if I write about politics I figure about 50% of my readers will hate me no matter what I say. 

I've done my usual people watching while back home in Indiana, but other than to point out that people in the Midwest seem to smile more (Let's work on that CA. It bums me out.) there's not a whole lot there. 

My children, whose exploits are typically my favorite topics, have been fairly mellow. I appreciate the peace time, don't get me wrong. It's just not that interesting to write, or read about. "Dear Internet, my kids watched TV together for 30 minutes without screaming today..."  See??

I'm at a loss. But, at the same time, every day someone asks me what I'm working on. I'm very flattered by that. I love it. I'm amazed anyone reads this at all, let alone regularly. I'm also a little embarrassed by it. Because, when they ask, all I have to say is "Um...uh...well...nothing."

But, I'm working on it.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

An In-Flight Etiquette Guide

I once joked that if I could write any book, it wouldn't be the great American novel. It would be an etiquette guide called "Deoderant Isn't Optional" and I would give out free, signed copies at my gym. 

I stand by that. Only, now I'm thinking why stop there? The gym isn't the only place where people need a little dose of common courtesy. I'd like to offer the same type of instruction to my fellow air travelers. Bad manners and bad hygiene are only amplified when confined to the fuselage of a Boeing 737. 

So in an effort to make the world a better place (and in an effort to kill some time for a bit on this 3+ hour flight), here's a little cheat sheet of some simple dos and don'ts for a successful air travel experience:

DO bring something to occupy yourself during long flights. iPods, iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, actual books made with paper, Play-Doh...the possibilities are endless. 

DON'T depend on others to entertain you. Especially when they're trying to read the new spy thriller they just downloaded. (This means you, guy next to me. You're interrupting my Mitch Rapp time. Step off.) If you see someone pick up a book, or pull out their headphones, assume that's not an invitation to start a conversation. 

DO bring yourself a snack. Airlines won't feed you, so pack an apple or something to tide you over. 

DON'T bring yourself a meal that smells like hot trash with a side of skunk spray. Really. Don't do that. No stinky food allowed. 

DO call for a flight attendant if you need assistance. They're there to help. 

DON'T call for a flight attendant every 15 minutes to ask "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer?" They aren't your mommy. In fact, even mommies get tired of hearing those questions. Trust me.

DO excuse yourself to go to the restroom if necessary. Please. And, thank you. 

DON'T try to take care of the bathroom business in your seat. You're not sneaky. Everyone knows it's you. The person in the aisle seat would much rather let you pass by them than have you pass gas next to them. Don't be gross. 

I hope that these few basic tips have been helpful. I just wish I would have written them before boarding this flight. Only 2 more hours to go!

Monday, June 17, 2013

From Baptism to Exorcism...Just Add Holy Water

One week from today, I'll be boarding a plane and heading back home to Indiana for my niece's baptism. Against her better judgment, my sister has asked me to be the baby's godmother. And, I am honored beyond words. 

I've watched the requisite baptism video online. I also watched The Lion King and Cinderella to take notes from Rafiki and Fairy Godmother should things head in that direction. I like to be prepared for every possible scenario. 

However, all this baptism planning has forced me to relive one of the most traumatic days of my parenting life: The baptism of my darling son. Or, the day my sweet angel turned into Rosemary's Baby. 

I know some of you reading this remember it just as clearly as I do. The story has become quite a legend in our family. I wish I could say it gets worse with every retelling, but it doesn't. It was really that bad. It's a very valid reason for parents to have their children christened before they can speak. It is certainly the reason I did with my second child. 

I'd like to preface this story by explaining that my son was always the quiet one. He was very timid, and extremely well behaved (not because I was awesome at parenting. He just came out that way. It was dumb luck). In play group he would stick right by my side. I would have to force him to speak out to people. This is why what follows came as such a shock to my husband and me. 

Sunday, December 28, 2003, a date which will live in infamy. It was our wedding anniversary, and the day we chose for the baptism of our 22 month old, precious baby boy. Words cannot begin to describe how adorable he was dressed all in white with those chubby cheeks and strawberry blond curls. He was a cherub. He was innocence and perfection personified...until the second we walked into the church. 

We chose my husband's brother, John and my sister, Julie to fill the godparent positions. My son absolutely adored them (still does) and was very comfortable with them, so we thought they would be the perfect fit.  I'm sure they were excited. At least for a minute.

The second his godparents were asked to stand with us, little guy kicked off the sacred ritual by screaming "No John! No Julie!" repeatedly. Peppered with the sporadic "No no no no! Get away!!" This should have been an indication of how the rest of the ceremony would be. We should have thrown in the towel, but we were young and dumb. So, we soldiered on. 

The screaming only intensified when he was anointed with oil. "Ewww!! It's filthy, Mama! Stop! Stop! It's too yucky!  It's filthy!  It's too filthy!" (Only "filthy" was pronounced "thilthy", which, I will admit, added a bit of humor to an otherwise unfunny moment.) When the anointing business had concluded, I thought we were in the clear. 

But, no. No, we were not. 

The moments building up to the actual baptism presented me with an opportunity to witness a very, very dark side of my child. Writhing and flailing to escape our grasp as we approached the font. Speaking in some lost language as he rolled his head at unnatural angles to avoid Fr. John's touch. It was the most accurate Regan McNeil impression I've ever seen. The only thing missing was the pea soup vomit. Though, I'm sure if he would have known that reference, he would have tried that too. 

As the priest touched our son's forehead with holy water, He shouted, "It's burning me, Mama! Help!! The water is burning me! (More screaming in the horrifying lost language) It hurts!! Save me!" and so on...He flailed and yelled, and yelled some more. 

At this point, I was certain we were going to be asked if we would prefer to switch to an exorcism. But, Father John was unflinching. (Do priests get hazard pay in these situations?) He carried out the mission, baptized our son, and introduced this new member of the flock to the congregation.  

The sanctuary was filled with the stifled, and some not so stifled, laughs of our family members, friends and fellow parishoners as we paraded our little demon seed through the church. It seemed that nobody else was as terrified by what had transpired as I was. Then again, they didn't have to bring the devil baby home either. I decided I would sleep with one eye open. 

My son never really outgrew his aversion to church. Some of his greatest hits include turning off all the lights during Easter Vigil (at 2 years old), spitting on a pew at Christmas (at 3), and refusing to do a reading at a children's mass because "I hate words at church!" (Kindergarten). I am happy to report however, that other than in the house of The Lord, my son is a happy, well adjusted, well behaved gentleman. No other indication that he may actually be the devil incarnate. I'm thinking he just doesn't like waking up early on Sundays. And, that I can understand. 








Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lessons From Some Dads I Know

Dads serve many purposes. They are masters at opening jars. They often function as ATMs. Sometimes they serve as our defense attorneys, sometimes our wardens. They are our bodyguards. They are our mentors. 

Because it is Father's Day, I've been thinking about all the lessons I've learned from the dads in my life, my own dad, my husband, father-in-law, and my grandfathers. They are countless. 

I feel like the world might be a better place if I share a few...

-Everything tastes better with barbecue sauce. Everything. Even scrambled eggs.  

-Good grades are not optional, but they should be rewarded. A 'B-' does not qualify as good. 

-Always be the one holding the hose in a water fight. 

-"Because I said so" is a valid reason or explanation for nearly everything. 

-Life is better when you're driving with the top down. But, it's best if you're sitting in the back waving like Miss America. 

-"You're not too good for a job in food service." 

-Conversing only in movie references and quotes is an excellent form of communication. 

-Every room in the house is "Dad's Room". You own nothing. NOTHING. 

-Kids will do any dreaded chore, eat any vegetable, put on their shoes, etc. if they think its a race. 

-Little girls should learn to throw a punch. 

-You're not ever too cool to dance in public. Even if it means dancing on the steps of City Hall. 

-It's more fun to eat ice cream when you sneak it after bedtime. 

-Matching clothes and styled hair are overrated. 

I'm so grateful for all the dads in my family. And, I'm thankful for all the ways they have influenced me, whether they knew I was paying attention or not. 

And, daddy, thanks for all those times you grounded me. I deserved it. Also, thanks for never saying "I told you so," even when you could have. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

There Were Never Such Devoted Sisters

I have three sisters.

I am the oldest, or to hear them tell it, the ancient one.  I suppose that's true.  I already had a child by the time my youngest sisters were in middle school.  I guess that alone would make me look a little antique to them.  Fair enough.

Because I was so ancient, I did a good amount of babysitting my sisters.  But, I was OK with that. Maybe because my parents paid me, and maybe because my sisters were absolutely and without question the coolest kids on Earth.

Those experiences with them made me a better parent to my own kids.  It taught me how to pick a lock when a child is throwing a God awful tantrum and locks herself in the bathroom (Thanks Jennie, it's a useful trick.).  It taught me that distraction is the most powerful weapon in a parent's arsenal, "Look!  A shiny object!  Go chase it!"  It taught me that if you tell a child "No, you cannot have another popsicle," they will probably still love you anyway.  But, it also taught me that if you don't let kids taste the cookie dough before it goes in the oven, they will remember it for the rest of your life.  Seriously, they will never let it go.  Ever.  Some things are forgivable, some are not. Live and learn.

In high school, I used my little sisters as a bit of a litmus test when boys came over.  If Jennie didn't like them, or they didn't offer to watch Julie and Jill perform a dance from the latest Backstreet Boys video...they were goners.  My husband passed the test.  He was the only one.  They're a tough crowd.

I also 'interrogated' boys who came by for them when they were old enough.  I can't imagine what those gentlemen thought when they came over for dinner with the family, and were asked just what exactly their intentions were with my sister.  I was really good at making a nice meal uncomfortable.  (Sorry, mom.)

Before I paint an inaccurate picture of my childhood, I will confess, my sisters also annoyed me.  They annoyed me a lot.  Daily.  (They stole my clothes.  It was unacceptable.)  We would fight.  I don't mean like a girly cat fight.  I mean more like a drunken Irish brawl/WWE wrestling match hybrid.  Tolerating us would be miracle enough to have our parents canonized.  We were relentless, but we learned to stand up for ourselves.  We also learned the art of the back handed compliment, as our punishments often involved being forced to say nice things to each other. 

I moved away when my sisters were still in school.  It sucked leaving them, but I came back for band concerts, volleyball games, and to do their hair for prom.  I know I missed out on a lot, but I got to be there for the big things, and I missed their angsty, horrible teenage stuff.  I may not have liked them as much if I had to deal with angsty, horrible teenage stuff.  Who knows?

Today is my sisters' birthday, and it has me feeling all gushy and nostalgic (obviously).  My baby sisters are turning 25.  A number which is incredible to me.  They have been around for a quarter century.  Weird, because when I think of them this is what I see:

We were cute.  And awesome.
Until the birth of my son, this was the happiest, proudest day of my life.  (I would include Jennie's birth in there, but A) I don't remember it.  I was only 3, and B) she really stole my only child thunder. I still love her though.)

Happy Birthday, twinsies.  You mean the world to me. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stick to What You Know

I had big plans for a dinner out tonight. 

Lately, our restaurant experiences involve calling for take out, and crossing our fingers in hopes that our starving children don't cannabalize each other before the food arrives, but I wanted the real deal tonight. Waiters, conversation, napkins in laps. The whole bit. Also, I didn't feel like cooking. 

Things started out well. Picked the restaurant with no arguments (nice!). Found front row parking (score!). Walked in to discover that Wednesday is "kids eat free" night (bonus!!). 

We were greeted by our host, who might be the worst in history. (I really thought, until this point in my life, that the only qualification needed to work the host table is a cup size upwards of DD. I was wrong. Those top heavy ladies have all kinds of interpersonal skills. I never realized. And, I am sorry.) He brought us back to our table...in the bar. Tables actually. He gave us 2 tables, in the bar, with 3 kids (We borrow kids sometimes because 2 isn't nearly enough). We weren't sitting with our kids, and the person next to us had her purse on top of our table, which grossed me out exponentially (germaphobia is a sad and debilitating disease). 

Um. No. New seats, please. 

We strolled back up to the host table and waited for what felt like 5 or 6 years for our new seats. It was really more like 10 minutes, but you have to take in to account that time moves very slowly when you're hungry in the lobby of a restaurant. It moves at a painfully, glacial pace when your kids are hungry in the lobby of a restaurant. 

Finally, after we celebrated Christmas and New Years of 2018, we were seated. 

What happened next is best described as a waiting game. 

Got our drinks...Waited...Then we ordered...Then we waited...Then the basket(s) of chips came...Then we waited some more...Then the food...Then more waiting. So much more waiting. We spent over 20 minutes waiting on the bill. 

At that point, I had reached my frustration saturation point. I was done, so I set out to solve the case of the missing bill by myself. I didn't want to make a big deal about it, but the volume at our table was increasing at the same rate as my annoyance. We had been there for too long, and we needed to escape. 

The waiting had nothing to do with the quality of the restaurant. The food was delicious. The waiter was nice. I had a great time talking and laughing with my family and rental child. The waiting is just a normal part of the dine out experience. A normal part that I happen to have absolutely no patience for. It's my problem, not the restaurant staff's. 

I am certain the food would have been just as good in my house where I could do all the waiting wearing sweatpants with my feet up while talking and laughing with my family and rental child. And, I wouldn't be held hostage by a bill afterward. I could stumble straight to my bedroom, and slip peacefully into my food coma without another thought about it. 

The moral of this story? Always order take out. Stick to what you know.