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 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.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Day at the Pool

I just returned from my very first ever public pool experience. I had a great time. It was just like that pool in The Sandlot, but instead of Wendy Peffercorn, we have water slides...

...and scantily clad 9 year olds. 

I'm not kidding. 9 year olds wearing bikinis that would make a Playboy model blush. Ick. 

Here's the thing, I love bikinis. I own a bajillion bikinis of all cuts and styles and colors. They are my reward for time spent at the gym and on the Pilates mat. They're my summertime certificate of achievement, and I work my ass off (literally) for them every year. 

But, I am a grown woman. 

My daughter owns bikinis too. Cute ones. Those tanks and little skirts, or the tough girl look with boy shorts and surf tops. Adorable. 

See, I'm not a zealot. I don't need her to wear a burqa. I would just prefer that her butt cheeks be covered in public. Because she is 8. Because this is not a nude beach somewhere in Brazil, it's a public pool in the 'burbs. But, mostly, BECAUSE SHE IS 8.

I totally understand how the little girls end up with these swimsuits though. The parents probably got tired of hearing "But, everyone else has a swimsuit like this. It's. Not. Fair!" in that horrendous, whiny voice that reverberates through your brain like nails on a chalk board being held by a screaming baby on an airplane. It wears you down. It really does. You give in just to make it stop. We've all done it at some point. (You know you have. No use in denying it.)

So, I'm offering a friendly suggestion. At the beginning of the summer, during that fateful swimsuit shopping trip, open negotiations with this...

Then let them talk you into this...

You don't have to be the bad guy. Your kid will feel like she won the battle. I no longer have to see your daughters' mommy bits while I'm lounging by the pool. Everybody wins. 

You're welcome. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"That" Mom

I'm that mom at the park right now. You know the one, iPhone in hand. I can feel the disapproving stares. 

Well, hate on, haters. 

My kids are big enough to play without worries of getting hurt on the equipment. We're in an enclosed space, so I'm not particularly concerned about weirdos trying to swipe them. They've both taken self defense classes, and I'm confident in their abilities to junk punch any would-be playground bullies. Last but not least, at 8 and 11, they aren't really interested in their mommy doting over them and shadowing their every move...and I don't think that's a bad thing. 

Not too long ago there was a post on Facebook that went viral about how awful these iPhone moms are. About how they're missing every precious second with their kids, because they are tweeting about how cute their kids are. For shame!  

First, I thought to myself, not every second is precious. Some seconds involve picking noses and eating boogers. Then I noticed, with some great measure of irony, most of the moms I knew that shared this post were sharing it from (drumroll please) their iPhones. Do as I say, not as I do. 

Shortly after that, there was a little backlash. Not earth shattering, but a backlash nonetheless.  Honest moms saying that they are better parents when they have a few minutes respite. I happen to agree. I also agree that whether the respite comes in the form of a glass of wine with friends, watching an hour of TV by themselves, going to the bathroom uninterrupted (like that actually happens in real life), or checking their iPhone at the park, it's absolutely no business of the judgy Facebook posters. 

However, those posts did make me think about my own childhood. I don't remember there being any such thing as a "helicopter parent". I don't remember my parents clinging to us at the park. I don't remember overly monitored play dates. I remember our parents playing with us for a bit, then sitting down to chat with other parents, or read a novel, or work a crossword puzzle. Probably because they didn't have iPhones. And yet, somehow, we all survived. 

So, I will sit on this bench blogging till my heart's content. 

Amazingly, though they're being horribly neglected, the kids are having fun. They are playing with other children. They seem well adjusted. 

I'm hopeful they won't fail out of school and turn to a life of crime because I am occupying myself while they play. But only time will tell. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our Adoption Story

We started discussing it a long time ago. We weighed all the pros and cons. We talked it out with the kids, after all it would impact the entire family. 

We researched online. We spoke with people who have been through the process before. We readied ourselves to love this new family member. 

Then we went to the Burbank Animal Shelter. 

There were so many cute critters there who would love to have a home of their own. We walked past the pit bulls and chihuahuas (there are always pit bulls and chihuahuas at the shelter). We saw the bunnies and the turtles too. But, we were on a mission: Cat Room or bust. 

When we saw her, we knew she was the one. Our daughter's eyes lit up and her voice hit that high, excited pitch that only little girls are capable of. Our son tried to play it cool, but the look on his face betrayed him when he held her for the first time. 

We still had a big decision to make. We adored her instantly, but kitten adoption is a pretty big deal. Lots of new responsibilities for the kids (we all know who will really be cleaning the litter box). There were details to sort out (where will we put said litter box??). 

As we walked back through the shelter to towards the door, the decision made itself. We couldn't stand the thought of leaving her alone. And, how could you blame us. Who could walk away from this face?

We filled out the papers, paid the adoption fee, and signed on the line. She is ours. Welcome to the madhouse Princess Cuddlecakes. We love you. 

(Maybe I'm a cat person after all.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top Ten Reasons I'm Obsessed with Disneyland

We're finishing off our 3 day trip to Disneyland today. We've gone on all our favorite rides, eaten all our favorite snacks, relaxed in the hot tub. We've had a great time. 

I know some of you reading this are thinking to yourselves 'Three days at an amusement park doesn't sound like a vacation. It sounds like torture. It sounds like a 3 day stint in a kid-operated prison camp where they play "It's a Small World" on a loop in an effort to break you. She must have been brainwashed by her children. Poor thing.' But, I assure you, it is a vacation for me. And, it is usually the adults in this family that are planning the next trip as soon as we leave the parking garage. 

Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 reasons I'm a Disneyphile. Not sure if that was a real thing before this second, but I guess it is now...

10. I love people watching, and there is no better people watching in the world than on Main Street, USA. I don't know if they think no one is looking, or if its because there are so many, many humans there they think they blend in. But, whatever the reason, people really let loose in the House of Mouse.  There is some serious comedy going on in Disneyland if you look for it. 

(You might read this next one and think its stupid. You might think its a stretch. Well, that's too bad. This is my list. You can write your own.)

9. The ducks. I love the ducks!  Especially those fuzzy, little babies. It really is amazing that I haven't stolen one yet. I wonder what the punishment is for ducknapping. We feed them, and take pictures with them every time we go to Disneyland. The kids and I are their biggest fans. 

8. It's a killer workout. Yesterday, I walked about 10 miles in the heat carrying a hiking pack, and, for some of those miles, a 50 pound 8-year old. Disneyland sees your "leg day" Instagrams and laughs. Then it calls you a name, turns up the temperature, and throws a toddler on your back for more resistance. 

7. This one makes number 7 even more relevant. The food. Oh my dear Lord. The food. Chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches, kettle corn, churros, cotton candy, pineapple whips, those Matterhorn cookies, and the rich, creamy coffees that I drink at 10pm for no other reason than because it's Disneyland and I can. I like to eat. I worship food, and Disneyland might just be my holy city. 

6. Family time. No Xboxes. No iTouches. No distractions. Just family time. My husband, kids and me. It's a great way to get the kids to connect. Even if they're bonding over trying to beat us at Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters or Toy Story Mania, they're bonding. That's all that matters. 

5. Little girls in princess dresses. 

(I don't need to say anything else on the subject, because if you don't think that is the most precious thing, then your heart is black as coal. You're a lost cause. I can't help you.)

4. a) There will be someone at Disneyland that, in comparison, will make you look like the greatest parent who ever lived. 
(Disclaimer: Sometimes you will be that person who makes everyone around you look like the greatest parent who ever lived. It's the circle of life.)

4. b) There will be some child at Disneyland that, in comparison, will make your kids look extremely well behaved. 
(Disclaimer: Sometimes your child will be the one who makes every kid around them look extremely well behaved. It's the circle of life.)

3. Nostalgia. Don't pretend like you don't know every word to at least one Disney movie. Don't act like you didn't trick-or-treat dressed like Tinkerbell or Peter Pan. If you tell me you never did, I won't believe you, or I will think you were raised by wolves. 

2. I have not given up hope that one day I might actually become a Disney princess.  I think it's the job I was born to do. So, I walk around Disneyland with my head held high on the off chance that maybe Cinderella called in sick that day with no replacement. Then maybe I will be plucked out of the crowds by a Fairy Godmother. Maybe I will be given a makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Then maybe, just maybe, I will get to be in the parade, and hug little princesses, and smile my royal smile the way the universe intended. 

And, the number one reason I am a Disneyphile...
Disneyland made this picture possible. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Ugly Truth

I have a parenting confession to make:  Sometimes I get annoyed. 

This might seem like an obvious statement, but when I talk to other parents, this topic isn't discussed. I mean, we all get annoyed when our kids write on the wall with a Sharpie, or attempt a DIY haircut. But, I'm talking about when you feel like you just cannot hear that Taylor Swift song or MineCraft story one more time. 

For example, when I laugh at something the kids do or say, they immediately think that means they should continue doing it...over and over again...for hours. The trouble is that on about the 5th time I have stopped thinking its funny. By the 10th time, I find it irritating. By the 15th, I want to run away and join the circus. 

I have been known, in those moments, to put myself in a time out. It happens at least twice a day. It works. I return to them a refreshed and happy version of myself. 

If I am the only one who feels like this,  I'm setting myself up for some serious judgment from other moms. So, just in case, I will say on the record I love my children. More than chocolate. More than coffee. More than oxygen (and I'm pretty attached to breathing). I really, REALLY freaking love those tiny humans. 

If I am not the only one to experience these sporadic fits of annoyance, I hope that my admission has helped other mothers struggling to grasp their last bit of sanity while their offspring tells them what happened on the Elmo's World DVD for the 32nd time in an hour. You are not alone, mommies. Stay strong. It's almost bedtime. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summertime, and the Living's Easy?

My husband has the next 2 weeks off work, my kids aren't out of bed before 11, and I haven't brushed my hair in 10 days (seriously). It's summertime. 

I am scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seeing pics of people at parties, bbq's and the beach, going on hikes and glamorous vacations. Well, 2 can play that game, social media:  I've done laundry. I've done dishes too. Lots of dishes. So many dishes. Eat your heart out. 

I've done more housework the past week, than ever before. Part of that is because I am a terrible housekeeper. Part of it is because I've got nothing else going on. 

Now, I know I cannot be the only one having this kind of summer. And, I'm not complaining about it. It's more like I'm having a revelation. I'm doing this to myself. I have to put effort into having a great summer. 

In years past we've taken big vacations. They fill so much of the summer, that by the time we get home, we just want to relax. We need a vacation from our vacation. This year, however, we aren't going anywhere. And we've got nothing but time. 

So, I'm going to set some goals. No lofty ones. Just simple things like, "drag children out of bed before midday". This may require the use of smoke alarms and buckets of ice water, but I think it can happen. I'm also adding "do something fun everyday" to the list. Seems reasonable. Something fun, kids, whether you like it or not. 

In keeping with this new plan for summer, tomorrow we will head to Disneyland. We will take no prisoners. We will go on every ride, see every show, and eat every churro that park has to offer. We will close the place down and stumble home half asleep. Or we will stay for a couple of hours, then find a pool to cool off in. Either way, churros.