Fighting for Z’s at the O.K. Corral

14 May

It was only fitting that in the small hours just after the closing bell on Mother’s Day 2012, I found myself doing one of the most motherly things imaginable.  I sat crammed on a loveseat with a sick five year old on my lap, trying to hold him just upright enough to keep his cough at bay but allow him to sleep.  Whether or not I got any sleep was unimportant, which is a handy factoid because I didn’t.  Initially there was a bit of twisting and turning, a settling in to the novelty of being out of bed at a forbidden time, a casual suggestion that we watch Scooby Doo.  The one thing there wasn’t was more coughing, and sometimes that’s enough to ease a parent’s searing leg cramp and stabbing neck pain.  Then he said it, and my heart became as toasty and gooey as a marshmallow over a summer campfire:

“It’s okay that you interrupted my sleep.”

In that instant, I knew we’d done at least a few things right.  Was he just born so magnanimous?  I don’t think so.  And I have to say, even though my eyes feel like they’ve been scrubbed with Comet and I swear the two cups of coffee I had this morning actually laughed at me, he’s inspired me to do the same.  I love you so much my sweet boy, it’s okay.

It’s okay that you used my bladder as a trampoline for the better part of 40 weeks.  I know now that I would be way less clever if I’d never had to figure out how to handle it when I peed my pants in public.  It was your remarkable ability to use all of your body and maximize small spaces that helped me learn how to find the sweet spot between ignoring and explaining.  I think I could totally pull of an infomercial now.

It’s okay that the lady in the grocery store with the cute little blonde bob has seen so many of your meltdowns that she automatically greets me with a sympathetic head tilt and looks like she might go in for a hug.  I’ve never been one to turn down a thought hug, and having this relationship with her does have its benefits.  On the rare occasion when I bring in a coupon, I’m pretty sure she illegally doubles that noise.  By my calculations, each of your freakouts has saved us 55 cents.

It’s okay that my car looks and smells like a preschool dumpster.  I think the Cheerio/Lego combination points to a certain joie de vivre not found in cars where guest passengers can just come in and sit down without staining something.  How boring their pants must be.

It’s okay that you screamed a request for “I’m Sexy and I Know It” at an Elizabeth Mitchell concert.  I’ve thought for some time now that she really needs to sing less about birds and more about tanning her cheeks at the beach.  Don’t think I won’t be asking for royalties on your behalf when she releases her new album, Wiggle Wiggle (Put A Bird On It).

It’s okay that you decided to eat an unidentified mushroom on the playground a couple of weeks ago.  Trying to get you to drink that big cup of charcoal and Hershey’s syrup in the emergency room right after made getting you to eat your dinner look easy.  It’s almost like you knew that having multiple conversations with the Poison Control Center was on your dad’s Bucket List, and the only thing that topped it, awesome-wise, was the way you asked if we could have mushrooms for dinner that night.

I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I ended up with two of the best kids who ever landed in this crazy place.  Sure, they smell funny, break something almost constantly, and cost more than all of the vacations they make me want to take.  In spite of all that, I wouldn’t trade them for a suitcase full of unbroken things and weeks of tanning my cheeks on the beach.

It’s okay.  Really.

Hakuna Matata, Mommies

29 Apr

[The part where I breeze over the fact that I haven't posted in well over a month.  Working on another little project that's taking up a good chunk of my time...I hope to be back in regular posting form asap.  xoxo]

For all of you mommies who aren’t aware that there is a war going on, I implore you to turn off The Wiggles, quit trying to pick that dried banana off of the kitchen wall, and take to your assigned theater of war.  If you’re not aware of your duties, they are as follows:

If you stay at home with your kids, your job is to plant your nose firmly in the air at mothers who work outside the home and talk about how you would never outsource the care of your children.  You are also to make frequent Facebook posts about how your boss is a real whiner and regularly poops his or her pants.  Working moms, you will now refer to stay at home moms as “Bon Bon Eaters” with sad, mommy-centered identities and no hope of ever having a real career or setting any goals.  Be sure to use your Facebook space for sharing timesaving tips like your decision to forgo pajamas and just get your children dressed for school the night before.  Are we ready for war?

Actually, put down your helmets for a sec and hold that thought.  After spending a rainy Sunday morning at the movies with Liam, I have a brand new theory about these so-called Mommy Wars.

I posit that there are no Mommy Wars at all, but that the idea is actually a totally fake thing perpetrated by the sadists at Disney as a diversion.  The real war on mommies is being waged by Disney itself.  If you’ve not seen Chimpanzee as we did this morning, don’t worry.  Just about everything else in their pile of hits will apply as well.  Snow White, Cinderella, Bambi, Pocahontas, Finding Nemo, and the list goes on.  What do each of those films have in common?  That’s right.  Dead mommies, most of whom die in really horrible or shocking ways or die only to make room for stepmothers so vile they wouldn’t even be allowed on Facebook.

Sure, I knew what I was getting myself into when I saw   the first trailer for Chimpanzee.  It featured the painfully adorable Oscar playing in the forest, virtually ensuring my ticket purchase just for reigniting all of my childhood fantasies about having a chimp as a pet.  I, like, barely heard the word orphan.

Now, I’m not throwing around any accusations (exactly) but I do find it a little suspect that this adorable Disney “documentary” just magically happens to mimick the winning plot of so many of their animated hits.  I’m not saying that Scar from the “rival gang” of chimps negotiated any sort of deal with the producers, but maybe when the rent’s due and the fig tree is looking sparse a chimp will do things a chimp normally wouldn’t do.  Like take out a doting mother and maybe probably turn her into leopard food for the sake of story.  We are talking about reality stars here.

Even so, I probably could have moved past yet another dead Disney mother were it not for the way Oscar became orphaned and then promptly got rejected by all the other mothers in his chimp community.  We get it, Disney.  You know how mothers are.  They can’t stand each other, and she’s totally not going to deal with that other chick’s brat when she didn’t even have the good sense not to get herself dead.  Even in the wild, mommies just can’t get along.

On the plus side after today’s showing, I think I’m finally able to put my chimp raising fantasies to rest.  They appear to be really messy eaters, and something tells me it would be hard to keep them in pants.  For these reasons it seems way easier just to keep my children.  And, at least until we get all this war stuff figured out, I’ll keep yours too.  You know, if anything fishy happens.  It’s not that I think Disney wants us all dead, but if something totally accidental were to happen…

The Glamsterous Life

23 Mar

Going to places like the library on his bike instead of by car may be at the very top of Liam’s list of Best Spring Things, and thanks to this year’s crazy 80s in March we’ve already made several trips.  Granted, I always end up hauling the Big Bag O’ Books, but I’ll take the good weather tradeoff any day.  Last weekend’s bike-not-car trip produced a delightful bag of reading material including Glamsters, the story of hamster sisters Harriet and Patricia.  In an effort to expedite her adoption/purchase, Harriet decides she needs to glam it up a little bit.  To get there she ends up rubbing all kinds of questionable substances on herself and puts on a bad outfit, which are things I’ve been known to do frequently.  Quite honestly, I’ve never found a hamster so relatable.  In the book, things go horribly awry for Harriet, (don’t I know?) but the happy ending comes down when she decides to hose herself off and just play Harriet.

Perhaps I haven’t noticed it because I’m not looking for an adoptive home at present, but  it dawned on me during the reading that I could probably stand to get a little more glamster too.  Even though it didn’t work out so well for Harriet, it’s important to remember that she and I aren’t working with the same raw materials.  I don’t have her good fortune when it comes to all of that lovable fluffy fur or those adorable buck teeth, nor do I have the ability to crawl into a pile of cedar bedding and disappear.  In fact, there was no cedar bedding to disappear into when, about midway through the book, Liam moved from my lap to the space just in front of me and turned so he could still see the pages.

“What are you doing, sweetie?” I said.  After all, the niceness of book time is mostly about the niceness of lap time.

“Your air is mixing with my air.”

Translation = Mom, you have ass breath.

Further translation = Taco Night

Now, it’s one thing to embarrass myself in front of a five year old, but the incident immediately made me flash back to the day before, when I bounced off to the gym in the first t-shirt I grabbed from the drawer.  Since gyms are so silly with their “mirrors” for “checking your appearance” which I understand some people even do before they “leave the house”, I caught a glimpse of myself just as I was making tracks to the cardio machines.  My entire midsection was dotted with little spots of grease, making it appear as though I’d been in a nasty stab battle with a bottle of olive oil.  If you’ve never been, let me save you the trouble.  Yes, it’s super cute.

Actually, the stains were part of a salad incident earlier in the week.  I’d solicited my husband’s help in opening a stubborn bottle of Trader Joe’s Balsamic Vinaigrette (ab fab, by the way), which he opened with his hulking, bulging, manly kitchen counter.  He opened it with such force, in fact, that the cap cracked along the side.  The important part was that it opened, and since I still found the cap serviceable I made my salad and tucked the maimed bottle back in the refrigerator.  Unfortunately I filed those important details away when I made another salad a day or so later, and I took that bottle out and shook the living sh*t right out of it.   Needless to say, the cap left the party early.  Scrubbing the entire kitchen floor must have made my balsamic t-shirt seem less important, so I just threw it in the laundry basket and didn’t bother to do whatever it is people do with their cottons when they pour salad dressing on themselves.

Like a hamster who won’t get off her wheel, I wasn’t about to leave the gym just because I started to smell more and more like the Olive Garden as my body temperature rose.  It won’t be the last time I end up in a bad outfit covered in a questionable substance.  If I’m really lucky, it might even happen on Taco Night.

You Lose Some, You Win Aplomb

7 Mar

Earlier this year, I entered the 2012 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, sponsored by the Washington Centerville Library in Centerville, Ohio (The University of Dayton is the home of the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop).  Erma was one of my grandmother’s favorite people on the planet, and she turned me on to her work as well.  This year’s conference happens to be on what would have been my grandma’s 94th birthday weekend, so entering the contest seemed like the thing to do.  Well that, and by the time I was a preteen I was laughing at Erma’s pieces on laundry and children and the general madness of adulthood.  Some girls dream about the perfect wedding dress; Erma made me dream about writing things someday that would make people laugh.

So after that super dreamy build up, let me just say that I didn’t win.  Bummer, but these great essays did.  What did come in the rejection letter was a note saying this:

“Quite a few essays received separate comments from the judges and, if yours did, I will be sending you those comments in a separate e-mail within the next couple of weeks.”

Nice, right?  There were 524 entries, so only a library would be cool enough to match random essays to random comments and randomly send them out.  It got even nicer when I did receive comments a few days later, and those comments were so nice I immediately cancelled any plans I may have had to throw my laptop out of a window.  My judge used the words “with aplomb”, and everyone knows that words like that practically force you to keep writing.  With aplomb.

So this is for you, grandma.  We didn’t win, but we’re not giving up.  (And we’re going to work on the swearing thing, I promise)

The S Word

Thanks to an ever expanding cache of hard-won life experience, I can say with some certainty that there are few things more tender than a five year old confessing his sins.

“Mom, I have something to tell you, but I have to say a bad word.”

Just seconds before, I only knew that he’d been in trouble.  Now it was different.  Like a montage sequence in a movie where years fit neatly inside a snappy pop tune, my motherly transgressions flashed before me.

I thought of the moments in traffic, too many to count, when the honk of my horn was no match for the honk of my mouth.  I thought of the horrible woman in the post office, and the name I’d given her perhaps not as far under my breath as I’d imagined.  I thought of stubbed toes and tripped over toys, met with language so colorful the grittiest patron in a biker bar would blush.

As a smug non-parent, I was convinced I’d outlaw evils like swearing and television and refined sugar.  My children would be hopelessly devoted to broccoli, and only SAT words and nuggets of wisdom would pass my lips.  It took me years to give in to Elmo and Go-Gurt, but my commitment to language failed within days.  Peppering my speech with the occasional four letter indiscretion seemed harmless before kids.  When I decided to keep tiny people with really poor judgment in my home, I had brand new occasions to swear and more reasons not to.

My hands trembled, my breath hung suspended.

“What word was it?”

“The S Word.”

I felt a strange relief.  On the universally observed spectrum of severity, I told myself, it could be far worse than the S Word.  I thought of myself at his age, scooting down the stairs one night on a bottom covered in red footie pajamas.  Lost in my troubles (read: bed time) I forcefully told my parents that I was ever so tired of all this S Word.  When I realized what I’d done, I took one look at their slack jaws and made a quick but failed attempt to push the word back into my mouth.  When that didn’t work, I burst into tears.  I wanted to hug that child, or at least the one in front of me.

“Next time you’ll choose a better word, won’t you?” I said.

“Yes.  I’m sorry I called my friend stupid.”

Wait.  Stupid?

My laughter bubbled forth like juice from an overturned sippy cup.  The child fell silent, justifiably confused.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “It’s just that I thought you meant shi–.”

Perhaps it’s time I have another look at those SAT words.

The Trouble With Comparing {+ My Very First Giveway!}

21 Feb

Today, we will observe the two test subjects in my own personal study on Strategic Ordering In Childbirth, a little known phenomenon in nature that simultaneously discourages only children and caps a family’s total number of offspring at two.  My results, so far:

Child One

Age:13

Potty training finalized: 2 years, 1 month

Sleep patterns: Rip Van Winkle

Trips to the emergency room to date: 1

Gray hairs, direct responsibility for to date: 7

Child Two

Age: 5

Potty training finalized: 4 years, plus the time it took me to arrange for a changing station at Senior Prom ’25 and finalize the details on his future marriage to a really pretty astronaut

Sleep patterns: Guardians of Ga’Hoole

Trips to the emergency room to date: 4

Gray hairs, direct responsibility for to date: 62

As you can see, Child One made children look like these cute little things we just do for fun.  Like a great hair accessory.

Then came Child Two.  He made me realize that I probably deserved to have my upper armed pinched really hard every time I looked all curious and confused when I heard people talk about how “difficult” kids can be.  It was something of a bait and switch.

Fortunately nature is a lot more complicated than a set of statistics, so in spite of the wildly different numbers they’ve put on the board I love One and Two with exactly the same sickeningly sweet gusto.  I didn’t think to name them Yin and Yang, but it seems like a more useful way to describe them than through simple comparisons.  Their eating habits are no exception.  Jack’s tank never gets full, and I’ve done things they usually only do in the circus to try to get Liam to eat.

Given their, um, fierce individuality, you can imagine my surprise when I opened my friend Debbie’s new cookbook Parents Need to Eat Too and instantly felt like it was written for both One and Two (and me).  This is even more remarkable considering it was actually written for new parents who are short on time, sleep, and dinner ideas beyond “Call for takeout”, so that can only mean that it’s just a really kickass cookbook.

Just how kickass it is became evident the second I sat down with the boys to select a single recipe to try for Debbie’s virtual blog tour and this post.*  I mean, can you imagine?  Arriving at one recipe that they’d both be into?  Yeah right.  We sat down with their very different personalities and these, my biggest challenges when it comes to feeding them…

Child One, biggest food concern:  He’d live exclusively on meat if given the option.  I’ve considered administering green vegetables via IV.

Child Two, biggest food concern: His plate has to be visually exciting and/or singing or blinking for him to take an interest.

By some miracle (also known as Debbie’s brilliance) we arrived at the recipe for Broccoli & Cheddar Pinwheels.

They were, in no particular order, fun, delicious, full of green veggies and whole wheat goodness, and easy.  So easy that One and Two jumped right in to help with the assembly.  And the eating?  Everyone knows dinner tastes better when you’re a kid and you make it yourself, so let’s just say the photos I intended to add of them enjoying their hard work were nixed because I wasn’t fast enough with the camera.  Tonight I’m recording a new statistic.

Best family cooking experience, Child One, Child Two, and Parents (Who Need to Eat Too): Broccoli & Cheddar Pinwheels

We cannot wait to tear into the rest of this book.  If you would like to enter to win your own very own copy of Parents Need To Eat Too, for yourself or for a gift, please comment below with your finest cooking moment.  I’ll let you define the word “finest”.  The winner will be chosen at random on 2/28/12, but you’ll still get serious points for being your funny, delightful selves.

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Update:  Congratulations to Summer!  Her name was selected as the winner by RandomPicker.com, and I’ll be getting in touch to see where she’d like her book sent. 

Thank you all so much for participating! :)

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In the meantime, please enjoy Debbie Koenig’s recipe for Broccoli & Cheddar Pinwheels, and join me in congratulating her on a job well done.  If she can find the point where my children meet, I know she’s a genius.

Broccoli & Cheddar Pinwheels

Makes 8, and doubles well
Cooking time: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

1 pound prepared pizza dough, white or
whole wheat
2¹⁄₂ cups finely chopped broccoli, or one
10-ounce package of frozen chopped
broccoli, defrosted and finely chopped
(If you don’t mind the additional cleanup, you
can do the fine-chopping by pulsing in the
food processor. It’s important that the pieces
be quite small, or you’ll have trouble in the
assembly)
1 to 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese,
depending on how much you like cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line or grease a baking sheet.

1.Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator 30 minutes to 1 hour before you plan to use it.

2. Steam the broccoli until just tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Cool slightly, then combine broccoli with the Cheddar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Roll or stretch the dough on a floured work surface into a large rectangle, about 10 x 14 inches. Don’t worry if you can’t get those exact measurements, but take care not to stretch the dough so thin it rips.

4. Spread the broccoli mixture over about three-quarters of the dough, leaving an uncoated portion at one short side. Begin to roll the dough from the short side covered with the broccoli spread, and keep rolling until you’ve got a nice, neat log of dough.

5. Using a serrated knife or a pastry scraper, cut the log into 8 equal pinwheels.  Carefully lay the pinwheels flat on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes.

*This post is actually being published several hours after the end of the blog tour (see Child Two, Trips to the emergency room to date).  However, the good news about me being way super ridiculously behind is that today is the day, and Parents Need To Eat Too is now officially available at all of these fine retailers, including a couple of my favorite local shops.

Pudd’nhead Books

Left Bank Books

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books A Million

Indie Bound

Things I’ve Been Neglecting Lately

6 Feb

1. This blog.  Thank you, WordPress, for having easy to use buttons with words written on them.  Without that feature, I may have forgotten how all of this works.

2. Twitter.  Do you remember when you were a little kid riding on the merry-go-round, and some giant beast of a fourth grader would swagger up and starting “pushing”, but the kid was actually just a psychopath whose secret end goal was to see the merry-go-round break or make someone puke?  Sometimes getting on Twitter feels a lot like trying to hop on that merry-go-round after a fourth grader has had his way with it.  I love the ride, but it can be hard to hang on.  And I totally don’t want to lose my Trapper Keeper.

3. Any and all refrigerator maintenance.  When I was putting away groceries this weekend I found a container of lobster bisque.  I remember eating the other part of that lobster bisque way back when I was “celebrating the calories of the season” and “eating like I just got out of prison”, so I’m placing that particular soup somewhere in the early third quarter of 2011.  What’s that?  No, it doesn’t keep all that well.

4. My underarm hair.  I discovered this particular area of neglect recently while swimming mit die kinder.  I was doing some sort of “Yay!” move and noticed I was making things all Sasquatch up on the scene at indoor family swim.  No additional yays were shared after.

5.  My pretty.  From late October until, um…about two weeks ago, I left the red nail polish from my last pedicure on my big toe.  No, just the big toe.  All the other paint had worn off.  I haven’t bothered to schedule pedicure update because I’ve been too busy trying to bust all known records for consecutive days spent sporting a ponytail.

I must confess I am an easy target for the winter blahs.  Even in a freakishly warm winter like the one we’re having, the naked trees and gray skies just make me want to lay somewhere and grow unsightly body hair until I see leaves again.  Having lived with these temporary blahs all my life, I know that short of moving to a place with no winter (and perhaps one where none of the women folk shave?) I will have to deal.

Thankfully, there are bright spots.  Like whatever I was cheering about in the pool.  Or yesterday, when we met this lovely lady at the World Bird Sanctuary where Jack will be doing some volunteer work:

This is a Barred Owl, sometimes known as the Rain Owl, and as you can see she is being very sassy with the Exorcist head spinning thing.  Presumably she likes hanging out in the bare woods in the rain, which were the precise conditions we met her in at the new volunteer orientation.  Once upon a time she was rescued and nursed back to health, and because she is blind in one eye she will be kept safe in what looks to be a very happy captivity.  In addition to the little show she put on for us, we learned that she likes to play with a tennis ball and sometimes a rope.  She also lives next door to a falcon, so you know that’s never boring.

As I type this, the sun is beating out the creepy morning fog for control of the sky.  Even though it’s still cold and brown out there, I now have my role model for handling the winter blahs.  Until sometime in March, I will party like a Barred Owl.  If that doesn’t work, I’ve read that sniffing a freshly peeled orange will also do the trick.  February, take this and a hoot:

The Mysterious Case Of The Biohazard At The Bowling Alley

23 Jan

When the possibility of a fun filled morning at the local family bowling center came up over the weekend, I looked at the pile of laundry that had been growing all week.  It was taller than one of the kids and the dog stacked on top of each other, and Liam was actually out of pants.  The duty was calling me, and I agonized over the decision.  Wash or go?  Go or wash? 

I’m totally kidding.  The bowling alley has nachos.  You know that game Rock-Nacho-Laundry?  Nacho beats Laundry every time.  I grabbed the least dirty pair of Liam jeans in the stack and sent him to his room to put them on along with a ten pin state of mind.

It was a good decision.  Nothing really entertains an old couple like booming Men Without Hats in the car and Safety Dancing to the fullest extent of the law while the children duck out of sight and cover their ears.  Follow that up with junk food, and the skies sing.  I bowled 3 quality games in the solid upper two digits, and actually lost to a five year old during one of them.  By the way, I was so forcefully accused of “throwing” that game I plan to use that excuse to explain all of my future athletic failures.  Feel free to borrow it. 

Bellies full of processed cheese food, we left to head home.  My husband was leading Liam, and Jack and I weren’t far behind.  It wasn’t until we got close to the car that we saw this fairly unusual sight:

Reenactment

 A pair of wee little boxer shorts, discarded on the ground and muddied with tire tracks and footprints.  My husband sprung into action.

What he thought:  I must protect my family from these horrible underwear.

What he really thought:  Somewhere, there’s a kid going commando.

What he really really thought:  What kind of not-fit-for-outside living freakshow throws a pair of dirty underwear in a parking lot? 

What he said:  Be careful, don’t touch that! 

What he really said:  My kid can spot dinosaur paraphernalia at twenty paces.  I’ll make my body into a shield to keep him from seeing them, but I better warn my wife so she doesn’t think about picking up the creepiest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  There’s probably so much poop.

What I saw:  Liam’s favorite dinosaur boxers, which were more than likely stuck in the pair of jeans I picked from the laundry basket.

What I really saw:  If I didn’t retrieve them, a recreation of the scene in Jurassic Park where the Velociraptors storm the kitchen looking for a nice tasty person snack, except with all the people in my house looking for boxer shorts, a little more screaming, and a lot more lime Jell-O. 

What I did: I reached for the boxers.

What I really did:  Saved all of our fucking lives.

What he said:  I just said don’t TOUCH that.  What are you doing?  Oh my god.  WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING THAT?

What he really said:  Blue team, engage!  I repeat, I need backup.  Code FECAL!  She is picking up the underwear!  We have a situation, do you copy?

What I said (apparently at a volume not loud enough to be heard by Germbob Mudpants):  It’s fine, these are ours!

What I really said:  Breathe into a bag, Mr. Homeland Security.

When the dust settled and all laundry was claimed, I thought about how lucky we really were.  Not just because we’re a family that can dance safely, but because if those boxers hadn’t fallen out in the parking lot it would have happened here…

This is Liam’s patented Bowler’s Bend, a highly proven technique for locking in spares and shaking dirty underwear out of pant legs. 

I’ll pick up undergarments in a parking lot all day long, but from Lane 5 on a busy weekend morning?  That’s just gross.

Martin Luther King Jr. Had More Than 200 Jellybeans & Other Historical Facts

19 Jan

Yes, this is done entirely in jelly beans. From odditycentral.com

“Hey mom, did you know that Martin Luther King had more than 200 jelly beans?”

I try in vain to scan my brain for words that sound like “jelly” or “bean” and might have something to do with MLK.  The 13 year old’s laughter is terribly distracting.

He persists.  “Don’t you remember that story?”  

Note:  Yes, the kid is in an intense remember that? period.  My favorite is when he reminisces in his five year old way about not having done something in “years”.  He finally has a few to choose from.

It was time for me to ‘fess up.

“No, honey, I don’t remember.  Did you hear a story like that?”

You don’t remember that?  He was a great man and bad people killed him and when he died African American people didn’t have a father anymore!”

You know, I kind of  just wanted to go work out and grab a frozen yogurt.  To correct a five year old is to open a very large, very time consuming can of many worms.  I will not bother to fight, for example, the way he calls Cheetos “Macheetos”, or the way he rejects the word “yesterday” in favor of the more precise “yestermorning” and “yesternight”.  But, on the very day after a federal holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I was sitting with a kid who was under the impression that his contribution amounted to prolific fatherhood and seriously awesome candy distribution policies.  At the very least, a good talk was in order.

I can’t blame the kid for rolling with keywords, both because he’s five and because I still do the same thing.  Honestly?  If someone were to tell me about the ice cream buffet at the Male Underwear Models’ Beach Volleyball Tournament where one of my toes will get broken off every time the ball is spiked, I’m not going to hear the toes part.  Still, it’s for this reason that every year I hold my breath when MLK Day comes around because the message–the oh so important message–seems to get muddled in the frenzy to jam a series of age appropriate civil rights studies into a week.  The coloring pages alone have a tendency to stop my heart.  Obviously I don’t know how he’d feel about becoming a coloring page at all, but I do know Liam did last year’s portrait in so many snappy primaries that Dr. King looked like he was fresh off the stage after a performance in Bob Fosse’s Magical Super Drag Clown Revue.  I do have a hunch the good doctor would appreciate the conversations that start with the coloring pages, even if that conversation opens with, “And what made you decide to go with purple for the hair?”

Racism, equality, and civil rights are heady issues for all of us, and at five it may seem like a spoonful of jelly beans will help it all go down.  Sometimes it does, but I do know my kid also responds well to keywords.  Might I suggest “kindness”, “fairness”, “love”, and  “peace”?  How about on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and every day?

What’s The District’s Policy On Keith Moon Types?

13 Jan

“…He was a complex little ball of difficulties.”

-Pete Townshend on Keith Moon

It all started when I unexpectedly welled up while selecting one of the three-fold informational packets created in Comic Sans from the table by the door.  While it’s true that I’ve been known to cry over Comic Sans in the past, this time was notable because it was comically, sansically reminding me that I am staring down yet another major moment in motherhood. 

Kindergarten.

Surprised by my own reaction, I felt compelled to confess to the mom next to me–actually the mother of Liam’s preschool BFF–that I was suddenly emotional and kind of a Really Big Crier.  When she looked visably relieved and confessed that she’s a RBC too, I almost hugged her.  We agreed to sit together and insist, if necessary, that some sort of violent dust storm swept through the front section of the auditorium at precisely our eye level during the video featuring wee little ‘garteners with missing teeth and fresh library books. 

As soon as we found our seats, she cast aside her coat and said, “Ugh.  I am so nervous about this lottery thing.”

Isn’t it great how the word lottery is full of happiness and optimism when it’s attached to the word “ticket”, but it’s otherwise a harbinger of terror and doom?  On Full Day Kindergarten Orientation Night, it most definitely wasn’t a word I wanted to hear.  I asked a few more questions, and she calmly explained that rolling into this major moment may not be the sweet ride I thought it was going to be.

For some time now I’ve been fantasizing about full day kindergarten, available in our district for a small tuition.  Sure, there is half day kindergarten that’s free, but our kid is tremendously bored with us.  He not only gave up, chopped apart, stomped on, urinated all over, and then set fire to the idea of an afternoon nap two years ago, but thanks to his asshole birthday he missed the “cutoff” date for starting kindergarten this year by about 3 weeks.  In other words, full day kindergarten provides the most bang for our buck when it comes to a kid who’s had so much time to think about starting school that a half day would just leave him angry and unfulfilled.  It’s when he gets this way that we all mind our guitars and hotel rooms if you know what I’m saying.  Believe me, I’ve already gotten the whole, “Would it have killed you to go into labor a little sooner?” speech a dozen times.

Oddly enough, lottery-induced terror greatly reduces the risk of public crying, as does the repeated, ear shattering pronounciation of the word kindergarten as “kindie-garden”.  While waiting for the perfect moment to ask what sort of adult detention facility will be available to those children denied a full day spot, one may even gain some clarity and perspective.  Maybe by the end of the Q & A session the woman in the pink peacoat has become Curricumom and it’s easy to imagine the angry guy up front getting regularly outraged at the insufficient foam on his Starbucks. 

Does the kindergarten curriculum integrate lessons on being nice to friends?

It does, but just to help things along we tape a puppy to each of them.  You can’t really be mean to someone wearing a puppy.

What are your top three reading resources?

We pull heavily from a text called “What We Do and Do Not Put In Our Noses”.

How do you teach handwriting?

After we teach them not to write with their boogers, we transition to pencils.

Is kindergarten required?  It isn’t, is it?  How do I access the entrance exam for first grade?

Wait a minute!  It’s almost like you came to the kindergarten meeting to tell us how worthless kindergarten is.  The entrance exam for first grade consists of a two hour Lego intensive and a fruit snack indentification quiz.

So maybe it’s not worth freaking out over full day vs. half day when I didn’t even know I was supposed to freak out about how he was going to learn handwriting.  How is he supposed to get a job if he can’t even cross his T’s and dot his I’s? 

Or maybe, just maybe, none of it is worth freaking out about at all.  As his dad put things later, “No matter what happens, he’ll always be Full Day to us.”

The Billboards In Thighland

10 Jan

Very few people will believe this, but I have a tendency to say things without thinking them through.

No, it’s true!  I can take an ordinary moment and make it painfully awkward like a magician, if magicians (like other than Criss Angel) specialized in making people cringe.

Abra-kid-ohgod.

Several summers ago I arrived on the scene at one of Jack’s Little League games and found another mom bouncing her criminally adorable, superchubby 6 month old on one knee.  I gasped, and without a second thought I blurted, “Oh my god!  Look at those thighs!  I could just eat them!”

My husband tried to crawl under the bleachers.  Everyone else just paused and got really quiet, like some loud fruitbasket had just announced that she wanted to chow down on a thick slice of underage boy thigh.  That particular teammate of Jack’s didn’t come back after that season, but I’m sure there is a significant no connection.

Law & Order: SVU tone aside, I stand by my remarks.  Baby chub is scrumptious.  Don’t believe me?

photo from thelaughingstork.com

If you can resist that, I don’t want to understand you.  This little Miss is enjoying those few short months in her life when she lays around eating all day, she’s never met a treadmill, and she gets extra points for taking high quality naps.  If she weren’t so damn cute I’d hate her.

I also can’t hate her because those Lit’l Smokie toes won’t pass for very long, and before she knows it she’ll be a kid.  Traditionally, baby chub melts away when Pitter Patter becomes Make Like It’s A Prison Break, but these days it seems like the baby chub is lingering longer, or never going away at all.  You might even call it an epidemic.  Okay, so everyone is calling childhood obesity an epidemic, and the state of Georgia thinks they know what to do about it.

Here’s what they’re doing, with my expert paraphrasing:  Let’s take a few carefully selected kids who are already seasoned targets for jokes and put them on big giant billboards.  Maybe we can even splash big red words like “problem” and “fat” on there because the kids themselves will have no trouble discerning that these are messages targeted toward their parents and no one is actually calling them a big fat problem.

As ABC News and this article note,  strong4life went with this approach because “75% of parents with obese children were not aware that their kids were overweight”, and “50% of parents didn’t realize childhood obesity was a problem to begin with”.  I’m just not buying it.  With those kinds of eye popping numbers, I have to think that these are parents simply suffering from fairly common parental ailments like denial, revision, and maybe a wisp of delusion.  My child is a flipping genius, tomorrow’s LeBron James, the next Mozart, a budding Renior.  It’s just a little baby fat.

Let’s suppose for a moment that this campaign, which the Truthful Mommy blog rightfully gave a good throat punching to on Thursday, isn’t ridiculously insulting to its audience and Georgians really aren’t aware that overweight isn’t healthy.  Nearly 40% of the kids in the state are obese, but guess what?  So are 30% of the adults.  My state is even fatter.  I have a really tough time believing this is lost on anyone.  If adults have trouble cracking the “eat less/better, move more” code, doesn’t it make perfect sense that they can’t help their kids do the same?  Yet, I don’t see anyone rushing to put obese adults on display along the Interstate, or (god forbid) figure out what it is that’s making the code so tough.  This strikes me as the Toddlers & Tiaras of anti-childhood obesity campaigns, where exploiting children and editing up a million reasons to help the rest of us feel superior about our parenting is an instant win. 

Getting families healthy is a community concern that cannot be reduced to, “Hey, do you know your kid is fat?”  The BIG FAT PROBLEM is complicated, like poverty, safety, food desert, ubiquitous advertising of crappy food directly to children, garbage filled school lunches, recess creepgym class battles and general all around economic upheaval complicated.  What isn’t complicated is the fact that good health starts at the top and the overwhelming majority of parents care for their kids and want what’s best for them.  The sad looking kids in the strong4life ads used to be smiling, round 6 month olds bouncing on someone’s knee, but things are a bit different and a lot more hurtful when a kid understands what all the crazy tall people are saying. 

Georgia strong4life, I feel confident in telling you that you’ve missed the mark.  As anyone at Little League can tell you, I’m a total expert on both discomfort and crazy tall people. 

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