Thursday, December 4, 2008

Southern Snow


Last Tuesday, we got up and began getting ready for school and work. I had to drag the kids out of bed by their heels, and they were still complaining and grumbling as they got dressed.

My phone began ringing, and I saw from the caller ID it was my brother's home. My sister-in-law and I carpool the kids to school, so I imagined she was calling about that.

When I picked up the phone, it was my brother, who works at the High School. I knew immediately we were out of school for the day.

He said, "Hey- Good Morning!"

I said, "You're kidding me! We're out of school?"

He chuckled and said, "Why, yes. And good morning to you, too."

"I'm sorry," I replied, "that was rude. Good Morning! Now, are we really out of school?"

"Yep."

"Why?"

"Snow."

"Huh?" I asked, peering out my window at... nothing.

"I guess the northern part of the county got really iced over last night."

"Hmmm. Okay, well, thanks for calling."

"Sure. Have a good day!" he said, way too chipper at this hour of the morning.

I found the kids in balled up lumps on the floor, still complaining about how tired they were.

"Fine. Put your pajamas back on and go back to bed," I said, hands on my hips.

"What?" Keith asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"Just go on back to bed if you're so tired," I threw up my hands.

"Mommy, are kidding us?" Amy asked, eyebrows scrunched together.

"Nope," I said. "School's out today."

"Really?" Keith asked, wide-eyed. "What for?"

"Snow."

Three little pairs of eyes bolted to the window and anxiously looked for snow. They turned around and looked at me quizzically. I shrugged.

"Yeah, I know. Guess the northern part of the county got it all. Sorry. I guess you can go back to bed..."

"Are you kidding? This is the best day EVER!" Keith exclaimed.

Amy and Emma started jumping up and down like Mexican jumping beans.

"I thought you were tired," I reminded them.

"Well, now we're not!" Amy exclaimed.

We spent the rest of the day doing odds and ends that had been on our "to do" list for quite some time. And we played a couple of games and watched a little television. It was like a mini-vacation, which both the kids and I enjoyed immensely.

The next morning, Keith plodded down to our room before my alarm ever went off.

"Do we have school?" he asked sleepily.

"Yes."

"How do you know? Did you watch the news?" he challenged.

"No. But it is going up to sixty-five degrees today. You have school."

"Can you check?" he asked, ever the optimist.

We flipped on the television and watched for a moment. Not only were we not closed, no county in the state was closed for snow.

Keith was dejected. He slumped down a little more and grouched back down the hall.

This morning we had a repeat of yesterday, with the exception that it was cold enough this morning to have an ice patch or two in the northern part of the county. Still, it wasn't enough to call off school, so we were off and running.

My northern-raised friends shake their heads at our southern inability to function in cold weather. They swear that this fact alone made us lose the Civil War.

I try to explain that southern snow is different than northern snow: we have a sheet of ice under our snow. They retort that snow plows and ice can cure all. I remind them that the closest thing we have to a snow plow around here is a garbage truck, and that the salt is used primarily for the interstates and main roads for the northern transplants who refuse to comply with our southern "We don't do snow" rule.

Our northern friends contend that we really don't have "snow" compared to the northern portion of the country. I remind them that this was why they moved here.

On the other side of the fence, my grandmother had a friend come up to visit her from Florida. She was here when the sky was spitting the frozen stuff all over the place. Most of it melted, but not enough to have the kids go to school, apparently.

I was giddy at the thought of a little winter weather. It always makes it feel a little more like Christmas to me.

She glared at me and declared, "This is why I don't like the north."

"The north?"

"Yes. Any place that has the ability to produce snow is north."

"That kind of redefines the regional settings, doesn't it?"

She stared me down for a moment. "Whatever. I hate snow and cold weather!"

I suspect that tomorrow morning my kids will continue their snow vigil, ever-hopeful that there is just enough slick, wet, cold ice to close down the schools. I, on the other hand, wouldn't mind if it held off until the weekend.
And if it's going to snow, I wish it would really snow. I want enough to play in. The stuff we got recently didn't leave enough of a mark to even make a single snow ball.

I want to make snow angels, go sledding and have snow ball fights. Then I want to go in and sit as close to the fireplace as possible with a mug of steaming cocoa (with miniature marshmallows, of course).

My grandmother's friend will be home by then, so she will be able to avoid the "unpleasantness" of the cold. And my northern-raised friends will be able to play in a little bit of "home."
And, school will be "out," regardless.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Parent Guilt" vs. "Enough"


I don't know about you, but I could really use the "redistribution of wealth" a particular political candidate used as a platform for his election campaign. Especially with Christmas just around the corner.
We seem to find ourselves in this situation every year: right before Thanksgiving we shift into panic mode, as we realize that Santa is a little lean on cash, and three little pairs of eyes will be bouncing down the stairs with no awareness of this fact. You would think we would learn...
This year we have decided at the outset of the mayhem to "celebrate lean." But the stupid toy and electronic advertisements are merciless. Every commercial sends my kids into a frenzy. Every trip to the store, we step haphazardly into an advertisement mine field, taunting me with all of the toys we can't buy.
Why did no one ever tell me about the "Parent Guilt" thing? It was most certainly not in the Parenting Brochure!
As a parent, nothing you ever do is "enough." Even spending billions of dollars on your child, is not "enough." Because, then you have not spent enough "time" with them. And was that "time" truly "quality" time? It goes on and on.
Christmas is the epicenter of the "Parent Guilt" storm. We compare gifts with our neighbors and friends. No matter how many, or how much, we don't feel we did "enough" for our kids.
I usually spend Christmas Eve stuffing stockings to over-flowing, and still think of several things that are "missing." As I help Santa arrange his offerings by the fireplace, I wonder if perhaps he has shorted them a little, too. At the end of the Christmas morning present-opening-bonanza, we look around at the wads of ripped paper and mounds of new, shiny things, and tally in our head all of the things we did NOT get/give.
Of course, my kids have always been a bigger fan of playing with the box that the toy came in, than actually playing with the toy. So, I really shouldn't assume the "Parent Guilt," since I know that they're pretty much happy with a coupon for the ice cream store and a new Webkins. But that doesn't stop me.
With the economy reeking havoc on all of our finances, this would be the perfect opportunity to adopt the "live lean" philosophy- not just for Christmas, but for all the time. But, that "Parent Guilt" won't let us allow our children to miss the new movie at the movie theater, eat home-cooked, simple meals instead of going out to a restaurant, or wear the same shirt more than once in a two-week period.
The "Parent Guilt" has made us gluttonous and gross. It has made our houses full of "stuff," our waistlines too big and our pockets empty. This year for Christmas, I want "enough." And I want my kids to have "enough." And I want us to continue to have "enough" throughout the year.
I want "enough" to mean "satsified with what we have" and "appreciative and thankful," instead of "making do," or "sacrificing." And I want the stupid "Parent Guilt" to attack my lazy butt that refuses to exercise- make that part feel guilty so I'll get out of bed earlier to use the Bo-Flex in our "exercise room." Or maybe my "Parent Guilt" could rear its ugly head at the housework, so that I get a little miffed and work on that for a while.
Either way, our lives are going to have to be "leaner" and more "simple." It would just be nice if "Parent Guilt" would give it a rest over Christmas so that I can enjoy being together instead of inventorying the gifts...
Here's hoping your Black Friday (the sale day after Thanksgiving) is lucrative for you and full of things that you need and will use-- instead of more junk thrown into your basket by "Parent Guilt."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hamster Heaven


Please extend prayers and sympathy to the family of Duchess the Hamster.

Duchess entered the Church Triumphant early in the morning hours, after having struggled with an undiagnosed debilitating illness for over a week.

She is survived by Keith, Emma, Amy, Dixie, Hubby and Mommy Barbie.

A private memorial service will be held by immediate family this evening in their home. There will be no visitation or grave-side service.

In leiu of flowers, donations to Keith's, Emma's and Amy's College Funds are requested by the family.

May Duchess' light shine eternal and her family know peace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fighters, To Your Corners...


We are sliding head-long into Christmas season with a mighty hope that there's something soft when we land. We, as are the rest of the world it seems, running seventy different directions with the time and capability of only running sixty. But, hey, what's ten more things to do?

School is at the fevered pitch it hits right before an extended break. The atmosphere is electric and the restlessness is palpable.

Teachers are trying to teach. But this is when it becomes necessary to rope the children back in a thousand times per class period; Projects are being assigned just to give the kids a different way to take in information.

We are all tired.

Cheerleading is still something Emma and Amy enjoy immensely. But we are all weary of the time away from home and any other activities we would like to enjoy in its place.

Dark comes sooner. Light comes later. Cold air makes beds cocoons from which we dare not emerge until the very last second necessary.

Last night all of this culminated into the biggest fight I have ever seen my daughters have with each other. It started as something as small as an accidental bump from one to the other. The fight gathered steam like a slow rolling wave. Until finally, it erupted into something along the lines of a category five storm.

Both were crying, hitting, kicking, clawing, pulling hair, screaming and generally looking like the stereotypical "cat fight." I was a little frightened to get involved for fear of my own safety.

However, Keith does not deter that easily, unfortunately for him. He tried to referee a little and found very quickly that it was in his best interest to stay completely clear of the area.

Amy is a very outwardly emotional person. She is completely transparent and doesn't even ever try to hide her feelings or what she is thinking. It is not uncommon for her to tell adults they are wrong (and they usually are, indeed, when she tells them), stomp her feet in anger, or shriek (literally) with laughter. She lives in the moment, and is able to get angry/sad and then simmer down quickly.

Emma is thoughtful, quiet and generally happy and optimistic. If you tell her what's wrong, she'll tell you what's right. She may get irritated at times, but she has one of the longest fuses I have ever seen a person have. She is polite and incredibly sensitive to the other person's feelings. She is usually the "peace keeper" between Keith and Amy, ensuring they don't kill each other during their famous fights.

Last night, Amy found the end of Emma's fuse. Emma was seething at her sister. Rage rolled off of her like hot rays from the sun.

Amy had pushed and pushed and pushed until Emma finally snapped. And, unbelievably, Amy never saw it coming.

When Emma came at Amy, Amy's first reaction was a light laughter. She thought it was a game. Then Amy registered shock. Emma was playing no game. Emma was mad.

Amy's a scrappy little thing. So after shaking off the initial shock, her fight or flight response was: fight!

Keith and I barely could register the chaos, noise and body parts in the fight that ensued. After a moment of stunned paralysis, I moved.

"Girls!" I shouted above their voices, "Stop right now! Emma over there. Amy over here."

The girls moved away from each other, never taking their eyes off one another. They moved over to the spots I had pointed out and glared at each other like boxers in the ring between the bells.

I herded them to the car, making sure not to allow them to get within reaching distance of each other. And got them settled in far away from each other.

The verbal bickering started as soon as I turned the engine over.

"Stop!" I demanded. "No talking."

The car ride to cheer was quiet, but you could still feel the anger in the air. All I kept thinking is, I am glad they are not on the same squad!

Finally, I heard Amy in the back say quietly, "I'm sorry, Emma."

Emma didn't even acknowledge Amy.

Amy tried again, "Emma, I said I'm sorry."

Still nothing from Emma.

"Emma!" Amy whined.

"Girls!" I said, while trying to watch the road. "Emma, I know you are very angry right now. It is okay to be angry. But you need to tell Amy you hear what she's saying. It doesn't mean you have to not be angry with her. But you need to tell her, 'Amy, thank you for your apology. I'm really mad right now. Please give me some time to cool down, then we'll talk.' Okay?"

"Okay," Emma replied.

"Amy, I understand you are sorry, but you need to give Emma a little space. You really hurt her feelings and made her mad. She still loves you, but she needs to cool off a little before she talks with you. Okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," Amy said.

We went back to being silent for the few minutes we had before we got to the gym. When we pulled up, the girls jumped out and picked up a chatty conversation that gave no hint that there had ever even been a disagreement just moments before.

I have never had a sister, so this dynamic is a little new for me. I'm grateful they have each other, and I know they will share that special bond that close sisters share.

But they are six and nine years old. I hope we can find a way for them to fight (as I know they will) that involves a little less blood, sweat and tears. I know we will have PLENTY of opportunities to "work on it-" particularly with those teenaged years looming largely ahead.

But my hope and prayer would be that, in spite of and because of, all that they will go through, that ultimately, they will be friends. And I do believe that will happen. I just hope we all live through it...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Give Me a "HUH"???

Last weekend my dear little girls glammed up in sparkles and spandex to compete in a cheer competition. It was quite fun. The girls did well. However, I don't think that up until that point I realized how horrific a southern accent can sound when screamed at the top of little girls' lungs. (The letter "I" is pronounced "A," totally ruining the word they are trying to spell.)

After each group competed, they were given a complimentary "goody" bag from some of the competition sponsors. My girls were thrilled to get the pink, draw-string bag, and tore it open with untempered enthusiasm.

My youngest, Amy, looked up at me with complete shock and dismay. "Mommy, they gave me a shaver!" She reported, holding up a packaged razor.

"And foamy shaver stuff, too!" my older , Emma, reported, waiving it madly in front of my face.

"Oh my. Well, I guess that is really meant for some of the older girls competing," I said while I calmly stuffed the offending merchandise far down into the recesses of our gym bag.

If only it had stopped there...

That night when we got home, the girls were putting away all of their "stuff" from the competition. Suddenly two little girls came to my room with very confused looks holding two boxes of tampons.

"What are these?" the elder asked.

"Where did you get them?" I asked, standing like a deer caught in headlights.

"They were in our pink bags," Emma replied.

"What are they for?" the younger asked.

"They're just something for mommies," I hedged while I snagged the boxes and looked helplessly for someplace to make them disappear.

"What do you do with them?" Amy pressed.

"Well, they're just something that grown up ladies use sometimes in the bathroom," I was dancing like mad.

"Like what?" Emma pushed.

"Oh, just... big girl... stuff..." I said, running out of steam.

"Will we have to use them someday?" Amy asked.

"Maybe..."

"How do you use them?" Emma looked up at me with her big brown eyes.

I was mentally socking the snot out of the marketing genius that put these handy cheer bags together to promote their products. I'm sure they had no idea that girls as young as three were receiving these "complimentary samples." But at that moment I wanted nothing more than to tar and feather them anyway.

"Well, maybe we should talk about this later," I tried.

"Why?" Amy asked.

Never have my children been so inquisitive about broccoli or how to clean a toilet or how the stock market works. But at that moment, they were completely obsessive/compulsive about the

"All New Comfort Plastic Glide Applicators" and the promise of "Super Absorbency- No Leaks Guaranteed." My only saving grace was that my son was nowhere around.

"Well..."

"When she says that, it means she thinks we're too young," Emma offered to her sister.

"I'm not a baby, mom!" Amy was offended.

"I know. Uhm, it's just that, well..."

I have always kept a strict policy that I tell my kids the truth in a way that is most age appropriate. I had been able to stay off this subject for years with a simple, nondescript explanation, and then a super-quick change of subject.

It was painfully obvious that my luck had run out.

So I began a very watered-down version of an explanation, which, of course, led to more questions. Until, finally, we had a mini "birds and bees" talk, which left me in knots and the girls with their faces scrunched up into an expression that plainly said, "GROSS!"
Hubby came in about that time and, naturally, asked what was going on. I could only reply with,

"Oh, you know. Cheer stuff."

He seemed satisfied to go with that answer and continued his trip through the room.
Finally, Amy broke the deafening silence by holding the box between her finger and thumb, as though she were holding a live spider by the leg, and saying, "Here. I don't think I'll need these for a while."

That made Emma laugh, and me choke, then laugh.

"So, do you have any other questions?" I asked hesitantly.

"Yeah," Amy said, hands on hips.

I held my breath.

"Why did they give those to us?" she demanded.

"I don't know," I said, feeling defeated.

"Well, they're stupid," Amy proclaimed.

"Yes. Yes, they are," I agreed.

Amy and Emma left the room and I plopped down on my bed. I can only imagine what the next competition will bring...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hat Head


I dropped the kids off this morning at school. As I was rounding the corner for the carpool lane, my cell phone rang.

"Hello?" I managed to squeak out. My voice has been gone for about four days, a fact which has been a dream of hubby's come true.

"Wow! It doesn't even sound like you!" my friend responded.

"Yeah, I know," I relented. I'm quite tired of having to "scream" to be heard, or flap around like a chicken, making wild hand motions to try to be understood. (Sometimes I think my kids just pretend not to know what I'm saying- but that's a whole nother story.)

"So, you aren't going to work?" she asked.

"No."

"I saw you with your baseball hat on and I figured you weren't going in."

Ah, the baseball cap: the international sign of mothers everywhere stating: I'm going to be as unproductive as possible today OR I have so much "dirty" stuff to do today, it wasn't worth fixing my hair. In my case, it was indeed the prior.

I laughed. "Guilty as charged. I'm waiting for my antibiotics to kick in."

"Oh," she replied. "I'm just taking the day off. I'm calling in for a 'mental health' day. I have my baseball cap on, too."

Mental Health Day: the day in which a mother says to herself and the world: I have done everything for everybody but me for such a long time, I don't remember the last time I ate a meal at the table and not in the car, I can't imagine reading more than two words in a book without falling asleep in bed and, I am unable to complete sentences without hissing, "Are you listening to me???" Today I am not "mommy," I am not "work force extraordinaire," I am simply "me." And me, myself and I are taking the day OFF!

Mommies only get about two "Mental Health Days" every four years or so. But when we get them, all mommies everywhere know that this is sacred, scant time, and should not be disturbed. So, I wished my friend a good day and then headed over to get more drugs.

The pharmacist greeted me with, "Nice hat."

"Thanks," I rasped. "Got anything to bring my voice back?"

"Didn't you start some antibiotics?"

"Yes, but I need something that will get me back to normal quick. I've got too much to do," I whined.

"I'm not a doctor, but my guess is, you need sleep and lots of fluids."

"Yes," I conceded, "the doctor did mention that."

"Maybe some hot tea?" the pharmacist suggested.

"Okay," I said as I wandered hazily over to the tea aisle.

My bff turned the corner and bounded over to me like Tigger.

"Hi!" she gushed. "One of the Christmas presents I'm looking for is on sale today, so I came to get it."

"Christmas?" I was confused.

"Duh. It's like just over a month away."

If I had felt better, I would have panicked. But seeing my state of exhaustion with a baseball cap, bff merely gave me the pity look.

"Why are you out?" she demanded.

"Drugs," I replied.

"Did you get some yet?"

"Yesterday. I came back for more. They said I just needed to go to bed."

"Then go!" she said, shooing me down the aisle. "I'll help you panic about Christmas when you feel better."

I smiled. What a great friend!

"Oh, and you'd better not be wearing that baseball cap the next time I see you," she called after me.

I turned around and stuck my tongue out at her.

"How do you know I'm not just being lazy today?" I asked.

"Because you have no voice and you're coughing like you're about to have one of your lungs land right here in the cereal aisle."

"Fine," I frumped and turned back to leave again.

"I'll call you" she sang out.

I went to the front and purchased the milk and bread my kids needed, while the cashier eyed my hat.

"Taking the day off?" she smiled.

"Yes. Sort of. I'm out sick," I croaked.

"Wow. You sound awful," she said, looking genuinely concerned.

"Yeah, I'm getting that a lot today," I replied. "Hope you have a good day."

"You, too. Feel better."

"Thanks."

As I turned to go I noticed other mothers coming in to do some shopping after having dropped off their little ones, too. Some were headed to work, wearing work attire, pantyhose, heels and lipstick. Some were doing their "mom" thing, wearing jeans or some comfortable pants, a somewhat casual shirt and a pony tail and lip gloss.

Only one other mom had on a baseball cap. She looked like she felt awful, too. I overheard her on her cell phone, "...No, I'm not doing that today. I'll have to do it Thursday..."

She glanced up and our eyes locked for just a moment.

The mutual feeling of empathy was exchanged. Then I headed out the door and she continued to go in and begin her shopping.

When I got home, the baseball cap went on the table so that it could be collected quickly if the doorbell rang or I needed to take the dog outside. I'll probably put it back on when it's time to get the kids to disguise the wild hair I have going on without the hat.

But it's nice to know, no matter where we are in life, what social class we are in, or in what region of the country we live, mothers everywhere have ques to let each other know our status. And the baseball hat is possibly one of the most recognizable of all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

AARP


It has taken me a while to quit sputtering and form actual sentences to even approach this subject. And I hardly even know where to start.

I have had a struggle with the whole "turning 40" deal. Why? Probably because in my mind, I can still remember the 18-year-old me who thought 40 was seconds away from "dead." And, even though I realize how foolish and naive that was of me, I still built in certain expectations of what I "should" be and what I "should" have accomplished by 40.

As with any expectations set up by someone who doesn't have enough information about the subject matter, I set the bar too high, and I ultimately fell very short. That is not to say I am not happy at 40. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.

But there has still been this nagging at the back of my mind that has made me restless and, quite frankly, a little cranky: At 40 my life should have been "set." I "should" have been financially secure, have a dream home, a dream career, perfect children, perfect discipline to maintain my schedule and fabulous body, and the ability to mentor other "young adults" to follow in my footsteps to attain their "set" life at 40, too.

Well, let's just say "HA" doesn't begin to cover it... Again, I am very happy. But my Utopia is light years away from where I'm actually standing.

That being said, hubby was spectacular for my 40th birthday. He had the day arranged to perfection, leaving me feeling happy, content and loved by my family and friends. I was feeling like maybe my original Utopia was a great "idea," but that my reality was far better. (Of course, there is always room for improvement on the the finances, career, etc.)

So, here's the rub: I opened my e-mail the day after my 40th and there was an invitation to join AARP.

I called my husband and my friend to yell at them for such a terrible joke. They both laughed and swore they didn't send it- which to them made it even funnier.

I was not laughing.. Not happy. Not even slightly amused.

Here I finally make peace with the Big 4-0, and AARP sends me an application so that I can get my Depends, wheel chair accessories and oxygen tanks at a discount...

...So, I'm thinking, well, if they sent me the app, I might as well join, right? That way I can at least order the blue plate specials, shop at Khol's on Tuesdays and get 10% off on wine at the liquor store on Mondays...

...Then I won't care how old I am... LOL

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gone to the Dogs


A very tired Mommy Barbie poses the questions:


  • Why do dogs only get sick at 2:00 AM?

  • Why can they only barf and poop on carpeted areas?

  • What possesses them to want to 'kiss' you with their barf lips?

  • And why on earth do they try to eat their own barf and/or poop?"

All I know is it's a good thing God made dogs so darn cute (especially my little shih tsu/maltese mix) or else puppy would have gone to that great doggie play yard in the sky last night. She seems better this morning.

In fact, she was wiggling and wagging her tail like she had just had the best night of sleep ever. I swear she was laughing at me as I stumbled down the stairs to let her go outside to the bathroom.

And you know, while I'm at it, what's the deal with dogs going outside to the bathroom for, like, thirty minutes, and then coming in and peeing on the carpet in front of the door??? My vet said she was "passive/aggressive" and suggested Prozac (I promise I am not making this up). I politely declined.

After I had left I stopped to reconsider; Maybe the dog doesn't need the Prozac. Maybe I do! But really, how much good is a Prozac dosage for a six pound dog going to do me? It's like giving one mini M & M to a chocoholic: just enough to make us mad.

Puppy seemed much better this morning. I figure she probably ate some grass outside that didn't agree with her, or something equally intelligent like that. (Okay, who eats grass???-- Besides dogs who eat their own poop. And Martha Stewart, who I swear, uses it in various recipes. And I am not talking the slang term for marijuana, either. I'm talking Bermuda.)

Hopefully we'll all sleep better tonight. If puppy has another barf-fest I may have to resort to putting her outside (if it's not too cold).

I hate to do that, though, because by all definitions, puppy considers herself a human and she would be greatly offended to be tossed out like a commoner. Having to go to the bathroom outside in front of other people is embarrassing enough for her. Especially when one of the kids has "dressed" her in one of her doggie outfits. She just keeps her head down a little so she can't see the other dogs in the neighborhood laughing at her.

But if it comes down to me staying up all night another night for a dog, or me sleeping while said dog barfs in the back yard (and not my carpet)- let's just say puppy is in for a long night. Maybe it won't come to that, though. Maybe she's fine and she'll curl up next to me in the bed.

Either way, everyone in the household will benefit from me getting some sleep tonight. And that's exactly what I plan to do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lullabyes


Hubby is out of town again. That means that the entire time he is gone, I have three children and a dog in bed with me. For the past three nights, I have slept at the end of my bed, with a pillow and a blanket. Keith has snored and kicked me in the head. Emma has a cough that won't go away. Amy talks until she passes out, then grinds her teeth. And the dog feels the need to sleep as close to me as possible, on the side furthest away from the children (can't say I blame her...)

This morning I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a semi truck. My neck has a huge crick in it. All my joints hurt. After sitting down for any period of time, I look like a 90-year old woman trying to get up and hobble across the room. But I'm sure it will eventually pass (right?).

Because I am tired of begging, pleading, yelling and threatening, I have banned the kids from doing anything until their homework is done, piano is practiced and rooms are clean. They have been successful at two of the three. Their rooms still look like FEMA should be showing up with some assistance soon.

Surprisingly, I have had very little opposition on this ban. They have been completely content to hang out and play with each other.

Whenever they ask to watch television, play the computer or go play with a friend, I ask, "Is your room clean?"

"No," they say simply, and walk away.

"Are you going to clean it?" I call after them.

"Uhm... Not right now," they call back, as they go catch up with their siblings.

Huh.

Usually they can't be in the same room together without World War III breaking out. But since none of them can go out or have other distractions, they are content to be with each other. So much so, that they curl up together like hot, sweaty puppies in my bed each night, leaving me and the dog to fend for ourselves at the end.

It's kind of nice, actually.

I know it won't last. It can't. Keith is bordering on "teenager" and has turned into a snarky, snide, wise-cracking big brother, who tortures his sisters in a soft voice so I can't hear.

Emma has had quite enough of Keith and his "brooding" and moodiness. She has learned how to get in her digs in such a way that they never see it coming, and they're not really sure what happened when it's all over.

Amy pulls no punches. She says what she means- loudly. And she's quick to let me, and anyone else within earshot, know a point by point list of all the things Keith and Emma are doing that is wrong. (Then she doesn't understand why they don't want to play with her much...)

But for now- for at least this one more night before hubby gets back home and the kids are regaled back to their respective sleeping arrangements- we will snuggle together again.
Keith will still snore and kick me. Emma is still coughing. Amy is still trying not to sleep by talking. And the dog is still playing opossum.

But we will snuggle. We will tell stories. We will say prayers. We will sing songs. And then we will sleep.

Until it's time to get up and get going in the morning and enjoy the new day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America's Tomorrow


Today was an historical day. All of my children can read and are tall enough to see over the voter box at the polls. And we have been discussing politics like you would not believe.

They are smart and they ask intelligent questions. It kind of leaves me wondering about the criteria put forth in order to vote. There are many people who I am sure cast their ballot today without even knowing so much as the candidates' first names.

The kids and I even held a sign for a friend of ours running for re-election. We stood out with throngs of other sign holders from various campaigns and waved and smiled like we were Miss America. After about ten minutes, the magic wore off for the kids and they were rolling down the hill in front of the school where the voting booths were.

As we were on our way to vote, a friend of ours crossed our path and asked Keith who he hoped would win.

Keith, without blinking, replied, "McCain."

Our friend probed further, "Why do you think McCain should win?"

Keith, again with passion and conviction, said, "Because Obama is for abortion and McCain is against it. And I don't think you should kill babies."

Our friend was impressed that an eleven year old would be so well-spoken, regardless of any personal agreement or disagreement with Keith's position. I was proud, but not surprised.

We have discussed "wealth distribution," abortion, taxes, education, health care, and many other topics that are usually reserved for of-age voters.

I give them as unbiased of a definition as I can, tell them the two opposing opinions, and let them know where I stand, and why. But I always follow up with, "Someday you will need to make your own decision about this."

Once the election results became very clear that Obama would win the election, the kids all climbed into bed with me (hubby is out of town) and worried aloud about what that would mean. I explained to them that there is a huge series of checks and balances that everything goes through in Washington before it's carved in stone. And I assured them that I had confidence in our government, as a whole, regardless of party affiliation, platform or anything else.

It is interesting to me that for a while now there has been such an even division between the parties. In all the polls and talking head interviews, the country is fairly evenly split, with the majority winning out by only a small edge.

The United States was founded on religious freedom and the opportunity to pursue personal dreams. We have always been an entrepreneurial society, back to the first settlers who claimed land and made their own way.

How we ended up in this political tug-of-war still stymies me. And each side is incredibly passionate and dedicated to their beliefs.

My hope and prayer is that when the "blue" and "red" come together, that we can become strong and beautiful, like our symbolic flag. We have red and blue with white space, giving each other the freedom to be who we are, without encroaching on one another's beliefs.

My fear is that the "red" and the "blue" will have people who feel they need to be "blended." However, when you blend red and blue, you get purple. In other countries, societies and kingdoms, purple is the color of royalty. But in America, we are all considered to be equal. So purple is more likely to be the color of a bruise from being forced into living under someone else's rule, without consideration or tolerance for differing views.

Keith, Emma and Amy will be far more affected by these next four years than I will. They will be the ones ultimately gleaning the rewards and/or bearing the burdens of this new administration. I pray that they will have a life filled with hope and joy. And, I pray our leaders will treat our children kindly and gently, so that their futures will remain bright.

I suspect we will have many future discussions in our home about politics and the goings on of the world. Keith will continue to ask provocative questions. Emma will continue to look for the good in everyone and everything. And Amy will continue to challenge our beliefs, thereby helping us all sharpen our view point and gain certainty of our personal platforms.

May God watch over us, guide us, lead us, and continue to reign supreme. Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Great Lego Project


My BFF is simply a ball of energy. She can run circles around me and still look good! She's also brimming with youth and vivaciousness. When we're old and in the nursing home, she'll be the one leading the aerobics class. (I'll be watching from the back while I eat my chocolate ice cream.)

Because she has so much energy, she is constantly looking for constructive ways to channel it. She exercises religiously. She plays with her kids- I'm not just talking supervising, either. I mean she roller skates, rides bikes, plays basketball and gets down on the floor for Barbies and Legos.

She spends time organizing and cleaning her home (something my hubby prays will rub off on me every day of his life). But, as with anything she does, she does it with determination and verve.

The other day she called on the phone, obviously absolutely giddy with excitement.

"Guess what?" she breathed.

"What?"

"I just read the most amazing article!" (Did I mention that she's also a veracious reader that could put most librarians to shame?)

"Ooooh... What was it about?" I asked.

"Storage for Legos," she squealed.

I stayed quiet on my end waiting for the rest of it. But she was done.

"What?" I asked, confused.

"There was this whole, big article about how to store Legos," she gushed. "It gave some great ideas on containers and sizes and everything. It said that kids are more likely to play with them if they are organized and they can find everything. It was such a good article, I looked it up online and found even more articles with more ideas!"

(Was there a big movement for Lego storage that I missed somewhere?)

"So... You are... organizing the Legos," I said slowly, again, certain I was missing something.

"Yes!" she laughed.

Now, her OCD tendencies with her children's toys are something with which I am quite familiar. She almost had a stroke when she found out I co-mingle the Barbies with the Poly Pockets. And all of her Little People were stored in their original groupings: the school Little People with the school; the firemen Little people with the fire house; and, so on. And she admits to sometimes redressing and re-grooming all the Barbies after her daughter has gone to bed.

However, the proper organization of Legos was a new one for me. Especially since we had been years without the first Lego in our house. We did have them at one point. But every time I stepped on one with bare feet, or crawled across one on my hands and knees looking for something else, I would swoop up every Lego I could find within reach and pitch them in the garbage can, muttering very unladylike things under my breath.

Finally, I said, "Well, I guess if that's what makes you happy..."

She laughed, knowing full well that any more storage than a muck bucket for the toys was over the edge as far as I was concerned.

"Yes! I'm going to Michaels today to look for the containers. I have a coupon and I saw some of the containers I think will work in their flyer," she said excitedly.

"Okay... Well, that's great! I hope your kids love it!" I said, trying to sound supportive and enthusiastic.

Bless her heart, her good organizing and cleaning intentions are totally lost on me. Not that I don't enjoy a pretty, organized, clean home. It's just that I use more broad strokes, compared to her attention to the tiny, little details.

I giggled to myself for the rest of the day thinking of her looking like a kid at Christmas, as she lovingly placed each Lego in it's appropriate storage receptacle. Her kids probably will be thrilled with it.

And it's one of those funny, funky things that makes her who she is (not that I have anything funny or funky LOL). Her attention to detail, her energy, her youthfulness are all just some of the things that make her such a great BFF. (It's also why we could never be married, among other things LOL).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rock the Vote!


The government has me really ticked off lately. Usually, we sort of have an understanding: you leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone (in a very general sense, of course).

But recently, the feds have given away money like we have an entire plantation of money trees on Capital Hill that is having a bumper crop season. First, they've been "injecting the economy with cash flow."

When I hear the word "injection," I usually think of a shot. On the rare occasion, I hear of shots being administered to make someone well feel even better. But usually, shots are for someone who is sick, who needs a medication to get into their system quickly. So, I think even the government must realize our economy has some sickness that is in need of a cure.

Next, they give away $750 million to bail out some bozos, who in turn looked the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and made sure to line their pockets quite nicely with the first chunk of change. It didn't matter that they had to run the bill through ump-teen-hundred times to get it to pass; by gum, they were going to push it through.

And, again, their choice of words: "bail out," caused me some real concern. But apparently, I'm talking to the wind.

Now, I'm seeing that they are considering another economic stimulus package. HUH??? I'm sorry. That seems a little like me overdrawing my bank account, so the bank extends my credit, and gives me cash to boot. How does this even make sense???

I am soooo not one to turn down money! It hurts to even think of saying, "No, thanks, I'm okay." But in this case, it is a short-term band aid for a gaping hole that needs stitches and major rehab.

I think one of the major problems is the "system". We have created, or allowed to have had created, a government that is so entrenched in the minutia of rubbing elbows and swapping favors, it can't get anything done.

I think the "party affiliation" is the biggest joke we have going! It's like two big unions fighting each other for the manufacturing plant staff. One says, "I'm going to do A, B, and C to make your world a perfect place." Then the other one says, "No, they won't. And even if they did, it won't be perfect. It will be awful. So I will do the exact opposite. Then your world will be perfect."

Think about it, we have two party-affiliated candidates who have been interviewed, had debates, had books and articles written about them and by them, and have media coverage in every language on millions of stations all day, every day. And yet, I can hardly tell you a thing about either one of them. I know my ideals lean more toward one side than the other.

But I've never heard a single candidate say, "I believe in this. You can count on it." They rely on their party's doctrine and ride the fence in hopes of making it all the way to the White House.

I say: NO MORE!
Let's totally revamp the political voting process.

In keeping with the electoral college, let's let each state have representation: let's nominate a single candidate from each state- either party, or no party, aside. Then have a convention Miss America style.

NO BATHING SUIT OR TALENT COMPETITION, PLEASE!!!

Each candidate would be required to compose and submit an essay between eight and ten pages in length. It should include their resume and their plans for their term in office. Specific talking points should be in plain, simple language, so we actually know their stance- not this fuzzy, shape-shifty, "who's my audience" kind of junk they're throwing at us now.

At the convention, each candidate would be asked to defend their essay and give more specific information to questions posed by a panel. There would be no "debate." (Why do we have debates anyway? No president I know of debates with foreign leaders or dignitaries. And they can present a plan in front of congress and/or senate, but no one stands on the opposing side ready to refute and rebuttal.)

During the convention at specified times, the public would be asked to come in and cast their votes. The first round would take us down to 15 candidates. The second round, down to three. Then the final round would select the winner. The runner-up would be Vice President.

I know it would take a lot of coordination for voting in a candidate for your state, then the three subsequent votes for a president/vice president. But really, how is it any harder or less cost-effective than the stupid "party conventions," followed by weeks of "hitting the campaign trail," and "drumming up support" (aka: cash)?

And after all is said and done, the President doesn't really make any laws. They advise, suggest and call in favors. They do impact foreign affairs, too. However, you can be sure we are not relying on them alone for delicate peace treaties and negotiations. There's an entire staff of people dedicated to paving the way, so that the President shows up, waves, signs some stuff and calls it a day.

So, we're really looking for someone who is smart enough to think on their feet, and tolerable enough to listen to when they address the nation. For day to day operations, they need only be shrewd enough to surround themselves with intelligent, capable people who make the President look good.

Yes, I'm jaded. Yes, I'm disillusioned. Except, I don't know that I ever really bought into it all in the first place. To me, the government sounds more like a tug-of-war between two groups who appear on the surface to be fundamentally opposed to each other. But, upon closer examination, you realize they all have a thinly hidden personal agenda that makes them not only pull on the rope, but sometimes push, and sometimes drop it all-together.

I also stand by the fact that if you let a bunch of moms up on Capitol Hill for about a month, we'd get it all taken care of. We'd send the children to their rooms for an extended "time out." We'd make everyone play nicely and share. We would explain to Billy that just because Susie has a toy doesn't mean he automatically gets one, too. We would make everyone eat their vegetables and exercise more than walking across the room to the refrigerator. We would tell the lawyers who gunk up the legal system just for the money, "Enough. This is a stupid case. Dismissed. Now, go home to your mother and tell her what you've done." And we would all get naps and milk & cookie breaks.

I hope in my lifetime I see things get better, and not any worse. I hope we don't leave our children with the legacy of debt and depleted natural resources. And I hope we find a way to make our politicians be less about campaigning and more about representing their constituents' interests.

I know- it's kind of a big dream. But, so was Democracy when it sailed over from Europe all those years ago...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Apple for Teacher


So, the kids got their report cards today. Amy and Emma had few surprises. But, Keith... Well, Keith had a shock in store for us: He got a "D." In Spanish.

Now, to be fair, the rest of his grades were actually pretty good. So, if he were a baseball player, his batting average would rock! But, since he's a student, the "D" is still unacceptable, any way you slice it.

As a side note to the report cards, my father picked up the kids for piano lessons, and discovered Keith's time bomb first. Dad quietly called me on his cell phone and whispered the news into my ear.

I don't know if he was preparing me because he was concerned that I might throw Keith under the train down the street. Or if he was concerned that I might say, "Plbbbfff... It's Spanish- Like he'll ever use that!" Or if he was just genuinely giving me a head's up so that I would have time to process it and sound like an intelligent adult when Keith told me, as opposed to the blathering, sputtering, infuriated crazy woman I would have been without some preparation and a Fat Free White Chocolate Moca Grande, No Whipped Cream, from Star Bucks.

I'm going with the last one.

But I was struck by the situation, none the less. The "Dad" that raised me would have turned purple, used my full name in that "tone," and "discussed" it with me until I begged him to just beat me instead. The "Dad" that called me today did a wonderful job of "reporting" without giving opinion. I guess I can see how grandchild rates vs. child... Anyway...

After the big "confession," Keith vacillated wildly between "I'm so sorry. I'm an awful person," and "Eh... No biggie..." I wasn't sure if he didn't get it, or didn't want to deal with it. I sort of think it was a little of both.

He was concerned that this would go on his "permanent record." I tried to remind him that it would all be averaged together. That relieved him.

But I was still in a quandary. What do I do? Obviously, I can't just pat him on the head and say, "Try harder next time." And I don't see how "punishing" him for a grade helps. For me, the ultimate goal was to give him the appropriate tools and help him learn the skills, so that he doesn't have this happen again.

I called hubby, who was out of town. Hubby wanted to have the teachers send home reports. I felt like that was giving the teachers extra work for something that was ultimately Keith's problem. So, as I have been known to do sometimes when hubby is out of town and we are working on an issue together long distance, I got got frustrated and said, "Never mind. I'll do it myself."

I called a friend of mine whose children are a few years ahead of mine and asked her advice. She, without prompting or payment from hubby, said that she had asked the teachers to send home reports on her child, and had very good results.

I promptly called back hubby, and as I have also been know to do sometimes, I ate crow. He was a good sport, and didn't gloat- much.

I spent the rest of the evening wrestling with the best way to execute a program that would be mutually beneficial to Keith, his teachers and me.

This is a part of parenting they could never put in "the brochure" for enlisting new parents. If we got the "real" scoop before getting pregnant, we may never have babies. If we knew the heart-ache, the sleepless nights, the worry that came from every side, the world's population might eventually cease to exist. After all, who would willing sign up for such a job???

After much thought, a slew of e-mails and a heart-to-heart with Keith, we arrived at an acceptable plan of action:

Each Friday for the next nine-week grading period, Keith would have each of his teachers sign off on his planner to show that he had done his work satisfactorily for the week. There would consequences (both positive and negative) for his results.

If he got all signatures and they were all positive, at the end of the nine weeks, I would take he and three friends to dinner and a movie. I believed that all positive information from the teachers would indicate to me that he was paying more attention and, thus, should improve his scores.

However, if he neglected to get a signature, or if he had negative feedback, he would lose privileges for the week following. We set up a tiered system that took away another privilege for each missed signature and/or negative feedback.
The teachers, Keith and I agreed to the program. And we start immediately.

I know this is a hard time. I know that Middle School is new in every way possible: socially, academically- everything. Plus, you throw in some hormones and you've got a potential disaster.

I'm very proud of how Keith is handling it thus far. He's thoughtful and responsible. He's a typical person of this age: he has the overwhelming desire to be both grown up and young at the same time.

I know we will navigate through these waters together. I know there will be a constant give and take. Middle school is anything but static.

In the mean-time, I hope he really takes all this to heart, so that when grades do become a part of his permanent record, we aren't still having some of these struggles. After all, I'm counting on him to get a full scholarship to college, being super-successful in his chosen career, making the big bucks, and letting me live out my latter years as the royalty I was always destined to be... Okay, I would at least like him to be able to do whatever he wants, without having to work around bad grades or stupid choices, and I want him to be happy.

As parents, I think that's what we all want. And, if I recall correctly, I believe that part was in the brochure, which is why I signed up for the job- and love every minute of it!...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Writing on the Wall...


I have always loved words- I love the way they have rules, like grammar and spelling; I love the way you can make them sound different by inflection or accent; I love that they are creative, that you can manipulate the same words in a way that you can make them into a mood, a scene, a direction, a law, an article or even an application or a resume.

I have always loved reading. Not too recently I discovered the love and joy of writing. Journals and diaries always seemed a little too self-appreciating for me (although I know of lots of people who journal faithfully and it's wonderful for them!). I don't have the attention span to write novels (although I wish I did). But, I found blogger.com and webook.com and have been hooked ever since.

Blogger is more journalistic, allowing me to comment on my world. WeBook is more challenging, with members asking each other to participate in various projects, from poetry to short stories in all styles and forms.

Since I love being a wife/mommy more than anything in this world, Blogger allows me to look at sometimes challenging situation and find the humor in it. I've been able to share these with family and friends, in hopes they will laugh, too.

It is common place to be in the middle of the crisis of the day and, after a deep breath, say, "I'm going to have to blog about this!"

I sincerely hope my children will have my love for words- whether they express it in reading, writing, song or personal interaction. And I will continue my "free" hobby (there are so few of those- and my hubby is quite happy that I've finally found one) as a way to remember, laugh, get things off my chest and create.

Thank you for joining me when you can. Have a good one!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Full House or Straight Flush?


Being a parent often requires the ability to have a "poker face," regardless of the fact that you want to flinch, scream, cry, shout, laugh, smile or totally storm out of the room. Some days the "poker face" is harder than others.

The other day I was in the car with Keith alone. Usually during our secluded rides together, Keith will take the opportunity to chat with me, pass ideas by me, or sometimes ask me those big life questions that make me really think.

On this particular day, Keith was in a questioning mood. He asked me about raising his allowance (no), if he could make his own web site (yes, with conditions), and if he would get his own car when he turned 16 (I say no, hubby says yes- we'll see).

After a moment or so of quiet, Keith fidgeted a little then took a deep breath.

He leaned in to me and asked quietly, "You know the 'w' word?..."

This line of questioning is never good. A) We were in the car alone. There was no need to whisper- except if Keith was nervous or embarrassed. B) I'm never sure where the line of questioning is going: What is the "w" word, and to what topic of conversation will this lead?

The "poker face" is in full force at this point, as I try to respond casually, "The 'w' word? What is that?"

"You know- the 'w' word...," he repeats for emphasis.

"Well..." I pause. "How about you tell me what you mean?"

"Well...," he blushes. "...Whore."

Poker face. Poker face. Breathe. Breathe.

"What about it?" I ask casually.

"What... does it mean?" he asks, brow furrowed.

"Well, it means a person who is promiscuous," I danced. I want to tell the truth, but not cross the line into "WAY too much information..."

"Oh," he said, understanding. "So, is it like a 'slut'?"

POKER FACE! BREATHE!

"Yes," I say as though we are conversing about the weather. "So, um, where did you hear these words?"

"Oh, I'd rather not say," he says quickly.

Mind running wild... Poker Face... Breathe...

"Keith, it's okay to tell me anything- you know that. But I need to know: where did you hear those words?"

Keith blushes furiously. Oh... Never good...

"Okay," he finally takes a deep breath. "...Dad."

"Dad?" I repeat incredulously.

"Yeah," he smiles at my inability to keep my poker face at that one. "He was telling me words I should never say."

I am searching desperately for something to say. I really don't want to know the answers to any questions I'm thinking. I really don't want to undermine Hubby's parenting abilities, especially since I don't know the whole conversation or the context of the situation.

So I pretend to suddenly be overly concerned with the traffic as I drive. I let the silence settle in for a minute.

Finally Keith questions, "Mom?"

"Hmm?" I try to ask casually.

"You know I don't say those, right?" he asks, looking concerned.

"Of course!" I smile confidently at him.

"Okay, good," he sighs, relieved. "Thanks."

"Sure. For what?"

"For not freaking out."

"Why would I freak out?" I ask.

"Well, dad sorta' did."

"When?"

"When I asked him about what I just asked you," he said.

"Oh. But you all worked it out?" I wanted to make sure my co-parent team member was in the clear.

"Oh, yeah. I asked him about the 'w' word and he freaked out a little. Then we talked about it and he told me all the words I'm not supposed to say."

"Oh... But he didn't tell you what it meant?"

"Like I was going to ask him that," Keith chuckled.

"Okay..." I let the subject drop.

There were so many other things I wanted to say, ask, advise. But with my children, the "poker face" is the most effective means of communication.

If I push, they bolt like frightened deer. But the "poker face" has them walking up tentatively to eat out of my hand.

The irony is that I have no clue how to play poker. I could lose everything I own and then some in a poker match against anyone who knew the basics.

But--- If I ever do learn how to play the card game of poker, I've already got my bluff expression down pat!...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mommy Barbie- Super Powers!


I always knew that being "Mommy Barbie" was special. However, until recently, I was unaware I had special super powers...

This is highly confidential, because I don't know the full use of my powers yet, and I don't know what all this means. But I am willing to accept this "gift" and use it for good instead of evil...

I... am the only one in the house that can hear a telephone ringing.

At first, I thought it was just a fluke. The phone would ring and ring, and all other four members of my family would continue doing whatever it was they were doing without even flinching.

I, on the other hand, was ensconced in some project that I couldn't get out from under in time to answer the phone before it went to voice mail. So, I called on the help of my four other family members:

"Can someone please answer the phone?"

ring.... ring....

"Can someone PLEASE answer the phone?"

ring.... ring....

Now I'm throwing off whatever project I was into to try to leap over the sofa table and race across the kitchen to grab the handset.

My family looks up with surprise:

"What are you doing?"

"I am answering the phone!" I say irritated.

They look at me blankly, nothing registering.

The phone call could be from one of the children's friends wanting to play together. It could be from one of hubby's friends wanting to tell him they had a tee time set up for them. And yet, no one seems to really notice or care.


I know when the children get older we will have small battles and major wars waged over the use of the phone for social calls. I sort of wince at the mere thought of it.


But for now, no one seems to have the ability to hear the super-sonic ringing of our phone...


Unless...


Unless it is a telemarketer, donation solicitor or some other "unavailable" number that comes up on caller ID. Immediately my children's interest is piqued.

"Mom, who do we know from DesMoines, Iowa?"

"No one. Please don't..." I don't get to finish because a child is pressing a phone up to my ear.


If you try to call my house and you don't get an answer, do not be dismayed. It does not mean we are not home. My super sonic hearing will kick in and I will try my best to get to the phone.

If all else fails, just call my cell...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Goldilocks & the Three Kids


When we were planning our family, I could have never, ever predicted how different each of our children would be. In my mind, they were all coming from the same parents- they would all be fairly similar... HA!

A lot of times I can guess how a child will react to a situation by looking at "Birth Order." For example, Keith has characteristics of both an "only child" and a "first child." Emma has characteristics of both a "first child" and a "second child." Amy is pretty squarely a "youngest child."

But, they still have their own personalities and their own ways of dealing with things. For example, Amy, the youngest, will scale the cabinets to retrieve her own dishes, then she will pull things out of the refrigerator and even heat it herself in the microwave.

However, Keith will stand in front of the refrigerator and call to me upstairs, "Mom, can you get me some milk?"

"Honey, can you get it yourself?" I call back down.

"No, I can't," he whines.

"Amy, can you help him?" I call back down, sarcastically.

"Sure!" she calls back, excited.

"Mooom! Make her stop it!" Keith screams.

"I got it!" Emma calls.

Finally, I drop what I'm doing and head downstairs.

"Okay, what's going on?" I sigh.

"Amy is trying to get my milk for me and I don't want her to," Keith whines.

"I was just trying to help," Amy whines back.

"I told him I would help," Emma sighs, "but he said he wanted you to help him."

At this point, I wonder if there's a hidden camera somewhere, and if this is all some elaborate trick to make me crazy. Sadly, it's not.

I sigh again, to which all the kids look at me questioningly.

"What's wrong, mom?" Keith asks.

Do I really have to explain? *Sigh*

I knew parenting would have it's ups and downs, but I never realized I would question my sanity on such a regular basis...
I do hope that Keith will begin to learn to be a little bit more independent. I hope that Emma stays as completely sweet as she is. And I hope that Amy... well, I hope that Amy continues to be Amy...

But regardless of how they may "turn out" or what their "birth order personality" may be, my kids are "just right" the way they are...
How could a parent ask for more than that?...
Well- MAYBE it would be just a little nice if Keith could get his own milk now and then...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Times, They Are 'a Changin'...


Keith has provided hubby and I with some lively conversation as we discuss all the new and wonderful (and sometimes, not-so-wonderful) things going on in his Middle-School life. He is ultra-aware of all of the "changes" he is about to go through, and looks forward with excitement and great anticipation to "growing up."

Recently, he came home from school, obviously distracted and somewhat jumpy.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said, looking at my ear.

I ducked my head to move my eyes into his line of vision.

"What?" he asked.

"Are you okay?" I repeated.

"Yes, mom. I'm fine," he insisted.

Later that day he quietly came to find me and made sure I was alone.

"Mom?"

"Yes?"

"Something happened today at school."

"Oh. Are you okay?" I asked, mind spinning wildly with all sorts of thoughts about what "something" was.

"Yeah... We had an assembly in the auditorium... Just the sixth graders... We had 'the talk.' They talked about 'puberty.' It was embarrassing."

"Oh. I guess it was a little embarrassing... Did they just have the boys in there?"

"No. They had the girls, too. That was part of what made it so embarrassing. He talked about getting hair under your arms- and other places, too. And he talked about how our voices are going to change," he said incredulously.

"Wow... Did you already know everything he talked about?" (He and I had "The Talk" about 2 1/2 years ago when he cornered me with one of those questions you can't get out of.)
"Uhm... Yeah. I think so."

"Who talked to you?"

"Ooh! It was some guy from the pregnancy center," he reported, whispering the word "pregnancy."

"Was it a good talk?"

"He was kind of funny. At first he said, 'Today we're going to talk to about a word that has an S and an E in it.' Everyone got all red-faced. Then he said, 'I was talking about respect. What were you all thinking?' Then we got even redder.

"He kept using the word 'puberty.' Everyone was bright red- like glowing!"

I could feel his embarrassment, but another part of me had a hard time not smiling.

"Well," I asked tentatively, "do you have any questions?"

"Nah," he dismissed the idea easily.

Whew!

"Okay, well if you do, please let me or daddy know." (Especially daddy, since he's been able to effectively avoid all such discussions to date.)
"Sure," he said, already moving on to the next thought.

The next morning I was downstairs getting breakfast for the kids, when Keith came down and asked for milk. I grabbed the milk and continued on with my routine.

"Hey mom?"

"Yes?"

"My voice is changing," he announced.

I looked up at him, incredulously. "Really?"

"Yeah," he said proudly.

"Why do you think that?" I asked carefully.

"Well, because I'm going through puberty," he said with authority.

"That's what you talked about yesterday in school."

"Yeah. But I really am. My voice is really changing. Can't you hear it?"

"Well... Sort of, I guess."

A huge grin broke over his face. He walked away looking like he had just won the Heisman Trophy.

I was able to hold myself together until he was back upstairs. Then I allowed myself to laugh quietly.

Wouldn't it be interesting if they really did go through puberty, voice changes, hair growth and all the other teen-ager things, simply by the power of suggestion? Well, maybe "interesting" isn't the exact right word...

Keith is, indeed, getting older and growing and changing. Perhaps not at the rate he imagines or desires. But he never lets life get dull around here. He is a joy to watch. And it is wonderful to get to be a part of it all!

If you see Keith anytime soon and you want to score some big points with him, just tell him how much lower his voice sounds. But beware: his head is likely to swell with pride so that you and he both don't fit in the same room...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Positive Parenting


My first child has a bit of a flair toward the dramatic. A bump on the leg becomes a broken bone that will never heal. A cut on the arm controlled by a small band aid is reported to me to be a gaping hole requiring transfusions and skin grafts.

Maybe it's just a "first child" thing. But more times than not I feel like the town's people from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." I eye him wearily and think, If he every REALLY has a serious injury I hope I have the senses to realize it and get him medical attention, and don't end up on the news with my stunned face plastered under the heading, "Stupid Parenting Allows Boy's Death."

Said child recently participated in a a flag football tournament. I was thrilled that he volunteered to do something that required physical exertion, since that is typically not his M.O.

The first day of practice brought on a slew of aches, bumps and bruises- some real, most imagined. Day two was worse. By the time the tournament was approaching, I wondered if he might actually die an imaginary death out on the field.

He came in, dragging his right leg behind him and holding his left arm delicately.

"Mom, I don't know if I should play," he ventured.

"Hmm?" I asked.

"I don't think I should play in the tournament. I'm hurt now and I've only played with my own team. I might really break something if I play against the other kids," his eye brows were knit together in a panicked line.

"Well," I began. Then I stopped myself. I shifted in my chair and faced him head-on. "You're right."

"Huh?" he asked.

"You are right. You shouldn't play. Every time you play you have some pretty serious injuries. Remember that cut that made you bleed so much? And look at your leg. If it's broken you really shouldn't play on it. You know, now that I think of it, you should probably call Matt and tell him you have to quit the team. I really don't think it's safe."

He looked at me stunned. "What??" he asked again, incredulously.

I gave him my most concerned mom look and said with big eyes, "Honey, I would hate for something to happen to you. I mean, look how much you're hurt already... You know, I just don't know that sports are your 'thing,' you know? In fact, I wouldn't play in the tournament or even in a pick-up game. It's just too risky," I looked at him seriously and asked, "Do you think I should talk to the doctor about having you switched out of PE to something a little... safer... like maybe another Math class?"

He was so shocked, he forgot to hold his arm or drag his foot.

"Mom! You aren't supposed to say that stuff! You're a mom! Moms are supposed to say stuff like, 'No, of course you should play. Your team needs you. And you're good at sports.' What kind of advice is, 'Quit playing?' That's an awful thing to say!"

I smiled broadly at him.

Realization dawned on him. He tried to look mad at me, but couldn't help but smile.

"You stink," he mumbled, as he smiled and walked away.

Needless to say, he did, in fact play in the tournament. And he did well. He threw a couple of good passes and caught the ball for a touchdown.

I don't think he's "cured" from his hypochondriac tendencies. But it was nice to not have to deal with the drama for a little while.

And who knows? Maybe this will inspire him to branch out more, take more risks. But just in case, I'm sure he has 911 on speed dial and the medical staff at our local hospital on full alert... Bless his heart...

Monday, September 22, 2008

HBD, Hubby!


Well, it has been a while since I have written an entry. I never imagined life could be so busy doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with me personally!

Laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, bathing, bedding, homework, practices, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, etc., etc., etc...

This past weekend was hubby's 40th birthday. I was incredibly tempted to put a big sign in the yard that said, "Lordy, Lordy! Look Who's 40!" and request that everyone we know wear a black arm band to show their condolences for the mourning of his youth.

But, I took the high road and planned a couple of nice dinner parties for him, and got him some speakers for his stereo system. Now, don't be too impressed. See, my 40th is 42 days after his, and I don't need to give him that much time to figure out how to "return the favor."

We had a BMW cake for him- big hit! And most of his gifts centered around the BMW, his job or "just for fun" stuff.

Again, I really wanted to give him two shirts: The first would be an XXXL with the words "Body by Beer" embroidered on it. The second would be a M or L with the words, "Body by BoFlex" on it.

(Back story: Hubby has owned a BoFlex which has resided in different areas of our garage and home for over a year now. Thus far, it has been a very expensive car cover holder in the garage, a central place to put the recycling, and, now, a centrally heated and air conditioned paper weight. To date, he has used it one time. But, we dismantled our guest bedroom and now have a very nice exercise room to show guests when they come over.)

It is not in my nature to let such opportunities for giving someone a hard time (in fun, of course) get away like this. It has caused me, at times, physical pain to hold my tongue.

But, my husband is absolute King of sarcasm and come-backs. And I know in my heart of hearts that my pay-back would be far worse than anything I could ever even dream of dishing out. So I gritted my teeth and smiled.

This weekend we leave for a short get-away with another couple who also happen to both be turning the big 4-0 this year. We are looking forward to sun and sand and sleep with the enthusiasm once held for a raucous party rave. We have books selected, our scrabble game packed, a couple of swim suits and the 50+ sunblock. Yep, wild times.

The planning required to shuttle around the kids and have someone be "me" for the four days/nights has been astonishing. I feel like I'm planning the President's Inaugural Ball, complete with foreign dignitaries, security detail and press.

But, as I bask in the sun, it will ALL be worth it: the busy-ness, the ability to NOT give hubby a hard time about being "old," the planning, and on-going celebrations.

We will enjoy that time as only someone "our age" can. Gone are the days of dancing until dawn. Yet, we may watch the sunrise a morning or two-- after sleeping.

We have a little more disposable income than we did in those days (not much...). We aren't on a fixed income (yet) so we won't be looking for the blue-plate special deals.

We will be enjoying our vacation in a way that is exactly right for US.

And when it is my turn to cross over to the next decade, I feel confident that hubby will respectfully resist the temptation to set up a coffin in our den for "visitation," or schedule a night out for me and the girls in a hearse.

At least he better... Because I have my shirts, embroidery machine and black arm bands at the ready if hubby doesn't "play nice," too...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Nash-Vegas, Baby!


The other night when we went out to help those "sweet young things" celebrate their 21st, I compiled enough material to blog until I die. There was more "interesting" people out there than I could have ever imagined!

For starters, let me just say: Spandex is a privilege- not a right. And there are people out there who seem to think that Spandex is actually part of the Constitution, and is thereby their inalienable right to wear, no matter how dire the consequences. People, step away. Back up. Just say "no."

Secondly, is there some handbook that everyone else got that I missed for going downtown on a Saturday night? Because most of the people traveled in groups. We saw enough bridal parties/bachelorette parties to fill even a mega church full to the brim.

The bridal parties were easily recognizable because they distinguished themselves with matching clothes, sashes, veils, shirts with sayings on them, feather boas around their neck or sewn around the hem of their shirt, and various other matching props and costumes. Most of the parties were huge. I couldn't imagine ever having that many bridesmaids. And let me just say, these little bride's maids were not acting very "maid-ly". They were flat-out raunchy. Apparently bachelorette parties are a little different than when I got married. (Not that it's completely surprising, but still...)

And I have to say, bridesmaids these days are really getting the short end of the stick. In my day, they had to show up for a shower or tea or two, then wear the "ugliest dress on the rack" down the aisle. Their primary role was to keep the bride from puking on her gown before the wedding started. Then they were to hold her flowers and fluff her train and veil throughout the ceremony, photos and reception.

Today's bridesmaids go way above and beyond. Showers and teas are tame compared to these ladies going out en masse to behave in a way that is supposed to make the bride puke. They spend inordinate amounts of time trying to tease poor, unwitting boys, in order to feel like they've gotten out their last "hurrah." (I guess the boys should really know what they are getting into, considering the girls usually have some kind of labels on them to distinguish themselves as a bridal party...)

And here's the kicker: during the bridal parties of my day, the bridesmaids had one outfit of torture to wear during the day of the wedding. Some heinous poofy dress with dyed-to-match-shoes that made our feet go to sleep, that every bride gushed, "I got one that I knew you could wear again..." (OK- where??? Is there an annual "Ugliest Bridesmaid Dress Contest" I don't know about? Because there are so very few places to wear a bridesmaid dress... Kinda' like an ugly version of the bridal gown, actually...) Today's girls are subjected a minimum of two awful outfits: one for the bachelorette party, and one for the wedding. Truly, it's usually a toss up as to which outfit is worse...

Speaking of dressing badly, I would love to have been a fly on the wall at some of these people's homes when they were dressing for the evening. You wonder what was going through their minds as they chose the evening's ensemble. Many obviously had no mirror to speak of. And some people must actually believe that if you wear a bright enough, tight enough, small enough outfit, that it must somehow make you look slimmer. If you are one of those people, please listen to me: You do NOT look slimmer. And I would also like to mention that undergarments are not just about modesty and hygiene. They also provide support, which "generously curvy" figures can really use.

And, if you are a guy, wearing baggy pants that hang between your knees is not attractive. And watching the poor guys struggle with them all night, it doesn't look like they are very comfortable, either. And the shoes that are so big that you slosh around in them-- I just don't get it. But, I guess that's fair, because I'm sure you don't get high heels, either.

We were accosted by a group of about twenty matching (old) Elvis impersonators, complete with spandex and sunglasses (please see note on spandex above). We tried to be very cautious around the motorcycle gang with matching leather vests, chaps, boots, bandannas and tattoos. The group of Asian girls who were dressed in less clothing than my six year old wears made me worry for them in a very maternal way. And the group of young men who live the alternative life style had more eyeliner on than Tammy Faye Baker. (Hey, I'm not casting stones. I'm just saying, make up is designed to enhance, not make your face inches thicker.)

All of these folks mingled together peacefully, weaving in and out of clubs. The dance floors were small, so everyone looked like they had it a little more "together" just because they couldn't move very much and show their apparent lack of balance.

The handbook that I mentioned earlier must also include some sort of nightly race to see who can consume the most alcohol. Since I was designated driver, I was in very last place all night. I stuck to diet coke and water, which I actually got stopped for when leaving one of the clubs. The bouncer called out, "Ma'am," which I ignored, because "ma'am" implies "old woman" in downtown Nashville on a Saturday night.

"Excuse me," he tried again. This time I turned to him and said, "Yes?"

"I'm sorry, but you can't take that drink with you outside."

"Oh, I'm sorry. It's diet coke."

"Yeah, I know. But it's the rules."

"But it was $3.00."

"Yeah, I'm sorry."

So I slugged down the rest like a shot, probably making him suspicious of the "diet coke" explanation, because I was not going to waste a six ounce, $3.00 plus tip, filled with ice, diet coke. The bouncer looked at me sideways like he wanted to call me "ma'am" again.

I was immensely proud of the way our young ladies looked and handled themselves. We only had one small snafu. A man "selling" flowers solicited us and one of our girls took pity on him. As she was digging through her wallet in front of him (I really wanted to scream "Stop that! Put your money away! Haven't you ever listened to Kenny Rogers sing, 'The Gambler???'.") a twenty was poking hap-hazardly out of the top. Our flower boy snatched the twenty and dashed, leaving our young lady shocked, angry and upset.

Outside of that, our group was pretty tame. Our girls made everyone else look like they were trying out for MTV Mardi Gras or something. We only lacked the beads...

Nashville on Saturday night is quite interesting, to say the least. And seeing it through my (somewhat) older eyes was an enlightening experience. I'm sure the same scene is played out every Saturday night- and probably other nights, as well.

But, I'm totally okay with not being part of it. I'm to a point in my life that staying home and drinking a glass of wine while playing Scrabble is about as exciting as I need to be. That way I get to keep an eye on my kids and any of their friends that tag along. And I get to be with friends and family.

I have no need to "pick up" guys, or be picked up. Yes, it is nice to be considered attractive. But it is obvious that the Saturday night downtown scene is not about making "love connections." It's about "hooking up" and meeting some perceived base needs by coupling with complete strangers. Yeah- that doesn't sound like anything that is remotely appealing.

I feel bad for those who are in the "dating scene" and have this as one of their alternatives for meeting a potential spouse. To me, this would be about as effective as glasses on a bat.

But, our girls had fun. They officially welcomed "21." And we all made it home safe and sound. I guess that's about the best outcome one can ask for when going downtown to "party" in Nashville on a Saturday night...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chinese Fire Drill


Today was one of those days that made me wonder how people with more than three children do it. I think I went seven different directions all day.

I had to get lunch money to school before going to work. Then we played "Where's the cheer uniform?" up until we had to get Keith to flag football, right before piano lessons, and, finally, cheer practice. Yes, my head is spinning. Yes, I am ready for bed.

We have set up some new ground rules for scheduling. Hopefully, that will head some of the craziness off at the pass. But, really I kinda' doubt it.

Three kids, two adults, a dog, a hamster, three jobs, cheer, flag football, Titans football season tickets, church, school, PTO, Book Club, and all the other things we do make scheduling a virtual nightmare. But, it's also what makes it fun.

I love organizing and scheduling. Now, I have my own personal excel spread sheet for our family.

I hope that we can find our silly shorts before next week. I hope that Keith can pull together a flag football schedule that gives more advance warning than 15 minutes. And I hope we all can get some good sleep tonight.

Because today is only Monday. We've got four more days to go. And this is hubby's birthday weekend...

And I wish all parents with more than three children the best of luck. I can't even begin to imagine...