Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Time Is It?

I have outgrown being a teenager.  In fact, in many ways, I don't think I ever really was a teenager.  The whole dating world totally baffles me.  And I don't recall being consumed with the need for name-brand clothing, shoes, etc.

But in some ways, I was born a teenager and never really grew out of it.  One of the most blatant examples is my sleeping patterns.

I love staying up until all hours of the night.  Some of my best inspiration comes at 2:00 am when I get that "second wind."  And socializing until the wee hours of the morning is my idea of big fun!

Conversely, I hate, hate, hate getting up early in the morning.  I know many people who get up to exercise, read or just get their morning started long before the sun streaks the sky.  Why?

Clearly my internal clock is on some other time zone.  And every year when we in the Central Time Zone "fall behind" and "spring forward," it takes a good month before I can get my sleep back on track again.

When I had to go to work in the real world, I had to get up and sit in rush hour traffic in the early morning hours with the rest of Nashville.  But I hated it.  And I had to go to bed early to be functional the next day.  And I hated that, too.  My favorite work schedule was when I waitressed until 1:00 am, and then slept until 9:00 am or so.  Unfortunately the pay and benefits of a waitress is not conducive to... well, living.

When I had children, the babies ruled the roost, and the clock.  They had no concept of the fact that real people don't sleep two hours at a time 24/7.  But, we all limped through the early years together.  And when the babies got older, their natural clock put them out like a light at 6:30 pm, which was a nice time for me to catch up on anything I couldn't do while they were awake.  But, then they also naturally woke up at 5:30 am, which to my teen-aged soul was the equivalent to some sort of military torture.

As they turned into children, hubby and I were able to mandate that they could not come into our room, without significant cause involving blood or bones sticking out of the skin, until a certain television show came on that corresponded to about 8:00 am.  Until that time, they were allowed to watch cartoons.  Out of self-preservation, they eventually learned to make cereal and poptarts to eat during the "black out" time.

Now my tweens are on my schedule, finally.  This is wonderful!  Except that now we do have more things to do than we have time to do them.  So, in order to fit them in, we must get up early (read: before 9:00 am).  This makes for an entire family of grumpy folks who long for a nap by lunch.  But at least we're in the same boat, all together.

This morning, I had to get my house daughter (our exchange student from Germany) from a sleep over at 6:45 am.  When she first told me what time she needed to be picked up, I simply blinked at her, refusing to believe she didn't actually mean 10:45.  She laughed at me and said, "No, really.  I need to be picked up at 6:45."

Ugh.  How I wished she could drive as I pulled a coat, hat and shoes over my pajamas and slid behind the wheel.  The temperature was 22 degrees and the frost on the windshield was an inch thick.  It took a good 10 minutes for the car to warm up.  I was happy- NOT.

Once she was in the car, I chided her, "Ready to get home and go jogging?"

She glared at me.  "I only slept for one hour last night."

I grunted something back and went back to concentrating on the road.

"How about we get dressed and go ahead out to the shopping malls?" I smiled wickedly.  Yes, I am grumpy AND immature when I'm tired.

She glared again and grunted something at me.

We rode home the rest of the way in silence.  She stumbled through the door, went to her room and immediately fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

I didn't.

I was awake.  Unable to go back to sleep.  Unable to clean, because I'll wake everyone up.  Unable to watch television because of the same. 

So I got on my computer and fumed and pouted.  Then I thought, "Hey!  I'll bet everyone wants to hear my whining!" (LOL)  So, here I am, telling you my woeful tale.

I guess there are many stereo types of things, like teen agers, floating around that we buy into.  But every part of each stereo type doesn't necessarily apply to a person.

I'm not the stereo typical "soccer mom" to a tee.  I'm not everything people think about a pastor's daughter.  People don't look at me and automatically think that I'm an insurance agent.  And I don't think anyone who doesn't know me could guess I have teen aged tendancies when it comes to sleep.

But, now you know.  And now you also know not to call my house before 9:00 am on a weekend without it being a life-threatening emergency.  

I hope you all have a wonderful, RESTFUL, weekend!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Parental Angst

I know much has been said on the topic of Angst, particularly of the teen aged variety. For proof, just look at the money-making machine of the "Twilight" franchise. The whole story is based around a teen aged girl with a load and-a-half of angst that is almost palpable.

What the story doesn't share is how her parents must be feeling. I'm certain, as any parent can tell you, that their concern, worry and "angst," is just as real and just as painful.

As a parent, we do get the advantage of perspective. We know that time heals more than we know. We know that the future holds opportunities that we could never imagine today.

However, we also get the bad stuff in spades. We feel helpless against our child's feelings. "How can we "fix" this?" we wonder aloud to our spouse.

We know all the trappings of the "wrong crowd" or even just "wrong" decisions. We realize that actions done today can follow you for the rest of your life.

So, we parents experience vicarious angst for our kids, and then we have our own set of worries, as well. That doesn't seem very fair, considering we already made it through childhood ourselves.

And yet, here I am, worried when my child says she doesn't think anyone likes her. "Not like you?" I asked, jaw dropped. "How can anyone not like you? I think you are fabulous beyond measure!"

The obligatory sigh and eye roll is followed by, "Mom! You HAVE to say that! You're my mom!"

I'm concerned when my child says he feels bullied. "Isn't there a school policy against that? You need to find an adult!"

"Mom," he explains patiently, "If I don't fight back, I'm a wimp. If I tell on him, I'm a snitch."

I'm perplexed when my child tells me her friend can't play with her because she's mean. "Why would you be mean to your friend?" I ask.

"I wasn't mean," she replies. "I just told her I didn't want to play with her right now. And her mommy told her I was mean and she can't be my friend."

Ugh. The impulse to charge in and take over is almost overwhelming. But rationale jumps in and says, "Wait! Give it time. And train them to fight their own battles so they'll be equipped for anything."

Intellectually, I get that. Emotionally, I'm watching a child with tears rolling down their face and I would move the earth and the stars to make them happy.

What to do? What to do?

Fortunately for me, I have a close support group who allows me to bounce ideas around with them. I also have kids whose friends' parents are open to conversations, and who speak with me objectively and rationally.

Does this make it "all better"? Of course not. But it does make it more tolerable. And, I hope, it makes it easier to train my kids to stand on their own, and be their own person.

I guess only time will tell. But I have to have faith, trust myself and my kids and remember to laugh as often as I can. Because as far as I can tell, the opposite of angst is joy.

So, together, my kids and I look for ways to laugh and ways to enjoy life. Together, I know we can get through it all!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Power of the Written Word

I love to write. In fact, my dream would be to make a living at writing. I enjoy putting words together, creating, using my imagination.

However, it also requires persistence and consistency. Both of these skills and/or traits are rather hard to come by for me these days. I seem to have so much going on with the family.

But my family comes first. In fact, I am such a supporter of this rule, I prefer a half-clean house with happy kids, than a pristine house with miserable kids. (This also lends itself to my utter dislike for house cleaning.)

I have found that writing a short article in this blog each day whets my writing whistle for the most part. I also have a couple of projects I work on simultaneously on ( These tend to at least keep the dream alive.

I have several friends who are professional authors. And I know that they enjoy their work. But like in any job, there are days when they would love to bag groceries just to not have to look at their writing project any more.

But, in the end, they have a block of printed paper with an artfully designed cover that is a living, breathing piece of their imagination, come to life. How fulfilling that must be!

My dream would be to walk in to Barnes and Noble and see my book on a prominent display. I would hide out in the Starbucks and watch as people picked up my book, looked at the front, flipped over and read the back and then skimmed through a couple of pages. Then I would practically shimmy in my chair if they tucked it under their arm and took it up front for purchase.

I would be thinking, "Yes! I did that! No matter how long I live, that book will be around (theoretically) forever!"

I do have a similar feeling of pride in my children: my parenting and decision making directly impacts them and how they grow. However, my control over them is not very long-reaching after a certain point. They are very much their own people, as it should be.

As an author, my characters do tend to take on a life of their own, to some extent. And I do have to stay within a story line to have it be the story that was intended. However, I also have the power to have my characters think, do and say anything I want them to. A demure school girl can win a Rock Band contest. An elderly miser can find true love. An other-world beast can become the hero.

Someday my kids will be living their own lives. They will call me and tell me how they are and how the people in their lives are doing, as well. If I'm lucky, they will invite me to be a part of their lives, too.

At that time, I will have all the time in the world to write and write and write. And I hope I will.

For now, I'll grab moments, write small blurbs and see what I can build a little at a time. But, hopefully, one day I'll have my Starbucks moment at Barnes and Noble... Or maybe just an on-line count of the people who had downloaded my book for their electronic reader... Either way, I would really like to make my mark on the world with everlasting words. And I would love to have those words last and last...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Growing Up Is Hard To Do...

Tonight we were enjoying a family dinner, talking and laughing (when the kids weren't trying to beat each other senseless). Hubby and I began reminiscing over when we were dating.

We talked about the different things we used to do, like water skiing, walking around the Opryland Hotel Conservatory and talking until all hours of the morning about nothing at all. Then hubby started rummaging through his wallet.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"Our picture," he said.

"No way. You don't have our picture from the beach, do you?"

"Yep," he said, smiling victoriously, and pulling out a worn picture from the back.

He showed the picture of hubby and me smiling into the camera in 1989. We admittedly looked different. But, I still thought fondly that I still think hubby looks the same in my eyes.

Our German exchange student looked closely at the picture and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! You look so good here!"

I laughed and said, "I don't know if I'm flattered that you think we looked good or if I'm offended that you sound so surprised."

"No. You look nice, now, too," she tried to back track.

"Yeah, yeah," hubby said.

"No! I mean it. You just look... different now," she laughed.

"You mean 'older'," I prompted.

"Yes- I mean- no," she stammered. "I mean, wow. Is this what kids do to you? You are bad kids!" she laughed, pointing at my kids. "Look at what you did to your parents! Look how good they look then. And look at them now."

Of course, we had to laugh. But at the same time, I wondered if maybe there wasn't just a touch of truth to it...

Ah, well, we'll always have 1989...

Touchdown, Titans!

Hubby is a HUGE Tennessee Titans fan. When we married, he sorta' cheered for Michigan teams because he was born there. But over the years, he has developed a camaraderie with some guy friends who love football.
These guys bought the original Tennessee Titan PSL's for whatever ungodly money they charged. They tailgate for a minimum of three hours prior to game time. And they make it on the jumbo tron and/or national television on a regular basis because they are so outlandish in the stands.
Today, my otherwise normal, loving hubby is watching the Titans play the Colts. In years past, he would chat with the family while keeping an eye on the game. Today, the family must walk on tip-toe, so as not to make any noise, because hubby is concentrating on the game.
My hubby has morphed into that obnoxious fan who screams his armchair quarterback coaching advice at the television screen.
It is especially bad because the Titans have not brought their "A Game." In fact, they are sort of sucking wind. He chants, cheers and carries on like a... man.
Football season is not going to be much longer, thank goodness. But, never fear, there will be the draft. There will commentary by sportscasters and talking heads. Then there is, of course, the pre-game (which I once made the mistake of calling "practice games"). And all the miscellaneous "stuff" in between.
For today, I hope that Titans can get it together to at least look like they are making an effort on the field. Otherwise this family is in for a veeeeeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy long day...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Like, Gag Me With A Spoon, For Sure...

When I was in school, boys thought gross things were cool.
Burps, farts and other bodily functions were pure gold and sure to get a big laugh. Vomit was awesome. And poop was the "big mack daddy" of them all.
As I got older, the boys turned to teen-agers, but their behavior didn't change much. They became aware of the fact that females, in general, did not share their enthusiasm for the whole icky mess. So they did turn it down a little in mixed company.
College males were even more sensitive to the fairer sex. But brought out their oh-so-disgusting "hobbies" and "games" when other males were around. I recall young men who would drink beer with the sole purpose of puking, so that they would have room for more beer. Yuck.

Something amazing happens when these very young men get married. Their inability to gross other males out on a regular basis takes away their ability to stomach it any more.
Suddenly, the more feminine sex is the one who has to handle all bodily fluids. When someone is sick, mom has to stand next to the "patient" with a bucket and a wet wash cloth. When baby poos in his diaper, mommy cleans up baby, and then cleans up the diapers, too.

This evening the cat threw up a hair ball. I calmly went over to clean it up. Hubby began retching at the mere sight. If I had thought I could actually torture hubby a little bit, I would have drawn it out a little longer, and even made some comments about texture, smell, etc.
But, ultimately, hubby would have heaved. And I would have had to clean that up, too.
The kids are keenly aware of this fact. If they are ill with anything that involves vomit, snot, poop or gas, they come to me.
Hubby can ask them, "Honey, what's wrong?"
They tell him nothing is wrong and come straight to me.
Maybe I should take that as a compliment. Maybe it's a mommy thing.
Either way, it is what it is, and I simply accept that I'm in charge of cat hair balls, doggy poop, stomach viruses, strep throat, snot, spit and other sundry and various forms of grossness manufactured by man and beast.

I will note that the exception to that is our physician(s). And I contend that they have maintained an uninterrupted exposure to the yucky stuff by nature of their work.

In our house, hubby and I have a deal: he takes care of snakes, and I take care of all the afore mentioned ickyness.
Oh, and spiders. I take care of spiders, too. I guess it can't all be fair...

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Time to Play Some Football!

To say I've never been a huge sports enthusiast, is to say sometimes it rains in England. I've never been one to watch every play of a game, trying to figure out all of the players on a team, and be able to intelligently argue a ref's call. Mostly, I am a crowd-follower; If everyone around me cheering for my team stands up and cheers, I do, too.

I have also never understood the appeal of grabbing a coffee at the water cooler and rehashing every excruciating detail of a game- even if my team lost. After all, that's why they keep doing the "instant replay," right?

However, recently my son began playing football. This in and of itself is quite something. This is the child who didn't want to play soccer because it was outside. Now he's wearing shoulder pads that make him so wide he hardly fits in the car.

(I often amuse myself by thinking: "I spent eleven years of his life telling him not to hit anyone and play nicely; Now I'm screaming: 'GO GET HIM! KNOCK HIM DOWN!' from the bleachers.")

Suddenly, I have a very vested interest in a sports team. Now I want to know all the players, because most of them have been at my house at one time or the other. I have become the person by whom I was most confused: a sports fan.

Not only has this given me a whole new circle of friends who join me on the bleachers every Thursday night (yes, Middle School football has a very odd schedule), but it has given me a whole new topic of conversation for people I don't even know. It has compounded my "small talk" repatoire a hundred fold.

In Tennessee, and most of the South East United States, football is revered almost so much as to be considered its own religion. I have gained entry into a large, yet very tight knit club. I am a football mom. There is a whole new impressed posture people take when they ask if my son is into any sports and I reply, "Yes, he plays football."

Next year he may decide to play soccer or tennis or join the track team, and I'm okay with that. But a part of me can't help but hope just a little that he keeps on with the football. And, from a very recent non-sport's fan, that's really saying something!

~Proud Mommy of #59

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Textbooks, Pencils and Composition Books

Where did summer go? Just yesterday, my little monkeys got home from school and excitedly attended a friend's bon fire, where they happily burned all of their discarded papers. Today, we had to pull back out the uniforms and start back again...

Keith pulled the biggest shocker ever: he is playing football. This is the child who didn't want to play soccer because it was outside. And here he is with helmet, pads, mouth guard (which I insisted upon since I want to protect my $9.5K investment I have in his teeth) and cleats.

He does pretty well, too. He's one of the shortest, so he's learned to dive at the opponent's ankles and not let go. And he's smart, so he can out think the opponent. Yes, I'm a proud momma. Hubby's stance on the whole thing is: "Son, sit on the side lines as much as you can; You get to be on a winning team and not get hurt." I disagree. It's important to push yourself physically to know that you are capable of being body slammed into the mud by a guy three times your size, and still be able to get up and make intelligent sentences.

Emma is as dependable as the day is long. She's beautiful, talented, disciplined, level-headed and full of joy. And she got her first cell phone. She delights in changing up all the ring tones and programming different pictures and settings. (I'm glad to know which button to push to answer the phone...) She has a teacher whom she adores. (Although I swear she would love even having someone like Jason from Friday the 13th as her teacher. She would be so chipper he'd have to comply or kill himself.)

Amy... Well, Amy is adjusting to school and her teacher. And her teacher is adjusting to her. A "good day" for her is when she comes home with no "warnings" with her name on the board. Her main problem seems to stem from her overwhelming desire to be the teacher, which obviously does not sit well with the real teacher. I keep waiting to get the call that the teacher has reassigned Amy to the Principal's office for the remainder of the school year. But, so far we're okay.

Hubby is still traveling and racking up the frequent-flyer miles. It's still hard for me to be "in charge" while he's out of town, but then let him help with the decision-making when he's back. I have to bite my tongue so I don't just say, "Listen, just sit down and shut up. I'll take it from here."

That leaves me and the animals. We enjoy the quiet moments when we get the remote control to the television. Dixie, the dog, will curl up on the couch on a pillow. Tigger, the cat, will stretch out across the top of the love seat. And I'll drink my diet coke and read, watch television, write, or get into some cyber-gossip on FaceBook. (I've even started "Twittering" so I can get my "dirt" fix on a moment-by-moment basis.)

It's almost September and I'm still stuck back in May. Pretty soon, it will be Christmas, and I'll finally be caught up to looking for school supplies... Maybe by then it won't be as hot and we won't have to mow the grass. We could possibly even have some snow this year!

Whatever happens, it will come and go so much more quickly than it did when I was in school. Days took forever- especially if I was involved in a teenage "fight" with a friend. I would get so worried about what someone thought of me, I could hardly concentrate on anything else.

I wonder sometimes if my kids go through the same thing. I hope not, but I'm guessing they probably do. I want to say to them, "Forget it! In ten years, you won't remember that person's name, much less whatever you're fighting about."

But I guess that's something you learn with time. And the more you know, the faster it goes. So, here I sit, apparently very knowledgeable about the quickly passing time. I'm amazed that summer has come and gone.

Part of me is saddened by the loss of our lazy days by the pool and the cool evening dinners out on the back porch. But I would be a liar if I didn't also acknowledge that there's a big part of me that also celebrates the kids going back to school with the enthusiasm of a college kid at Mardi Gras.

Keith, Emma and Amy are happy to be with their friends. And I'm happy to hear about their fun, their triumphs and their adventures. I guess school isn't so bad after all...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Potty Mouth

Can someone please tell me why children (and some adults) are so completely fascinated by bodily functions: bathroom talk and nasal issues, mostly. It's well known that since the beginning of time every single six year old on the planet thinks the word "fart" is the most hysterical thing ever.

Personally, I am not impressed, but not completely grossed out, either. After all, I've had three babies. Any new mom will tell you that we have lengthy conversations regarding the bathroom habits of our babies, some very descriptive and down right disgusting.

And older folks tend to use a laser focus on their bathroom habits, along with any other aches, pains and illnesses that they might have. I can't tell you how many people over eighty-five (when I was marketing an Assisted Living Community) were concerned about whether I had a daily bowel movement or not. Then they wanted to follow up with their personal habits. I tried to look interested, and then quickly change the subject. There are just some things I don't need to know about people.

But children- they are almost drunk with hilarity over words like "butt," "pee," "poop," "fart," "snot," and other such slang for their bodily functions. I've watched my children get to the point where they could hardly breathe because they were laughing so hard.

I must admit, their laughter and unadulterated glee make me giggle. I think sometimes they mistake that for the idea that I might find their "potty talk" funny. But it truly is their utter joy and hysterical laughter that I enjoy.

I do know that eventually they will outgrow this phase. Part of me will be so glad to be able to have a conversation with them that doesn't dissolve into pandemonium because I said "do do" mistakenly in a sentence.

But another part of me dreads for that day to come. It will mean that they've also grown out of the child-like innocence that allows them to enjoy the simple jokes. At that point, they'll laugh at innuendos of sex, snarky sarcasm and just about any movie in which Will Ferrel stars.

For now, I'll discourage the potty talk AND the growing up. But I know it will only be a matter of time before I can say "poop," and it will just slide on by...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Daddy's MIA

Hubby is out of town... again... This is getting very old- for me and the kids.

But there is an upside to it all: The kids and me are huge, big slugs while Daddy is gone. The day he is to come home, we do a big time clean to try and make it look like we have been productive the whole time he's been gone.

When he's gone, we watch stupid television, and eat dinner in the den. We do lots of Arts & Crafts and we stay in our pj's as long as we can.

I try to keep the yard mowed and the trash put out. But it's no substitute for Daddy.

He'll be home Friday. We're counting the days.

Until then, we'll be watching bad tv, in our pj's, while eating dinner. If you'd like to join us, come on over.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Say Cheese!

Today my youngest daughter (age 7) had all of her wildest dreams come true: she got braces. She was thrilled- no, beyond thrilled. So excited, in fact that the Orthodontist had troubles getting her to sit still enough to examine her teeth.

Apparently, my gene pool is more far-reaching than I had once realized. Originally I thought that the "overcrowding" teeth problem was going to be exclusive to my middle daughter. But, no such luck.

I sighed heavily as they posted the x-ray up on the big screen in the office. Even my middle daughter looked at the picture of my youngest daughter's teeth and said, "Oh my gosh, where are all those teeth going to go?" I can't be sure, but I think I saw a gleam in the Orthodontist's eye.

Don't get me wrong- they have worked virtual miracles on my son and middle daughter's teeth. Unquestionably, their teeth look absolutely beautiful.

But, the cost... Wow.

This was, as so many things are, NOT in the "Parent Brochure." (At least not in the one I was given.) I got the brochure that showed happy children running across fields, laughing and tugging a balloon behind them. Mine showed the young man with a graduation cap and gown hugging his parents appreciatively. I am supposing that my insert with all the "fine print" was lost in the mail.

Because I never got the memo about braces costing as much as a nice used car. I never knew that "extra curricular" activities (read: sports, music, etc.) could cost as much as a house payment each month, and that we would have to rent out a special place next to the gym/music store so that we had somewhere to sleep after long practices. But, I digress...

My daughter was absolutely thrilled as the technician carefully applied tiny blobs of glue onto her teeth, and then placed little silver brackets on each glue blob. She even got to pick the colors of her rubber bands: electric blue and ocean blue.

(As a side note, all of the technicians are quite young. I thought maybe it was because of the energy they brought with them. Now I realize that it is because they are working on things that are the size of a grain of rice. The older techs just can't see what they are supposed to be doing anymore!)

When my daughter hopped out her chair and smiled, I snapped pictures with my cell phone and sent them to everyone I knew and posted them on FaceBook, with a tag that said, "Look at our summer cruise sailing away without us..."

My little one got a whole goodie bag full of "teeth stuff" and a coupon to Baskin Robbins. She skipped happily out of the office. I was left trying to keep down my lunch while attending to the bill.

As we settled into the car to go home, my daughter asked, "How long do I wear these?"

"I don't know, sweetie," I said. "The Orthodontist said this was your first phase. Then when all your baby teeth are gone, they will get you ready for your second phase (whose price is not included in the first phase, I might add). So, probably this time about a year and a half."

"Well, they hurt," she whined. "I don't want them any more."

"I'm sorry, darlin'," I said, sympathetically.

How many times in life have I wanted something so badly, only to discover it was not anything like I thought it would be? Sometimes it's beyond my expectations. Sometimes it is disappointing beyond words.

I expect that she will have some of the initial aches/pains/discomfort of the new braces subside in a few days. Then is when the real hike begins: Eighteen months of tightening, moving, deprivation of gum, hard candies and other favorite treats, having to brush teeth around brackets and wires and generally feeling like your whole mouth is too full all the time.

I trust that in the end, she will have a beautiful smile. I know I can't count on it, but in my dreams the fact that we've provided braces for our children will give them confidence, better oral hygiene and the ability to get a better job.

Regardless, I know one thing for sure: there will be NO activities that could knock out teeth in our house! And they better smile big in every single picture for the rest of their lives!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just Killin' Time...

We spent 45 minutes in Dollar General this morning. My total bill was $9.01. I had my daughters, my niece and a friend with me and they were all allowed to spend $1.

Finding that elusive item that was "it" proved to be quite the task. We fluttered all over the store, and then went around again. We picked up every possible candidate and looked it over carefully.

It came down to Flarp (a goopy colored substance in a plastic container that makes gaseous noises when you push it) or lip gloss for one of the girls. The two older ones decided on battery controlled cars, which surprised the heck out of me. But they seem delighted with their simulated monster trucks. The last girl was having a hard time deciding between Disney Princess press on fingernails or a box of hair do-dads.

Ultimately, I was thrilled to see that lip gloss won out over Flarp. The Disney Princess nails were adorable- for the two and a half minutes she wore them, before deciding they hurt.

Who knew a single dollar could cause such angst? As children tend to be, the girls were only thinking of the here-and-now. They could not fathom the fact that there could ever be a "next time," so their decision was of the utmost importance. The total happiness of their entire existence hinged on this choice.

As an adult, I can see that if I don't get something now, well, there's next time. If I get something home and it doesn't work, I can take it back. And buying something just for the sake of using the $1 just leads to more junk in my house.

We are now home, and everyone is playing with their treasured new possessions (except for the one who got the nails and threw them away). Everyone seems content and satisfied... for now... we still have the rest of the day to go...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Birthday Fit for a Princess...

My youngest daughter has a knack for saying whatever is on her mind. I always tell people that she was born without a filter (much like her father).

The summer prior to her Kindergarten year, the school had gotten sprayed for bugs, but was awaiting the cleaning crew. She told her soon-to-be principal, "Uhm, I'm going to this school next year, so you need to clean up these bugs," with all the attitude of any starlet diva.

This same daughter took to heart her father's words (when she was several years younger), "We can not get a dog until we get rid of the cat." A mad, wet cat sprinted from the bathroom after she had tried to flush it down the toilet. When asked why she did that, she replied, "I didn't want to hurt the cat. I just wanted it to go away so we could have a dog."

Recently we went to adopt a new cat. She looked up at the salesman with big, brown sincere eyes and said, "I promise not to flush this cat down the toilet." Surpisingly, they let us take it anyway.

She will be eight on her next birthday, which is on December 30th. She really gets the short end of the stick of this deal. People try to lump her birthday and Christmas gift together. And she has a hard time getting folks together for any kind of party, since her birthday is squashed between two such major holidays.

Our remedy to this was to have a party in July for her "Half Birthday." She has been so excited about this upcoming party that I'm not sure if she's slept any this whole week.

The theme is "Princesses." We will be doing Princess make overs, hair do's and manicures/pedicures. We also plan to watch "Princess Protection Program" by Disney (which is actually quite a good film).

When we were writing out the invitations, she was not short on her special "charm" of saying who she did not want to invite and why. I asked her to please not have the same discussion with the other girls at the party. I could just see her sitting with a horrified little circle of girls saying, "I did NOT invite Susie because she's loud and immature!"

As I was sealing up the invitations to mail, she said, "Wait! I need to put something else on the invitations!"

"Oh. I'm sorry! What did you want to put on there?"

"I wanted to write what they needed to bring," she implored.

"I can tell their moms," I offered.

She considered this for a moment. Finally she said, "Okay. Will you please tell them that
everyone should wear sweat pants and rags?"

I looked at her, my eyebrows knitted together. There was more to this story.

"WHY are you all wearing sweat pants and rags?" I asked.

"Oh, THEY are wearing the sweat pants and rags. I am wearing a princess gown," she said, as
though she were reporting the weather or how much apples are this week at the supermarket.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, counting to ten... and then again...

"Honey, we are NOT having your friends dress like peasants, while you dress like a princess," I said as sweetly as I could.

I was both mortified and internally laughing hysterically at the same time. How awesome would it be to not worry about what other people think? To be so confident that you talk to your principal as though she were a peer?

Hubby has that same ability. It has proven to be both a blessing and a curse.

But he and my daughter will NEVER be boring. And I will ALWAYS have a story to tell... even if I am dressed in sweat pants and rags while I tell it...

Monday, July 13, 2009

No Such Thing as a "Free Lunch"


I was putting together a budget for hubby so we could talk about how much this school year was going to cost... You know, the "free" education that the state provides for our children?
Let me tell you, if this is "free," I would hate to see it if it wasn't.

To start with, we need at least $700 worth of clothes and shoes for all three kids together. Now, I know I have to clothe them no matter what we do. But "school" clothes at their school consists of a uniform, which I LOVE (no joke!). So they will need additional "play" clothes and "church" clothes.
Next, we have school supplies. The school provides a list of all the required school supplies for each student. I have already shelled out over $300 for the girls. We still have about $150 to go for my son.
The school also has fees for workbooks and other classroom materials not supplied by the state, but necessary for the children's instruction. Between the three kids, it should add up roughly to $175.
So that the students (and parents) aren't subjected to fundraisers, our school has chosen to have a "family donation." It is suggested to donate $100 per child. That means we'll pledge $300, to be paid out over the course of the school year.
If the children are involved in any after-school activities or sports, their uniforms, equipment and fees associated with each activity. We are expecting at least $200 in those moneys.
The children have many plays and activities that are both educational and fun during the school day. Many of these require a fee to go. The fees are usually very nominal, but I'm figuring on about $50 throughout the year for all three children.
One of the children's favorite things is field trips. The younger two will go on several, spread throughout the year. The eldest, in Middle School, will go on one big overnight trip out of the city. When all is said and done, all together I expect to pay around $600 for all three kids.
Lunches are something that needs to be provided, regardless of whether they are in school or at home. So, I pulled that line-item out so we would get a more realistic picture.
Inside the classroom, there are room moms, who arrange various parties, including games and food. They also usually collect money to give the teacher Christmas gifts, birthday gifts and end-of-school presents. Our family also usually gives individual gifts for the teachers. I'm estimating around $240 for all of the various things for all three children.
As the weather changes, we will need to supply the children with more uniform clothing so that they will stay warm. That will be an additional $300 for long pants and long sleeved shirts.
Or school is a K-12 school, so we have school sports and socials for the upper grades. I'm certain we will be asked by our children to attend games and dances. I'm guessing around $100 for the year for all three children.
Oh, don't forget school pictures, taken both fall and spring. We usually don't purchase them. But the kids do want year books. The upper grades' book is $50. The lower grades' book is $35. That's $120 for all the kids together.
I'm sure there are other things I am forgetting, all of which will cost... you guessed it... money.

But if I quickly add together just these things that I have listed, we are looking at a grand total of: $3,235.oo.

Wow. Okay, I kind of wish I hadn't done this little exercise. I'm hyperventilating at that big, monster figure. But we've done it every year, so I guess we'll do it again.

I guess this is just a shining example of the fact that nothing in life is "free"-- even a "free" education...

P.S. I know this is NOTHING compared to college. But just let me get through one thing at a time...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Relax, Mom's In Charge

Whatever your personal political views, you know the name Sarah Palin, Vice Presidential nominee for the Republican party in our most recent vote. And no matter whether you are Republican, Democrat, or other political affiliation, you have to admire the gumption of a wife/mother who wants to serve the country in a position of such great responsibility.
I do have to say, though, I totally get her desire to make changes. Every day I see things that make me want to take over not just the country, but the world. I just want to take the planet by the shoulders, shake it and say, "What are you thinking????"
How does it make any sense that AIG is asking for MORE bail-out money for corporate bonuses, but I know several middle class families who are upstanding, wonderful people, whose main bread-winner has been out of work for over ten months. The rich should not be penalized for making money- it's part of the American dream, but the mega-rich really can be mega-gross in their over-indulgence (Who needs five homes, a couple of yahts, lots of cars and tons of other stuff only seen on MTV Cribs or LifeStyles of the Rich and Famous?). How can they feel good about themselves when they look in the mirror?
I have a friend whose boss is currently taking advantage of the current economy to try to extort more hours and more work. Instead of looking out for his employees and understanding family emergencies and the need for off time, he has threatened my friend with the loss of her job. I would love to be in charge for a day and go up to that boss and thunk him in the forehead. What a goober!
We have good friends who would/could be the best parents ever. However, they struggle with infertility. Enter the grand world of "supply and demand." Young children and babies are practically sold. Adopting a child from another country is sometimes easier than adopting one here. Why can't the moneys raised for pro-choice & pro-life be used to house women who want to anonymously give their baby up for adoption?
All these folks who want a financial bail-out? Sorry. No can do. If you can't handle a multi-million dollar company, why would I give you more money to dump down the pot??? Or, if I do give the company some money, the lunk-heads who put them in the situation in the first place, would NOT be allowed anywhere near a leadership position ever again!
Frivolous law suits? Not on my watch!
The stereotypical government workers? Not any more. If you want to get paid, you have to work more than 20 minutes a week.
Education would be important. Welfare would be a way to give people a leg up- but it would have requirements that actually encouraged people to stand on their own two feet- and, it would have an end. Every bill would be able to be line-item vetoed, so that the "extra" fluff couldn't make it through piggy-backing on whatever media-hyped issue was.
People would be held responsible for their actions instead of finding ways to place the blame, and never changing or making amends for their actions. Prisons would be self-sufficient, with inmates making their own clothing, their own food, and taking care of themselves, instead of playing in gymnasiums, watching cable TV, having conjugal visits, getting free educations and having the ability to make money while living on the government's dime.
I would quit giving other countries our money, who hate and try to hurt us. I would try to make the United Nations an actual functional group, who actually helped the world.
There would be many more things I would do in my 24 hours of reign. But the very last thing I would do would be a little bit selfish: I would arrange for two weeks in some fabulously exotic, warm island location with my family. I would spend those two weeks playing with the family, relaxing, reading and writing.
Then I would come back to my perfect world, and make sure another mom is in charge, putting the bad guys in time out, and rewarding the good guys with extra cookies and milk. After all, Mom knows best!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bad Mommy!

When you "sign up" as a parent, you know that you are going to have "good days" and "bad days." You know you will have times when you could when "Parent of the Year" award, and there will be times that you would die of embarrassment if your behavior was caught on camera.
But above all, you don't want to do anything that would intentionally hurt your child. You never, ever want to have you child suffer needlessly at your hand.
You count on your "inner voice" to keep you from "crossing that line." You hope your advantage of more life experience will actually make you make better decisions than your child.
When you "mess up," the amount of grief, remorse and self-loathing is immeasurable.
Recently, I made a decision that, even at the time, I knew better than to make. My inner-adult voice was reeling against my temples, begging me to listen.
But I was blinded by some big brown eyes. And an overwhelming desire to satisfy my own inner-child.
I let my youngest child by a kitten. A beautiful, sweet, red long-haired, gray-eyed, eleven-month-old kitten, named Tigger.
I saw the little darling and was absolutely smitten. I love cats, and I always have. Their graceful movements and big, expressive eyes. They are my favorite animal.
However... hubby and son are horribly allergic to them.
In fact, we have tried once before to have a cat. But hubby and son spent the entire time with a stuffy nose and red, watery eyes.
So, suffice to say, I knew better. I knew better!
I am the adult. It is MY responsibility to act like one.
But I did not. Instead, I threw cat food, cat litter, a litter box, a litter scooper, a toy and some snacks into the cart, very nearly skipping to the check out.
Even as I write this, I am holding my breath to see how this is going to work out. Tigger is supposed to be an outside cat. But he is living in my daughter's bedroom until he is used to us, so he doesn't run away.
My daughter loves this cat like nothing I have ever seen before. She is completely devoted and enamored with Tigger. It has been the best thing for her I could have ever imagined. It has tempered her, and given her a softness.
And I am holding my breath. Hoping beyond hope that I am not setting her up for heartbreak.
I am kicking myself all over the place for ever allowing the thing to happen. I knew better! (I think I said that already...)
I just pray to God, St. Francis, and all the guardian angels that this works... That hubby and son don't become big red, swollen snot balls. That Tigger adapts well to being an outside cat. That Tigger doesn't run away or, worse, get hurt.
I guess, like anything in life, it's just "wait and see." In the meantime, I will be walking the fine line between doing what is best for my youngest and what is best for hubby & son... And praying they eventually make peace with each other...

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Family "Work" Out

My poor, pitiful, precious flowers I call children have a severe aversion to work of any form or fashion. This week they showed the epitome of laziness, by whining about having to use the remote to change the television channel.
So, imagine their dismay when I suggested we clean the house today. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth... And I did not care one little bit.
My son will be learning to use the lawn mower (gasp) when the sun goes down a little. (No need to give the child heat stroke on the first time out of the gate.) My daughters helped tape off the trim in the hallways for our never-ending paint project. (I swear we did not have this much square footage in this house until we started painting!)
Once they caught on that I was serious, they wanted to know what was in it for them. Did they get money or a toy? I glared at them.
"You get the privilege of living in this house, having clothing and food provided, and being a part of this family," I growled back.
"But, we always get that," my son whined.
"I can certainly make other arrangements for you," I volleyed.
Said son responded with a sigh, an eye roll and a moooo-ooom, otherwise known as the trifecta for teens with an attitude and a death wish.
I looked at my middle child and asked, "Do you happen to know if there's still a three-day waiting period to purchase fire arms?"
She shrugged and looked utterly confused.
"Never mind," I shook my head. "Okay, son, let me spell this out for you: you live in this house because we chose to have children and we love you very much. However, you are part of a family. And, as such, you will participate in not only in the 'fun stuff,' but you will also help out with chores-"
"But that's not fair!" son whined.
"How do you figure?" I asked incredulously.
"I don't want to do chores! I shouldn't have to. You keep saying this is 'your' house," he said, stepping from the frying pan into the flames.
"Okay. Well then," I started, while crossing my arms across my chest, jutting out my chin and throwing out my hip for good measure," don't you think that perhaps it would behoove you to ingratiate yourself to me, since I am said owner of this residence. Otherwise, I will happily purchase you a tent, and you may survive in our backyard. You will have visitation privileges to our bathrooms, since we are a member of a homeowners association. And you may have two meals per day. So, what's it gonna' be?"
Never one to admit, or even hint at, defeat, my son grumbled something totally incomprehensible and slunk into the bathroom, scrub brush in hand.
"Make it shine, sweetie," I called sweetly after him.
"Mm-hmm," he said between gritted teeth.
"Love you!" I sang to him.
He looked up at me and glared for a moment. I went to finish the laundry.
As I began folding the towels, all I could think was, "Wow, that was fun... I guess I get to do this at least... a thousand and one more times???"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I'm Watching You...

E-Gads! Yikes! How did this happen????

I... have lost my edge...

It's true!

I was perusing old blog entries full of witty comments and fun observations. I had amusing stories, snappy dialogue and laugh-out-loud commentary...

Now? Sadly, now most of my entries are nice, vanilla, ho-hum, "Hey! I'm trying!" pieces...

Gone is the... "edge."

When did this happen? How did it happen?

Ah. Wait. It is coming back to me now...

Hubby started traveling. I was accused of not paying attention to the children because I was typing on the computer (while they were watching television). I turned off the computer, and became one of the foremost experts on Sponge Bob Square Pants and anything on Disney Channel. (Jealous, aren't you?)

Well- no more, I say! Today is the day I dig deep, really deep, and try to pull out what's left of my creativity. I used to see every situation through two sets of eyes: the eyes of "me," and the eyes of a blogger who could use this to create an entry. Today I get my second pair of eyes back.

And I don't even care if it makes me look funny. Because, by golly, these fingers were made for typing, and I'm going to fulfill my destiny!

Ladies & Gentlemen: MommyBarbie has returned!!!!

Two Sides of the Same Coin

Hubby is out of town... again.

The kids miss him... again.

I miss him... again.

And it does not appear that this traveling will slow down.

The kids are particularly angst-y (if that's even a word) when they are tired. So first thing in the morning, and right before bed the kids are on melt-down mode. Nothing is right because daddy isn't home. Nothing will be good ever again- until daddy gets home.

Every decision I make is questioned. "Can I call dad and ask him?"

Uh, no. I can make a decision without your father, and here's my answer.

Even the dog looks a little lost without dad.

Worst of all, I am not the motivator in this family. The task-master (and I mean that in the fondest way possible) is definitely hubby. My idea of the perfect day is sleeping in late, going out for brunch, doing a little shopping, maybe getting a spa treatment, going out for dinner, then going to a movie, then coming home and going to bed.

Hubby's idea of the perfect day is far different. He would like to get up before the sun rises and get going (no time for breakfast- too much to do!). The day would consist of project after project that involved manual labor and sweating like a pig. Finally, around dinner, he would announce he was going to die from hunger, jump in the car, pick up a burger, eat it on the way home, then go back to work. He would finally pack it in when he could no longer physically move. He would take a shower and pass out into deep coma in bed.

I have written list after list. But all I've succeeded in doing is writing the lists.

Knowing that hubby gets home Sunday will be a motivator, though. Before he gets home I would like to have the lawn mowed, the laundry caught up and some more painting done. (I want to gag just thinking about it all...)

Now, if you need someone to plan a party, bring a dinner to a sick friend, make a spread sheet or organize an event, call me! I have energy enough for twelve people. And I won't eat, sleep or go to the bathroom until I'm done.

I guess that's why hubby and I compliment each other so well: I may have the original plan, but he makes sure it gets carried out. And when he's working, I enjoy working by his side.

I know there are many times when we all get frustrated and wonder what on earth God was thinking when He created two opposite sexes; Surely life would be easier if He had just stuck with one!

But this is one of those times when I thank God for His ultimate genius for balancing each sex out with the other. Hubby is the ying to my yang.

And all of us will be very excited to have him home!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful...

Finally getting my land legs back after being on vacation for a week, I realized I had sorely neglected my writing. So much sand, sun and fun with the family left hardly any time to write or read. I am certainly not complaining about my vacation. But my usual day always includes writing for a minimum of thirty minutes.
The kids had a blast, scooting from the ocean to the pool, and then back again. We had a wonderful view from the twenty-third floor. And, I managed to get vaguely beige in the sun (since my skin color can never actually be called "tan").

We started the trip in a way that gave me grave concern: First, I broke my toe before we ever finished packing. I banged it on a chair in such a way and in such a velocity that I knew instantly it was broken. Fortunately, it was the middle toe at the very end. So, while it was a very unattractive purplish-black all week long, it bothered me very little.

Secondly, it took the eleven of us thirteen-and-a-half hours to make the eight-hour trip. Between church, bathroom breaks and food stops, we averaged at least a stop every couple of exits. We were more than slightly batty by the time we were pulling our luggage onto the valet cart.

The very good news is that we were lulled to sleep that night by the sounds of the ocean, and all was forgotten by the morning. We got up and stepped straight into our swimming suits. Then we put on sunblock with such voraciousness that it felt like the equivalent of wrapping ourselves in tent tarp. Regardless of all our outstanding efforts, we all managed to get burned somewhere on our bodies. And now we are all peeling like an entire tribe of lepers.
The top meal of the week goes to my brother and sister-in-law, who made a chicken Parmesan, which, as my dear hubby would say, "could make you want to slap your mama!" The only thing topping that was, as usual, her fabulous dessert, which was a brownie torte this year (YUM!)!

The top event, according to the kids, was a tie between put-put and driving the go-carts. We adults favored hanging out by the ocean under a tent that hubby had erected for us.

We had many funny moments, like when my niece was "fixing" my younger daughter's hair, and just about pulled every hair out of her head. The very serious paper football game between hubby and all the kids made for quite a few giggles. And the funniest morning hair went hands-down to my nephew.

Number 3 quote of the week is by my hubby: "Am I getting too much sun?"

Number 2 quote of the week is by my son: "Why isn't Father's Day during football season?"

Number 1 quote of the week is by my nephew, as we were bobbing around in the ocean: "You know, when you pee in the water, fish try to nibble your toes."

It was a wonderful vacation. As always, I didn't want to leave. And, as always, I've already started the count-down for next year's trip.

I'm glad to be back in my own bathroom and in my own bed. And I'm glad to be writing again. But, I'm pretty sure I could write at the beach... Well, I could try, anyway...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just A Little Note...

I had the pleasure today to meet with a very talented group of creative, inviting people, who are writers. When we introduced ourselves, I mentioned that I have a website called: After we left, I realized I had been busy writing other things and really had not posted much lately on my blog.

However, I have been blogging about a Faith Journey my family is taking this summer at: And I have also been writing an historical fiction novel about Elizabeth, John the Baptist's mother.

I also wanted to mention that I have some favorite past entries from my blog that will (hopefully) give the reader a snapshot of the kind of thing this blog is about.

  1. "Mommy Barbie"- 3/19/08
  2. "Did I Just Say That?"- 4/26/08
  3. "The Toy Commune"- 4/30/08
  4. "The Cats and the Kids"- 5/6/08
  5. "Child's Play"- 7/2/08
  6. "Peter Pan Loses His Shadow"- 7/18/08
  7. "Just Add Water"- 8/13/08
  8. "Give Me a 'HUH'?"-11/13/08

All of my entries are certainly heart-felt. I try to inject humor into the "stuff" that happens in my world so that I don't take myself to seriously. I hope you enjoy it.

To my new friends I met today: I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Parental Top 10

I have written about how, as a parent, I say things that I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would say. (Things like: "Child, quit biting the dog.")

I have come to realize recently that there are things I do as a parent, that I would never have envisioned doing. And, if I weren't a parent, you could not pay me any amount of money to do them.

I have compiled my "Top 10 Things I Have Done, That I Would Never Do, Except I Am A Parent" for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

10. One morning we were busy getting ready for school/work, and Amy had a special performance. She put on her church clothes, and pretty sandals. As I was scurrying around, Amy asked if I would paint her toes, as they were chipped and not very attractive. I said, "Sure," and, without a second thought, dropped to my knees to begin painting her toes. Hubby walked in and was completely alarmed. His vision: he walked in to find his wife on her hands and knees, in her underwear, painting his daughter's toes.

9. I was driving down the road with the kids when Amy began shrieking. I, terribly alarmed, asked what in the world was the matter. She said, "Oh, nothing," as she smiled. I chastised her and explained she was never, ever to do that again. So, naturally, five minutes later, she did it again. I pulled over to the side of the road and told her to get out of the car. She did, and gave me the most pitiful look I've ever seen. I glared at her and allowed her back in the car.

8. I was chastised by my children for suggesting we eat Baskin Robbins ice cream for dinner. (Really. What's wrong with this picture?)

7. On several occasions, I have been known to try and "gently direct" my family to get ready for church. There is usually some fighting between the kids, some general piddling around by everyone, and at least one pretty good "melt down" at some point. By the time we get in the car to go to church, I am irate. I have been know to say something profound, like, "Now, everybody put on your seat belt, be quiet and let's go love Jesus!!!!!"

6. I was so very, very sick and tired. And hubby was out of town. And I had all the kids myself. I had to feed them something. They were hungry. The poor kids ate cereal for 48 hours straight.

5. When Keith was little, everything he did was completely miraculous and amazing. We took two hours of video tape of him swinging in his baby swing.

4. When Emma was little and potty training, she got into the habit of wanting to "potty" everywhere we went. It was incredibly annoying, not to mention, it completely wrecked my day's schedule. One day we were in Krogers grocery shopping. Naturally, we had to stop by the restroom. Fairly soon thereafter, we went to check out. Emma asked to go to the restroom again. I assumed she was just bored, and she had just gone to the restroom, so I told her "no." A minute later, a puddle of liquid was on the floor- except that the floor was not level. So it all rolled under the Coca Cola case at the end of the check out line.

3. When Keith was born, I sterilized anything that touched him. I was slightly less paranoid with Emma. By the time I got to Amy, I was pretty much over it. We were at the Fairgrounds one day at the Flea Market. I had brought sandwiches for my kids to eat, so I could make sure they were eating something at least a little healthy, and because Fair food is so outrageously expensive. As we were walking along, Keith dropped his sandwich on the ground. I picked it up, brushed it off and gave it back to him. My friend, a first time mom, just about died on the spot thinking of all the germs I had given him.

2. I have a diet coke instead of coffee. My kids used to ask if they could have one, too. I, of course, said no. Because I was a "grown up". (The irony...)

1. My youngest, Amy, came in to the bathroom while I was drying off from a shower. She looked at my tummy, poked it with her finger and announced it was squishy. Somehow, because I'm her parent and I love her, she has lived to tell the tale.

I'm certain there is more, and there will be much, much more to come. But for now, I'll stop.

For anyone who is also a parent, thank you for laughing WITH me. For anyone who is NOT a parent, don't laugh AT me-- what comes around goes around...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dinner Time...

For about the sixth time in the last three days my kids have turned their noses up at my meal plans. It has gotten so that I mention at least three meal choices before I actually tell them what my "real" plan is.

Tonight it started with the usual: "Mom, what's for dinner?" (First question out of Keith's mouth when he walked in the door.)

I began with, "How about sandwiches?"

"Ew," Amy said, squishing up her nose.

"Okay, how about left over lasagna?"

"No, we had that last night. And I don't like lasagna," Keith whined.

"Yes, I remember you telling me that last night," I sighed at his back as he wandered to the other room.

Going in for the kill: "I was thinking rocks & worms," I said casually, trying to pretend it was just another suggestion, but secretly planning that this was the one.

(FYI: Rocks & Worms are chicken & long, thin dumplings. We call them that so that the kids will eat them.)

The girls were excited. This is a family favorite.

I started thawing the chicken and getting things together when Keith bopped back into the room.

"What's for dinner?" he asked.

"Rocks & Worms," I said, smiling, sure I had a keeper.

"Noooo," Keith yowled.

I looked up at him sharply. This little game of "What's for dinner?" was wearing thin.

"Mom... Can't we have sandwiches? I thought you said we were having sandwiches. I was thinking we could eat and watch a movie together," he whined.

I really wanted to throw things across my kitchen- really big, heavy, loud things. I held my breath and count to ten. A couple of times.

I went and pouted in the den and announced I was on strike.

Hubby said, "Honey, we don't treat children like that."

I glared at him. "Fine. You feed 'em," I retorted angrily.

"Honey," he tried chastising me again.

"Honey," I snipped back, "every single night- no every single meal- I argue with the kids about what we're going to eat. I'm tired of having this discussion! This is NOT a restaurant; it is a family kitchen. Keith doesn't want to help with the dishes. The girls don't want to help cook or set the table. But everyone wants to criticize: 'I don't like red food.' 'Does that have any nutritional value, mom? Because you know I only eat colored fat and refined sugar.' I don't see anyone complaining about your lawn care!"

He stood, hands on hips, looking at me, obviously gaging his next words carefully. He started to say something a few times, but basically just opened and closed his mouth.

Finally, he looked at the kids and said, "Okay, kids, what do you want?"

"Cereal," Keith sang.

"Me, too," Emma called.

"Can I have mine with milk?" Amy asked.

Hubby smiled victoriously. I wanted to bang my head against the wall.

The thawed out chicken went back in the refrigerator so that it can be rejected again tomorrow night. The kids ate their cereal cheerfully, and, just to rub salt in the wound, thanked hubby profusely.

The kids gave hugs to hubby and bounced up the stairs happy as little, full clams... Traitors!

Hubby was smirking from head to toe. "So, honey, what are the plans for tonight?" he asked.

I glared my best glare. "Well, I'm going to go blog about this funtabulous evening, so I don't have to kill anyone."

"Okay," he said. Was he patronizing me? That would be a bad idea.

"You know," I said, "I can kill you off in my blog." I smiled and looked off dreamily. "I'd cash out your life insurance policy..." I sighed.

"You'd miss me and you know it," he said, jutting out his chin.

"Okay, you're right," I said, very unconvincingly.

He looked sideways at me. I smiled.

"What are you doing?" he asked, as I got up from my seated position under my laptop computer.

"I'm fixing myself something to eat. And," I said, "by the way, I like my cooking..."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Home-Grown Grumpies

The rain has inspired "The Grumpies" at my house. I can only be thankful we don't live somewhere in the North Eastern United States, or another country, where it rains more than it doesn't. Keith's Middle School hormones mixed in with "The Grumpies" has just about been my undoing.

This morning Amy managed to spill the cereal all over the kitchen. Now, I don't just mean a spot in the floor caught the brunt of a bag of cereal. I mean she dribbled little chocolate cereal balls from the bag of cereal all over the kitchen. She swears it was not on purpose. So one of my other alternatives is that she was too stupid to recognize the little "plink" that each ball made as it bounced and rolled around to its resting place.

Amy may be many things. But stupid is not one of them. Yet, I don't believe she purposefully poured cereal on my floor. She did not appear to enjoy it enough. I think she was so overcome with "The Grumpies" she simply did not notice.

Even level-headed Emma was up for picking a fight this morning. And with Keith, it never takes a lot of encouragement anyway. So the field was ripe for picking.

Emma said, "I think it will be fun to sing at graduation." That's it. That's all she said. It was a general comment made to no one in particular.

Somehow Keith decided this was some sort of personal attack.

"Yeah, well I'm a better artist than you are," he sneered. I was too stunned to even react.

Emma began to try and defend herself- why, I am not sure. But Keith charged on:

"Think about it. I'm older than you, which means I've been drawing longer than you have. I'm a better artist anyway. So since I'm better, and I've had more practice, I'm like a hundred times better than you," he reported.

Emma gave him a sideways glance. "I can draw," she said defensively.

"Yeah. But not as good as I can," he said.

Finally, good sense kicked back in and I was able to act.

"Keith, what on earth are you talking about? Emma is talking about singing. What does that have to do with drawing?" I asked, more out of amazement than anything else.

"Nothing. I'm just saying I'm a better artist than she is," he shrugged.

"Okay," I said slowly, still not completely clear on everything. "What do you have to wear to sing the Alma Mater at graduation?" I asked Amy and Emma.

"I don't know. I'll ask the teacher," Amy replied.

"You know everyone in the school gets picked to sing for graduation one time," Keith said.

"What?" I asked.

"Everyone gets to sing for graduation one time. They didn't get chosen because they are good singers. It's just their turn," Keith said.

"Okay. It's still an honor," I said.

"It's not like their art got chosen for an art show like mine did," he continued, oblivious to anything I had just said.

"Keith, what is with you?" I asked. "Why are you trying so hard to be 'right' and be the 'winner'?"

"Well, I am right," he replied, with that pre-teen smugness that made me want to jump up and down on his head.

Emma rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Keith," she said, effectively cutting him off at the knees.

"No, not 'whatever'," he pressed. "I'm right. I am a better artist. You all sound like awful singing Hannah Montanna and Taylor Swift."

"Keith, that is enough! I do not know what your problem is this morning, but you need to stop it now," I demanded.

"Whatever," he said, rolling his eyes at me.

Finally, the horn of my sister-in-law's car was heard honking to signal she was there to pick them up. I sighed, relieved to have a break from this ridiculous conversation.

We will undoubtedly have a conversation equally as annoying, crazy and angering on the way home from school when I pick them up. But by then I will have at least had some caffeine, and will be awake enough to try to manage it better.

We are expected to have more rain over the next several days. In my house, I can assume that means more "Grumpies." Hopefully, we will all live to see the sun sometime next week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Home Grown

When my eldest was in Kindergarten, I remember thinking, "Look how big those kids are! Surely Keith is not old enough to be with them."

Last night I watched Kindergartners, next to first through fifth graders, in a program at school. The Kindergartners looked so tiny, I hardly believed I could have ever thought them to be so small.

My children looked so mature, so old. They were leaders in their respective classes. And they were well-liked by their peers, the faculty and other parents.

My son, now in Middle School, came with us to watch. Keith could not have looked less like the Kindergartner of yester-year, had he tried.

His adult-sized teeth have braces. When he was five, his teeth were smaller than the nail on my pinkie finger.

He is almost as tall as I am, and wears the same size shoes as I. When he was five, he had to reach up to squeeze around my waist.

When he was in Kindergarten, he wore a short, hair cut that didn't need any brushing, since he wouldn't sit still long enough for me to brush it. Now he sports a hair cut with bangs that swoop down into his eyes, except he works to keep it out- Not by brushing it, or by pushing it out of his way with his hand. He, and his peers, swing their heads in short sideways nods that make their hair fall to the side. (Usually this is accompanied by hands shoved down in jean pockets and a cool head jerk in some else's direction as way of greeting.)

At the program, there were a few high schoolers dotting the crowd. They seemed huge compared to my kids. But I stopped myself short before I dismissed them as "so much older." After all, it was not that long ago that my young Kindergartners seemed huge.

I'm not ready for them to be that big. Shoot, I'm not ready for them to be as big as they are. But I am looking forward to watching them grow every step of the way!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

He Shoots, He Scores!

Tomorrow Keith tries out for Basketball at the Middle School. He is so nervous. I am nervous for him.

It has made me completely nastalgic, having my oldest in Middle School. First it takes me back to how young he really is, even if he seems older. He can wear my shoes now. But I try to discourage it, because it stretches them out, and he is taller than me in heels.

The second way I feel nostalgic is I can remember vividly making the jump from Elementary to Middle School. I went from being a part of a classroom to wandering the halls to and from several classrooms. I went from nothing before or after school, to being on the pom pon squad and several other school clubs. And I was introduced to the world of "Boys."

I remember that fluttery feeling when a cute boy smiled at me. I didn't want to actually speak to them; what in the world would I say?

Keith has dived into the waters of "Girls," but seems to be navigating just fine. He has a friend who is a girl, who seems very level-headed, and not caught up in the catty girl stuff that Middle School seems to bring out in spades.

In fact, in many ways, he seems to be taking Middle School much more in stride than I did. I'm proud of him for trying out for Basketball. I ran the opposite direction of anything that smacked of competition. I guess I still do.

I admire his guts, his ability to take life in stride. I'm so proud of him.

I wish him the very best tomorrow. Mostly because he wants to also try out for the football team, and I would much rather him be dribbling a ball on the court than dribbling in a cup from the ball- hitting him, along with a bunch of other really big guys.

Hopefully, he'll become the next big basket ball star. That way he'll be happy, feel like he fits in, and stay off the football field!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Be Still...

The sign on the front of my car says, "Mom's Taxi." This weekend I could have made a mint if I had actually charged for the rides. My kids' social life rivaled that of any pop star sensation of the moment. They went to sleep-overs, parties, movies, and all sorts of other places. We had events stacked back-to-back, and sometimes literally on top of each other.

When all the revelry was finally dying and down and it was time for our children to come home, we were met with loud objections: "Just a few more minutes, mom!" and "But I don't want to come home, yet!" Were I not a secure person, I could take a lot of personal offense from this. However, I love my kids, and know they love me. And I know that the theory of: An object in motion tends to stay in motion applies completely and directly to my children.

No matter how tired, how exhausted, how sleepy, how hungry- they will "go" until they fall over. And their energy reserve seems almost endless as they bounce (literally) from one place to the next.

While in church on Sunday, my daughter tapped, fidgeted, crossed and uncrossed her legs, shifted her weight, and sighed a lot. During the quiet prayers, I could feel her vibrating next to me, as if to say, "Yeah, okay: God, we love You. Please bless everyone on the planet and beyond. Amen. Now, let's get on with it already!"

I, on the other hand, was standing still, almost in a trance, not even uttering the congregational responses. It felt soooooo good just to not be "doing" anything! Just standing or sitting... breathing...

I remember growing up thinking the church service would NEVER end! And I'm sure my mother remembers me practically doing gymnastics on the pew next to her.

At the time, I thought, "How do grown ups stay so still? This has got to be the most boring thing EVER! I mean, I'll bet even God thinks these prayers are long and boring. He's probably thinking: Okay. Thanks. I got it. I can't believe He hasn't told us to be quiet already!"

Now I realize: The grown ups weren't so much more reverent and faithful than I was when I was young; They were just tired!- From driving, from all the events their children did, for all the responsibilities that had to be taken care of during the weekend, etc.

If I did not have to cook, clean, take kids places, arrange schedules, work, and all the other miscellaneous and sundry things I do, I could have the energy my kids have. I could have their social life, too. I could be twitching like a mad woman during church.

But, alas, I am a mother. And mothers must do what mothers must do. So, I will continue to be still (as God requests, I might add) during church. And I will enjoy my little balls of energy sitting next to me.

Soon they will want to sit with friends, go to work, sleep in (not that they'll be allowed to do any of that). But while they're here, I'll be glad and rejoice while I be still and know God.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You Say Po-ta-to, I Say Po-tah-to

As a young(er) woman, I could not see why in the world my mentors, my employers, the men and women who were older (and wiser) than I, insisted I was "so young." In my eyes, I was smart, sharp, creative and bold.

Today, just on the other side of 40, I look at the young(er) men and women, and think, "infants." Not in a derogatory way. Certainly those "kids" can run circles around my technological abilities. Not to mention, they have the ability to run on less sleep and still have energy to spare. But life experience gives a different perspective than you can ever have, no matter how bright and/or energetic.

The "generation gap" rears its ugly head in the most unexpected ways and in the most unusual circumstances. I can remember being young(er) and my parents practically passing out from the smell of my bubble gum. Watermelon Bubblicious was Divine, but did have a certain quality about it that admittedly assaulted the senses. Still, it was one of my favorites.

My generation discovered a deep and passionate love for Zingers, Ho Ho's, sugary cereals, such as BooBerry and Count Chocula. We had the original Original Coke, before the New Coke and the New Original Coke. We loved Spam sandwiches and Hamburger Helper. We were in the generation that took the most advantage of "man-made, modern chemically processed food."

Today, "Organic" is the new "New & Improved." Vegans all over the world practically faint at the thought of the ingredients on the side of a Spam can (who can blame them?). The FDA has had to double-time it to keep up with the consumer's demand for "what is in this stuff???". And even then, companies' claims are fuzzy and misleading, at best.

My children love anything sour and/or having the ability to discolor their tongues. Now, when I say "sour," I don't mean even like lemons. I mean sour that makes you do that little shimmy, shiver like when you have to take bad cold medicine. Ick. My kids delight in watching me contort and generally spaz when they trick me into consuming something from their vile "sour" stash.

They also like to show "originality" by having green and/or blue tongues. They LOVE when a product will stain their tongue to look like a picture or say words.

Would I have thought that was "cool" when I was their age? Hard to say. I have such a tremendous distaste for it now, I don't think my judgement is exactly un-biased to rate them as a young(er) person.

I do know that as a young(er) person I thought Taco Bell was the best Mexican food in the world. I loved butter and peanut butter sandwiches, Tang, un-diet sodas, Pixie Sticks (pure, flavored sugar in a tube), and super-greasy french fries. Now, any one of those things makes my stomach hurt at the very thought, and my waistline bulge just a little, too.

So, would I like "sour raspberry bug juice" if I were my children's peer today, instead of their parent? Hard to say. I rather think not. But... could be, I suppose.

I have developed a taste that allows me to enjoy vegetables, which my children still think are the equivalent of eating echtoplasmic dirt. I prefer diet drinks, while my kids can go back and forth between regular and diet drinks without effort. However, my kids do not like Spam any more than I. And, after enough "junk" food, they will actually request "real" food.

The line between child and adult continues to blur as I realize that my children are armed with information I never received. For example, the modern marvel of chemicals that had such an appeal for my generation, is now commonly regarded as the cause of many illnesses and modern-day problems by me and my children.

I suppose, bottom-line, the older generation will always think of the younger generation as "so young/un-knowledgeable/lacking life experience"- no matter if we're talking fashion, theory or food. And the younger generation will always look at the older generation as "so old/square/not with it" right back at them. It's the way it has always been, and will always be.

I have to say, though, I am particularly glad we have come to some common ground: Spam is NOT an option, no matter what your age!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Case of Parental Hypocrisy

While I am certain I am not the only parent to camp firmly in the "do as I say, not as I do" side of the fence, I will admit that it always feels a little bad when some startling realization hits. I try to justify that, of course I would want only the very best for my children. And many times "the very best" is better than than I personally do or say.

I know, Amy, that I don't eat enough vegetables. I know you hate them. And I know it's very hypocritical for me to ask you to eat them when I don't. But, I want better for you than I do for myself! Same for Emma and house cleaning, and Keith and exercising.

Can a child be trained to do something if the the parent doesn't set the example? Thankfully, yes. Obviously, many, many people have not only survived their parents, but lived to thrive despite of them.

But how can I help my children be better people, if I can't even manage it myself? If I can't motivate myself to do 30 minutes of exercise per day, what right do I have to tell Keith that he has to? Or have Emma clean her room, or Amy eat her vegetables? Circle back around to that "do as I say, not as I do" thing.

Oh, but the oldest child cries, "Foul! No Fair! Why should I have to do it, if you don't?"

"Because, I am your parent," which is my least favorite answer in the world, but as a parent, encompasses more than words could ever say. "Besides, if I jumped off of a cliff, does that make it okay for you to do, too?"

"Yes," youngest child declares.

"No," I retort, "It does not."

"Why not?" youngest child demands.

"Because, I am your parent," I say, again with the non-answer that simply closes down the conversation.

But if I think about it, it goes back to wanting the best for my children. I may not be able to achieve all that I think is perfect/proper/wonderful. But there's no reason, given the advantages I can bestow as a parent, that my children can not.

"But what if we don't want to?" practical, middle child asks...

Hmm. Good question...

My "do as I say, not as I do," persona raises her hand: "You can do what you want when you live in your own house. Until then, you will do as I say."

Ha. Case Closed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Carry On

As I was plodding through the rain to my car, I had bags in one hand, keys and an umbrella in the other, a purse slung over my shoulder and a phone between my shoulder and my ear. My oldest was walking, head down, engrossed in a video game trying to stay under the umbrella. Half way across the parking lot, he started juggling a book he was carrying, pulled it out from under his arm, and- without looking up- said, "Could you hold this?"

"Huh?" I asked, incredulously.

"Can you hold this?" he asked again, as though explaining it to the profoundly stupid.

"Keith," I began, "we could not be more than five feet from the car. You hold it. Besides, where would I carry it?"

He spared me a quick glance, verified my statements and said, "Oh. Okay."

I have come to realize that when God created females, He modeled us after many different animals. Lately I feel like one of those animal characteristics has been called upon more than the others. I have been a talking, walking pack mule.

While my kids play tag, run circles around me and try to kill each other, I'm like a human shopping cart, to which things keep getting added. Normal humans would have to have an additional twelve arms to carry what we super-moms can manage.

I recently switched from carrying a large purse to a tiny one. On any given day, I could have made millions on "Let's Make a Deal." Yo-yos, candy, Barbie Dolls, a Bratz doll with one leg missing, Legos, pony-tail holders, a broken Christmas ornament, used and unused band aids, and various other oddities floated aimlessly in the bottom of my purse. And it was commonplace for my children to bound up to me with something else in hand and ask, "Mom, can you hold this for me?" I'd nod as I would shove the newest treasure into my seemingly endless, uncomfortably heavy purse.

Finally, I developed a shoulder pain that was pesky enough to keep me from sleeping well. That was the proverbial straw, and I began searching for little purses. Once I made the switch, I thought, I wouldn't have to carry nearly as much.

Well, I don't have to carry as much in my purse. But it has not insulated me from being my children's "go-to gal" to hold all their miscellaneous "stuff."

Who else but a mom would have in their arms, at the same time, a poster board from a project, a library book on bugs, grocery bags, a gym bag with very ripe, dirty clothes, the mail, a stuffed animal and a diet coke? And still have their seven-year-old look up at them and say, "Will you hold me, mom?"

I think a collapsible grocery cart should be standard issue for all new moms. When they are babies, you could use it for all of the diapers, extra outfits, baby wipes, bottles, etc. you lug around. When they get older, it would allow someplace for all the Happy Meal toys, juice boxes, goldfish snacks and all the extras, too. School years would be so much easier and efficient with a cart to carry all the jackets, notebooks, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. And summers would be much more fun when you could push all the floats, swim towels, picnic baskets, sunscreen and everything else.

As a mom prepares for her "empty nest" when the children leave the home, it is not only the house that feels empty and quiet. There are no more requests from little people to, "Hold this."

The large luggage-like bag she once called a purse, crammed with enough preparedness to make a boyscout feel inferior, can be scaled down to a wallet, cell phone and keys.

So while I complain about feeling like a mountain of clothes and stuff that can walk and talk, I am very mindful of the fact that all of those "things" represent some very special children. Children who I would not trade for the world...

Children who could really carry their own things every once and I while, don't you think????

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

I absolutely mean no offense to anyone, but I must beg the question: can animals be retarded? More specifically, can a dog have such a low IQ that, if it were a person, it would qualify for special education and/or state funding?

If yes, then I am certain my dog is part of this group.

If not, then we may want to consider establishing a new group.

Dixie is just the cutest little puff of fur you have ever seen. She is part Shiz Tzu and part Maltese (and quite possibly part cat, since her favorite perch is on top of my couch). She has the sweetest face, and a wonderful disposition. She loves, loves, loves her mamma (me).

HOWEVER, she is the most incontinent dog you have ever seen in your life! She is three years old, and still can not be left alone for more than three minutes, lest she leave a huge pee spot in the floor. (She will probably poop, too- but she eats it, so I have no evidence.)

The dog can go outside, walk around the block, then hang out on her leash in the back yard for an hour. But as soon as she walks in the door and is alone, she will just pull up a piece of carpet and relieve herself.

No amount of begging, pleading, bribing or beating has made a difference. The vet says she could be passive/aggressive and suggested Prozac. I laughed and said, "no." Now- I'm reconsidering.

Literally every inch of carpet in our home needs to be ripped up and replaced. To be fair, she is the fourth pet to contribute to the "problem." However, her "contributions" have been far more substantial than the other three put together!

We also potty-trained two children in this home. So, there was the occasional "oops" when they didn't make it to the bathroom in time. But, at least they felt uncomfortable and requested a wardrobe change. The dog doesn't seem to notice.

We resorted to blocking off the kitchen and leaving her on the linoleum when we were away from the house. She evidently can fly or vaporize and re-materialize on the other side of the huge blockades we have erected on either side of the kitchen. Because in the afternoons when I come home, she has gotten out of her "fortress" and is perched, happily wagging her tail, on the back of the couch.

We were told that dogs NEVER go to the bathroom where they sleep. So we put her in her kennel. Not only did she go to the bathroom, she rolled in it. So she had poop (what she hadn't eaten) matted in her white, soft fur (ICK) and her paws were literally yellow from the pee.

Whenever we say, "Ooh, Dixie, you stink!," she looks perplexed. She hates having her nose rubbed in pee, but only because she doesn't like being held down. The smell really doesn't seem to bother her that much.

I'm certain even the Dog Whisperer would decide this dog has problems. I am totally out of options to make this dog stop using my home as a potty. And it's GROSS!

We have a steam cleaner which gets hauled out just about every twenty four hours. Hubby works for a company that has some GREAT cleaning products, which we have used A LOT. Quite frankly, I am amazed we have any fibers left in our carpets, considering the scrubbing we do.


She does go to the vet tomorrow for her yearly shots. I am going to ask the vet if they have some magic corks I can put in her. Or if I can feed her cleaning products, so at least if she pees on my carpet, she will make it clean...


I'll keep you posted...