Monday, May 7, 2012


Upon doing some math, I can safely hypothesize that August must be a really boring month for most couples I know. Because they all have kids kids who celebrate birthdays within a four-week window sometime in April and May.

The doldrums of August is the reason I've found myself scurrying over to Target every other day for the past few weeks. Scrambling to purchase birthday presents for other people's kids. Were I a bit more organized and had more foresight, I could just buy a bunch of toys at once and be done with it. But you probably all know me better than that. My idea of planning ahead is boiling some water to make Mac and Cheese five minutes later.

The truth is, I really don't mind buying toys for other people's kids. I think this (like every other quirk I have) stems from my youth. When I was a kid, I generally waited until the last minute to let my parents know that a.) I had a birthday party to attend and b.) I needed to get a present ASAP or arrive empty-handed and run the risk of having the door slammed in my face, or at the very least have a gaggle of more-prepared girls giggle their asses off at me.

This possibility of arriving at someone's party sans gift was avoided one of two ways:

1: My father would reluctantly leave his post in front of his command-center (consisting of roughly seventeen NCR computers cobbled together, networked and wired up to provide him access to a very archaic virtual bulletin board visited only by other computer nerds of the late 80's) and drive me to the only place in town selling anything that even remotely passed as a thoughtful gift: Hallmark. There I would head straight for the mug section. Which basically consisted of one shelf with four or five different mugs to chose from. Because really, what prepubescent, mildly-indulged little girl wouldn't want a ceramic coffee mug imprinted with the truism, Men, Chocolate, Some Things Are Just Better Rich? Just think of all the uses! And when you come up with one, let me know so I can finally go to sleep at night knowing that I wasn't completely mocked behind my back. Seriously, sometimes I just want to find these people on Facebook and be like, "So....did you throw my mug in the garbage right a-way...or did you actually drink coffee out of it for a few weeks before you realized that coffee was stunting your growth, and then throw it away?" The lady at the Hallmark store probably wondered what the hell I did with all those mugs. Was I opening a coffee shop? Was I a young executive who needed a few pencil holders on my desk? Was this just the first step in a lifetime of collecting useless trinkets--soon I'd be on miniature spoons, Beanie Babies, Precious Moments figurines?

or 2.) Instead of living with the suspicion that I was the all-time worst gift-giver who ever walked the halls of Orchard Road School, I would sneak into my sister's bedroom while she was slaving away at Rodolpho's Pizza and find something that might offer me redemption. And because my sister had a job, was in high school and therefore one of the coolest beings on this or any other planet, there was plenty to choose from. One of my friends received a really neat pair of earrings. Another a Sweet Valley High book (but not number 5. That one I hung onto like other kids might a treasured comic book or their favorite baseball card. Number 5 was entitled All Night Long, so you can just imagine the smut-factor. The guy embracing Jessica Wakefield on the cover had a mustache. And it only got better from there).
Still another received a silver canister full of shimmery powder. I had no clue what my sister even did with it, but the very fact that she had it there, next to her three-way lighted, Conair make-up mirror and tins of blue eyeshadow meant that it must be an important ingredient to being undisputedly cool.

Fortunately the older I got, the more acceptable it became to just give the birthday girl or boy a card with money inside. Sure it was impersonal and kind of...strange. Like the kid was charging a cover to get into her party. But it didn't require a trip to Amy's Hallmark next to the Rocky Hill Grand Union. Hell, I could even make the card myself if I had to. As long as a crisp, ten-dollar bill fell out when the recipient opened it, I don't think it mattered much that the card itself was made from computer punch cards and decorated with dried-out purple marker. I even got in on the action, and made $120 when I turned 13. I think I had a party just so I could make enough money to go to the mall and get a few outfits (and pay my brother gas money--$15 for him to drive me twelve miles in 1991).

So now that my own kids are going to birthday parties more frequently, I can know they won't worry about bringing their friend a poorly-wrapped half-empty bottle of Designers Imposters body spray. Sure the toy might be made in China and break after five seconds, but at least it's not a mug that says World's Greatest Dad.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Panty Raid

My kids are nothing if not creative.

Take the Underpants Game, for example.

This game was invented last week after bath time. Jeff was still out of town, and I had shifted from I-Can-Do-This Mode to Holy-Crap-If-Jeff-Doesn't-Come-Home-In-The-Next-Twelve-Hours-I-Am-Going-To-Stew-My-Children-In-My-Hamilton-Beach-Crock-Pot, Serve-Them-Over-Some-Rice-And-Smother-Them-In-Shredded-Cheese Mode. With-Some-Apple-Pie-A-La-Mode. Mode.

So I instructed them to march down the hall, wrapped in their respective towels, all clean-haired and dewy-skinned, and get themselves into their respective jammies. And thinking my children can follow instructions as obediently as a well-trained German Shepard, I headed for the laundry room for some therapeutic folding. And then the chuckles began.

Isn't it funny how the beautiful and precious sound of your baby laughing eventually morphs into a sort of disturbing, ominous chuckle? The kind of chuckle that doesn't say, I'm having innocent fun and learning about object permanence. It says, I'm wearing a shit-eating grin and up to absolutely no good because mommy is preoccupied cleaning up a mess that most likely I made, and so for a few minutes I can get away with something unthinkably rotten and therefore a total hoot.

Me: Guys? I hope you're putting on your pajamas like I asked....

Instead of a reassuring chorus of We are, I hear silence. And then more chuckles.

Me: What are you doing?
Rollie: Noooothiiiiing.
Me: Why do I not believe that? You're laughing an awful lot to be doing nothing.

I cross the hall and find my children jay-bird naked.

Me: What's going on, guys? Why aren't you dressed?
Rollie (pointing up and looking rather proud of himself): Look!

There, hanging like a pair of deployed parachutes from the model P-51 "Cadillac Of The Sky" airplane suspended from his ceiling were Star Wars and Dora underpants.

Me: Ooooh.
Elsa: Can you get them down for us?
Me: How did they get up there?
Elsa: Rol Rol threw them.
Me: You guys are supposed to be putting them on, not throwing them around the room.
Rollie: But I'm trying to get them onto my airplane.
Me: You can't get them down once they're up though.
Rollie: You can get them down.
Me: I don't really want to be your underwear retriever.
Elsa: Underwear Retriever! Hahahaha!
Rollie: I'll get them down with Mr. Yardstick.
Me: Rollie, please don't.
Rollie: But it's fun!
Me: It looks like a total blast (I mean, come on...who wouldn't want to throw his or her undies around the room instead of putting them on? It's their own version of Animal House.), but that's not what you're supposed to be doing. Now please get your jammies on.

They obliged, and I left. And the laughing continued. Which, now that I thought about it, was actually pretty funny. I mean, they were just so...amused by this game. In my children's mind, throwing their underwear around the room was delightfully absurd. Here is a garment that is worn beneath clothes, hidden from view. Underwear is private. Something other people just aren't supposed to see. And there they were, tossing it in the air like cotton confetti, laughing like little lunatics. And who were they hurting, really? They weren't making a mess. They weren't fighting. They were trying to smuggle candy from the pantry or draw on the walls or take turns spitting water into the toilet. For a change.

The Underpants Game would have been relatively innocuous were it something my two children played by themselves. But it was apparently so much fun that my darling angels decided it was too good not to share. The next day a few of their little friends came over to play. And as the other moms and I hung out in the kitchen, the kids disappeared into Rollie's room, where almost instantly laughter of the shit-eating variety erupted.

One of the little girls emerged, the look on her face one of hilarious disbelief.

Girl: Rollie's throwing his underwear around.
My Friend: He's doing what?
Me: It's a game they made up. (And even as I try to explain, I feel like anything I say will only make it worse. It's like trying to explain away why your son has, say, a human head hanging next to his winter coats in his room: "Oh, that's my Jimmy. Never know what you're gonna find in his closet! Ha ha ha.")

I peeked into his room to admonish, and almost got hit in the face by a pair of flying underpants.

Me: Rollie, no more.
Rollie: But look, Momma. (He proceeds to throw a pair of Spiderman undies up, where the ceiling fan bats them onto his top bunk).
Me: Rollie. Play something else.

And then a few days later, we were at another friend's house. A friend who has two charming, well-behaved girls (one of whom Rollie's paramour), which means she has never had the delight of glancing out her window to see her first-born aiming his penis in the air mid-pee so he can determine just how high of a trajectory he can reach with his urine stream.

Her house has plenty of toys that even a 5-year-old boy can appreciate. And silly, unsuspecting little me figured that he would do what he always does when he's at someone else's house: Sit quietly in the other room and play a board game, following the rules, taking turns and being polite as a sweet old lady. Wait...he never does that.

So imagine my surprise when my friend's daughter emerged and said:

"Rollie's playing with my underwear."

Oh, Lord.

My Friend: ...What?
Me (again, feeling like I'm explaining his tendency to skin alive bunny rabbits): Not the underwear she has on....It's a new game he and Elsa made up.
Rollie appeared, a balled up pair of undies in his hand like he was in the middle of some slumber party prank.
Me: Rollie. We don't play with our friend's underwear. (That's a new one.)
Rollie: But it's funny.
Me: Go put those away and play something else.
Rollie: But they think it's funny.
Me: ROLLIE. No more underwear game.

Rollie looked at his friend and they both ran from the room, laughing all the way.

So at least they were getting along and having fun. Even if it was at something that in a few years will be really inappropriate. And in a few more years downright creepy. I would tell him to enjoy the Underpants Game while he can, but I don't want to encourage him....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rollie's Big Adventure

Being a parent means that sometimes you find yourself doing the Pee-Wee Herman dance in the middle of a hospital parking lot. Yes. It does.

We had just spent 45 minutes in a cramped allergist office. A desk, a table, two chairs, three kids and me. And eventually the allergist. I'd kept them entertained with my phone, a few games of Simon Says, a backdated Highlight magazine, and posters discussing the pros and cons of various inhalers. But as the minutes dragged on, I started running out of ways to keep them occupied by means other than shredding the crinkly paper on the exam table or stepping on the garbage can pedal and making the metal lid slam shut. I was tired, sweaty, had a 20-pound baby strapped to my chest, and was getting a bit frazzled. Tequila!

So we were walking back to the car (which was Jeff's Jeep, which is another blog in and of itself. I had it for the week while Jeff was out of town, and one of the caveats of my driving the Fun Bus is that I had to park it as far away from any other vehicle, building, sidewalk, garbage can, or suspicious-looking tree as possible. Even if this sometimes meant just leaving it in the garage and simply walking to my destination. And the children were forbidden to eat, drink, chew gum, wear shoes, spit-up, breathe or shed skin cells while riding in Dadda's car. ) when I noticed that the parking lot had filled up a bit since we went inside. Now to our left was a great big chopper, the kind which the rider has to reach way out and hang on to the handlebars for dear life.

Elsa: Look, Momma, a motorcycle.
Me: Yep. Cool.
Rollie: Can I have a motorcycle someday?
Me: Hmmm...probably not.
Rollie: Why not?
Me: They're just pretty dangerous.
Rollie: How dangerous? (That's his thing lately. Wanting me to answer the un-answerable. How fast could I run when I was little, Momma? How hot is the dryer? What if I ate all the celery in the whole entire world?)
Me: Really, really dangerous. Elsa, don't touch it!

Elsa, notorious for touching absolutely everything she sees, even if it's salivating and growling at her, has reached out one curious little hand, quickly closing the gap between her and 800 pounds of gleaming chrome and metal.

Elsa: Why not?
Me: Because it's not ours. We don't touch things that don't belong to us. (Unless it's Dadda's Jeep, in which case we don't even look at it unless we are a safe distance away. Two miles is usually acceptable, unless the kids are sticky.)
Rollie: Who does it belong to?
Me: I don't know. But he could be looking so let's make sure we stay far away from it.
Elsa: Why is he looking?
Me: I don't know if he is, but just in case....

I lean into the Jeep to place Finn in his seat, and when I emerge I see Elsa reaching out again, almost tenderly, the way one might reach out to a gentle lover. Or, in Elsa's case, a twinkie.

Me: ELSA. Do Not Touch That Motorcycle.
Elsa: Why?
Me: I already explained why. Plus, you might knock it over. I've seen that happen in a movie once and it ended very badly for the person who did it.
Rollie: What happened in the movie?
Me: He actually knocked over a whole row of motorcycles that were parked next to each other. He touched one and they all toppled over like dominos.
Rollie: ...What did they do to him?
Me: They beat him up.
Rollie: Why?
Me: Well...actually they didn't beat him up. They almost beat him up.
Rollie: Why did they almost beat him up?
Me: ...Well...

It would have been easier for me to stray from the Pee-Wee's Big Adventure plot-line. For me to just say, They beat him up, threw him out of the bar, and from then on he never ever touched another motorcycle as long as he lived. Now get in the car, you little monkeys. Chip-chop-chip.

Unfortunately I am a movie snob. As you can tell from my impeccable taste in quotes, references and other nods toward the world of cinema. I could just go on letting my children believe that Pee-Wee Herman was beaten to a grey-suit-wearing pulp and left to hitch-hike his way to the Alamo (or was he on his way home?).

Me: They decided not to beat him up.
Rollie: Why?
Me: Because he did a silly dance.
Rollie: How silly?
Me: Really silly.
Rollie: What did it look like?
Me: ...It was just silly. He wore silly shoes and did a silly dance and they let him go.
Rollie: Can you show me?
Me: You want me to show you the dance?
Rollie: Yeah. Can you do it for me?
Me (looking around me like I'm about to tell a highly inappropriate joke. But we were in a hospital parking lot, surrounded by about 200 cars and people clad in scrubs returning from lunch break, older people shuffling by carting oxygen tanks, men wearing ties, peddling pharmaceutical products. And there were my children, looking at me with large, expectant eyes): Okay.

And so I danced. I danced the dance of a mom who was just stuck in a doctor's office with her three young kids, a hungry mom who had to pee, who was sweaty, who was kind of tired, who needed a shower. I'm talking Tony Award. The children giggled with delight, obviously having no idea their mother had such awesome moves.

Me: Da-NA-Na-Na-NA-Na-Na-NA! You master this dance and it'll get you out of all kinds of trouble.
Rollie: Like what kind of trouble?
Me: I don't know exactly. Why don't you try it sometime and let me know?
Rollie: Why did they like that dance?
Me: Why do you think they liked it?
Rollie: ...Because you were pointing at your bottom.
Me: Yeah, I figured you'd like that part.

The ride home was spent explaining the rest of the movie to Rollie, until at a stoplight I found the dance on YouTube and the kids took turns watching it on my phone and laughing themselves silly. And practicing their shouts of Tequila! I can already imagine the parent-teacher conference that is most certainly in my future: For some reason Rollie keeps pointing at his rear-end and yelling Tequila. I'll have to make sure I wear Jeff's sweatshirt again....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oooooh Fuuuuudge

Well, he finally did it. I suppose it was inevitable, like puberty, or his first crush...or his first stint in juvy. But it's happened. Life as I know it will never be the same.

Rollie said his first swear word.

He even used it correctly. And in context. And like, with feeling. Like he really meant it. Somehow that makes it worse. I should have seen it coming. He likes to watch this show with us called Duel Survival, or Rollie calls it, Cody and Dave. Cody and Dave are survival experts, the former a shoeless hippie with long braids and a nose ring, the latter an ex-marine sniper with a crew cut and army boots. Oftentimes in the show the two of them exchange some colorful language, much of which is bleeped out:

Cody: Here, Dave, I found you some nuts to eat.
Dave: Those look like an elephant just took a bleep.
Cody: Well, that's because they came from elephant bleep.
Dave: You're serious? You were about to bleeping make me eat elephant bleep.
Cody: It's either eat elephant bleep, or bleeping stave. So you tell me. 
Dave: I'd rather bleeping starve.
Cody: Okay, bleep it. I'll eat the bleeping bleep-nuts. Bleeping Bleep.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cigarettes And Beer...And Kevin Bacon

Looks like I picked the wrong week to wear Spandex. As if there's ever a right week.

I was going to a workout class, see. One of those that incorporates your baby in the workout, as if your baby will tolerate being lifted and bench-pressed like a drooling, five-pound bag of flour instead of a squirming, wriggling, 17-pound, just learned to crawl and now wants to maintain the same freedom to roam as an endangered species on an animal preserve. Baby.

And so in my enthusiasm to train my butt to defy gravity--or at least mildly disagree with it--I donned a pair of "workout pants" (as in, a camel called...he wants his toe back), a t-shirt, some new sneakers that had yet to meet any pavement, and ushered the kids into the car. I was planning for a quick, painless drop off at school, followed by a nice hour of lifting Finn over my head and trying to avoid getting any of his bodily fluids in my mouth.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Big Five

Yesterday Rollie turned five.

Five. Wow.

Five is a neat age. I'm thinking that it will be nice to have a five-year-old in the house. Five-year-olds go to Kindergarten. They ride bikes. They tie their own shoes. They can invent games using rotten pumpkins and bathroom doors. They can hold semi-intellectual conversations about mediocre song lyrics. And they only occasionally need to corrected for insubordination, talking back, and climbing on their little brother's excer-saucer to reach some off-limits Valentine's Day candy, while their little brother is in said excer-saucer.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Texts, Lies, And Boobs Made From Ballistics Gel

Something fishy is going on here.

So I went away for a night. Just me. No kids. No Jeff. Just a nice relaxing getaway with a few other people who also haven't had a good night sleep since the Clinton administration. And while we still didn't get much sleep, at least our insomnia was the result of bar-hopping and having to pee in the middle of the night, and not the result of being startled awake by a mini-person appearing at our bedside and insisting that Cookie Monster was scuttling around the house and making ridiculous demands for Oreos at 2 in the morning.

I wasn't really that worried about Jeff being alone with the kids for 24 hours. He's a pretty capable person. Were he dumped onto a deserted tropical island, armed with nothing but a shoelace, a broken lighter and an empty paint can, he would find a way to either sustain himself for the next ten years, or fashion an elaborate escape plan that would land him on another tropical island, this one inhabited by voluptuous Pacific Island women bearing pineapples and pina coladas.