Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Motherhood Style

I've written another song.  Please feel free to sing along.  (And don't be a smart-ass and skip to the end...Jeff pointed out that everyone would do that, and I got all pissed off and insisted that they wouldn't.  Please don't give him the satisfaction of being right.  He gets to be smug around me way too much.)

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Motherhood Style

On the first day of Christmas my children gave to me
a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the second day of Christmas my children gave to me
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the third day of Christmas my children gave to me
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the fourth day of Christmas my children gave to me
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the fifth day of Christmas my children gave to me
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the sixth day of Christmas my children gave to me
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the seventh day of Christmas my children gave to me
Seven temper tantrums
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the eight day of Christmas my children gave to me
Eight stains of milk and
Seven temper tantrums
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the ninth day of Christmas my children gave to me
Nine loads of laundry
Eight stains of milk and
Seven temper tantrums
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the tenth day of Christmas my children gave to me
Ten nights of teething
Nine loads of laundry
Eight stains of milk and
Seven temper tantrums
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the eleventh day of Christmas my children gave to me
Eleven diapers reeking
Ten nights of teething
Nine loads of laundry
Eight stains of milk and
Seven temper tantrums
Six nervous breakdowns
Fiiiiiive bathtub riiiiiings...
Four naughty words
Three bite marks
Two saggy boobs
And a reason for Jeff's vasectomy

On the twelfth day of Christmas my husband gave to me
A twelve-pack of beer.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Over the past seven days, the title of this blog has been galvanized.

When I first titled this blog, I thought it was kinda cute, a truism that moms everywhere could relate to.    Motherhood is Easy....As Long As You Have Nothing Else To Do For The Next 50 Years.  Hardy Har.  I suppose the transverse (or inverse?) of my blog title would read something like: If Yo Do Have Something Else To Do, Motherhood Is A Giant Pain In The Ass.  Or maybe: If You Want Motherhood To Be Easy, Don't Expect To Get Anything Done...Like, Ever

Because since this week....Holy Crap.  Jeff and I went to Vegas last weekend and our parents tag-teamed babysitting the kids.  Since we've returned, I have spent most of my time treading water in the endless sea of Household Chores with two cement blocks tied to each leg.  These blocks I've affectionately nicknamed Rollie and Elsa.

Of course, it doesn't help that Christmas is hurling toward us all at a bajillion miles an hour.  It was my intention to spend the first half of the month preparing for the chaotic second half, but here it is, December 15th, and my biggest accomplishment so far is taking a picture of my children in front of the Christmas Tree (see right).
As you can see, it went about as well as I expected.

I've also been busily cleaning up after my beloved parents, who got the anchor-leg of the babysitting gig, God bless 'em.  The only downside to this is that my house once again looks like I hosted Motley Crue for a week (see blog entry Payback's A Dirty Swiffer).   My mother successfully managed to destroy my coffee maker.  I'm not sure how this happened.  She's been operating coffee makers for fifty-five years.  I'm not sure why my particular model is more challenging for her to operate than an F-16 fighter jet.  She can figure out how to use our TV remote (although I think she accidentally recorded nine episodes of Dancing with the Stars), so she should be able to handle a Mr. Coffee, right?

After they left I found coffee on my back-splash, rings of it beneath my sugar canisters, drips of it beneath the sink, black coffee grinds sprinkled like pixie dust across the kitchen floor.  It's like a crime scene--my mother murdered Mr. Coffee, in the kitchen, with his own carafe.  Ay-yay-yay.

So between cleaning up after my house guests, Christmas shopping, getting ready for playdates and parties and hoeing the backyard (I would elaborate, but it would take too long and I don't really feel like it), my blog has suffered some serious neglect.  For that I apologize.  I'll try my best to keep up, although as I sit and write, my laundry is multiplying and toys are beginning their inexorable march out of my children's rooms, down the hallway and into the living room.  So we'll see how it goes.

I will leave you with this....a picture of my darling children sort of happy.  Bribing them with gigantic candy canes works every time.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is That Hair Gel?

The other day I found Elsa alone in her room playing contentedly with a piece of yarn.  I swooped down and kissed her on her fuzzy head...and discovered that her hair was plastered down in front, and stiff as lemon meringue.

"What the..." I examined her hair, but besides the odd texture, nothing else seemed abnormal.  She didn't smell like maple syrup or hair spray.  I couldn't find any other evidence that would point to her just landing headfirst into a puddle of slime.  Just a streak of stiff, slightly sticky hair.

"What happened to you?" I asked her.  To which she replied by looking up at me with those huge blue eyes and wrinkling her nose in a grin.

"Why is your hair all gross?" I asked.  She grinned again.

I grabbed a baby wipe from her changing table and tried to remove the mystery substance from her hair, but she squirmed and whined and arched her back, eager to get back to that exciting piece of yarn.

"Hang on a minute," I said, trying to wipe her hair clean.  Still she struggled.  Why do babies freak out when you're trying to clean them?  Good grief, you'd think I was trying to pull off her nose with a pair of pliers.

I gave up and tossed the wipe, then started picking up some of her toys.  And then I heard Rollie in his room.   Playing.  And singing.  And then...sneezing.

"Bless you!" I yelled.

He didn't reply, but a few seconds later he ran into Elsa's room, where Elsa had abandoned her yarn and was now chewing on a sock.  Before I could say or do anything, Rollie leaned down and gently rubbed his nose on Elsa's head.  Then he sprinted from the room.

Well, that explains the mystery goo.

"Rollie!" I followed him into his room.

"Yes, Momma?" he asked.  He was lying on his stomach, carefully assembling a Noah's Ark puzzle.  (Any time you walk in on your child doing something with a Biblical Theme--a Tower of Babel coloring book, a Red Sea-scape, a mosaic of The Last Supper, a Nativity diarama--you can safely assume you've got yourself a hidden crime scene somewhere else in the house. Go check your fish tank or your's likely that something incongruous is floating around in there.)

" don't use Baby Elsa's head as a tissue."  That's a new one.


"If you need to wipe your nose, use a tissue from the bathroom."

"But they're all gone."

Of course!  That is the only possible explanation for why you'd be wiping your snot on your sister!

"Okay, well, we'll get you some more at the store.  You can use toilet paper until we go to Publix."

"Toilet paper goes in the potty," he said.

"I know, but today you need to use it on your nose, too."


"Because we're out of tissues."


"Because I forgot to buy them last time."

"Why did you forget to buy them last time?"

"Probably because you were distracting me with your grocery store antics.  Now stop blowing your nose on Baby Els."

Finally he seemed satisfied with my answers and focused his attention back to his puzzle.  But I was left wondering how many really disgusting things he does when I'm not many stains and marks and sticky spots on the floor are his doing?  Here I've been blaming the dog for sneezing on the wall or leaving dog biscuit crumbs on the carpet, when all along my own son was the likely culprit.  I've caught him wiping his mouth on the couch, his hands on the bathmat...I've seen him throw chewing gum on the ground and shove raisins into the little hole beneath his carseat buckle.  Where he picks up these habits I'll never know.  I'm not the model of anal fastidiousness by any means, but I use a tissue when I need one, and I usually throw garbage where it belongs (exception--my purse has served as a trash can on numerous occasions.  See the Apple Dapple Purse entry for clarification).

But lesson learned.  From now on I'll be sure to have a supply of Kleenex for my son.  Otherwise things could get messy.  Especially once Elsa's hair gets longer.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Things I'm Thankful For

I know it's a little late, but as the rest of my family sleeps off a pumpkin-pie-induced food-coma, I wanted to stop and list a few things I am thankful for:

My house--it has a split floor-plan. Meaning Jeff and I are on the other side of the house and if I turn the monitor off at night, it's almost like we don't have children.

My car--it has a nifty rearview mirror, allowing me to see what's going on in the back and yell at Rollie just before he sticks his dirty socks into Elsa's waiting mouth.

My TV--it is the greatest babysitter I've ever had, and I don't have to worry about Jeff running off with it into the night...mainly because it's too heavy for him to carry.

My dog--his nightly ritual of cleaning up after my children's dinner saves me the hassle of doing it myself.  And it saves me a fortune in dog food.

My local grocery store--those two seater carts with built-in steering wheels have provided my children hours of entertainment as I shop.  Plus the extra crumbs Elsa finds lodged in the seat cracks saves me from having to feed her later.

My internet connection--for being fast and dependable and never, ever going out on me.  I'm almost curious to see how I'd fare if it ever DID go out...I suppose as long as there was plenty of beer in the fridge I'd be okay.

My microwave--I've said it before and I'll say it again: God Bless Its Inventor.  Were it not for my microwave, my children would eat their own fingers waiting for me to actually cook something the old fashioned way.  I'm also thankful for Steam Fresh vegetables.  They are often the only source of non-fruit, food-pyramid sustenance my children get all day.

My DVR--Not only does it unfailingly provide hours of entertainment in the way of recorded Wubzy and Wonder Pets episodes for my kids, it's also there for me when I desperately want to watch 30 Rock but am so exhausted I accidentally put both contact lenses in the same case and the next day end up with 20/10 vision in one eye and 20/2000 vision in the other.

And Finally, My Family--Despite everything I write that might imply the contrary, I adore my children.  I mean, if they were perfect angels all the time, what would I write about?  Who wants to read anything about a kid who never drew on the carpet with Magic Marker or stick his penis down the bathtub drain?  Who wants to know about a baby who always ignored the dog food bowl and never bit her big brother on the back? People LOVE rubber-necking over the misdeeds of other people's kids.  I know I do.  I used to mentally shake my head and judge other parents who yelled at their kids in public or promised them candy if they stopped having a tantrum in the middle of the mall.  Now I have to stop myself from walking up to the parents with my blog website scrawled on a napkin, like an AA sponsor handing out his number to a stumbling alcoholic, and telling them, "You are not alone."

Oh yeah, and I'm thankful for my husband.  He rocks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Bad Egg

Sometimes I worry that I'm raising Rollie to be a brat.

I mean, every kid is bratty sometimes, right?  At one point in their little lives, kids talk back to their parents, have temper tantrums, hit their baby sisters with foam baseball bats and spit masticated microwave sausages onto the floor, right?

I guess I don't have a huge mode of comparison.  I know I wasn't really a brat when I was a kid.  I mean, I got in my fair share of trouble, and got spanked a few times (though probably not nearly enough).  I can still feel the hard pinch from my mother's angry fingers as she sat beside me in church and hissed at me to sing along in the hymnal.  And her favorite thing to accuse me of was being fresh.  But this is all I remember.  To me these things don't include me in the brat category.

So what does categorize a kid as being a brat?  Or do kids just behave like brats every once in a while, just to remind you that you really aren't the one in charge, that you really don't have control over them in any way, shape or form?  That once you can no longer manhandle them into their carseat as they kick and scream, you're pretty much screwed?  Is there some magic number of times a kid pulls a bratty stunt, say, refusing to come when you shout down the cereal aisle at Publix at him, or sticking his feet in his baby sister's face and then screaming when she bites him on the heel, before you can safely label that child a huge, gigantic BRAT?

I'm only asking because the other day as I fed Rollie and Elsa dinner and Jeff unloaded the dishwasher, the following exchange took place:

Rollie: Momma, I think my tummy is full.
Me (after examining his plate to discover he's already learned the ol' Push-The-Food-Around-The-Plate trick): Rollie you need to eat some more.
Rollie: Um, no thanks.  I think I'm good.
Me: Rollie, you hardly ate anything.  You need to eat more spaghetti.
Rollie (already starting to climb down from his chair): No, I want some ice cream.
Me: No way.  No ice cream until you eat more dinner.
Rollie: No, I want ice cream.
Me: Are you kidding me?  Get back in your seat and eat a few more bites.
Rollie (now running toward the couch in the adjoining room): Noooooooooo!
Me (still trying to feed Elsa her dinner, which she's suddenly decided she hates and is letting me know by screaming and smearing it around on her high chair tray): Rollie, sit down Right Now and Eat.
Rollie: Nooooo!  I DON'T. WANT. TO.
Jeff: Rollie, you are a brat.  Go sit and eat.

I don't remember how the rest of the conversation went, except that eventually Jeff got Rollie to sit in his chair and eat almost half his dinner.  Pretty impressive.

The reason I don't remember is after Jeff called Rollie a brat, I sort of retreated into a self-berating shame spiral.  Jeff was right.  Rollie was being a brat.  And it was my fault.  I was letting him get away with speaking to me like a pre-school Veruca Salt about to go down the Bad Egg chute.  There's no telling how long it's been going on, either.  Since he could talk?  Even longer?  Sheesh.

Before we had kids I remember making a pact with Jeff that we wouldn't have bratty kids.  We would teach them manners.  They would always say 'please' and 'thank-you'.  They would never have a meltdown in a grocery store.  They wouldn't hit, bite, kick or pull hair.  And they sure wouldn't talk back to us.  God, what were we thinking?

I mean, Rollie's not always a brat.  He has his charming moments.  He's really only a brat when he thinks he can get away with it.  Like when I'm holding Elsa and she's pooped through her clothes and I have to perform an Emergency Tub Dunking and I need Rollie to bring me a towel from the closet and not only does he not bring me a towel but he turns off the bathroom light and shuts the door on me, leaving me to feel my way to the switch with a squirming, stinky baby in my arms.  That, I believe, qualifies him as a brat.

And when I yell at him for being naughty and closing the door on me, he returns all innocent-eyed and says, "It was an accident, Momma."

That, I believe, qualifies him as a manipulative little shit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let There Be Lightning McQueen

I hate to say it, but I've been feeling a little inferior lately.  To my husband, I mean.  He's just a lot better than I am at answering Rollie's questions.  I guess his Chemical Engineering degree is finally paying off.

But instead of wallowing in a pool of English degree self-pity, I'm trying to embrace Rollie's latest phase.  I'm trying to field the bombardment of 'why's' with enthusiasm and understanding.  I'm trying my best to answer his questions correctly, using words and phrases he should understand, and incorporating visual aides and demonstrations when possible.  And it's not going so well.

This morning I called him to the back door so he could see the sunrise.  The clouds were like county-fair cotton candy, steam rose from the lake where wading birds stood silent and still.  Everything was wet with dew.  Even our moldy porch furniture was beautiful in the muted morning light.

He stopped harrassing Elsa long enough to trot over to me and gaze out the backdoor at the splendorous dawn.

Me:  See how pretty the clouds look, Rol?
Rollie: Where's the sun, Momma?
Me: The sun's still sleeping.
Rollie: Why is the sun sleeping?
Me: Well, he's not really sleeping.  He's just sort of...hiding.
Rollie: Why is he hiding?
Me: It's just not time for him to be up yet.
Rollie: Where is he, Momma?
Me: Behind those trees.
Rollie: Why is he behind those trees?
Me (studying the treeline and realizing the sun is still well below the horizon: Well, he's not actually behind the trees.  He's kind of...below them.
Rollie: Why is he kind of below them?
Me: Well, because the earth is round and spinning, and it hasn't really turned enough for us to face the sun yet.  (Nice answer, Copernicus)
Rollie:  Why?

And then I had a bolt of inspiration.  My mind flashed to my brief stint as a tutor, and the phrase Teachable Moment illuminated in my brain in big, neon letters.

Me: Come on, Rollie. I want to show you something.

I bring him into his bedroom and select a soccer ball from his overflowing basket of balls of every size, shape and sport.

Me (holding the ball up for him to see): Now, let's pretend that this is earth.  Earth is where we live.  See how it's round?
Rollie: Why is it round?
Me: We'll get to that.  Now, (I grab a Lego chicken from Rollie's play table) let's pretend this is you.  (I hold the chicken on the ball). See?  You're standing on Earth.
Rollie (scratching his head): Why am I a chicken?
Me: I think you're missing the point, but that's okay.
Rollie: Why am I missing the point?
Me (determined to soldier on): Now, let's pretend your Lightning McQueen flashlight is the sun. (I flip on the switch and aim the beam at the soccer ball).  See how the light is only on one side the ball?  That's like daytime.  And see how the chicken isn't in the light?  That's because it's nighttime.  For the chicken. I mean, for you.
Rollie: Why is it...why is it nighttime for the chicken?
Me: Ah-ha, because the earth hasn't turned enough to get the chicken into the light.  But watch this. (I turn the ball so that the chicken is basking in the heat of the Lightning McQueen flashlight), now the chicken is in the sun.  See?  It's morning!  The ball...I mean...Earth has turned far enough so that the light is on the chicken.  See?  Like the sun coming up in the morning.  Get it?
Rollie: ....Can we do something else, Momma?

I sit there on the floor with the Lightning McQueen flashlight clutched in one hand, the soccer ball in the other and a Lego chicken between my fingers, and I instantly feel like a mad scientist or a crazy math teacher.  What the hell am I doing?  Why am I making it so f-ing complicated?  Now I get why the phrase, Because I said so, is truly the best tool a parent can use.  Right up there with coffee.

I think from now on I will stick to my comfort zone of answers:

a.) Ask Dad
b.) Because I said so
c.) Because God made it that way
d.) I don't know

And my new favorite, what-the-hell-did-our-parents-do-before-the-internet answer:

e.) Let's look it up on Wikipedia

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why Ask Why Ask Why Ask Why

It's finally begun.

We've officially entered the 'Why' stage.

I guess we've been in it for a week or two...maybe longer...who knows really--all my days are blurring together in one thick, fuzzy fog of answering Rollie's questions every five freaking seconds.

I must say, being asked 'why' about absolutely everything is kind of eye-opening.  I mean, Rollie is asking some pretty heavy questions, the kind of questions you would expect to ponder if you were taking some serious psychotropic substances and sprawled on someone's front lawn, gazing up at the stars and just letting your mind go, man.

We were all walking the dog the other evening, and it started to rain.  Jeff pulled the canopy over Rollie's seat in the stroller, and Rollie, who had been zoning in the front seat, almost asleep, suddenly perked up.

Rollie: Why are you doing that, Dadda?
Jeff: Because it's starting to rain.
Rollie:  Why is it starting to rain, Dadda?
Jeff: Because the clouds are full of water and it's too heavy to hold any more.
Rollie: Why is the water too heavy?
Jeff: Because water molecules are starting to coalesce and condense into liquid - this makes them more dense than the air, and then the liquid water drops to the ground as rain. (I know...kind of an esoteric answer for a two-year-old to wrap his little head around, but I suppose it's better than just saying, be quiet and go to sleep, which is how I felt like answering.)

I'm pretty sure this is how the atom was discovered.  Newton  was hanging out with his two-year-old son, and the son kept asking why, breaking down every answer into a smaller question, until eventually Newton looked at his son and said, there are no more answers.  We have finally arrived at the last possibly way to break down this subject into its tiniest part.  Hence, the atom! (Oh wait...Jeff just told me that the components that make up the atom as smaller than the atom itself.  Quarks...Electrons...all that stuff that I've completely blocked out since eleventh grade Chemistry class...which would probably explain the disparity between Jeff's responses and mine to Rollie's aforementioned rain question....)

I'm having a different experience with the 'why's' Rollie is sending my way.

I was ushering him into the bathroom to go pee, bribing him with the promise that I had to go as well, since for some reason the prospect of peeing as a family entices him to use the toilet.  Like a little duckling, he followed me into the bathroom and pulled out his plastic potty, then asked if we could cross the streams, since that is how he pees with Jeff (my apologies if this is entirely too much information....).

Me: Oh, I can't cross streams, Honey.  Only Dadda can cross streams with you.
Rollie: Why can't you cross streams, Momma?
Me: Well, because that's not the way Mommy goes pee-pee.
Rollie: Why is that not the way you go pee-pee, Momma?
Me (thinking, oh we go): Because Mommy doesn't have a penis.
Rollie: Why doesn't you have a penis, Momma?
Me: Because I'm a girl.
Rollie (eyeing me somewhat suspiciously): Can I see your Not Penis, Momma?
Me: Well, there's really nothing to see, Baby.
Rollie: But why can't you cross streams, Momma?
Me: I think I just told you.
Rollie: But why?
Me: Well...girls go pee-pee differently from boys.  It's just how we're made.

And before he could ask one more why question, forcing me to delve into the anatomically correct terminology for our corresponding parts (which, as you know, I have a hard time doing...just writing the word 'penis' makes me blush),  I swiftly changed the subject to his new Thomas the Train underwear.

But his curiosity in my Not Penis was only temporarily squelched.  As I escorted him into Starbucks the other day to use the restroom, he asked me out of the blue: Do you not have a penis, Momma?

Me: That's right, I don't.
Rollie: And you can't cross the streams?
Me: Nope.
Rollie: But you can still go pee-pee?
Me: Sure can.
Rollie: Why can you still go pee-pee Momma?
Me: Because I had a lot to drink today.
Rollie: Why did you have a lot to drink today?
Me: Because I'm extra thirsty from answering all your questions.
Rollie: Why are you extra thirsty?
Me: I just told you, Love.
Rollie: Why did you just told me?
Me: ....I don't know.

I understand that he doesn't in fact want to know why to every single question;  he's pretty fascinated that he can dictate the course of an entire conversation, get some attention and hear his own voice all at the same time.  So I guess I'll have to keep supplying him with answers, feeding his burgeoning and insatiable curiosity, until I either get such cotton-mouth I can no longer move my lips, or we discover a new subatomic particle and make millions of dollars....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rollie Is His Name-O

Sometimes, when I'm yelling at Rollie from across the grocery store to stop right there and wait for me, or when I'm pleading with him to not crawl beneath the door of my dressing room and give the poor woman in the next stall a heart attack, I wonder if other people think his name is strange.
His name is actually Roland.  I know, right?  Roland?  It was the eighth most common name of 1914, so I think it’s due for a resurgence in popularity.  My husband picked it.  I think he waited until just the right moment to bring it up…I was big and pregnant and annoyed, which pretty much sums up the entire last trimester.  He approached me all nervous, like a schoolboy trying to slip a valentine into my paper bag before I turned around and caught him in the act.

Him: What do you think of Roland?
Me: Roland?
Him: Yeah, you know…like after my grandfather?
Me: Roland?  Really?  Don’t you think it’s kinda…old-fashioned?
Him: We wouldn’t call him Roland.
Me: Then why would we name him Roland?
Him: We’d call him Rollie. 
Me: Hm.
Him (sensing a break in the storm clouds of pregnancy hormones): Rollie’s got character.
Me: I guess.
Him: I don’t know any Rollie’s, do you?
Me: No.
Him: Rollie Scott’s a great name.
Me (feeling my belly grow hard with those annoying-as-hell Braxton Hicks contractions, eyeing his icy-cold beer in envy and swallowing against a raging case of heartburn): Whatever.

So Rollie it was.  Rollie rhymes with Ollie (our dog's name...I know,  I know, how f-ing goofy is that?  Why didn't we just name Elsa Molly or Holly while we were at it?).  At some point in his life, someone will mispronounce his name and call him Roll-ie.  As in Roly-Poly.  Which means we're going to be in biiiig trouble if Rollie ever gets fat.
I still can't believe my husband wanted to name our first born son something that rhymes with so many words that can and will be used against him.  Jolly Rollie.  Rollie-Ollie-Oxen-Free.  Rollie-Want-A-Cracker.   One of the names I wanted was Charlie, and my husband had pointed out that people might call him Charlie Brown.  Oh, the horrors!  Not Charlie Brown!  I guess it hadn't occurred to him that Rollie Tamale would be just as bad...especially if Rollie has really bad B.O.
Which brings us to Elsa.  Again, my husband's choice.  Again, broaching the subject while I was in my eighth month of pregnancy and as lethargic as a cat lying in the sunshine.

Jeff: How about Elsa for a girl's name?
Me: Elsa?
Jeff: Sure.  We could use your middle name, too.  Elsa Abigail.
Me (at this point unable to care less what we name our daughter--all I can do is wish I still had a belly button and that I could wear something besides the same pair of belly-panel maternity jeans): Whatever.

Elsa is less rhym-able, although it is an anagram for SEAL, SALE and her initials are EAS.  So let's hope that some jerk-off kid in school doesn't call her Easy Elsa or anything.  When I was a kid, the worst name I got called was Beaky Becky, and I think that was from one of those Garbage Pail Kids (man, I loved those things.... it was a picture of a vulture picking at a carcass in the desert, isn't that hilarious?).
Maybe that's why names have gotten so...different...over the last few years.  Maybe there are more and more people like Jeff out there, people who are paranoid that someone's going to tease their kid, call him Peter-Peter-Pumpkin-Eater, thus ruining Peter's life forever.  Maybe, upon naming their children, people think, There! I'd like to see somone come up with a way to make fun of Braeson Xavier!

The worst the kid'll get is other kids saying: Hey Braeson...your dad's a paranoid freak!

And they'd be right.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Week As A Single Mom

So I've been flying solo this week.  And you know what?  It hasn't been too bad....

Oh sure, we've had our moments.  Rollie biting Elsa on the heel.  Elsa getting her hand stuck in the oven.  Me being hungover after having only two beers and a cocktail.  The dog running away.  But on the whole, it's been a relatively uneventful week so far.  

I think it's all about attitude.  If I'd gone into this week expecting to get anything done, anything at all, I would be on my seventh or eight nervous breakdown right about now.  But I went into this week knowing that the house would look like hell, I would look like hell, and my children would behave like hellions.  I figured I may as well embrace my absolute lack of progress on anything, let the applesauce congeal on the baseboards, the dirty laundry fester in the hamper, the emails go unanswered and the blogs neglected.  My priority this week was to make through each day without wishing I could have an IV of wine tapped directly into my right arm.  

I think I've almost made it.  I mean, it's only Tuesday (at least, it was when I first started this it's Friday evening), my children are still alive, and I'm hovering somewhere around a 5 on my insane-o-meter. The only reason I have been able to write at all is my parents have arrived like a cavalry coming over a grassy, juice-stained, toy-strewn hill.  Dah-dah-dah-DAH! (That was supposed to be trumpets blaring in jubilation.)

Of course, now that my parents are here, my Swiffer is getting quite a work out (see July's entry, Payback's A Dirty Swiffer).  I bet they're secreting relishing in my current role as mother of two young, energetic, somewhat willful children.  There they sit on my couch, my beloved Mom and Dad, quietly chuckling to each other and eating leftover Halloween candy as I dash around wiping up crumbs, doling out snacks, keeping Rollie from biting/hitting/yelling at Elsa and vice versa.  "Someone's poopy," they'll announce from their comfortable perch, neither making a move to change the offending diaper.  When it comes to helping me out, they like to be passive.  "Elsa," they'll call, "Don't stick your hand in the pot of boiling water."  Even if they're like, holding said pot, they'd rather see me sprint across the house to stop her than do it themselves.  I think they get some sort of sick pleasure in watching me sweat, in making me work.  They see it as retribution for raising a litter of children.

I guess I can't blame them.  They've already played this game.  They're grandparents now, and there's a biiiiiiiig difference.  They're available for happy times only.  No diaper changing, no tantrum taming, no disciplining Rollie for drawing somewhere he's not supposed to with chalk.  That's my job.  (By the way, does anyone know how to remove chalk from a mesh window screen?)

All week I've been telling them how amazed I am that they managed to raise my siblings and to be relatively decent, law-abiding contributors to society (more or less).  And all week they've just nodded, unwrapped another Fun Size Snickers bar, and said, "Rollie, you might not want to poke at that fire-ant-hill."  

Jeff will be home in 45 minutes.  Dah-dah-dah-dah! (More trumpets blaring in jubilation.)

Side Note: The author would like to add that she really does appreciate all the help her parents have given her these past 24-hours, and if they want to baby-sit Rollie and Elsa tomorrow night, her parents can eat all the Snickers they want.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Holy Sheet, It's Halloween

In keeping with my childhood tradition, I assembled Rollie's Halloween costume at 5:30 Saturday night.

It took awhile to come up with a get-up that would top last year's costume (see right).  Every time one of our neighbors opened the door to dole out candy, they burst out laughing, and in some instances beckoned other family members to come see the little boy sporting leiderhosen like a toddler version of Augustus Gloop.

My husband and I went back and forth for several minutes and couldn't agree on what Rollie should wear as he trick-or-treated.

Me: How about a soccer player?
Jeff: That's kinda lame.
Me: But he likes soccer.
Jeff: Does he have a soccer shirt?
Me: He has a t-shirt with numbers on it.
Jeff: It needs to be a real soccer shirt or he'll look silly.
Me: But isn't that all a soccer shirt is?  A t-shirt with some numbers?
Jeff: It's not just a t-shirt.  It's usually polyester.  Plus, he doesn't have soccer shorts.
Me (trying not to roll my eyes, since my husband played soccer in high school and is really into it and I don't dare voice my opinion that Rollie's only two for crying out loud and I don't think him wearing a t-shirt with numbers on it would preclude him from scoring any candy): about Indiana Jones?
Jeff: Does he know who that is?
Me: No...but he has some khaki pants and a button-down shirt.  And I think he has some binoculars somewhere.
Jeff: Indiana Jones doesn't wear binoculars.
Me: Oh.
Jeff: Do you have a hat?
Me: No.
Jeff: How about a whip?
Me: Um....
Jeff: Or some sort of...rucksack?
Me: What the hell is a rucksack?
Jeff: You know, like a back-pack.
Me: No.  No rucksack.

I wasn't willing to admit defeat, but I was getting anxious and a tad desperate.  I was having flashbacks of Halloweens spent scrounging my parents' closet in the Eleventh Hour, finally pulling together something I thought resembled a hobo, but in reality just made me look like a dirty-faced eight-year-old in a Members Only jacket.  I would not let Rollie share this same, humiliating fate.  I was dangerously close to cutting a couple holes in a sheet and turning him loose.

He ended up in a toga made out of pillow cases, and on his head he wore laurels I pruned from my fake ivy planters that sit above my kitchen cabinets.  He was a Roman.  I think he got more laughs this year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Like Cats And Dogs

I don't know why I was in such a big fat hurry for Elsa to start crawling.  Because now that she can, she's getting all up in Rollie's business.  And Rollie is none too pleased with this.

I can't tell you how many times I've intervened before tragedy has struck.  Tragedy here would be Elsa barreling over Rollie's trainset like a pink, chubby Godzilla, and Rollie getting so pissed at her that he brandishes a caboose and brains her with it.  Many a time I've leapt across the room like a ballerina to stay Rollie's hand.  When Elsa looks up at me with a smile of delight, she has no idea the beating she has narrowly escaped.

Unfortunately I don't always make it in time.  I think it's because most of our house is carpeted, and when Elsa crawls away across carpeting, I can't hear her.  I don't here the cute little sound of doughy hands slapping across tile.  I'll be sitting at the counter or cleaning up the kitchen, and off she'll slip, stealthy as a panther, silently making her way in to Rollie's room, where he's been diligently assembling a Lego tower or floor puzzle and singing the Cars theme song.  And then I hear....

"No, Baby Els!"

This is followed by either a clattering as Rollie throws a toy that misses its target and crashes against his wall.  Or Elsa screaming, because Rollie's aim is usually pretty good.

And so I'll run into his room to find Elsa, all red-faced and hitchy-breathed, and Rollie about to throw something else at her...usually something bigger and capable of producing more damage, since the first attempt to send her fleeing didn't work.

"Rollie," I'll say (sharply...or shout....or scream....), "you may not hit baby Elsa."

"Momma, she's a monster."

"She's not a monster, Rollie.  She's your baby sister and you need to be nice to her."

"No, she's a monster."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because she's eating my toys."

Rollie will be on his feet by now, pointing to a drool-covered matchbox car or puzzle piece.  Then he'll look up at me, imploring me to not only believe him, but to also take his side.  To nod and say, you're right, Rollie, she is a monster, and perhaps wield my own weapon to bonk her with.  I can understand this.  All Rollie's doing is defending his territory the best way a two-year-old knows how.

And younger siblings can be pesky, regardless of their age.  I can certainly remember a time or two (or several hundred) when I wished my little brother would stay out of my room, stop messing with my stuff, stop drinking all my alcohol.  And on occasion I opted for physical retaliation (though I wouldn't try that brother is 25 and can probably bench-press twice his own weight.  Seriously.  This kid spends entire workout sessions to specific muscle groups.  I don't know about you, but the idea of working out just my lats for forty-five minutes makes me sore all over).
I've tried to get Rollie to talk out his difference with other people, or to come find me when he feels the need to say, bite someone on the face.  But, as you can imagine, he doesn't always exercise discretion when choosing his battles.  Sometimes, he probably reasons, people just deserve to get whacked in the head.

I would prefer he wait until Elsa's soft spots are closed before he starts hammering away at her.  And maybe by then, she'll be able to fight back.  Oh how I can't wait for that stage.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Slaves to Fashion

I have this recurring, vivid memory of one particular day in kindergarten that sometimes makes me break out in a cold sweat.

It was the day my mother forced me to wear a green and white checkered pantsuit to school.

I sat huddled on a piece of wooden playground equipment, sighing forlornly as I watched the other girls prance around in their Oshkosh jumpers and pretty blouses and matching socks and sneakers with glittery laces and friendship pins.  And then I looked into my lap, into the sea of kelly green and white, the pattern making my eyes sting and my head spin, and I made myself a promise.  I vowed to never make my kids wear horribly outdated, scratchy, hand-me-down, ill-fitting clothes for one single second of their privileged little lives.

So far I've managed to hold myself to that promise.  Which has turned me into a bit of a clothing snob.  Not a snob about my own clothes (I have a hard time buying myself a shirt that costs over twenty bucks, and don't even get me started about shoe-shopping...if I could wear the same pair of flip-flops for the rest of my life, I would die a happy person) but a snob about my children's.  When my kids actually wear clothes  (usually when we're outside of the house, although sometimes even then it doesn't always happen), I strive to ensure that they look pretty hip.  Usually hipper than me.  Which, sadly, isn't hard to do.

Before I had Elsa, I always pictured having a daughter who ran around in frilly little dresses and adorable shoes and kept to a palette of pinks and purples.  I'm not sure why my vision of her took on this incredibly girly flavor.  I sure didn't dress like that.  I had jeans with zippers on the ankles and stirrup pants and skorts and lots and lots of neon.  I wore pantsuits, for God's sake.  Why didn't my mother pin a sign to my lapel that read, "Self-Confidence Issues In The Making"?

I don't dress Elsa in pantsuits, but I also don't stuff her into pink dresses and lacy socks.  Don't get me wrong--I think little girly clothes are really cute.  But for some reason Elsa just doesn't look right in that stuff.  Is it her lack of hair?  Her chubby pale legs?  The fact that if she wears a dress, her knees step on the hem when she crawls around, and she gets stuck and cries?  Or is it because I myself don't wear dresses, never really did, and I've been shaping my children in my image, because they really are a couple of Mini-Me's, and until they start picking out their own clothes, I can dress them however I please?

That's another thing that makes me nervous--wondering how my kids are going to dress when they're older.  I'm afraid that Clothing Karma will come after me.  How I remember my father barking at me to go change because my shorts were too short.  And back in the early 90's, anything above the knee was considered 'too short' to my dad.  But have you seen some of the shorts out there now?  I have underwear with longer hemlines than some of the shorts out there.  And shorts with words written directly on the butt?  Forget it--that's like giving people a reason to stare at my daughter's ass.

And so it is my desperate hope that by the time Elsa is in high school, Grunge has made a tremendous comeback.  Give me baggy jeans and flannel shirts and big ol' boots.  Let's make it as difficult as possible to size up adolescent breasts, let's make our daughter's butt's invisible beneath layers of sweatshirts tied around their waists.  I figure the '80's are in right now, so in about 10 years, Grunge will have already settled in across malls and departments stores, and Elsa will have no choice but to don oversized t-shirts and pants that don't display any crack.  I'll even take the gothy, teen-angst that accompanies such fashions.  I don't care how much Elsa hates me, as long as her shorts aren't too short, I can handle anything.

And I'm sorry, Dad, for all those years my clothing put you through coronary distress.  If I could take back all those eye-rolls and door-slams, I would.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Before And After

Okay, so this is the entry I really wanted to post but couldn't finish because someone decided he didn't feel like taking a nap, and someone else decide that she didn't want to finish taking her nap after the dog barked his f-ing head off at a cat and woke her up.

So I had to come up with something while listening to a soothing medley of Elsa whining every five seconds to be picked up and Rollie yelling at Elsa to stop whining because he couldn't hear his cheesy Geotrax DVD we got for free in the mail.  Hence the lame-ass list of things Elsa put in her mouth.  Sorry.

And so, this is what was really on my mind....Do I want more kids?

Jeff's stand on the issue is pretty straight-forward and simple: Hell No.  He grew up in a two-kid, one boy, one girl household.  He tends to view his childhood as wonderful, idyllic, happy and relatively squabble-free.  Why would we want to offset the perfect balance we currently have with our darling son and daughter?  The kids we have are the perfect genetic cocktail of Jeff and me, inheriting only the best of both of us (right?).  Do we really want to risk having one that might take after certain members of either family?

Side note: Not that we don't love every family member dearly, and not that we don't believe that all of our siblings are lovely people....but honestly, if I had to actually raise a certain sister of mine, I would have smothered her with her own knock-off Cabbage Patch Kid long ago.

I, however, have found myself vacillating between really wanting anther one and wanting to get my tubes tied like, immediately.

(I wrote the following paragraph while I thought Rollie was sleeping but was in fact emptying his toy box and assembling a sort of still-life of figurines and Matchbox airplanes on his Lego table, and then coming to tell me he'd just pooped in his diaper.)

Today I really do think I want one more.  Because here I sit, eating lunch, working on the computer, both children sleeping peacefully in their darkened rooms, the house only minimally destroyed, the windows wide open, and somewhere beyond them windchimes blowing in the cool autumn air.  And I'm having some kind of zen moment right now, thinking that I want another kid...must be the windchimes.

(Isn't that hilarious?  Because now it's 7:25, both kids are passed out because they were up all afternoon running me absolutely ragged, I've cleaned up their dinner, two rounds of 'Let's-Pee-Anywhere-But-The-Potty,' I bathed them, I haven't eaten my dinner yet, and Jeff's still not home, and the thought of having another kid is right up there with going to WalMart on Black Friday.)

 Seriously though, I still think I want another one, but I'm not exactly in a hurry to get knocked up again.  Maybe I should just enjoy the two I've got and worry about adding another one somewhere down the road.  Although, that was the plan early last year, until Jeff and I went to the Keys, had one too many Rum Runners and ended up with Elsa nine months later....DOH!

Open Mouth, Insert Everything But The Kitchen Sink

Things Elsa has put into her mouth today:

Rollie's flip-flop
A fuzzy from Jeff's dress sock
A fistful of dog fur
A leaf
A pacifier
A pacifier coated in sand
The cord to the vacuum cleaner
A Matchbox car
A Matchbox airplane
A piece of train track
A Halloween sticker
A kernel of corn she found beneath the seat cover of her high chair (and I can't for the life of me remember the last time I fed her corn)
Her toes
Rollie's toes
The dog's toes (almost....)
Toilet paper
A puzzle piece
Her carseat buckle
My cell phone
The TV remote
One of my bras
The bathmat
A make-up brush
A magazine
A coupon that fell out of a magazine
A book
A bookmark
A piece of my hair
A bathtoy
A babywipe
And finally, a bottle.  So that' out of 33 in terms of what actually belongs in her mouth.  Not bad....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Putting the Pee in Developmental Milestones

So my kids have made it past two major developmental milestones:  Rollie is peeing standing up, and Elsa is crawling.

Now, taken seperately, these two things are celebratory.  Finally, I don't have to hear Elsa scream in frustration, trapped in her figure-four leg-lock, unable to travel the thirty inches to reach the toy she desperately wants.  She can just get up on her hands and knees and go.  And Rollie, my darling son, has discovered the unadulterated joy of aiming his stream of pee to obliterate a square of TP in the toilet.  The next step is actually letting me know he has to go without me asking every five seconds.  Oh happy day that will be.

But when these two accomplishments are melded together, it spells complete and utter disaster.

The scenario this morning was: Rollie tearing through the house, hollering that he wants a diaper--my cue to usher him into the bathroom.

Me: Come on, Rollie, let's go pee-pee.
Rollie: No, I want a Diaper!
Me: You just need to use the potty.
Rollie: No.
Me (employing the brilliant method of offering up two choices to trick a kid into thinking he gets any kind of say in his life...usually works well except that oftentimes Rollie will still opt for Door Number Three: His Way): Do you want to sit or stand to go pee-pee?
Rollie (who thankfully realizes this is not a drill): I want to stand.

Yay.  He's not going to pee on the floor this round.  I strategically position his plastic potty chair in front of the toilet so he can stand on it, help him with his shorts and Thomas undies, toss a crumpled tissue into the bowl, and hold him in place, his belly protruding forward so that he himself cannot see his wiener, only the stream of pee emitting from it and splashing below.

(Side note: Yes, I realize that I still call a Penis a Wiener.  I don't know when I will finally behave like the 31-year-old woman I actually am and start using the anatomically correct terminology.  I think I will also have a problem saying Vulva, but I'll worry about that later.  Much, much later).

So just as I'm feeling all smug and triumphant, like maybe, just maybe, I've bought Rollie his last box of size 6 diapers, I hear the little smack smack smacking of baby hands on ceramic tile.

I turn and see Elsa, chubby-faced and smiling, making a bee-line for us.

"No, no, Elsa," I say.  Because I already know where she's headed.

She pauses only long enough to smile even wider before continuing onward.

"Don't come over here, Elsa," I say.

Smack smack smack.

"Elsa.  Stop, Honey."

Smack smack smack.  Man, she's quick.

"What's Baby Elsa doing?" Rollie asks, though he's still engrossed with peeing on the tissue.

"She's not listening to Mommy," I say.  "Elsa, no, no."

By now Elsa has crawled behind me and is now on her hands and knees, looking up at the toilet looming above her.  She contemplates it for a moment, then lifts one doughy hand up and grasps the rim.

Keep in mind that I'm still holding onto Rollie, who for some reason doesn't stand under his own power when he pees.  It's like helping someone who's heavily intoxicated.  If I let him go, he'll pee all over the place.

Elsa seems to know my dilemma, because she now reaches up with her other hand and pulls herself onto her knees, watching with great interest as Rollie continues to go.  The pee stream is inches away from her curious little face.  One move on his part and she'll get a golden shower.  Maybe that'll teach her.

"Elsaaaaa," I lower my voice to mimic Jeff's--one discouraging word from him and Elsa is usually reduced to a quivering pile of baby-fat.

But instead of bursting into tears, Elsa leans forward and sticks her hand right into the toilet.

"Aaah!" I shriek, releasing Rollie and diving for Elsa.

"Momma!" Rollie teeters on the potty seat for a second before standing up straight, pee running down his leg and onto the potty seat.

I lug a squirming Elsa to the sink.  At least I'm able to wash her hands before she decides to put them in her mouth.  Sometimes you've gotta rejoice in the little victories.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pity Party of Three

Nothing brings out the merciful benevolence of total strangers quite like a woman like flying alone with her young children.

For a brief moment of insanity, I decided to fly to Atlanta alone with Rollie and Elsa.  How bad could it be? I reasoned.  I'd flown alone with Rollie from here to Portland...six hours...pregnant...without buying him his own ticket.  And while that is something I'd rather not do again, I--in all my smug, naive arrogance--figured that taking a 45-minute flight with two kids would be a piece of cake.

First we had to check in.  I was only checking one bag, to simplify the security screening more than anything.  The idea of wrangling two children out of shoes and stuffing diaper bags and carseats through the conveyor on top of assuring the TSA worker that the ominous-looking tub of Noxema was not explosive in nature simply did not appeal to me.  It was worth the 20 bucks to send my saline solution and shampoo on to Atlanta without me.

Attempting to coax Rollie through the metal detector, however, was a bit of a challenge.  I guess I should be glad that he won't instantly warm up to strangers.  Or do what they ask.  Or do what I ask while they stand smiling on the other side of a scary-looking, door-shaped rectangle that beeps and lights up like a giant, terrifying baby toy.

The security people were pretty understanding though.  They made me feel somewhat less inept than usual as I struggled to remove my own belt and shoes, manhandled Elsa from her stroller and pleaded with Rollie to hurry up and take off his shoes because the line was starting to build up behind us like dorky ticket-holders for the opening night re-release of Star Wars.  They held out hands for Rollie to high-five, they cooed at Elsa, they tested the carseat for bomb-making residue with the utmost courtesy.  Only twenty dirty looks from other passengers later, we were through the screening and on our merry way to Gate A1.

Rollie was pretty excited about riding on an airplane.  He pointed out each one he saw, asking if that was the one we would be taking, asking why it wasn't the one we would be taking, asking where was the one we would be taking, and wanting to know when we could get on the one we would be taking.  Oh it was great fun answering every version of every question he could think up while trying to navigate my loaded-down sit-and-stand through the airport, trying to keep the carseat that balanced precariously atop our eighty pieces of carry-on from toppling onto Elsa perched in the front seat, angrily kicking at the socks she never wears and getting frustrated that they wouldn't come off.

Needless to say, as soon as we boarded, I was ready to administer the Benadryl and order myself a ten-dollar mini-bottle of wine.

At least the airline employees came through once again.  I'd been fretting all morning about the logistics of loading Rollie, Elsa, our bags and the carseat onto a quickly filling airplane, but as soon as I made it down the jet-way, a flight attendant appeared and happily hauled the twenty-pound toddler seat down the aisle, cheerily barging into other passengers as she pushed forward to our seat.  I followed her like I was following a linebacker through a throng of football players, Elsa clutched to me like a precious pigskin.

Once I had my fellow travelers settled, a woman appeared in the aisle, studying her ticket.

"I think I'm right here," she said, dropping her purse into the seat beside me.

Poor thing, I thought.  This was going to be the longest 45 minutes of her life.

You can always tell who on an airplane has children.  They're the ones who don't shoot deathrays at the parents of screaming toddlers.  They ask nicely to have you keep your kid from kicking their seat.  They don't look suicidal when they realize they're stuck in the same row as you and your colicky infant.  They offer to help.  They offer to change seats.  They offer carry your bags.  They've been there.  They know how bad it sucks.

Take the woman beside me.  I was trying to set up Rollie's DVD player (which I highly recommend for those of you crazy enough to fly with your kids...or ride in the car with them for any length of time), and she offered to hold Elsa for me.  Then she started playing Peek-a-boo with her.  She had Elsa chuckling for a full ten minutes, even after I had loaded Cars for Rollie and he was already staring slack-jawed at the screen.  When I opened up a sippy cup at thirty-thousand feet and apple juice went spraying all over her, the woman only smiled and said, "that's happened to me before!"  She was practically ready to breastfeed Elsa for me.  It was great.

And at the end of the flight, after I waited for everyone to deplane, some strapping young lad offered to carry the carseat back up the aisle for me.  I felt special, half-celebrity, half-paraplegic, someone everyone feels sorry for and wants to help and commiserates with and smiles at.  I can't imagine traveling with two kids, being pregnant and having some other super-power, like really big knockers.  People would be falling all over themselves to help me tie my shoes.  They would offer the shirt off their back, their bottom dollar, their left arm, just to open a door for me.  Sure it would be out of pity (and because my boobs would be bigger then some small countries).  I'd take it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pack-Rat Trap

So we were going through our old entertainment center the other day, and inside one of the cabinets was a stockpile of cassette tapes.  Yeah, cassettes.  Singles, entire albums, mix tapes, weird, concert tapes of my dad's to which I had applied little pieces of scotch tape so I could record over them.  It was hilarious.

Except that it was Jeff's intention to throw all of these tapes away.  There I was, chuckling with sentimental glee over Janet Jackson, Dee-Lite, and a mix tape Mat Solomon made me in tenth grade, when Jeff pulls our garbage can up to the table and begins depositing armloads of tapes into the trash with a sickening clatter of plastic.  I watch, speechless for a few seconds, until he reaches for the pile in front of me.

"Stop!" I cry, leaning over to shield my mountain of bad music from his hungry, trash-happy hands.

"What?" he looks at me.  "You're not keeping these, are you?"

"Of course I am," I clutch Rhythm Nation to my chest.

"When's the last time you listened to any of these?"

"Last week."

"Come on, honey," he shakes the trash can as if attempting to entice me to toss Shamrocks and Shenannigans inside.

"No," I start placing my tapes inside a faded Case Logic holder.  "You can throw yours away, but I'm keeping these."


"I don't know...maybe Rollie and Elsa will want to hear them someday."

"Baby, that's what itunes is for."

I shake my head and zip up the tape case for emphasis.  There.  No one's going to throw away my tapes now.  It's a shame my best ones are gone...The Bangles, Richard Marx. My sister sold them to the Princeton Record Exchange for cigarette money.  I'd like to think that somewhere, playing in the tape deck of a maroon, T-top Trans Am, some dude still rockin' a mullet and some Zooba pants is jamming to my copy of Ice Ice Baby.

I've always been something of a pack-rat.  My collection of stuff used to be much larger, but being married to a man who throws away birthday cards while they're still warm, I've been forced to whittle the stuff down to the essentials.  Gone are the ticket stubs I kept from movies I saw with high school crushes (and I'm using the term 'saw' loosely here), the old corsages, the valentines and love letters and wallet-sized photos with corny epithets written on the back.  I have yearbooks, notes from my girl friends, a few cards and a stack of old diaries, and that's about it.  In a way it's good that I didn't keep some things (I didn't really need a copy of my 5th grade Alice In Wonderland script), but I'd come to view my stash as artifacts, tangible evidence that I had a past and it was something I'd like to remember (most of it anyway).

I also kept some things with the intention that someday my own kids would want to see it.  Although now, I'm starting to wonder....I mean, my mom kept some of her old stuff, and I was never exactly salivating to sift through it. The letters are disappointingly innocuous, the diaries about as juicy as an overcooked turkey. Seriously, either my mother was a total square or an alien.  Neither option would surprise me.

I'm not sure what I expect Elsa's reaction to be when I pull out my wedding dress from 1999 (and has yet to be dry-cleaned, let alone preserved) and show it to her.  If she's anything like me, she'll raise one eyebrow and say something cheeky like, Wow, Mom, so empire waists were really big back then, huh?  Nice sequins.  And forget about letting her read my high school diaries.  Especially not when she's still in high school.   The last thing I want is for her to think that making out with a boy is okay just because I did it.  I want her to think Boys are Yucky until she's in her mid-twenties.

So maybe the time has come for me to shed some of this stuff.  Maybe I should clear out the old shoeboxes full of friendship bracelets and games of MASH and gum wrappers I kept because it was from a piece of gum Marc Eldridge gave me in seventh grade and I tried to work some voodoo spell on it so he would finally find me attractive (note: it didn't work).  I need to make room for diaramas and hand-made Mother's Day cards and fingerpaintings and macaroni art from my own kids.  I need to start building up an arsenal of their stuff, to cultivate the Pack Rat gene I'm certain I passed onto them.

I still refuse to throw away my Girl I'm Gonna Miss You single.  At least not until Milli Vanilla shows up on itunes....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Seven Day Switch

I've been thinking about writing a script for a movie.

Sort of like a Freaky Friday meets Mr. Mom flick.  It would be loosely autobiographical, of course, but there would also be a SciFi element to it.  There would need to be a way for my husband and I to switch places for one day, or perhaps a week, so we could REALLY see who's day is harder.

Right now we're both convinced that the other is completely insane for even SUGGESTING his or her day might have been just a smidge more challenging, a tad more tiring, than the other's.  I think a Freaky Friday experience might set the record straight.

My husband truly wishes that he could stay home with the kids while I went out into the world and brought home the bacon.  I've asked my friends if their husbands have this same, sick wish, to which most of them shake their heads vigorously, saying something like, "there's no way my husband would last five minutes home with the kids."  And while I think Jeff may last a few rounds, I also believe he would wind up face down on the mat, down for the count, by the end of the day.

I say this because whenever we're all together on weekends, I catch glimpses of what a disaster it would be for Jeff to stay home.  Oh sure, the day starts off fine....we all congregate in our bed, a big people pile, laughing and giggling between the sheets, playing peek-a-boo and wrestling and tickling for upwards of 30 minutes.  It's like a freaking fabric softener commercial.  But once the whining begins (and it always begins sometime), Jeff turns into Daddy Bad Cop.

Daddy Bad Cop has no patience for whining.  Or crying.  Or lolligagging.  Or peeing on the floor.  Daddy Bad Cop's threshold of tolerance for misbehavior is laughably low.  Like, to the point of non-existent.  Daddy Bad Cop doesn't have a coddling bone in his body.  And Daddy Bad Cop will appear at a moment's minute Jeff will be trotting around the house with Rollie perched proudly atop his shoulders, but as soon as it's time to switch into a more productive mode, and Rollie begins to protest--BOOM!  Daddy Bad Cop suddenly swoops in and squashes any whimpers of dissent with a swiftness that I have to admit I'm a little jealous of.   With a tone of voice and glowering stare, Daddy Bad Cop will whisk any perpetrators into Time Out so fast all I see is a blur of blond hair and flailing legs.

I only see one chink in the armor:  Daddy Bad Cop's persona requires an incredible amount of energy to sustain itself.  Like a star going supernova, if Daddy Bad Cop stayed home with the kids, he would burn out and collapse in on himself long before Rollie tried to change his own poopy diaper, long before Elsa ate a dried ladybug carcass she found in the foyer, long before the dog dug a hole large enough to bury Jimmy Hoffa in the backyard.  Jeff has yet to learn the art of marathon parenting.  He can handle the kids in spurts, but I have my doubts that he'd make it from 6 am to 6 pm.  I have the feeling that by 9:50, right around the time when I try to leave the house but Elsa decides to take a Monster Truck Dump and Rollie decides it's much more fun to run down lizards in his tricycle than get into the car, Daddy Bad Cop would assume a fetal position and choke to death on his own tears of despair and defeat.

To be fair, I'm sure his day is harder overall.  I've no doubt it's heartbreaking to have to leave every day at the ass-crack of dawn to go make beer.  And talk about it.  And drink it.  And take it home to drink later.  What a bitch that must be.

But, until the day comes when he gets home from work with spit-up on his shirt, bite marks on his nipples, the theme song from Olivia in his head and utter exhaustion soaking deep in his bones from manhandling fifty pounds of children all day long, the only way we'll know for sure who deserves to sleep in on Saturday is to switch places for a week.

So be on the lookout for The Seven Day Switch, coming soon to a theatre near you....

disclaimer: the author would like to add that she loves her husband dearly and appreciates everything he does for her and her family.  especially when he brings home free beer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'll Never Leave Your Pizza Burnin'

All I wanted today was some leftover pizza.

Was that too much to ask? A nice, lukewarm, slightly soggy slice of pizza and a somewhat cold can of diet coke. And some time in front of the computer.

Things were on their way to working out nicely. All I had to do was get the kids to take naps--something I was certain would happen based on their eye-rubbing, bi-polar demeanors, and the fact that they'd both been up since 5:45.  So certain was I that they were minutes away from crashing that I even optimistically pulled my pizza from the fridge, placed it on some foil and stuck it in the toaster oven.  I would soon be dining and writing in peace and quiet.

Except that Elsa was having a total freak-out in her crib after I put her down. I think she banged her face on the railing, but I can't be sure. Lately, whenever I put her in the crib when she doesn't want to be there (like, all the time), she kneels in front of the bars, grabs onto them like a wrongfully imprisoned captive, and wails. Only I think she may have gotten too big for her britches and actually tried to pull up, thus hitting her chubby, tear-streaked face on the wooden bars.

This happened while I was trying to get Rollie some lunch. I've been employing this new discipline technique with Rollie (which I'm sure you'll be hearing about soon), and part of the idea is to give him choices throughout the day so he feels like he's got some sort of control over his life (unlike mommy, who feels like she has absolutely no control over anything whatsoever, except for possibly her bladder). So the choice he was grappling with at the moment was if he wanted to take a nap now, or eat his lunch first and then take a nap.  He chose to eat first.  But that was part of the deal.  To actually EAT.

Apparently he didn't get that part. Because as I returned from settling Elsa back down (ie, loosened her Kung Fu grip on her crib bars, popped her pacifier back into her mouth, replaced her horizontally in her crib and rubbed her back until she stopped hyperventilating and passed out), Rollie wasn't upholding his end of the deal.  Oh no.  I entered the kitchen just in time to see his peanut butter and jelly sandwich sail through the air and land at our dog's feet.  And before I could snatch it up and cram the sandwich into his sweet little mouth (thus abiding by the Five-Second Rule), our dog gobbled it up.

Without a word, I snapped Rollie from his booster chair and hauled him into his room for some Time Out (also abiding by the new discipline technique--calmly placing the offender in Time Out until he's ready to behave like a human being--meaning that Rollie will be in Time Out until he's twenty-five).

Unfortunately, this new technique does not coincide well with Potty Training.

I realized my mistake as soon as I closed his door.  I barged back into Rollie's room to see him lying on his tummy, a dark spot spreading across the carpet beneath him.

He looked up, eyes wide, and said, "I went pee-pee, Mommy."

I closed my eyes, breathed in deeply, began counting to ten...and smelled burning pizza.  Sigh.

Eventually they both took naps.  And I had a bowl of cereal for lunch.  But at least I got in some peace and quiet time.  Somehow, that always eclipses everything, doesn't it?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Last Sunday I was childless for three glorious hours.

My husband and I had tickets to the Jaguars game, and for a few, ridiculously brain-dead minutes we actually contemplated dragging our kids along with us. This would have been a terrible idea for many reasons, including the fact that they would have come home deaf, sunburned and smelling of beer. But for some reason the cost of a ticket for a forty-two-year-old man who follows the Jaguars like a hippie following The Grateful Dead is the same as one for a nine-month-old who doesn't know the difference between a football and a bologna sandwich.

So the kids stayed with my mother-in-law. And Jeff and I were free. At last.

And for someone who equates a solo trip to the grocery store to a weekend in the Bahamas, I was THRILLED to go to a football game with just my husband. Sure it was a hundred degrees out. Sure we'd be sitting next to Jeff's boss and surrounded by shirtless drunk guys screamingDe-Fense! De-Fense! Sure I don't even really like the Jaguars (I mean really, is there anything other team in the NFL with less of an identity? Our colors are Teal and Black for God's me those colors embody making a friendship bracelet while watching Saved By The Bell on Saturday morning). But man, I was PSYCHED to be out of the house, away from my children and nestled in a hard, plastic, teal-colored seat for Three Whole Hours. Drinking Beer. Awesome.

The first thing I noticed being without children was the ease with which we got out of the car and walked across the parking lot. No diaper bags to haul around. No strollers to lug from the trunk. No car seats to mess with or Baby Bjorns to put on or sunscreen to slather onto squirming bodies. We just hopped out of the car and walked, unencumbered, to the stadium. It felt so weird.

And we were able to stand in line to buy food without trying to decide if it would be a giant waste of money to buy Rollie his own hotdog, because he would either a.) not even take one bite, or b.) take one bit and drop the rest. The only thing that reminded me that we even hadkids was that I couldn't stop doing the Mom Rock as we waited. If you have kids, you know what I mean. Even when I'm not holding a baby, I still do the Mom Rock. It's so freaking annoying. And I know it will never stop because my mother STILL does the Mom Rock, and she hasn't had a baby in 25 years.

Also, I found myself almost asking my husband if he had to go potty before we went to sit in our seats. It's a hard habit to break.

Anyway, we sat and drank beer and watched the game, but mostly we basked in each other's company for two hours and forty minutes (I mean, as much as a couple can bask in each other's company over the screams of rabid, drunk football fans, angry that the Jags were playing like crap...also, I think the heavy-set man with the oversized headphones beside me was trying to sort of hit on me...he kept offering me his drink holder, but because it meant I would have come pretty close to his big hairy leg to set down my beer, I held it the entire game....). Still, it was so nice to be alone with my husband and sixty thousand other people. It almost made me wish we had season tickets. Almost.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This morning, as I got on my hands and knees to clean up the second warm puddle of urine my darling son decided to leave for me on the carpet, I was inspired to write a song.

I felt a bit like Francis Scott Key, imprisoned and watching a battle wage out his window (or in my case, my family room), and then deciding to pen the words to what would become our national anthem (at least according my sixth grade music teacher Mr. Smith--someone please let me know if this is one of those things we learn as children but turns out to be waaaaay wrong--although I don't know if I want to know that's not how our national anthem was written. Finding out I had it wrong this whole time would be like when I discovered Pluto was no longer considered a planet: Excuse me? Pluto's not a planet? Well, that throws off my whole mnemonic device....Dammit).

Anyway, without further ado, here is my song. If you know the tune to 'Blowing in the Wind', please feel free to hum along....

How many times will he pee on the floor
before he is potty traaaaiined?

How many times will she bite my shoulder
till she knows that she's causing me paaaiiiin?

How many days will he go with no nap
until I'm declared insaaaaane?

He's two-and-a-half, and drives me up a wall
and she's finally learning to crawl.

How many times will he sit on her back
till I rip all my hair out and screeeaaam?

How many times will she poop in the tub
till we call in a hazmat teeeeaam?

And how many nights will I skip my rem sleep
till I forget how to dreeeeaaam?

He's two-and-a-half, and drives me up a wall
and she's finally learning to crawl

How many times will I go to Target
before every cashier knows my naaaame?

How many trips will we take to the mall
to ride on that goofy-ass traaaaiiin?

And how many times will we watch Wonder Pets
till it's forever tattooed in my braaaaaiiin?

He's two-and-a-half, and drives me up a wall
and she's finally learning to crawl.

Yes, he's two-and-a-half, and drives me up a wall
and she's finally learning to craaaaaawwwwl.

Thank you...I'll be here all night....