Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions And Cottage Cheese.

Since we are still a relatively young family, Jeff, the kids and I don't really have any long-standing Christmas traditions yet. Every year has been a different variation on the whole Get Together With Family, Exchange Gifts, Drink, Eat, Observe A Random Nervous Breakdown, and Breath A Sigh Of Relief When Crazy Grandma Fails To Pull A Steak Knife On Someone During Christmas Dinner.

Now that we have kids, I'm thinking that the time has come to establish some sort of tradition, something the kids can count on besides Mommy dodging questions about how Santa can enter our house through a glassed-in fireplace, how he enters homes without chimney's, and why Elsa gets any presents at all when she's been so blatantly insolent for the past month (okay, so this question I'm asking myself....I guess the answer is because she's two...because she's inherently evil...because this is finally my parents' cosmic revenge for the time I stole a box of Fruit Roll-ups and subsequently weaved a month-long web of lies, false accusations and evidence-planting before finally confessing to my crime).

When I was a kid, Christmas was filled with traditions. With things I could always count on year after year. Like advent calendars. And candle-light church services. And fighting with my siblings over who was going to get stuck with the snack pack of Raisin Bran cereal in his or her stocking while the rest got to feast on Sugar Smacks, Golden Grahams, or the Mother Of All Christmas Cereal: Lucky Charms. Seriously, this battle was waged every year....Raisin Bran was the lump of coal in our house. You got Raisin Bran, and Santa was basically peeing directly onto your head.

As we got older, our father introduced to us what became known as the Annual Check Hunt. Or, as it eventually became, the Annual Everyone Else Finds His Or Her Check Except Carrie, Who Will Ultimately Stomp Off To Her Bedroom, Ranting About Conspiracies And The Unfairness Of The Universe. Hunt.

The Annual Check Hunt was quite elaborate, now that I think about it. Our father would write a little story about Christmas, and embedded within the story were clues as to where everyone's check was hidden. Some of the clues were obvious: Race against the clock, Swept under the rug, The idea was shelved. As time went on, however, and our father got more creative (or perhaps simply crazier), the clues became a bit more...esoteric. If the story contained something about a mouse, this meant a check was stuck in the fridge, inside a wrapped slice of cheese. If the story had the word potato, someone's check was stuffed between the couch cushions. If a story made reference to the color red, someone's check was hidden in our mother's China cabinet.

Carrie usually had the hardest time finding her check. Not because the clues to its whereabouts were necessarily the hardest (though I do remember hers being in the cheese once), but because on a scale of 1 to 10, Carrie's level of patience was pretty much a negative google....Even less when my father would offer her more vague and cryptic clues as he looked on with a mixture of amusement and anxiety. And our mother's calm attempt to steer my sister in the right direction only incensed Carrie further:

My Mom: What's your clue, Car?
Carrie: I don't know, something about family legends.
My Mom: Oh, okay. Well, what sort of legends do you know about our family?
Carrie: I don't know? You're always taking about Benjamin Rush being some long lost ancestor.
My Mom: Okay. So do we have any Benjamin Rush paraphernalia anywhere?
Carrie: How the hell should I know? Do you have a constitution replica hidden somewhere? A powered wig stuffed in a cabinet? A bucket of leeches on the coffee table?* (Interestingly enough, all three of these things was a possibility)
My Mom: ...Noooo....
Carrie (sighing heavily and rolling her eyes): This is so stupid.
My Dad: What's the matter, Carrie? Not getting your whey?
Carrie: No, and Mom's just giving me stupid, annoying clues that don't make any sense.
My Mom: Benjamin Rush isn't stupid.
My Dad: Why are you telling her about Benjamin Rush?
My Mom: Because he's part of our family legend.
Carrie: Why, because some stupid long-lost great uncle said he was related to us?
My Dad: I think you're making this tuffet, er, tougher than it really is.
Carrie: Great, Dad. I guess I'm too freaking idiotic to figure it out myself.
My Dad: No, but it sounds like your patience is hanging by a thread.
Carrie: You think?

Eventually the game would boil down to Hot and Cold, which would lead Carrie into the kitchen, the fridge, and eventually into a half-eaten container of cottage cheese. Unless of course she just became so irriated with my mother, she simply gave up and stomped down the hall to her bedroom, loudly proclaiming that she hated checks, Christmas, cottage cheese, and pretty much everything else on the planet.

We developed other traditions--sneaking alcohol into the house through my bedroom window, cleaning out the fridge and playing Name That Leftover, and acting out entire plays where we each took on the role of a different family member (the first Christmas Jeff spent with my family, he had to play My Mother. That performance pretty much sealed the marriage deal for me). Each one brought my family closer. To a mental institution.

And so, my little family has some growing to do before we start getting strange. Or perhaps we're already there. Either way, establishing our Christmas traditions over the years will be a fun, interesting ride. I'm already scoping out places to hide my kids' checks. The butter dish looks like a good spot.

Merry Christmas, dear readers. Peace.



*For years our mother has cleaved to the idea that Benjamin Rush (our great-great-great-great-uncle's cousin thrice removed or something) killed George Washington with leeches. While I have found nothing online to support this theory, I will say that our mother has proclaimed all sorts of things, including that whales do not deserve to be saved from beaching themselves because they are the dummies who beached themselves in the first place. Ah yes...gotta love my mom.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Elsa's Greatest Hits


Tomorrow Elsa will be 2 years old.

While I spare you the sappy, sentimental overemphasis that I cannot BELIEVE my daughter is 2, I would like to recount a few of her shining moments over the past year (which means the time she pooped in the bathtub and then tried to catch it with a toy basketball hoop will not make the cut)....







This was her first birthday, and her first time eating chocolate cake. I kinda opened a Pandora's box here. This child eats more sugar than some European countries.  You should have seen the temper tantrum she threw on Halloween when Jeff confiscated her treasure trove of lollipops. Well, here...I'll show you....

Behold...the Tootsiepop






I WANT MY TOOTSIEPOPs!


F*ck my life













Anyway, my darling daughter has turned into quite a little pistol over the past year. This may be because she is almost 2, and therefore about the enter that whole "I Am Going To Have Everything My Way And If You Try To Contradict Me I Swear I Will Urinate On The Carpet Every Chance I Get" phase. Or this may be because genetics are starting to take their stranglehold on her, and she is poised to be the handful that certain other members of my immediate family were when I was growing up. How my mother managed to make it through all of our childhoods without drinking a drop of alcohol is beyond me. Perhaps the combination of Smartfood popcorn and peach-flavored Diet Rite she used to indulge in while watching Matlock and Murder She Wrote have some sort of Valium-like effect. That is the only explanation to how she managed to maintain a small slice of her sanity.

Still, Baby Els does have her sweet moments. Like her first steps. Which she didn't bother taking until she was 15 months...
video

Or the first time she saw creepy animatronic pirates burning and pillaging a fake city. That was adorable...

Or her first beer.....


Or the first time she sat in a box. Since, you know...that's right up there with first steps...


Or the first time she helped me bake brownies. 



Or the first time she was mistaken for a boy. (We were trick-or-treating...I guess it didn't help that she was head-to-toe in Rollie's clothes....)



And I'm trying to be unbiased here when I say that Elsa is such a fun, spirited little girl, and I'm veeeery interested in what the next year with her will bring. If she's anything like Rollie was when he was two, you, dear reader, are in for some serious reading enjoyment. 

Your enjoyment is my insanity.



Happy Birthday, Sweet Pea. You're the best.





Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not Couture

This past weekend Elsa and I engaged in the first of what I'm certain will be many violent, bloody battles that are as old as the invention of mothers, daughters, and those sweatpants with words woven into the butt:

We fought over her outfit choice.

My friend gave me a huge box of clothes her 4-year-old daughter had grown out of, and inside was a nightgown with The Little Mermaid on it. When Elsa saw it, her eyes lit up and her chubby little hands reached out for it in plain, unadulterated desire. All other thoughts of babydolls, boogers and dumping water from the bathroom sink into a coffee table drawer vanished as a single, obsessive idea took root and began to grow: From now on, this will be my second skin.

At first it was cute. She pranced around in the polyester gown and proudly showed it off to whoever would indulge her. Which in this house is Jeff, Rollie, and me. And the dog, but he only pays attention to her if she's either purposely dropping entire chicken nuggets onto the floor, or is preparing to climb on top of him and ride him around the living room.

That night we went to look at Christmas lights at Rollie's school, and instead of making her change into a normal, non-institutional-looking outfit for the trip, I just threw some sweatpants and a coat on her, not bothering to coax her out of the nightgown and into something sane, like a sweater with doggies all over it. She also wore a bright pink, floppy Minnie Mouse hat, because hey, what evening outfit isn't complete without an obnoxious sun hat covered with cartoon mice? Sure she looked like a crazy old lady--all she needed were a bunch of cats following her around--but she was warm, happy, and...gotta put this out there...pretty darn adorable.

When we got home, Jeff and the kids slept in a tent in the backyard (yeah, I know...probably best saved for another blog), so I just stuffed her in her sleeping bag, Ariel nightgown and all, and fled to the house where I spent a luxuriously lonely night in my bed, by myself, completely devoid of any nighttime visits from whimpering trolls. Aaahhhhh.....

The next day, however, when it was time to peel that crusty, well-worn nightgown from Elsa's little body, I was met with some resistance. And by resistance, I mean a full-blown, top o' the lungs screaming temper tantrum.

I understand her unwillingness to relinquish what she believes to be the Absolute Coolest Thing She Will Ever Wear. I myself have been known to wear the same outfit for days on end, convinced that not only was I the envy of every person who saw my cowgirl shirt with the real yarn braids hanging from it, but I was also so cute (think Shirley Temple meets Cindy Brady....although I was actually more like Cousin Oliver meets that nerdy girl in Head of the Class), that soon a TV executive would snap me up and make me into the next Small Wonder.

The thing is, I don't ever remember my own mother stopping me from fantasizing, and therefore wearing whatever the hell I wanted to achieve my dream of being a robot on a deliciously cheesy 80's sitcom. The only time my mother actually forced me to wearing something against my will, it was a green checkered pantsuit when I was in kindergarten...which may or may not have acquired a mysterious hole in the knee and was henceforth unwearable. Perhaps she learned her lesson, and from then on did not give a rat's ass what I wore, as long as I was clothed (although as I got older, I was never clothed enough for my dad's liking...he would have preferred I shop at Hoop Skirts R Us and The Turtleneck Emporium).

So maybe I shouldn't be so insistent that Elsa wear regular clothes all the time. Perhaps I should encourage her own individual style, and applaud her the next time chooses and outfit that says, Hey, I may barely be two years old, but screw the establishment! I'm gonna wear this Little Mermaid nightgown until it gets so tattered you can blow it from my defiant little body like dandelion fluff.

Besides...there's plenty of time to fight with her over much more important issues. Like not playing in her brother's pee-pee stream. This is a battle she will thank me for winning down the road....

Elsa wearing this Spring's collection

Elsa's Summer line

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Santa, The Boogie Man, And Joe Namath Walk Into A Bar...

This Christmas season has proven itself to already be very different from Christmases of yore. I feel quite ill-prepared to explain to an overly-inquisitive little boy the inconsistencies of Santa Claus.

To be honest, I'd almost completely forgotten about the magical effects of having your children believe that an obese man with a 41-inch waist and a giant sack of toys can enter your house through a 12" by 18" opening in your roof. And can be at the mall, the grocery store, the town center and your local Target all at the same time, sometimes with food in his beard, sometimes with glasses, sometimes with an entourage of groomers, photographers, and college students dressed as elves. There is nothing more magical than a 19-year-old co-ed dressed in candy-cane leggings begging scores of weeping children to smile, for the love of God, please SMILE.

In an attempt to explain this magic in simple terms, I sang Rollie Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Which is apparently quite a confusing song to a kid who's just grasping the ridiculous concept of flying reindeer in the first place.

Me: You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry....
Rollie: Why do I have to watch out?
Me: Well, not in a bad way. You just have to make sure you're a good boy.
Rollie: What will happen if I'm not?
Me: Ah-ha...listen....You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why...Santa Claus is--
Rollie: Tell me why, Momma.
Me: I am, just listen....Santa Claus is coming--
Rollie: Why, Momma?
Me: Rollie, lis-tenSanta Claus is coming...to town.
Rollie: ....
Me: He's making a list...and checking it twice...
Rollie: Momma, I thought you were gonna tell me why I have to watch out.
Me: ...Rollie, I did. I told you Santa's coming.
Rollie: ....Is he coming to get me?
Me: No, Santa Claus is nice. He's going to bring you toys. I mean, if you're good.
Rollie: ...Am I good?
Me: Sometimes. Usually.
Rollie: ...But why do I have to watch out?
Me: Be-cause...He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness--
Rollie: But I'm bad sometimes.
Me: Well then, I guess you need to work extra hard to be good.
Rollie: But Elsa's naughty sometimes, too. Elsa's more naughty than me.

Which is true--lately Elsa has found herself in Time Out daily, whereas Rollie's have dwindled to once or twice a week. And Elsa's Time Outs are generally because she hits me when she's pissed. Just like her Auntie Carrie used to do, God help us.

Me: You both need to work on being nice.
Rollie: But Elsa does more than me.
Me: ...He sees you when you're sleeping...He knows when you're awake....
Rollie: Will he come to get me when I'm sleeping?
Me: No, Rollie, he's not like the Boogie Man. He's Santa. He's jolly. He brings presents and stuff.
Rollie: Who's the Boogie Man?
Me: ...Let's sing a different song.

This went of for several more minutes, with Rollie's chief concern being that Santa Claus is coming to get him, while he's sleeping no less. Santa sees him at his most vulnerable. If Santa were a 13-year-old girl he would freeze Rollie's bra and draw on his face with eye-liner while he slept.

Which might explain why every time we've encountered a Santa, Rollie has been reticent to sit on his lap. I'm not surprised, given the Boogie-Man-esque image Rollie has of him, coupled with the Jerry Garcia beard, the hearty laugh and the velour jumpsuit...if we didn't know better, Santa would seem like a hysterical crazy person who likes to drape himself in fur and velvet. Kinda like Joe Namath, but without the pantyhose.

The other issue I've run into with Rollie is that I left his presents in the back of our car and before I could transfer them somewhere in the house where Rollie wouldn't find them (which would probably have to be the laundry basket, since Rollie is apparently allergic to putting his dirty clothes where they belong), he saw them.

Rollie: What's that?
Me (Crap): Oh, that's nothing. Just some...stuff.
Rollie: It looks like toys.
Me (realizing the Target bags are spilling their contents--Mr. Potato Head, plastic dinosaurs, roller-skates--onto the floor): Well, they are toys, but they aren't for you.
Rollie: They look like they're for me.
Me: I know they do, but they aren't.
Rollie: Can I play with them?
Me: No, Hon. They're for another family who won't be able to buy presents this year. (Okay, so I know lying about benevolence probably goes against every creed in every religion, but in all fairness to me, we have been buying presents for families in need lately....just not these ones....)
Rollie: ...Won't Santa bring them presents?
Me: Well, yeah...but we are, too.
Rollie: Why?
Me (Sigh. How do I turn this into a life lesson? Or at least get him to shut the hell up?): Wouldn't you be happy if you couldn't have any presents at Christmas and someone bought some for you?
Rollie: But I've been good this year. Santa's going to bring me presents.
Me: You think so, huh? Santa must not read my blog.
Rollie: What's a blog?

Ah yes...I suppose I will save that conversation for another time. Preferably when he's 30.

Seriously though, despite what the contents of this blog might suggest, Rollie really is a good boy. I'd say about 85% of the time (although 50% of that amount is spent in slumber). Which is up from last year by about a billion percent.

Elsa, on the other hand....She needs to pull in some extra credit if she expects to find anything under the tree.  Maybe Joe Namath will visit in the dead of night and leave her an autographed football and a well-worn pair of queen-sized Beautymist pantyhose.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Buck Stops Here...Literally

My father-in-law has become somewhat obsessed with his new DVD burner. He and my MIL have about five hundred thousand old VHS tapes, and he has added to his bucket list--right beneath inventing a robot that will simultaneously pressure wash his house and make him ice cream cones--the chore of transferring every single one of them onto a DVD. And making Jeff and I a copy for our own collection.

Some of these movies I wouldn't mind having, strictly from a guilty pleasure standpoint. Pretty Woman. The Firm. The Making Of Thriller. Some of them, however, I'm pretty sure will sit in our movie drawer like a hand-knit, three-armed sweater from a well-intentioned but clueless great aunt. Whitney Houston in Concert. Jaws III. Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot. The best use I can get out of these would be to use them as DVD decoys for Elsa--she can play with these, pull them from their jewel cases and load them into her Dora oven without me worrying that she's going to damage the movies I actually like. Nothing against Whitney Houston, of course.  I'm sure she's a perfectly nice lady.

Anyhoo, one move my FIL copied for us was Bambi. Rollie has never seen Bambi before, and yesterday while Elsa was napping and I was trying to put the house back together after what appears to be a six-day potato chip bender, Rollie needed some downtime that didn't include him discovering how many animal figurines he could hide within the branches of our Christmas tree.

I put the movie on and sat down with my laptop beside Rollie, ready to get some work done while Rollie was regaled by animated wildlife and the happiness it surely emanated.

Yeah..... I don't know if you remember Bambi or have seen it recently, but that movie is pretty much a 67-minute-long attempt to permanently destroy your child's sense of security, his belief in the goodness of man, and his conviction that skunks are stinky and should not be brought home as pets.

I couldn't do much work while sitting there with Rollie, primarily because I had to field the multitude of thought-provoking questions Rollie started asking as soon as the opening credits finished rolling. Luckily for me, Rollie's recent interest in death, animals eating other animals and the whole Circle of Life thing has allowed me to skip over some of the more basic ideas of Animal Mortality and cut right to the chase, as it were:

Rollie (after hearing the crack of a gunshot during one of the Most Depressing Scenes In Cinema History): What was that, Momma?
Me: ...That was a gun.
Rollie: Why did it sound like that?
Me: That's just what they sound like, Love.
Rollie: Why are all those animals running?
Me: ...Because a hunter is after them.
Rollie (watching with concern as cartoonish feathers fly around onscreen--the result of panicked pheasants being blown out of the sky): Why is a hunter after them?
Me: Because...he wants to...eat them.
Rollie: Why?
Me (Ay-yay-yay...here we go): That's how some people get their food.
Rollie (likely getting ready to ask another follow-up question, but suddenly realizing that Bambi is looking for his mother): Where'd his momma go?
Me (oh crap): Um...his mother got shot. By a hunter.
Rollie: Is she okay?
Me: No. She's not.
Rollie: Will Bambi find her?
Me (seriously about to cry, between Rollie's look of bewilderment at the very idea that a young fawn can't find his mother, and the sound of Bambi's pathetic little voice calling out for her): No, sweetheart. She's dead. But don't worry....his daddy is there, see?
Rollie (who will not be distracted with the fact that Bambi's emotionally distant, ten-pointed buck of a dad has just shown up to explain to the weeping baby deer that his beloved mommy quote, Can't be with you any longer): Why is she dead?
Me: Because the hunter shot her, honey.
Rollie: ...Is the hunter going to eat her?
Me: I hope so.
Rollie: Why do you hope so?
Me (sort of forgetting myself as I feel the anger welling at the injustice of animated deer everywhere): Because otherwise he would have just shot her for pleasure, and that's messed up.
Rollie: ...Why is that messed up?

Sigh.

The movie didn't get any better. After the mother eats it, Bambi and his cohorts get twitter-pated the following Spring. Twitter-pated. Aka, horny. Yeah, try explaining THAT one to a 3-year-old. Thankfully, the next scene was a pack of wild dogs chasing Bambi's love interest up a hill, followed by a raging forest fire. Whew--I dodged the sex talk this round!

Yeah, I think next time we're at our in-laws, I'm going to request a copy of The Deer Hunter. Why not just go for the full-on mental breakdown next time Rollie and I have a few hours to kill on a rainy afternoon?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving

It's the time of year when I like to sit down for ten consecutive minutes and jot down a few things that I am thankful for.

Since writing that sentence, I've gotten up three times--once to get Rollie a quote Special Treat for eating all his Apple Dapples, once to open a mini box of raisins for Elsa (who already got her Special Treat  but God forbid Rollie get to have something and she doesn't at the Exact Same Moment) and once for letting Ollie outside so he can get away from Rollie, who was following him around the kitchen to offer him a lick of candy cane).

Still, I am thankful for these interruptions. It means that my children are healthy enough to eat candy at 6:30 in the morning. And my dog is intelligent enough to go in the opposite direction when he sees one of my children coming at him. And that my coffee is strong enough that I don't feel like going back to bed the instant my healthy children start whining for Special Treats while my dog paws at the back door to go poop in the yard.

I am so thankful that I am lucky enough to stay home with these little carpet pee-ers. Mainly because I can't imagine going to work all day long, and then coming home and squeezing hilarious exasperation into two hours that is usually spread out over the course of an entire day. Somehow it seems like finding Elsa shredding up an economy sized box of tissues all over my carpet would be far less endearing if I'd just come home from a long day of meetings, office politics and smelling the collective gas of three other cube-neighbors.

I am so thankful for my family, too. My parents are here, nestled on my couch in total silence because a commercial is on and my dad would rather listen to a legion of out-of-tune violins playing Mozart than a 30-second Snuggie pitch. And despite their getting weirder and weirder with each passing year (no joke--an hour ago my dad went onto the back porch with an empty milk jug he'd filled up with water so he could use it to "strength train" and my mother was asking for advice on how to apply icing to a cake because she's "never done it before"), I still adore them.

I am thankful for my siblings, most of whom are right now hurling toward my house by air and by interstate.  I am thankful for the fellowship we will enjoy, sitting around the table eating turkey no one in my family had to touch (which means that it had virtually no chance of being ruined...unless my brother spills his beer on it). I am thankful for my quirky, off-beat childhood, which I think has contributed largely to my ability to behave inappropriately in a variety of settings. This includes Chinese restaurants.

I am thankful for my friends, without whom I would be curled up on the top bunk of Rollie's bed most of the day, being pelted by Matchbox cars and pacifiers from below as my children demanded I come down and reenact Toy Story 3 with them. I am thankful they all have children who can be as difficult and draining as my own, and that they aren't afraid to admit it. I am thankful when they seem to know more about motherhood than I do, and I'm thankful when I can dole out my own advice without them suspecting that I'm completely talking out my ass.

And I'm thankful for Jeff. I've known him half my life and he still surprises me. And makes me laugh. A lot.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, dear readers. May you enjoy every minute of the holiday (even if this requires you to pound an entire bottle of wine alone in your mother-in-law's bathtub). Cheers!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maggots And Snails And Puppy-Dog Tails

After three-and-a-half years of viewing our dog as this hairy thing that we walk and sometimes feed, Rollie has decided that suddenly Ollie is his new best friend.

Ollie is our 11-year-old Chow mix (mixed with what we're not sure, but I think it's part grouchy old man and part throw-rug).  I've written about his life before our kids came along and ruined everything, but in a nutshell, here's an illustration for you: Ollie pre-kid = our furry, adorable son. Ollie post-kid = our stinky, inconvenient Swiffer.

Ollie is not a kid-friendly dog. He's not one of those dogs that kids can lie on and tug his ears, one that curls up at the foot of Rollie's bed or patiently allows Elsa to dress him up in bonnets and socks. He doesn't much care for our children, but tolerates them only because they still struggle to get food from their plate to their open little mouths without dropping at least half of it onto the floor. He's gained 5 pounds since our kids entered the scene. And even though he seems quite aware that our children generate an unending supply of vittles, he would just as soon smother them with his bushy tail than lick up their spilled mac&cheese.

Despite this, a few days ago Rollie began following Ollie around and talking to him. I'm not sure where Rollie's new-found attraction to our dog stemmed from, but his one-sided conversations usually go something like this:

Rollie: I love you, Ollie.
Ollie (lying on his side in the middle of the kitchen): .....
Rollie: You're my best friend.
Ollie (sighing through his nose): ....
Rollie: We're gonna grow up together, you know.
Ollie: ....
Rollie: You can come to school with me, and go on the playground and go to Publix.
Ollie: ....
Rollie: Would you like me to pet you?
Ollie (lifting his head and looking at Rollie like, are you serious?): ....
Rollie (edging closer to Ollie): See? Isn't this nice? You like being pet, don't you?
Sound of Ollie's dog tags jingling and his nails on the tile as he gets up and trots to a different part of the house.


Not that I mind seeing this unrequited love unfolding in my kitchen, but in a way it's sort of...unfortunate that Rollie is just now realizing that Ollie is our pet. I mean...Ollie's 11. What is that, like, 98 in dog years? Rollie is waiting until Ollie is essentially on his way to the Great Fire Hydrant In The Sky before he decides to fall in love with the dog. Here I was thinking when the day finally comes when Ollie trots through the Valley of the Shadow of Euthanasia,  Rollie would care less. Now I'm watching Rollie plop down in front of the dog to read him If You Give A Moose A Muffin. And all Ollie wants is for Rollie either feed him some peanut butter or leave him the hell alone.

Yesterday Rollie seemed to accept that he and our dog weren't about to split a Best Friend necklace, and so he tried to substitute another animal in Ollie's stead.

A dead snail.

This snail has been hanging on our back porch for a few days now. I figured he was just extra slow, and didn't think much of him until Rollie came to me while we were in the backyard, holding the snail between his fingers.

Rollie: Look, Momma, a snail.
Me: I see that. Why don't you go put him back where he was?
Rollie: No, Momma, I'm gonna keep him. He's gonna be my pet.
Me: I don't think snails make the best pets, bud.
Rollie: But he's so cute. He wants to stay with me.
Me: Um...not sure if that's such a good idea.
Rollie: What can I put him in?
Me: Why don't you leave him outside and just visit him?
Rollie: Do we have a bowl I can keep him in? I can put him right next to my bed.
Me: ...Yeah, we have a bowl.
Rollie: Little Bill has a hamster, and now I have a snail.
Me (realizing that the show Little Bill must have been the inspiration behind Rollie's latest pet obsession): Ooooh...okay....

And so it came to pass that I pulled out Jeff's favorite cereal bowl, filled it with water and held it out for Rollie to deposit his pet snail.

When Jeff came home later and Rollie proudly showed off his new best friend, Jeff reaction was a little more sane than mine.

Jeff: This snail isn't a water snail, Rol.
Rollie: But he's happy in there.
Jeff: I don't think he is. I think we need to put him out in the flowerbed.
Rollie: No, Dadda. He's mine.
Jeff (studying the bowl):  Are those baby snails in there?
Rollie (seemingly overjoyed that he is the proud papa of a bunch of squirming little baby snails): Where? Where are the baby snails?
Me: There weren't any baby snails there when we put him in the water.
Jeff (scrutinizing the bowl more closely): Oh...no...those are maggots.
Me: So that's why that thing smelled so bad.
Rollie: ...Can I keep them, too?

Their early relationship. I'm pretty sure Rollie was finding
some leftovers in his folds for Ollie to snack on.
Jeff took the bowl outside and unceremoniously dumped Rollie's pet snail and pet maggots into the flowerbed. Rollie looked on somberly, then ran back inside to look for Ollie. Who was busily licking up remnants of dinner from the floor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gender Bender

Rollie has been on a kick lately. He has been categorizing things based on gender. People, animals, toys, articles of clothing.  Some of these make sense: Elsa is a girl. Others...well...let's just say that I never knew his bedspread had a penis.

His new way of labeling genders has evolved from the classic Boy and Girl to a more advanced way of viewing the traditional models of male and female: Peacocks and Peahens.

It's all Jeff's fault. He and Rollie had an in-depth conversation about how peacocks are boys and peahens are girls. The next day on our walk, everything Rollie saw he tried to label. A bright red cardinal, a flower, a water fountain. When an old man on a giant tricycle pedaled past (don't laugh--my mom has one, too), things got a little...confusing.

Rollie: That girl on the tricycle is a peahen, Momma.
Me: Actually Rollie, that's a man.
Rollie (craning his neck for a better look): Why is that a man?
Me: What do you mean, why? He just is, bud.
Rollie: But he's on a tricycle.
Me: So? You have a tricycle. Are you a peahen?
Rollie: ...No.... I'm a peacock.
Me: That's right. So's he.
Rollie: ...But Nana has a tricycle.
Me: Yes indeed she does.
Rollie: Is Nana a peahen?
Me: Among other things.
Rollie: Does she eat peanuts?
Me: Sometimes.
Rollie: ... Does she have a big tail?
Me: No. She has big hair, though.
Rollie: Why does she have big hair?
Me: That I couldn't tell ya.

I don't know if it's a boy thing, a three-year-old thing, or strictly a Rollie thing, but his whole gender identification obsession strikes me as quite hilarious. I try not to emphasize to Rollie what toys he should prefer, what colors he should like, or what ballet move he should perform only in private. His favorite toy is a diecast Lightning McQueen, but his favorite color is pink. His favorite show is Dino Dan, but his favorite aisle at Target is the one with a bunch of Disney princesses encased in a plexiglass box (and they belt out musical numbers when you press the big button on the box. Yes, it's as obnoxious as it sounds).

So I suppose Rollie has a feminine side? He's part of a new generation of semi-masculine tomgirls?  He's a Metrosexual Peacock?

And just when Rollie thinks he has the whole peacock/peahen gender bending riddle figured out, he sees something that throws him for an absolute loop.

This weekend I took the kids to our local PetCo to kill some time while we were waiting for Jeff to stop goofing around at the brewery and participate in some family bonding (which usually includes buying diapers, goldfish crackers and using about 50 thousand baby wipes to clean up the inevitable spilled milkshake from someone's carseat.)

It was Adoption Day at PetCo, and toward the back of the store were several cages with wiggling, panting, yipping dogs. As my children were cooing over a beautiful brown mutt in one cage, an older-looking dog paced in the cage next door, pawing at a rawhide on the floor. This dog didn't have much fur on her tummy, but did have six large, saggy dog-boobs, evidence that humans aren't the only members of the animal kingdom to suffer from the post-baby saggy-boob affliction.

While I was lost in silent commiseration with my fellow um...female, Rollie came over and peered inside the cage.

Me: Aren't these doggies cute, Rol?
Rollie: ...That's a boy doggy, Momma.
Me: I'm pretty sure she's a girl, buddy.
Rollie: But look, Momma. She's got a lot of penises.
Me (realizing that if I don't set the record straight on this one, Rollie may start assuming that all breasts are actually large, supple penises in disguise...which may ultimately put a huge damper on his dating life): Those aren't penises, Buddy.
Rollie: ...But they are, Momma.
Me: Trust me, they aren't.
Rollie: ...But he has so many.
Me: Yeah. It looks like that, doesn't it?
Rollie: ...I don't have that many penises.
Me (thank God): And you never will.

I suppose I could have explained the whole canine Crying Game to him, but some things are better left unsaid. At least in the middle of a crowded PetCo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swearing Mantis

Tell me if this sounds familiar to you (and yes, I am looking for validation that I am a good, attentive mother and not a lazy, disconnected mom-slug):

So the other night after the kids were snug in their cages, I'm sitting on the couch with Jeff and we're rehashing the day's events. He's telling me about his meetings and emails and meetings and I'm listening with at least one, maybe one-and-a-half ears, offering the necessary commentary and support that any loving wife would (which means my mind wanders over to the Laundry, Facebook and Matt Damon only a few times).

He asks how my day was, and I try to remember back to the talking points. Not always an easy task, since sometimes my days blur together in one long, convoluted mishmash of picking up toys, yelling and scraping uneaten meals into the sink. But this day does contain some highlights that stand out.  And by highlights I mean situations so frustrating I wonder what the return policy is for Mr. Stork (I kept the receipts for both children just in case).

And so I begin my soliloquy about the day. Right about the point where I'm relaying how I discovered that Rollie can reach the top of the fridge by scaling the counter and standing on his tip toes to pillage the stash of Halloween candy, I notice Jeff has a look on his face. It's a look I recognize, although usually it's because it's coming from my mother-in-law in response to something she's seeing my children doing that she silently disapproves of. Apparently The Look is hereditary.

Me: What?
Jeff: ...Did you see him do that?
Me: Yeah, I stood right there and watched him climb onto the counter like a friggin' lemur.  No, I didn't see him do it, I was in the driveway with Elsa pulling weeds.
Jeff: .....
Me: What?
Jeff: Nothing....
Me: What?
Jeff: No, it's just....what if he'd fallen?
Me: ...But he didn't fall.  It's not like I condone counter surfing.  I was Out Side.
Jeff: Well, did you tell him he's not allowed to do that?
Me: Uh, yeah?
Jeff: What did you say?
Me (thinking about how I discovered Rollie munching on a piece of candy I knew had been on top of the fridge. I told him very firmly that I didn't want to ever see him climbing on the counters again, and his response was: 'But Momma, you didn't see me do it.'  Somehow I don't think this will make Jeff feel better): I just told him to never do it again because it wasn't safe.
Jeff: He could have fallen and caved in his face.
Me: I know that.
Jeff: .....
Me: Come on, it's not like I can watch them every single second of the day.
Jeff (sounding like I'd just told him the earth is flatter than my post-children chest): I guess.
Me: No. Seriously. I cannot possibly keep watch over both our children all day long. There's no way.
Jeff: ...I guess.

And before I grow gigantic pincers, lunge forward and bite my husband's head clean off, I try to see things from his perspective: He's at work all day, leaves the house before the kids wake up and usually comes home after bath time.  During the week, he only sees them for maybe an hour. In that hour, the kids don't leave his sight, mainly because they are so crack-happy that he's home they follow him around like a couple of intoxicated ducklings. The poor man can't even use the bathroom without one or both of them pawing at the door and yelling at him underneath it until he lets them in.  So I can see how he wouldn't quite grasp the potential for me to be on one side the house trying to be productive and our children on the other side of the house, trying to see what happens when Rollie uses Elsa's tummy as a golf tee.

Sure, I could be vigilant 100% of the time. As long as Jeff doesn't mind eating air-sandwiches for dinner, wearing dirty laundry to work, and wading through piles of dog-hair, toys and stepping in puddles of God-knows-what to get to a bathroom with layers of grime on the countertops and orange rings in the toilet. Oh yeah, and as long as he doesn't mind me being a bug-eyed raving lunatic who flees into our closet and sobs in incoherent relief the instant he gets home.

As I explain these things to him, Jeff's Look if Disapproval morphs into one that says, I'm sorry for being an a-hole...you'll have to forgive me...I'm away from my children 14 hours a day and when I hear stories of them running around an environment with so many hazards, I get nervous.

Which is precisely why I'm all for investing in those giant cages I've been talking about. No Muss, No Fuss. Fill it with toys, food, a little hay, and bam. No more counter-surfing. No more goose-eggs. No more jumping on the furniture. I can already see the look on Jeff's face the day he comes home and finds me in the kitchen, whipping up a six-course meal that he and I can enjoy in harmony while our children playing peacefully in their matching cages.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brat Stew

I recently read an article entitled 16 Things I Have Learned About Being A Mother by Chris Jordon (a mother of seven, which means she is one child crazier than my own mother...if that's possible).

I think this title inspired me to view the other day as a series of lessons in motherhood rather than as a prime example as to why animals eat their young (and sometimes bite the heads off their mates...but we might save that for another blog).

So here we go:

Lesson 1: The phrase "Poopy Butt" is an unacceptable classroom expression.

Let me set the stage for you (and forgive me if I go off on a tangent--I've had a lot of coffee today):  The day began in relative calm. Elsa and I took Rollie to school. Dropped him off without incident.  Elsa and I went to Target for some Icees, diapers and Holiday Season Overload. (Side note: if I were Thanksgiving, I'd be really pissed off right about now. Halloween costumes on clearance, candy on sale, and Christmas Trees going up where foam tombstones and skull-shaped fog machines used to be. Where the hell are the gravy boats and cornicopias? Where are people supposed to go for all their pilgrim garb and ceramic turkey figurines? If Thanksgiving were a person, it would be the Middle Child of the holidays. It would be the one to shave its head, sneak out to 7Seconds concerts, burn incense in its room and get in suspended for hurling ice cream sundaes at underclassmen. Christmas is lucky Thanksgiving doesn't sneak into its room in the dead of night and cut off all its hair.)

So after a little mother-daughter bonding (which included cleaning up half of a cherry Icee from the middle of the hair-care aisle), we went to pick up my sweet, darling Rollie. 

When I poke my head into Rollie's classroom, I don't even see him at first. His teacher notices me and ushers me in.

"Where's Rollie?" I ask.

She points to a corner of the room by a bookcase, where Rollie is seated with his back to the room.

Oh no.

"Rollie, you can come out now," his teacher says, "but why don't you tell your mommy why you were in Time Out?"

I kneel down to his level, but he won't look me in the eye. Gosh, if he ever wants a future in professional poker, he's gonna have to work on his tells big time.

"What did you do?" I ask. Several different ways. And I get nothing. Except a couple of I don't knows and one face-plant into my shirt.

Finally his teacher pulls me aside and says in her best ventriloquist impression, "He said Poopy Butt."

I almost start laughing, and immediately want to ask: So did he get in trouble for the Poopy or the Butt? In what context did he use it? Did he use the words consecutively? In a derogatory manner? Was he merely repeating someone else's phraseology? Ah, so many questions, so few Time Outs.

As we're leaving, I attempt to lecture Rollie about how it's not nice to hurt people's feelings by calling them names like Poopy Butt, but Rollie interrupts me.

"Momma, I wasn't calling Aiden a name, I was telling him a funny story."

"But Rollie, your teacher didn't know that."

"Momma, you said 'but.'"

"No, that's not the same as the Butt you said."

"Butt rhymes with But, Momma."

"....So it does."



Wow, so that went a little long. Guess I'll have to save the other fifteen things I've learned for another post (including the reason why I recently almost went Praying Mantis on Jeff). And this first lesson may not have made me want to cook and eat Rollie for dinner, but by the time Lesson Nine rolled around, every time I looked at my son I imagined his head as a personal pan pizza. 

Until next time, loyal readers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Holy Spit

Here's another one for you....

Today when I picked Rollie up from school, I peeked in the room to see him sitting on the floor amid an assortment of foam blocks.  He wasn't constructing anything with them, but just sort of rolling around in them like they were a bunch of dollar bills and he was Demi Moore.

His teacher spotted me and called out, "Rollie, your mom's here."

He paused mid-roll and grinned at me.  What an angel, I thought.  What teacher wouldn't find him to be just a complete joy and delight to have in class?

Then his teacher said, "Rollie, why don't you tell your mommy what happened today?"

I turned to my son, expecting him to start spinning tales of how he won a spelling bee with the word ostentatious, or that he constructed a Moses diorama with a real burning bush. Or that he at least followed the line leader out of the classroom without stopping to pick up and eat a piece of gum from the sidewalk.

But instead Rollie let out an Velociraptor-like screech and buried his head in a pile of brightly-colored bricks.

Confused, I glanced at his teacher. Maybe Rollie was just being modest, and she would regale me with stories of my son's genius.

"We had a little spitting incident," she said.

"Spitting incident?" Surely she must be mistaken. Surely she meant that some little snotty-nosed hooligan was spitting on my darling child out of pure jealousy. Surely you can't be serious. (I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.)

She shook her head, "It really wasn't a big deal, but he did have to go to Time Out, right Rollie?"

"Time Out?" I spoke the words as if Rollie has never ever in his forty-three months on this planet spent one second of it in such a place. As if the very idea of my son in Time Out was as incongruous as ...wait for it....wait for it....a stick figure in a Botticelli painting (sorry folks, it's been a long day.  That's the best I could do).

At this point Rollie seemed to know he could no longer hide beneath the blocks, and decided to try a different tactic. He ran up and flung his arms around my legs, planting a big juicy kiss on my hip bone.

"Rollie," I pulled away and looked into his wide-eyed face.  "Who were you spitting at?"

He put his finger up to his chin, as if trying to remember if he was even guilty of such a crime. Or perhaps trying to decide how to convince me that the spittee deserved the giant loogey Rollie delivered right on the cheek.

"Richard," his teacher said.  "But it's okay. He went to Time Out for a little while, and he apologized to Richard, so it's all good."

All good? All good? Rollie's a spitter.  God help me, I have a spitter. The teacher may as well have told me Rollie's been simultaneously eating paste, wetting his pants and playing with his wiener in public.

But it gets worse.

"Usually when I send Rollie to Time Out, he goes there no problem..." the teacher said.

My head started spinning. Usually? Like, is this a daily thing? Do they spit at each other like a class full of camels or is Rollie the only creepy germ-spreader of the lot? Is he a repeat offender? Is he already blazing a trail straight to juvy? First it's spitting at Richard, next it's pulling fire alarms and stealing lunch money? Should we stop saving for college and start saving for a good defense attorney?

"...but today he had a hard time listening..."

Oh. Dear.  I no longer possessed the ability to speak. All I could think about were the times when I try to send Rollie to Time Out on the couch and he collapses and flails and sometimes when I come back to check on his I find that he has removed all his clothes and is walking across the back of the couch like Carrie Strug on the balance beam.

I must have been several shades of horrified, because his teacher added, "I can usually count on Rollie to be my good listener, so I guess he's just having one of those days."

Ah, yes. A small glimmer of hope that maybe Rollie isn't quite ready for the Boys Ranch. Maybe he is just having one of those days. Whatever the hell that means.

In the meantime, I'm thinking of investing in one of these:

Dr. Lector was never put in Time Out for spitting on anyone.

 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Learning Curve Ahead

This week has been somewhat...educational.

I've learned all sorts of useful things about my children, myself, my dog, my carpeting, and my current state of residence (Florida, although Insanity would have also worked in this context).  I feel like some of these things I should have already known, discovered through trail and error or come to the realization of after lots of alcohol.  But still I found myself surprised over and over by things that should have been as obvious as the white powder on Charlie Sheen's nose (What?  The guy has a baking problem...right?).

But then again, perhaps you, too, would have been surprised at some of these things.  I've put together a fun, interactive quiz to find out.

1.) Your child has been quite for two consecutive minutes.  This child is:

a.) sleeping
b.) watching Finding Nemo for the nine-hundreth time
c.) rubbing blush into your bedroom carpet
d.) has discovered your stash of Eclipse gum and is busily stuffing piece after delicious piece into her mouth (or other orifice of her choosing)

The correct answer has been All Of The Above at one time or other, but this week it was c.  And a special Thank You shout-out to all my friends who came through with some fabulous cleaning advice.  A little rubbing alcohol, a little Woolite, a little hydrogen peroxide, a little warm water and a bunch of towels later, and the once gigantic, pink smear looks almost invisible compared to the other stains speckling my carpet.

2.) Before you had children, your dog's favorite food was dog food (and the occasional bumblebee). Now that you have children, your dog's favorite food is:

a.) goldfish crackers
b.) macaroni & cheese-encrusted napkins
c.) peanut butter-encrusted napkins
d.) poop

Again, each answer has been correct at one time or another in the past 3 years, but unfortunately this week it was d.  It wasn't a lot of d., but really, how much d. does it matter?  It's like saying, Oh, it's just a little hair in your soup.  At least it wasn't an entire scalp.  Sometimes a little hair is much, much worse.

3.) Which phone number should you have first on your speed-dial?

a.) 911
b.) your nearest liquor store
c.) your friendly neighborhood exorcist
d.) poison control

This answer can actually vary from day to day.  This week the correct answer is d. It actually turned out not to be an emergency, but last night as I was fixing dinner, Elsa emerged from the bathroom with a tube of toothpaste.  She sort of has a thing for toothpaste, which is why I normally keep it  in various, unreachable places: The kitchen counter behind the bread.  On top of the fridge. Inside of a balloon, which I then swallow. But this was a small, sample size tube from the dentist, which I had squirreled away in the depths of a bathroom cabinet. And Elsa can hone in on toothpaste like my mother can detect doubloons in her backyard.

So Elsa came out with the toothpaste in one hand and the cap in the other, and when I swooped down to take it, I caught a whiff of mint coming from her mouth.  The tube was still full, but because I know my daughter is a garbage pail, I was certain she sampled some before bringing it to me. Right after she rubbed some into the carpet.

On the tube are the instructions: If more than is used for brushing is accidentally swallowed, call poison control immediately.  And since I usually do what I'm told, I snatched the attorney magnet from my fridge, found the poison control number and dialed it.  (Side note: Refrigerator magnets are my primary organizational tool.  Forget my iPhone, forget my notebook with names, numbers and addresses scrawled inside, forget my dozens of photo albums and framed pictures adorning my house. Every piece of important information in my life is stuck to my refrigerator with a magnet from either a pizza place, an attorney's office, or a letter of the alphabet. Refrigerator magnets hold my life together.)

The woman from our local poison control call center was calm and pleasant. She asked Elsa's age and size, and how much toothpaste she ate in teaspoons.  I figured not even one, to which the woman said Elsa would be fine.  And cavity-free until she's 80.

Okay, last question.

4.) The absolute best, most thoughtful thing your husband can bring you home after you've had a long day is:

a.) flowers
b.) take-out
c.) an appointment card for a vasectomy
d.) work


Yes, for me the answer is d. Sometimes I really really love my husband's job: 



Who says taking work home with you is a bad thing?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Birth Control And Easy Cheese

I recently read an article by Amy Wilson entitled "Could You Go A Week Without Yelling At Your Kids?"

I'll give you the short answer right now: No F-ing Way.

The author does make a valiant effort.  And has an epiphany around day five: "Multitasking Causes Yelling."

So true.

Let me give you an example: Ever try to talk on the phone around your kids?  Wait, let me rephrase--Ever try to talk on the phone to someone who doesn't yet have children around your kids?  It is the best form of birth control I can think of.  Forget encouraging teenagers to abstain (or join the school band). Forget lectures about STD's, condoms or the pill. Get them on the other end of a phone call from a parent with young kids, and high schools everywhere will be ordering Promise Rings by the case.

I was on the phone with one of my sisters the other day, and she asked if I was at an airport.   Apparently Elsa's shrieks of displeasure at my being on the phone sound very much like a 747 getting ready for take-off.  Some of my friends admit to locking themselves in their bathrooms when they want to conduct any sort of civilized phone conversation, but I am terrified that if I tried to do that, my children would somehow find a way to assemble (and test) an atomic bomb out of Thomas the Train accessories and suntan lotion.  Or at the very least they'd get into the stash of Halloween candy I've already opened and consumed half of.  Either way, the results would be bad.

What Amy Wilson and I--and I'm sure all of you--have discovered is that multi-tasking is unavoidable.  And hence, so is yelling.  And the more I multi-task, the more I yell.  The more I yell, the more the kids drive me crazy, and the less I can get done and the more I have to multi-task.  Sigh.  Who needs a drink?

I wasn't always a yeller, either.  I was one of those presumptuous a-holes who smugly thought, I am not going to be one of those moms.  I always imagined Moms Who Yell as the ones who have stringy hair and I'm With Stupid t-shirts and a waddle out of WalMart laden with bags full of cigarette cartons and cans of Easy Cheese.  The ones who yank their children by the arm, the ones who don't have the self-control necessary to refrain from raising their voices (or to stay away from WalMart during its 2 for 1 Easy Cheese sale).

I think I made it through Rollie's first year of life without yelling at him.  I do distinctly remember the first time I raised my voice loud enough to where the neighbors dogs started barking in response.  I was trying to change Rollie's extremely dirty diaper, and he was pulling that typical toddler act of rolling around and squirming because God forbid I try to remove fecal matter from his person.  Oh, someone call HRS, mommy's trying to prevent diaper rash and put me in clean pants!

Anyway, he succeeded in getting poop all over himself, me, and the changing table, and I just lost it.  I think I just yelled his name, but it was LOUD.  L-O-U-D.  I mean, I really didn't think I could reach decibel levels equivalent to an AC/DC concert.  I barked his name, sounding something between a drill sergeant and sea lion.  A very angry sea lion.

The thing was, it worked.  He was so stunned that he just lay there, his big eyes teared up, his little lip quivered, and he stopped kicking and rolling around long enough for me finish the medieval torture ritual of changing him.

Brilliant, I thought.  I finally found a chink in the armor.  I finally found a way to get his attention and make him listen.  I should have been yelling at him months ago!  The terrible twos are going to be a breeze!

At least they found that Chapstick I was looking for
Except that once the seal was broken, I started yelling at him a lot.  I wouldn't say All The Time, but I found myself yelling at him in circumstances when I previously would have internalized my anger and given myself a heart attack:  Not eating his breakfast, running away from me in a crowded department store, lapping water directly from the dog dish. Soon he found a way to ignore my gentle yells (or perhaps scar tissue had formed on his eardrums), and so I had to get louder for the same results.  I like to think of this phenomenon as the Weed Effect.  I wasn't yelling to get high, I was yelling to get even.  Only Up In Smoke wasn't nearly as funny this time.

I would like to yell less.  I would also like world peace, and some Easy Cheese.  Guess which one I'm asking for when that genie shows up.  Oh wait, don't you usually get three wishes?  Hmmm....Guess I'm all set then.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Deconstruction Of My Living Room Couch

Sometimes, you just gotta let the kids go nuts.

Right now almost every cushion from my three couches is on the floor.  Right now neither child is wearing enough clothing to go out in public, and they are both lounging on the floor, slack jawed and glassy-eyed, slurping down Ovaltine and watching Nick Jr like a couple of zombified, pale, half-naked Oompa-Loompas.

They are doing this because I'm done.  I've been trying to get to some of my neglected duties as a stay-at-home mom (vacuuming, laundry,  systematically dismantling the spiderweb apartment complex that has formed around the my kitchen chandelier...), but instead of playing quietly in their respective bedrooms like the children on planet Yeah-Right must do, they have tipped over Rollie's plastic basketball goal, Elsa is straddling the post like it's a horse and Rollie is pushing it by the base, inching her around the living room and shouting "Giddyup, Elsa!" at the top of his lungs.  Just another day at the Soooo-Not Okay Corral.

As soon as I convinced them that this was the way neither God nor Fischer Price intended for that toy to be used, they abandoned it and moved onto something far more constructive (at least I think so...I couldn't hear them over the roar of the vacuum, but Elsa only emerged once with a tear-streaked face, so I'm pretty sure they were involved in some nice, peer-building activities).

Because I soon grew tired of their pantomimed antics, I switched off the vacuum and began a frenzied disassembling of the couch.  Elsa and Rollie looked on, probably thinking, That's it...she's finally snapped.  We did it! (high-five)

After I'd thrown the cushions on the floor in a haphazard pile of polyester, I said, "Go for it."

They stared at me like I'd just tried to explain Conservation of Momentum.

"Here, you guys can jump around on all these pillows.  Go ahead.  Have fun."

I didn't need to tell them thrice.  They leaped onto the mountain of cushions and giggled like they were getting away with something so illicit even they weren't sure they should be doing it.  And while I don't normally encourage activities that include flinging their bodies off of pieces of furniture onto pillows while clad in only their underwear, at least I can get a few minutes peace knowing that they're not hitting, pinching, pushing or biting each other.  Yet.

For the past few months a phrase has been running through my head, one I heard countless times from my own father.  If he happened to be in ear shot while one of my siblings or I was complaining that we were bored, or we were trying to thwart our own boredom by trying to outdo each other in a Let's See Who Can Be More Obnoxious contest (which--according to Carrie--I was usually the victor), our father would frown and say, Why don't ya'll find something constructive to do?

My siblings and I were mystified by this suggestion.  Constructive?  What does he mean?  Like, make something out of construction paper? Build something with Lincoln Logs? Tinker Toys? Bubblegum wrappers?

My brother Matt would be the only one who really took this suggestion to heart--he spent countless hours making all sorts of things out of old computer punch cards.  Guns, sharks, the entire helicopter cockpit from the hit TV show Blue Thunder.  My sister and I would just sort of look at each other for while, until we started our apoplectic giggling because not only were we clueless as to what our father wanted us to do, but now we were also hilariously terrified that if we didn't find something constructive to do, our father was going to open up a can of whoop-ass.  (Side Note: Once we were past a certain age, Whoop-Ass became You Must Sit On The Couch For As Long As I Deem Necessary For You To Learn Your Lesson, Even If This Means You Will Have To Make Sure Your Prom Dress Coordinates With The Floral Pattern Of The Upholstery.)

So anyway, my point this time (yes, I actually have one for a change) is that sometimes you have to just let your kids go nuts.  Eat candy.  Run around in their knickers.  If for no other reason than so that you can get something done around your house that doesn't involve wishing your dog was a reliable baby-sitter so you can drive to the nearest bar and sit outside until it opens.

And as an added bonus, sometimes the little buggers will wear themselves out far better than you ever could:  

Friday, October 15, 2010

David And Goliath...And Rollie

I feel like Rollie has entered his Goth phase about 12 years early.  I'm this close to taking him shopping at Hot Topic and downloading him iTunes by The Cure and Bauhaus.  Also, I can't find my black eye-liner.  But that is possibly because it's in Elsa's mouth right now.

He spent a few days with his cousins last month.  These are the cousins who a few months ago saw Rollie as an annoying cling-on whose favorite word was 'poopy' (see All The World's A Pee-Pee Stage).  Now they see him as a sort of an expendable henchman, the kind that mumbles 'soda-water rhubarb' in the background and falls the instant one of the boys touches him with a light saber.

Its this act of falling that has sparked his latest fixation: Death.

For the past few weeks I've heard him telling various toys that they died, telling me he died, telling Elsa she's dead.  I'll ask him to go put on his socks and he'll just lie there and look up at me and if I sigh and ask him why in name of all that is pure in decent in the world isn't he performing this simple task, he'll explain that he can't because he's dead.

When we're out walking and run across the occasional mangled frog or lizard, he'll ask me if it's dead, and when I say yes instead of the immediate 'why' I used to get, he'll sit quietly for a minute or two, and then begin a whole new inquiry.

Rollie: How did he die?
Me: I don't know...I guess he was run over.  Or stepped on.
Rollie: Was he sick?
Me: Maybe.  Maybe he was too sick to get out of the way.  Maybe he was already dead when he got stepped on.
Rollie: Did anyone see him die?
Me: Um....That I couldn't tell you.
Rollie: Is he sad?
Me: Maybe before he died, but he can't really be sad now.  He can't really be anything now. Except maybe bird food. (Nice one.  Way to be vaguely existential with a three-year-old.)
Rollie: Why can he be bird food?
Me: Because some birds eat dead animals.
Rollie: Like robins?
Me: No, like vultures.
Rollie: ...It's not fun to be eaten.
Me: I can't imagine it would be, but the dead frog/lizard can't feel anything.  He won't know he's being eaten.
Rollie: Will the bird know?
Me: Yeah the bird will know.
Rollie: ...Birds are smart, Momma.

Yesterday I pulled from Rollie's school folder a little packet of coloring worksheets.  This week they learned about the letter D.  The packet was stapled together, and on the front was the title David and Goliath.  I paged through the contents, noting not only Rollie's remarkable coloring skills (and when I say remarkable I mean monochromatic and kind of half-assed), but also the careful approach these worksheets took when depicting the inevitable showdown and its ultimate conclusion...





No mention of why Goliath lost (although I do appreciate that there was no page with the caption David winged a wicked fastball of a stone right between Goliath's eyes that penetrated his skull and killed him), just that he lost.  And David won.  And David looks really good in a pink tunic.

But later that day Rollie busted out his plastic gladiator gear (see picture at the very top of the blog), and the following conversation ensued:

Rollie: Momma, I'm David and you're Goliath.
Me: Shouldn't I be wearing that stuff if I'm Goliath?
Rollie: ...Momma, you're David and I'm Goliath.
Me: Okay.
Rollie (squatting and stomping his feet like a sumo wrestler about to engage in some hand-to-hand combat): Raaaaaaahhhh!
Me: Wait...lemme find a sling.
Rollie (not waiting but running at me with his sword brandished): Raaaahhhh!
Me: Rollie, hang on a second.
Rollie (poking me with the end of his sword): I got you Momma.  You're dead.
Me: Rollie, do you even understand what that means?
Rollie: ...Momma, did Goliath win?
Me: No, remember? David won.
Rollie: ...and Goliath lost?
Me: Yep.
Rollie: Did Goliath die?
Me: ...Yeah.  He did.
Rollie: Why did Goliath die?
Me (wondering, do I give the scientific reasoning behind death itself, or is he just looking for a general explanation?): David hit him with a rock.
Rollie: ...and David won?
Me: Yep.
Rollie:...Momma, I'm David and you're Goliath.

When he first started using words like Death and Die in everyday conversations, I tried to discourage it.  But I guess I shouldn't.  This is just a new phase in learning about the world.  I remember around this time last year our fish ate it, and I was so worried Rollie would be upset, he would cry, he would decide right there that the world was a cruel place where you can't escape death and destruction even in your own foyer (see The Quick And...The Not-So-Quick).  Now I think I might actually encourage such a conversation.  Not that the world sometimes is a cruel place (he's got pleeeenty of time to figure that out), but that death is part of life, and the more he learns about the world, God, and the circle of life, the less afraid he will be, and the more he can focus on the good things in life.

Like The Cure.  And vultures eating dead frogs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Worth A Ba-Jillion Words

So I've been meaning to write a blog, but instead I found some pictures of my kids to entice you with.  I will be writing a blog soon, mainly because Elsa has been throwing the most hilarious temper tantrums lately and I can't wait to document each and every one of them.  But in the meantime, here are some shots of the monsters I've taken over the last month or so....

Sometimes they actually behave like decent, self-respecting spider monkeys



Just in case you needed more photographic evidence that Rollie a.) never wears his clothes, and b.) is anal-retentive.




Oh wait, here's another one.





Who says self-sufficiencey is a good thing?  
Maybe Rollie IS ready to babysit Elsa



It was a Big-Girl bed for officially five hours and thirty-seven minutes.  Back in your cage, troll!






If it looks like he was strangling her, he probably was.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What-choo Gonna Do?

Last night, after the kids were bundled in their beds and all the shades were drawn, Jeff and I indulged in some luxuriously mindless yet effective couple-strengthening activities.

We watched COPS.

As we sat beside each other in bed, huddled beneath the covers, eyes affixed to the flickering flatscreen before us as people in uniforms attempted to manhandle unruly, shirtless, spitting people into the back of their squad cars, I had a revelation:

When people are drunk and/or under arrest, they behave A LOT like 3-year-olds.

It was actually quite hilarious.  One officer had received a call about a man who was publicly intoxicated.  As he approached the man, the officer began his line of questioning.

Officer: Stay where you are, please.
Drunk Guy: Hey...it's the police....
Officer: Sir, have you been drinking this evening?
Drunk Guy: Uh...Maybe....
Officer: How much have you had to drink tonight, sir?
Drunk Guy: Uh...two or three beers...four, tops.
Officer (pulling his cuffs from his belt): Sir, I'm gonna have to arrest you for public intoxication and open container.
Drunk Guy (holding out his beer and stumbling a little): Okay.  Okay.  Just...lemme just put this down first.
Officer: Sir, please turn around.
Drunk Guy (bending down to place his beer on the grass and seemingly pleased that he got it to stand up): Okay, just wait a second, here....hang on....uh...
Officer: Sir, turn around please.
Drunk Guy: Okay, okay, I will.  Just hang on a minute....
Officer (obviously unamused with this guy's antics): Sir, I'm not gonna ask you again. Turn around.
Drunk Guy: Hey now, I'm gonna....I just need a minute...
Officer: Sir...

Through his drunken haze, the guy seems to realize that the cop is this close to brandishing his billy club, and he reluctantly offers one arm to the cop.  One arm.  I love it.  I felt like I was watching a reenactment of me trying to get Rollie into the car to take him to school this morning.

Drunk Guy: Okay, okay.  See?  I'm co-op-er-ate-in'.  See?  Here, here's my arm...go ahead....
Officer (now behind the drunk guy): Give me your other arm, please.
Drunk Guy (holding up a cigarette in his non-cuffed hand):  Look at this....Look at this....
Officer: Sir, give me your other arm.
Drunk Guy (waves the cigarette around in front of him like he's about to perform a magic trick): Look.  Look at this....
Officer: ...Sir...
Drunk Guy: Hey now, just...just wait a minute--

Before Drunk Guy can attempt to stretch out this fiasco any further, the cop takes him by his one arm and flips him face-first onto the grass.  Not a difficult move considering the cop was pretty much holding Drunk Guy up at this point.  And I'll be golly-darned if Drunk Guy didn't start giggling while the cop kneeled on his back and finally got that elusive Other Arm into the handcuffs.

As the cop was dragging Drunk Guy into the squad car, Drunk Guy kept saying, "Why'd you have to go and do that? I gave you my arm.  Why'd you have to throw me like that?"

"You didn't give me your other arm."

"Yeah I did."

"No you didn't."

"...I did."

"No."

I'm pretty sure that's when Drunk Guy started spitting.  As the cop was sitting him down in the backseat, Drunk Guy leaned over and spit.

"Don't spit inside the car, sir."

"I'm trying to spit outside," Drunk Guy said.  Pretty indignantly, I might add.  As if he were being wrongly accused of perjury and was an upstanding citizen, possibly even with a decent job.

It was the first time I'd really watched COPS post-children.  It was like watching a train-wreck, a car accident, a kid having a temper tantrum in the middle of Target.  I couldn't look away because it was so familiar.  I thought back to all the times I've chased Rollie or Elsa across a park or down the driveway as I shouted at them to Stop! Halt! Freeze!  All the times I've stuffed their squirming bodies into the car, all the times I've stopped myself from breaking out the pepper spray as they argued with me about everything from washing their hands to taking a nap to whether or not it's too hot outside to go to a park.  I realize this is all about power, and how desperately children want to cling to whatever scrap of it they think they have like it's some magical and delicious piece of candy that will not only grant their every wish but will also eventually turn into a unicorn.  And they'll be golly-darned if I win the Hot Outside argument, even if they look out the window to see lizards spontaneously combusting in our driveway.

I now feel like I have a slight glimpse into the world of being a beat cop.  I know how it feels to try to contain the rage building inside you as your repeated orders go unheeded, or worse, when someone tries to argue with you all the reasons why he can't follow simple directions.  Okay, so it's not like my child may or may not be carrying a concealed weapon (although ping pong paddles can be pretty effective at delivering some blunt force trauma to baby sisters).  It's not like I have to worry about my kid car-jacking someone and leading me in a high-speed chase (although lately I have to actually put in some effort to chase him down on foot--and it's now impossible to do so in flip-flops).  It's not like I fear for my life every time I have to confront Elsa engaging in disorderly conduct or public urination.

But I do feel like I understand on a small scale how difficult it is to maintain your own self-control when you are constantly dealing with people who think spitting is an acceptable form of communication.  Or that they can outrun you even though they aren't wearing any pants and trip over their own feet.  Or that they can talk their way out of a jam if they argue loudly enough.  It's one of the more challenging aspects of motherhood:  Keeping your cool in the midst of chaos.  Sometimes I can do it, but sometimes, like when I tell Elsa to stop chewing on the coffee table and instead of complying with this simple request, she lunges at me with her teeth bared, I really really wish I had a taser.  

Alright....Time for a Dunkin run.  Peace out.