Monday, November 30, 2009

Boys, Boy Parts, & Stupid Games



Last night I had to use my MOM VOICE - the loud, screechy, sit-your-ass-down-before-I-ground-you-forever tones that set children the world around on edge. After twenty some years at this parenting game I've even mastered "The Look" and "The Point", things you see sweet little southern old ladies execute flawlessly causing grown men to quiver in their boots. I don't know that I have that effect over grown-ups other than the ones that actually emerged from my very own uterus. With time, maybe?

It seems my sons, ages 20 and 12, have taken up a new past-time - sucker punching each other in the crotch. Oh it's great fun, don't you know? Toppling your six foot brother into a twitching blob on the livingroom floor or catching your twerpy little brother in mid-flight running across the bedroom. Yes good times.


Dammit, this gonad attack could seriously alter my future as a grandmother (not that I want or need that to happen ANY time in the near future. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE wait. PLEASE! And by all means, WEAR A CONDOM if you can't wait. PLEASE).

Besides, I really do not want to deal with nut sack injuries that might require me to apply ice, extract lodged zippers and certainly not a trip to the ER. It's really bad enough that I happened to be present when the nurse removed a catheter - something a woman does not ever want to witness with her grown, man-sized son. Really. I could use a little Etch-A-Sketch eraser action to get that out of my memory.

I've mulled this over with several other mothers and we all agree that this qualifies as "stupid boy behavior." This may, however, take the cake going beyond TYPICAL stupid boy behavior.

Whatever the reasoning, whatever the pleasure or sense of revenge, it is quite clear that my sons are braindead both above and below the belt.

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Store Meltdown


We've all seen it - the in-store meltdown by a child who has had ENOUGH. There is no placating him, no toy, no candy, no promise big enough to quell the whining and tears. The only recourse is to leave. NOW!

And there is nothing like having that meltdown happen in your own cart by one of your own. Seeing it happen to someone else brings out a knowing sympathy.

Today was Black Friday. After four hours of non-stop shopping and line-standing we came to Walmart and a boy at a neighboring checkout quickly ticking down to his own little explosion. Mom and dad saw it coming, was trying to hurry along as best as the slow line would allow. Fortunately there were two parents on this outing so one could continue in the checkout line while the other took Mr. Meltdown for a bouncy walk. The other shoppers would have preferred if mom had just taken him straight to the car as his high pitched wailing was really unbearable.

Personally I cannot see any reason to bring a child along on marathon shopping days like Black Friday, although I saw many other people who didn't seem to have any problem with it. There were plenty of strollers, pumpkin seats and kids locked into shopping carts especially after the sun was up. I'm glad to see the kids were not brought to stand in line in the cold, dark morning hours. But after the doors were unlocked and the first rush of craziness was over, kids were present all day long. Whining and wimpering and outright wailing was a constant background sound to the day's shopping.

I guess I'm sprouting into an old lady because I would rather not encounter "that" on my shopping trips. Some teenager or non-shopper out there could make a killing by offering Black Friday babysitting. I certainly haven't participated in Black Friday until now partly because I wouldn't bring kids with me on such a day. Well that and I am not a professional shopper - I'm more of a professional ANTI-shopper.

So do your fellow shopper, and your ticking time-bomb child, a favor and leave the kids at home. Hire a babysitter, coax grandpa into a few hours of bonding time or get your bargains online. THIS is no place for the meltdown prone.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are We There Yet?


As we look toward family gatherings and lengthy car rides, let's discuss the oft asked question, "are we there yet?" It comes in multiple forms:
"How much longer?"
"How many miles do we have to drive?"
"Why do we have to go?"

After several rounds of intense questioning by my middle child it started to dawn on me that the string of questions were code for "what's going on?" We spend so much time planning and discussing with our partner the upcoming events that we forget that until Thursday night in a flurry of packing and prepping the car that the kids may not be aware of a five hour trip across the state for a weekend stay with Aunt Beatrice, who they only know as a name on Christmas cards and occasionally invoked in long-ago memories.

So one of the first things we can do to avoid a long string of repetitive backseat inquiries is to actually forewarn the kids of travel plans. Now if you've been parenting for a few years, you have learned that mentioning speculative plans can backfire especially if the plans don't come to fruition. However if you wait until the plans are solidified, it could be Thursday night prior to leaving before you know anything for sure. Rarely do these plans materialize in a matter of days. Usually you know several weeks, if not months, in advance that this weekend is even a possibility. Therefore, you owe it to your kids to give them fair warning of upcoming plans, even if it's not etched in stone, at least a week or two in advance.

The flip-side of the backseat inquisition is EXCITEMENT. Those kids are jittering with sheer anticipation of getting there. And NOW! So then you need to find something to distract those anxious minds. Depending on the length of the trip you can utilize electronic babysitters (DVD's, hand-held games, books, CD's). Don't rely on just one gadget to be enough. Your normally sedate child will turn into a bouncing chihuahua and will need multiple distractions. You will need a whole diaperbag of games, gadgets and maybe a horse tranquilizer. Okay, nix that last one, but trust me you will fantasize about it.

I also found getting extra copies of maps to be a great silencer. On a fourteen hour car trip to Florida, I handed my middle child a map with the anticipated route already marked out with a highlighter. I taught him watch for road signs and how to follow along on the map. For his younger brother I got a travel book with games and cartoons relevant to the area we were traveling. Because we were crossing several state lines, each child got their own stickerbook so they could record the states they visited as we drove. I still have mine from my childhood and continue to update it thirty years later.

All of this planning and charting and mapping is also a fantastic teaching opportunity. Reading, geography, sequencing, alphabet...

Remember all of the stupid cartrip games people play? Find words in alphabetic order on billboards. Singing 99 Bottles of Rootbeer on the Wall (okay, I admit, my kids learned it the real way with BEER). I Spy, 20 Questions, and a whole songbook of campfire songs. Anything and everything. Even teenagers too "cool" to do anything but roll their eyes will join in... eventually. If you also think all of this cheesy and unnecessary, lighten up. You're making memories dammit.

Sadly you'll still have a few "are we there yet" but hopefully not a constant string.

So everyone, what car ride distractions do you remember from your childhood? What do you do with your own kids?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Growth Spurts


Girls seem to blossom overnight, but really it's more gradual and it just SEEMS overnight. Boys, on the other hand? Definitely overnight. Or certainly in a matter of months.

Last May I had a skinny, short sixth grader whose shaved head was starting to grow out. He had a couple of major events requiring dress clothes. Everything he tried on required a belt (or those groovy inside belts they now put in the waistband of kids clothes pants) and was too long. I knew this day was coming so I bought slacks requiring a belt and a little hemming. I rolled up close to three inches on those legs - and by the way, my tailoring skills totally suck. I'm sure his grandmothers would have a full-blown hissy if they saw how I attacked this project.
By September his other slacks (older ones, not too long) were starting to show his white socks. Well, first things first, he was promptly told NOT to wear white socks or those ankle thingies with dress shoes! And then, where are those slacks I hemmed up in May?

crickets chirping

Last night was another dress-up meeting. Finally the hemmed pants make an appearance as I'm asked to make them longer. My sucky tailor job is quickly pulled out and viola, pants that come down to his shoes! It's like magic.

He's still skinny, but really looks like a teenager with that bushy mop on his head.

In the car he proudly told me that he can go back to wearing ankle socks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Has it really been a week since my last post? Very sorry - life has been whirling out of control. Or I've been dreaming of hibernating.

I get a little frantic trying to remember everything I have to do. And when I get frantic about trying to remember everything I am bound to forget something. I learned a long time ago to cart a pocket calendar around with me. It has been an amazing lifesaver for my wee little brain. Recently I discovered that I could order a five year month-at-a-view calendar. I have been dancing around with my happy book, my new brain. Those planners with broken down days by minutes and hours have never been of any help. I need to see the entire month, to be able to look ahead beyond today, to remind myself at least fourteen times that I have an obligation on Saturday.

Schools have started issuing daily planners to students beginning in fifth grade. This has been a huge improvement in teaching personal responsibility and time management. When my older kids were in school they were given credit for filling out each days activity and having a parent sign it. By seventh grade I was able to back away from asking what homework projects they had because they could forecast and organize on their own. By high school they learned to use those booklets like daily bibles, even recording out-of-school activities.

My younger son attends school in a different district and I don't think this group of teachers ever embraced the idea of the planner. It's just another gimmick. But I've seen it work. It meant the 5th & 6th grade teachers harped on it endlessly and enforce parent involvement. It was a win win win situation all the way around. Since this group of educators haven't stepped up, I'm forced to take the issue up personally. It's much more difficult as I cannot see and hear what is being told to the kids in the classroom. I don't know if he's missing major assignments. It's rather aggravating. We're muddling through.

So, are your kids getting these daily planners? Is it effective? Are the teachers USING it? Are you reviewing it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kid Friendly Job


I have the tremendous luck to work for a fantastic company that allows us to bring our kids to work (provided they stay quiet and out of the way). I also have a fabulously large work space that allows a second person to be in my area without being a huge nuisance.

So tomorrow I will be bringing my son to work while his teachers enjoy a professional development day. He will have his PSP, a book and a laptop at his disposal to keep him fairly busy during the day. And when the novelty of his electronics wears off, he can play DVD's in one of our conference rooms if not occupied by one of the ninety bajillion meetings we hold every week or he can run minor errands for my co-workers.

Fortunately no one abuses this liberty so having school aged kids running amok through our halls and cubicles is a rarity. Most are able to keep themselves entertained and also put in a few hours of volunteering. It's a win win situation that we all cherish.

No one better screw it up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time To Wake Up

This morning I walked into my son's room, crawled into bed next to him, pulled all of the blankets off of him and onto me and started poking him in the ear. Then under his arm, behind his knee and on his very ticklish waist. Then we played tug-of-war with his blankets. All the while his eyes are closed.

He finally crawled out of bed with a scowl on his face. Mr. Grumpy Grumpinstein. Hey at least I didn't choose my favorite wake up method - really bad, very loud, off-key opera.

So how do you coax your kids out of bed in the morning?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Parental Screw Ups


So a few friends of mine were discussing today ways they totally screwed up in the parenting department - you know those times you turned for a few seconds to grab something and the baby rolls off the couch, bed or changing table?

Me? Oh I have plenty of flubs. There was the pretend nibbling that turned into an actual bite on my son's ear. Or the time I walked out of the post office leaving behind my son, same one I bit. When I reached the car and saw the older two sitting there I realized what I did and turned around and got him - he didn't even know I had left. He was playing with some blocks. Of course his brother and sister filled him in on the primo parenting and it's now brought up as a regular reminder of how much I love my children.

So what about you? How have you flubbed in the parenting department?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eau De Boy


My youngest is twelve - in the throes of boy stink. I worked for many years in an elementary school and noticed that the fifth graders start to reek right around mid-March. I joked that as the sap starts to churn through the trees, so does the hormones through the kids. And at twelve, in seventh grade, the odor has not receded.

Having one son already pass through these stages, I know that another smelly stage is coming probably around ninth grade - the swimming in cologne stage. I guess I should be grateful that he didn't turn to Axe. Someone had alerted him to the new scents of Old Spice, and like their advertisements say, "this isn't your father's cologne."

I remember in college two particular boys, Clark and Kenny. They were two incredible pieces of manliness, both baseball players with chiseled bodies. As if the vision of this duo walking across campus wasn't enough, they wore Polo. I know many people who retract thinking of the guys who wore Polo back in the '80's but for me and Vicki and Barb that particular smell will forever mean Clark and Kenny. Better yet, they were friends with Vicki's boyfriend and often were found visiting my dorm room. Hours after their departure people would come into our room and say, "mmmmmm... Clark and Kenny were here." You could smell them. In a good way. ...sigh!

Years later I still stop at the men's cologne counter and sniff that emerald bottle of Polo, recalling those years of Clark and Kenny. Swoon. There is nothing like a GOOD cologne on a man. It seems that the good looking guys master smelling good. So imagine walking past your own bathroom and catching a whiff of delicious man cologne and realizing it's YOUR SON emitting it??? I swear I had to find a place to sit down to absorb that conflicting information.

While it's nice to have a reprieve from years of stinky sweaty boy, I wonder if it's an improvement? It does make me believe that boys have, in fact, no capacity to smell. Why else would they be able to live with their stinky feet or how could they bathe in such strong colognes?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Job Well Done

You know after all of those years of scolding, sleepless nights, and locking horns there is a payoff.

Last night after cleaning up from volunteering at a trivia night, I dropped my daughter off at her car amazed that the clean up was a cinch. I had to set up and tear down the AV equipment. The set up went quickly although I did it myself, but I knew tearing it down, my most dreaded part, was going to take a while. I also loathe dragging it out of my car and into the office. I figured it would sit in my car until I got to work on Monday. But no, my daughter was also volunteering and she stepped in, easily taking commands and not getting in the way (some helpers aren't quite so helpful). She also offered to help unload it all at the office. Holy crap, who can pass up an offer like that? If only all cleanups went so smoothly.

When I dropped her off at the car, I thought "wow, I raised an amazing person."

(I'm totally taking credit although many people may have contributed to the cause)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Game

Today is the first game of the hockey season for my son. It's his third year and I think he's finally got the swing of the game. This is floor hockey and he competes against five other teams in his age bracket. It's not the cut throat competition of ice hockey and requires very little equipment, just a stick.

Sadly his team lost by one point. By the last ten minutes of the game things really heated up and the parents were all standing up and screaming. Nothing like a few last minute points to get the blood pumping.

I'm glad his brother and sister weren't heavy into sports. Amanda played several seasons of girls soccer for her high school. They were played after school while I was at work so there wasn't much juggling of schedules. Many of the parents in today's audience have two or three kids playing hockey so they spend all day sitting in that gym. Some of the players also play ice hockey adding another level of chaos to the schedule.

What activities are your kids in? How insane is your schedule?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sleeping Like a Baby

One of my online friends just came home with her first child. Neither is sleeping. So how is it the phrase, "sleeping like a baby", ever came about. Babies do not sleep and when they do, they jolt awake at the tiniest of sounds.

"Sleeping like a drunk college student" would be better, don't you think? Of course as a parent of two college students, I would prefer to not think about passed out college students, not that I've ever fit that description myself. But it would be a more apt description of one of those really sound sleeps that we all desire? To sleep all through the night, no interruptions, and to wake up refreshed and happy?


Passed out college students probably don't wake up refreshed and ready to go. hmmm

Well, my friend Wombat needs happy thoughts sent her way. Her baby needs to start sleeping other than when held and momma is in DIRE need of sleep. Hopefully they both will find their way to a mattress and will begin sleeping like a baby really really soon.

Thursday, November 5, 2009



Okay, everyone, join me singing, "C is for cookie"

You can thank me later today for that little earworm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sesame Street

YAY (Did I really overlook a positive aspect when naming this blog? Well, I'm adding YAY. It's tiring to only whine, we need to celebrate too)

God Bless Google. If it weren't for that precious search engine how would I know that today is the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street? Yes, today Google features Big Bird's legs (isn't it cool that Google does that on special days?)

Did you watch Sesame Street as a kid? That would depend on your age. If you are anywhere past your mid-forties chances are you were "too old" to be captivated by muppets reciting the alphabet and counting and dancing and singing. But me? At 43? When Sesame Street came out I was three years old and the target audience for the new show. All of that cartoonish showmanship was absolutely captivating. To this day I have a hard time navigating away from Sesame Street when it comes on TV.

My children were as captivated by Sesame Street as I was. It was clean wholesome TV and not nearly as mind-numbing or violent as TellyTubbies or Power Rangers. I could actually sit down with my kids and enjoy the same show.

This is not to say I don't have some criticisms about the show. It's clearly targeted toward inner city kids. City buses and taxi cabs are foreign objects to most American kids (I'm sure that amazes New York TV execs). The attempts to keep the show demographically even is horribly obvious, even to small kids. And changing the theme song? That is sacrilege! Maybe it's been changed back... it has been a few years since I've watched it. But there was an "urban" beat added to "Come and play, everything's a-okay..." A real turn off for a purist like me.

I cried when Jim Hensen died. I loved his magical creatures. They were so zany and yet so personable. Those monsters were not scary monsters. They were fun and lovable. I cannot decide if I love Cookie Monster or Grover more. I've become a pretty big fan of Elmo too.

Sesame Street, thank you! I would surely have learned my alphabet and how to count despite your existence, but you made it fun. You kept me entertained and educated.

Happy Birthday, dear friends.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Holiday Planning


As I pant over the fact that October seems to have flown by, making September seem only days ago, I am now struck with the fact that it IS November. And since it is November it is time to thrust ourselves into planning the upcoming holiday season, schedule who goes where, and to think long and hard about traditions.

Personally, Holidays are about logistics. How to get all of the necessary people together at the necessary times. I had a tiny peek into the chaos when I was dating my first husband as he was pulled from mom's house to dad's house to grandma's house to some shindig at a hotel. He came from a big family. I did not. Holidays for me had, up until my marriage, been a private affair around the family dinner table. There was no shuffling from one meal to another. It was simple and it was easy. Since the day I said "I do" holidays have been nowhere near simple nor easy.

It was difficult when the kids were little as we had to pack up a diaper bag with multiple changes of clothing and any other implements of mass destruction like portable cribs and walkers. And of course bundle the kids in cumbersome snowsuits to keep them warm. None of the homes we visited were suited for large gatherings and bringing babies or toddlers and their assorted equipment was even more burdensome. Grandparents cooed that they didn't care - they were just happy everyone was together. So we tripped over each other and tolerated cranky baby cries as little ones couldn't keep their regular nap schedules.

Getting home was insane as we had to lug all of the loot (leftovers and shiny new toys) home in our tiny car.

Then I had to get divorced and further complicate the whole chess-game. Kids are picked up one night to be dropped off the following afternoon to be picked up another day later. Thanksgiving is a jumble of seven different meals spanning half the state over four days. Fortunately my two older children are able to drive, but they also have significant others further adding to the mayhem. Christmas is a delicate ballet crammed into 36 hours. By December 26th we are worn out and sick of looking at ham and turkey left overs, pie is a dirty word and life would be much quieter if batteries would instantly die.

Since my kids have grown up in this strange world of shuffling to and fro maybe they have fond memories of it. Me? I find it horribly stressful and vow not to make it any more difficult when they start their own families. I'm not quite sure, maybe I'll follow my former mother-in-law's lead by hosting Easter in August (we really did that one year). It's about being together - the specific dates don't matter at all. And I'm screwed up enough to actually pull it off.

So how is holiday planning in your world? Easy Schmezy? A well orchestrated ballet? Quiet and uneventful? Sheer chaos but you love every minute? Do you volunteer at soup kitchen or do you host a quiet affair for friends abandoning family chaos?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Other People's Children


We encounter them all of the time, good and bad. They are other people's children. The good ones we hold up as examples to our own children, "look there how that little girl is quietly reading a book, not running around like some heathen banshee." The point gets kind of lost as your child doesn't understand the meaning of "banshee" and, well, "heathen" is sort of vague too, but they do get the idea that both are bad descriptions. The bad kids are great examples to point out, "I swear, if I ever catch you doing THAT I will tan your hide!" In fact, my kids have probably learned more about acceptable behavior from my comments about other people's kids.

But what do you do when THAT kid is your kid? Notice I didn't ask "if". They all do it at some point or another. If you swear your angelic darling isn't THAT child then chances are they REALLY REALLY are. Even good kids can act the ass.

All three of my kids have been particularly good kids, but even they have had their moments of glory. My very first teacher conference ever was for my daughter in kindergarten. We brought her along, knowing that this was going to be rave reviews. And it was. Amanda was a very good little student. But that night she decided to go haywire. She was scooting under the desks and running around like a wild... banshee. Both teacher and I stared at her in absolute shock - me in embarrassment, teacher in bewilderment.

Another time I was at the grocery store and Amanda and Keith were running some form of tag between the aisles. I cut the trip short, ushered them through the check out line and once we hit the parking lot I read them the riot act all the way to the car. A woman with a little baby screeched at me threatening to call Family Services. Yeah, just wait lady, your day will come.

Maybe that is the key, the parents' reaction. That there should be a reaction.

Last night the Halloween party was invaded by twin heathens, possibly four or five years old. They rolled out of the van literally screaming at the top of their lungs with mom and dad ineffectively hushing them - and bam, Spiderman and Hulk broke loose and never stopped for the next three hours. Screaming, running, hitting, poking, provoking, hiding, screaming and more running. Mom and dad moseyed to the dining room leaving the miniature tyrants to run loose outside, assuming the other adults would keep an eye on them. Which that right there is a huge mistake - NEVER assume another adult will monitor your child. We have our own children to monitor and hell one of the children I was monitoring was a legal adult. I served my time chasing around energetic kids, I do not appreciate having someone else's brats thrust on me.

What is one to do when left facing unattended children misbehaving? Most people try to look the other way, but not me. I have a schoolmarm raging inside of me and she comes bounding out whenever children are running rampant. I have found her to be quite competent in squelching errant behavior. A stern look dead in the eye and an even tone leaving no question that you are quite serious and I say things like "put that down, it doesn't belong to you" or "you're not allowed to___". Sure enough I had to tell Spiderman that he was not allowed to touch my daughter's costume (he was hitting her constantly), that no one was to open the pumpkins, it was not nice to blow out the jack-o-lantern candles, and that he could only run on the grass, not the parking lot. The kid avoided me like the plague but was peeved to find that I did not stay close to my jack-o-lantern and was instead in all of his places of misbehavior. He'd been chewed out a few times.

Another mother reprimanded Spiderman for hitting her daughter but he came back with "she hit me first". The mistake this mom made was trying to be nice, to not start a scene. The little snot ran to his mother, who had finally come outside, and was clearly trying to tattle-tale. She ignored his pleas. And there was the whole problem.

It's hard not to cast judgment, but the problem seemed rather cut and dry and everyone was privy to it except Spiderman's parents. Rather sad actually.