Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Great Pumpkin Search

The Great Pumpkin

I have a theory about the world of gambling. I think it originated in the mind of some young child observing his peers at a pumpkin patch.

A couple weeks ago Lauren and I accompanied Olivia on her class field trip to a nearby pumpkin patch. We were thrilled by the intrigue of the corn maze, cuddled with the oh so clean barn animals, and even listened to the story of how a pumpkin seed becomes a pumpkin.

But then, at long last, came the much anticipated moment, the hayride leading to the pumpkin patch. That magic land of orange, that field that holds the promise of the best, most jack-o-lantern worthy pumpkin ever seen. I could almost picture the

casino lights and music as I helped my children climb up into the hay-filled tractor trailer.

The kindergarteners all watch with wide eyes as the pumpkin patch draws ever closer. They wring their hands nervously and tap their fingers on their knees, as if signaling the dealer that they want another card. Will this be the year? The year they find the most spectacular pumpkin ever seen?

Finally, we arrive at the promised land. The back of the trailer is opened and one of at a time the children step down, looking around in amazement at the sights around them. More pumpkins than they’ve ever seen, gleaming in the fall sunlight with vines wrapping mysteriously around them.

I watch as the kids scatter, little shrieks of delight coming from everywhere. This is what childhood is all about, I think, as I observe little boys and girls happily calling their parent over to praise the perfect pumpkins they have found.

And then I watch my daughters. And slowly I begin to realize I may be in for more exercise than I bargained for. The patch is at least five acres and both my children are working their way toward the far corner of the field. It doesn’t matter, I think, this is fun for the girls and surely they will find a pumpkin that catches their eye soon. I take a final glance behind me and notice the first children already climbing back into the trailer with happy smiles and pumpkins in their arms.

We pass pumpkin after pumpkin and so far have not found anything remotely acceptable. Too round, too bumpy, too orange (?). But girls, I say, we didn’t bring any water with us for such a long walk. It’s like they can’t walk away from the table, you see. The next pumpkin will be better. Just one more, they’re thinking. You wait and see. I will beat the house and find the most glorious pumpkin ever grown.

Little beads of sweat seem to be forming on their foreheads. I suggest this one and that one, yet none of them seem to be good enough for my little gamblers. Just a little further, they say. They look really good over there. On we trudge through the patch.

Just as I begin to think I may need my cell phone to call for a ride back to the trailer, at long last, the moment arrives. The pumpkin of all pumpkins is found. But Olivia, I say, remember the one rule the pumpkin farmer told you? Do not choose a pumpkin you can’t carry. Look how far away we are from the trailer! That pumpkin seems too heavy for you.

But as I always do, I give in to her insistence that she can carry her pumpkin and we begin the long hike back. Exactly seven steps later, I find myself lugging her 15-lb. pumpkin for the remaining two acres back to our ride.

So you see, pumpkin patches could have a direct correlation to future gamblers. They start out as kids determined to hit the jackpot of the pumpkin world. They’ll push lady luck and pass up great pumpkins b/c they’re clinging to the hope of what the next one will look like. They can’t resist the allure, the temptation, of what might be just a few more steps away. And before you know it, they are visiting the black jack table.

So come on by and see our glorious pumpkins. We’ll have some spiced tea and roasted pumpkin seeds. Then the girls can teach you how to play poker.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vacationing with Children

Vacation. Relaxation. Rest. Serenity.

Those are the words my mind instantly conjures up when I hear my husband suggest I should tag along on his business trip to the beach with him for five days. I picture a sunny coast, comfy chair with a big umbrella, a “brain candy” kind of book, and sleep. Wonderful, uninterrupted sleep.

And then, as it always does, reality sets in and new

words come to my mind.

Temper tantrums. Multiple bathroom stops. Crying. And then I stop thinking just about myself and wonder what my kids might be like.

Vacation is something that, exactly like my previously flat tummy and skinny jeans, disappears into the mist at the moment your first child is born. Unless you are so fortunate as to have willing grandparents, you must f

ace reality that your children will be accompanying you on any trips for at least the next 20 years.

That being said, vacation with your kids can be a wonderful experience. Filled with laughter and fun, the memories you will make will last you a lifetime. The photos of your daughters splashing in the surf with their daddy and building sand castles will be priceless. However, being the realist that I am, I must also consider that the happy memories will not be the only ones that last a lifetime.

Let me explain. Our first night we stayed in a hotel room with two queen-sized beds and set up the pack ‘n play for the baby. Since we were all in the same room, my husband and I settled in for bed at the magic hour of 8pm, the time our kids went to bed. We spent a long night of up and down with the baby, who made her very loud protests known at being cramped in a pack ‘n play. At one point I slept across the foot of my daughters’ bed, where I was kicked in the back throughout my time there. Mercifully, morning arrived, and we set out to continue our adventure. I ignored the bleary-eyed guests all around our room in the hall, watching silently as we departed.

90 seconds into the trip, our oldest child asked the “are we there yet?” question. This continued every 45 seconds for the next 3.5 hours. Our van became a mobile movie marathon, my kids’ eyes glazed and zombie-like by the time we arrived at the hotel. I think we used up all t.v. time for the next two years on this trip. And by the way, I know there’s talk of giving President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize, but I think it’s only fair that the inventor of DVD players for the car be recognized first. The lives of many a parent and child have been spared thanks to this incredible ad

vancement of peace and harmony.

With Michael in meetings Thurs. and Fri., I was the sole agent for fun to the kids. First on our agenda was a shuttle ride to the beach. The driver tried to give ME a tip in exchange for a promise to ride a different shuttle on the way back, which was really unnecessary considering the baby wails in his ear were at half the normal decibel level. The older girls were entranced with the sights and sounds, oblivious to the fact that I was busy rescuing their sister from certain death every 10 seconds or so in the surf. Later I was asked to build sand castles masterpieces with only a shovel and a toothpick, all while scooping sand out of the baby’s mouth.

Time spent at the pool was not nearly so stressful with such a diminished chance of drowning. Strangely, my 4-year-old could not seem to hear me any of the 18 times I asked her to stay on the steps until I could be there with her, and each time I returned from chasing the baby away fro

m the pool’s edge, I raced back to find Lauren with her little face barely breaking the surface. I tried not to notice the smile on the face of the tanned, bikini-clad woman lounging nearby with a fruity drink of some kind in her hand.

For the sake of time, I will not mention the eating out experiences. Just know they involved drink spills and high chairs that sat unused at our table.

So, parents of young children, this is vacation. This is the dreamy time of making memories, the times that you will cherish looking back....only you’d better make sure to write them down or video the entire trip, because with the amount of sleep you’re going to get, you’ll forget that you even went on a trip the next day.

But with all that said, I know we will do it all again next year. I’ll get a chubby-cheeked kiss and little arms wrapped around my neck and be willing to brave the vacation experience again. Why? Because that’s just what supermoms do. Someday I'll have a vacation that is actually a vacation. Of course

by then I will be so wrinkly and old that there may be laws against people like me being on the beach.

But seriously, I’m nominating the car DVD guy

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mommy Resumes

Occasionally I hear comments about how stay-at-home mothers are “wasting their intellectual abilities” or “eroding their critical thinking skills” by leaving the workplace. I watch these people on t.v., usually women, and as they adjust their trendy glasses with their perfectly manicured hands and push a freshly cut and styled hair back into place while putting me down, I have a few thoughts I’d like the chance to televise myself. I put down my teething child, step out of the maze of freshly folded clothes, and stand up on my coffee table to better proclaim to the t.v. my adamant positions.

I am not a proponent of gambling, but I know how to fix our great nation’s financial woes. Every stay-at-home mom in this country could hold a gigantic bet....let US come run the business world for a few days and YOU people step into our shoes to take a break from your high pressure jobs and power lunch breaks. After just one week, I guarantee mommies would emerge the victors in our little wager, thus producing enough money to pay off our debts and start fresh in this economy.

I think I could qualify as a city planner due to my experience from packing for my family to go on vacation. This involves multiple list making, hypothesis concerning possible clothing and entertainment needs, being resourceful in how I will fit all items into a suitcase half as big as we need, and planning for every possible natural and preschool disaster that could occur along the way.

I am also quite skilled in communications. I would love to see one of the high-powered business kings or queens of the world take on an angry 4-year-old and emerge successful. Her hands on her hips and her angry eyes boring into me, I have been the victor in convincing her that she cannot, in fact, wear her bathing suit to the Christmas party or play with the cutlery in the bathtub. And not just by force, either...I can usually have her completely change her mind and emerge with a big smile as she does what I’ve convinced her is the best thing.

I have extensive HR experience as well. I take complaints (verbal OR written in marker on my walls) 24/7 concerning everything from what’s on the menu to indignation over imposed bedtimes to unhappiness due to siblings that have broken lego masterpieces. I can cause children who are on the verge of pulling hair and biting to hug and make up in the end....an outcome many companies have not been so fortunate as to produce.

And finally, I could serve as a city judge. I can look the accused straight in the eye and determine whether or not they are being truthful. I don’t even need their faces to be covered in chocolate or to see the empty candy bag in their grubby little hands. I can sense it, I just KNOW when someone has done something they shouldn’t have. It comes with the territory of supermom, something I would dare say many of our illustrious career persons have not acquired.

And so, “Miss thing who gets everything done” (without having three little people undoing your work constantly...big deal), please think twice before putting down the real superpowers of the world. You may run a company, but WE run the toddler world...and if they ever break free, heaven help you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Superhuman Powers and Birthday Cakes

I am a decisive, determined person. Once I decide something, that’s how it’s going to be. Period. My husband can tell you that I am slightly stubborn. If my mind’s made up, there’s no turning back. I am like the tree that withstands the tornado, the levee that does not break, the bird nesting outside your window that will not die.

Could someone please then explain to me why, on a regular basis, I cannot do something as simple as holding my ground when it comes to daily life with the three small little people who live in my home?

I am beginning to suspect that these darling daughters, these lights of my life, are more than meets the eye. I have been keeping notes of times when their charm overtakes me, and as if they have superhuman abilities, I find myself doing things I SWORE I would never do.

Case in point: birthday cakes. I HATE decorating cakes, and every year I swear that is the last time I’m going to do it. My resolve on this point cannot be swayed. I am in the zone, no one is going to convince me to whip out the dreaded container of food coloring, parchment paper, and tips. As the summer months of birthdays approached, I spent 5 min. a day mentally “toughening up” so I would without a doubt withstand the pleas and cries for very specific cakes that were sure to come my way. I am a wall of determination. NO, NO, NO.


In the past three months, I have baked and decorated 14 layers of cake for my daughters’ birthdays. Leighanne’s was my own idea, a multi-layered cake with polka dots, which at one year old, I’m sure she appreciated about as much as my trash collector would notice if I tied pink ribbons around all my trash bags and monogrammed our family’s initials by hand on each one.

The day before Olivia’s 6th birthday party, I found myself elbow deep in a charming little thing called “marshmallow fondant” icing. It’s easy, they all said. Anyone can do it! So here I am, sweating, kneading and working on an icing conc

otion that is freaking out my

husband as he sees it sinking into the pores of our brand new granite countertops.

How did this happen? I ask myself as I enter hour #3 and am tediously coloring, cutting out, and placing tiger stripes and leopard spots on the six-tiered cake from hell. Where did I go wrong? How did they find a crack in my resolve?

The answer, of course, is that they are superhuman. They possess mind powers. I have witnessed my children convince otherwise competent adults to let them START a movie night at 9:30pm, let them take off all their clothes and turn fingerpaint into bodypaint, and their grandparents have brought them home with yet ANOTHER prized stuffed animal, which I add to their collection of 947 at home. Children hold the power, people. They know it, we know it, and they are skilled at using it.

Lauren’s is the last of the birthdays each year. By this point, my fingers are permanently dyed black from food coloring for the zebra and tiger stripes and I am nauseated at the thought of more cream cheese icing. But then, even as I steel myself for final combat, I know it’s a losing battle. And before I know it, I am rolling sugar cones in pink crystal sugar and trying in vain to stack irritating squares of cake to form a tower on a hot pink castle cake.

I consider for a moment what bliss it would be to just tell my kids the sad news that birthdays have been outlawed. How traumatized would they really be if I told them anyone seen having a birthday party or cake is toted off to kid jail?

And I mean it this time. I am NOT making cakes next year. It’s been a month and a half and I’m still shuddering at the thought of crisco and cake flour. Please, for the love of all things holy, hold off your superpowers, girls.

And no, we are not getting a dog. SERIOUSLY. NO.

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