Friday, September 30, 2011

When Being a Grown-up Stinks

Today is one of those days I just want to be a kid.

I want my life to be all about excitement over finding a penny in the street, teasing my sisters, and riding piggy back on my dad's back.

Today, folks, was "update and re-evaluate all your insurance day". Life insurance, homeowners' policy, umbrellas, deductibles, premiums...yadda, yadda, yadda. Grown-up stuff.

I kept thinking, "I cannot really be old enough to have to listen to this stuff." And then I thought, "Wow, I still really am THAT immature and my attention span is THAT short when it comes to boring topics." There were no flashing lights, no games, not even any fun fonts written on the policies I needed to sign. Just questions and more questions about my health, about my activities, about my lifestyle in general.

We opted to increase my life insurance policy. I'm worth a considerable little sum should my number be up one of these days. This makes me feel much better about the condition I'll leave my poor, grieving family in.

Especially since they'll have more than enough to go to Disney World and can buy all the overpriced souvenirs their hearts desire. Their father's theme for a few years could be, "go ahead, girls, your mama would've wanted you to have it."

This would be a big help to my bad cop image we discussed earlier.

During the interrogation regarding my habits and lifestyle, I was asked such questions as:
1. Have you for any reason participated in tobacco use of any kind?
2. Have you participated in activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, or racing cars in the last 36 months?

Um, well....

Of course not. My children have been so indoctrinated about the evils of tobacco that they would literally kick me out of the family or call in an exorcist should they discover me with a cigarette. Just the other day my youngest very loudly announced in a disgruntled voice that "there's a man over there SMOKING! Mom, did you hear me? THERE'S A MAN OVER THERE SMOKING! I SAID SMOKING!!! MOM, HE'S RIGHT THERE! TURN AROUND!!!" We've all been there as parents, and we just give the poor ridiculed smoker a sheepish smile as we push our little darlings further down the sidewalk.

Regarding the skydiving, bungee jumping question: unless you count jumping off the top bunk bed onto a pile of bean bags as skydiving, then I'm good on that one. Bungee jumping? I just smiled and said no, but inside I was thinking...

"Insurance interrogator lady, I am a stay-at-home mother of three young girls. I get up most days during the week at 4:50AM. I drive a min-van. I have not watched a full length movie in its entirety for six years because I cannot stay awake past about 8:30pm.

Do I seem like someone who would be bungee jumping for fun?"

But I have to admit I was a teensy bit flattered that she wouldn't just look at me and instantly assume I am as boring as I actually am.

Do I take recreational drugs? Not unless you consider Splenda a drug.

I applied for the "elite policy" status, as in it has a cheaper rate because I'm fairly healthy. My hubby also applied to be elite. I looked deep into his eyes and lovingly said, "if YOU qualify as elite I am never going to the gym again." This is a man who scoffs at me when I say exercise counts as a hobby.

We discussed insurance for protection against other people's children getting hurt at our house. This is one of great interest to us, namely, because we've seen what kids do when they get together. Sometimes they kind of lose their minds and think it would be a good idea to see how many people can ride one bike at the same time. Or just the other day, I witnessed a neighbor kid driving around our mini-corvette (the only sports car we will ever own) and he ran right over another child. Took him out right there on the cul-de-sac. We should be covered for things such as this. For that matter, we'd better look at disability, because I have personally been run down by that same toy corvette and flattened to the pavement.

You just never know what kids might do that you could potentially need coverage for.

They might convince the baby to stick her finger in a socket and burn the house down.
They could dress up like superheroes and be persuaded to jump off the nearest tree limb or think they could actually break through a brick wall if they run at full speed.
They could decide that wearing a shirt that has actual electrical wiring connected to it is a good idea. Oh wait...that one happened already...

You see? These are just a few examples of the catastrophes that could happen when you have kids. The list of possible policies to purchase is endless, especially when you're a parent. Sometimes I wonder if we have coverage for brief stays at mental health facilities. That might be something to look into...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Mothers get a bad rap.

At my house, I am quite frankly the most loved parent (most of the time). We've talked about how my children have all gone through big time "mommy stages". Actually, it would be more accurate to say they have gone through big "mommy YEARS" instead of stages. Just tonight, we drove as a family to dinner and then needed to pick up my hubby's car at his office on the way home. I jumped at the chance to drive the 5 minutes home ALONE (especially after spending the last 3 hours at a pumpkin patch).

I wasn't even buckled into the driver's seat before my youngest lurched out of the van, desperate at the thought of riding without me and insisted she was riding home with ME.

"I don't like Dad," she said quite plainly.

So here's the paradox: although I am the most loved parent in this home, I am also their biggest enemy sometimes.


Parent roles in accordance with the laws of the universe.

Case in point, mere moments ago I was taking a breather and checking my email. I heard the front door open and my husband called to the kids that it was time to come in and take a bath.

"Why?" I heard them say.

And with no pause, I heard him say, "because your MAMA said you have to take a bath and go to bed early".

In march three unhappy children, shooting daggers at me as they mournfully walk inside. Now to be fair, I had made this statement to my husband, but it was not made in the presence of the children. We were silent partners, equal in commitment to early bedtime. I feel I may have been thrown under the bus a little bit. Betrayed by my own spouse when the pressure got too high. Thrown to the lions as a sacrifice for the greater good of preserving Daddy's 'good cop' image.

Now to be fair, I have been guilty of doing the same thing sometimes.

"Sorry, girls, the mean policemen said you couldn't ride in the front seat."

"Bummer, kids, but your Dad doesn't want you to sleep in our bed for the 15th night in a row."

"Don't blame me. Daddy said you couldn't ride your Barbie Jeep to Nana's house at night."

I've found certain areas where I pick up the 'bad cop' badge rather frequently. These areas include (but are not limited to) such things as:
1. hair brushing (yikes. If you've seen the hair on my girls' heads you know the severity of being the bad cop when it comes to their lucious locks.)

Their Daddy (whom I adore and is a fantastic daddy...Let me just get that on the record here) has often been known to let them go to Chick-fil-A looking like THIS:

2. Teeth brushing.
Our girls are masterminds at devising new schemes to get out of this task. Their favorite is to distract us in any way possible so that we forget until they are already tucked into their beds and have exhausted us to the point that we frankly just don't care if they go to bed and their teeth decay a little bit. However, I am usually the bad cop when it comes to dental issues.
"I don't care if you're snug as a bug....out of bed and brush those teeth before I take candy away for the rest of your life!"

"You wouldn't really do that...WOULD you? I can't go on without sugar."

3. Use of drinking cups.
I know this sounds weird, but just stick with me a minute.
My girls are very thirsty. All the time. You've heard you should eat several small meals throughout the day so you're never starving and don't overeat? The kids in this home have applied that to hydrating themselves so they never get too thirsty. Every 20-30 minutes, they feel the great need to get a drink. But do they ever want to use the same cup? No way. That would be a major infraction of the kid code. And so, they saunter over to the drawer where their plastic cups are stored and get out another one. By the time 11am rolls around, there are no clean cups left in the house b/c they are all lined up on the countertop.

I am a cup Nazi. "THIS is your cup for the day, little lady. If necessary, I will tape it to your clothes."
"Come on, Mom, it's been 4 minutes. I'm SO thirsty."
"Sorry, you've used 19 cups since 8am. Now where's that tape?"

I do make exceptions. If it has been more than 6 hours, or if someone spit in your cup (it happens), or if the dog decides to sample your beverage, you are permitted a clean, fresh cup.

But I'll be watching...

And finally,
4. TV watching. I am a notorious bad cop in this area. The object of intense grief for my children at times. We have a fundamental disagreement about the value of television immediately preceeding bedtime. I am aware that the Discovery channel shows all sorts of entertaining programs around 7:30pm, but really, I'm just not convinced that watching a special on snakes or hungry crocodiles or episodes of "bear attacks" is a wise way to spend the last few moments before dream time. This has earned me the title of "mean mom".

I'm considering starting a line of accessories for mothers. I would design "Bad Cop Badges" for different days of the week and in different colors to go with your outfit for the day. Need a badge regarding tv? Try my "bad cops ruin your shows" badge.

Saying no to more dessert? Sport my "sugar will give you diseases" badge. It can be flipped over to say, "if you eat this you will have to brush your teeth. TWICE." That one's particularly effective.

At $1.99 a badge, these are a steal and will easily identify you as the bad cop in your lovely home. I mean after all, if we are going to play the part (and still be the most loved since we are the mamas at the end of the day), shouldn't we have proper identification?

Off to enforce bedtime. And there won't be anybody getting out on bail.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Double Standards

Okay, readers, hopefully by now most of you know that I have three young daughters. Loves of my life. Sources of endless joy. Treasures beyond compare.

Drainers of the bank account.

One area my daughters are quite adept at spending money on is the clothing industry. My oldest daughter would be quite happy to wear things just like this every day for the rest of her life.

Fashion is not high on her list of priorities.

My middle daughter is a little scary. She is REALLY into coordinating outfits with accessories, having her nails done just so, and is always pining away for new shoes whenever we walk past them at Target.

The youngest. Well, if you read my blog two days ago, you are aware that she doesn't like clothes at all ( . However, we still must at least purchase them and keep them in her drawers for show.

So, with all these different tastes in clothing styles, we spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to find things they need and like (which are rarely the same thing). The funny thing is, there seems to be a vast double standard going on in the clothing world between kids and grown ups. And apparently, some grown-ups are confused on what is cute at what age...

This morning as I walked the 3-yr-old to her class at "school", I couldn't help but notice a very small child wearing a t-shirt that said, "I may be small, but I'm still the BOSS". Her mother was pleading with her to continue walking down the steps, but the little Boss had decided she was finished. Done. She wasn't moving another inch. After all, she was the Boss, and the Boss had made her final decision.

This got me thinking about all the t-shirts I've seen recently with similar slogans printed boldly across the front. And then I started thinking about what it would be like if adults sported these shirts.

Exhibit A:
It says, "I can't wait to hear ALL about it." The other girl is saying, "Seriously".

Okay. If you saw a grown woman wearing a shirt like this, it would NOT be endearing. Names like "gossipmonger", "busybody", "snoop", and "blabbermouth" come to mind, don't they? Is that the image you want to advertise about yourself? You may be like that, but do you really want everyone to know? It's usually one of our better kept secrets (or not better kept, depending on who you confess to).

Let's take a look at exhibit B:
If I showed up wearing an "I Love to Shop" t-shirt, my husband would NOT find it cute and cuddly. I daresay there's not a man alive who would find this shirt attractive on a woman he was financially connected to. It might be helpful to retailers, though. It would help them distinguish between the browsers and the buyers.

Exhibit C:
Where to begin? First of all, this has to be one of the tackiest t-shirts ever. An otherwise naked chimp sporting high tops and sunglasses? Can you imagine an adult wearing this and declaring to the world he was a "mischief maker"? I used to be a teacher. If I saw a kid come into my class on the first day of school wearing this shirt, I would be very tempted to turn in my teacher badge and take a job at Taco Bell that year. This shirt says, "I'm actually a real brat but my parents don't know what to do besides try to make jokes about it." Or even better, "I will make your life miserable".

Isn't that so cute? Let's buy that shirt!

Exhibit D:
I don't know about you, but I personally need no help whatsoever in helping my children believe they are princesses. It would be the same as giving them shirts that say, "Actually, yes, I AM the center of the universe." Not cute on kids. Really not cute on adults. We've all seen adults who could be wearing this shirt. That guy who blows up because someone at McDonald's gave him regular Coke instead of Diet Coke? Prime candidate. The lady who huffs and puffs because you can't get a grocery cart pulled out of her way quickly enough? Sneak a peek at what she's it'll be a "princess in the making" t-shirt from her childhood years.

And finally, Exhibit E:
This is my personal favorite. Now we all know that sometimes we mamas just wake up feeling cranky. Irritable. Less than nurturing. These are the mornings when you do NOT want to run into mamas who wear the first t-shirt we examined because your bad mood will be known all over the mama network by 9am.

But wouldn't it be nice if, on those (rare) days, we could just put on a t-shirt that says, "GRRRRH!" and get on with it? People would just know to leave you the heck alone that day. Waitresses would be sure to get your order right the FIRST time. The lady in front of you at the grocery store with 9,000 coupons would offer to let you get in front of her with your 6 items. Door-to-door salesmen would take one look at you and quietly back away from your front door.

Hmm. That one might be helpful, actually.

Yes, folks, the t-shirt world obviously has our number. They know we are a bunch of idiots. We will buy shirts for our kids with obnoxious slogans on them and call them "cute".

But seriously, I kinda want one of those "GRRRRH" shirts some days.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I remember quite distinctly when a few things were simpler in my life.

Laundry. I had an actual "laundry day". You've heard of those. It's when you have one morning of your week designated as the day you will tackle your dirty clothes and have them all washed, dried, folded, and put away before the day's end. I had one of these once, and typically I did just two loads of laundry for my hubby and me for the whole week!

It creeped up on me, the loss of this special day. It happened slowly at first.

I can pinpoint the exact time I lost my official laundry day. It was when THIS arrived...

Instead of a "laundry day", I switched it to "laundry days" twice a week. I did a couple loads on each day and that was it. Not too bad, just a small increase.

That lasted a couple of years before the real increase in volume occurred. Happened about the time THIS came along...

We bought a new washing machine about this time. Ours just died. Overworked. Underappreciated. Sometimes I think I might just end up with the same fate as that poor little washing machine.

Our new machine was up to the challenge of its life when THIS joined the family...
These little darlings, my little bundles of joy, are the master owners of sweat shops. They have ONE employee and they just don't care how much overtime is worked or how many extra jobs they pile on that employee. Who is this menial labor employee?

Yours truly.

I occasionally look back at my resume just to make sure I didn't actually put "expert laundry lady" on my job history or skills.

Now, the thought of doing laundry just two days a week is such a distant memory that I'm not really sure it ever happened in my home.

I could do laundry every single day of the week and not be caught up. The theory that little boys are messier and harder on their clothes than little girls? So not true.

Adding to the workload is the fact that my children seem to have a different definition of "dirty" than I do. Here's my definition: if you can see spots on it, if you can smell it from across the room, or if you have worn it more than three times, probably time for a wash. Simple enough, right?

Their definition: if I have to decide between putting these clothes away in their actual drawer or just tossing it in the hamper even if I've worn it a mere 10 minutes, it's going in the laundry. Every time. No brainer.

Seriously. I have seen them put something in the hamper that they have put on mere moments before bathtime. Remember that my children change clothes (particularly the middle fashionista) more often than conservatives get mad at our current administration.

Okay, so I have an eternal load of laundry to do. Fine. It's still way simpler than it was for women in the old days, right? What am I even complaining about?

But I would offer, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that mothers during pioneer days did not have such a wide selection of clothing to be washed and did not have to be careful about how they were washed and dried. For example, a typical load around here with include your basics such as socks and play dresses and what have you. But here's where it gets tricky: they throw in curve balls such as dress-up clothes with delicate bead work or taffeta skirts or plastic jewels connected to them that will get destroyed on a regular cycle.

And drying them? Forget about it! I made that mistake once and my child has still not forgiven me.
"Seriously, Mother. Rookie laundry mistake."

She was none too happy when she discovered her head no longer fit thru her Belle dress up gown. Looked more like Paul Bunyan trying to fit in a Smurf costume.

Yes, things used to be considerably simpler around here. Laundry sometimes feels like a deliberate challenge put forth by my children, as if they are daring me to succeed in washing all their most precious garments without shrinking, fading, or otherwise destroying them by mistake.

Okay, okay, I'll admit it. I have been known to 'accidentally' shrink garments that had been outgrown or were hideous or just wrong but my children insisted upon donning them anyway. The washing machine and dryer are tough. They can take the hate. The girls don't need to know (for now) that I am actually in charge of what type of cycle and what temperature water is used and what setting the dryer is put on.

What? You just wait. Your little darling will come prancing down to the breakfast table mere minutes before you're scheduled to be somewhere. She'll be wearing something Tina Turner designed for her or a favorite outfit that has been so well-loved that it's barely covering her little bootie and has holes in the elbows. Don't judge me....the laundry room just might strike again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Some Things Should Not Be Optional

Sometimes I think cavemen had it right when they just went barefoot with a club and some kind of animal skin for clothes. Simple. Quick to put on and take off. Durable. I guarantee cavemothers did not have the issues we modern mothers have today in getting our young dressed and out the door.

I mean, really. We have so many accessories and different items of clothing it's no wonder we are nearly always late everywhere we go. Even with a child who is totally agreeable to donning all clothing, it can be a big task to get them appropriately dressed.

And now, with the change of seasons upon us, there will be even more clothes my children will have to wear. Tights, leggings, socks,'s a small irritant to my older girls. To my youngest child, it is downright torture. Cruel and unusual punishment, she'd say.

Now, I don't know what her deal is. Perhaps she has a problem with the different textures and the feel of the clothing against her skin irritates her. Perhaps her body temperature is naturally a little high and wearing clothes makes her too warm and uncomfortable. Perhaps it is that she feels the clothes we have provided for her do not allow her to express her personality accurately.

Whatever the reason, I have a child who has an extreme dislike, a hatred even, for clothing of any kind. We have discussed this before, this little clothing issue. You may remember seeing pictures like this:

Or this:

I keep thinking she will outgrow this little phase and come to understand that clothing is not really an optional thing.

We're still waiting on that day...

Every morning I could practically foretell the future in my home. I will gently wake my peaceful little angel on the two mornings a week she goes to "school". I will work through several different outfits before I find one she deems worthy of wear. I will choose her favorite undergarments (which have to be washed every day so she can wear them again) and we will begin the dressing process.

We will get her unmentionables on with only a minor huff of irritation.

We will get her favorite shorts on and adjusted just the way she likes them.

I will pull her shirt over her head...and this is where the problem usually begins. She will put her arm through one arm hole and begin to work on the other arm and get it ever so slightly stuck in her shirt. And this is when I hold my breath. It could go either way, folks. Some days she merely frowns and pushes her little arm through the arm hole and we move on.

Today is not one of those days.

Suddenly this sleepy-eyed child with tousled hair and sweet curls has thrown herself to the ground, one arm flailing wildly and the other thrashing about, still trapped inside her shirt. For some reason this always reminds me of a wild animal with some kind of restraining device attached to him and he's desperate to escape.

I try in vain to get her to be still so I can help pull her other arm through. She will have none of it. And at the peak of her frustration, she will begin to strip. Not just the offending shirt. Oh, no, she will stop at nothing in her quest to be free. The shirt will be ripped off and thrown on the floor. Next the shorts will be hurled across the room. The favorite undergarments will soon follow suit.

She'll lay down on the floor and suck her thumb, sweet little curls getting in her eyes and her long eyelashes batting at me.

And we'll start the whole process again, except I will be required to choose a whole new outfit and have to seek her approval for it. She's already irritated, people, so this is no easy task.

Finally, she will be (mostly) dressed. Last week I was forced to take her to school with no shoes or socks b/c we just didn't make it that far in our battle.

Last week my husband took me along on his business trip to New Orleans. One afternoon we were returning from a walk through the French Quarters and making our way back to our hotel, which unfortunately was located right on Bourbon Street. Right there on the street, in broad daylight, a young woman pranced by us with nothing but a lot of body paint on.

I am dead serious. A full grown, naked woman sharing the sidewalk with us. I think she was holding a sign as she walked, but I also think it's a fairly safe assumption that NO ONE knows what that sign said.

I couldn't help but wonder what this lady was like as a 3-yr-old. Did her aversion to clothes begin innocently enough like my child? Did she get easily frustrated when she couldn't get her arm through the arm hole of her shirt? Did she have a difficult time choosing acceptable undergarments every day like someone else I know?

I suddenly began to feel quite anxious.

I also quickly announced to my husband that my daughter was NEVER allowed to come here and get any bright ideas of a future career. Once she spotted grown ups with no clothes on? This could be the discovery that began her life of public nudity.

Oh, no, you don't, little lady...

And I think I have a good idea what the exhibitionist's sign may have said..."It all began when my mom gave in and let me go to school with no shoes on."

The party at 3am


Aren't they fun?

I am not a big fan and here's why:
1. nobody settles down to sleep no matter how much extra time you give them to talk and 'get it out of their system'
2. the younger children feel left out because the older children get to have all the fun, so you try to include everyone in the sleeping in the fort adventure. This NEVER works.
3. they stay up super late and get up super early, too excited to have their buddies with them to waste time snoozing.
4. mom and dad pay for all this fun for the rest of the day with cranky, overtired children

I have a new reason to not love sleepovers. I just discovered this one last night, or rather, this morning at 3am.

Sleeping peacefully, dreaming of a time when my home knew some peace before Hank joined us. It was a lovely dream, really.
Suddenly I was awakened by the sound of crashing and banging and stomping on the stairs.

When I heard the unmistakable sound of the jingle of dog tags, I knew at once that the dog had escaped the confines of his bathroom bedroom downstairs.

Hubby got up (and not too happily, I might add) to see what in the world was going on. He was none too pleased to discover that our eldest daughter and her friend had oddly enough woken at the exact same time and together agreed that the dog would be happier sleeping with them in her room. She was dragging the dog by the collar, and he was so disoriented and hyper and bewildered at being freed at this hour of the night that he was going totally nuts. It was like he could smell bacon in every room upstairs and had to investigate each inch carefully. He was acting beserk.

Hubby grabbed the dog's collar and (after 'gently' helping my child understand this was not a great move on her part) began forcing him back downstairs. The dog, sensing that his owner was only halfway awake, took full advantage and broke free of his grip, stumbled back up the stairs, and sped down the hall straight to the girls' room. Of course they were gleeful to have him in their room, so they tugged and heaved him up onto the bed (GROSS) and tried to get him to be still and go to sleep (this was all done in stealth mode...I was under the false impression that my husband had returned the dog to his dungeon).

You can imagine how well that went.

Five minutes later, listening to girls giggling and yelling down the hall, I went to see what was going on in there. Imagine my surprise at finding a medium-sized, chocolate brown ball of destruction hopping around on top of the girls and behaving as if he'd just escaped from an insane asylum for dogs. If you've ever wanted to see how a dog would behave on crack, this was it.

I pulled the dog off the bed (after 'gently' discussing the poor decision making that had been going on with the girls) and of course he bolted like a streak of lightning back down the hall to MY bedroom. In the darkness, I heard an "ummmpphh" kind of sound and walked in to find an extremely unhappy husband with a dog sitting on top of him.

This was not a wise move by the dog. This particular dog owner is not too keen on being awakened TWICE by a hyper dog between 3 and 4am. The sweet puppy was marched back downstairs, taken outside to do his business, and closed back in the bathroom.

I lay wide awake until about 4:30am. I used this time to try to figure out what on earth would go through my daughter's mind to convince her this was a good idea.

I never came up with anything. Except that sleepovers make ordinarily sensible children go completely nuts. They will do things they'd never typically do. They'd set free an animal who should only be freed during times of war and set loose on the enemy.

So sleepovers...not high on my list of favorites. And yet, I'm sure we'll have lots more of them because that's the kind of mama I am. All fun, all the time. Only next time the dog will be padlocked into the bathroom with no means of escape except the key which will be hidden under my pillow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Have a Confession...

I am a cheater of the worst kind.

I cheated at a children's race to benefit kids with cancer.

I'm sure there is a special place in purgatory reserved for people who do things like this, but at the time, I just did not care.

You see, I was forced into this ethical dilemma by my own children. They begged and pleaded for me to take them to the Autumn Fun Run so they could run in their first race and get a t-shirt and ribbon.
"Mom, I always win...I can totally handle a race."

My kids wanting to exercise? Begging to participate with about one thousand other children in something worthwhile? YES!

I tried to explain to the girls that they would be running a whole mile and that they might get pretty tired. Perhaps they should pace themselves. You know, a little running here, a little walking there, just to make sure they weren't exhausted halfway through the race.

Little girls have this thing against listening to and heeding the advice of their old mama. And apparently I have a thing against listening to my OWN advice because I kept telling myself this was a bad, bad idea for my 3-yr-old, but I did it, anyway.

So here we were, huddled up excitedly at the starting line. The energy in the air was contagious. I looked around at the competitors my girls were up against. Some of them didn't worry me in the least. One kid was much too busy picking weeds to even notice he was in a race...we could take him out easily enough. But then there were others scattered here and there, stretching and sporting wrist bands on their arms and sweat bands around their heads. They were doing lunges and jogging in place, shaking their hands out and breathing deeply, preparing for the challenge ahead.

These were the kids I was worried about.

The kids all mumbled the pledge of allegiance and seemed to be checking out the competition around them. The tension mounted as the whistle blower approached the stage.

"On your mark, get set, GO!"

And they, I mean we, were off. This was the kindergarten/preschool race, so parents were highly encouraged to run with their little darlings. The course was in a huge parking lot with cones that looped us around and around, back and forth in long lines until we'd completed one mile.

My older girls took off like little bullets. They weren't holding back at all, putting out 100% running capacity, which is never a good thing for little legs running a whole mile. Needless to say, they quickly got too far ahead for me to watch them in the crowd and I wished them well.

Now back to me and the 3-yr-old. She, too, took off full throttle when she heard the whistle. I held her hand to keep us together and we happily ambled along thru the field to the rest of the course. Toddlers and preschoolers all around me were laughing and giggling, awkwardly putting one little foot in front of the other as their parents encouraged and took sweet pictures to capture the memories.

That lasted for all of 75 feet or so.

Fast forward to about the 1/2 mile mark. The atmosphere around us had changed from exhilarated to exasperated. Crying and whining and laying down on the ground everywhere we looked. All the big kids had long since left us behind and it was just us parents and very unhappy small children struggling to complete the race. Did they care when we promised them a t-shirt and a ribbon? Heck, no. Did they cooperate when we bribed them with a big ice cream cone if they'd just keep going? No. You know it's bad when sugar doesn't tempt them.

Kids were dropping like flies. It was like someone had put out poison gas and the children just couldn't take it anymore. The wailing, the fussing, the absolute refusal to walk another step was an epidemic.

Whose stupid idea was this, anyway?

After I had carried my 38-lb darling the next quarter of a mile, it suddenly occurred to me that this was self-imposed torture. No one was forcing me to finish this crazy course. In fact, the only rule I even heard was that kids must make it across the finish line on their own two feet.

I considered my options. Arms aching, I gazed out at the long stretch ahead of us where we would turn around and double back to the finish line. It was a LONG way. My child was totally finished, wouldn't even walk at this point.

And so, I sucommed to temptation. I am not proud of my moral failure, but here it is.

I made my way thru the line of cones and brazenly crossed the field to the final stretch of the race. I held my head high and pretended what I was doing was perfectly acceptable as I hoisted the heavy child onto my other hip.

Kids with cancer wouldn't judge us, I thought...they wouldn't care if we cheated just a little, right?

And so, I stepped back over the line of cones and found a spot in the crowd, mere meters from the finish line. People all around us were red-faced with exertion, kids were looking kinda pitiful after running full speed in the afternoon heat. The official time clock was ticking away, announcing to each participant their run time as they crossed the finish line.

I swallowed my guilt and gave my child a final pep talk. She rather reluctantly agreed to walk the last few feet, and then out of nowhere, she displayed a burst of energy I wouldn't have thought possible and sprinted to the beautiful finish line. She was so proud of herself.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that she, just like her shameful mama, was a big, fat cheater.

I could feel the glares of other runners as we collected our t-shirt and ribbon. Hey, it was all for a good cause, right?

Okay, okay, so just don't invite us to your kid's birthday party if you plan to play games or have races.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Walking the Dog

There is no shortage of little girls in our neighborhood. We are almost guaranteed a playmate or two between the hours of 3 and 7 on a school night. It's pretty great.

On this day, we'd finished up school, had our snacks, and the weather was perfect, so I talked the girls into taking the dog for a walk. His level of "puppy cuteness" had been pretty high that day and he needed some healthy outlet for that excess cuteness.

I sent the girls out just ahead of me to wait in the driveway while I collected my shoes and phone. We're talking less than a minute, folks. When I made my way out to join them, I discovered that our little walking party had grown from three young girls and one puppy to seven young girls and two puppies, and they were begging for us to pick up one more girl who has TWO dogs (sadly, she still had homework and couldn't come).

We have a fairly clear goal during our walks:

The walk should ideally last at least a tiny bit longer than the amount of time it took to get everyone ready, shoed, and out the door with snacks or helmets or whatever. There is a four-way stop which we try to wander towards, and the girls know they have to get close enough to actually touch the stop sign before they can head back (this was a learn by trial and error kind of rule. At first I said, we'll go till we see the 4-way stop, and they were taking full advantage of a straight street w/a stop sign clearly visible. 20 steps and they had met their goal and could turn back.).

Now, if you've spent any amount of time with little girls, you know they like to talk. A LOT. There was an awful lot of giggling and comparing of shoes and stopping to pick flowers, but I didn't mind a bit since everyone was happy, generally wandering in the right direction, and best of all, the puppy was getting his exercise.

Things were going great.

Now, again, if you have spent any amount of time with little girls, you'll know they like to talk. A LOT. Before I knew it, the giggling had turned to huffing and the comparing of shoes had turned to comparisons of who had been hogging the leash the longest.

The dogs were taking full advantage of the murmurings going on within the ranks.

This is how the 3-yr-old spent most of her turn walking the dog:

Happily, our little band continued down the street, ever closer to the promised land where they could touch the stop sign and begin the long journey back home. We eventually reached our destination and the victorious energy was contagious. There were high fives and little dances of joy (and a few yells of, "STOP! IT'S MY TURN TO WALK THE DOG!" which I ignored). We even took a couple pictures to commemorate our proud moment. We were like hikers at the top of Mt. Everest. Hey, seven kids and two dogs on any kind of successful walk is a proud moment for a parent. This is no small feat.
Check out the 3-yr-old's attitude pose. Scary.

The 6-yr-olds asked for their own picture without all the "bosses" in it.

The return trip is rarely as fun and exciting as the getting there trip. Whether by car, plane, train, or by foot, the rule is the same. Everyone will be tired, travel weary, and in general completely over it.

The dogs were over it, too. So over it, in fact, that our sweet puppy finally had had enough of being slowed down so much by miniature dog walkers. He rebelled and heaved with all his might on the leash.

This was the result:

The 6-yr-old was dragged into the mud and quite unhappy about it. The first tears of our wander expedition were now unleashed.

Tears would be shed later by the dog (kidding, all you PITA people).

And so, one by one we dropped off our extra guests and made our way home. We had done it. Conquered the stop sign journey once again.

I made a mental note to drive slowly down the street and let the dog walk next to us.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Attention Spans

I will openly confess: I have the worst attention span EVER.

This has been a source of great frustration to my husband, who has many times thrown his hands up when I've grown weary of listening to him answer a question I ASKED him to explain. Such topics as technology, restaurants, anything to do with the latest Apple craze, and business plans pretty much lose me within the first 10 seconds, 30 on a really good day.

I sadly seem to have passed this trait on to my children.

I am noticing it popping up more than ever these days. Case in point, the other day my eldest child purchased a tiny dragon toy which was supposed to grow up to 600% if placed in tepid water. Sounds fun, right?

Here's the catch: the dragon takes TEN days to complete his growth spurt. TEN! That's like 9 months in kid time!

The first day, she couldn't watch that dragon enough for signs of change. She carefully measured the water temperature, carried him around with her in all kinds of containers, and made excited observations when his little nose was no longer under the water due to growing larger. She even designed an entire "dragon house" for her little friend and kept it in her room.

She sadly forgot that she's not allowed to have water in her room. This did not end well for the carpet.

Day two was much the same, the little dragon lovingly cared for and played with and happily graduating to ever larger containers. That night he slept in the bathroom.

Day three he received a little less attention. He only left the bathroom a couple of times and was pretty much on his own most of the day.

We are now on day 7.

The dragon has not moved in four days. He is barely under the surface of the water in his small bowl b/c he's grown so much. There he sits, day after day, on the bathroom counter right next to her toothbrush, and yet continues to go unnoticed.

I am just waiting for the day when I wake in the middle of the night to see a huge shadow looming over me in the shape of a dragon. It will have grown so much that the dog will be afraid of it.

Attention span is not a strength in this house, I'm afraid. More evidence to suggest my theory is correct are the random things I find around the house every single day. Dolls which were clearly in the process of being dressed are laying on the floor with half their pants on b/c their stylist tired of the makeover. Coloring pages with one tiny dash of color on the whole page are left in their black and white shame. Shoes of all kinds and sizes are found 3 feet in front of the baskets where they live b/c their owners simply tired of putting them away.

I have decided it is a very good thing young children don't exercise using weights. If so, they'd have one giant bicep instead of two, one toned leg instead of two, and one strong shoulder vs. both of them. Why? Because halfway thru each workout they would tire of the routine and go chase a butterfly.

I need to remember to pick up some toothpaste...

See? Attention span problems strike again! Now what was I saying? Can you tell me? Oh, nevermind.

Canine Behavior

We all need breaks sometimes.

Last Friday was one such day for the girls and me. After finishing up schoolwork, the girls and I loaded up and headed for a nearby walking/running trail that has a playground and a wooded creek. They love it there.

I instructed this child that she may walk around in the water and throw rocks, but please to not get her clothes wet.

You can see how that worked out.

Someone else also loves it there.

The dog.

Of course the girls would not even consider leaving poor Hank at home and make him miss our adventure, so the canine hopped up into the van with us and happily rode along.

And I suppose, if you have to take a dog somewhere with you, this would be the ideal place to visit. It has a huge fenced area designed for dogs and owners to mingle and scamper. The fence keeps the more “frisky” puppies (and let’s face it, some “frisky” owners), from escaping to the playground nearby and terrorizing the children minding their own business.

I found a shaded bench and observed the activity going on around me. We happened to be the only park-goers that afternoon, so we had the place to ourselves.

I couldn’t help but make some rather obvious observations. Namely, that my children were behaving more like a dog than the dog was.

For example, the youngest of my clan was doing this:

This is a small plastic pool with a water hose nearby. I assume it is designed for use of thirsty canines and not really meant as a wading pool for a 3-yr-old. Nevertheless, here she was, having a grand old time, splashing and dousing herself in water, which I can only imagine what breeds of germs were growing in after countless dogs drank from it.


I turned my gaze onto my oldest child, who was doing this:

She was determined to complete the dog obstacle course. Not one to be outdone by a Chihuahua, she would not give up trying to hurdle the walls.

Hank, meanwhile, was laying in the grass, panting and looking about. The most activity I saw him do was when he chased the girls across the field so he could tackle them and bite their butts.

And finally, as we prepared to leave, I observed my middle child staring adoringly at the dog “wall of fame”.

You heard me right: a dog “hall of fame”. It was like the autographed self-portraits you see in restaurants of famous Hollywood types. Small dogs, big dogs, dogs wearing fashion accessories, and dogs that were so ugly no one could possibly love them but their own mother. I began to wonder what it would be like if mothers began placing portraits of their children at playgrounds, children’s theaters, skating rinks, and McDonald’s everywhere. Somehow it is acceptable to brag about your DOG, but your CHILD? Boring. You become THAT mother who can’t talk about anything else besides what jr. did that day. But yet, if I want to brag that my boykin spaniel jumped over a 2 ft. wall and put up a huge picture of him, everybody loves it.

I do not understand the extreme dog lover world.

We headed home, one child soaked in dog spit water, one child tired and dirty from all her efforts to complete the dog obstacle course, and one child scheming on how to get HER picture up on the wall of fame. One can only speculate what she will think up and try to do. I will have no questions when I discover her with her scarf sticking out of her pants like a tail and her head in a giant bowl of dog food, trying to beat the world record for dog food consumption.

And Hank? He just did what dogs do best….NOTHING. Just stared out the window and waited for his next chance to eat an article of clothing or put more bite marks in my windowsills.

There was an error in this gadget