Thursday, November 1, 2012

Well Checks

I really couldn't skip it this year.  It would be irresponsible, I suppose.

Well checks.

You know the ones.  You take your kids in to see the doctor just to make sure everything's normal and they're growing in all the ways they should be.  

Don't tell their doctor how many years of this I've kind of skipped.  Oops.


In the last three weeks, I've taken all three girls and even our new puppy for their well checks.



I was handed some forms to fill out with lots of questions about the girls' development, health history, and a chance to express any concerns I had for the doctor.  

Right off the bat I was met with a quandary.  

How honest should I really be?  

Look at this list!


I was supposed to circle any symptoms I was currently seeing in them or wanted to discuss with the doctor.

I'm sorry, but if these are actual symptoms, then every child in the entire universe is very sick.

"Irritability"

"Moodiness"

"Anger"

Hearing loss?  I thought about that one.  I give the "please answer me the first time you hear me call you" speech at least eight times a day but they don't seem to hear it until the seventh time through.

Vision changes?  Should I mention the fact that they simply cannot see the toys and shoes I've thoughtfully placed in the middle of the stairs for them to carry up the next time they go to their rooms? Or the fact that they have pantry and refrigerator blindness and can rarely find what they're looking for until I come over and retrieve the item for them?

Um...I have a four-year-old and a seven-year-old here.  Do I really need to say more?  I was suddenly a little worried that this was actually a form for MOM.  I began to feel a little warm.  My youngest little patient walked over to proudly display show me how a toy worked which she had found in the children's area of the waiting room. She kept pressing the button as fast as she could, making a very loud and grating sound float throughout the otherwise subdued room.  People around began non-verbally communicating their feelings about this.

I wondered which behavioral symptoms they were now checking on their own health forms.

Our names were called and we filed back through the hallways and corridors to the exam room.

I always feel a bit like the traveling circus as we parade down the long hallway, passing several doctors who work in the practice and all the nurses scattered here and there.

To make a long story short, both my younger girls needed to do a urine test.  They were completely enthralled by this idea.  You do WHAT?!  The four-year-old especially had eyes the size of saucers and a huge grin on her face at the thought of what she was going to actually have permission to do.

Mothers, if you have never experienced the adventure of helping your children with a urine test, let me tell you, it is something to behold.

The little one completed the task with no problem, smiling the entire time.  I think she was still in disbelief at her good fortune of getting to do this in the first place.

The problem came when it was time for the other one's turn.

You need to understand something about this kid:


She has THE weakest stomach in the universe.  I kid you not.  This is the child who threw up when our dog, Hank, had an accident in the house.  This is the child who used to gag over her OWN dirty diapers.

Last week she began gagging in the van.  I recognized that sound and frantically looked for a place to screech to a halt and get her out of the vehicle.

Too late.  The kid threw up everywhere.

Why, you ask?

Our carpool buddy had a runny nose.

Seriously.  A little sniffle sent her over the edge.  I spent the next hour cleaning up the consequences of a weak stomach.

Anyway,  dejavu was about to happen to me.  Here we were, locked in the small bathroom in the doctor's office, and I begin hearing that same ominous gagging sound.

NO!!!

I couldn't open the door and get her out of there because my other child would be completely humiliated and never forgive me.  I couldn't put Leighanne near the commode because it was occupied and I was trying desperately to save the stuff for the test, so I also couldn't just flush and rush my daughter out of the way.

You see my dilemma.  I'm sure outside the door the nurses and techs were listening to the gagging sounds and me yelling, "Hang on!  Just a second!" and the non-gagging child snickering.

Just in the very nick of time, the commode was available for use (I shall try to be delicate here).  I worked in hyperdrive to do the necessary steps to preserve a specimen for the doctor to test and then practically shoved poor Leighanne's head into the freshly flushed commode.

And yep...she threw up.

And just like that, she was completely fine once more.  I helped her wash her face and hands and we stepped out of the bathroom with our heads held high, trying to act as though nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.  And to be fair, nothing out of the ordinary HAD occurred.  At least not for our family.  Happens all the time.

I do not see a career in the medical field for this child.  And maybe not any job involving working with human beings in general.

Before we left, I was handed what I like to call "How To" pamphlets.  If only I'd had these all along!  Information on how to take care of a four-year-old and a seven-year-old!  These are gold, people!  Gold!  It's just so simple when it's in print, isn't it?   



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Name Calling


Remember the first time?

It was magical, wasn't it?  You had anticipated it your entire life.  Imagined how it would really cement your relationship, where it would happen, and how unforgettable it would be.

I bet you still remember it like it was yesterday:  the sacred moment when you first heard your child call you "Mom".  

What?  Where did you think I was talking about?  


Remember how you coaxed and pleaded and taught your little diaper clad child to say "Mama"?  Remember how you longed to hear that angelic little voice utter your name?  Remember how completely exhilarated it made you feel and how it was absolute music to your ears?  

Actually, now that I think about it, yes, I do vaguely recall that thrill.  

Nine years and three kids later, all that work I put into teaching them how to say my name has really come back to bite me.  

I love it and I hate it.  

For the love of all things good and holy!  STOP saying "Mom"!!  

"MOM!  I need you to wipe me!" come the calls from the least able member of the family.

"MOM!" She's bothering me!"

"MOM!  I accidentally did something!" (this is a personal favorite of mine because you just never can tell what you'll discover...it's like being on a gameshow where you're the unsuspecting contestant).

"MOM!"

"MOM!"

"MOM!!!"

By my rough calculations, I think I hear my name being called approximately 1,378 times per day.  

The word "mom" is so engrained into all of our subconsciouses that we can't go anywhere without thinking people are speaking to us.  Try it.  Next time you are in a crowded grocery store or ball field, have your child yell "MOM!" simply to see how many women will turn to look your way.  We can't help it.  It's like Pavlov's dog (except instead of getting a treat when we respond, we usually get in trouble for not HAVING a treat to give).  

The kids even sing songs with the only lyric being, "Mom, la la la".  They are like my own personal paparazzi.  I am the most pursued and popular person in my home (until dad surprises us with a new puppy again, that is).  I literally am followed everywhere I go.  No exceptions and no place they hesitate follow.

And so, the very thing we anticipated and dreamed of and cried over the first time it happened has now taken over and is completely out of control.  Moms, do whatever it takes to avoid a meltdown.  Wear headphones, stick cotton in your ears, meditate...just don't do anything that will cause your name-abusing children to associate "Mom" with "crazy lunatic".  

But seriously, shouldn't there be a limit for the number of times they can say our name every day?  Cell phones have texting plans and a limit on the number of minutes we can talk without paying additional fees.  Why can't we extend this to the home and "mom-happy" kiddos?  We could settle on a fixed number of "Moms" they could say and then every time they exceed their limit they'd have to rub our feet or wipe their siblings' bottom for us or, gasp, break up a sibling disagreement as our representative (that one would keep them pretty busy in a lot of our homes).  

I guarantee the name calling abuse would stop.  And quick.  

Excuse me...I think I hear my name being called somewhere across the house...and I am ready for a foot massage.  


Friday, September 21, 2012

Dumpster Diving

I used to find it fairly odd to see a scene like this one:


Not anymore.  

These days, if I see a woman with her rear end sticking out of a large trashcan and her head and arms fully immersed in filth, I hardly bat an eye.  Yep, I think to myself, she's a mom and she's on a mission.

In this case, it was a Spiderman action figure her young son had accidentally dropped in the trash.  I'm sorry to say he could not be retrieved.  It was a sad moment for superheroes everywhere.  

If you've a mom, you've likely spent some time dumpster diving.  I never really thought I'd be the kind of person who literally digs through the trash of others, and yet, after nine years of motherhood, I'm learning that I never really thought I'd do a lot of things which I do quite regularly

.  This happened to me most recently at Costco a couple weeks ago.  Joyfully full on samples, my daughter went to a trashcan to throw away her trash.  Moments later, she came back in tears because her plastic bracelet had also accidentally ended up in the trash as well.  

This was a travesty in her four-year-old world.  The universe really might cease to exist if that precious treasure of a bracelet was not rescued from the depths of the trashcan.

She looked at me expectantly.  What was I going to do about it?  Her eyes seemed to burn into my very soul, trying to determine if I was the kind of mother who would make her proud or the kind of mother who would go down in the books as worst mommy ever.

I took the high road, of course.  Anything for my child, right?

Nope.

"Babe, I'm really sorry, but you have lots of bracelets at home (trust me on this one...three girls at my house means the things just magically appear and multiply)."  

"No, Mommy, this one is really special!  We have to get it back!  I NEED IT!!  PLEASE, OH, PLEASE!!"  The situation was quickly growing volatile and unstable.  I could see where this one was headed and frankly did not have the energy to pry her off a nasty trashcan or explain to a manager why my child was laying spread eagle on the floor consumed by grief.  

What could I do?  We walked over to the trashcan and sure enough, I spotted the bracelet.  There it was, lying in a glistening pile of discarded cheese and seafood (the samples that day weren't at the top of children's lists, I suppose).  

No.  I am not reaching in there.  Forget it.  That bracelet is worth about five cents.

I tried again to reason with her.  This was about as helpful as trying to sweep up the sand off the beach.  Not gonna happen.


Fine.  I took a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, took the lid off the trashcan, and leaned over as far as I could reach to get that stupid bracelet.  It was just out of reach.  Blast.

"Uh, ma'am, can I help you?"  a deep voice next to me asked.

I withdrew my head from inside the can, prayed that I was not wearing feta cheese, and straightened my hair.  I looked up at a middle-aged Costco employee who was looking at me trying to figure out if he should call security.

"Oh, no, I'm fine, thanks.   Just looking for something.  I do this all the time."

Why did I say that?

He walked away still giving me a concerned look but said nothing.  I stuck my head back in the trashcan for one last ditch effort.  

Success!  My fingers gripped the precious toy bracelet and I brought it out of the trash with a victorious smile.  

"I got it!  Look, honey, Mommy got it for you!"

But she was already gone.  She and her sisters had walked a few feet away to look at some toys, likely embarrassed by the fact that their mother was most definitely digging through trash.  

I stood up, straightened my blouse and tried to act nonchalant.  People were eyeing me suspiciously.  

I held my head high, retrieved my buggy, and calmly walked over to where the children were happily snuggling with a teddy bear bigger than me.  

"Darling, I got your bracelet for you," I said with all the control I could muster.

"Huh?"she asked, not even looking at me while she nuzzled the bear's soft fur.

"Your bracelet.  Remember the one you dropped in the trash and wanted me to get back for you?" I asked, holding it out for her to see.

She looked my way.  "It's yucky.  I don't want it anymore," she said as she turned back to laying her head on the teddy bear's tummy.  

Yes, dumpster diving and motherhood.  I'll add it to my skills set on my resume.   





    

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Losing Hank

I will never forget that night.

Now, I am keeping it in perspective and remembering that Hank was, after all, a pet.  He was not my child and our sorrow could have been immeasurably greater.  But we are still sad.  

Looking back, I can see God's hand of providence on us that night.  He was protecting our family and providing for our needs in ways I didn't realize until later.

Michael has been out of town most of this week.  It is an unspoken law of the universe that terrible things happen mostly when daddies are out of town.  We have a bit of a track record for bad things happening when he's traveling.  Plumbing problems, stitches, behavior issues, etc.  

I'd brought the girls home from the ball field that night.  Reluctantly, because it was a school night, I'd allowed Olivia to stay with our neighbors during their son's baseball game.  She wouldn't arrive home til 9:15pm.  This meant she was not home when it happened, God's mercy in action.  

As I pulled into the garage, there was Hank, jumping and barking like crazy at the gate.  He was so excited to see us he could hardly contain himself.  The little girls ran inside the house and I walked over to Hank.  The fact that the children went inside was God's protection as well, sparing them from the scene that would soon happen.  I pet him as he jumped up to greet me from inside the fence.  He was the picture of pure joy at having us home again.

That was when I made the mistake I'll always regret.  

I opened the gate for him.  

I needed to get the mail and unload the van, so I thought I'd let him out to run around the yard and the driveway while I was out.  This is something I always did.  He'd run like mad all around but would stay in our cul-de-sac and always come back to where I was after a minute or two.  It was evening and everyone's garage doors were closed.  I didn't think anything about it. 

He must've seen something across the street that night.  I think some neighbors must've been outside or maybe he saw someone walking.  For whatever reason, he took off in the opposite direction.  I couldn't see him, but within seconds I heard the impact and got a sickening feeling in my chest.  I knew.

Running out to the street that connects to our cul-de-sac, I saw a sight I will never forget.  I will spare you all the horrible details, but there was our Hank, lying in the middle of the road, clearly irrevocably injured.  The driver was crouched over him as was another man who'd seen the accident and stopped.  

I ran to him and knelt down right there in the street, already sobbing.  

It was in that moment I realized that after all the complaining and fussing I'd done for the last year and a half over this dog that I never wanted and never planned for, that I'd grown to love having him as part of the family.  Seeing him like that was horrible, plain and simple.  

After a moment someone suggested I get a blanket for him, so I ran back to the house and grabbed a big piece of flannel I had left over from a project.  I called my parents and asked them to come stay with the girls, and that's when the little girl crying began.  They knew something had happened to their dog.

Our sweet neighbors came upon the scene and I asked them to go stay with the girls til my parents could arrive.  Again, in God's providence, the mom of the family was home and had not gone to Bible study she was supposed to be at that night.  God put her right where she needed to be to help my girls and she was wonderful with them.  

Two men gently lifted Hank onto the blanket.  Blood was everywhere.  The girls didn't see him, but they knew he was blanket he was being carried in and their cries were loud as they stood nearby with the neighbor.  

They carried him to the van and placed him in the back.  I climbed in after him and sat with him on the most awful car ride I hope to ever experience.  A kind stranger who lived a couple streets down offered to drive us, for which I was grateful.  

During that 20 minute ride, I just pet Hank and talked to him and tried to let him know I was there.  
I listened as he struggled to breathe and choked and sputtered.  I cried over him and was thankful it was dark so I couldn't see all the horrible sights.

Once at the animal hospital, the kind stranger got out and walked toward the back of the van.  Before he opened the door, I stroked Hank's matted fur and told him he was a good dog.  I even told him I loved him.  The man opened the back hatch, lifted Hank up and carried him inside as I tearfully followed.

"What happened to this baby?" the caregiver asked as she took him in her arms and carried him behind closed doors.

That was the last time I ever saw him.  

After a short moment, the vet came out and told me Hank had severe head trauma.  There was nothing he could do.  I told him to put Hank down and signed some forms thru blurry vision.  The kind stranger just sat silently next to me.

We left without him.

During the drive home, we talked some about his dogs and how much my kids loved Hank and how he had come to join the family.  We laughed some about how much of a no-no it had been for my husband to spring him on us like he had without checking with his wife first.  


scenes like this one drove me CRAZY.  NO DOGS IN THE BED!!!

When I got home, I tried to quickly wash the blood from my arms and legs before seeing the girls.  I pulled them in my arms and gave them the sad news that Hank would not be coming home anymore.  It was very difficult, but I knew it was nothing compared to the moment that was coming when I would have to tell my oldest daughter.  Really, Hank had been her dog.

After about five minutes, she arrived home, happy and dirty from her time playing at the ball field.

I called her upstairs and we sat on my bed.  

It was without a doubt the most heartbreaking parenting moment I have ever experienced.  I tried to break the news to her as gently as I could, but she immediately started screaming, "MY DOG!!  MY DOG!! MY DOG!!!" over and over as tears rolled down her cheeks.  "IT'S NOT TRUE!  HANK!!!"

I pulled her to me and we cried together, her still yelling and calling for her dog.  The hurt was almost a  physical, tangible thing that had descended on our home.  It was heavy and suffocating.

After a while, my parents brought her sisters up and we all sat on my bed together.  My dad prayed for us and thanked God for the time we'd had with Hank.  

There wasn't a whole lot of sleep that night.  All I could picture was the images and sounds of that horrible night.  If only I had never opened that stupid gate.  

I suppose it's true that having a pet really does change you a little bit.  It kind of crept up on me when I wasn't looking, my affection for this dog.  He was hyper.  He was naughty.  He caused me endless extra work and headache at home.  



But he also snuggled.  He was so affectionate he simply could not stand it unless he was physically up against me when I was in the room.  If I sat down, he sat down practically on top of me.  If I played the piano, he sat on my feet so I couldn't use the pedals.  When I sat on the floor to homeschool, he sat so close to me I could hardly find a spot for the girls to gather around our school book.  I will miss him.  

I won't miss the dog hair.  I won't miss the way he always stole food from the 4-yr-old in this house. I really won't miss the way he loved to shred diapers and cause general mayhem, but I will miss his presence.  I will miss the way he brought such joy to my daughters and husband.  I will miss his happy personality.

So I suppose during this last year and a half, God has grown me.  I see now how people can love their animals.  I appreciate how they work their way into your heart and become part of your life.  I wouldn't say I am an animal fanatic, but I certainly have come far from where I was when that dark-haired little clumsy puppy first entered my life.  

Thank you, Hank, for teaching me to love more fully.  You will be missed.




Sunday, September 9, 2012

Exercise or Sleep? You Can't Have Both.

Motherhood tends to change your perspective on a whole lotta things.

One of these is my view of exercise.  

Before I joined the honorable and blessed estate of motherhood, I used to think of exercise as a chore.  I look back upon those days of my newlywed bliss and remember with regret all the perfectly beautiful moments I let slip thru my grasp where I could've been at the gym or outside running or on a treadmill or watching an exercise video or SOMETHING!  This also had something to do with the fact that I was in my early twenties and my metabolism and I got along just fine.  

Today Mr. Metabolism and I are NOT BFFS.  At all.  I hate him, actually.  

Once you become a mother, the way you view exercise changes.  It's no longer a chore in my eyes.  It's ME time.  Freedom.  So I may be about to pass out from exhaustion and my aging joints may be screaming for me to stop, but when I am exercising, I am an independent being.  I don't remember the last time any of the other people in my Body Pump class threw themselves on the floor at my feet because they couldn't tie their shoelaces.  No one has ever asked to drink from my water bottle, nor have they spit in my water before returning it.  

It's like Nirvana (only I am sweaty and stinky and surrounded by other sweaty and stinky people).  

When I am exercising, all the moments of stress and emotional fatigue just begin melting away.  

(Why the heck do the inches not melt away as easily?  For cryin' out loud.  The humanity of it all.)

I enjoy this freedom and relaxation for one reason alone:

I have decided that sleep is overrated.  I do NOT bring my kids to the gym with me for childcare.  I attend a class that starts at 5:15 AM....this means I have to get out of bed at the criminal hour of 4:52 (I have timed it down to the second).  It's painful and it's just wrong.  But still, compared with the alternative...

One choice would be to exercise WITH my kids.  I've tried this one.  The jogging stroller, the little bikes with training wheels.  Mmhmm.  It lasted about one block.  

Option 2: Bringing my kids to the gym with me?!  I have witnessed this over the years.  Perhaps you are one of these poor souls.

I imagine it goes down something like this:

"Hey!  Let's get ready and go to the gym, kiddos!"

Sighs.  Moans.  Crying.  Tantrums.  

At my house this announcement would be like saying the apocalypse was upon us.  It would not be well-received (but I can't say that I blame them...the kidcare at my gym has no windows, has kids crawling all over each other, and the music from the classes blares into the room.  It's not exactly comfortable.).

Thirty minutes later, everyone would be calmed down and I would begin packing snacks for them.  Thinking I should probably not pack m&m's or Little Debbies since we are going to a GYM, I'd try to sneak in some apple slices and carrots or veggies and hummus.  Halfway thru slicing the apples I'd have to stop and put out a minor disagreement over whose turn it was to put the dog out.  

Finally, we'd be in the car headed towards the gym.  If I hurry, I have just enough time to get there in time for the spin class.  

As I pulled into the parking lot, I'd see that no one is wearing shoes and that I left the snacks sitting on the countertop.  We'd have to go back, making me late for my class and wasting another 15 minutes.

As I walked everyone into the kidcare room, I'd try to ignore the kid in the corner wiping his nose on the toys.   I'd try to look away when a little boy in the bathroom forgot to close the door as he sits on the miniature potty.  I'd give my girls a bright smile, hand them their snacks and wave at the disturbingly tired looking adult sitting in a rocking chair as I headed out the door to catch the last half of that spin class.

And I would definitely ignore my kids' sad eyes looking at me like I've just left them on the steps of an orphanage.  Good grief, people, we're talking about forty-five lousy minutes!  I will not be gone long enough to take a trip to China!  

Yes, I've observed these moms trying to do battle with their desire and need to exercise and their attempt to bring their children along.  I understand.  I really do.  I mean, none of us wants to have to slip into a pair of Mom Jeans.  We do have a little bit of pride left in our physiques, after all.  It's imperative that we get some exercise so we don't become the poor person at the store that toddlers loudly proclaim to "have a BIG bottom" while their humiliated mothers shush them.  

And yet, the price is GREAT.  The diaper bag, the snacks, the video games for older kids, the complaining, the shoe tying, the rewards for kids who cooperate...it's just too much sometimes.  

As I type this, my kids are watching G-Force downstairs and I am seriously contemplating breaking into my daughter's birthday cake.  After all, if I can't have the happy endorphins from exercise, I may as well substitute with the quite pleasing endorphins from sugar, right?  

I'm convinced Weight Watchers and kids have something going on under the table.  It's a conspiracy.  The makers of Mom Jeans are in on it, too.  It's mothers against the world, ladies.  We WILL exercise!  We WILL be fit!  We WILL...

Oh, whatever....where's that cake?




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Her screams could be heard halfway across the store.

Walking by, I heard her mother say, "No!  We are not going BACK to the bathroom!  We're not going to spend all our time at the store in the bathroom."

The screaming resumed with even greater intensity.

"But I want to!  I have to go!  I HAVE TO GO!!!"

I sped up my pace, not wanting my own child to be reminded that Target actually has a restroom.

What IS it with kids and public bathrooms?

Between the ages of 3 and 8, public restrooms are the mecca of their religion or something.  Their Holy Land.  A place of wonders and beauty indescribable.  

For real.  I have spent approximately 68 hours waiting on my youngest child to finish up in the bathroom.  And that's just this summer.

It typically goes something like this:
1. choose a stall and after several attempts, figure out how the lock works

2. change your mind and struggle with figuring out how to UNLOCK the lock

3. choose another stall

4. choose another stall

5. try to enter yet ANOTHER stall, only to find it's occupied

6. tell your mom you can do it by yourself and you don't need any help

7. after about three minutes, tell your mom you do, in fact, want her help and struggle with the lock AGAIN to let her in

8. try to find a comfortable position and manage to touch every possible square inch of the commode. 

It's even better if you can play with the sanitary supplies trashcan.  

9. finish your business and fuss when your mom helps put your clothes back in position

10. lay down on the floor when your shorts are slightly twisted

11.  act totally and completely caught off guard when mom tells you to wash your hands

12. very reluctantly participate in hand washing, then go back and touch the stall door and commode

You get the picture...

I'm serious.  If you have a child under the age of five, I KNOW you have experienced this very scenario many times.  

Often, my husband sends in random females to check on our status and make sure we will actually be coming out of the restroom before midnight.  It's just so tempting to settle in and people watch in there, you know. 

I've resorted to paying my older girls to take their sister to the bathroom for me.  It used to be pretty cheap.  For 25 cents, they would whisk her away and manage all the undesirable aspects of time in the bathroom with her.  

What a bargain!

However, they have recently raised their rates.  


Last week my husband and I had to negotiate them down, because their first offer was twenty bucks.  Thankfully, our middle child doesn't quite grasp the value of money just yet, so she happily agreed to thirty cents after very little haggling.  


Taking this child to the bathroom is a very long, complicated ordeal.  



Sometimes I'm just not up to it.  This is the reason I had more than one child.   It's taken quite a few years, but my plan is now beginning to pay off.  


So Moms, when I see you headed for the restroom, I'll give you a high five and say a little prayer.  See you in two hours (If you're lucky).

  

My Inner Madonna Breaks Free

*Sadly (for you, NOT me), I have no photographic proof of the incident I describe in this post.  So instead, I have scattered various pictures from the trip throughout the blog.  But trust me, I could never make up something this ridiculous and embarrassing to get myself into.  Every word is true.*

I will be FUN.

I will be spontaneous and step out of my box.

These were the dangerous promises I made to myself and my husband as we began our kid-free cruise last week (Which, by the way, was fantastic.  The kids even started speaking to us again after a couple days when we returned.  Totally worth it.).


Those who know me can attest to the fact that I can tend to be slightly reserved.  

Okay, I'll just be honest.  I am pretty boring.  I'm not exactly what you'd call a wallflower though, either.  I love to be with friends and I'm not shy.  I'm just not the person who's going to be the life of the party.  I'm pretty happy to share the limelight, but if push comes to shove, I'll step up to the plate if necessary.

Boy, did I ever step up to the plate on my first ever cruise. 

In fact, if my husband ever feels inclined to say I don't try new things again, I will forever have this to remind him that's not true.  And I plan on using it for a while, actually.

You see, here we were, alone, responsibility free, and ready to have some fun.  We checked the schedule of events and found there was a karaoke party starting at 9pm.  

Perfect! I thought.  My husband loves this kind of thing and I can totally do this.  After all, nobody here even knows me.

And it actually was pretty fun.  I didn't want to do a song by myself, so he came up there with me and we did a lovely little duet to the Carpenters' song, "We've Only Just Begun".

Go ahead and roll your eyes at this point.  It really was that cheesy.


But yea, me!!  I was being fun!  I was not worrying about how silly I looked or how bad my singing was.  There were roughly 100 people or so in attendance, and I have to say the elderly in our crowd seemed especially smitten with us.  Crazy kids in love and all that.

I was feeling pretty good.

And that's when it all went terribly, terribly wrong.

The young cruise employee on the entertainment staff approached my husband and said, "Hey, we're having an 80's Dance Party right after this.  We need someone to dress up as Billy Idol and lip sync a song onstage.  Interested?"

He didn't need to be asked twice.  My husband was like a kid in a candy shop, totally and completely thrilled at the idea.  His smile never left his face the rest of the night.  

I was glad for him to have such a good time.  

And then she looked over at me.  "We also need a Madonna.  Want to help us out?"

Um, no.  

"I don't think so," I replied.  "But out of curiosity, what song of hers will you use?"

"Get into the Groove," she replied.

I will be fun.  I will be spontaneous.


My little promise to myself was blaring through my head.  This was my chance.  I mean, there were only 100 people at this karaoke thing, after all.  It would be late.  There couldn't possibly be that many people in attendance.  And they were using one of Madonna's more tame songs.  Oh, what the heck?

"I'll do it," I told her.  

My husband looked at me as if I were an alien.  He couldn't believe it.  

"You know you have to dance around, right?  You can't stand up there and do nothing.  I don't think you should do it.  You'll hate it."

"I can do it!  Come on, give me some credit."

The staff lady took our names and told us where to meet later.

An hour later, I found myself backstage in one of the theaters onboard.  I was wearing hot pink leggings, a short, pink, ruffly skirt, a white sequined tank top, and a black jacket.  On one hand I wore a black, lace glove, and to top it all off, I had a (very ugly) Madonna styled 80's hairdo as my wig.  

It was pretty heinous, actually.  Only Madonna in the 80's could get away with looking this tacky.

My husband next to me was dressed as Billy Idol. Long, black leather trench coat, a terrible blonde wig, and a guitar.  

I began to have a little gnawing feeling in my stomach that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew in trying to keep my promise.  

This feeling got much, much worse when the first girl who had dressed up as Cindy Lauper finished her song and returned backstage, breathless and clearly on an adrenaline high.  

"Oh my gosh!  There are a butt load of people out there!"  she giggled.  She was at least ten years younger than me.  Single.  No kids.  The kind of person who's SUPPOSED to do stuff like this.

Next, another guy dressed up as Prince (and also a decade younger than me and gainfully unemployed in the video game industry) took the stage and delighted the audience.

I was up.

I began looking for an excuse to get out of this ridiculous ordeal.  But there was no time.  

Four men suddenly appeared.  They would be taking me on the stage and showing me where to go and leading me in some simple dance steps.  

I looked toward the stage and caught my first glimpse of the crowd out there.  The seats of the auditorium were completely filled.  The huge floor was packed with happy, loud people dancing to the music of their youth.

Yea for uninterrupted romance!! 


"Okay, Sharon, just stick with us and you'll be fine.  It'll be fun!" I heard a male voice say behind me.  I turned to give him a wary smile and discovered that, in keeping with the Madonna concert type, all four of them had taken off their shirts, revealing muscular, fit upper bodies.

Oh, no.

What the heck had I gotten myself into?

I'm just a mother of three and a teacher!  I don't dance with shirtless men who are not my husband in front of hundreds of people!  Even if it is in the middle of an ocean!!  

But what could I do?  At that very moment, I heard my name announced as Madonna and was pulled onto the stage.  The lights shone in my eyes.  The crowd was cheering.  The music was starting and it was loud.  

For the next two minutes and forty-three seconds, I had a kind of out of body experience.  

I wished I were a drinking woman, to be honest.  It probably would've made it easier.

But, knowing that if I acted shy and uncomfortable, it would be uncomfortable for everyone and excruciating for me. 

So I cooperated.  

Nothing raunchy, nothing inappropriate, just me trying to pull off the single most crazy thing I've ever done in my life.  

It was hideous.  

Just imagine reserved me.  Sunday school teaching me.  Prancing around the stage and acting like I do this sort of thing all the time.  

I think my husband never loved me more than in that moment he saw shirtless men dancing with me in front of hundreds of strangers.  

I had kept my promise.  

I was given a small trophy and crazy applause at the end of the show.

And I was only recognized once during the rest of the week, but on the cruise channel in everyone's cabin, they played highlights from the party all throughout the week.  My alter ego just kept showing up for days.

So ladies, be careful when you make promises to yourself.  You just never, never know what lengths you will have to go to in order to keep them.

May your inner Madonna be given a voice someday.  Even mamas have to step out of our box every now and then.  









Saturday, August 4, 2012

Surround Sound

The other day a friend and her kids were over to play.  

Her youngest, a beautiful and very happy little two-year-old girl, has some hearing loss.

In order to help, her mother wears this very cool little "FM transmitter" thingy around her neck, which is connected to her daughter's adorable pink hearing aids.  Whenever my friend speaks, it's as if she's right there with her daughter even if they're not in the same room.  It's pretty amazing, actually.

Of course, this can prove to be messy when my friend forgets to turn it off and MAY say some things a two-year-old really should not hear when her daughter is not in the room.  

That's a pretty funny story, actually, but I'll save it for another time (and maybe get permission before telling it since I'd prefer to keep her as my friend).

This got me thinking.

I have an entrepreneurial business idea for mothers of young children.  

"Mama Surround Sound"

I am sure many of you have experienced the frustration of having to say the SAME things to your little darlings over and over again.  And I mean verbatim.  So many times you start to wonder if your vocal chords actually make sounds when you speak and you go someplace like a cave to talk just to make sure you can hear an echo.  

Well, you can forget those days with this little baby installed in your home.  

Kids not getting along in the other room?  Hearing some insults and plain old meanness going on between siblings?  

Simply press play on your universal remote you keep in your pocket at all times and wallah, you are suddenly speaking to your children in a pre-recorded message thru mounted speakers throughout your home for just such an occasion.  

But what if it starts up again?

Just select part 2 of that same pre-recorded message.

This time it uses your more "firm" tone and mentions the pre-determined consequences.

And what about a sensor when the kids walk in the door that automatically plays your message which says, 

"Please place your shoes in the basket.  Thank you."  


I would personally opt for the added feature of a force field preventing them from leaving the mudroom until their shoes are put away, but that would cost you extra.  

And for the more delicate moments such as when your kids suddenly feel the need to bang on the door and interrupt your grown up time with your spouse (ahem), you could have speakers installed right outside your bedroom door and play a message in your most soothing voice that "Mommy and Daddy need to talk and to please go get some ice cream or cookies out of the pantry while you wait".

(Hey, who are you kidding?  You know you've done it, too.  Whatever it takes sometimes, right?)  


Hungry pet looking at you pitifully because the people in your home who just simply could not live without a pet cannot seem to remember he needs regular sustenance in order to survive?  


Select the message that reminds them that if they do not feed the dog (or cat or ferret or whatever) in a timely manner, you will sell him and use the money to buy more vegetables for them to eat.  


Regular little conversations regarding such things as flushing toilets, not screaming in the car, not fighting, practicing basic hygiene and table manners, and even reminders about how unfortunate it is when mom finds soaking wet bathing suits cast aside on the hardwood floors could all be virtually eliminated!  With the simple use of a remote and some speakers, you could be everywhere at once in your home AND not have to spend your day sounding like an Alzheimer's patient because you repeat yourself so often!  

There are a whole host of pre-recorded messages moms could make and have ready for the inevitable moments they are needed.  Imagine the brain power and emotional energy we would save!  It's like going green!  

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Why the heck must the democrats be the only ones to make use of this slogan?  

Grab it, Mothers everywhere, and save the world!


(or the peace and tranquility in your home, whichever)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Guilt and Other Motherhood Amenities

I would classify this one in the "things nobody tells you about motherhood" category.

Once you're a mom, you will never, for the duration of your remaining years in this life, take a trip without your children WITHOUT enormous guilt.  

Case in point: at this very moment I am seated in an airport terminal awaiting a flight to Orlando for my first EVER cruise.  My husband is sitting next to me.  We are totally excited for a seven night Caribbean cruise in the crystal clear waters of tropical locations.  It's going to be great!

But in order to get to this point, we had to endure heavy attack.  

Our oldest daughter, who is unfortunately mature enough to understand how long one week is, was crying 14 hours before we even dropped them off with their grandparents.  This lasted off and on the entire day.  

To make it even worse, we are missing not one, but TWO of our three daughters' birthdays in order to go on this trip.  

Our baby will be turning four on Monday, but she was easily pacified when I took her to Target and let her pick out something pink with Hello Kitty on it.  She chose an overnight "cosmetic" bag complete with bubble bath, a sleep mask, and glitter body wash.  She thinks it's fantastic that she got it and doesn't mind one bit that she'll be without us.  

"What do you want for your birthday" I cheerily asked my almost 9-year-old, hoping to buy her off as well.  

No such luck.  

She burst into tears.  "All I want is for my parents to love me enough to not miss my birthday!" she wailed.

And that right there, folks, is the art of female manipulation at its best.  It starts early, particularly in my family.  

Unfortunately for her, it had the opposite effect on me.  I simply replied, "Yes, that would be a nice gift.  Perhaps you could be adopted by parents who are nice."  

She left on an angry bike ride around and around our cul-de-sac to work out her frustrations, then came inside and gave me a hug.

She was made temporarily happy when she got to choose a new hat and matching purse and super cute dress.

Finally, the time had come for the dreaded goodbyes.  

The older girls were crying before we even got in the car to head to Nana's and Papa's.  Our little one, however, was just sitting in her booster seat happily clutching her new Hello Kitty collection.  All smiles.

"Take us with you!"  

"Why do you want to go without us?"

"I'll hide in the car and then you'll HAVE to take me"

And my personal favorite, "Mom, I am NINE years old and I have NEVER been on a boat!"

I simply looked at her and replied, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a ****"

No, no, just kidding.

I simply looked at her and replied, "My dear, do you see these wrinkles on my face?  Do you see these little lines around my eyes and mouth?  I am THIRTY-FOUR years old and I've never been on a boat." 

The goodbyes went on in much this same manner.

I gave the crying ones extra hugs and tried to be super nurturing.  

I whispered promises of finding them a treasure on the islands we stop at on our trip.  

I spoke of the great and exciting things their grandparents had planned for cousin camp that week.  

(cousin camp?!  For cryin' out loud!  They're going to be at a party all week!  I know from experience they will forget they even have a mother five minutes after I'm out the door!)

But it was all for naught. 

I the end, my parents had to pry my six year-old's fingers out of my pockets and pull her clutching hands from my person.  I suddenly understood how walls feel when I've tried to peel wallpaper off of them.

My oldest daughter simply looked at us, her eyes puffy from all the crying and tears streaming down her cheeks.  

"I'm sorry you don't love me.  If you drown or get eaten by sharks you will feel really bad."  

Yes, yes, I suppose we will.  But probably not for the reason she thinks.

And so here we are, sitting in the airport, the anticipation of a new adventure building.

My iPhone next to me alerted me to the fact that someone was requesting a FaceTime call.  

You guessed it: our oldest (you'll remember she raised the money for her iTouch a couple months back.)


I took the call, hoping to say a last quick goodbye and reassure them that I have no intention of snorkeling with any creatures that could kill me.

But instead, I was greeted by the forlorn faces of not one, not two, but THREE crying children.  

Suddenly I was playing referee from two hours away while sitting in an airport gate.  

"Give your sister the iTouch!  Stop hitting!  Do not jerk that away from  her!"

That was a very bad idea.  Folks, do NOT take FaceTime calls from your children once your'e gone.  Happily, we will be unable to even if we so desired once we get on the boat.  Phew.  

So, mothers, signing off for now.  Caribbean bound.  What's that pesky thing on my back?  Oh, yes.  That's the extra guilt the girls each placed in my backpack.  That'll be sure to double as a flotation device should the need arise.  


Friday, July 6, 2012

Patriotic Pandemonium

I want you to remember this face.  Doesn't she look happy?


I should've seen it coming.

After all, I've been a mother for nearly a decade and am fairly familiar with the behavioral patterns of and triggers for each of my children.

But it just sounded like so much good, old-fashioned, American fun that I couldn't possibly pass it up.  

You see, we spent a lovely 4th of July with my sister and her family out of town.

There are few things more fantastic in the eyes of my children than hanging out with their super cool cousins.

The guys had a 7:10AM tee time for a round of golf the morning of the 4th (and incidentally, I was corrected today that they did not play a "game" of gold, but rather a "round" of golf.  This is very important.)

Anyway, this left my sister and me in charge of the kiddos and in need of something fun to do with them.

We were in luck!  




A 4th of July Parade?!  Fantastic!  SO cute and such a great photo op!  

American kids celebrating the freedom they enjoy in this grand country of ours.  

The kids got busy decorating their scooters, bikes, and wagon.  

They were pretty excited.  They'd never been IN a parade before!  This would be spectacular!

We got everyone situated and started out to where the parade would begin its route.  


There were so many people!  Adorable babies decked out in patriotic outfits and sweet little blue-eyed, 
blonde haired kiddos all over the place.  Flags were being waved by the patriotic little maniacs and we could hardly wait to begin.

There was only one problem, really.  

The fact that it was like a thousand degrees outside at 10am.  

No matter.  The parade was about to start and our little procession would be happy once we got moving.  Not to worry.  There were a couple minor objections from the riders of wagons and bikes, but overall everyone was still smiling and happy.  



Finally, the parade began.  My sister and I breathed a sigh of relief because we were about to have a mutiny on our hands if things didn't get rolling soon.  And not just our make-up rolling down our faces, either.  

We happily began the proud procession with a firetruck leading the way.  People were waving and laughing and I was even humming all the patriotic songs I know (does Neil Diamond's "We're Coming to America" count?)

I was feeling very American and very proud of my babies celebrating our nation's birthday.  

It was downright touching.

My first hint that things were about to take an ugly turn occurred on the first block of the parade.

I saw a young girl, maybe four years old, standing on the curb with her daddy.  She was shrieking that she wanted to leave and she WANTED HER MOMMY!!!  Poor daddy was doing his best to remind her that parades are fun, but she was having none of it.  

My little company just looked at her quietly and continued moving forward.  

We were right behind this kid, who I later decided had the right idea:


He was driving a Mustang, for pete's sake!  No extra effort being exerted needlessly here.  He was sporting sunglasses and likely had a cooler with snacks and drinks for the road in the passenger seat.  

The parade continued.

Things began unraveling rather quickly from here.


Even my nephew, who had opted for his electric scooter, was rapidly losing his patriotic passion.  

It was just so dang hot.  


Soon they refused to even look at me for a picture.  




This was all my fault, after all.  

Mothers will understand this phenomenon.  

You plan something fun for your kids.  You go out of your way to do something special for them.  They are excited and sing your praises as the best mom in the world.

But before you know it, they are giving you the evil eye and have categorized you with the likes of the most horrid human beings throughout history.  

Torturers in disguise, we mothers are.  
Why, oh why, had I wanted to ruin my daughters' lives by forcing them to be in this stupid parade?  


I began to notice that the only children still smiling were those riding in golf carts.  

They were kinda looking at us like we were schmucks.  

Suckers.

Then, mercifully, my sister pointed us in the direction of a shortcut where we could discreetly exit the parade and beat the crowd to the snow cone truck.  

Perfect!

This qualified as "beating the crowd", believe it or not.  

We stood there for ten minutes without moving an inch.  We were being baked like potatoes out on that black asphalt.

Within minutes, even the promise of a snow cone was not enough.  

Remember that face I showed you at the beginning of the story?


Thirty minutes later, that face looked more like this.


She was done.  Patriotism was seriously overrated in her book.  

We decided to ditch the snow cone idea and just head back to the house.

There were bikes with red, white, and blue streamers, flags, and banners strewn all over the place.

It was like a patriotic parade graveyard.  

Little patriots had just abandoned their vehicles.  Parents everywhere were lugging tricycles and scooters while also holding sweaty, slippery little kids.  There was crying, whining, and declarations of independence from EVER having to be in an Independence Day parade again.  


 I'm pretty sure the kid in the Mustang and the kids enjoying a leisurely ride in their golf carts were laughing at the rest of us commoners.

We made it back home to the sweet relief of air conditioning, and my middle one just couldn't possibly take another step.  She army crawled like this all the way to the kitchen where we put cool, life giving water to her parched lips.  




So Happy 4th of July, people.  

Next year, we'll just watch the fireworks show on PBS and wave our little handheld flags from the comfort and ease of our cool homes.  It's not that we mothers aren't patriotic, it's just that we want to be around to celebrate future years of our freedom, and our children might murder us if we pull this one on them again.  
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