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.  

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