Thursday, December 29, 2011

Zhu Zhu's Mettle


After being dropped in a toilet full of Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner (which, I suppose, is preferable to being dropped in a toilet full of, um, other things one might find in a toilet...), cleaned under scalding hot water, and set out to dry before being prepared for burial, little Zhu Zhu is inexplicably alive and well, zooming around the floor making happy little gerbil noises.

Talk about resilience.

Although, all things considered, if I had been dropped in a toilet full of corrosive chemicals, waterboarded, and hung out to dry, I'm not sure I would be all gung ho about having a second chance.  Especially if that chance involved a tyrannical toddler who takes delight in poking her fingers in everybody's eyeballs.  Maybe it's just me, though.

Welcome back, Zhu Zhu.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

We Held These Truths to Be Self-Evident (Until We Became Parents)

A toilet plunger is not a sword.

Or a pacifier.

Or a hat.

Neither is a toilet brush.

There's a reason pre-chewed gum is not available for resale.

Edible foods do not include things found on the sidewalk, in the garbage can, or on the bottom of a shoe.

Grocery cart handles are not intended for licking.

Contrary to popular belief, the bathtub does not double as a toilet.

Toothbrushes can be used for cleaning or for brushing one's teeth, but the two are mutually exclusive.

If you don't want to share something, it is best not to announce what you have and wave it in your siblings' faces saying, "Look what I got!"

Tonight's spaghetti dinner is not meant to be used as a deep hair conditioner.

Diaper removal is meant to be handled with adult supervision.

Rain puddles are not suitable for drinking.

Puddles anywhere are not suitable for drinking.

Scissors are not intended for haircuts or clothing alterations.

Markers should not be used on walls, doors, bodies, or the family photo album.

Snot is not a food group.

Biting your toenails is physically difficult for a reason.

Milk in a blue cup tastes exactly the same as milk in a green cup.

Electrical outlets are not compatible with forks, knives, pretzels, sticks, or pens.

Public bathrooms should not be explored on hands and knees.

Sticking an object in your diaper never improves the object in form or function.

Proper uses of the toilet do not include licking, splashing, bathing, bailing, drinking, or dunking.

*This post is dedicated to the memory of Leah's beloved Zhu Zhu pet (Dec. 25, 2011 - Dec. 27, 2011) who died an ignominious death after being dunked unceremoniously in the toilet.*

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Post-Christmas Letdown

It's two days after Christmas and all the decorations have been taken down.  Not because we were in a hurry to move on to Valentine's Day or anything, but because we were all tired of staring at a tree that looked like it had been ravaged by piranhas.  (Well, most of us were.  Matthew cried like he was broken-hearted when he woke up from his nap to discover the tree was packed in a box.  "Tree!" he wailed over and over.  So sad).  Now the living room has that lovely clutter-free feeling that accompanies getting rid of the fake pine needles and random ornaments that have been residing in every corner.  Ahhhhhh.

It sort of makes me feel like I need to decorate.  The only problem is that I'm not one of those people who can throw two bamboo shoots in an urn and make it look classy.  When I do it it seems less intentional and more "Oops, bamboo is growing out of that ugly vase again."  Perhaps I should graduate to wheat stalks.

Christmas itself was lovely and was a calm end to a week that included the almost-two-year-olds boycotting their usual substantial naps and Matthew conducting experiments with a q-tip that ended up in his sister having a punctured ear drum.  Or at least that's what the evidence suggested, considering Leah interrupted my peaceful shower with hysterical screaming and blood pouring out of her ear and Matthew was following closely behind her wielding a cotton swab.  The doctor didn't seem fully convinced that Matthew was the culprit, but considering the fact that I found him today with a crayon sticking out of each of his ears, his defense is shaky at best.

Our Christmas Eve included a Christmas Story where the wise men brought the baby Jesus "Gold, metal, and plastic," according to Michael.  Frankly, I think plastic would have been awfully useful back then.  I'm sure Mary, especially, would have been thrilled. 


Christmas morning was relaxed and peaceful.  The kids played with their Santa loot for quite some time before anyone remembered there were also presents under the tree.  Leah, decked out in every necklace Santa had brought her, wandered around for a full hour holding a stuffed mouse, a plastic phone, and a bag of chips, happy as could be.

Michael and David declared the holiday "The Best Christmas Ever".  Michael has been enthralled by his big box of legos, Leah and Matthew have delighted in chasing their little Zhu Zhu pets around, and breakfasts in the days since have consisted of foods that are most often considered dessert items.  That, combined with the fact that David took a few days off work, means we're pretty content around here.  Even if Santa is considering shipping the light saber back to the North Pole until Michael is 21.

Are 21-year-olds mature enough to handle light sabers?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sabbath Observances

Yesterday at church David and I experienced a miracle - both toddlers fell asleep on our laps without having to be taken out of sacrament meeting once.  Unfortunately, motherhood has completely obliterated my ability to pay attention to anything unless it is in short spurts and involves snacks, so even with two sleeping toddlers, I couldn't focus.

My eyes wandered to my right, where a tween girl was playing the dot game with her younger sister.  They got into an argument which culminated in a loud outburst from the younger girl.  Her mother used the Deathly Mom Whisper in her ear while I smiled inwardly at the scene.  I don't know what the mother said, but it must have been along the lines of "Be quiet and apologize," because two minutes later the guilty girl handed her big sis a sheet of notebook paper that said, "I'm sorry.  Will you forgive me?"  At the bottom were two empty boxes with instructions to "Check YES or NO."

A bit later I glanced over again and the two girls were playing Hangman.  The younger girl was just solving her big sister's puzzle, which turned out to say, "I don't like my sister.  She is annoying."

Ha!  So much for forgiveness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What Shall We Give to the Babe in the Manger?

Two weeks ago I was walking by the check-out line in Wal-Mart when I spotted a woman who was not only wearing fuzzy pajama bottoms to the store, she was wrapped up in a plush, polka-dotted bathrobe.  Completing the effect were her pink house shoes and stringy, just-out-of-the-shower hair.  I couldn't resist.  I pretended to be interested in a bin of $5 videos while I surreptitiously snapped a picture of her with my cell phone.  "Seriously.  A bathrobe?" I texted David.  "I realize it's Wal-Mart, but come on."

I intended to blog about her.  I uploaded the picture and began to type.  But then, as I looked at her, I changed my mind.  Maybe it was the fact that I had just spent the morning navigating the aisles at Target with two toddlers who like to remove their socks and shoes as soon as they enter a building, which, I admit, makes me look like quite a negligent parent, especially when coupled with the fact that Leah also regularly refuses to wear her coat in spite of the freezing weather outside.  Or maybe I just felt sorry for anyone whose circumstances caused them to end up at Wal-Mart wearing a bathrobe.  Whatever it was, I started wondering about her.  What if she was wearing a bathrobe because she just had a baby and couldn't bear to wear anything else?  What if she just had surgery or chemotherapy?  What if her whole family had the stomach flu and she had to run to the store between her own barfing episodes to buy medicine?  What if her house burned down and her pajamas were the only thing she had left?

Suddenly her bathrobe seemed less of a joke.  It was a reminder:  You need to be more charitable.

Fast forward two weeks and I was sitting at the computer staring blankly at the screen, completely uninspired as to how to begin my Christmas letter.  Michael had been banished to some solo wii time so I could get a few things done.  I felt stressed and busy.  I had new shelves I wanted to prime and paint, birthdays and Christmas to plan, doctor visits to schedule, guests to accommodate, bills to pay, laundry and visiting teaching to do, and, of course, plenty of cleaning.  I had put Michael off several times in his requests to play with me.  "I'm busy," I said.  "I have to get this done.  I'll play with you later."

From the couch he mumbled under his breath, "I wish you could have fun with me, Mom."

Again, like I had with the bathrobe photo, I stopped in my tracks.  I shut down the computer and hopped on the couch to play Super Mario.  Michael spontaneously hugged me every time I helped him pass a difficult level.  "I love you, Mom!" he said.

He was a reminder:  You need to give more time to your kids.

So it was that the words of a song came into my head:



What shall we give to the babe in the manger,
What shall we offer the child in the stall?
Incense and spices and gold we've a-plenty
Are these the gifts for the king of us all?

What shall we give to the boy in the temple,
What shall we offer the man by the sea?
Palms at his feet and hosannas uprising;
Are these for him who will carry the tree?

What shall we give to the lamb who was offered,
Rising the third day and shedding his love?
Tears for his mercy we'll weep at the manger,
Bathing the infant come down from above.

That's when I realized that the thoughts I had had earlier were reminders that I did have a meaningful gift to offer.  Time.  And my heart.

I'm so grateful for the Savior and for those little moments that helped me see how I could better serve Him -- Grateful for that Babe in the Manger who gave His time and His heart to save us all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Whole Picture


Don't we look blissfully happy and in love?  Good, because we are.

P.S.  We were laughing because both toddlers were hanging on my legs, screaming at the top of their lungs.

Now you know. 

We are a Happy Family

Or at least we look like we are thanks to my sister and her ninja photoshop skillz.  Thanks, Di!

Make Love, Not War (Or Things That Don't Belong at Walmart)

No, this isn't an attempt to make a political statement.  (And what do people mean when they say that, anyway?  That if we would all just sit around smooching on each other instead of sending our military to drop bombs on evil dictators, the tyrants would calmly decide to stop torturing and killing people?  Is that how that is supposed to work?  Evil Dictator: "Well, I was going to continue with the whole rape and pillage thing, but since everyone has retired to their bedrooms for the evening, I guess I'll just call it a day...").

Ahem, where was I?  Oh yes, running through the aisles of Walmart, hastily chucking things in my cart (for two reasons: 1) I hate Walmart and wanted to get out of there as fast as humanly possible, and 2) I usually have about 4.5 seconds in any given store before one of my children starts screaming) when I whisked by a middle-aged couple who were actively berating each other for not having the ability to read minds.  Apparently, not possessing thought-discerning powers renders one "stupid" and "incompetent".  Also "#$*#&!" and "@*&#%!" in case anyone is suffering for a lack of adjectives.

Now, I'm not going to say that I've attained a level of righteousness to where I've never had an argument with my husband, nor that I haven't  heartily disagreed with him in public.  Because, while David may be practically perfect in every way (seriously, it can be so aggravating to argue with someone who has the ability to say, "I appreciate your patience" and "I can totally see where you're coming from" while you are yelling at him), I am not yet so celestial.  However, I do subscribe to the philosophy that any arguing-in-public should be mumbled quietly in a corner, not blasted through the loudspeaker on aisle three.  No fisticuffs allowed, and the discussion should never, ever be about any of the following subjects: sex, sex, or sex.

Because, as far as the rest of us are concerned, no one else has sex.  Especially, but not limited to, our parents and grandparents.  Don't shatter the illusion, particularly not by broadcasting that your sex life is completely conditional on your husband's adherence to your ridiculous Tyrannical Wife policies.  If you think so little of your husband that you dangle sex in front of him like a carrot in front of a rabbit, only to yank it away when he forgets to take out the garbage, we don't want to hear about it.  Especially not while we are perusing a shelf full of last season's clearance items.  Seriously, people, there is a time and a place to discuss such things, and it's not at full volume next to the cash register.

After all, you never know what people might mistake you for if you are discussing sex in front of a cash register.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Truth About Work

They call it work because it's just that: work.  Otherwise they would call it sitting-on-a-beach-trying-to-decide-which-umbrella-should-occupy-your-drink.  Even things that aren't necessarily recognized as work are work, like motherhood.  Case in point, this morning Michael stuck his head in the bathroom where I was showering and said "Mom, there's green poop on the carpet downstairs!"  Seeing as I had just spent the last evening scrubbing half a bottle of green lotion off the stairs, I wasn't too worried, even after Michael appeared again to report that it was in Leah's hair and on her blanket.  Then Leah ran into the bathroom yelling "Mommy!  Mommy!  Nooooo!" and presented her blanket, which was indeed covered in green poop.

Um, I'd like to put in a request to take a half-day, please?

Unfortunately, the work of motherhood, like any job, isn't always suited to one's own desires.  You have to work when you don't want to, and do things you don't want to do (I mean, not only did I clean up poop this morning, I just realized there is blood on the shoulder of my bathrobe and snot on my lap.  Plus, I woke up before I wanted to with my stomach feeling questionable, and yet I still had to manage getting everyone diapered, fed, and dressed, and then, in the twins' case, bathed, even when I wanted nothing more than to go back to bed).  Your job might require you to wake up in the middle of the night to work, or you might have to miss a party, or even a planned vacation.  You might have to work on a holiday, and you might have to put in overtime. 

That's life.  That's work.

So I have little sympathy for Anthony Hardwick, the whiny Target employee who started a petition (now 80,000 signatures strong) to protest having to come in to work at 11:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day.  Says Mr. Hardwick, "With the midnight opening, employees like myself will have to leave for work right in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t mind hard work, but cutting into our holidays is a step too far.”

He'll have to leave in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner?  Really?  How long does it take him to get to work, six hours?  Because I'm pretty sure no one waits till 10:00 at night to carve into the turkey. 

But, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he means he'll have to leave the dinner early to sleep in preparation for his shift.  Even then, my sympathy is lacking.  One day of inadequate sleep is not going to kill you.  (Try motherhood on for size, Mr. Hardwick...)  Skip the long snooze and enjoy the family party.  Or skip the family party and take a long snooze.  It's called sacrifice, Mr. Hardwick, and it's part of work.

Believe it or not, you are not the only person who is being required to adjust his Thanksgiving celebration.  For heaven's sake, you are being asked to come in at 11:00 at night (when most families have long since finished their dinners) and are being paid time-and-a-half for your trouble.  What about the policemen and doctors and transit employees who have to work the whole day?  I'm sure they'd love to stay home.  My own husband has missed everything from holidays to my birthday because he had to work.  This year he might even miss my family reunion. 

Anyone with a job will, at some point, have to work when they don't want to.  It's not being picked on.  It's not corporations "treating their workforce as serfs", as one entitled woman put it.  It's work.  It's not always fun. 

That's why they pay you for it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Husbands as Punchlines

This weekend David and I attended the wedding of a longtime friend.  It was lovely --The bride was beautiful, the groom was beaming, the ceremony was sweet and simple.  As I watched them say their vows, I could picture them sitting on the back porch at ninety, holding hands and watching a sunset together.  I guess you could say they are meant for each other.

So, it was quite a contrast when, after dinner, a fellow wedding guest began chatting with me about marriage and husbands and kids.  "I always say I have four kids..." she began as I cringed in advance for the punchline: "including my husband."

Ba-dum-bum-ching!

Except it wasn't funny.  It's NEVER funny, and yet women go around repeating this joke as if it were the most hilarious thing that has ever come out of their mouths.  Ha ha ha.  You think your husband is a child.  What a scream!  Pardon me if I forget to laugh.

How are jokes like this okay?  How is it socially acceptable to sit around and talk about our husbands like they are a bunch of buffoons who do nothing but sit in the yard and pick fleas off each other?  I mean, aren't these the same guys who provide for the family, help change diapers, sit through chick flicks, and remember our birthdays?  You know, the guys who slay dragons and love us and take care of us?

Ugh.  The Tyrannical Wife strikes again.

Someone needs to tell that chick to retire.

The Art of Childbirth

Childbirth and I don't exactly have a warm and fuzzy relationship.  We kind of started off on the wrong foot when, after 12 hours on the highest dose of pitocin without significant progress, my doctor was like, "You have one hour to dilate 7 more centimeters or you'll have to have a c-section" and my uterus was like, "Bite me."  I tried -- really I did -- but one can't exactly will her uterus to do anything it doesn't want to do.  So I ended up sliced and diced, which was a highly unpleasant experience for all concerned, especially my uterus.

The second time around was better in theory, but my doctor was a jerk whose concern for me was limited to whether or not I was still breathing.  He didn't even say "Congratulations!" after yanking two healthy little humans out of my body.  With that and the whole catheters here, bodily fluids there thing, I don't exactly think of childbirth as being beautiful or miraculous as much as I think of it as being horrible.  Forgive me, but nothing could possibly be more undignified or disgusting.  I know you might disagree, but as anyone who has attended a birth knows, those biohazard bins aren't just for decoration.  Just sayin'.

So you'll understand where I'm coming from when I say that childbirth should not be a spectactor sport.  As far as I'm concerned, there are already way too many spectactors involved, particularly those of the I'm-here-to-stick-my-fingers-in-your-nether-regions variety.  (And for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to invite their father-in-law or their next-door-neighbor to witness an event where private parts are on full display and poop is likely to end up on the table).

But, putting aside one's dignity, I can see how someone might want to share their birthing experience with a close friend or family member, especially when you factor in the whole miracle thing.  I just don't see why anyone would want to share the ordeal with a group of strangers, particularly when one is only doing so because she considers it "art".  But, one New York City artist, whose previous exhibitions have included re-enactments of her own birth and losing her virginity, recently did just that -- take her "performance art" to the next level by giving birth in front of a whole bunch of strangers.  According to her, giving birth is the "highest form of art".  I guess that makes her the "highest" form of artist... if by "high" you mean "on crack".

Okay, okay.  I've already said that however messy and gruesome birth is, it is also a miracle.  And it is quite overwhelming and wonderful to see a brand new infant make his way into the world (not that I would know - stupid surgical draping...).  But, as is the case with many miracles, oversharing the experience, especially indiscriminately, has a tendency to cheapen it, to take away the sacredness.  So it follows that if one's goal is to share the miracle of birth, it hardly seems logical to splay oneself out as "performance art" before a group of irreverent strangers who have no vested interest in the event itself.

Is giving birth miraculous?  Yes.  Is it worth doing?  Absolutely.  But is it art?  No.  Heavens, no. 

Do I need go over the part about those biohazard bins again?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gratitude

Last night our Family Home Evening lesson was on gratitude.  So, I got my craft on (one of the few times per year) and the kids helped me make small lists of what they were thankful for.


Then we started a family gratitude list we can add to over the next few weeks:


I admit, it does seem a little jarring to have iphones listed right underneath the Savior of the World.  But nothing is too small to be thankful for, and gratitude lists shouldn't suffer from Desert Island Syndrome where everyone tries to be noble and say their three allowed items would include the scriptures and a picture of Jesus when really, they would bring an old collection of Reader's Digests and an endless supply of tampons.  (Personally, I would bring a laptop and my cell phone, because all desert islands should come pre-equipped with cell phone towers and free wireless internet, don't you think?)

Oooh, that reminds me, I'm thankful for wireless internet.  Add that to the list, along with the fact that when I was trying to take pictures of the lists, I had two cutie-pie toddlers step into my shot and say "Cheese!"

And speaking of said toddlers, I'm grateful that yesterday Matthew came up to me saying "Uh oh!  Uh oh!" and pointing down the hall until he could show me that not only had he and Leah turned on the bathtub and somehow closed the plug (not too recently, judging by the fact that Godzilla would have had adequate water for a scrub) they had emptied my entire get-ready drawer into their homemade pool.  Hairspray, make-up, lotion, all taking a swim.  Thank goodness it's a big tub.  Thank goodness Matthew pointed out his mischief in time.

And I suppose, all things considered, this was better than the day before when Matthew somehow procured my curling iron and proceeded to plug it in and then drop it on the carpet.  Great.  Let's not only electrocute ourselves and burn our hands, let's burn the house down.  Luckily I happened upon that one about two seconds after he'd done it.  (For future reference, if you're looking for it, my curling iron will now be residing with the toilet paper in the safe on the top shelf of my closet).

Of course, Michael, ever the helper, will probably observe me hiding the curling iron, get a ladder, and help the babies climb up one by one until they are all sitting on the top shelf of my closet.  Then, when I happen upon them, he will point at his sister and say, "Mom, Leah did it!"

Thankfully, he's not a good liar.  And thankfully I'm like a human polygraph or something.

I love my kids so much, but the combined mischievousness of two toddlers + Michael would make certified neat freaks shake in their boots.  The kids just came up from playing downstairs and within three seconds crackers were dumped on the floor, I had to remove the babies from the table top, and somebody stuffed cereal down the heating vent.  And I just noticed the fireplace is on.  But then they all ran to Michael's room, and I hear peals of laughter echoing down the hall.  I love it when they play together.  I'm so grateful for my kids.

I should check on them though, because you never know what they're up to...  Nevermind, there's no need.  Here they come.  And Matthew is crying.

It's a good thing they're cute.




Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Universe Explained

Scene: sitting at the table, eating lunch. 

Michael:  Mom, there's a bug on the ceiling!
Me: Okay
(thirty seconds later)
Michael:  There's still a bug on the ceiling!
Me:  Just ignore it, Michael.
Michael: (standing on a chair, yelling vigorously at the bug)  RRRRROOOAR!  RRRRRRROAR!!! 
(Pause)
Michael:  Is that ignoring it, Mom?

It was like my whole life got explained in one sentence.  If "ignore" means "get as close as humanly possible and yell" I've been approaching this whole parenting thing from the wrong angle.  I wonder what "bother" means, or "pester" or "annoy"? 

Time to recalibrate. 

"No" must mean "Yes", and "Stop doing that" means "Do it with greater enthusiasm, preferably while causing injury to your siblings."  It's like the secrets of motherhood were revealed to me in one shining existential moment.  My universe has been explained.

Well, most of it.  I still don't understand why anyone would stick her hand down the back of her stinky diaper to see what's going on.

Maybe when Leah is older I can ask her about that one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Space Invaders

Happy Halloween from infinity and beyond!



Last but not least, The Claw:



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Marriage Problem

In case you haven't already heard, the famous-for-no-discernible-reason Kim Kardashian is divorcing her husband after just 72 days of marital unbliss.  I, for one, am absolutely shocked.  Usually weddings involving vapid celebrities, whirlwind courtships and millions of dollars in extravagant flower arrangements and gold napkin rings last forever.  Especially when one of the parties involved is so egocentric she actually had her butt x-rayed to prove its authenticity.  (I have to say, doing such a thing would never would have occurred to me, but then, maybe that's because it wouldn't take much to prove that my behind is authentic.  All you'd have to do is look at the pile of candy wrappers left behind after this morning's Halloween candy breakfast and you'd figure it out on your own).

I'm not sure how it is that Ms. Kardashian ended up hopping out of the honeymoon getaway car with divorce papers in her hands, but it seems to me that this whole saga could have easily been prevented, and not just by avoiding a premature walk down the aisle.  That is not to say I have something against whirlwind courtships in general -- my husband and I dated for only four months and were engaged for four months before we married, and ten years later we love each other more than ever -- but I do have something against selfishness. 

Forgive me for saying so, but most people could make it work with their mortal enemy for more than 72 days.  There is virtually no excuse for throwing in the towel that quickly.   How can anyone say they gave it their best shot when they called it quits before the ink was even dry on the marriage license?  No one goes from "Forever" to divorce papers in two months without having taken an extended swim in Lake Selfish.

But, the allure of a "fairytale wedding" is strong, as is the temptation of sponsored nuptials and untold amounts of media coverage that resulted in as much as a $17 million profit for the bride and groom.  I would say Ms. Kardashian is an anomaly in her quest for fame and attention, but judging by the amount of self-centered people who also want to share their most intimate secrets on national television, she's merely a number in a long line wannabes who have used sex (and sex tapes) to propel themselves to the front cover of a magazine.

The problem with Ms. Kardashian, and with marriage in general, is this: weddings have assumed importance disproportionate to that of the actual marriage.  Why else do you suppose there are whole television channels devoted to Bridezilla and her dress, her cake, and her day?  In a culture which promotes dating as having all the privileges of marriage (including having sex and having babies) the wedding must automatically become more important than the actual living of vows, otherwise there is nothing special or different about marriage itself.  Without a huge party to start things off, it's nothing more than living life as you have already been living it.   In Ms. Kardashian's case, marriage must be quite a letdown after a $10 million, nationally televised wedding that was all about her.  Without any foundation of friendship or faith to fall back on, it's no wonder she filed for divorce.

My only question is who gets to keep the butt x-rays?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Picture Perfect (Or Why I Hate Shopping)

Thursday we had our family pictures taken.  This meant that I was running all over town the week before trying to procure toddler-size black socks (they don't exist, apparently), a red hair bow (couldn't find one) and a pair of ballet flats for me that didn't display unattractive amounts of toe cleavage.  I haven't bought shoes for myself in a long time.  I haven't bought clothes in a long time except for things that come from Costco, because navigating a department store with two restless toddlers in a boat-sized stroller is like trying to whack your way through a dense, dry forest with a wheelbarrow full of lit fireworks -- you know your cargo is going to explode at any second, and when it does the whole place is going to burn down and you'll be escorted out in handcuffs while a fatherly policeman says, "Sorry, Ma'am, but you should have known better than to bring toddlers in here."

Of course, this may explain why the clothes-folding employee at the front of the store glared at me when I entered, and then again when I plucked two stuffed lions off the shelf and handed them to my whining toddlers.  She glared at me a third time when, after 6.2 minutes of running through the aisles pulling every red shirt I could see, Matthew started shrieking at the top of his lungs (he's one of those ear-splitting fireworks).  That got not only a glare, but a snide comment about my bad mothering skills.  Honestly, lady, this is Kohl's, not Barney's Fifth Avenue.  Needless to say I bought the winning shirt in two different sizes so that I could try them on at home, away from Medusa and her stink eye.

Also tucked in the past week were three or four (or five) trips to Children's Place, and because it was right next door, I stepped into Pier 1 to look at the 50% off Halloween decorations.  It was the most stressful experience of my whole life.  I couldn't have been more twitchy if I'd had a live grenade in my pocket.  First of all, my stroller didn't actually fit in the store, which meant the path to the Halloween decorations was so complex that by the time I was ready to leave (about 60 seconds after arriving because Leah had already de-shelved several items for closer inspection and I didn't want to put myself at risk for paying $98 to take home a pile of shattered glass) I couldn't get out of the store.  They actually had to move a display for me so I could exit.

But it all turned out well in the end.  I got some cute Halloween decorations and I managed to find coordinated outfits for the whole family.  And our photo session went swimmingly, if you don't count the the part where Leah and/or Matthew cried the whole time,  refused to smile or get off my lap, and regularly used my shirt as a kleenex.  Or where Leah skinned her knee and bled all over her tights and Michael managed to spill an entire bottle of water in my diaper bag.  Oh well, if it's lifestyle photography we were looking for, what could be more authentic than pictures of David and me that involve both toddlers hanging on my legs screaming bloody murder and Michael dancing around us like an annoying housefly?  Authenticity at its best.  I can't wait to see the good shots.

If there are any.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Random Thoughts

Italian salad dressing is magic.  It makes so many foods taste better.

Life can never be fair because when people say "fair" they mean "skewed in my favor".

Pace Picante Sauce does not count as salsa and should not be allowed to occupy grocery store space next to the tortilla chips.

People always say that marriage is hard, but really, it's life that is hard.  Marriage makes life a lot easier.

One of the most annoying spelling mistakes is changing "breathe" to "breath". As in, "I can't breath!" Really, you can't "breath"? That must be awkward.

I hate parking lots with angled spaces that mean you can only drive in from one direction.

Does anyone else find it ironic that Hollywood celebrities -- people who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for mere minutes of work -- are hopping on the Occupy Wall Street bandwagon?

The saying "The coolest thing since sliced bread" should be officially retired and replaced by "The coolest thing since the iPhone app which allows you to deposit checks from home."

How can you tell when moldy cheeses go bad?  Isn't bleu cheese by definition "bad"?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Realistically Speaking

This weekend David and I finished painting the garage.  It turns out I'm a really, really, patient person, as evidenced by the fact that I finished the job in spite of David's self-described "neurotic" behavior about wanting me to avoid drips on the floor and stray brush strokes on the weather stripping.  David can also count himself as patient, seeing as he didn't try to hit me with a frying pan even after I said, "David, it's just a garage," every 2.5 seconds for the duration. 

In case you are wondering, we figure it is best for our marriage if we never try to assemble furniture together.

But, neuroses aside, this weekend I realized something:  While it might not be helpful in dealing with a super detail-oriented husband, being laid back can be an asset when it comes to motherhood.  Particularly when one is a mother to twins.  If I obsessed over every little sniffle I'd be wrapped up in a straight jacket by now.  As it is, I figure our parents survived eating lead paint chips and riding in the car without a seat belt, so what's the harm in letting my kids drink Crystal Light instead of all-natural, organic, gluten-free, vegan apple cider?  Heck, we all have to die of something.  And by next Tuesday I'm pretty sure the general hyperventilating about aspartame that is going on in parenting circles will have subsided, so I can give my kids fake sugar in good conscience.  After all, three minutes ago real sugar was the big bad wolf.  I'm just getting a jump on things for when science meets sanity again.

How did I come to this realization, you ask?  All it took was a gathering of some old friends that included a handful of recently minted first-time moms who have their pediatricians on speed dial to convince me I have a sincere talent for taking things in stride.  Baby is coughing?  Let's wait and see how he's doing in the morning.  Baby rolled off the bed?  Check that one off the list of "Things That Happen to Everyone".  After months of endless night-waking, baby is finally not making a peep?  Do not disturb that baby!  I mean it!  Back away from the door, don't make unnecessary noise, and for heaven's sake, do not poke him to see if he's still breathing.  He's fine

And this is how I found myself cutting the fingernails of a cute little five-month-old tot, because his mother was nervous about hurting him.  "Gimme," I said, plopped the baby on my lap, clipped his claws in 60 seconds, and handed him back, safe and whole.  Not a scratch on him.  For now, anyway.  Because, honestly, at some point he's going to fall off the bed.

It happens to everyone.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Do Not Disturb

I don't want to say this too loudly, but all three of my children are downstairs playing.  Together.  Peacefully.  Without me.  My mom brain says I should check on them to make sure they aren't destroying anything.  My pre-mom brain says "Are you out of your mind?  Enjoy it!  Who cares if you have to recarpet the basement afterward?"

You can remind me I said this when I actually do have to recarpet the basement.  I might hit you, but that will be your fault -- blame the messenger, you know.

Fall seems to have returned to our city after winter made a big show of superiority by dumping snow on us a week ago.  Yesterday I made a picnic lunch for Michael to enjoy on the front porch while we huddled up in a blanket together and watched the construction workers next door play Who-Can-Fit-The-Most-F-Words-Into-One-Sentence while they poured the driveway.  Luckily the noise of the machinery was loud enough to drown out most of Michael's R-rated education, and after awhile, I heard one of the shovel-wielding guys tell his tattooed charges to watch their mouths.  I was tempted to ask if he could do anything about the abundance of plumber's cracks as well, but figured it is never wise to irritate a man who looks like he is two strikes short of a life sentence.

Today's activity: paint pumpkins.  And make ghosts to hang on the front porch if I can find the old white sheets we inherited from David's grandmother, which is a pretty big "if" considering the state of my storage room at the moment.  A place for everything and a thing in every place, as my sister likes to say.

Have I mentioned that I hate moving?

Plus, David and I are in the middle of painting the garage, which I have never done before and plan to never do again.  Normally I like painting, but I think that has always been because I've only had an occasional need for a ladder and I could finish a whole room in a few hours.  We are two days into the project and still have two more to go.  Long days involving strained necks and doing battle with persistent moths who are determined to be part of our bug mausoleum.  ("And on the left, entombed in primer, you'll see the popular Idia Aemula, who refused to part ways with the light bulb even as her death loomed ever closer.").

And, in honor of the fact that it is October, which means the stores are already celebrating Christmas, I signed up for the "random selection process" to get tickets to the annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert.  So I'm in a sing-songy sort of mood at the moment, especially because Leah has been wandering around the house lately singing "Bum bum bum, bah bah bum, bah bah bum."  Sounds harmless, right?  Well, set it to the tune of Darth Vader's Imperial March (no lie) and it's a lot funnier.  And creepier, considering she has never heard it before.  I have no idea where she came up with it.  Still, it's somehow a lot less scary than the fact that Matthew was clapping and squealing with glee over the latest Selena Gomez video.  He loves her like a love song, baby.  I think we're warping our children.

Well, not "we."  I blame David.  He's the one who turned on the Selena Gomez video.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life

A lot has happened over the last few weeks.  We moved, I turned 30, we had two straight weeks of visitors, Matthew's latest virus landed him his very own nebulizer and enough albuterol to last us till the end of time, I lost my faith in humanity, and I got a mosquito bite directly under my eyelid, which made me look like the mosquito smacked me in the face with her vengeful fist instead of just engaging in a little evening blood sucking.

All things considered, the mosquito incident seemed an appropriate metaphor for my life these past weeks, what with the vengeful fist and blood sucking and all.  I would have mentioned it before, but the whole losing faith in humanity thing caused me to lose my will to write for awhile.  Let's just say that it wasn't a pleasant experience.  Particularly the part where David and I got called all sorts of names we've never been called before because we are decent, honest people who don't deserve such things .  I mean, really.  We leave notes on cars we backed into and pay off houses we're underwater on.  We don't even cross the solid white line of the HOV lane, right David?

(This is where you all leave comments saying what great people we are).

So, trying to forget our faith-in-humanity problem, last night we caught up on our backlogged DVR.  We laughed at some lame sitcom jokes.  Then David laughed a little too knowingly at a post-baby-body joke.  Afterwards he made eyes at me in a way that made me think he was going to tell me I was beautiful and that he loves me just the way I am. 

He said, "Let's go to bed and read."

But, considering I had the latest release from award-winning author, Stephanie Black, in my hands, it wasn't too bad of a deal.  Besides, it was funny when I screamed as a mosquito buzzed  right in my ear canal and scared the bejeebers out of David, who was several chapters ahead of me in the same book.  Good one, Steph.  Got him right as the floor was creaking ominously above the heroine.

Plus, I woke up this morning to an email that means we can officially put the past few weeks of drama behind us.  Things are looking up.  I probably shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch, though, seeing as I did spend a healthy part of last evening standing on a crack underneath a ladder, sucking up construction dust with a shop vac.

No black cats or broken mirrors, though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World

My sister recently sent me a link to an advice column she described thus:  "I think this exact column is in the Book of Revelations under 'end of the world'."

How can I resist?  If that doesn't have my name all over it, I don't know what does.

For those who do not want to read the insanity for themselves, allow me to summarize:  Deployed military man has a girlfriend who wants to get her slut on with some/any random guy to quell the sexual frustration she has felt due to Military Man's absence, and suggests he have a "last" fling as well.  Military Man writes "Advice Goddess" Amy Alkon to find out how to get his lady friend to reign in her libido for another 60 days until he returns home.  If it is simply not possible for her to keep her pants up for that long, he asks Ms. Alkon, "How do I get okay with this?"

Well, it is a pickle, isn't it?  What on earth does one do with a girlfriend who wants to bang the first person she meets who has functional anatomy?  Well, honey, I say, if she wants a fling, give her one -- to the curb, with bags packed.  This relationship will never last.  What happens if you get deployed again, or have a medical issue that doesn't allow for a frequent roll in the hay?  What if she gets bored with you or decides the Fling Man was a better investment?  This is not the sort of woman who will stand by you when times are tough.  She can't even stand by you when you are 60 days out.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  After all, I am not the advice columnist here.  So what does Ms. Alkon have to say about the situation?

"It might help to recognize that sex isn't special - or isn't necessarily special.  Insects have sex, and not just because one particular bug means more to them than any other, but because the urge to get it on is just one of the many physical urges of living critters, like the urge to eat lunch... Assuming there's no pregnancy, disease, or continued attachment, yesterday's sex act is no more relevant than yesterday's lunch."

Pardon me, but what the WHAT???

Sex is no more significant than yesterday's PBJ?!  Ms. Alkon, if you truly believe this, you are doing it wrong.  Intimate connection of body parts cannot possibly be as meaningless as a roast beef on rye - to suggest such a thing is ludicrous.  And if, as you say, we should take our behavioral cues from the animal world, why not bite off the head of your mate as soon as the sex act is complete?  After all, that's what some insects do.  It's just a biological urge.  It doesn't actually mean anything.  Just make sure you print out the wiki section of "mating habits of the praying mantis" when you are booked into jail for first-degree murder.

I have no idea where this sex-is-meaningless idea originated (oh wait, yes I do... that would Satan.  You know, the Father of Lies?) but it doesn't matter how many times it is written or spoken, or whether it is believed by 99% of the world's population.  Sex is not meaningless.  Deep down, we know this, which is why we are confused when the entire college campus says there is something wrong with us if we don't want to engage in bathroom stall hook-ups with random strangers, or when advice columnists say that people like Military Man are so dreadfully old-fashioned for believing a significant other should not engage in "insignificant" sex acts with the nearest batch of horny toads.  Degrading (yes, degrading) sex into something purely biological is pathetic and sad and will lead to unhappiness the likes of which you have never known.

Sex is a gift from God and has the potential to be incredibly bonding and special, even spiritual.  But, as with all gifts, if we don't understand what it is for or how to use it properly (i.e., within the bounds the Lord has set) we will end up hurting ourselves and others in the process.

So, my advice to Military Man?  Fling your girlfriend out of your life.

And send Amy Alkon with her.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stupidity in Black and White

Racism = bad, this we know.  So, naturally, we should go about attacking its existence the most effective way we know how: by dressing witches in pink and avoiding white paper in nursery schools.  Also, by lying to children about our favorite colors and instead telling them we have a particular fondness for black or brown.  In the interest of good race relations, you know.

Oh honestly.  How does someone say things like this while keeping a straight face?  Using white paper promotes racism?  In two-year-olds?  Last time I took stock of the situation, all the two-year-old children I had ever met in my entire life did not give a flying flip about anyone's skin color.  Because they don't notice such things.  They are too busy plotting how to raid the pantry.  A four-year-old might notice, yes, but that is out of mere curiosity, not out of any sense of superiority or racial specialness.  God made people lots of different colors and loves all of them equally.  End of lesson.  Whoopty-do.

But, maybe I am behind the times.  I mean, when "early years consultants" like Anne O'Connor think there is a problem, maybe there is one.  After all, where there's smoke there's an idiot.  That sounds like a problem to me.

Seriously.  Because, according to Ms. Idiot... ahem, O'Connor, we are all supposed to be traumatized if our notebook paper never reflects our own shade of skin (Covergirl Natural Ivory 115, can I get a woot woot?).  And who knows what might happen if we never have to write on green paper, for example?  Aside from shortchanging the Martians, we might read between the lines of our ivory paper that white is the best and the brightest and generally superior to black people.  I mean black paper.  Surely the reasons for using white paper couldn't be anything less convoluted, like the fact that white paper is practical because it allows one to see what is written on it.  Nope.  Too easy and non-political.

But (insert hand wringing here) studies have been done on four-year-olds who chose pictures of those belonging to their own race as having greater friend potential!  Oh, where's my (thankfully) brown paper bag when I need it?!  Because obviously a four-year-old who identifies a face similar to his own as being more trustworthy is a racist-in-the-making.

For heaven's sake, little kids don't express negative and discriminatory views about other races.  Child specialists introduce them to those negative views when they hyperventilate over little Billy selecting white as his favorite color and demand that the Wicked Witch of the West change up her wardrobe to accommodate the new spring line.

Agh!  I have to go bang my head against a wall now.  But I'm a little worried -- do you think I'll get racial-understanding credit for the fact that my bruises will be partially black?  Or does the combination of black and bruising carry too negative a connotation?

I'll see what I can do in the purple and green department.

Girls and Their Moods

From this morning's impromptu photo shoot, in chronological order:





So much for any expectations I may have had of mood stability during her teen years.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring, the Toilet is Snoring

Okay, it's not actually raining. However, there is liquid involved, and two children, one of whom is not in diapers. But I won't go into details. Suffice it to say that, in the future, Michael should hopefully be less hesitant about asking his preschool teacher if he can use the restroom (poor kid). And hopefully his classmates didn't think there was anything odd about his mother showing up mid-day with a new pair of shorts. Heck, Michael himself exclaimed, "What are you doing here, Mom?" as if his flooded pants weren't any sort of clue.

The other "raining" incident involved Leah and Costco, and the exact right (wrong?) angle which allowed her to demonstrate the physics involved in peeing straight out the side of her diaper all over my shirt.

When I said I go to Costco because of the warm feeling it gives me, that's not what I meant.

But, in way of literal interpretation of blog post titles, my toilet actually was snoring. Really. I followed the noise, which I thought was coming from the overzealous nose of one of my sleeping children, and discovered that the toilet was taking authentic human-sounding breaths that were coming out one whistle short of a full snore. Not to be outdone, the next night my bathtub started snoring. I am not making this up.

Well, we simply couldn't live with snoring plumbing, so we moved. What can I say, we believe in going above and beyond.

Now we have two houses that are a complete disaster area and I have enough miscellaneous junk in random places to qualify as my own K-Mart. The things I have managed to unpack have a mysterious way of wandering out to the living room again. And again. And getting dumped out and stepped on, and broken. This whole process would be a lot easier if Matthew and Leah weren't actively trying to dismantle everything I'm trying to mantle.

So, to escape the chaos, and in honor of the fact that I now have a permanent address, I decided to bite the bullet and get my Utah driver's license. Well, that and the fact that my license expires in a couple days. But, really, what could be more fun than sitting at the DMV for a few hours? And what could be more fun than taking a test full of questions relevant to actual driving like "What percentage of Utah children under the age of five regularly ride in a child safety seat?" Maybe it's just me, but it seems like it would be a lot more useful to ask a potential driver if they know what a green light is for.

But, that is why I am a stay-at-home-mom and not a bureaucrat (even if my motto is "Good enough for government work"). But, I did get the car seat question right, which means I am now officially re-qualified to hurtle my vehicle down the freeway at 65 mph. Doesn't that make you feel better? I know I feel warm inside.

Oops, forgot to change my shirt.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

The air is getting that little nip that says fall is on its way, which means one thing in our family:

Time to move again.

Ugh. As excited as I am about the new house, the thought of moving for the FIFTH year in a row makes me want to curl up and hibernate in my closet. But I can't do that because Matthew still naps in there and I'm not about to disturb a sleeping baby.

David is still living at the office. Would it scare you if I said this is the worst busy season he's ever had in eight years of number crunching? Except for our family reunion in San Diego, we have not seen him since June. In fact, we're not actually sure he still lives with us (case in point, Michael crawled into our bed at 3 a.m. a few weeks ago and said, in surprise, "Mom, what is Dad doing here?")

I would say I'm at the end of my rope, but that would imply that 1) I actually know where the rope is, and 2) I still have a hold on it, neither of which is true. I just stress-ate my way through a dozen sugar cookies and an entire bag of caramels in, well, I won't tell you how long. Let's just say it was less than 48 hours... possibly less than 24. By the end of this I'm going to be a card-carrying whale. Or, more likely, I'll just be eating a card-carrying whale. Shamu better swim for cover.

Michael is a complete wreck as well, spending untold amounts of energy trying to sneak into my bed after he has been tucked in his own, and then waking up half a dozen times a night wanting to cuddle. I've been a little lenient about it because I know he is struggling having his dad gone so much, but last night I laid down the law and told him he must sleep in his own bed. Later, when I went to check on him, I found this:


Yes, that is pretty much my entire bed transferred to his floor. Also, the bottom of a pack 'n play and, though you can't see it in the picture, his entire collection of books. Very creative of him, really. You know what they say, if you can't get to the bed, bring the bed to you.

Meanwhile, Matthew and Leah are vying to win the award for "Most Valuable Thing I Can Throw in the Garbage Can". So far, whoever threw an entire roll of stamps in is winning, though that could change at any moment. They also like to play, "Find the Most Random Place to Hide Something", "Turn on the Bathtub or the Knobs on the Stove" and "Put Vaseline, (or worse) in Somebody's Hair."

So far this week, Leah is pulling ahead on the gross things to put in her hair. Though it isn't necessarily her fault. Well, the vaseline was, but I'm sure she didn't mean to throw up in the night and then roll around in it. (Let me tell you, nothing says Good Morning like being hit with the smell of vomit as you walk in a room).

The good news is no more barfs. The bad news is Leah spent the entire morning glued to my lap, crying. So I'm just waiting for the next kid to bite the dust.

And then, I just realized, it's been awfully quiet during Michael's quiet time. Because, quiet time, while quiet in theory, usually involves three or more Mom-can-I-come-out-yets?. I just checked on him and he is sound asleep...

In my bed.

Sigh.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friends First

It's not often when you see everything that is wrong with today's relationships summed up succinctly in one little headline, but here it is: Why You Should Always Put Your Friends Before Your Husband.

Yes, you read that right.

The author, despairing over the disintegration of a 23-year "partnership" (whether all those years were spent married or unmarried, she doesn't say, though she does admit to a "short-term" affair somewhere in the in-between), encourages women everywhere to "bind your friends to you with hoops of steel, because the threads of marriage really are gossamer thin."

To prove her point, she throws forth the example of fellow divorcee, Karen, who tossed her friendships in the backseat when her possessive, jealous boyfriend needed a little more security. Ten years and two kids after saying "I do," the marriage ended and Karen was left without the friends she so desperately wanted.

How this is supposed to illustrate the need to hang onto one's friends over one's husband is not exactly clear. It seems to me that it is primarily an example of why a woman should not date or marry someone whose irrational and controlling behavior causes her to eliminate longtime friends from her life. So here's a little advice: If a guy is a controlling jerk, don't marry him. There, problem solved.

Now, let's assume the author did not marry a jerk. Why, then, would she treat her husband as something disposable or undesirable? Obviously everyone needs friends and the opportunity to pursue their own interests (and each marriage partner should allow their spouse some space for a basketball game or a girls' night out without complaint), but friendships should never be cultivated at the expense of damaging one's marriage. If the threads of her marriage really were "gossamer thin", she should have brought in reinforcements.

P.S. Girlfriends who are critical of her husband's every thought or (in)action don't qualify.

If friendships take work, why in the world would she expect a marriage to be any different? Here's a little tip -- Treat your husband as loyally and as kindly as you would a best girlfriend (how many bratty women out there treat their husbands like children, or worse, something the dog dragged home?) and you'll find those "steel hoops" are binding you together more strongly than ever. Prioritize. Don't spend twenty years putting your husband on the back burner and then act surprised when he walks out of your life -- If you have time to go see "The Help" with your besties or to organize the community yard sale, but you don't have the time to have a great sex life with your husband or lift him up after a long, hard day at work, there is something wrong with you and your priorities.

Whether you are bound to your husband with gossamer or steel is entirely up to you. But if you choose to use gossamer (yes, it's a choice), you'd better steel yourself for heartbreak.

And put a few friends on speed dial. You might need them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Parenting Lawsuit

Which of the following constitutes "bad" parenting?

- Failure to buy a toy for your child
- Sending a birthday card your child doesn't like
- Not including money in said birthday card
- Failing to take your child to a car show
- Telling your child to buckle her seatbelt or you'll notify police
- Haggling over a clothing allowance
- Enforcing curfew on Homecoming night
- Failing to send care packages to your child who is in college

What's that? You don't think any of the above actions qualifies as bad parenting? Well, I guess that's because you didn't see the birthday card. It had googly-eyed tomatoes on the front.

Tomatoes! With googly eyes! Oh, the horror!

Such horror, in fact, that two spoiled brats actually sued their mother, Kimberly Garrity, for emotional distress resulting from the above-mentioned instances of "bad" parenting.

I bet Ms. Garrity is wishing she had taken the opportunity to spank her children when she had the chance.

Leading the lawsuit with a self-satisfied smirk on his face, no doubt, was the adult childrens' father and erstwhile husband of Ms. Garrity, attorney Steven Miner.

The Cook County, Illinois judge who threw the case out of court said the frivolous lawsuit was nothing more than "children suing their mother for bad mothering." While I am glad the judge saw fit to toss the case out on its pathetic behind, I have to disagree with her. This isn't a case of children suing their mother for bad mothering, it's a case of children suing their mother for parenting.

You know, being a parent? Doing what parents do? Demanding a certain level of behavior and requiring that children be home by midnight?

These pathetic people should be ashamed of themselves. And the judge should have ruled that they pay their mother's legal expenses.

Also, that their mother should be allowed to spank them on their way out of court.

Although that would be too little, too late, I suppose.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Match Point

Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers, has some people up in arms over his no tattoos and no piercings directive to first-round draft pick, Cam Newton.

"...There's something troubling about Richardson's position," says columnist Mike Florio. "Richardson isn't Newton's father. Newton is a grown man, and he can do whatever he wants by way of decorating his body with ink or ice, or by growing his hair as long as he pleases."

Well, yes, he can, Mr. Florio. But, if Mr. Richardson is paying Newton millions of dollars to toss the pigskin around, and, by extension, represent the Panthers team, then he should be able to make whatever demands he wants on Newton's appearance.

When did we get to thinking that we have the right to go around doing whatever we want to ourselves, as if no one else should should be allowed to tell us how to dress or act and that nothing should have consequences? If a man who wants to give you millions of dollars to work for him says, "No tattoos," you would be wise to say, "Yes, Sir." Also, "Thank you."

Full disclosure: I hate tattoos. Hate them. I think they are tacky and ugly and up to no good. Plus, no matter how edgy some ink might be on the tight rear end of a Tight End, no eighty-year-old man is going to look attractive when that ink has edged past cool and landed just below his knees. Skin loses elasticity over time, and one doesn't need reminders of just how thoroughly.

I'm not saying that people with tattoos aren't decent or intelligent human beings, or that a small tattoo automatically turns someone into a grimy criminal, but if you are walking around with a giant cobra etched on your neck, I'm going to judge you for it. And here's why:

You want to be judged.

Oh, stop acting so self-righteous. You do. Otherwise you wouldn't slap a gigantic picture of a snake on your skin where everyone can see it. If it really were personal to you, you would keep it personal and put the snake somewhere it could shade itself from broad daylight. Dear Diary, not Dear National Enquirer.

You want people to notice your tattoo, and it's not just because you think a reptile is a lovely way to commemorate the birth of a relationship. You like that feeling of moral superiority that tickles your taste buds when a stranger makes the snap judgment that your book is likely in tune with its cover.

"These tattoos don't reflect who I am as a person," the inked like to say.

Excuse me, but of course they do. Why else would you have them?

If clothing and piercings and skull and crossbones tattoos say nothing about your character, why not grab Grandma's old caftan out of the closet and wear that? Or tattoo "George Bush Forever" across your nose?

Like it or not, how we dress and what we draw on our skin is a reflection of who we are. And not only is it a reflection of who we are, it is a reflection of our families and the businesses we represent. And it influences how we will act.

So, I can't blame Mr. Richardson for wanting to protect his million-dollar investment by saying "No" to a bunch of permanent ink. A book is represented by its cover, like it or not.

Cam Newton would be wise to keep his cover signature free.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fashion Bug


Yesterday morning I emerged from the shower to find that Leah was wandering around the kitchen with a maxi pad stuck to her chest. She was pleased as punch with her new fashion accessory. I was going to pull it off, but then I thought, why not let her enjoy it now? She certainly won't enjoy it after she's spent half her life feeling like a soggy phonebook is bonded to her underwear.

So I took a picture, but it turned out to be a little too Lady Gaga meets Lindsey Lohan's mug shot for my taste. So I'm posting this swimsuit picture instead because it makes me think fondly of simpler days. Also because it makes me go "Awwwwww."

And, it's so fashionable and cute, and this is a post about fashion. More specifically, little girls and fashion. And the fact that my sweet eighteen-month-old Leah actually cares what outfit she wears. Which confused me at first, but now it makes sense. I mean, you know what they say, "Hell hath no fury like a toddler who is not allowed to choose her own outfit."

Wait, they don't say that? Well, they would have if they had met Leah.

Lest you think this is the hill I really want to die on, let it be known that I don't actually care what she wears. If it's in her closet, she can wear it. But footie pajamas on a Costco outing in 95-degree weather seem like overkill, don't you think?

Choosing an outfit for Leah is like having to find the true Holy Grail among the collection of impostors. Oh, the screaming, rolling-around-the-floor tantrums (complete with tears that would put any crocodile to shame) that result when I choose poorly. Lately she spends half the day in her jammies or her diaper because I cannot find any outfit to please her.

I can't wait till Junior Prom rolls around.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Return to Real Life

Sometimes I pack as if I were headed to Africa for three weeks and not somewhere five minutes from a Walmart. Especially with two toddler-age children who still need everything from booster chairs to pack 'n plays. If I'm already packing the kitchen sink, why not throw in a shade umbrella and six extra shirts? (Two toddlers armed with faucets for noses can cause one to go through an awful lot of shirts in a day).

But I've decided I don't need to worry so much. Packing necessities are now:

Wallet
Cell Phone
Car Keys
Diapers
Blankies

Everything else is negotiable.

So it was, after a last-days-of-summer hurrah with family, that I loaded my kids in the car and started the journey back to real life.

Real Life and I are not exactly on the best of terms. But it's his fault, really. If he would come at me gently instead of running at me, waving a sledgehammer and screaming, I might be more amenable to inviting him in. As it was, I braced myself and wished for September 15th so I can have a husband again and someone to help me put the kids in bed. Then I hopped in the car, determined to make record time.

I have a method for driving with small children when David is not around to help: Ignore everything. And I did, until Michael called from the back seat, "Mom, I think I'm going to barf!"

"You're going to throw up?! Quick, find something! Do you need me to pull over? Grab the tray off that booster seat and use that!"

Then I fervently prayed that he wouldn't panic and use the bag of hand-me-down shoes I'd just procured from my sister-in-law or throw up on top of an unwashable suitcase.

After a few ominous burps, he put his headphones back on and settled into watching a movie. Crisis averted via Divine intervention. Leah was already traveling with a fever. I didn't want to add vomit to the mix.

So, our journey continued on without incident until I reached for the can of Pringles sitting in the treat box and realized they were missing. This is when I put two and two together and realized those things I'd seen Michael munching on in the rearview mirror were potato chips - an entire can worth. Upset stomach solved.

Not much later, Michael wanted to get out of his seat to raid the treat box. As we had just narrowly avoided a digestion-related disaster, I refused to let him. This is when he started saying things like, "If you don't let me have a treat I'll never want a treat again!"

Apparently he never graduated from Blackmail 101.

So he didn't get a treat, and his whining progressed to "I don't like my mom," and "My mom is mean," and a couple other things I couldn't hear because the stereo mysteriously kept getting louder and louder. Suddenly, I had an urge that couldn't be suppressed. I committed a cardinal sin:

I turned on Christmas music.

It was about the time Brian Stokes Mitchell was singing about sages leaving their contemplations that Leah woke up and yelled, "All done!" Then her head flopped over and she went right back to sleep. I must say, I do appreciate the sleepy factor associated with a fever. Nothing like a little (non-gastroenterological) illness to take the edge off of kids trapped in a car.

And I needed the peace and quiet. Especially because, an hour from home, I got smashed by a splitting headache and what I assumed were traveling-related aches.

Nope. I'm sick. And so is Matthew... again.

Come on, Real Life. The babies have only been to nursery one time. One. And it's summer. It would be nice if you could lay off the illness for awhile.

Also, get rid of the sledgehammer.

It would do wonders for your image.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just Another Lazy Sunday

I've always thought that Sunday feels better if breakfast meanders closer to 10 a.m. than 7 and involves some sort of berries and fresh cream. Mine did.

And it's nice when you can walk around in your bathrobe till mid-morning. I did.

And when someone else makes breakfast for you. My mother-in-law did.

But having spent half the night before rocking a very sick baby and having my snowed-under husband leave for work Sunday morning instead of piling up on the couch with the kids and their blankies ruined any soothing benefit that might have been derived from drinking orange juice from a small glass. I shoved pancakes in my mouth faster than I could swallow so I could hurry back to cradling my fevered little boy.

Once Matthew fell asleep I threw some chicken in the crockpot and made a batch of brownies for my 9 extra dinner guests, most of whom were scheduled to arrive later that afternoon. I whisked together the ingredients for a homemade salad dressing and told myself I would have more time to finish the chopping and tossing later.

After Matthew awoke from his short nap, his condition continued to deteriorate and his breathing became so labored that David came home to take the other kids to church and I ran to instacare with Matthew.

I spent the next three-and-a-half hours there while Matthew received everything from nebulizer treatments and steroids to chest x-rays and deep suction to try and clear out his airways. Exhausted from the medical circus, he finally slept in my arms.


Sitting in a stark exam room, the silence can often feel like a jackhammer on the eardrums. But sometimes, the silence can feel so peaceful and so healing that to interrupt it would be unthinkable. So I cradled my sleeping baby close as my heart whispered to heaven on his behalf.

Over time his oxygen levels improved, but he was still struggling so much that a trip to the local children's specialty hospital was on and off the table. When the doctor finally released him almost four hours later, it was with an armload of inhalers, medication, and instructions to return later that evening for further observation.

I arrived home to a house full of dinner guests who were mostly done with their meal. Leah cried as soon as she saw me and remembered I had abandoned her. My mother-in-law had tried to make the best of my halfway dinner preparations, but my absence left the ingredients for party-sized salad wilting in my fridge and the corn went untouched. It's funny how you can feel guilty for less-than-perfect presentation even when you were dealing with an emergency. "I'm sorry about dinner," I said. "There was supposed to be a salad." As if salad were important. As if it somehow mattered.

Matthew was stable enough at the re-check to stay home overnight, so he slept in a pack 'n play next to my bed. This morning he popped his little face above the side of his cage and said, with a smile, "Mama!" In spite of a low-grade fever and a yucky cough, he has mostly returned to his mischievous ways, stopping by my lap every few minutes for a cuddle, and then hopping down to follow his sister into trouble.

It's amazing how quickly life can return to normal.

To prove it, my house is a mess that I can't bear to clean. And I just noticed a random tampon in my jar of pens. This means one of two things: Leah somehow managed to clamber up to the desk, or my mother-in-law thinks my disorganization level has reached a new low and didn't want to ask me what to do with the personal product she found on my kitchen floor.

I wouldn't be surprised by either one.

Now there's a return to normal.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

There is Wisdom in Specificity

This afternoon I sent Michael to his room for quiet time. He asked if he could take the book of letters and numbers he was working on, which required the use of a dry erase marker. I told him he could, but to be careful not to get any marker on the carpet.

Technically, he was obedient -- he didn't get any marker on the floor.


He even "painted" his toenails.

Memo to self: make sure you close all the loopholes before releasing a marker to the custody of a four-year-old.

Project Tattoo Removal will commence at 1500 hours.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Case for Home Schooling

I would never want to home school.

That's not to say that I don't think it's valuable or that it's not absolutely necessary in some situations, but I am just not cut out for it. Ask me how the David-working-15-hours-a-day-while-I'm-home-with-three-kids thing is going and you'll get the sense from the spastic twitch in my eye that I simply don't possess the patience to add school marm to my list of growing responsibilities.

Oh, I teach Michael things. We work on math sometimes, and letters, and do little art projects mostly involving crayons and fruit loops because I can't bear to get out the paint when I already spend all day every day cleaning. Though I think I just might be up for taking the paint outside today. That way I can squirt everything down with a hose when we're done (What I need is a big drain in the middle of my kitchen floor. Who's with me?).

But, I'm starting to realize I might have to rethink the whole homeschooling thing after reading articles like this one and this one.

To summarize, kids in Indiana no longer have to learn cursive. The argument is that cursive is an antiquated form of communication that should take its proper place among the dried-up dinosaur bones (because, obviously, nothing valuable could possibly be gained by having to practice one's handwriting). Not only does no one use cursive anymore, no one can read it, either. Sorry Grandma, no more personalized thank you notes. All you're getting is a one sentence email that uses text speak and gratuitous spelling mistakes to thank you for the lovely $$ you sent.

I hate to think what will happen if the power ever goes out.

And students in San Francisco will now be getting a full dose of gay history. Move over, George Washington, it's gay pride time. Now, I'm not opposed to kids learning about different groups of people, but for heaven's sake, let's have some priorities. When high schoolers graduate without being able to answer basic questions about the Revolutionary War or the powers belonging to congress but they can discuss the political contributions of Harvey Milk, there is something wrong with the curriculum. Truly important historical events should not be crowded out of the history books to make way for the contributions of every single minority on the planet.

I recently had a friend comment to me that she thinks kids are so much smarter and learning so much more these days than in generations past. Sorry, but I think Laura Ingalls at nine could have kicked our kids' fannies in every subject from math to geography. And she would have done it with proper grammar and correct spelling. In cursive. With diagrammed sentences.

Hey, come to think of it, she was partly home schooled.

As I was saying...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Random Thoughts

Wearing sunglasses indoors does not identify you as being cool; it identifies you as being full of yourself.

I'm really glad JK Rowling didn't die before completing the seventh Harry Potter book. Can you imagine the horror of being subjected to fifty years of "What she would have written."? Ugh.

Based on when children actually get sick, doctors' offices should be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00 PM to 8:00 AM.

I hate it when people refer to their children as "accidents." Besides being too much information, is that really how you want your kid to think of himself, as a mistake or something unwanted? So what if you didn't intend to get pregnant - that means your child was a surprise blessing. He's not the aftermath of a drunken car crash.

Is anyone else annoyed by the mile-long receipts at stores these days? Please stop printing out thirty coupons and the entire legal explanation of the grand prize that will be mine if I just take this survey. I have enough to handle without having to spend ten minutes folding up a receipt so it will fit in my wallet.

Drive thru pharmacies are the only way to go. In fact, I think the entire world should function solely by drive thru and email.

I'm starting to think I need homing devices on all of my stuff. This week I found a pair of Leah's sandals under the kitchen sink, my electric hand mixer in the middle of the garage, and a crockpot in my bathroom. It's no wonder I can never find anything these days, what with two little elves scattering things about.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Misguided Stamp of Approval

Hold onto your middle school hats, it's story problem time.

Sheila is a caterer who has made a beautiful batch of cupcakes that she is saving as a thank you gift for one of her best clients. She has a teenage daughter, Jessica, who craves sweets and likes to sneak into the pantry every once in awhile to down one of the forbidden treats. How should Sheila best handle this?

A) Keep the cupcakes in the pantry. Jessica is well aware of the house rules, and if she does try to sneak a cupcake, Sheila should reprimand and/or punish her accordingly.

B) Keep the cupcakes at a friend's house. If Jessica decides to eat a cupcake over there, it's fine. As long as she doesn't eat it at home or eat all of them, Sheila's client will never notice the missing one.

C) Put the cupcakes out on the table with a napkin and a note that says, "Since you are going to eat a cupcake anyway, I might as well make it easier for you. Make sure you clean up the crumbs after you are done."

You picked C, right? Because that's what friends do?

Oops, did I say friends? I meant parents. That's what parents do? Well, at least in this alternate reality we call the 21st century.

Assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amy Schalet, is encouraging parents to reevaluate their views on cupcakes, um, I mean, teenage sex. (Okay, it just struck me as funny that I crafted a sex metaphor using cupcakes. But it's late and I don't feel like changing "cupcakes" to jelly beans. Also, pretty sure caterers don't bake jelly beans and really, I was just trying to prove a point. I never said it was a perfect comparison.) Ahem, where were we? Oh yes, teenage sex. Ms. Schalet suggests that family life will improve if parents have "more open ideas about teenage sex," i.e., let their teens have sex at home. Family unity will increase, more responsible sex will take place, and teens can feel comfortable about their relationships instead of sneaking around.

Because nothing says family harmony like letting your teenagers do whatever they want with whomever they want. With your blessing. Under your roof.

With apologies to Ms. Schalet, this is absolutely insane. It is simply horrifying how widespread this idea ("They're going to do it anyway, so we might as well help them do it as safely as possible") is becoming. And it's only expanding. You don't believe me? Not only are parents providing the alcohol and drugs for their teenagers' parties, now health officials in California have crafted safety guidelines for using ecstasy, an illegal drug. "Take frequent breaks, stay hydrated, and don't mix ecstasy with other substances," they say. Taking it a step further, Supervised Injection Sites are popping up from Vancouver to Australia. At these facilities, trained nurses actually inject their clients with illegal drugs. Clean needles, medical help available in case of an overdose. What could possibly be better than that?

I'm sorry, but would the world stop, please? I want to get off.

I'm not sure when societal philosophy morphed from "train up a child in the way he should go" to "let your kid do whatever he wants so you can have peace at the dinner table" but I tremble to consider the impact of this way of thinking a few years down the road. We are already seeing bits and pieces of it, and it is truly frightening.

Certainly, as Ms. Schalet says, giving a teenager free reign when it comes to her love life will increase family peace and harmony. So will buying a treat at the grocery store to placate a tantrum-throwing toddler. That doesn't mean it's the wise or appropriate thing to do, nor that the resulting contentment is the kind that will last.

Not to mention, I can't think of anything more damaging to a teenager's self esteem than to say, "We have so little faith in you and your ability to control yourself that we are going to place no expectations on you. In fact, since you have no ability to work for or wait for the things you want, we are going to help you give in to your every whim. Here's a condom. Have fun!"

This sounds to me like the kind of freedom that ties itself around the ankles until one can't even walk without tripping. How did we forget that self esteem does not come from doing whatever you want to be doing (or from just showing up and expecting to be handed a trophy), it comes from working hard to accomplish the things you should be doing and controlling your impulses to delay gratification.

Productive, happy adults are not born of toddlers who never learned to control themselves. Nor is happiness a recipe built from equal parts selfishness and instant gratification.

It's time to expect more of our children.

And it's time for them to expect more of themselves.

Friday, August 5, 2011

No Child Left Behind (Even When They Should Be)

There is a growing adults only movement spreading throughout the world. Restaurants are starting to prohibit small children. Hotels, movie theaters, even airlines are getting in on the act.

Some parents are crying discrimination over the fact that someone might prevent them from bringing Little Johnny to the midnight showing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 7. But here's the thing about banning children -- if parents can't or won't do the discriminating, businesses will.

You see, back in the day, parents understood that children are not miniature adults. Not only that, but they had the good sense not to bring their two-year-old to The Plaza Hotel for brunch, and, if for some emergency reason Junior had to accompany his parents, he knew to keep his lips zipped or he'd be whisked out to the curb faster than he could say "Mine!". Now, since parents generally feel that their darling little tots have a right to accompany them everywhere and a right to act however they want and bother whomever they want, businesses are responding by setting their own boundaries.

Rightfully so. When we lose the ability to discern what is appropriate and what is not, we lose privileges. This is not discrimination, it's common sense. If parents cannot understand that symphony concerts are not suited to those who make a habit of taking a morning splash in the toilet, concert halls should be allowed to prohibit the precious little ankle biters from entering the place.

As for restricted sections on airplanes or trains, I think they are a great idea. As a mom who just spent a 1.5 hour round trip on a train trying unsuccessfully to shush her screaming babies, I would have welcomed the idea of a cabin for adults only. This would have been a great relief not only to me, but to the group of irritated retirees seated across from me who used the entire trip to talk loudly about my lack of parenting skills. "Why are those babies still crying? They must be hungry or thirsty," they said, as if they hadn't just observed me spending the last ten minutes offering my children every single thing in my diaper bag to no avail. "I bet they are sick. She should change their diapers. Oh, I wish she had gotten off at the last stop." News flash, folks, so did I. But sometimes babies will just cry no matter what the parents do. And for those people who can't or don't want to sympathize, an adults-only section would be ideal. Really, no one wanted to box up my children and ship them in the cargo section more than I did, but I had to ride the train, and I couldn't exactly jump off mid-journey, so I had to manage as best I could. Wouldn't it have been great if I could have gotten rid of the childless adults and their snarky comments? We all could have been happier.

Frankly, I hate traveling with small children. And I hate traveling with other peoples' small children. Airline travel, especially, is miserable. By the time you pay your life savings, get through security, and get on a plane that is actually cleared to go somewhere, you are ready to swear off flying for the rest of your life.  Add in some screaming children and pretty soon the entire plane is volunteering to take up skydiving. So, I understand why airlines are beginning to see potential dollar signs in child-free sections of a plane. No children? Yes, please. I don't even want to be with my own kids.

On the other side of the issue, I would love to see (and I bet we will see) airlines create "family friendly" sections of planes where families could gather without having to worry about the cranky businessman seated in seat C12.

Children are not adults and should not expect to have all the privileges or opportunities connected with age-earned maturity. And parents should not demand those privileges as if there were some inalienable right to take their children wherever they want.

It's high time we started leaving our children behind on some occasions and demanding better behavior from them when they are allowed to accompany us. I, for one, am glad to see some businesses are wising up. It's as a mother of three small children that I say this to child-free businesses:

Discriminate away.