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:

Cell Phone
Car Keys

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.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oh Abby, You're So Mature

Did you know that advice columnist, Jeanne Phillips (a.k.a. "Dear Abby") writes a column for a junior high school newspaper?

Wait... she doesn't?

Well, she could have fooled me with her juvenile response to "Taken Advantage of in Minnesota":

DEAR ABBY: I loaned money to a couple of family members when I was overseas. They had fallen behind on their bills, so I sent them each $1,000 to get caught up. It's two years later, and I have yet to see a dime from either one of them. I have sent them both letters asking to have "some" money paid back; both sent me excuses about why they can't pay anything. However, on Facebook they write about how they went shopping, joined a gym and so on. I feel I have been taken advantage of. What can I do to get this settled? -- TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF IN MINNESOTA

DEAR TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF: Try this ... post on your Facebook page: "It's funny what short memories some people have. I loaned 'Tom' and 'Geri' $1,000 two years ago when they fell behind on some bills. Instead of repayment, I have received nothing but excuses -- and all the while I see their postings about shopping at the mall and going to the gym. What DEADBEATS!"

Maybe it will shame your relatives into paying up. (Or not, because some people have no shame.)

Holy cow, I just broke into a cold sweat thinking of pre-calculus and junior prom and sitting awkwardly in the back of the classroom while the cheerleaders use their group book report as an excuse to flirt with the basketball team.

Honestly, Abby, have you no shame? Maybe I dozed through the section in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" on using public humiliation as a means for achieving one's goals, but it seems to me that acting like a vengeful teenage girl isn't going to do anything to change anyone's behavior. It's only going to sow seeds of anger and defensiveness, neither of which will help "Taken" get what she wants.

So, Abby, try this on for size: Maybe you could suggest that "Taken Advantage of In Minnesota" talk privately with her relatives about their spending habits, which appear to suggest that they could afford to repay a small sum each month. Then set up a payment plan for an agreed upon dollar amount (whether it's $5 or $50) until the debt is repaid.

If they still won't pay up, "Taken" has two choices: take them to court (which doesn't do much in the way of promoting family harmony), or forgive the debt, forget about it, and never loan money to these people again.

In the end it's only money, and it's only a thousand dollars.

Ruining an otherwise good family relationship is hardly worth that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Vacation in Silhouette

How could you go wrong with a vacation that involves this?

And this?

Especially when your husband's work week takes a dive from 70 or 80 hours to let's-watch-this-sunset-together instead. Perfect.

Of course, now he might be pushing 90 hours as he makes up for those days spent relaxing on the beach, but let's not think about that. It's better to remember those serene moments when seawater was lapping at our toes and the babies were wailing as they gobbled yet another mouthful of sand-enhanced ritz crackers.

Um, scratch that last one.

Let's just say two 18-month-old sand eaters plus one expansive beach does not equal vacation bliss for Mom. Or for the babies, whose diapers were officially rendered Grade A sandpaper. But, we learned our lesson after one day and swapped baby duty from thereon out so that the little ones (and their mother) didn't become complete sand crabs. Grandma even pitched in on two afternoons, keeping watch on the baby monitor while Matthew and Leah snoozed so that David and I could actually enjoy the ocean together.

We rode the waves on boogie boards, sunned ourselves on our comfy beach chairs, and covered our bodies in so much grit that I won't be surprised to find my hearing problems at 80 are caused by the sand that will undoubtedly still be in my ear canals then.

For a break from the beach we explored Old Town San Diego and went to the Mormon Battalion Museum.

We saw the seals in La Jolla, David took Michael to a Padres Game with all the uncles and boy cousins, and our family ventured to Sea World where we learned that we are one with the whales, or that we are whales, or something like that. I'm not sure if that was the message I was supposed to get, but spending a few days on the beach with your supermodel-thin sisters-in-law will do that to you. Besides, I liked feeling as if Shamu and I could relate to each other.

Mid-day at Sea World Michael had a sleep deprivation induced meltdown that David tried to remedy by offering him a treat.

"I don't want a treat!" Michael wailed.

"You don't want a treat?" David asked, somewhat bewildered.

"No. I've had too much junk," Michael said.

Ah, vacation.

Luckily, he didn't get the memo about ice cream being considered a junk food and was happily soothed by an ice cream bar in the shape of a killer whale.

Later that day, after we informed Michael (through gritted teeth) that we were not done having fun and could not go home yet, he asked for a "pet that doesn't move" and that he could take home "right now." David, Mr. Anti-Stuffed Animal in his pre-parenting days, forgot that he had sworn off the lovable little creatures in the name of less clutter, and was actively pushing for all of the kids to choose their own sea animal.

By "choose" I mean David, lacking only horns and a pitchfork, cooed convincingly from behind Michael's shoulder, "Michael, you really want a shark. You want a shark, don't you? The shark is sooo cool, Michael. You should get a shark."

So Michael "chose" a shark, which subsequently took a swim through the rosemary bushes outside of our beach house and came out smelling like Today's Special at the local Italian restaurant. Matthew cuddled a killer whale, and Leah got her very own "doggie", a soft gray dolphin. She can add it to the giraffe David bought her at Lagoon, and the stuffed elephant he just couldn't resist when he saw it was covered in tags -- the perfect gift for a little girl who likes to twist the silky washing instructions around her fingers as she sucks her thumb.

Okay, I admit it. They are pretty impossible to resist.

Now we are home, David is lost at work until September 15th, and I have enough sand waiting in my laundry pile to build my very own sandcastle on the patio. But as long as there's no sand in my underwear, I'm not complaining.

Michael, grab your bucket and sand shovel.

Last one to the patio is a rotten egg.