Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Master Packer

When we were getting ready for family vacations, it went a little like this:

Mom printed out her list of items that we owned. This was her list of things to bring with her.

Mom emptied out the cupboards and closets and placed it all neatly in a "staging area" which was usually a little in the kitchen, a little in the living room and a little in every other room.

Mom packed Dad's things.

Dad shows up on leaving day with a schedule in mind that he may or may not have shared with Mom.

Mom shows him the piles he's to pack, he "encourages" the children to help him move Mom's staging areas to Dad's staging area outside behind the Yellow And White Suburban.

This is where things start to go awry. Mom never gives Dad the items he wants when he wants them. Mom's tired from the weeks of packing up the entire house, so she may or may not be a little grumpy. Dad's worried about loading up the entire house into the Yellow And White Suburban while still leaving all windows available for clear viewing with no potential projectiles. Usually there was room for all three children. Including the one who may or may not have been grouchy because we were traveling on her birthday. Again.

Multiply all of this times twelve when the Avocado Green (this may or may not have been in the early 80's) push and shove trailer was involved. Including the amount of stuff. My Mom has an amazing knack for knowing the exact cubic footage available to her and using each cubic inch.

But I watched this dance so many times that it became natural. Normal. When I was in high school I would sometimes go places with a friend of mine and would always end up packing her family's car.

So as I pack for our family vacation, I am taking my lessons learned and using them. And hopefully improving on them. Or not. There is a rather large staging area in my garage. The only lists that exist are either in my head or scribbled on a napkin or crumbled up piece of paper. I am trying to find things in my house that I can leave at home (do you think I'll need my box of receipts from 2002? Yeah, I thought I would, too.). I think all of the grocery shopping is done. The library trip has been made and card games are in the staging area. There may or may not be enough room for all three of my children.

I am apropriately exhausted. And the vacation has not even begun.

P.S. Dad, if you don't start blogging again, I'm going to keep writing about you...

Monday, June 23, 2008


When my oldest child was about eighteen months old, my husband still traveled. We had been painting our master bedroom before Sarge left, and while he was gone, I thought that I could be superwoman and finished painting our room while he was gone. My plan was to put it all back together and cleaned up before he came home. I thought it was a nice thing to do.

I was putting the finishing touches on the room - I opened the last gallon of paint to touch up those last few spots (har. har. for those who know how badly I paint - I could have painted for hours and still wouldn't have gotten all the spots I'd missed). I closed it up and went to get the last few things to hang on the wall.

I walked no further than 15 feet away into the kitchen to get something. I walked back and the scene I saw was one I couldn't believe.

There was my sweet eighteen month old child splashing in a gallon of paint that was pooling around him, all over the carpet at the foot of my bed. He was delighted with himself. So proud of what he'd discovered for himself.

I froze. Because, honestly, what do you do first?

I plucked my child from the puddle. I stripped him and washed him up as best I could and ran with him to my neighbor's house. "Please, would you watch him for just a minute? I have a GALLON OF PAINT IN MY CARPET."

I literally scooped half a gallon of paint back into the can. With my hands. I tried using my carpet cleaner. It was a joke - I could have done it for hours and it wouldn't have gotten all the paint up. I even called a carpet cleaning service - when the guy showed up he laughed. Literally. He wouldn't even touch it.

The next week, I took my sweet baby to have his portraits taken (He was my first. All his portraits were taken on the actual days. Not those blown-up snapshots taken a month after the fact. But whatever.) I dressed him in the shirt he had been wearing that day that had little splashes of paint around the bottom. So that we'd never forget.

And, this was totally supposed to be a post about the five gallon bucket of paint that sprung a leak at the bottom in my garage today while I was lifting it over my head, but I'll get to it.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Tax Time

It's twilight camp time again, and I've had the pleasure of spending the last week with some pretty fun nine-year olds.

But first, a rewind. When we were young, we would sometimes get Oreos for dessert after dinner. We each got four. My father took one. He explained that it was tax, that we had to give away our cookie to the government of the house. He claimed it was a life lesson. I think he just wanted a cookie, but I digress.

So on the first night, as I watched a boy ask his dad to open his cookies and all the cookies were returned to him, I told the boys about how my dad would take tax. After getting over what a horrible and deprived childhood I must have led, they became fascinated. Now, each day, over dinner, I'm asked question after question about taxes. They have no idea that I'm the world's least qualified person for the job, but I do my best.

"What if the government takes more than you earn?" They won't, they always take a portion. But the more you earn, the more they take. If you got ten cookies, they might take three.

"What if you don't pay your taxes?" You don't want to do that. You don't mess with the tax man.

"What if you can't pay your taxes?" You always can, sometimes people choose to spend it on something different, but the government doesn't take more than you have, unless you chose to spend it on video games, or you chose to eat all your cookies before the tax man can find you. Regardless, it's a very bad idea.

"What if you only have enough to pay your electric bill or your taxes, but not both?" Umm. We'll talk about budgeting tomorrow, 'kay?

So, when the boys are asked what they learned at cub scout camp, I'm a little concerned that they won't say that they learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, or they learned about poisonous snakes or that they made a soap box derby car or a leather pouch.

Instead, it might be, "I learned about the Weird American Tax System."

Um, I hope I'm invited back next year. Thanks, Dad.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Securing my spot in the Bad Mother Hall of Fame

Not in the "I chopped my baby's arms off and now want out of the loony bin with my ovaries intact" Bad Mother Hall of Fame, but the "ordinary mother that my kids will complain about in therapy when they're in their thirties (or sixties)" Hall of Fame. Just to clarify. In case you were worried.

So, yeah, we all know that my middle child losing a tooth is a really big deal, right? She's almost seven and she lost her second tooth yesterday. I've been itching and bribing to pull it, but she won't let me near it. Anymore. So finally, it was so disgustingly loose, it fell out while she was looking at the floor putting her skirt on. Her words, not mine. Not the disgustingly loose part, buy you get the picture. She looked like she was wiggling her dentures.

This happened first thing in the morning (oddly enough she was getting dressed in the A.M., which is a rarity around these parts this week). And it was a really long day, and she reminded me several times. And she went to bed like a dream, which should have clued me in right then and there. But, alas.


I was awakened by sobs this morning. Like a knife to the heart, my poor broken hearted baby could only choke out the words, "I...looked...everywhere...she...didn't...come." And fell into my arms, completely unaware that I was the one who broke her heart. My mind raced to think of a way to get the dollar under her pillow and "find" it, but she was not leaving my side. Devastated, both of us.

She went back upstairs several times during the day to turn her room upside down, obviously to no avail. She wrote the tooth fairy a note. A rather long note which included a little bribery (I'll leave you a penny next time I lose a tooth) and a little sweet talking (If you do show up please take these 15 O's for hugs from me) with a hint of exasperation (If you don't come, I don't know what to tell you). And she left a picture of the tooth fairy flying above her bed with a shiny dollar in the tooth fairy pillow that hangs next to her bed. She taped the note next to the pillow with the tooth in it.

During the day, she came up with several scenarios - possibly she was on summer vacation, or Mrs. Tooth Fairy was on a date with Mr. Tooth Fairy. That child thought of nothing else today.

And then, bedtime rolls around again. I'm doing a little laundry and about to turn in, when I realize that I nearly forgot again. Does it get any worse than that?

I wrote a note in the fanciest writing I could, in an attempt at thwarting the readers of my handwriting in this house, and wrapped it around a gold dollar coin. I've never been so sure I was going to be caught in my life - I had to take the tooth fairy note and slip the dollar in the pocket without the world's lightest sleeper catching me.

This tooth fairy thing is stressful, I tell you. And this one, she'll never forget. When she finds out who the tooth fairy is, I'm in for it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

resisting the urge


There. I feel much better now.

The oldest child really, really, really didn't want to go somewhere tonight. He really didn't want to go to a local park where there were a bunch of high powered telescopes looking at the moon and Saturn. He just was really mad about having to leave the house and do something outside of his comfort zone. "Astronomy is dumb. It's so boring."

But honestly. I was just so frustrated by him, but the other two were game, and it's something that I was fairly certain that they all would get a kick out of. So I gritted my teeth, listened to a whole lot of whining and off we went.

As we walked up, there was a circle of telescopes in the middle of the park, maybe 15 or 20 of them, some of them bigger than this child, and mostly all of them worth more than my vehicle (which isn't saying a whole lot, but still!). His eyes got big and his jaw slacked a little and I felt a little spring in his step. He was moving faster, and I believe the word "cool" may have even slipped out of his mouth.

We were greeted warmly by one of the telescope owners and started looking through the friendliest people's telescopes. Honestly, they were all just so unbelievably nice, able to answer the stupidest questions without so much as a giggle. All three children were totally hooked.

We saw the moon. We saw craters. The youngest even claimed to have seen an astronaut (fabrication? Yeah, I think so, too.). Then it got a little darker and we saw Saturn. And one of it's moons. And two stars. And the North star. And a star that blinked and had a red and green glow - oh, wait, never mind, that was an airplane.

We stayed over an hour, just looking through different telescopes and talking to people. My child was so fascinated by talking to these people who were fluent in geek, just like him. He is making plans to go next month and the month after. He's making a list of things he'd like to see through the telescopes. And he expressed his gratitude for me taking them.

And my lip is bleeding because I've been biting it so hard for over an hour.

Friday, June 13, 2008

unconditional love

The oldest swam up to me at the pool today. He asked, matter of factly, as if he were asking whether I liked red or blue better, "Mom, if you could choose between not having your left leg or not having me, which would you choose?"

"Are you kidding?" I asked, floored at the question. "I would give up both legs before I would not have you! I can't believe that you even thought you had to ask!"

"Oh. Good. If you did, I'd give you my legs. But you'd be kind of short. Well, not as short as I'd be without them."

And his new favorite word is superfluous. It happened over dinner. We were discussing my name and how it is usually spelled with a superfluous letter, though mine is not. And, true to form, he couldn't say it until I'd written it down for him and he saw it.

My gosh, I love summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Old Man.

We took a highly unusual trip to the mall today. We went to the movies and Sarge wanted to look at some sunglasses at the hip, cool store. Because his, *gasp* got a scratch on the lens and are now completely unacceptable. But back to the cool, hip store.

We walked in and were courteously greeting by a teenaged boy with his hat on a little cockeyed, indicating, I think, his level of cool. Sarge was trying on some sunglasses, admiring himself in the mirror and asking all the right questions. The teenager was very helpful, answering all the questions that Sarge threw at him. And then, it happened.

Sarge tried on a pair that were nice. And the boy said, "Yeah, my dad has those."

I almost hugged the boy, but was too busy laughing at my husband.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why having children who can read is a problem.

"Mom, what's 'E.D.'? The cartoon says there's a rabbit with E.D. and I think it's supposed to be funny."

"Mom, this guy had a job as a towel boy in a brothel. What's a brothel? It's B-R-O-T-H-E-L."

"Mom, what's rehab? All the cartoon characters are going to cartoon rehab. Grimm has to go to rehab because he can't stop drinking out of the toilet."

ARRGH! My head is going to explode and it's only the second day of summer. Send help.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dining at the finest restaurant in town.

Sarge and I were in for a big treat tonight. Unexpectedly, we were able to eat at a place with candles on the table, a real table cloth, water WITH lemon in it, and refills offered at every turn. The food was served cheerfully and the company was pleasant. And, the servers were dressed to the nines. The table was cleared without a word when we were finished. Dessert was served by candlelight also.

The unusual part about this restaurant? It was in my home, and the servers were underage and didn't require monetary tips.

The food was leftovers, but nobody cared. My oldest got the idea and the others followed along with great gusto. The middle one had the idea to get dressed up to serve us, and they did all the work themselves, down to the slicing of the lemon (see? he is getting so big!). All I had to do was cut up the meat and put the black beans on my spinach salad.

Best. Meal. Ever.

Baby snail

I showed my littlest child a sonogram picture of his new cousin this morning. It was a picture of the baby's head, clear as day - you know, the ones that even your husband can tell what they are?

I asked him what he thought he saw.


"A skirt?"

"SNAIL. It's definitely a snail."

We won't talk then about when I had sonogram pictures on my fridge of my littlest child, when about after three months, I realized that the last picture - the one I couldn't quite figure out? The one that had an arrow and the word, "boy" typed on it? Yeah, baby p*rn in my kitchen. Same kid who thinks his cousin is a snail.

So, yes, baby snail, we are so happy to see you. Even if you are a snail.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A perfect ending.

Today was the last day of school for my kidlets. I've decided that everyone should go to a party after school to celebrate the beginning of summer and have all kinds of ridiculous fun. And so we did.

We invited all kinds of friends over and we played outside and inside and outside and we ate ALL afternoon long. There was the obligatory slip-n-slide that only sortof worked, water balloons and there were puddles all over my kitchen floor We had a salon for some of the girls and we watched E.T., which apparently still makes me cry, but didn't even start it until 9:30. And some kids stayed and are currently sleeping in various locations around my house.

Some parents stayed, some did not - I forgot to even count the number of children that were here - all I know is that currently there are six, and I'm responsible for all of them (FOR NOW.)

And so, this structured, bedtime by 8:30, brush all your teeth, eat at the table life that we lead was thrown out the window for this day. This special celebration day for everyone - teachers, kids and parents alike - was celebrated big at my house.

I'm sure I'll regret it tomorrow, but I know I won't regret it in the long run.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

So big.

I'm not sure whether to cry or rejoice, but my oldest child is becoming more and more independent. I always knew that my goal for raising my children was for them to become independent adults, but it's the moments when you notice that they are achieving these things that make your heart leap.

Tonight, he asked for a glass of milk. "Mom, I can get it myself." But unlike a two year old who claims to do everything "myself", he actually could. And then I complimented him on his growing independence - he can fix his own breakfast and the other day he made himself a sandwich. Which, he reminded me, involved a successful use of the toaster.

He said he would work on mastering the microwave next. Shoot, that's already more kitchen appliances than most grown men. If I can teach him to boil water, he'll be the most popular kid in college. "Dude [I'm sure that will be an old-fashioned term by then. We'll replace it in ten years with the cooler version] -- you can make ramen AND grilled cheese. Dude, wanna be my roommate?" And you know the girls will swoon. Ahem, I might be ahead of myself. Excuse me, back to the mastering of kitchen appliances.

He's been mostly taking care of his own hygiene now for the better part of a year. Until he starts to smell bad, then we'll revisit that one. And now eating. If only I could get him to do homework without a gentle nudge. Or two. We'll worry about that in the fall, I suppose, for now, I will just revel in his ability to satisfy his own hunger (and when he's feeling generous, possibly the hunger of his siblings) while I lie leisurely in bed resting my pretty little head. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

A girl can dream.

Monday, June 2, 2008

self esteem

I have always worried about my daughter's self esteem. Always.

I've never been given any huge sign to worry, I've just always known that girls typically have self esteem issues and that she may be more prone to them because she is simply incapable at laughing at herself, which really helps when dealing with that type of issue.

I've been careful to not complain about my body, or complain excessively about my physical faults or talk a lot about dieting. When she came to me before bath with her stomach sucked in and every rib showing, asking, "Mommy, what would you think if I looked like this?" I found my breath and then told her that she didn't look healthy and strong to me. We always tell her she's beautiful and point out the things that we like about her (inside and out!).

I've been proud of myself for being so careful with her self esteem, knowing that when she's six that if it's healthy, then it will be further to fall when she's older and naturally more self conscious. Until the other day.

She says to me, "There are windows at school in the hallway that have mirrors, and every time I walk back from PE or lunch, I look at myself in those mirrors." And I started to panic as she paused, waiting for what was to come next. Nervous. Very nervous. She continued.

"And I think I look beautiful. Super beautiful."

So now I'm thinking that I need to concentrate on vanity and the dangers thereof.