Monday, March 31, 2014

Canine Vanity

I always thought of myself as a cat lover.  Growing up, I had a wonderful cat that was as much a member of the family as I was, and it was that memory that led me to push for a cat in my own household, and for Joel to make it happen back in 2006.  But it only took a month or so with Ripley before I came to realize that the things I so loved about Sammy, the cat I grew up with (like how he would snuggle up next to me for a nap, or come when called or whenever the doorbell rang) were not cat traits at all.  They are dog traits.

Ripley, likely looking for a good angle on a major artery.
The following are true cat traits: 

-  stealing and binge-eating dog food
-  refusing to vomit said food on any hard or wipe-able surface
-  deliberately and methodically trying to trip me on the stairs
-  scaling the kitchen cabinetry to walk on the unstable pot rack as if it were a swing bridge
-  chewing up shoelaces
-  chewing up power cords
-  chewing up ponytail holders
-  decisively refusing any sort of affection except for during my first 10 waking moments, when I am expected to rub his ears while he repeatedly bites me

See what I mean?  From now on, I am a dog person.

Oscar, dreaming of ways to make us happy.
I have an animal in my house that can best be described as a doormat dog, so this was not a huge transition for me.  But to ensure my loyalty, my first order of business was to visit a family friend who raises dogs, and help socialize their latest litter of black and brown lab puppies. 

This excursion was booked as a fun opportunity for the boys, but in my heart I knew that my motives were selfish.  I have never been able to ignore any baby animal, and although I once argued that kittens were cuter, I only needed to conjure up the memory of my cat eating raw chicken breasts on the kitchen counter for me to become irrationally excited about visiting the puppies.

When we got there, I immediately had a lot of anxiety about the boys being too rough and stepping or sitting on one of the tiny puppies.  Instead, however, they spent the first 20 minutes nearly catatonic with a sleeping dog in their laps.  I, on the other hand, had to repeatedly calm myself down as my brain jumped at the chance to hold that one! and that one!  I think I kissed all eight of those puppies on the mouth with nary a regret.

About the time that Cael and Graham warmed up to the dogs, I made my second self-discovery.  While my cat has no concerns for anyone but himself and my dog cares only about making me happy, holding puppies makes me vain. 

Or put simply, puppies make me take copious selfies.

If you know me sans canine, you know that I am the kind of person that hides when the camera comes out, and never, ever, likes to see photos of myself.  But if you put a puppy in my hands, I have never looked better.  I will fill my handheld camera and iPhone with blurry, not especially creative photos of me holding, kissing and rubbing noses with sleepy puppies and show them to anyone willing to look, going as far as posting them on the, ahem, internet.

Major thanks go to our friend Craig for making my journey to self-discovery possible, and to the puppies for warming my view on dogs and photography in general.  Perhaps this experience will usher in a new camera-ready time in my life.

Which gives me an idea...

Oh yes, much better.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fabricating Mysteries

I've had another full-circle moment, and I'm choosing to blame it on pregnancy brain.  Any other explanation is too embarrassing to consider.

When Cael was just a baby, we would attend baby music classes, a chance for both of us to get out of the house and socialize, and for me to show off what was undoubtedly the most beautiful baby to be born in the state of Iowa in 2007.

But I was a busy mom, distracted even, and how often do you really look at your kids, anyway?  Really check them over?  Well that day I hadn't, and when we arrived at music class and removed Cael's coat, I was surprised to see a grapefruit-sized hole torn clean from the back of his off-white polo shirt. 

The infamous polo.
I was horrified.  Not in that "what happened to my child?" way, because I knew he was fine, but in that "this conflicts with the image that I've got it all together!" sort of way, and it had to be made clear that I wasn't aware earlier that my dog had quite clearly gotten tired of Iams and developed a taste for Dreft detergent.

Every time someone new entered the music room, I had to reiterate how I was not aware that my son was giving an unintentional peep show, nor was I making a fashion statement or encouraging the worn-in jeans agenda to apply to toddler sizes.  Bottom line, I was embarrassed.

Fast forward six years.

With Spring Break over, Cael was very anxious to get back to school and see his friends, play on the playground and show off his practiced reading skills.  So like any other morning, the boys woke up at what felt like 3am, yet we still struggled to get ready before the bus arrived.  I sent them to their room to get dressed, sent them back when they emerged wearing something less appropriate for school than Miley Cyrus would choose, and finally gave in and made breakfast when Cael showed up at the table in a green thermal t-shirt and jeans he'd pulled from the clean laundry basket.  Good enough.

But when Cael came home from school and scrambled up to the table to color for hours on end, I finally got a good look at him and was confused by what I saw.

"Cael, what on earth happened to your shirt?"

"I don't know, why?"

The back of his shirt's right arm was shredded, stained as if it had been caught and ripped from some greasy mechanism, and chunks of fabric hung on by threads like he'd been in a 1950's rumble from West Side Story.  And the more we discussed it, the more I came to realize that I must have sent him to school just like that.

This time, I wasn't there to defend myself, and unless Oscar's dental issues are much more severe than previously realized, I don't think I can blame the dog, either.  I guess I'll simply have to hope that everyone who saw Cael on Monday has a handful of kids, chores, and a little less time for clothing inspections and music classes than they once did. 

And maybe I'll double-check tomorrow to make sure he's wearing pants.  Don't know what's next, after all...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sugar Free

Spring Break is over, and we're in mourning.

Well, almost.  Cael spent seven or eight solid days begging me to send him to school, Graham spent seven or eight solid days picking on Cael, and I spent the time willing the boys to let me sleep in.

On a related note, Cael and Graham spent seven or eight solid days waking me up at 6:45am.  Some dreams just aren't in the cards, I guess.

We had great plans for what we would do over the break-- the places we could go, projects to tackle and all of the television shows we could binge-watch on Netflix.  But on Tuesday morning, I got an unexpected phone call.  One of the draws on my glucose tolerance test was elevated by two points.  I was being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes.
Not the end of the world, of course, but unbelievably frustrating when I learned that the threshold for diagnosis was recently lowered, and had I taken the test earlier I would not be spending my Spring Break sticking myself with needles and writing down everything I eat.  Or thinking nonstop about the things I couldn't eat.

As I write this, I only have four days of this diabetic routine under my belt, so I am no great resource for someone being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  I am, however, pretty observant and I've learned a few things that, if you're a mother-to-be, you can count on if you are given the same diagnosis.

- You never stop missing macaroni and cheese.

-  Carbohydrates are in everything.  I've eaten more meat and cheese in the last week than I have in my combined 30 years, and when I hit my limit on Saturday afternoon and nearly bit into a couch cushion just to have something different, I checked my reference book only to find that couch cushions will indeed raise my blood sugar.  Back to the veggies.  (Which have carbs, by the way.)
-  Pregnancy does something to a mother's brain that makes even the simplest tasks nearly impossible.  My memory is shot, my math skills are abysmal, and as a result, my food log is a jumbled mess of crossed-out words and numbers that even the most astute dietician would not be able to decipher.  The only upside?  I'm too tired and mentally disoriented to feel embarrassed about it.

-  Six year-olds seem unable to express empathy when their parent's wounds are self-inflicted.  Each time I have to lance myself to test my blood sugar, Cael's response is less "are you okay?" and more "LOOK WHAT YOU JUST DID... NOW YOU'RE GOING TO DIE!"

-  Seriously.  1/4 cup of macaroni and cheese is not sufficient for anyone.

-  But as much as I hate it, if these steps are what are needed to make sure my little man comes out safe and healthy, I'll do it gladly.  
Hungrily, but gladly.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Hope you're all feeling lucky today.  I think I might just go out and buy a lottery ticket, because I have my very own, very obscure, good luck charm.

"Cael, you look good in your green outfit today.  Just like a leprechaun!"

"What's a leprechaun?"

"Don't you remember from last year?  He's a tiny little guy, dressed all in green, and he brings good luck on St. Patrick's Day."

"Kind of like Oscar?"

"How is he like Oscar?  Oscar is a dog.  A white dog."

"...and green, Mom..."

May your holiday be lucky, and your animals un-vandalized.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Public Service Announcement

Attention, attention.

I would just like to take this opportunity to announce that no one in my family has stomach flu at this time.

And this is the wooden windowsill on which I will be knocking.

That is all.  Thank you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Anonymous Conference

It was at the end of February when I attended Cael's conference, my proverbial tail tucked between my legs and and a makeshift apology note stowed in my purse, just in case. As it turns out, things were better than I thought; Cael shows signs of his brilliance everyday but is tarnished by a seemingly uncontrollable need to talk and be boisterous.

After a series of incentives (bribes) and consequences were put in place at home, however, he seems to be doing better at school and I've been able to breathe a sigh of relief.  That was, of course, until Graham's conference yesterday... the day I'd been dreading for weeks.

Just kidding.

Graham is about as easy-going as kids come, and while he can turn on the mischief when he's playing with his brother, for the most part he is very quiet and keeps to himself, especially at school.  When I arrived for his conference, I was handed a paper that assessed his progress in preschool and also included a brief write-up of my boy.

"Graham is gentle and kind-hearted.  He is well liked by the other children.  Graham is a sweet boy and we enjoy having him in our class!"

The brief assessment included gross and fine motor skills, interaction with other kids and more, and time after time he scored consistently.  But there was (only) one category in which he was proving to be inconsistent. 

Gives personal data:  first name, last name

That was odd.  Graham knows his full name, our address, most of our birthdays and is well on his way toward having an airtight memory full of personal details.  So why wouldn't he share his name with his teacher?

"Graham, what is your full name?"


"Because I want to make sure you know it.  Can you tell me?"

"I know it."

"Okay, let's hear it."

"I'll tell you later."

"No, I'd like you to tell me now, please."

"Fine.  It's Graham."

"...and the rest?"

"I don't want to say my second name, Mom.  It's weird."

"No it's not, I love your first and your middle names!  Why do you think it's weird?"

"Because a boy in my school said 'Elliott' sounds like elephant!  I'm not an elephant."

"Oh, honey, no one thinks you are an elephant.  You're much too handsome and too little to be an elephant.  A monkey, maybe, but no elephant."


"So next time your teacher wants to know your name, will you follow directions?"

Graham and his elephant trunk.
"Yes.  Graham Elephant Foreman."

Close enough.  And I guess that if I end conference season with one child who talks up a storm but has the potential to make things happen, and another who is a pachyderm full of hugs and snuggles, I've done my job.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Daylight Crazy Time

Last fall, the time change and our resulting early mornings led me to pen a petition with many suggested changes to make parents' lives easier.  One thing I conveniently left off, however, was Daylight Saving Time itself, and for one good reason.

The extra hour of sleep gained in the fall is worth nothing when compared to the subsequent two weeks of "Mommy, I want breakfast!  Why aren't you getting up?" at 5:30am.  In fact, I'd argue that I end up losing about six hours in the exchange.  But in the Spring, as we suffer through one shorter night, I get the payoff of several sleepy mornings, and boys that think 6am looks like nighttime, thus not waking me out of a dead sleep for bowls of gloppy oatmeal.

As usual, however, there are unexpected complications.  When I woke up to my alarm this morning and saw that the downstairs was still dark, I sneaked down to wake them up with kisses, only to be met with blank stares and repeated utterances of, "Stop it, Mom, it's still nighttime."

Who would have thought it would take Daylight Saving Time for me to lose all credibility with my kids?

When I finally had them dressed, sluggishly, and upstairs for breakfast, they stared at me like I had grown a second head when I turned on the lights in the kitchen, so I tried my best to explain what was going on.  It only made things worse.

"Guys, twice a year we change the clocks an hour so that the farmers can get the most out of the hours of daylight.  In the fall, we set the clocks back, and in the spring we move them forward.  Right now it is an hour later than your body feels like it should be."

Go home, Mom, you're drunk.

"So you're telling me that you changed... time?"

I think I could have told them that the moon had turned purple or that I was pregnant with a wombat, and the information would have seemed more believable.  From that point until Cael boarded the bus this morning, I could literally see him processing every word that left my mouth to determine  if I had finally lost it. 

"Are you sure I have school today?"

"Do you really know what day it is?"

"Can you remember my name?"

Of course I don't want them to think that I'm a complete fool, but if it buys me a week of quiet mornings, I think I can manage. 

Just in case, I'll wait a couple of years before I try to explain Leap Year.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ill-Logical Thoughts

Sorry for the sparse posting this week, but between going into hazmat mode to combat the spread of Graham's stomach flu, subsequently getting the stomach flu myself anyway and emerging alive, I haven't had much time to write.

Today is the day things go back to normal around here (barring something catastrophic), but before I attempt to jump-start my life, I leave you with these parting thoughts.

-  I would trade in five trips to any waterpark in the US to avoid stomach flu.  The current grand total of all gastrointestinal viruses to affect my immediate family this winter season is eight.  That is worth forty trips to the Wisconsin Dells, people.

-  I hate Gatorade.

-  When the cat is away, the mice will play.  Or in layman's terms, when Mom is incapacitated, the kids will completely cover themselves in non-washable marker.

-  Whoever rang my doorbell twice on Tuesday, I'm very sorry I didn't answer.  And I promise, it's not you, it's me.

-  Third pregnancy + lack of bladder control + stomach flu = total embarrassment.

-  Your bathroom is never cleaner than after you've been sick.  Incidentally, your toilet is never dirtier than when you view it from six inches away.

-  Other than infomercials, there are no television programs on at 4:00am that don't feature aliens and/or ghosts.  From this point on, I will now require a black light, garlic braid and at least 2 copies of the Holy Bible whenever I am stricken with a stomach virus.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Vacation Procrastination

If you have kids, you've been bombarded repeatedly with The Rules.  You know the kind-- "sleep when the baby sleeps", or "always be consistent".  It's not that these rules aren't important, but why aren't veteran parents sharing the lesser-known rules that really make parenting bearable?

I was thinking about these rules when we made arrangements for last weekend's trip to Grand Harbor Resort and waterpark, a perennial favorite for our family and a place Cael and Graham have been begging to visit ever since the latest ice age descended upon Iowa.
Photo credit here.
I had wanted to use the trip as an incentive to encourage good behavior, but I instead chose to abide by one of the lesser-known rules of parenting, "wait as long as possible to share good news".  It's not that I don't want to share something exciting with my kids, but more that I don't want to hear "when are we going to the waterpark?" on permanent loop as I eat, sleep, attempt to pee alone, and any time we get in the car to go anywhere.  Ever.

While I was avoiding the conversation, I figured I may as well not tell the kids that my friend Alissa and her family would be joining us on the trip as well, coming to our house the night before and allowing all four of the kids some overdue time to play together.

As the days came closer, I realized that I had several tasks to complete before the big day.  First and foremost, I'd either need to purchase a maternity swimsuit or consult with the hotel about the dress code.  As it turns out, I did find a swimsuit mere days before, which is good because I procrastinated that phone call.  

As an aside, does anyone know if it is acceptable to wear granny panties and a fleece robe into a public pool?  Even if it is knotted?

With that chore surprisingly accomplished, I'd need to do some cooking.  This being our third joint escape to the waterpark, Alissa and I had the trip down to a science.  Eat lunch before leaving, pack an easy-to-assemble meal in a cooler (tacos for me this time), pack a continental-style breakfast (Alissa took charge of muffins and fruit) and after exhausting ourselves with swimming, head out to lunch before returning home.  Add in a few snacks (puppy chow, anyone?) and we would have the makings for a great weekend.
Photo credit here.
The only problem was that if I launched into a big cooking project and those foods never turned up on the dinner table, my boys would become suspicious, and all of my vacation procrastination would be for not.  Better put that off, too.

As Friday finally came, I knew I needed to get the house picked up for our guests.  But rather than scrub the bathrooms and alert Cael and Graham to the upcoming events, I waited until they went to sleep to get to work, since our friends weren't arriving until late that night.  

Unfortunately, as Alissa walked through the door with her family, I realized I'd waited a little too long.  I did get the bathrooms cleaned, but there simply wasn't enough time to finish the laundry or vacuum the house.  It was then I realized I also hadn't cooked any of the food needed for the trip, hadn't packed any bags, never arranged the cooler or bought ice, and the boys still had no idea what was to come.

And when Cael woke me up at 5am to clean up Graham's vomit from every surface in their room, I realized just how important procrastination could be.

In the morning, when our friends packed their car back up and headed home, after Joel called the hotel and cancelled our reservation, and around the time I put away the fresh towels, newly purchased swimsuit and taco ingredients, I was eternally grateful I'd kept the boys in the dark.

Might still have to make that puppy chow, though.