Thursday, February 25, 2016

An Open Letter About Politics

When I woke up this morning and checked Facebook to find that the first seventeen posts were all the same, it finally happened.  I hit capacity.  I cannot handle one more political post.  Maybe not even one more political thought.

Photo credit.
For my friends that woke up in the same boat this morning, let me spare you from the torrent of angst out there.  From what I have experienced, every single post on my News Feed falls under one of the following:

  • OMG, listen to what the Republicans did.
  • OMG, listen to what the Democrats did.
  • Can't we all just get along?
  • Donald Trump is a dunce.  (Okay, I think most of us agree there.)
  • Here are the reasons why I'm moving to another country.
  • Check out this (insert biased news source) that proves how Ted Cruz kills kittens with his bare hands.
  • Check out this (insert biased news source) that proves how Hillary Clinton plans to usher in the apocalypse.
  • Check out this Bible verse that clearly indicates Bernie Sanders is the Easter Bunny.
  • Isn't it cool that we live in a country where we can have different opinions?  By the way, I plan to unfriend you if you don't share my specific opinion.
  • Be educated about your vote.  Here are some tips from this insightful Onion article.
  • Isn't this meme funny? (In a subversive, pretty offensive, kind of way?  Sure is!)
  • Please talk about "Issue X" with your governor/senator/state rep/school principal/boss/neighbor/garbage person/stranger on the street/prison pen-pal/celebrity crush/psychic/shoe shiner/plumber and/or favorite prostitute.
  • I'm sharing this "open letter" that clearly states my views.  (Aren't you sick of open letters yet?  I mean, um, other than this one...)

Please don't interpret this open letter as a sign of my indifference or lack of support for the political process.  And maybe I care about Issue X as much as you do, but just as I begin to lose my mind a bit after six hours of nonstop crying or whining from my kids, I have a threshold for political discourse that has been met.  I actually miss cat videos.

I think it's time I revisit Pinterest and enhance my creativity rather than my political acumen.  


Tune in next week for my "Open Letter About Mason Jars".

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If You Give A Kid An Obstacle Course

Like most parents of young kids, we have a house full of books.  And like most kids, my boys only want to read a small handful of them.  Over, and over, and over.

Since adding a few to the collection, Cael and Graham have enjoyed the "If You..." series of books (e.g. If You Give A Cat A Cupcake, If You Give A Pig A Party) where in some painfully caudled animal is gifted an item or event, leading to an utterly preposterous series of Jumanji-level events, and eventually cycles back around to the animal requesting what they received in the beginning.

Sounds like Christmas morning in my house.

We always read these books and laugh at the ridiculousness of the story line.  If I could suspend my disbelief long enough to actually imagine feeding a moose a muffin, I would have to draw the line at helping him put on a puppet show, or handing over my best bedsheets for him to dress up as a ghost.

Events simply don't unravel like that... until they do.

If you build your kids an obstacle course, they won't be able to wait for you to finish before they start tackling the challenges.

They may ask you to tape instructions on the floor so they can remember what to do, and when.

After they've completed the course a few times each, they could decide to do it backward.  Or upside down. 

Pretty soon they'll stray from the obstacle course and start leaping off the walls and furniture like little parkour experts.

After a bit, they'll get pretty sweaty and ask for water.

When you pour one of them a drink, another boy might run into him and spill water all down his clothes.

That will remind him of swimming, so when you're in the bathroom, he might fill his cup up three more times and pour it out over his head.

Swimming might remind him of summer, so the kids will pretend to swim by sliding all over the floor.

One of them might actually run to his room and put on trunks.

When he's there, he might see a pile of light sabers and invent a new game.

While you clean up the obstacle course mess, the boys could attack three stuffed animals, a fake plastic doughnut, and a large dust bunny with the light sabers and a pile of diaper wipes that they unloaded from a new pack.

They'll probably ask you for some tape to connect the wipes into a tarp to cover the stuffed animals.

And chances are, when they come upstairs to get the tape, they'll see that you've cleaned and ask for a new obstacle course.

The End 

(of obstacle courses in my house...) 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Choosy Moms

They say that choosy moms choose Jif, but here are a few other things that choosy moms choose.

Choosy moms choose to park the highchair too close to the counter and utensil drawers so that their little ones can steal whatever they want while mom is feeding the dog, because motherhood is too easy when the baby is clean all of the time.

Choosy moms don't freak when they see their kid up to their elbows in the peanut butter jar because they are so grateful for the peace and quiet. 

Choosy moms don't give in when older children want to eat peanut butter with a plastic fork for breakfast but make a PB&J instead, because moms have standards, you know.

Choosy moms see a toddler eat without fussing for the first time in weeks and start meal planning entrees that could include peanut butter to ensure future success.  Peanut butter piccata?  BLT/PBJ?  Spaghetti and meatballs with peanut butter bolognese?

Choosy moms won't admit it, but they might just start questioning what other sauces and condiments would make semi-acceptable meals.  Eventually, choosy moms will rule out a meal of straight ketchup (even though their toddler might like it) because it stains, and if this post has demonstrated anything, it is that choosy moms don't have time to cook, let alone focus on stain removal.

Choosy moms won't get embarrassed when people notice a matted brown spot in their child's hair later in the day because even though the baby wasn't bathed, they know it's not poop.

Choosy moms nuzzle soft baby skin after breakfast and consider the merit of a peanut butter mask to rejuvenate aging skin.

Choosy moms don't know what Jif stands for, but if forced to guess would say "JUST  IMPROVES FUSSYKIDS".  Choosy moms make up words all the time. 

Choosy moms don't get paid to endorse Jif, but maybe they should...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy Euphamism Day

Happy Belated Valentine's Day! 

For those of you whose husbands weren't out of town or whose children didn't fight endlessly over who can execute the most authentic armpit fart, I hope your day was filled with romance and relaxation.  And for those of you with a Valentine's Day like I had, there's always wine.

Between Joel being gone and V-Day falling on a wintery Sunday, there wasn't much festivity this year.  In fact, the only real celebrating we did came last week in the form of creating the boys' valentines to pass out at school. 

Once upon a simpler time, this was one of my favorite activities.  In 2013, Cael was my only child in school and I still had the ambition (and energy) to Pinterest the heck out of every creative opportunity that presented itself.  We chose a theme together, and then I gave up sleep for two days to make it a reality. 

In 2014, we bought bags of googly-eyed rings and set out to craft our own Valentines before discovering that some enterprising mom with fewer kids and more sleep had beaten me to my own idea.  I went into a bit of an existential tail spin knowing that my own creativity was no longer, well, creative. 

Nothing says love quite like mom's mental breakdown. 

Last year was my first Valentine's Day with three kids, so the bar wasn't set too high.  I was looking for an idea that would still qualify as "homemade" without involving any real work on my part.  Bulk packs of sticky gel hands seemed like a perfect option until the extra hands started turning up in various dusty, unmaintained corners of my house.

"Mom, is Oscar eating a mouse?!?"

"No, Cael, that's a fuzzy blue middle finger hanging out of his mouth."

It seems that no matter my plan, each set of valentines pose their own unique set of problems.  I just had no idea how risqué 2016 was about to get.

Working with limited free time and picky children that are in the phase of being overly concerned with what's cool, I headed to the store with a chocolate box full of rules.

Don't get hard candy.
Don't get anything too girly.
Find something red.  No, blue!  Wait, red.  Or yellow!
No hearts, flowers, flying babies, arrows, lips, X's or O's, references to kissing, being in love, or getting married.
Maybe something with swords on it.

You can thank Cael for that last one.

Eventually I located some miniature pinball-style games in the party favor section, and knew that it would meet all of the boys' qualifications, minus the weaponry.  I bought eight packages and decided that I would postpone my concern about creating a corresponding card for later. 

Thankfully, the boys liked the games, but as I sat down at the computer to design the card itself, what seemed like an easy project morphed into something decidedly more difficult when Cael and I couldn't agree on what phrase to write on the card.

"Mom, why does it say 'You're a winner, Valentine'?"

"Because you're giving them a game, and I thought it made sense.  You know, like they won the game."

"Nope.  Don't like it."

I'm not one to let me kids order me around, but since this was supposed to be the boys' project, I thought it would be best to let them have a say.  I got to work thinking of alternatives, but quickly found that anything game related was also wildly inappropriate for a child's valentine.

I hope you "score", Valentine!

Looking forward to "pinning" you, Valentine!

This Valentine's Day, go "balls to the wall"!


Just as I was about to make an executive decision and go with my first suggestion, Cael thought of "Game On!", and while it didn't relate to Valentine's Day directly, I thought it was better then fielding phone calls from angry parents.  Game on, it was.

After that, things went pretty smoothly.  I designed and printed the message, had the boys glue it to colored cardstock, and cut around the edges with child-sized craft scissors that made my hand bleed.  

Thankfully, blood is red.  How festive!

Finally, the boys wrote their names out on the cards and we stuffed them into plastic treat bags along with the mini pinball games.   

With the valentines completed and feeling returning to my hand, I was able breathe a sigh of relief.  The valentines were cute, homemade, and while not as personal or unique as 2013 Mary would have produced, I could sleep well knowing my boys could still say that their Mom made them custom valentines every year.

But with this year's project teetering on the edge of lewd, I'm afraid of what 2017 will bring.

"Mom, next year I expect something with swords, you know."

You're a real cut-up, Valentine...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Charting A Sick Day

Sorry for not posting yesterday, but my recuperative weekend and nicely scheduled week flew out the window this weekend.  First it was postponed in favor of watching a Hoarders marathon and making Super Bowl treats all day, treats that my sons deemed essential fare for watching the game between... erm... Team One and Team Two.

Those treats backfired, however, when Graham woke up first thing on Monday morning and rejected the contents of his stomach.

No shock, really.  This kid contracts every. illness. possible. and he has a real knack for timing.

Since Graham's dramatic evacuation took place right before school, I was forced to keep him home even though I had my suspicions that his body was simply rejecting too much football chips and cheese dip.  I set him up on the sofa with a bucket and the television remote, and focused my attention on getting Cael ready for school.

Have you ever had to send one child off to school knowing that the other is relaxing at home, and is decidedly not sick?  This was my first experience.  Normally when Graham contracts his latest virus du jour, he feels bad, looks bad, sounds bad, and has no interest in food, clothing, or school.  But Monday's absence, courtesy of school politics, began with a plea for breakfast and an evil grin focused in Cael's direction, who was whimpering for me to let him stay home as well.

"Mom, come on!  Pleeeeease let me stay home.  I could throw up too!"

The worst part of a once-and-done digestive event is the uncertainty.  Did Graham's body simply reject the junk food?  When he complained of a headache earlier in the day, was that a symptom?  Should I wait to feed him even though he seems fine?  Are leftover doughnut holes part of the BRAT diet? 

Deciding to play it safe, I kept Graham sequestered in the basement until it was time to retrieve Cael from school, a task worthy of some major award, perhaps an ESPY or a TONY award, considering the delicate maneuvers required to deliver Gatorade and crackers to my son without being sucked into a never-ending game of Old Maid.

It's not that I don't want to be there for him, it's that if he's genuinely sick, I REALLY don't want to be there for him.

By the time we needed to retrieve Cael from school, Graham was practically buzzing with suppressed energy, and I could feel my reserves draining.  Plugged nose.  Frequent sneezing.  Abnormal desire for soup.

Turns out Graham was never sick to begin with.  I was the sick one.

So I hope this presentation clears up any confusion.  With one not-so-sick child at home and an oncoming cold, my plans got sidetracked.  But I'm back now, and with both boys in school, I'm able to focus on the important things again.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Winter Boredom

Every year come February, my boys start itching to get back outside.  Although still cold and gray, the days are starting to get longer and I hear more murmurs about summer and baseball and swimming lessons.  

It's not that I'm one of those "keep them under wing all winter" types.  I would love for them to go outside and burn off some energy, tumbling into the house with red cheeks and noses, begging for hot chocolate.  But the problem is that neither Cael nor Graham have any tolerance for the Iowa winters.  Within ten minutes of bundling up to make a snowman or go sledding, they are winded, frozen, and ready for a date with the sofa and a thick blanket.

So this morning, when we were dressed and ready for school a bit early, I was happily surprised when the boys asked to play on the deck for a few minutes before piling into the van.  I'd seen the longing look in Graham's eye as he'd commented about the sparkly frost clinging to the wood, so I warned them not to slip on the stairs and sent them out to explore with the promise of a warm car waiting to receive them.

"I miss summer.  Or spring or fall.  I want to play outside," Graham confirmed my suspicions as we drive to school.

"Me too," Cael agreed.

When I returned home I let the dog out and looked out the window, realizing that my kids aren't the only ones feeling nostalgic for warmer weather.   Even Oscar has taken to pooping on the deck to avoid added minutes with his paws in the snow.  Considering everyone's aversion to winter, I was glad that Cael and Graham were able to enjoy the outdoors this morning, even if it was just a few brief moments.

And then I realized that a few minutes was all they needed. 

I guess winter has its charms after all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Persistence of Time

It is amazing how, day in and day out, my boys continue to grow.  They are constantly changing and evolving, developing new skills and identifying new weaknesses, and yet- no matter how quickly the wheels of time keep turning, my kids move at the speed of smell.

Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" must have been inspired by sluggish children.

Let's put it this way.  If the opposite end of the house was on fire and there was a clear path to safety lined with candy and Pokemon cards, I could extinguish the inferno three times with nothing but moist towelettes in the amount of time it would take Cael and Graham to stand up, stare at each other dumbfounded, and begin to comment that the room was getting smoky.

They are missing the urgency gene, and instead inherited the distraction gene.

In most scenarios, I can work around this deficiency.  Leave the house a few minutes early, pack the diaper bag the night before, or dangle an iPhone or Nintendo DS on a string in front of them as bate to get them moving.  But there is one circumstance where all preparations fail, and my patience unravels as fast as they are slow.

Enter the school drop-off/pick-up line.

Each morning I pull into the school's circle drive, and when my van comes to a rest in front of the building, three of the five boys in my vehicle choose that very moment to have an in-depth discussion comparing an epic Star Wars battle and the morning poop they took shortly before.

"Graham, you need to get out now.  Other cars are waiting."

"Cael, do NOT take off your pants.  It's time for school!"

"Boys.  Try not to trample Adler, but GET OUT!"

I feel like the red-nosed driver of a clown car as they scatter, only it feels less like entertainment, and more like this.

The broom is playing the part of time itself.

Most of the stress each morning is in my head, though.  Parents drop off children at their own pace and are patient as the vans full of slow pokes unload.  But in the afternoon, there is no room for lethargy, as the school operates the pick-up line like a well-oiled machine.

One without delays for de-pantsing.

As cars follow around the circle drive and approach the doors, each vehicle's children are summoned and clamber on in, anxious to head home to healthy snacks and leisure time.  The driver swiftly moves out of the way so as not to hold up the line.

When my kids run toward the van, I'm always optimistic.  They're running.  This will go well!  But as soon as the doors open, it happens.

Melting clocks.

Graham thinks Adler needs 21 hugs.  Why does Adler have crackers?  Aren't there crackers for the other boys?  "Mom, you should make Nutella flavored crackers."  Cael can't find that slip of paper he had in his pocket in the morning- "Didn't you see it, Mom?"- and logic tells him it must be under the vehicle registration   in the glove box.  There's also gum in the glove box.  Don't I think Cael deserves gum since he ate eggs for breakfast?  "What is Tahiti, Mom?"  Adler throws a shoe as the automatic door closes and it tumbles onto the sidewalk.  Cael thinks his paper maybe fell through a hole in his pocket, so he starts unbuttoning his jeans. Graham wants a new friend to come over to play, so he hands me a folded piece of construction paper with five digits on it and tells me it's a phone number for somebody's mom. Or Dad.  Or was it an address?  Why is the paper sticky?

All the while, the school volunteers who are baring the frigid Iowa weather (and whom I am razzing with nothing but love) are waving my van forward as if there is anywhere else to go, but my kids will not -- cannot-- hurry up.  They are simply immune to the persistence of time.

"Graham, you need to sit down now.  Other cars are waiting."

"Cael, do NOT take off your pants.  It's time to go home!"

"Boys.  Try not to trample Adler, but GET IN YOUR SEATS!"

And so daily, I make the Sophie's Choice of school pick-ups: endure the glares as I wait for all of the kids to buckle, or drive away with them loose in the car until I can find a place to pull over and buckle before heading home, just in time to remember Adler's shoe.

"Back in the car, boys."  Better hurry.