Category Archives for "Kids"

June 6, 2008

Expression

I’m a mom of two girls, a fourteen-going-on-forty year old and a seven-going-on-seventeen year old. Which makes me a forty-one-going-on-Prozac year old.

I’ve gotten pretty used to my eldest daughter’s stoicism – her reticence to show outward emotion, particularly joy or pleasure is legendary in these here parts. She could be happier than a pig in poo but if any family member, particularly me, is within eye or earshot, she’d sooner lick a bug than show it. But I’ve gotten used to it. After all, I’ve a plethora of random, haphazard, spontaneous emotions myself and quite honestly, it can be exhausting trying to keep track of all of them. And being familiar with Zoe’s occasional surliness meant I was more than prepared when she hit the tween and teen years. Her emotions currently run the gamut between pissed off and really pissed off with an occasional pit stop at somewhat-content-at-the-moment-so-enjoy-it-while-you-can. Although I must admit that lately, I’ve seen her flash her beautiful smile quite often, which makes me remember fondly the sixty hours of labor it took to bring her into this world.

My youngest, on the other hand, is a completely different story. This one cannot help but show every single emotion the instant she feels it, regardless of where she is or who she’s with. She is an open book with every page ripped out, blown up, photocopied and plastered on every billboard to ensure that everyone within a fifty mile radius is aware of what she is feeling. She’s very generous in that way. And if she can’t articulate whatever feelings are brewing within at the moment, she will simply have an emotional meltdown and cry huge, heaving sobs while Nate and I play a guessing game as to the cause: Are you hurt? Are you sad? Are you sick? Are you angry? Are you happy? Are those happy tears? Are you really crying? What happened? What happened? WE CAN’T HELP YOU IF YOU DON’T TELL US WHAT HAPPENED SO TALK TO US AND HERE’S A BOWL IN CASE YOU THROW UP. And this will go on and on and on until she falls into an exhausted sleep or we fall over dead, whichever comes first.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of Helena in action. If I had the cojones, I’d grab my camera and document these blessed moments as they’re happening and save them for posterity and the Internet, but I have no cojones, much to Nate’s relief.

So I’m just going to sit my cojones-less self down and show you what I have managed to capture of Helena’s personality through the recent years:

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This is her angry face. I did not spray her with water in the exact manner required by law. Apparently, there is a right way and a wrong way to spray water upon a sweaty soccer player. Who knew?

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Being too cool for school, she hemmed and hawed before she gave me the time of day, looked up and allowed me to take this picture. Thank you, Helena. Now you can go back to your chalking and pretending I don’t exist.

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Sometimes, she’s a little saucy. And yes, I know that word is terribly old fashioned and would only come out of the mouth of a 102 year old woman, wearing woolly knickers and rocking in a chair with the thermostat turned up to sweltering, yelling CLOSE THE DAMN DOOR, IT’S DRAFTY to her husband Burt who died 20 years ago but what can I say … she brings out my geriatric tendencies. And my penchant for run on sentences.

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And sometimes she’s a little cheeky. Is that something a 102 year old woman would say? Maybe I should start worrying about myself? Note to self: start to worry. Love, me.

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Here she is, being carefree. Carefully staged carefree, as in MOM, TAKE MY PICTURE BECAUSE I LOOK CAREFREE.

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Sometimes she’s a totally normal, happy little girl.

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And sometimes she’s a totally happy little girl, but not normal. Don’t ask. I don’t.

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But of all the candid shots I’ve gotten of Helena, this is the one that speak to me the loudest. And it says OUCH. Is this the expression of my then sweet six year old, the same little girl who loves forever kisses, Bear and snuggling in the morning? Who thinks her mom is all that and a bag of chips because she makes the best mac’n cheese in the world, even if it does come in a box? Please tell me it is. Because I’m having visions of a sixteen year old who missed curfew AGAIN, who thinks she’s all that and her mom just isn’t, who might just as well slap a sign on her forehead that says STEP BACK. I can almost hear the “I already know everything I’ll ever need to know about anything and I bet you’d like to know how I know what I know but don’t hold your breath and stop about the tattoos already, it’s my body and I can do with it what I want and WHO CARES about grades because Danny doesn’t and I love him and he loves me and as soon as he makes parole, I’M OUT OF HERE and don’t even think about walking next to me ‘cuz that won’t fly and OH MY GOD, are you really going out wearing that, and hey, just so you know, no way will I ever ask you anything ever again because you don’t know anything about ANYTHING and I can’t believe I’ve got to share the same EARTH as you and why can’t you just be ANYBODY but you?”

Am I reading too much into this?

May 28, 2008

She was just seventeen, if you know what I mean …

My fourteen year old daughter asked me the other day if she could get her working papers for a job this summer. After I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the floor, I said sure. Actually, it might have come out more like HOLY CRAP, YOU BETTER BELIEVE YOU CAN, GET IN THE CAR. And then I got all excited because I was actually seeing light at the end of that long, dark, scary, endless I-AM-NOT-AN-ATM-MACHINE-FOR-CRYING-OUT-LOUD tunnel.

It got me to thinking about my early days as a wage earner. I went the traditional route at first and built up a great reputation as a babysitter – little human beings loved me. I rotated between a couple of good, reliable families, sacrificed my weekend nights and made quite a bit of money for a couple of years. All right, perhaps “sacrifice” is a bit of overkill. I was a painfully shy fifteen year old with braces, glasses, bad hair, acne and I lived in a town 50 miles past the middle of nowhere. What else was I going to do with myself?

My babysitting career was brought to a screeching halt after I turned sixteen. I agreed to babysit for a new family with a toddler whom I like to refer to as Satan and that was the beginning of the end that came four hours later. This child’s parents had called me at the last minute, having been referred by someone who knew someone who knew someone. They practically begged me to help them out and at $2 per hour, I just couldn’t pass it up. I should have gotten a clue by the maniacal sprint they did to their car once the door closed behind me but I was naive.

Four hours later, I wasn’t naive anymore. Cleaning up thrown spaghettios, dirty toilet water and piles of poo scattered here, there and everywhere tend to knock the blissful ignorance right out of you. If the book had even existed back then, I would have said the Devil does not, in fact, wear Prada, he wears pull-ups and is three feet tall and I’d rather chew off my own tongue than babysit him again. This was painfully obvious to his parents as they pulled up to their house and found a blubbering heap of me on their front step. I resisted their pleas to give SISPU a/k/a Satan In Scooby Pull Ups another chance, mumbled something about being busy for the next two years and got the hell out of Dodge. I headed straight for the mall where I thereafter found my dream job.

I started work at a local record store in our mall and can I just say, THAT JOB ROCKED. I was seventeen with perfect teeth and good skin, thanks to Dr. Strauss and Neutrogena respectively. Puberty had finally gotten its act together and I was not all together hideous anymore. In fact, I looked pretty damn good. It was smack dab in the middle of the eighties which meant I had BIG hair and lots of it, tons of makeup, thick shoulder pads, shorty short mini skirts and high heels. Shiny black patent leather four inch heels, to be exact – the first to be seen at my high school, thank you very much. Sometimes I wore them with cute little frilly socks, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I had a killer set of legs and a fantastic figure and I worked in a place that played the latest and greatest in albums and cassettes and attracted everyone who was anyone. In other words, I was cool for the first time in my life and I made up for lost time in a way only an attention starved seventeen year old wallflower-turned-hot-chick knew how: at warp speed.

It was vinyl heaven and we’d rip the cellophane off any album we wanted and whip that baby onto our state-of-the-art turntable, turn the sound up to sonic boom level and let it rip. We were next door to GNC Vitamin Center and our daily mission was to shake their bottles off their walls. It was usually mission accomplished by dinnertime, thanks to a particularly loud piece by Mötley Crüe. You’d think their manager would have pitched a fit, but more often than not, he’d be AWOL, only to be found sifting through our head banger section.

I loved my job. I heard all the new releases first, got huge discounts on all the music I loved, met some great people and got to dress up in funky clothes that I got at incredible discounts because I was a mall employee and friend to a lot of other mall employees. I learned to flirt and was surprised at how easy it was to get some extra sauce on my fettucini alfredo simply by inching my skirt up a bit. After work, I’d hang out with these friends, all of whom were older than me and into the bar scene. They took pity on poor underaged me, doctored up my license and next thing I knew, I was a faux 22 year old burning up the dance floors at Flashbacks and Club 2001. Good times.

Would someone mind checking on my mom? I think she just fainted.

It’s hard to believe that I got near straight A’s in high school considering the above, isn’t it? But I did. I managed to keep my priorities in order for the long haul even though they veered a bit off course in the short run. I’ll always be grateful to my friend Pete who had my back at all times, making sure I was safe every time I went out. He was convinced I would tire of the scene in short order and he was right because he was always right, something that used to piss me off at first but then became what I trusted most. Of course, the suspicious bouncer weighing in at 400 pounds at Club 2001 who confiscated my fake i.d., helped curb my underage wild ways as well. HE WAS SCARY.

Eventually, I found my way to college, maintained an almost perfect 4.0 grade point average, graduated Summa Cum Laude, became a productive taxpayer, got married and started a family, in that order. All of it to the immense relief of my parents as I think it’s entirely possible I may have shaved a couple of years off their lives.

(As a side note: I am now well-versed in the theory of karma, having a teenage daughter of my own right now. I TOTALLY GET IT.)

Anyway … that record store and the mall it lived in don’t exist anymore and I don’t know of anyone who even owns any actual vinyl today. Any remnants of that seventeen year old with the drop dead figure are long gone now. But sometimes when this 41 year old wife and mother of two plays the oldies station in her car and hears Smokin’ In The Boys Room, she’ll sing off key at the top of her lungs, ignore the gawkers in the passing cars, and tap her flip flopped feet on the gas and brake pedals. And for a brief moment, that woman will yearn for some shiny black patent leather four inch heels.

And some killer legs to go with them.

Twenty Things Every Mom Needs to Know

Last year, I had a layout published in which I dispensed some parenting advice that I had gleaned over my years as a mom. I’ve managed to keep my kids alive up to now so I think all of that advice still has merit and in my 4.3 minutes of allotted down time per day, I’ve gradually added to my arsenal. My goal is to have this mounted on a neon green 10′ x 10′ canvas and hang one in each of my daughters’ family rooms after they have children of their own. At the bottom, it will have a small, bronze plaque engraved with “I TOLD YOU SO. LOVE, MOM”

  1. My philosophy on parenting can best be described as a combination of “flying by the seat of my pants” and “baptism by fire” with a healthy dose of “winging it” thrown in for good measure.
  2. Save the $12.95 plus shipping/handling. No book is going to fully prepare you for the wonder that is projectile vomiting. You have to experience it first hand to truly appreciate all of its nuances.
  3. Television has the power to suck the ability to form a coherent thought right out of a child. Use this time wisely.
  4. Remember, there is no law that requires you to have fifteen of your daughter’s closest friends sleep over in your living room on her birthday and feed them all breakfast the next morning and no amount of hissy fits changes that fact.
  5. There is a direct correlation between raising a pre-teen daughter and the deterioration of cerebral function at warp speed. Who are you again?
  6. It’s one week before summer and your six year old insists on riding her bike into the road. What do you do? If your answer is to restrict her to your driveway and explain that you are simply trying to keep her safe and alive to enjoy the summer and, with any luck, her next birthday – good for you! Just be prepared for her to promptly fall off her bike in the driveway and suffer a spiral fracture of her lift tibia from ankle to knee, resulting in the summer being pretty much a bust. When she breaks her arm almost exactly one year later under identical circumstances, don’t say I didn’t warn you and I won’t say I told you so.
  7. The laws of physics simply don’t allow for seven friends to sit next to the birthday girl in a 2000 Honda Accord. It’ll be ugly but hey, you can’t fight the science.
  8. Any teacher worth his/her salt expects any mom worth her salt to negotiate the terms under which she will chaperone her kindergartner’s class field trip to the local zoo. As a mom and fellow human being, I encourage you to think of your own safety as it’s you against one hundred hot, sweaty little miscreants who haven’t eaten anything in three hours and who are demanding to pet the gorillas. Insist on a three foot perimeter “safe zone” protecting you from used tissue, chewed gum, sticky hands and various bodily fluids and gases. Bullhorns are a necessity, not a luxury. So is Xanax. If you feel your sanity is in jeopardy at any time, run far far away. If riding on a school bus is required, get the appropriate shots and demand combat pay. Make sure your affairs are in order. Just sayin’.
  9. When your five year old suffers a partially severed ear, requiring twenty stitches by a plastic surgeon in the ER and then asks if the mile of pink and purple bandaging around her head looks like “fashion,” just nod your head “yes” and try to ignore your clammy skin, greenish pallor, impending nausea, heart palpitations and acute dizziness. No one likes a drama queen.
  10. If you want your children to be able to function in the real world, then you better teach them how real time works. “Just a minute” does not mean sixty seconds, it means “whenever the hell Mommy feels like it.” So shut up already about the big hand and the little hand because you’re ruining it for the rest of us.
  11. In a perfect world, your pediatrician’s office has self-sterilizing toys, snack machines and a five minute maximum waiting time. But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Put your game face on and pack a bag.
  12. The first time you channel your mother won’t be your last.
  13. I can’t lie to you. There is no general consensus as to the length of a “stage.” It can last anywhere from ten minutes to ten years. Yes, it sucks. But at least you know.
  14. Barbie is the Devil Incarnate and Polly Pockets are her spawn.
  15. Taking a daily shower and separating dirty socks and underwear from dirty jeans before they hit the laundry basket is not considered child abuse. Neither is requiring them to actually hit the laundry basket.
  16. “I will” when uttered by a child actually means “I won’t until you ask me 83 more times.”
  17. Battling lice can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am so not kidding.
  18. Don’t sign your daughter up for girl scouts unless you are willing to sleep in some pretty icky places and take my word for it … no amount of Thin Mints is going to make you feel better about spending the night on the floor of an aquarium directly underneath the kid-friendly a/k/a no-walls-separating-you-from-them crab exhibit. Do I have to draw you a picture?
  19. The words “we’ll see” are almighty powerful and can mean yes,” “no,” “maybe,” “not a shot in hell” and/or “over my dead body,” depending on the circumstances. Use them sparingly and they’ll serve you well.
  20. If you think you won’t ever bribe, yell, or swear at your kids, or use the phrase “because I said so” … good luck with that. You’re on your own.

Why don’t they just rip out my eyelashes one by one?

The fact that I am blessed with decent health, a pretty great husband and two healthy wonderful daughters is not lost on me. I am grateful. Very grateful.

But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days when it’s all I can do not to carry the lot of them to the curb, stick a “FOR SALE, ALL REASONABLE OFFERS CONSIDERED” sign in their mouths and call it a day.

Case in point:

Are you guys just messing with me? Making me salivate needlessly over a snack that isn’t really there? Trying to psyche me out or what? Do you really want to come home to a mommy who has not had her chocolate fix? Well, do you? I didn’t think so.

What’s that, Nate? You want a ginger ale? Sure, I’ll get one for you. Oh my goodness, looks like we’re all out. Huh. That’s weird. I mean, the box is in there, but there’s nothing in it. You’re the only one that drinks that stuff in this house and I know I saw you drinking one yesterday. Huh.

Mom, where are my earrings? The ones I got for my birthday? I LOVE THOSE EARRINGS. They were on my dresser and now they’re not. Now what am I going to do? I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR. Helena, did you go in my room? Did you take my earrings? STAY OUT OF MY ROOM. Mom, can I borrow your earrings? I DON’T HAVE ANY. (disclaimer: please ignore the dust. I do.)

I do not allow my kids to eat or drink in the living room. So maybe I should just be grateful they actually used a coaster for one of the cups but God forbid, not both. And yes, that is a toothpick. Hey kids, can you throw me that hay bale over there? That one, next to the horses. Oh, that’s right. WE DON’T HAVE A BARN AND THUS, YOU WERE NOT RAISED IN ONE. I am officially grossed out.

Coming soon to a laundry basket near me. Just to clarify, yes … that is a wadded-with-the-legs-rolled-up pair of jeans lying on my eldest daughter’s bedroom floor. And yes, that is her underwear sticking out of them and a sock stuck to the bottom of them. I don’t know how long she’s been working on the ability to undress in one fell swoop but apparently, it’s been time well spent.

Judging from this photo, I think my youngest has been studying at the feet of the master.

While we’re on the subject Helena, what possesses you to just drop trow in the living room? Am I the only civilized one in this house? And for all of you blessed with 20/20 vision … yes, that is a safety pin in my daughter’s waistband. I bet my mother is having a coronary at this very instant. No, I cannot sew. And contrary to urban legend, duct tape doesn’t fix everything. Moving on …

Mom, where’s my Nintendo?!? I need to take it to Natalee’s! Mom! Where is it? It was right here! Can you help me find it? I did check my room! All over it! I moved everything! I did! I really did! I promise! I’ve looked everywhere and it’s not there. Zoe, did you go into my room? Did you? STAY OUT OF MY ROOM. Mom, I’ve looked for a hundred thousand years and it’s not there. MOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM.

You’re killing me. Just killing me.

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