Monthly Archives: October 2014

On Holidays And Salmonella

October is quickly coming to a close, and while that means the anticipation and excitement of the holidays for most people (read: children and senile, elderly people), for people with small children, that only means one thing:  lots of shit to do, in a really narrow window of time.

November and December are always busy months around here, and not just because of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all the festivities that come with those holidays.  In addition to those two major holidays, Leland and Mallory also have November birthdays, and my own birthday is in December, not that it matters, because I have major competition in the form of a guy who died on a cross to wash away the sins of all of humanity, so yeah, I would say I’m playing second fiddle.

The last few days have been spent mentally preparing myself, organizing my to-do lists, and hoping I don’t get a lifetime prescription for Xanax in the process.  Yesterday, we stopped at Publix, where I let Leland flip through the birthday cake catalog in order to pick his cake.  Of course, he chose the one theme that was out of stock: Ninja Turtles.  Mallory also chose Ninja Turtles, which I guess is the result of being the lone girl with two older brothers.

Before any of that, though, we have to get through Halloween.  Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, but now that I’m struggling to get flailing, sweaty limbs into cheap, polyester costumes, dragging them all over the neighborhood in the dark, trying to keep them from getting run over, and poring over candy so my kids don’t eat arsenic and razorblades, I’m really rethinking its existence.  Can’t we formally petition for October 31st to be “Drink Wine & Watch SVU While Eating Reese’s Day”?  That sounds like a much better celebration. Or maybe we can just petition for November 1st to be declared, “Eat Your Kid’s Halloween Candy Day.” I mean, if we have to go peddling from door to door with them, we should get a cut. Just sayin’.

The other day, I baked for the first time this Fall. I baked several dozen peanut butter cookies, and they were glorious. The kids kept milling around the kitchen, asking to help, and I’d let them help with little things. I always think these commercials that feature small children helping their parents cook and bake are kind of funny, because none of that shit ever looks that way in real life. If my real life experiences with baking with my kids are any indicator, the mom in the commercial should have flour in her hair, her nostrils, and her kids should look like vintage antiques, covered in a fine dusting of flour. There should be a screaming toddler somewhere in the background, due to the fact that she’s not allowed to crack an egg, because hello, salmonella?! Toddlers don’t understand salmonella.

For now, I’ll just listen to Bruce Springsteen and brace myself for the tidal wave that’s about to crash upon me in the form of baking, errands, cooking, and to-do lists. It’s all for a good cause. And on the days when I feel like I’m going to flip my shit, I’ll just pour some wine, and when my toddler inevitably asks me for some, I’ll tell them it’s got salmonella in it.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  What they don’t tell you is that a few of those words are probably four letters long and start with the letter ‘f.’

Today, we went to the JCPenney portrait studios to get holiday pictures taken of the kids.  This is our second consecutive year going to the same JCPenney photo studio to have portraits taken, and based on my cumulative experiences of last year and this year, I can say with certainty that it is always a shitshow.

This week started like any other, with a fair amount of hustle and bustle due to Carl’s school schedule, his activities, and keeping track of every other special dress day that his school declares.  Between Hat Day, Red Shirt Day, Yellow Shirt Day, Jean Day, Superhero Day, and every other day inbetween, I’m starting to think that maybe they’re just trying to drive me batshit crazy.  Or even more batshit crazy than I already am.  If that’s at all possible.

Friday was a rainy teacher planning day, so after an outing at the local indoor bouncehouse place, we made a trip to the store to pick up some nice outfits for their portrait session.  Everything fit nicely, they looked adorable, and we were all set.  This morning, we woke up, had breakfast, got dressed, and were on our merry way.

Admittedly, it wasn’t my kids who were a hot mess.  I’m not saying that because they’re my kids, either.  They surprised me pleasantly today and were very well-behaved despite having to wait a while to get called, and were totally cooperative during the photo session, leaving me with a tough decision, trying to pick between 5 different shots that were adorable.

Equipped with the knowledge I have of this JCPenney photo studio, I can attest that there is some type of mysterious force field surrounding the photo studio, and once a child crosses the barrier into this force field, they completely lose their shit.  Never in my life have I seen so many outwardly cherubic looking children, acting like Rosemary’s Baby.

Beautiful little girls in pristine white dresses tearing their headbands and hairbows out of their hair.  Darling little boys in sweater vests rolling around on the floor, wailing.  Adorable babies in tiny ties and argyle socks, clawing at their mothers and screaming bloody murder.

As I assessed the very real chaos unfolding around me, I have to admit, I gloated a little bit, since my kids were behaving pretty decently on the overall, and then I felt sorry for these presumably good parents, who only want to document this time in their children’s lives with a nice portrait, only to have their offspring basically take a hot, steamy dump on their face and flip them the bird.  Figuratively, anyway.  I didn’t actually see anyone drop a deuce on anyone else’s face, but that’s pretty much the only atrocity I didn’t witness at that godforsaken place today.

So, I’ve compiled a few tips on how to deal with your kids in the event that they morph into drooling Neanderthals at the photo studio this holiday season:

1) Keep the fancy stuff off until the last possible second.  Chances are, your kid doesn’t want to wear that adorable little accessory you just had to buy them- I actually witnessed a little girl whip a floral headband across the waiting room like a boomerang. Unless you want whatever cutesy little item you brought to accessorize with under your kid’s shoe (or under some other kid’s shoe), keep it off until you actually get in front of the camera.

2) This is the perfect time to utilize the iPad or Kindle.  Just trust me here.  At one point, the boys were getting antsy, and they started to horse around briefly, and Leland ended up with a huge scratch on his face.  So now, every time anyone looks at our beautiful holiday portrait, I’ll get to explain to them that he looks like Scarface because I forgot their Kindles at home.

3) Keep it short and sweet. This one’s pretty obvious, but I saw a few parents in there who had so many outfit changes, I was wondering whether their kids were getting ready to host the Academy Awards. Keep it short, keep it simple, do a couple of different poses, and leave before the meltdown begins.

4) Bring snacks. If your kids are anything like my kids, they beg for food more often than a dog or a hobo. Keep an arsenal of snacks to keep them at bay, particularly if you’re waiting. I made the mistake this year of not bringing a single snack since we left the house in a hurry, and I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so fervently for the heavens to open up and drop a bag of Goldfish crackers in my lap.

5) Book your appointment early in the day. My kids got up at 4:45 AM today. Four. Forty. Five. AM. Wrap your head around that, then proceed to feel sorry for me as you make me a pot of Cuban coffee. I was glad we had an 8:50 AM appointment, because they were still in good spirits, and the studio wasn’t crazy packed. We got out of there a little after 11 o’clock, and it was a madhouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cute kids acting like drunk high school girls: laying on the floor, crying, and ripping all their clothes off.

I hope this post will help those of you who are planning to take your little ones for professional pictures! For those of you who are taking them this holiday season, good luck and Godspeed! For those of you who aren’t, congrats! You’re obviously way smarter than I am.

The Power Of Yes

I was tired.

Bleary eyed, barely awake, the sun wasn’t even up yet.  It was 5:22 AM and I could feel that I was already approaching the end of my rapidly fraying rope.  The kids were in the living room, arguing over the TV.  One wanted to watch Jake & The Neverland Pirates, the other wanted to watch Tom & Jerry.  I was in no mood to referee that fight, so I told them to knock it off.  The baby was clinging to my leg, whining for some milk.  I was ready for the day to end and it had literally just begun.

The day before had been a bad day.  I yelled more often than I’d have liked, let my anger and my abject need for control get the best of me several times over.   After I put them to bed, I felt an immense amount of guilt.  I didn’t want to feel like a bad mom, but shortly before bed, during a heated moment, Carl said, “you’re a bad mommy.  You never let us do anything.”  That comment, however immature and misguided it was, coming from the mouth of a mere 5 year old, stung.  That one sentence played in my head over and over… “You’re a bad mommy”.  It stayed with me the rest of the evening, and into the following morning, leaving me with a heavy, and, quite honestly, hurt heart.

Flash forward to the increasingly hectic morning we were embarking upon, and I reached into the refrigerator for the pancake mix after Carl requested pancakes for breakfast.  The word “no” danced on my tongue- how many times have I told him?  Cereal or a sandwich on school days.  I don’t have time for pancakes.  That’s too much work for a weekday morning.  As I grasped the box of pancake mix, relenting to the pancakes moreso out of guilt from the debacle of the day before than anything else, I felt a searing pain travel through my badly knotted shoulders and neck.  In that moment, that pain gave me perspective.  That was physical pain due to the strain and tension of all of the unnecessary battles I’d been fighting as of late.  Why do I need to control everything?, I thought to myself.

Simple.  I don’t.

So, in that moment, I chose to give myself over to the power of yes.

This doesn’t mean cookies before dinner or playing tag in traffic.  The rest of the day, I practiced saying yes.  To 90% of their requests.  Wanna color?  Sure.  Wanna pull out all the Legos, dump them out, and make castles all afternoon?  Let’s do this.  Wanna bounce in the bouncehouse?  I’ll set it up now.

I found the less controlling I was, and the more laid back I became, the more laid back they became.  It was such a welcome reprieve from the constant battle I felt I was fighting.  I felt like every time I said anything, they countered me.  Everything was a bartering tool or a bribe.  Everything was forced.  There was no cooperation, because I was being a dictator.  And nobody wants to be controlled.  They aren’t pawns, they are children.

I have been investing my attention and time almost exclusively into them lately, and it’s helping.  They are listening more effectively, fighting less, and behaving better on the overall.  I am giving them my entire self- at the end of the day, I am completely exhausted, but I feel good.  I feel like we are making progress in the right direction.  At the end of the day, I feel less like I’m completing a chore, and more like I’m being granted a privilege.  And I am.

The pain in my neck and shoulders is gone.  Oh, and the pain in my heart, too.

Caught In A Blur

I have heard people say, “man, it was such a blur!” when describing a time in their lives.  Whether it be moving from one place to another, switching jobs, drinking too much in college, I’ve heard this described to me many times by different people.  I can’t recall a time in my life that I can accurately describe as being a blur.  Well, I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Lately, life has really been a blur.  It seems like there’s always something else to do, another errand to run, another chore to finish, another phone call to make, another appointment to schedule, another ass to wipe- and mind you, none of those things are mine.  Not even the ass.  Well, I wipe my ass, but you know what I mean.

Today, I had the distinct privilege of spending the morning at the dentist with Leland, after shuttling Carl to school.  He’s been complaining about a tooth that sustained an impact last year-  I can remember the day like it was just yesterday.  Leland tearing through the living room like the Tasmanian Devil, and suddenly, he trips, falls, and mouth to corner of table collision takes place.  I can still hear the wailing, and I remember holding a wet washcloth to his mouth to stop the bleeding.  Eventually, the tooth turned grey, then black, and he affectionately nicknamed it, “mah black toof.”  We lived with the black toof for close to a year, but recently it’s become sensitive to temperature, and on Sunday, it started to hurt while he was eating a sandwich.  The dentist had previously told us that it wasn’t a big deal unless it began hurting, and that the tooth was valuable for its role as a space-saver for the adult tooth that would inevitably take its place.  Promptly after settling in at the dentist, filling out all the necessary paperwork, and getting called, Leland proceeded to completely lose his shit.

Imagine a wild, rabid animal, corralled into the corner of a cage.  Then imagine poking it repeatedly with a pointy stick.  Then you can imagine the level of cray cray we were dealing with at the time.

As I sat there helplessly, while the clueless dental assistant attempted to cover both of our wiggly, writhing bodies with the same x-ray apron, as I attempted to keep all of his limbs under the apron and away from the dental assistant’s face, I knew then what it felt like to wrestle an alligator.

When the x-ray was finally done, they graciously placed us into a large room with three dental examination chairs placed in the center of the room, where two children were sitting quietly and calmly, having their teeth cleaned.  I glanced down at the creature of the blue lagoon, who was dry heaving and had a spit string dangling from his lower lip.  I knew then that shit was about to get real, before it even started.

The clueless assistant attempted to coerce him onto the third exam chair, bribing him with stickers.  I think I could have probably covered him from the tip of his head to the ends of his pinky toes with every sticker in that place, and he still wouldn’t have gone willingly.  Finally, I resigned myself to the fact that we were going to have to do this by force, and I heaved him onto the chair like a sack of potatoes, and he proceeded to scream like I’d just lit him on fire.  At that point, the dentist decided to grace us with his presence, and Leland chose that very moment to make a great first impression by screaming, “GO AWAY!”

Once the assistant realized she’d have better luck extracting a tooth from a wild hog, she produced a device called a “Papoose Board.”  I don’t really know what a papoose is, but I think it should be more aptly named, “something you’d find in Buffalo Bill’s dungeon in Silence Of The Lambs.”  She strapped him into it, and he was totally restrained, from the shoulders to the ankles, looking just like a burrito, only if your burrito screamed relentlessly and wore blue Crocs.

The doctor proceeded to promptly inject the gums with novocaine, and quickly prying his mouth open with this metal contraption before extracting the tooth in less time than it took me to consider doing a shot of tequila right there in his office.  The dentist was up and gone before I could even ask if it was already over.  Vanished like a fart in the wind.

What also vanished was any trace of the demon spawn that had possessed Leland for the past half hour.  As soon as he was out of his restraints, he was supplied with a lollipop and two Doc McStuffins stickers, and promptly began singing, “I feel betta, so much betta, thank ya Doc, fa takin’ all mah ouchies awaaaaaay!”

I was dumbfounded.  I had some papers in my hand that I had somehow signed at some point, but had no recollection of signing, a happy child, content with stickers and a lollipop, and the assistant was smiling cheerfully and saying, “that’s a wrap!”

I had no clue how we’d gotten to that point.  My brain was still playing catch-up.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen… Is being caught in a blur.