Safety is Relative

multiple personalityI might have multiple personalities. I say this because it is the only logical explanation for what could be called “inconsistencies” in my parenting. Some of the time I am fueled by anxiety, completely obsessed with shielding my children from every possible action, food, disease, location, toy, person, animal, chemical, mineral, element, intention, or idea that may harm them. This personality shall be known as Mrs. Pennynickels.

And then there’s Marge. Marge says things like, “Michael, stop that and go play on the ladder instead.”

Yes, the very same woman who channeled Mrs. Pennynickels to write “An Instagram Diary of Anxiety” also let Marge take over her body and encourage her son to goof around on a ladder. When those words sloppily slid from my lips, my husband (whose unofficial motto since becoming a father is “don’t tell mom about this”) clearly recognized that something was amiss.

“Did YOU just tell Michael to play on a ladder?” he asked, mouth agape.

“Yeah. But it was only because he was wrapping an extension cord around his neck, so I needed a quick distraction.” Totally logical, right? Marge is a genius.

I think my husband likes Marge better than Mrs. Pennynickels, because he seemed to agree with her course of action. “I guess safety is relative,” he quipped.

Ooo. Neon Boogers.

Indeed. Sometimes safety is relative. In the above case, it was comparatively safer for Michael to play on the ladder and risk falling (from a rather low height, mind you) than continue playing with the extension cord and risk strangulation AND electrocution. You have to give your kids something now and again…like letting your son shove a glow stick up his nose because you’re just glad that this time it isn’t a Fuse Bead which gets stuck and results in a trip to urgent care.

 

home depot
Home Depot has all your lumber needs

Or risking the possibility that your child might get inadvertently purchased for $7.50 if it means he is not stacking towers of 2×4’s at Home Depot.

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, Marge and Mrs. Pennynickels both know not to overstay their welcome, and they each usually spend just the right amount of time influencing my parenting: Mrs. Pennynickels enough to keep child protective services away; Marge enough to keep the bottle away. My kids stay relatively safe; I stay relatively sane.

But I guess sanity is also relative.

P.S. Just to say I have done my public service announcement today, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE! For the love of everything holy, please vote…so we can get this over with and go back to recognizing most of the numbers on our caller ids. Also, Mrs. Pennynickels likes Romney while Marge likes Obama, and I am getting tired of all the mudslinging they subject me to.

Eye of the Tiger, Juice of the Freckle

Are you ready to read this blog post?…I can’t hear you! ARE YOU READY TO READ THIS BLOG POST???? Well, this should pump you up:

So I have admittedly never watched this music video before now, and somehow the bad-assitude of that song diminished the moment I saw a gaggle of mullets led by Captain Beret struttin’ down what clearly looks like a perfectly safe, well-lit city street.

Bad 80’s music video aside, “Eye of the Tiger” is arguably one of the top go-to songs when it comes to getting oneself psyched up, especially in the arena of athletics. And it conveniently came on the radio as we were driving to my daughter’s soccer game. I could feel its magic working on me; I was definitely pumped to go spectate the hell out of that game! But Grace was just sitting in the backseat, reading Freckle Juice by Judy Blume.

t-ball
Looking eager in the field during a T-ball game

Throughout her young sports career, Grace has not exactly been the picture of the enthusiastic athlete. There was the time in pre-K soccer when the other team scored and she marched off the field, declared she was done, and walked straight to the parking lot. (My husband and I were of course laughing at her and videotaping the whole thing.) And then there was the time in first grade during her school’s annual kickball tournament when she was so clearly not enthralled with the game that she let three kicks go right past her without missing a beat in her conversation with a friend. We don’t force her to play sports, mind you; she is always willing to sign up. It is only after we have paid the slightly ridiculous fee that she suddenly informs us that the answer of “yes, I would like to play soccer again this year,” actually means, “no, I did not really want to play soccer even though I said I did, so I will now just whine every time you tell me I have to go to practice or a game.”

soccer
Take note of the direction Grace is going, and where everyone else is going. Now guess where the ball is.

Thanks to my psychology minor (I totally just impressed you, didn’t I?), I know that part of her apathy stems from her belief that she just isn’t a good athlete…which stems from her fear of not being perfect at something the very first time she does it…which stems from the unfortunate strain of DNA I passed along to her. So when “Eye of the Tiger” began rockin’ our four-door sedan, I took this as a teachable moment of sorts. All Grace really needed was a little confidence to help her see all the fun that can be had playing a sport. Maybe what she needed was the eye of the tiger. It helped Rocky beat Mr. T, after all. And Grace only needed to beat a bunch of other second grade girls…fool.

Me: “Hey, G. You hear this song?”

Grace: “Uh huh.”

Me: “Well, this is probably the best song you could hear right before your soccer game. Lots of athletes listen to this song to get themselves pumped up to play. It’s got a good beat that gets you excited.”

Grace: (not even looking up from her book) That’s nice.

So much for the thrill of the fight. Apparently freckles are more thrilling.

But I bet you would never guess what happened next. Grace played the game of her life! The girl who normally does everything she can to avoid the ball was alert, aggressive, energetic…dare I say good? Maybe the “Eye of the Tiger” worked after all.

Or was it Freckle Juice? Was my daughter’s inner athlete awakened by a rousing piece of literature? I joked about the coach reciting excerpts from Blume’s books as his pre-game pep talk.

Freckle Juice by Judy BlumeThen again, Freckle Juice is about a second grade boy named Andrew who desperately wishes he had freckles like Nicky. Unhappy with the way he is, Andrew allows himself to get taken advantage of trying to get freckles only to find out in the end that Nicky actually hates his own freckles. And both boys are reassured by their teacher that they are each just the way they need to be: Andrew is perfect without freckles; Nicky is perfect with them.

Well, look at that. A story about confidence. Just what she needed. I have always believed that literature is amazing stuff.

So tell me. What story gets you pumped up?

Hey Smarty Pants…You’re Not So Smart

Isn’t it annoying when someone tries to unsuccessfully retell an extremely funny joke they heard? Well, get ready to be annoyed, because I’m about to do just that.

So there was this comedian whose name I can’t remember who told this joke I can’t exactly recall that went something like this: A boy and his dad are at the zoo, and the boy asks the name of an animal he sees. The dad says it’s a jaguar. Then the boy says no, it’s a tiger. No, it’s a jaguar. No, it’s a tiger. This argument goes on until the dad questions whom to believe: the one with the college degree or the one who can’t wipe his own butt. I know. I totally butchered it. But I swear it was funny. I even wasted an insane amount of time searching the internet trying to find it. Then I remembered these little things called priorities and decided my Cliff’s Notes version will have to do.

ANYWAY…My husband and I obviously found this to be a hysterical joke, and it was made all the more poignant when we took our own trip to the zoo, pointed out a jaguar to Michael, and he said the words, “No, that’s a tiger.” Ah, life imitating art. I believe this also falls into one of my subcategories of stupid questions asked by my children.

My kids continue to have completely unwarranted confidence in their knowledge about, well, everything. Take our recent trip to the World Bird Sanctuary. The following are exact quotes that were spoken from the lips of Michael:

Other notable quotes:

Me: “Those are Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches.”                                                  Michael: “No they’re beetles.”

“Pigeons are skinny.”

It is also worth mentioning that while Michael insisted on wearing a shirt that says “Happy Birthday to Me,” it was most definitely NOT his birthday.

I used to think it was my duty as a mother to correct these misguided thoughts. But I have finally learned it is just easier not to argue…and instead wait for them to repeat one of these “facts” at school and get laughed at by the other kids. That will teach them the truth AND toughen them up at the same time. See what I did there? I just killed two birds with one stone.

No, it’s a rock.

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An Instagram Diary of Anxiety

We all know there are things about becoming a parent that no one ever tells you about beforehand. Like even if you are successful at losing all your baby weight, and even a few extra pounds for good measure, your stomach will absolutely refuse to get the memo and continue to look at least three to four months pregnant.

But the thing I most wish I had known was that upon giving birth to my first child, I would also be delivering something else into my life: completely irrational anxiety. If you are a mother, you know what I am talking about. If you are a father, you’ve likely just rolled your eyes at me and silently (or not) called me crazy, because you also know what I’m talking about since your wife is probably the same way. This is how I have explained the phenomenon to my husband: “Let’s say we take the kids to a carnival. You see a hundred different ways you can have fun with the kids and evaluate which money-sucking games to avoid so you don’t spend a small fortune. I see hundreds of opportunities for child kidnappers and evaluate which rides my children would be most likely to die on.” It’s very simple really.

At first I thought maybe I was alone in my certifiable anxiety. Maybe at the very moment my motherly protective instincts kicked in, I was inadvertently drinking a Red Bull, resulting in an overprotective nature on steroids. But then I read Tina Fey’s brilliantly hysterical and absolutely truthful “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter,” which made me feel normal when I came to this particular part:

“Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the nearby subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called ‘Hell Drop,’ ‘Tower of Torture,’ or ‘The Death Spiral Rock N’ Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,’ and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.”

Black River Lodge - You're Gonna Like it Here
The BRL Entrance Sign: “You’re Gonna Like It Here.” Am I? My anxiety doesn’t think so.

I guess the only bad thing about finally feeling normal was that I also then gave myself permission to continue to feel anxious about things I logically know I shouldn’t. Let’s take this past weekend for example. We took a little trip to a place called Black River Lodge with my husband’s family. In reality, it is a no-frills vacation spot along the Black River where families can spend time together and enjoy many activities and a summer camp-like experience. But seen with “Anxiety Vision,” it is a virtual cornucopia of catastrophe.

With that, I give you my Instagram Diary of Anxiety from Black River Lodge:

black riverReality: The Black River. The perfect place to fish, go tubing or canoeing, catch tadpoles, and make “hotels” out of the beach rocks for said tadpoles. Anxiety Vision: A quick-moving current just waiting to grab hold of my kids and take them away forever. Just looking at this picture, I am chastising myself for not having life-jackets on them even though we did not actually get IN the river this time.

black river lodge cabinReality: A cabin overlooking the scenic river. Anxiety Vision: How sturdy are those concrete stilts? Have you ever heard of mudslides, people? They happen in California all the time. If I’m not mistaken, the New Madrid fault is about due for a pretty sizable earthquake, and I’m not liking my odds if it happens while I’m sleeping in one of these things. Do you feel a slight tilt in this floor? We are going to wake up in the river. I just know it.

playground see-sawsReality: A centrally located playground where the kids can play while you can keep an eye on them from your cabin. Anxiety Vision: I’m pretty sure those are the same see-saws that were there when I was a kid. Have they repainted those things? Have they been tested for lead?

dart boardReality: A free-standing dart board. Darts are fun. Anxiety Vision: Who the hell puts a free-standing dart board right next to the tether ball pole and right outside the rec hall where my kids spend a good chunk of their time, roaming around? Don’t they realize how easy it would be for my kids to walk right in front of this board and end up with a dart in their brains? And if they do safely make it past the dart board, there is an archery target about ten steps away. An ARCHERY TARGET! At any point of the day, some middle schooler could be shooting arrows or throwing darts. Just think about that for a minute.

tractor rideReality: The “train” that takes kids on a little ride every night after dinner. Anxiety Vision: Do the sides of those cars meet any safety regulations? Because I’m pretty sure my son could and would jump right out of those while the thing is in motion. Or at the very least, fall out because of his inability to sit still. And what about that guy driving? Does he have a license to operate a tractor? How fast is he going to drive that thing? Isn’t that the same guy I just saw drive a golf cart into a tree? Because I think it is. Can I trade out that train whistle he’s blowing on for a breathalyzer?

children crossing signReality: A well-intentioned sign warning motorists to slow down because children cross this road in order to get to the “train” and the mini-golf course. Anxiety Vision: I don’t think that sign was visible to the guy with the mullet who just drove his four-wheeler past us at max speed. Maybe we could paint a cross walk on the gravel road? Perhaps install a small stoplight? Crossing guard? Call me crazy, but I just don’t want to risk my kids’ lives to hit a ball into a hippo’s mouth.

country cookingReality: Family style country cooking Anxiety Vision: A potential health crisis on a plate. Isn’t there a saying that you should eat the rainbow? Last I checked, brown and beige aren’t colors in the rainbow, and that’s about all that is here. So one of two things will happen. Either my husband or I will suffer a heart attack from eating this OR my kids will refuse to eat this and instead fill up only on the sugary dessert and candy from the rec hall resulting in diabetic coma. And we are in the middle of nowhere. Can someone tell me where the closest hospital is? Has anyone clocked exactly how long it takes an ambulance to respond to a medical emergency out here? Do you maybe just have a carrot in the kitchen I could munch on?

snakeReality: A harmless (and dead) garter snake. Anxiety Vision: THE PLACE IS INFESTED! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! (By the way, I am truly amazed that this picture even exists, based on how extremely horrified I am of snakes. This photo came about only because of camera zoom capabilities, cropping magic, and the fact that I was pretty sure it was already dead. Still, there was intense and prolific heebie-jeebie-ing as soon as the image was snapped.)

So there. I have just given you a glimpse into my truly disturbed mothering mind. I would like to think maybe my anxiety will mellow as the kids get older, but then I would just be fooling myself. I am anticipating the need for tranquilizers when they hit driving age.

To further quell my fears that Tina Fey and I are the only neurotic mothers out there, please feel free to share what your biggest anxieties are concerning your kids. Then we can bask in the crazy together.

Dangerous Names

So I kind of have baby on the brain lately. I think I probably made my husband stop breathing with that statement, but mostly it is just because I have quite a few friends who are pregnant right now. Bringing new life into the world is filled with all kinds of land mines of excitement and frustration. And picking a name for your new bundle is just one of them.

You know how some names seem to have certain connotations to them? Come on, don’t act all I don’t judge a book by its cover on me. Whether name profiling is right or wrong (okay, it’s most definitely wrong), you know that if you hear of a kid named Bear Blu that his mother is most likely a celebrity, and also likely to chew up her child’s food for him and then spit it into his mouth.

That is why naming a child can be such a stressful thing. I was reminded of this during a conversation with a friend of mine who is expecting her third child. She and her husband seem to be at a standstill in the naming process, mostly because they have trouble agreeing on names that they both like. I can empathize. My husband and I had very few names we agreed upon. In fact, it’s a good thing we have one girl and one boy, because those two names were pretty much the only ones we both liked. If a baby #3 ever comes along, in short…we’re screwed.

In talking with my friend, I also realized that maybe part of the reason choosing a name is so hard is because men and women seem to have different tastes in names. Especially girl names. Let’s just say that both of our husbands had female name choices that hold those certain connotations I was talking about earlier.

When I became pregnant the first time, Kurt and I each made a list of names we liked, then compared. One of the names that he really liked was Brandy, and when I showed my immediate distaste for it, he just couldn’t understand why. Really? Seriously? What’s the

nuns
Which one is named Sr. Brandy?

first thing that comes to mind when you hear that name? My answer: dancer (and not the kind you pay a lot of money to go see…well, maybe you do. It’s just all in singles). Considering that Kurt has made it definitively clear that his ultimate goal for his daughter is that she enter the convent in her teens, I was flabbergasted that he would want to name her Brandy…and that he didn’t like my suggestion of Mary because it was “too plain.” Helloooooo…Mary practically begs to have a Sister placed before it and something like Frances put after it. Mary is a surefire nun name! But Kurt still defended Brandy, saying he liked the name because of the totally rockin’ song by Looking Glass:

I’ll give it to him. I love the song. However, even the song is about a girl who hangs around sailors all the time and thinks it is okay to stay with a guy who would rather get his jollies out at sea than give her the time of day. Needless to say, we found the very acceptable compromise of Grace. And it’s a good thing, because at the age of five, she once said something on the playground that could have been worrisome otherwise. She was sliding down the fireman’s pole and yelled, “Dad, I have really good pole moves! You should see them sometime. Really. I’m really good on the pole.” Knowing that her name means “blessing and virtue” helped me laugh off this comment. Had her name been Brandy, it could have been very ominous.

So, to all my round-bellied friends and anyone else with a bun in the oven, good luck dodging the land mines of dangerous names.

Milk Diaries by Maggie SingletonOh, and while you’re in the market for all things baby-related, check out a brand new book by my good friend and fantastic writer, Maggie Singleton. It’s called Milk Diaries: A Compilation of Practical, Encouraging Advice from the “Real” Breastfeeding Experts. She has gathered stories from many moms about their experiences breastfeeding, and it is better than any breastfeeding book I ever read as a new mom. And you can also check my own contribution in there, “The Lactation Consultant from the Black Lagoon.” Happy reading…and feeding!

Thank God for the Caramel Apples

As I pushed my wobbling cart through the sliding doors of Walmart yesterday, the heavens opened and a phosphorescent glow pulsated from the display that stood to greet me…

happy apples caramel apples

YES!!!! The caramel apples have arrived! “Happy Apples” indeed! As you can see, I was very quick to snap up a package and place them directly in the front seat of my basket, a place reserved only for the most precious items: your baby, your purse, and your Happy Apples.

I love caramel apples. I crave the combination of sweet, salty, and tart, and how the juicy crispness of the apple mixes in my mouth with the smooth, sticky caramel and tiny crunch of the peanuts. From the moment they populate the seasonal display at the grocery store to the depressing day they disappear from the produce section, I will add a package of Happy Apples to my cart almost every week. And I ALWAYS buy the four pack, never the singles…usually with the intention that I will share them with the kids. But usually I end up hiding them in the back of the refrigerator and hoarding them all for myself.  At the very least, I snag two of the four: one for Grace, one for Michael, two for Mommy. None for Daddy. He knows better than to get between this woman and her Happy Apples.

But even more than eating them, I love caramel apples because of what their arrival signals: the best part of the year. It whispers to me that autumn is on the heels of summer, meaning jeans and sweaters, all things pumpkin, and a lot more evenings of eating dinner on the deck enjoying beautiful weather. And Halloween. I am addicted to Halloween. Let us also not forget that the advent of caramel apples also means the advent of school. Ah, school. Otherwise known as a stay-at-home mom’s vacation.

Don’t get me wrong; I really do love having my kids home for the summer. And we had a good one this year full of relatively outburst-free outings, a lot of pool visits, and “hey let’s go do this today,” just because we could. Sending Grace and Michael back to school is always tinged with some sadness for me because, more than any other time, it hits me square in the face how quickly my kids are growing. How all my attempts to hold onto their childhoods are in vain, and soon they will be packing up their cars to move to their own apartments instead of packing up their backpacks to head off to just another day of school.

So yesterday was the perfect day for the Happy Apples to arrive, because yesterday was Michael’s first day of school. Grace started last week, and yesterday marked the day where I dropped off both kids and then had the nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. And this could very well be Michael’s last year of preschool (provided we don’t hold him back due to his late birthday), so yesterday also quite possibly marked the beginning of the end of an era in my parenting life. Whoa. I just got a little lump in my throat even typing that. But there the Happy Apples were…to make it all better…

…and to remind me that now that school is back in session, I have an ample amount of kid-free time to devour the entire four-pack without them even knowing.

Dr. Spock, Freud, and Grade School Soccer

Both of my kids started soccer this past week. Naturally, that got me thinking deep philosophical thoughts about life and parenting. That’s normal, right?

The world of children’s sports is one of those arenas that tests my parenting skills. I have some really strong feelings about the ways in which we school our kids in competition, and I have also found that involving my own children in sports has led to the surfacing of some lingering insecurities over never being “a cool jock” in the days of my youth. Neither of these are things I want to project onto my kids. But I have to admit, it was hard to quell the emotion I felt at Grace’s first soccer game the other day when I watched her sit on the bench for over half of the game.

I will be the first to admit I have absolutely NO delusions about Grace’s talent as a soccer player. She is not the fastest runner, she needs a heap of lessons on how to be more aggressive, she’s much better at looking like she’s doing something on the field than actually doing something on the field, and she is likely spending most of her time admiring the other teams’ hair ribbons than paying attention to the goings-on of the game. But her team is not playing for Olympic gold, where the best players should be the only ones playing. They are simply in a second grade soccer tournament.

My friend Nicole wrote a really great post about participation trophies, and how it seems we have created a climate for kids where they get rewarded for just showing up, not for actually being good at something. I couldn’t agree more, and even commented, “Kids need to experience failure so they don’t go out into the world thinking they will win at everything…and this is the perfect time for them to experience failure because we are right there to help them through it.” (I know, feel free to award me with my child expert degree.) So after feeling a little upset that Grace seemed to have landed the role as team bench warmer, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I was being hypocritical. Everyone can’t be the star after all.

good sportsmanship sign in Metropolis, Illinois
Brilliant.

And then I remembered a photo of a sign posted at a Metropolis, Illinois little league field that made its way around Facebook earlier this summer. Maybe we shouldn’t be giving out consolation rewards to our kids when they don’t win, but we also need to teach them that winning isn’t everything. My husband and I aren’t seeking out uber-competitive select sporting teams for our kids to play on. We sign them up to play on their school-sponsored teams, where everyone can be on the team regardless of skill, where they can build camaraderie with their friends and learn about teamwork, and where they can actually have a chance to play and build some skills in the sport. Oh yeah, and where they can have fun. These words are spoken at LOT at our house: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters if you have fun.”

So there I was, agonizing over the fear that my child was getting cheated out of a fun soccer experience all because she is not the best player. As the game came to an end (we lost, by the way), I was trying to think of what to say to Grace when she asked why she did not get to play as much as the other kids. But she never asked that question. Instead, this is what she said to me:

“Well, we didn’t win. But I had fun anyway.”

(You can revoke that child expert degree now.) She didn’t even care that she probably had the least amount of playing time than anyone else on the team. Heck, I don’t think she even noticed. Parenting lesson learned: don’t make an issue out of non-issues.

Man, apparently being second-string on the freshman basketball team stung my subconscious more than I ever thought. This parenting thing is hard. Coach, I think I need a sub.

Addendum: I want to admit I had second thoughts about posting this piece in fear that it would be taken as a bash against Grace’s coach. It is not meant to be. He is a great guy who is volunteering his own time to teach a bunch of little girls how to play soccer. There may have been reasons unknown to me why she didn’t play much; or it could have been an accidental oversight altogether. And considering Grace’s statement after the game, he is obviously making it a fun experience for her so far. As I agonized over whether this would be seen as disrespectful to him (are you starting to understand that I agonize a LOT?), I realized that 1) the whole purpose of this post is to highlight how I was the one who blew the situation out of proportion and 2) I am not writing for the New York Times and have an audience size of about one millionth of theirs. The chances that Grace’s coach, or any other parent from the team, would read this are pretty small. So I need to take my own advice and stop making an issue out of a probable non-issue. Then again, one of my neighbors did happen across my neighbor post a few weeks ago, so just in case….Coach, you’re going a great job 🙂 

My Favorite Subject Turns Four: Happy Birthday Michael!

Dear Michael,

It seems appropriate that I post this birthday letter to you on my blog, since you have single-handedly provided much of my material for it…and frankly some of my best quality material. Every time I finish a new blog post and read it to your dad, he always says, regardless, “I think it’s your best one.” Well, I know that’s not always the case, but I think we would both agree that “Dancing on Betsy Ross’ Grave” is probably one of our favorites. And that is all thanks to you and your “unique way of living life.” Mostly, I love that post because it means I will always have something to remind me of exactly the boy your were at the age of three-and-a-half. But today, my little man, you turn four years old, and I can not wait (and frankly, am a bit frightened) to see what this next year will bring.

Michael the cowboyYou certainly keep us on our toes, which (while not always amusing at those very moments) has certainly provided us with lots of after-the-fact laughs, suppressed smiles while trying to scold you, and I give up giggles. I have often said about you, “It’s a good thing he’s cute”…and you really are, in my completely unbiased opinion. But truthfully, I don’t want you growing up with the notion that those charming dimples and lashfully luscious baby blues will buy you a free pass to make your own rules…because guys like that are big fat jerks. And you, my little buddy, may have had a salty three-year-old tongue sometimes, but you are powered by a heart that beats sweet and pure. Besides, now that you are turning four, I’m fully expecting the “terrible threes” to kindly be on their way.

One thing I hope will stick around, even though you are getting older, is that I can always count on you for some really fantastic snuggles. You…are…momma’s…boy. Plain and simple. Though it is sometimes burdensome that I am always your first choice to do pretty much everything, I really adore that you adore me so. It is hard to resist your nightly request of “Momma, will you snuggle with me?” even in spite of the massive number of time outs I had to put you in or “Michael messes” I had to clean up that day. And in those moments where you are lying in bed on the brink of sleep, all I can see is a perfect little boy.

Reflecting on this past year, age three has really been something. Exhausting? Yes. Frustrating? Yes (by the way,…PLEASE get his whole normal healthy eating habits thing down. It’s just annoying.). But you have made it all worth while because it is impossible for your genuinely lovable and inquisitive nature not to shine through. And you may be getting wise to ways of covering up your indiscretions (like when I catch you sneaking a cookie and you almost instinctively hold it up and say, “I was getting you a cookie, mom.”), but it also seems that Osmosis Boy IS starting to catch on to the right way of doing things as well…like saying “okay” when we ask you to do something instead of ignoring us or blatantly refusing. And might I say it is pretty adorable when we reaffirm this by saying “Good answer!” and you reply, “Yay! Let’s have a good answer party! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!”

Instead, let’s have a birthday party today to celebrate the fact that you have made our lives complete for another year. And pretty jam-packed-super-full as well. I feel certain that age four will bring many more blog posts to come, but I would be lying if I said I was not excited to see what you will bring to the table, and how you will refine the talents you already posses. For instance, your emerging negotiating tactics that usually only consist of what you will get out of the bargain: “How ’bout you take me to the ice cream store. Would that be a deal?” Well buddy, I’ve got one for you…

How ’bout you just keep being exactly who you are, and I just keep on loving you all the way to Heaven and back. Would that be a deal?

Love, Mommy

The Firefly Effect: The Disappearance of Childhood

“Hey look! A firefly!”

My kids scampered off into the duskly shrouded park to chase the lone intermittent yellow illumination, as my husband and I sat listening to the music of Cornet Chop Suey’s free concert.

“Remember catching fireflies as kids and putting them in mason jars with holes punched in the lids?” I mused. “You don’t see as many fireflies these days.”

“Because there aren’t as many as there used to be,” my husband replied.

Silently, I mourned that childhood just isn’t what it used to be. It seems even fireflies are finding themselves in the same company as trick-or-treating, riding bikes around the neighborhood, and imagination…the vanishing company of childhood.

We accuse many thieves in the robbery of youth. Mistrust of mankind keeps us from allowing our kids to knock on strangers’ doors and see how much candy their costumes can bring in. Rising violence and fear of child kidnappers and pedophiles make us wary to let our little ones roam in carefree exploration of new ventures of play. We blame technology for doing the legwork of imagination for our kids, or claim that they are too overloaded with school and extracurriculars to have any time to daydream. And in the case of the disappearing fireflies, the culprits appear to be industrial development and light pollution. With all of these things becoming endangered species, what kind of childhood is left for our kids to enjoy?

FirefliesBut maybe things are not really as different for our kids as we think. Maybe it is just OUR perspective that has changed. We see things with the practicality and rawness of adulthood. True, the world may be changing…but this is the only world our children have ever known, and the only childhood they have ever experienced. We might see the absence of a few fireflies, but our kids simply see the ones that ARE there. And they have just as much fun chasing the five that are in their backyard as we did chasing the fifteen that were in ours. So the only thing that can rob our kids of childhood is if we tell them there aren’t any childhoods left to live.

It was silly of me to mourn that night in the park. Because as I looked around, I saw families sitting on blankets and nibbling on picnics…a playground full of kids giggling and squealing with the delight that comes from swings and merry-go-rounds…bikes and scooters gliding along paved paths…little tongues turning shades of blue, red, and purple from sno cones…and oddly enough, more and more blinking, glowing orbs lighting up the darkening sky.

Long live childhood.

A Ruined Target Shopping Trip and Other Things That Annoy Parents

Target LogoIt should be illegal for the Icee machine at Target to ever, ever be broken.

I usually like to make my trips to “the mecca” solo, but when I do have to bring a kid or two along, $1.69 + tax is a small price to pay to insure I can give Target my full shopping attention, as it rightfully deserves.

So you can imagine my terror when I arrived at the snack counter today, with Michael in tow, and ordered a medium ICEE (a medium is a nice compromise between the completely unnecessary sugar spaz that comes with a large, and the decreased browsing time that a small buys), only to have my request met with the words, “The ICEE machine is brrrrooooookeeeeeennnn.” (I write it that way to denote how the word sounded to me at the moment…like in the movies when everything happens in slow-mo, and you hear something in that deep, drawn-out voice that signals catastrophe.)

Well, crap.

“We have popcorn.” Thanks, but that doesn’t help me whatsoever. What good is popcorn when all it will do is make Michael thirsty, prompting him to ask for an ICEE? Does Mr. Snack Counter Man not foresee this vicious cycle?

I simply tell him, “Thanks anyway,” as I walk away. I break the news to Michael, which of course results in a pitiful, whimpering cry. And I realize there will be no moments of self-actualization or nirvana on this particular Target trip.

So while we are on the subject, here are a few other things that I think should be illegal in order to make parents’ lives a lot easier:

1. Other parents announcing in public that they are taking their kids to McDonald’s. Every parenting handbook should warn against committing this act of terrorism on fellow parents. It’s just not a nice thing to do to those who have children within earshot of that announcement. Any parent who breaks this rule should be subject to a punishment that lasts as long as the endless whining that results from my children overhearing that OTHER kids get to go to McDonald’s, but THEIR mom hates them and gives them peanut butter for the fourth time this week.

misbehaving in churce
You may need to pray, but this pew is just begging to have my cars driven all over it.

2. Churches with no cry rooms. It may be the House of the Lord, but surely having no cry room is the Devil’s doing. It’s hard enough to receive God’s Word when you have a two-year-old asking for Cheerios and pointing out that there are no pictures in the hymnals, but it’s near impossible when you have the added stares of people wondering why you can’t control your children. Yes, you are justified in your indignation Ms. Judgey McJudgepants…it is completely acceptable to expect a toddler to sit quietly still for forty-five minutes to an hour. I’m sure all of YOUR children did in the good old days. Thankfully, our church does have a cry room, but I have been to my fair share of ones that didn’t. And it is just not fun. In the worst cases, I honestly wondered what was the point of me even being there. In fact, do you want to know how important I think cry rooms are? One of the reasons we actually chose to join the parish we did was because it had a more welcoming cry room than the other nearby parish. It may sound a little shallow, but I can tell you I have had mostly pleasant church experiences. Nothing frees you up to get closer to God than not having to worry when your kid decides to sing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle song instead of “On Eagle’s Wings.”  

fuse beads
I’d like to give whoever invented these a swift kick in the pants

3. Giving Fuse Beads as a birthday present. If you don’t know what Fuse Beads are, consider yourself lucky. While in theory they are a mild-mannered craft project, in reality they are minuscule menaces that are impossible for children without fully developed dexterity to handle, which inevitably end up all over your floor. Or in our case, the entire bucket is found during a Halloween party and the contents dumped all throughout the basement. However, I am ashamed to admit, I just broke this rule. But in my defense, I didn’t do it on purpose. My husband likes to find toys on sale and buy up a couple to have on hand for whenever one of the kids is invited to a birthday party. Grace had a party to go to today, and I didn’t worry about finding a gift because I knew we had our stockpile. Well, when I went to get the gift (of course, right before we had to leave for the party) I found that all I had to choose from was one lonely box of Fuse Beads. When Kurt saw what I had, he said, “I thought you liked Abby’s mom.” I replied that I did. “Then WHY are you giving Abby Fuse Beads?” I did apologize to Abby’s mom when I dropped off Grace…luckily she’s a laid-back lady and is used to having Fuse Beads dotting her floors. But I know my parental karmic payback is coming.

Now let’s commiserate…feel free to comment about other things you feel should be made illegal. I know this list can be much, much longer…