Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Women Who Talk to Elves.

I find myself having a "love-hate" relationship with our Elf on the Shelf.  Half of me is pissed because I had one of these elves when I was a kid and it didn't come in a pretty box with a storybook and he never reported to Santa on whether or not I was being good.  He just hung from the light fixture over our kitchen table.  We actually had two and they were by far my most favorite Christmas decoration of my childhood.  I just wish my mom had been a little more creative and, at the very least, told us the elves were watching us at dinner to see if we ate our vegetables.  But I guess that is expecting a little much since I only believed in Santa until I was four.

I can forgive the fact that my brother blurted out "There's no such thing as Santa, stupid," while we were shopping in Jewel when I asked my mom "how many more days 'til Santa?" I can forgive the fact that I am not making millions off of the marketing juggernaut that is "Elf on a Shelf” all because I can use this little guy to my full advantage for the duration of the Holiday Season.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, you get this Elf in a box along with a book that in a nutshell says you are supposed to name this elf and he will watch over everything your kid(s) do and each night report back to Santa if they have been good or bad and then reappear the next morning.  Part of the fun is hiding the elf in various spots in the house and having the kids find him.  We only started that part of the tradition this week.

We named our elf  "Bubble Pop."  So, since December 2, I have been threatening my daughter with Bubble Pop and it has worked out pretty well, most of the time.   All those issues I've mentioned in previous blogs about trying to get out of the house, all I have to do is tell her Bubble Pop is watching and she quits her lolly gagging and puts her boots on, coat, gets in the car, whatever the case may be and I have shaved an average of about 3 minutes off my departure times.

This week has been particularly challenging, as we get closer to the Christmas.  I don't know if it was all the excitement of her school Christmas Program, followed by a party, followed by a large bag of candy and treats, but Madelyn has been extra "Sassy."  There has been a lot of obstinance, foot stomping and my favorite, sigh of disgust.  (Can't imagine where she learns these things?)

Yesterday, it went something like this:
Me: Madelyn, go potty.
Madelyn: No, I don't have to go potty.
Me: We are going to the store and you need to go potty before we leave.  Please, go potty.
Madelyn: I DON'T HAVE TO GO!!! (Foot stomp)
Me: Seriously?  For a little girl who wants Santa to bring her lots of presents this week, you aren't being very nice.  Now, go potty. Bubble Pop is watching you!
Madelyn: I SAID I DON'T  HAVE TO GO! (Double foot stomp)

Before my blood pressure rose and smoke came out my ears, I turned to my old pal, Bubble Pop.  Luckily he was on the shelf behind me. And there I was, talking directly to Bubble Pop. I was tattling on my 3 year old to a frickin' elf.

Me: Bubble Pop, Madelyn is not listening to me.  You need to go back and tell Santa that she has not been a very nice girl...

And before I could finish, I heard the sigh of disgust and a "fine, I'll go potty" she was off.  Thank God, because I could hardly keep a straight face. 

I have to admit, I feel kind of guilty...but only a little.  It occurs to me that this whole Christmas thing is really a racket.  Come to think of it, if I was a government official, I could probably be impeached and sent to jail for my actions.  Let's start with the lesser infraction of tattling.  Not something I encourage unless Colin is pulling down a lamp, art on the wall, our dogs' tail or is in some other grave danger.

Then there is forgery.  Every time I write a label, "To: Maddie From: Santa" I feel guilty.  Thus far, have been fortunate that Madelyn a) can't read and b) wouldn't know my handwriting or printing for anything. But she is getting older, smarter and above all else, has a phenomenal memory.  I worry more that she will recognize the wrapping paper Santa uses as the same paper I bought at Target last week.

I think it goes without saying that adultery should be added to the mix.  After all, I was caught "Kissing Santa Claus," wasn't I?

Bribery seems to be the gift that keeps on giving and is one I use all year-round.  I am also happy to know that I am not the only parent who does this seeing as how I heard a woman yell at her son from across the store, "I will buy you a Snickers bar if you get over here right now!"  I personally keep Target Corporation in business one dollar at a time due to their "$1 Bins."

In the end I feel like a big fraud.  By definition, fraud is deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage. Deceit? Check.  Trickery? Check.  Breach of confidence? Only when they learn the truth, I suppose.  Dishonest advantage? You bet.

Other definitions say fraud is a "deliberate misrepresentation, which causes another person to suffer damages, usually monetary loss." I guess in this case, my kids certainly aren't "suffering" based on the number of presents they will receive this year and the only monetary loss is from our own checking account.

Ok, so I am not going to jail for pretending to be Santa or for telling my kids that this little plastic elf is going to report to Santa and if they are bad, they won't get presents.  But all this lying is a lot of work and requires creativity and will only get harder as they get older.

My biggest fear, however, is the week after Christmas when I can no longer use Bubble Pop and the threat of returning all their toys wears off.  I guess maybe I should start developing a prototype for an Easter Bunny on a shelf?

Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Late! I'm Late! For....Pretty Much Everything.

I have always been chronically late, but now I have an excuse.  I have 2 kids.

I remember as a kid, especially in high school, my mom yelling at me to get out of bed. She would even go so far as to rip the covers off me to get me "up and at 'em."  I would usually push it to the last possible moment and then run around the house trying to get out the door and to school on time.  My mom always noted that I had no "routine" in the morning and never did the same thing twice.

Some things never change.  Oddly, I have become quite the morning person.  I often get up at 6 a.m. to make sure I can eat my breakfast, check my email, Facebook, watch the news and write my blog.  I eat the same thing every morning and have a very specific routine.  When the kids wake up, I try to have a system for getting them fed and dressed in the morning, but somewhere along the way I always misjudge how much time it takes to get them ready and out the door.  On top of all this, I married another chronically late person.  Not only do I have to battle my own punctuality demons, I have to compensate for his.

I really started to beat myself up over our constant frantic pace and started to really pay attention to what holds us up when we need to be somewhere.

Here's a typical day.

I run upstairs to get Colin's shoes from his room and notice that he had stepped in dog poo in the yard yesterday and have to use an unfolded paper clip to clean the poo out of the grooves.

I get downstairs and realized I forgot to close the door to the laundry room and find Colin eating dog food, putting handfuls of it in the dogs' water bowl and then splashing in the water and based on the fact his socks are soaking wet, I am assuming that he also stood in the water bowl.  Too bad he didn't have his shoes on, he could have cleaned them off for me.

I go on to get Maddie ready and have to tear her away from what she is doing to get her dressed.  She dances around and does everything but focus on the task at hand.  I go to put her socks on her and she complains that she doesn't want the Princess socks, she wants Cars socks.  She doesn't want to wear a pink rubber brand in her hair, she wants a blue one. I try to explain that the blue pony holder doesn't match her pink shirt and the blue socks with a giant red Lightning McQueen on them really don't go with her black Mary Janes.  I give up and embrace our Polish heritage and allow her to wear a hot pink shirt, blue pony holder, purple pants, bright turquoise socks and black shoes.  The illustrious pony tail comes next.  This is a self inflicted obsession I have.  Maddie has really thin, fine hair and I do my best to make it as neat and tight as possible.  Regardless of my efforts, she often ends up looking homeless.

Ok, now for coats.  Maddie is trying to learn to put her coat on herself, and she lays it on the floor and then lays on her back on top of it and tries to put it on from there.  Seems good in theory, but her coordination, or lack thereof, makes it a daunting task.  Her teacher requested the kids learn how to put their coats on themselves to make getting ready to go outside easier and I suddenly picture her placing her coat on the floor of the hallway and sprawling out.  Something tells me that this method will do nothing to aid the teachers in their efforts to get the kids ready faster.

Colin is a whole different beast, and I do mean BEAST, when it comes to putting his coat on.  He hates it and bucks and cries and buckles at the knees while I am trying to put it on him.  OK, everyone is dressed and ready to go and I made the mistake of putting my coat on first, so I am dripping in sweat.  What's that smell?  Colin has poops.  I refuse to take his coat off to change him, and I battle to get a clean diaper on him while he twists and turns and tries to get away, grab a toy or worst of all, the poopy diaper I just took off of him.

Time to finally get the kids in the car.  While he I put Colin in his car seat and he starts crying because I forgot his "Bubba" (stuffed lion).  I tell Maddie to get in her car seat while I run inside to get Colin's animal.  Grab it, run out, put Maddie in her seat.  Both want a milk.  Run in get sippy cups filled with milk and realize the dogs are outside.  Let them in, but have to clean off their paws since it is wet outside. Run upstairs yelling "Nite-nite, Kira" so I can lock him up in our room. Then realize I had put a load oft laundry in earlier in the morning and forgot to switch it to the dryer.  Stop everything, switch laundry.  Get in the car.  Now I have really worked up a sweat.

OK, the goal is, or should I say was, to get to the gym for a 9:00 a.m. cycle class.  It is 8:59 as I pull down the driveway.  We get to the gym at 9:04 and I grab the kids and my stuff and race in.  Colin has not quite grasped the concept of wrapping his legs around me when I carry him, so he is essentially dead weight as I carry him in.  Look for my gym pass in my purse which also acts as my diaper bag.  Somewhere buried in their amidst the smashed Goldfish crackers, wipes and cars and trucks is my card.  Checked in and on our way to the childcare center.  Get them checked in and Colin spots a truck in my purse that he HAS TO HAVE!  I worry it will be gone and lost forever if he brings it with, but am willing to spend the $8 for a new one to get to my class before it is half over.  Both kids have their Bubbas which require extra name tags so they don't get lost and at this point I think I have already burned about 600 calories from all my running and schlepping of a 30 lb. 18 month old.  I manage to get into my class and on a bike by 9:10.  Late. Again.

Lucky for me I already got my warm up, right?  At 9:45 one of the ladies from the childcare center comes to get me because Colin has a dirty diaper (they don't change those) and I have to hop off my bike to go change it.  This happens about 85% of the time.  I know what you are thinking.  Didn't he just poop?  Yup.  He's what I call a "two a.m. pooper."  At least he's regular.  Anyway, I have determined that this process burns exactly 45 calories, including hand washing.  I make it back to the class in time for the last 5 minutes before cool down.  I keep cycling my life away to get my full workout in and feel everyone looking at me as they stretch like I am a nut case.  I wish I had a t-shirt that says, "Cut me some slack, I have a 2 kids under 4...we go nowhere fast."

The amount of effort it took us to get to my mom's for Thanksgiving before Christmas dinner (not a typo) was served required a flow chart,  a project manager and a foreman.  I will admit, I did what I usually do and try to squeeze in a workout before the onslaught of gravy.  I wouldn't be so concerned, but we do 2 Thanksgiving meals.  I sweat gravy and pumpkin pie on the car ride home. 

I get back from the gym and need to shower, get the kids showered and then pack the car and get to my mom's by noon.  Lunch/dinner is at 1:00.  Right now it is 10:30 a.m.  After basic hygiene matters were under control, we got everyone dressed and I even remembered to put deodorant on.  Nothing is worse than sweating gravy without remembering your Secret.

"Maddie, you have to go potty before we get in the car." I tell her.
"But I don't have to go, momma!" she replies.
"We have a gong drive and you need to go."
"I want to wear these necklaces," as she hands me two tangled necklaces she unearthed from her room.
I spend a good 8 minutes trying to untangle the mess while getting her to go potty. Finally she goes, I get at least one necklace free and convince her that she only needs one since the other one is still in knots.

11:20 a.m. and I still have to throw together a greenbean casserole.  I get it half made and pack it up.  Then, I have to pack a lunch bag with an ice pack for some Tortilla Encrusted Tilapia for Madelyn.  It is one of the few things she will eat on a regular basis and after 3 years of holidays where she eats French Silk pie for dinner, I have learned my lesson.  Bring the old standby.

Go through the dreaded pony tail, shoes, coat routine and we get the kids in the car. Then, we have to get Bubbas and blankets for both kids because they are going to have to nap at my moms. Bubbas and blankets, check.  Pack n' Play in the car, check.  Fruit salad, check.  Kira locked up, check.  Sippy cups, check. Diapers, check. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the minivan DVD player, check.  My purse, check. This is actually a short list compared to the days when I used to have to bring baby food, breast pump, bottles, etc. etc.

We finally get in the car and our on our way to my mom's.  It is now 11: 50 a.m. How the hell did that happen.

I get a call at 12:35 from my mom as we approaching her house and she passive aggressively asks me if I need to put anything in the oven when I get there.

"Yes." I say flatly.  "We are pulling up right now and I am sorry." 

She brushes over my apology half saying she understands because of the kids and half because I am me and some things never change.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys

Colin is really developing a personality now that he is a big 18-month old.  I would say the prevalent personality trait that is coming out is boy.  He loves balls, trucks, airplanes, tractors and pretty much anything that has wheels.

People warned me that boys are different than girls and I was fully prepared for a bit of a culture shock once I had one.  I felt a little more prepared because Maddie was pretty active and was always getting into things, pulling things out of drawers, pulling pots and pans out of cabinets, unloading the pantry, climbing, standing in the dog's water bowl, etc.  But there are some subtle, and not so subtle differences with Colin.

It all started when I changed his first diaper.  The only word I can think of to describe it was chaos.  My friends with boys primary advice was keep lots of Vaseline on hand for the circumcision wound. Vaseline, check.  Unfortunately, the minute, no, the second I opened his diaper he would whizz all over himself and me.  I would unsuccessfully end up dodging pee before I could even get the Vaseline on!  The main problem is if you try to cover his little wee-wee without properly lubing it first, it will cause his circumcision wound a great deal of pain.  Think about the logistics of this and you can only imagine the comedy that changing each diaper brought.  When the whizz wasn't flying, his butt was usually providing some explosions of their own. As with most breastfed babies, the watery mustard seed poops didn't really subside until he was about 4 months old and started eating some solids.

I finally realized that if I waited to change him until after I nursed him, I would usually avoid major cleanups.  I learned the hard way that he usually relieved himself during feedings.  About 5 minutes into his feeding I could feel a sudden warm rush on my stomach.  Somehow he had leaked through his diaper and all over me.  Rather than interrupt the feeding, I would sit in the wetness because God forbid I tease him with 5 minutes of Mother's Milk only to pull him away and put him through the agony of being stripped naked and changed.  I received some good advice and bumped him up to the next diaper size and we solved the whole leaking issue and once his wound healed, the juggling act got a little easier. 

As he got older, he did most of the usual baby things.  Eat, sleep, poop, eat, eat, sleep, poop, eat, sleep, eat, eat, poop...but mostly eat.  And that was one of the first differences between he and Maddie.  She nursed well and did pretty well with baby food, but as soon as I introduced texture, she gagged and threw up.  To this day, she has a limited diet and isn't much for trying new things.  Colin, on the other hand, will eat pretty much anything and everything you put in front of him.  In fact, he will also seek out things to eat, like dog food for example.

It is pretty much a given if we leave the laundry room door open, Colin will make his way in there for a little snack.  Makes it hard for the dogs to eat when a) the door is almost always closed and b) they have to compete for food with Colin.  Luckily Colin makes up for what he takes from them by tossing his extra food off his tray when he's done or outright feeding them his food.  When he's not eating dog food, he's using the dog bowl as a water table driving his trucks into the bowl or dropping Maddie's stuffed animals into it.

Colin also likes to hide in the pantry, because that is where all the good stuff is.  He has learned to pull boxes and bags off the shelves and help himself.  One day I found him hiding in there chowing down on a bag of Cheetos like a Bulimic teenage girl.  He looked up at me with his cheesy face and licked his fingers.  Now he has also discovered that is where we keep an even guiltier food.  I do a great deal of  "sweeping" animal food out of Colin's mouth.  Turns out that the smorgasbord doesn't stop there.  Colin also likes leaves, mulch and as I mentioned in my previous post, Polly Pockets clothes. 

Today was a particularly gold banner day for Colin.  A trip to the park involved licking the slide, the edge of the equipment, and the piece de resistance, going face first into the sand and taking a nice bite like he was in a pie-eating contest.  Only difference is the sand at the park isn't a blueberry pie, it’s the neighborhood litter box.  He immediately started sputtering and I had to try and get as much of it out of his mouth as possible.  Once I had cleared most of it out, I could just hear the grains of sand crunching in as he bit down.  There's nothing like exfoliating the inside of your mouth and everything else throughout the digestive tract.  Shortly after that, I was distracted by a Maddie meltdown when a little girl pushed her.  After dealing with the situation, I realized Colin had run off and I caught him trying to steal a juice box out of someone’s stroller.  Clearly, he had "dry mouth."  Yeah, dry like the Mojave! At least sand has minerals, right?  When we arrived home, he headed toward the recycling bin where he grabbed a Subway cup and tried to quench his thirst.  We finally made our way inside and he chugged some milk. 

You would think he would have learned his lesson about putting foreign objects in his mouth, but later in the evening, he had managed to get his hands on one the gourds we had gotten from the pumpkin farm and was gnawing on the end of that.  Gross. I worried with all the "snacking" he had done he wouldn't eat dinner.  Nope.  Fish, corn, pears, a cookie... he ate it all. 

An hour later I found him opening the garbage can and grabbing scraps of food out.  What is wrong with this child?  Another hour goes by and he comes to visit Maddie and I in the bathroom as I am wiping her and helping her wash her hands.  I look over and he is licking the toilet seat cover.  Seriously?

Did I mentioned that toilet seat cover has a handy, dandy little locking device because I caught him using that as a water table a few months back?  I guess that makes the dog's water bowl look sterile in comparison.

Other new addition to our childproofing is Plexiglas shield that is about 3 feet high and 5 feet wide to cover our entire entertainment center.  He was really good and turning our TV on and off, pulling the DVD off the shelf and pulling any cable or electronic device associated with our TV, cable or computer.  Maybe he has a future in electrical engineering?  Let's hope so.  Next on the list to childproof is our DVD/CD cabinet that he loves to unload and spread throughout the house.

Needless to say, he climbs, he gets into everything and above all else, he loves to throw things!  He takes 2 liters of pop and hurls them across the kitchen.  Ten-pound problem.  I see a shot put scholarship in his future.  I have even caught him throwing an art easel across the room, and then turned it on its side to use as a slide.  I guess now that the weather is getting colder and since we can't go to the park as much, he's going to bring the park to us.

Today ended with him using the edge of the crib for leverage and balancing his stomach on it until his legs were out behind him...picture a gymnast on the high bar.  I am dreading the day he figures out how to get out of his crib. I am guessing that if that is his method for flipping himself out, it is fairly likely a trip to the E.R. will follow.

And when all is said and done, he is my boy. He loves to give hugs and kisses. He is silly and I can already tell he is going to have a great sense of humor.  He is also a total flirt and since he came out of me, he looked at me with those big brown eyes framed by those dark eyebrows, like I was the most beautiful girl in the world.  Now, when we are out, he finds the most beautiful girl in the room to fixate on.  She often times tends to be a blond with big boobs.  Like I said, he's all boy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Many times I have fantasized about what I would do if I won the Lottery.  I've decided to make my fantasy more realistic and wish for a magic wand instead.

I read all these books about princesses and I think these gals got the right idea.  It seems to me that life would be so much easier if I just had one of those damn wands.

I would start with the obvious.  World peace, feed the hungry, health for my friends and family. Cure Cancer, AIDS and such.  Then I would move closer to home and cure the common cold.

In my last entry I mentioned that 99% of what I do is clean up piss, shit and puke.  I need to retract that and make that 75% piss, shit and puke.  The other 24% is snot.  I have been so blessed to have two children that are otherwise healthy, but it seems like they constantly have a runny nose.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, these colds usually turn into double ear infections. Along with these ear infections comes a massive amount of green, yellow and sometimes gray snot.  When I say massive, I mean it seems like part of their frontal lobe comes out every time they sneeze.  I can hear a sneeze from 4 rooms over and know I need to immediately get a tissue S.T.A.T. before the snots are consumed. POOF!

At the first sign of one of these nasty colds, I would love to wave that magic wand and make them go away.  This would avoid all the crusty faces, having to use my sleeve to wipe boogs in a pinch, having to constantly sanitize every surface and every toy.  It would avoid getting kicked out of the daycare at the gym 20 minutes into my workout because they had to wipe his nose 3 times.  It would avoid having to cancel play dates and birthday parties as to not infect other children even though it is fairly likely that they got the cold from daycare or Chuckie Cheese to begin with. It would also save having to go to the doctor where I have to prevent my 2 kids from tearing the place apart, pay a $20 co-pay each time, followed by a $15 antibiotic which may or may not work in which case the kid has to stay on a steady dose of amoxicillin for 3 months. Then wait for both Tom and I get the same bug and end up at the doctor.  $40 more bucks in co-pay and $30 more for antibiotics for each of us. Frickin' POOF!

OK, now on to more important matter besides snot.  Cleaning the house.  Let's start with the pets.  I think my last posting pretty much explained what a mess they make, but let's just give a brief rundown.  Dog shit in the backyard, Poof.  Litter box, Poof. Dog pukes, Poof. Cat spits up a hairball, Poof. Dog hair, Poof. Dog slobber on my couch, Poof.  Mud tracked in from outside along with mulch, grass, leaves, etc. POOF!

Then we can move on to cleaning the rest of the house.  Loading and unloading the dishwasher has to be one of my least favorite things.  I know what you are thinking.  "Hey, lady! You have a machine that washes your dishes for you!  Quit your bitchin'" I don't care.  It is the bain of my existence and I feel like the movie "Groundhog Day" because of that damn machine.  Rinse dishes, scrub caked on cheese off plates, load it up, run it. Then, before it even hits the heated dry, I have another sink full of dishes. Take apart sippy cups, put them back together, and look for little straws that fell out of their "cage" during the rinse cycle.  On and on and on.  POOF!

The refrigerator and all the disgusting things that ends up crusting and caking in there. POOF!
Mopping the floor. POOF!
Cleaning the grime off the stove. POOF!
Cleaning the microwave especially the day after we have lasagna and it gets heated up. POOF!
Wiping the fingerprints off the front of our stainless steel refrigerator. POOF!
Items to go out for recycling on the counter. POOF!
Random business cards, coupons, pens, sunglasses, loose change, power cords, and mail on the counter. POOF!
Coffeemaker grounds. POOF!
Food caked on the chairs, booster seat, and walls. POOF! POOF! and POOF!
Wow, this is fun.

Let's clean up some toys!  It is the end of the day, or the beginning.  I guess it is all the same when you have two tornadoes living in your house and the minute they wake up they start unloading bins of toys, pulling out games with little pieces, throwing plastic food around the house.  We don't have a basement or a toy room, so lucky for us the living room is our toy room.  Maybe one of these days the housing market will pick up and we can actually afford to sell this house and buy a bigger one.  Hmmm.  Wonder if the magic wand could help with that?  Never mind.  In the meantime, I think it handle some smaller tasks.

I'd start by building some nice shelving and storage units. POOF!  With enough room for all of Colin's trucks, bulldozers, tractors, fire trucks, garbage trucks, Chuck the Truck, etc., etc.  Then I'd create a wardrobe closet for all the princess dresses with cubbies for all the princess shoes.  Then I’d create a bin for balls of all sizes.  And with a wave of my magic wand all would go from being strewn about my floor to their rightful bins.

Then on to all those little toys.  I have two words for you.  POLLY frickin' POCKETS. OK, that's three, but those little bitches and their tiny rubber dresses, shoes and purses that my son likes to eat like candy drive me crazy! POOF!

Puzzle pieces, Match Game cards, Candyland pieces, Let's Go Fishing fish, EleFun butterflies, every pot and pan and plastic piece of food and fork and knife and pretend donut.  Teacups and saucers, necklaces, bracelets and those Godforsaken Silly Bands. POOF!

I wouldn't have to worry about those pesky missing items I am always searching for. Where is that last library book that is due today?  POOF!  There it is!  Where are my keys so we can get out the door and to school in time? POOF!  Cell phone? I think you know what comes next.

One of my other all-time favorite activities, laundry, would be a snap. Separate whites from darks, POOF! Remember to spray pesky food stains on the front of shirts, POOF! Fold laundry, POOF! Match socks, POOF!  Put it all back in the drawers, POOF! Changing sheets, especially crib sheet and Maddie's bed where you need to carb load before the workout you get moving furniture, lifting mattresses and schlepping 101 stuffed animals in and out of the bed.  POOF!

Vacuuming, I mean really vacuuming where ALL the dirt, hair and crumbs come up and not the kind of vacuuming where you could vacuum 30 seconds later and get just as much dirt, hair and crumbs as the first time. POOF!  Crumbs in between the cushions on the couch, POOF!

I think it goes without saying that cleaning the bathrooms should be included especially all those damn water stains that all the CLR and bleach cannot get rid of.  Do I even need to mention toilets, floors, and cleaning drains? POOF!

Finally, I would do a little work on myself.  Besides, what kind of princess would allow herself to go without a little pampering?  I'd start with an eyebrow wax, a hair trim, teeth whitening and about a little help with those dark circles under the eyes? POOF!  Then, turning my sagging barely "B's" into some perky "C's, " a little tuck for that extra "pooch" on my stomach I affectionately refer to as my "valances." Then, I'd eliminate that cellulite that I collected in college from too much fried food and beer that, along with Student Loans, I am still paying for.

Ooh! Speaking of Student Loans...POOF!

I suppose if I just went back to my original fantasy of winning the Lottery, I could just buy a bigger house, and shelving units, a maid to clean up all the above mentioned, pay for a boob job and a tummy tuck and pay off all those Student Loans.  But let's be honest, being a princess with a wand would be so much more fun especially if I could do it all in a beautiful princess gown. POOF!

Friday, October 22, 2010

And now a word about my "other children"

Someone told me while I was pregnant with my daughter, that once I had kids I would hate my pets.  I emphatically denied that this could ever happen.  "They're my babies!"  Fast forward 4 years and I threaten to drop them off at the farm on an hourly basis.

We started off with a cat.  Tom and I both had long commutes and we knew a dog was out of the question.   So, shortly after we moved in our house we adopted Tuna.  As far as I'm concerned she is my favorite pet because while she can be a little needy, she still requires the least maintenance.  Plus, she's the cheapest.   No $150 trips to the groomer every 3-4 months for her.  And despite the fact she has been displaced at total of 4 times by two dogs and two kids, she still rules the roost.

And then there's Taz, a German Shepherd/Norwegian Elkhound mix. Shortly after Tom and I got married, I took a job close to the house, which allowed us to get a dog.  Taz was a farm dog and his former owner passed away.  He was five when we got him and a big ball of fur.  He was gentle and sweet, but seemed a little sad.  We figured he was just upset about the loss of his owner, especially since he immediately took to me.  From then on he became "my boy."

As time went by, his depression never really subsided, so we decided he needed a friend.  After all, what's one more pet, right?  I went to visit my brother in Arizona and got a call from Tom that his sister was bringing over a Husky named Kira, that had belonged to someone in my brother-in-law's family.  They couldn't keep her and was temporarily staying with another family member who kept her outside despite torrential downpours and horrible storms over the last several weeks.  Needless to say by the time I got home from my trip, we had another dog.

B.C. (Before Children) I walked the dogs twice a matter what.  I was like the U.S. Postal Service, come rain, snow, sleet, sub-zero temps at 5 a.m. We would leave parties early to let the dogs out.  We had a hard time leaving them over night and when we had a family member stay with them while we were gone for the weekend, we left a 2-page (both sides) list of instructions.  I ordered special cat treats off of the Internet for Tuna and even went so far as to pay for overnight shipping if standard shipping meant we'd go a day without our precious dehydrated salmon treats.

And then came kids.  With Maddie, we were genuinely concerned about how the animals would adjust to having a baby around.  Tom brought a receiving blanket home from the hospital before she and I got home in order to "prep them."  They didn't seem to care.  When I did get home, Taz was my protector.  He sat next to me while I nursed.  He got up with me in the middle of the night and kept me company while I fed Maddie.  Once I was able to walk the dogs again I did whatever I had to do to walk them twice a day.  I even had my in laws or my neighbors watch Maddie while I took them.  I was committed to making sure the dogs were still taken care of.  Come hell or high water, I was walking the dogs.  Secretly, it was 20 minutes I was guaranteed some alone time and if I was lucky I would catch the sprinkler system at the corner so I could squeeze in a shower at the same time.

Years later and another kid in the mix and all that is out the window. They are lucky if they get walked once a day. I do my best even going so far as putting the kids in the double jogger and take them.  People must think I'm nuts when I am trying to maneuver a giant yellow stroller stocked with two kids and two big dogs that are foaming at the mouth every time they see another dog.  I am surprised no one has sent the Dog Whisperer to my house to save me.

I can only imagine how much cleaner my house would be if it weren't a zoo.  Because the constant presence of toys strewn about and crumbs in my house isn't enough, these animals track in dirt, leaves, grass, mulch and the dog hair!!!  Word to the wise...don't EVER GET A HUSKY!!!  No matter how much I vacuum, there is always hair.  Nothing like trying to feed your baby and find dog hair on their bottle. And it is pretty inconvenient for a person who's wardrobe is 90% black to constantly have fur floating around them. Fortunately, the dogs do offer some assistance in keeping the floor clean at mealtime by eating whatever the kids drop, but I don't know how comforting it is to know the scraps are replaced by their dog spit on my kitchen floor. 

A few weeks ago Taz came inside with a particularly foul odor to him and it occurred to me that somewhere there was a dead animal in our yard or a maimed animal limping around the neighborhood.  He reeked of flesh and blood and looked like whatever animal he got gave him a run for his money.  I immediately put him outside and tried to chase him around the yard with a hose.  He spent the rest of the day either in the garage or in the yard where he barked incessantly.  I was sure the neighbors were going to call the cops on me.  Luckily I was able to put him on his leash and shampoo him in the front yard.  It was a definite improvement, but he still smelled like a combination of cucumber melon and dead bunny.  At least he didn't still have remains on him.

At one point after having the kids, and I was home all day, it occurred to me that 99% of what I did entailed dealing with piss, shit and puke.  The days went something like this: wake up change each kid's diaper.  Let the dogs out.  Feed Colin, clean up his spit up. Introduce a new solid food; clean up the puke from him gagging on it.  Change more diapers.  Scoop the litter box.  Maddie has a cold and coughs so hard at naptime she pukes.  Clean chunks off her bedspread, wash sheets.  Taz eats the fat drippings from the grill comes inside and pukes on the carpet.  Get out the carpet cleaner in an effort to get stain out.  3 days and 4 stain removal products later the carpet is actually cleaner in that one spot than the rest of the carpet. Change diapers. Forget to lock Kira up while we are gone all day and find a pee stain on the carpet.  Get out carpet cleaner and Natures Miracle.  Work on potty training Maddie.  Clean up pee because she didn't get to the potty on time.  Walk dogs.  Pick up poop. Both dogs simultaneously lift pee on the same tree and Taz whizzes on Kira. Come home wipe pee off Kira head up and give kids a bath.  Clean up after Colin poops in the tub. 
At one point when Colin was only about 2 months old, the vet wanted me to collect a fecal sample from the dogs.  Supposedly, it wasn't supposed to touch the ground and the sample had to be less than 12 hours old for them to test.  There were all sorts of issues with this request. First of all, I could barely keep up with the volume of diapers that my human children were producing at the time let alone monitor when the two dogs went and then hold a plastic bag under their ass to catch their poops.  If I happened to be just sitting around the back yard while the dogs were out there, I was likely nursing Colin while Maddie played in her water table.  If I wasn't out there, I'd have to try to see who went when and hope that they both had a B.M. around the same time so I could get it to the vet. Add the fact that I could barely get myself and the kids together to get out of the house to go to the grocery store between feedings and naps, they wanted me to run the fresh crap over to the vet in a timely fashion between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.?  Whatever.  I returned the receptacles that I prepaid for and got my money back hoping for the best.

And the barking, oh, the barking!  Taz will lay around all morning and the moment the kids wake up and I am trying get Maddie to go potty and get Colin's diaper changed he starts barking at me to let him out.  Then as soon as I crack the first egg in the frying pan, he is at the back door again barking to let him in so he doesn't miss a single morsel of dropped food.  They are used to being walked after dinner, so when the last bite of food enters my mouth, as if on cue, they start the barking.  When they don't get walked they get really rambunctious and hump each other.  I thought I was going to have to give my Maddie her first Birds and the Bees talk at age 2, but luckily she just thinks they're dancing.  Taz also barks at us at the same time every night, conveniently right when the kids go to sleep, over nothing. He will also bark at 3 a.m. to go out. Just when I thought my sleepless nights with babies waking up were over, he starts in.

I will say Taz is still my protector.  I recently had a garage sale and since he has worse separation anxiety than my 17 month old, I had to keep him outside with me for two days.  Clearly the idea of strangers coming up to his mommy stressed him out.  I actually took comfort in having him there even though I couldn't even go inside to go to the bathroom without him following me. He loves his mommy and once he even jumped out a screen window in the front of our house when the kids and I were playing outside with the neighbors. We are fairly convinced he is going nuts because he digs giant holes in the backyard and just lays in them and recently started eating the fence in an effort to get out.
In between all that is Colin playing it the dog bowl and eating their dog food.  Followed by the begging, the constant need for attention, the sleeping either on my feet or on my pillow if there happens to be a thunderstorm.  When I go to the bathroom there is a good chance there is either a child, an animal or any combination thereof in there to keep me company.  When we try to all hang out in the evening, the dogs and cat are ever present leaving little room for anyone to get around, especially Colin who we have to constantly monitor to ensure he doesn't fall on one of the dogs and get eaten.  Once the kids are in bed, that is Tuna's time to cuddle on my lap while Kira is next to of the rare times the two girls get along.

Ultimately at the end of the day, I have had so much love and affection from my children and furry friends, it leaves me with little patience for my husband wanting to be near me. Poor Tom. Lucky for him he doesn't shed, bring dead animals in from the yard and above all, I usually don't have to clean up his poop.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I've Become "That Mom"

Recently my daughter started soccer.  The whole experience is pretty entertaining considering the Soccer for Tots class is two grown men trying to teach a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds trying to learn the basics of soccer.  These two guys don't stand a chance.

The class starts with stretching and a general overview of a few things to remember.
1) No pushing, shoving or biting.
2) Listen carefully to what the coaches tell you.
3) No hands unless you are the goalie.

This if followed by sprints up and down the gymnasium.  Maddie has this one down.  She is used to running mindlessly back and forth, which is one of the reasons we thought soccer might be the sport for her.

Once they get this down, they move on to dribbling the ball up and down the gym.  Maddie is psyched because she gets a ball with pink hearts and princess crowns.  She is remarkably coordinated at running while kicking a ball despite she is my offspring.  Trapping the ball with her foot without using her hands?  Not so much.  She uses her hands to place the ball under her foot but at least she is can balance on one foot with the other on the ball without falling over...also a small miracle based on the fact she's my kid.

Then things get a little hairy.  The kids are asked to split up in to two teams and form a line.  Each one takes turns shooting a goal while another is goalie.  The coaches tell the kids to sit and wait their turn, but instead a game of Duck, Duck Goose ensues.  In a later drill, I catch Maddie flirting with 3 boys while waiting in line.  Now, that is my daughter.

Finally, the two teams face off in a scrimmage and that is where the coaches really lose all control of the situation.  The kids have to transition from having their own ball to all having to go after one single ball.  Most kids immediately gravitate towards the big bag of balls on the sidelines to get their own.  The kids who are really into it end up practically killing each other to get the ball. I now understand why the first rule the coach mentions is no pushing, shoving or biting. Kids start dropping like flies and run off crying towards their moms waiting on the sideline.

And then there is my daughter.  She runs up and down the gym waving at me like a beauty queen in a parade as she goes by.  Then she finds a friend on the other team and instead of focusing on the ball, she wants to hold her new friend's hand as they run.  Finally, she completely loses interest and starts doing pirouettes in the middle of the game as she sings to herself. 

I find myself calling out to her "Get in the game!" or "Go get the ball!"  "Come on Maddie! FOCUS!"  As if she is playing in front of a scout who wants to offer her a full ride.  And that is when I realize; I've become "That Mom." Yes, I drive a minivan, so the Soccer Mom jokes are a given.  I haven't given in and gotten the sticker to put on my back window, but the fact that I am stressing out about my 3 year old daughter’s lack of focus (an oxymoron in and of itself) proves I have issues.

Eventually she gets tired and comes over and sits on my lap.  "Mom, let's go home."  I explain that her team is depending on her to play with them and she needs to get out there or she won't get a sticker at the end of class.  Her response? "Yes I will." And she's right, because no matter what she will get one and the hilarity of the whole thing sets in. 

In the car on the way home she says she tells me doesn't want to go back next week.  I explain that she can't quit.  "We are Stien's and Stien's don't quit." (Did I really say that?  You bet) I ask if after soccer is over if she would rather take dance class and she perks up.  I realize I have only just begun a long journey in parenting.  When they say "pregnancy is the easy part, wait until they are born"...they aren't kidding.  Cooking her for 9 months was a cakewalk.  That was creating a life, now I am responsible for creating a person.

I don't want to force her to do things she doesn't want to, but I also want to teach her discipline.  Soccer could very well be her thing because despite the fact that she is a "baby kitty cat," and prances around in princess shoes 99% of the time, she is very athletic. Her lack of interest and focus as a 3 year old may ruin her chances of winning MVP of Soccer for Tots, but that doesn't mean we should avoid having her start now.  Or are we pushing her?  If we give up now, she may miss out on an opportunity down the line?  And then there is the issue of sticking to something and not giving up. Are these all things she is just too young for us to worry about?  I think it is never too soon to instill good values. I also want her to know that being active is important, but don't want to give her a complex.

And the sport thing is only the tip of the iceberg.  It has occurred to me that things I never really gave much thought to could permanently damage my kid if I approach them incorrectly.  Going to church, yelling at the driver in front of me, stressing out and yelling at my husband and even making fun of people.  They hear it ALL (seems to be a theme in my blogs?) and now I realize more than ever my actions end up becoming a carbon copy on my little creation. 

And same goes for my competitive edge.   It is truly a part of who I am, but I have to remember that I was never an All Star in any sport, even in high school, let alone preschool.  I found my niche in theatre and speech in high school and it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I started running.  All I can do is set an example by my actions and LEAD the kids rather than push them and know that no matter what, they are watching and listening to the examples I set.

As for Soccer for Tots, we'll close this chapter in 2 weeks when the class ends.  We'll sign her up for dance and see what happens.  My bet is she will enjoy staring at herself in the mirror,  just like her mom.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bee Season

RIP My Showering Buddy
I am pretty sure my mom's favorite phone conversations with me are the ones where I am outside with Maddie and I am telling her not to be afraid of bugs.

See, because I have a long history of being terrified of bugs of all kinds.  When I was a kid, I was a freak about bugs.  I would call my mom screaming if there was a bug in my room.  We went to a family reunion once during the summer of the cicadas at a forest preserve on the South Side. As we pulled into the forest preserve, you could hear the crazy bugs and their lyrical opera.  We had all the windows rolled up, but somehow one got in our car anyway.  When we got out of the car, they started dive-bombing us.  I happened to be carrying two lawn chairs and started screaming, flailing and throwing lawn chairs at them.  I spent the next 5 hours under the shelter and only came out for the water balloon toss.  My brothers teased me and told me that they would crawl into my french braid and lay eggs that would hatch in 7years.

Another fun bug memory was when I lived in the city in an old studio apartment.  I was on the phone with a friend when I noticed an ant on my windowsill where my alarm clock was.  Then I saw another and when I lifted my alarm clock to check the source I found a colony of carpenter ants.  I hung up the phone and ran to the store for every ant killer known to man.  When I got back I sprayed them and more poured out of my windowsill.  It was like the frickin' apocalypse.  Then I saw a huge one in my box fan.  I swear it was the Queen and when I sprayed her, she got up on her hind legs and screamed at me like some sort of creature out of a Japanese monster movie.
I slept on the couch for a week after that.

Now I am adult and a parent and of all the things my daughter could inherit from me, she got my unreasonable anxiety about bugs.  So now I have calmly explain to her that the bugs won't hurt her, she is bigger than them, to ignore them and they will go away and all the other lies my mom told me. 
I also have to put aside my own fears that still exist and sit there calmly and pretend not to be bothered by the creatures.  Still, I have fled the tower on the swing set because of a bee stalking us.  I have a hard time killing scary bugs because my biggest fear is that they will dodge the paper towel and land on my head or get pissed and come and attack me.

Twice this week I had two of the worst bee run-ins of my life where I had to be the "adult" and had to keep my cool under pressure. The other day I jumped in the shower while Colin took his morning nap and Maddie watched a show in my bed. When I reached up for my shampoo, there it was…a giant bee.  My heart started racing, I started to sweat (even though I was in the shower) and I almost screamed at the top of my lungs and went running out of the shower, down the stairs and in a closet.  I knew I NEEDED to take this shower for the sake of everyone I encountered throughout the day. So, instead I took a deep breath and with one eye on the bee I washed my hair.  Rinsed.  Conditioned my hair and rinsed most of it out before I jumped out of the shower, threw a towel around me and ran out of the bathroom and shut the door.  Luckily our master bathroom is set up where our shower and toilet are in one room separated by a door and our vanity is outside of it. I stood there dripping wet and Maddie looked at me like I was crazy and asked why I was done so fast.  I started to rinse the rest of the conditioner out in the sink, but realized that I could just go in our other shower to finish, duh!  I had to use baby body wash, but at least I was now acceptable to be around others.

I returned to my bathroom door and put several towels at the bottom of the door in case the bee decided to stage a prison break and sneak out under the crack.  I knew my best bet was to wait until Tom got home so he could take care of the situation.  When I talked to him later that day I told him about my frightening experience and his response was "Why didn't you just kill it?"  Who was this man?  After all the years he has known me did he really think I was capable of battling a giant bee in an enclosed space?  Was he nuts?  We mutually decided the conversation was over and went about our day.

I, however, kept thinking about that damn bee.  The movie "Candyman" kept popping into my head.  Clearly I've never seen this movie since all I needed to see was a preview and know that there was a terrifying scene that involved bees to keep me from catching that flick.  All day I kept hearing the Candyman's deep voice in my head and had a hard time looking directly in the mirror.

Lucky for me when Tom got home he went upstairs to assess the situation and the bee had died.  I am sure the fact that I sealed off any source of oxygen to the small bathroom did the trick.
Then today while we were running she started screaming because she said there was a bug on the stroller.  I didn't see anything, but she insisted on sitting forward the whole time, clutching the cup holder in front of her. When I went to take her out of the stroller at then end of the run, I saw a big bee crawl out from under the canopy.  I froze.  I felt horrible that was what she was so stressed out about.  I would have been too. But I had another issue.  I had still had to get Colin out of the stroller and the bee was still there.  Apparently having a bright yellow stroller tends to attract the bees.  Again, I had to suck it up and somehow get Colin out of the stroller without either of us getting stung.  Leaving him in the stroller on the driveway while Maddie ran inside wasn't an option. Imagine me trying to explain that one to DCFS!  I very gingerly removed him.  He just kept smiling at me because he was clueless that his life was in danger (overdramatized for effect).

We survived so you won't hear any reports on the evening news about a Lake In The Hills woman arrested for leaving her son in a stroller unattended while she and her daughter hid from a bee in a coat closet.   To my knowledge the bee flew out of the stroller after I hit it a few times.  But I can't be sure, which stresses me out.  I will have to do a thorough investigation when I pull it out later...or better yet, maybe Tom can do that for me when he gets home from work.  As for the shower, I still have to make sure I don't have any company every time I go in there.

So, the lesson of the week is 1) I still hate bees. 2) Both bees AND kids smell fear, so suck it up and do what you have to do and 3) above all else, never let them see you sweat.

Monday, August 23, 2010

This Woman's Work

This entry will likely come off as complaining, but I prefer to think of it as "venting."

As I awoke to the sound of my dog barking at 3 a.m. for the fifth night in a row, it occurred to me that somewhere along the line I must have drawn the short straw.  Or maybe I lost a game of rock, paper, scissors?  Did I lose a bet? Perhaps it is karma playing tricks on me?  Whatever it was means I get the shit end of the stick for all eternity. 

Because when the dog barks in the middle of the night, I get to be the one to go downstairs and let him out.  Same goes for any number of other middle-of-the-night occurrences whether it be crying, screaming, spitting up, puking, projectile vomiting,  nightmares, or aforementioned feedings (see previous entry entitled "BOOBIES.")  Which then leaves me wide awake in bed thinking about all of these things.

And it doesn't end with middle-of-the-night antics.  Any variety of daily activities that fall under the category of "dirty jobs, but somebody's gotta do it" belong to yours truly.

I change 99% of the dirty diapers.  I walk the dogs, which means I get to carry a hot bag of crap around the neighborhood.  I clean the litter box.  I wipe Maddie after she goes potty.  I give baths which means cleaning up pee or poo based on Colin's lack of bladder and bowel control once I turn on the bath tub.  I wipe up boogers and when the boogers get really bad, they usually mean someone gags on them and throws up.  Like tonight at dinner.  

I'm the one who scrubs the toilet that comes with any variety of disgusting elements.  I clean out the drains in the sinks that have some inexplicable black gunk that I am pretty sure is a fatal fungus that was featured in an episode of "House" capable taking out an entire civilization. 

Tupperware left at work for several weeks that hasn't been washed out?  Right here.  Cat spits up a hair ball?  Bring it on.  The highchair with crusted food all over it and in every crevice? Love it. Dustbunnies that could create another pet that I need like a hole in my head?  Oh me, please! Boxer shorts that should be considered grounds for divorce?  All mine, baby.

The other night I was cleaning up after dinner and heard a strange sound.  It sounded a bit like a breeze coming through the window, but the windows were closed.  Then I realized it was accompanied by the sound of liquid hitting the ground.  Then I heard Colin.  Turns out he had managed to pull down a 2 liter of pop that Tom left on the kitchen table without the cap.  I will give you 3 guesses who cleaned up that one. Ok, never mind,  you only get one.  Yup. Me.  Luckily it was Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper and I was also able to achieve a nice Cherry finish on my hardwood floor.  

And then like an angel sent from God, I walk in to my house the other day and the kitchen is immaculate.  The table is cleared of mail, toys and miscellaneous crap.  No recycling on the edge of the counter waiting to go out.  No dishes on the side of the sink, or in the sink, or even in the drying rack.  And there is Tom, scrubbing the fingerprints off the stainless steel refrigerator.  I love this man and suddenly all the poop, puke, pee, dustbunnies, gunk, pop, boogers, fungus and yes, even toxic boxer shorts disappear.  I can only wonder what bet I actually won?