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.