Thursday, November 13, 2014

40 things I have (sort of) learned (in theory) by age 40 (part one)

1. Tweezing one’s eyebrows is the equivalent of plastic surgery, only it’s free and relatively painless.  When I started tweezing around age 25, I went from being mildly ugly to being mildly attractive, just like that.  Maybe that’s what Renee Zellwegger just did to her face.

2. It’s really not that different “when it’s your own kids,” except that your own kids will make your insanity their sole mission in life, while other kids will only drive you insane as a by-product of their efforts to drive their own parents insane.  

3. If you think marriage is easy, you haven’t had children yet.  And you might not want to.  

4. If you don’t believe in psychiatric care, to include anti-depressants and other medicinal “helpers”, you haven’t had children yet.

5. If you believe in God...yeah, you’re gonna need him for real once you have children, but for sure you are going to doubt his goodness if not his very existence when you have a screaming infant chomping on your boobs around the clock.  

6. If you have cankles, a wedge shoe is probably the best you can do, if you insist on wearing anything other than long trousers.  Wedges are no miracle, but at least no one will run shrieking into the night at the sight of your legs.

7. You CAN have it all, if you are talking about skin ailments, that is.  You CAN have both acne and wrinkles.  It’s not fair, but it’s possible, and if you’re me, it’s a certainty.  

8. Don’t judge.  Like for real.  Unless you can say with absolute certainty that you could do better given another person’s genetic makeup, experiences, intelligence, resources, influences, and abilities, you are not allowed to judge.  But oh mylanta is it fun.

8. A lot of things that are the wrong things to do are really fun.  Like judging people and feeling superior.  And putting baby oil in your Jr. High roommate's shampoo.  Super fun, super wrong.  

9. People are gonna judge you.  Whatever, let them have their fun and then judge them for judging.  Judging self-righteous, sanctimonious people is like quadruple the fun.  But it’s still wrong, FYI.

10. The people that judge you need your compassion. They most likely feel like crap on the inside.  Try to be nice.
11. But they might also be sociopaths, and friends, I’ve learned the hard way that there are a lot of those out there, like 1 in 10 people, seriously, go google it.  Most sociopaths don’t commit crimes, but they can still do a lot of damage.  They probably need some compassion, too, since they may very well be missing a gene or two, but you really can’t risk getting close enough to be nice to them without getting destroyed.  That’s why there is a God, and you are not it.  

12. And be honest with yourself when you judge, you’re feeling pretty crappy about yourself, too.  Stop judging and spend some time in therapy and/or prayer to figure out what is going on with your messed up self.  
13. Because, honey, we are ALL messed up, and there is at least one lifetime of hard work to be done on each and every one of us. Get busy, there’s no time to be cleaning up all kinds of other messes.  At least that is what I tell myself when I behold the disaster that is my house.
14. If you don’t think you’re a mess, and I don’t mean in a cutesy Bible-belt kind of way, I’m talking a real shagalabagala, which is a Swahili word that means exactly what it sounds like, then you are probably a catastrophe in there.  Like Pigpen meets the hoarders on TLC.  There's probably a colony of raccoons camped out under a lung and you have no freakin' idea because Suzy next door got a bad perm and it's just really distracting.  So to speak.

15. If you are spending a lot of time dissecting other people’s failings and messes, you almost certainly don’t realize what a mess you are.  If God is merciful, he’ll knock down that pride with a major fall. If he’s not, you’ll just end up without any real friends and not understand why.  
16. As she approaches age 40, the female body has a major-life-awakening-dare-I-call-it-an-Oprah-Aha!-moment and discovers that what she has always wanted is to be fat and hairy.  Except for on her head, there’s already way too much hair there.  Just everywhere else.  I’m not sure why; perhaps she’s really cold, especially with all that muscle loss that’s going on, or perhaps she’s just had enough of folks pawing at her for a couple of decades and she’d just like everyone to leave her alone now.  If you don’t agree with her, well then prepare for some REALLY hard work, because she’s a stubborn b**ch, that female body.  

17. Dude, vulnerability is where it’s at.  Let it all hang out, let people know you are a mess.  They will probably figure it out anyway.  Some folks will judge you (see #9), some will get all awkwardish and become deeply interested in their shoes, but a lot of people will be comforted and encouraged that they are not the only ones with failings and imperfections, and they will respond in kind, and your relationships will be real and deep and many and awesome.  Just AWESOME.  

18. Plus, trying to get everyone to think you are awesome all the time is quite simply a lot of work, and I am just too lazy for that.  I don't decorate for Halloween, I don't do the crafts with my kids, and I don't keep up appearances. Vulnerability, once you get used to it and once your ego gets worn out, is just so much more slothful. It probably doesn’t burn as many calories though, and that’s not going to help you with #16.  You will be fat, but you will be happy.
19. Failure is a part of life, and it is most certainly, absolutely a part of parenting.  Everything with parenting is a tenuous balance, and even if you are Mary Lou Retton, you are gonna fall down on your butt a lot, because whereas a regulation balance beam is like 4 inches, a parenting balance beam is like...well it’s really thin, and you are going down on that butt and if you are over 40 it will probably be a pretty fat butt on which you are going down.  The earlier and more often you admit your failings to yourself and your children, the better your relationship will be with them when they are 30, because they will have discovered them by then for sure, either directly, perhaps on a therapist’s couch, or by subconsciously living them out, which is even worse.  

 20. Not all French people are unpleasant snobs.  But that does need to be said, and that is saying something. 

I’m not sure I’ve (sort of) learned (in theory) 40 things and I’m kind of tired.  So I’m gonna have to get back to you.  Maybe.   

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Fire Truck Bed

The internet, to include social media, can be a dangerous thing.  You can find all manner of stuff you absolutely must have on the internet, then social media will egg you on.  Then you will buy it and realize it is a piece of crap that has cost you a butt load of time and money and may actually kill one of your children.  Bottom line:  This epic disaster is the fault of my Facebook friends and none of my own.

So Lawson needed an actual bed.  My initial (wise) plan was to just get him a regular bed that he could sleep in until I kick him out of house at age 30 and tell him to stop playing video games and get a life.  But then I came across this:

Oh so adorable!!  Then I put it on my Facebook page--What do y'all think, you people who have absolutely no stake in this decision?  Well, they think it's adorable!  Of course you must buy this for your little boy!  The only naysayer was Grandma, who noted its construction out of plywood and wondered how sturdy it might be.  Silly Grandma!  Lawson weighs like nothing! Playbeds don't just collapse no matter what they are made from!  And besides, this was coming from the woman who is convinced our wisteria vine could strangle us in the night.  She is a professional worrier.  I'm getting this bed!  

After waiting forever for the bed's delivery, a truck came and literally dumped a pile of painted plywood pieces in our driveway and drove off.  That was the first sign of trouble, to be quickly followed by the second sign--There were no assembly instructions included.  Followed by the third sign--there was no hardware included.   It was basically a big ole pile of plywood.  So I emailed the dude in Georgia who made it (and who had previously assured me there would only be "light" assembly).  Hey, dude, um, where are the instructions? Hardware?  Oh no problem he said, I'll send them, and he did, and I thought, problem solved.  At that point, I did what any woman would do, I left town and told my husband and one of our guy friends--who I might add is a military officer who served a tour in Afghanistan, he's very capable--to assemble it.  I felt pretty good that this firetruck bed would be no match for folks who had battled the Taliban and solved the Euro debt crisis.

Well, it turned out the Taliban might have made this bed using French union laborers.  There were a few problems. First of all, the hardware the dude sent did not go with the actual firetruck bed.  I'm not sure what it did go with, perhaps the space station, but it did not go with the bed. Secondly, the instructions consisted of a few hand-drawn-looking pictures of a firetruck.  Gee, thanks, I wasn't sure what a firetruck looks like but now I know.  I still don't know how to build a firetruck bed, but at least we have agreed upon a vague concept.  Third, there were some pieces missing, because that way the construction is more challenging and fun.  And fourth, both Kevin and Dan have other full-time jobs. The one bit of good news was that I was safely in another state and therefore could not be bludgeoned to death.   So that was fortunate.

Kevin and Dan labored an entire day on this thing, and they basically MacGyvered it, I'm not exactly sure how.  But they didn't quite finish it, and when I got home, there was still no apparatus to actually hold a mattress in the bed, and apparently none included in the pile o' plywood, other than like 3 wooden slats.  Kevin went to Home Depot and bought more slats, but when we lowered the mattress onto it half of them shifted and fell to the floor.  Not to mention when an real human being sat on the bed, the whole thing shook as if it had spontaneously come down with malaria.  Needless to say, it did not inspire a mother's confidence.  Unfortunately, Kevin at that point did have to go to his real job, and the task of salvaging some kind of sleeping arrangement from this fiasco fell to me, who definitely deserved it.

Long story short, I went and got a box spring, and after first trying it out on the slats, which again collapsed, I wedged the box spring down into the bed frame and onto the floor and put the mattress on top of that.  The whole thing still manages to creak some, even though the actual part of the bed that a person would sleep on is not at all attached to the frame, but at least I know there is no way it will fall in on my toddler in the night.  Well, I wouldn't say there is NO way, but it's unlikely.  He is more likely to be suffocated by the 50 train engines he insists on sleeping with.

So Lawson has his firetruck bed, which he almost certainly will not appreciate enough to offset the time and energy and money it took to get it for him, and it still may try to murder him in the night.  And, of course, it is all your fault, Facebook friends!  Next time, just stay out of my bed-buying decisions, OK?  Thanks.

All's well that ends well (and I think he will be sleeping in this til he's 30 because I have no idea how we will get it out of that room):

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hitting the Reset Button

Well, I'm in an airport, my flight is delayed, and my kids are not with me.  Yes, it does sound like heaven, doesn't it? Not even being sarcastic here.  It does mean, however, that I have no excuse not to write a post.  Except that it's tech-free Sunday.

Which brings me to today's topic: The Utter Failure of the Family Makeover Plan.  This one was as predictable as Vladimir Putin actually not having a beautiful soul or me spilling something down the front of my clothes, which happened again yesterday, when I dropped a bottle of nail polish and it exploded all over everything within a 5 foot radius.  The two childhood friends who were with me (and thankfully were more than 5 feet away) were not at all surprised, and neither are you hearing that we accomplished almost none of our goals as a family thus far.

Let's recap what we HAVE accomplished:
1.  Kevin and I now eat significantly more vegetables.  My children, at the end of the day, pretty much eat none.  The kale chip consumption was a mirage.  It never happened again.  And last week, they ate fast food almost every day, but in my defense we were traveling and mainly went for the indoor playgrounds, in desperate search for entertainment.  Dammit that McDonalds is smart.
2.  Lawson is potty-trained, people!!!
3. We have generally stuck with no-tech Sundays, but I will admit to the rest of the time being a free-for-all.  The last month has been horrific, an absolute American Pediatric Association nightmare, seeing as we have been traveling for most of it.  The nadir of the screen addiction came on our family vacation to the Outer Banks.  Once again, my bizarre children were afraid of everything, were morally offended by seagulls, believed the waves would somehow drown them in their beds,  and generally preferred to watch movies and play iPod games.  Charlotte we were able to get outside for a couple of hours a day, but Lawson would not set foot on the sand.  This year, I surrendered, gave him his iPod, got my book and beach chair and said, see you in a week.  At least one of us had a lovely beach vacation.  Others of us contracted ADD and will probably end up living in my basement for his whole life.
4. But at least he will not require that I change his diapers.
5.  We went to a museum. One.  In a town full of free, world-class museums. Still, a museum is a museum.  And Lawson didn't break anything.
6. Did I mention Lawson is potty-trained? OK so he still refuses to "tuck" his own penis (who knew you had to do this for little boys?), and the consternation surrounding this now has all of us, including Charlotte, throwing the word around with such careless abandon, we might as well be discussing the weather.  I don't think I uttered the word "penis" until I was an adult.  Meanwhile, Charlotte told Lawson the other day he had a "might fine penis," a point she did preface by saying that what she was about to proclaim was "inappropriate."  Mommy is so proud.
7. But he is potty-trained.  Pee AND poop, and that is not something to be taken for granted.  I have a friend whose child ended up in the hospital because he refused to poop in anything other than a diaper, and she thought she would win that battle.  Such arrogance.
8. Charlotte ate a tomato.
9. We have not volunteered or done any actual deed on behalf of humanity.  But we have had some consciousness-raising conversations.  For example, after she complained profusely about having to walk a lot during zoo camp, I explained to Charlotte that many people cannot walk and have to live their lives in wheelchairs.  Her eyes got very wide, and she asked me to confirm that this was true.  Yes, Charlotte, it's true, some people go everywhere in a wheelchair. To which she replied, "I want to be in a wheelchair!!"  Not exactly where I was going with the conversation.
10. I am still sane. That is always an accomplishment, no matter the list one is making.

Part II of this post--It's a week later (yes, still on a tech-free Sunday, just to be consistent), and I'm waiting for my kids to arrive back from a week with their grandparents.  I have had a glorious kid-free week, and plenty of time to contemplate my battle plan for getting us all back on track.  Yet, just like Obama and ISIS, I still have no strategy.  Worse, I don't have an entire team of experts working full-time on getting me one.   I just have Kevin, and quite frankly, while he did just construct a firetruck bed (and that is another whole story.  Wow, is it.) and is a great dad in general, he's pretty busy being an economic genius.  So I have mere hours to pull it together.  My initial thought is to use the new school year to up everyone's game.  As in, you know you are in first grade now, and first graders have to do homework after school instead of watching TV.  First graders are big enough to clean up their toys.  First graders raise their own siblings.  Etc.  And Lawson, well, now you are in Pod 3 at daycare.  Pod 3 kids tuck their own penises.  Just for starters.

And Mommy, well, she'll just keep working on not going insane.  And honestly, everything else is just gravy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Just Say Yes

I'm writing this post against my better judgment and against the advice and my very private husband...and probably any mentor or former boss I might ask...or current boss...I'm probably going to destroy my entire career and my husband's presidential ambitions, but so be it.  I'm going to write this post for 3 reasons: 1) I'm running out of other things to write about;  2) If I can make this even slightly funny without offending anyone, I will be very impressed with myself; and 3) I really really really REALLY hate taboos that are based on nothing but people needing to convince other people that they are "normal," whatever that means, as opposed to being rooted in actual morality.  There are legitimate taboos--racism, sexism, child abuse, breastfeeding (kidding! geez, lighten up people!)--but what I am about to disclose should NOT be one of them.

So here it goes: I take drugs.  Not street drugs, mind you, even if I were that stupid and self-destructive, I honestly would not know where to even get them, and the people from whom one must get them I'm assuming would scare the crap out of me.  Seriously, I don't open the door for the UPS man, and I'm certainly not going to go trolling for crack.  No, my drug of choice is a tiny blue miracle called Zoloft, and without it, I probably would be living under an assumed name in an abandoned shed in Montana training squirrels for the circus.  You see, some of you think I am just joking about motherhood kicking my butt, and others of you think I am just being overly negative or dramatic and I should just be thankful for the precious children God has given me (which I am, by the way, you can be grateful and mentally ill at the same time, it just doesn't look as pretty).  Let me be clear: MOTHERHOOD IS KICKING MY BUTT.  To the point where I need medication just to avoid injuring anyone.  You may not understand that, and you may judge me for being a ridiculous and/or wonder what my problem is, but the fact remains.  If it's not kicking your butt, I'm honestly very happy for you.  Heck, I really wish I WERE you.  But I'm just not, and that is too bad for everyone, except for you, of course, because this way you get to feel superior to someone, and that is always a good time.

Let me address those who think I am being "negative" for a moment--not that any of them read this blog.  Yeah, I drove those girls off a really long time ago.  But in case any of them have dropped in so they can have the pleasure of judging someone (feel free, ladies, I honestly don't mind, as long as you are entertained!), let me explain my perspective a little bit.   Deeming American chocolate inferior to European chocolate or calling Taco Bell food inedible or saying that Bono is anything less than a creative genius and a servant of humanity--that's being overly negative.   Now if American chocolate made you vomit for 10 years or the FDA banned Taco Bell for causing cholera or U2's music gave you a stroke or Bono beat you to a bloody pulp--then you would be entitled to your opinion.  And if a life experience drives you to mental illness, well then, I think you can call that spade a spade.  Maybe that's just me.  I will say, however, that if Bono ever beats you to a bloody pulp, then it probably is your fault because I don't think that man is capable of anything but love, inspiration, and multi-dimensional lyrics that manage to capture the meaning of the universe.  You need to get some help.  Maybe some Zoloft.

So, seriously, how did I end up on drugs.  Well, as best as I can figure--I had some strikes against me going into this whole motherhood thing.  First of all, as I have ruminated before, I think those who are Ns on the Myers-Briggs scale are not naturally well-suited to motherhood.  While I don't think any woman particularly enjoys trying to simultaneously cook dinner, talk to their spouse, break up a fight, avoid toys underfoot, and dislodge the child clinging to their leg, for many Ns, whose minds left to their own devices are happiest living in another dimension--preferably one in which there is no need to plan or prepare meals because we are all just energy anyway and we can simply rearrange our molecules every so often to recharge our cells--this scenario feels like being in a war zone. Then you have my rather bizarre upbringing.  Let's just say that when you've been taking care of yourself since age 10, you're really not too excited about taking care of a bunch of other people.  And why should you?  Seriously, kids, if I could manage a crank phone and a cranky Kenyan operator just to call my parents once a month, I think you can get your own milk, like, from birth.  Lastly, you have my natural,  sparkling personality, which quite honestly is a little crazy, I don't know why, but before I had kids, it was nothing a good pedicure couldn't cure and maybe a moody evening listening to Sarah McLaughlin every now and then.

Then I had Charlotte.  I kind of knew going in that motherhood would be a challenge, but still, it was a shocking transition.  She is quite literally the easiest child on the planet--she slept 13 hours a night from 8 weeks old, complained of how rowdy other children were at 2 years old,  potty-trained herself (and I am not exaggerating, the child calmly informed me she was done with diapers) at three years old, and now advises me of the speed limit when I'm driving and reminds me that it's time to reapply sunscreen.  No allergies, no diseases, no disorders. Never, ever vomits (and that's a big deal right there, let me tell you).  There is absolutely no reason I should go crazy while parenting this child.  And I didn't, not yet.  But then I had Lawson, who, although male and therefore bent on global destruction and chaos, is also a pretty easy child.  But he and Charlotte are both CHILDREN.  The nerve. AND there's TWO of them.  They BOTH demand stuff from me every minute of the day, they BOTH barge in on me while on the toilet (and when you've spent 9 years of your life living in dorms, you are kind of done with that), they BOTH whine when I do something as terrible as take them to a horrible, disgusting place like a park or pool or--God forbid!--the zoo.  They are two people who are 100% committed to their sole ambition in life--which I am convinced is the same one for every American child--and that is to make their parents as miserable and insane as possible.  I don't really understand it--Maybe when you haven't fully developed a keen sense of empathy yet, making people miserable is really fun.  Maybe your millions of toys just can't compete with psychological experimentation.  Maybe Elmo secretly drives you out of your mind but as with any toxic relationship, you just can't extricate yourself, and you don't have the strength to ask for help either.  I don't know why, but my theory is the only one that satisfactorily explains the bizarre and maddening behavior of small children.

The ultimate trigger was probably post-partum depression.  This is what I always mention when explaining why I'm on Zoloft, anyway, because it sounds more refined.  As in, no, I'm not just a crazy weakling who has somehow been outwitted by two people with no money, no power, no education, and who weigh like a hundred pounds less than me.  That would be pathetic.  No, I am on drugs because the magical, wondrous birth process is just so complex and amazingly body-shattering that sometimes you just need a little help recovering, you know like a tummy tuck for the brain or something.  That is way more acceptable.  But deep down I don't think it was post-partum depression.  I think motherhood just kicks my butt. If there was any doubt, my recent efforts to get off the drugs (which, granted, were foolishly attempted during Kevin's absence. I mean like seriously, do you think you are Wonder Woman or something? So dumb) ended with me locked in my room binge eating chocolate-covered almonds.  And you know what--that is OK.  I am owning it.  If that makes me a ridiculous weakling, so be it.  Better I admit that to myself and take a pill every day than to put my children through me in my natural form.

But seriously though--these children are formidable, are they not?  I don't know how you are doing this without drugs. God be with you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

March-April: The Nutrition Revolution

OK, "Revolution" is a bit of an exaggeration, unless by "revolution" you mean change on the level of Rice Krispies now having even more snap, crackle, and pop, if you listen really really close.  So, yeah, in American marketing terminology, we've had a revolution around here.   As a refresher--according to the original plan, which has of course been all but thrown out the window, February was meant to be the month I was going to get my kids to get something other than chicken nuggets.  February was reassigned to potty-training, March was taken up by my marathon and recovery (hey, if I'm gonna run 26 miles, I should not be expected to accomplish anything else for at least a month), so April was nutrition month.  And probably May, too.  Yeah, it's gonna require May, especially since May is somehow half over (how does this keep happening?)

And I don't have a whole lot to report, at least not on the kid front.  I, on the other hand, have discovered kale.  And quinoa, no less.  The yuppie pressure finally got to me, just like it did with Downton Abbey and House of Cards (I refuse to watch Game of Thrones, however. I don't do the fantasy genre, there's too many details to keep track of.  I need everyone to at least be human).  And guess what? I adore kale.  I have been eating kale almost every day.  Smoothies, sautees, salads.  KALE.  I do like the taste, but what I really like about it is that it stays somewhat perky in the fridge for much longer than other kinds of lettuce, which gets that slimy, wilted look that is just yuck.  And when it does start to go limp, you can always cook it or blend it.  Anything that saves me from going to the grocery store every other day is my friend.  Quinoa is also pretty cool, although I am not finding it quite as versatile.  But I do feel very healthy and hip when I eat it. I even know how to say it properly.  Keen-wah.  Wow I am successful.  Unfortunately, I have also discovered Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered almonds, the consumption of which began as a healthier way to indulge my sweet tooth but which has now become a raging addiction and 3 extra pounds on my butt.  Once again, I have proven myself to be a sugar addict for which complete and utter deprivation is the only remedy.   

Sadly, Charlotte nor Lawson have eaten neither kale nor quinoa (Charlotte does like the chocolate covered almonds).  Well, they might have eaten one bite of an egg casserole I made that had quinoa in it, but then they realized it was not chicken nuggets and that was the end of that.  I have been cooking more, and I may have permanently added a couple of things to their repertoire.  Charlotte shockingly scarfed down shrimp tacos--Seriously, the kid will not touch mac-n-cheese but she just can't get enough of shrimp tacos.  Lawson is holding out for chicken nuggets, and he can go days at a time, too.  The boy really needs to join a protest movement of some kind because he would be amazing at it.  

I got a huge boost in my efforts from the Nazi pediatrician, the same one who is all judgy about television watching among other things.  We went for Charlotte's 6 year check up, and he asked her if she ate her veggies.  She looked sheepish and admitted, no, she had never met a veggie she would actually eat.  He said, "Well, OK, that's fine.  But just so you know, I'll have to give you a veggie shot next time you come in here.  Yeah, they hurt really bad too.  But I can do that."  Her eyes just about bugged out of her head as she desperately inquired what she needed to do to avoid such a horrible fate. He told her she needed to eat at least one serving a day.  She took it on board, and guess what? She is still eating a few veggies a day.  Not kale, mind you, more like carrots drenched in butter and sugar, but still.  Thank you, Dr. Goldman.  It's about time you stopped judging me for doing things that you yourself would totally do, too, if you were a stay at home mom because you would be losing your freaking mind, and actually started being useful.  

We are going to keep trying.  One of these days, after the kids have seen me eating a kale salad for the two millionth time, they are going to cave.  Mark my words.  

An update since I started writing this post like 3 weeks ago and am now too lazy to rewrite it: 
My friends, there are signs the tide is turning, and the allies have gained the upper hand in the Food Wars.  Last week, my children ate broccoli AND cabbage AND, even more miraculously, declared it "delicious."  I haven't been so moved since the Oprah show finale.  I shed tears.  Of course, there is the distinct possibility that they were toying with my mind in their ongoing denial and deception campaign that aims to...they actually have no aim that I can make out, they seem to just enjoy torturing me for its own sake.  Tonight I made cabbage and broccoli again and got no such rave reviews.  But I will persevere my friends.  And I. WILL. WIN. THIS. WAR.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

February: A Welcome Detour

My little year-long family makeover plan has once again taught me that, beyond the aspirational level, I am really not a very linear, organized, or systematic person.  I am forever coming up with plans that I almost immediately throw out the window.  Not that this is a bad thing necessarily--flexibility is definitely an asset when dealing with children.  I'm just kind of baffled at why I continue to insist that there be a plan in the first place, when making plans is work itself and apparently wasted work where I am concerned.

So--we did not do the February meal makeover as previously described.  And, given that March is almost half over and I'm not really doing anything and anything really, I'm going to assume the meal makeover isn't going to happen this month either.  But February has not been a failure, my friends. Quite the opposite, it has been an absolute triumph of the mommy spirit.  I am happy to announce...Wait for it...


What??!? you say. How can this possibly be? Just last month he was telling you that nature trackers don't use the potty (and he had a point).  He was gleefully pooping in his diaper right in front of you and cackling away like some kind of deranged hyena-dictator-terrorist.  Well, it's true my friends. It's true.

(Cue the Morgan Freeman narration)

As Vanessa Williams once sang, "Sometimes the snow comes down in June.  Sometimes the sun goes round the moon."  And sometimes when you least expect it, toddler boys decide to use the toilet.  This is the story of one such boy, and I dare you not to be inspired.

(OK, as much as I love him, enough with Morgan Freeman.  This really is beneath him. You can just go back to reading this in a regular voice.)

Lawson's teacher had been bugging me for a few months about his lack of potty training success.  "He's the last one in the class," she said, "The other kids really want their pizza 'potty.'"  Whatever, lady, you just don't want to change anymore diapers, and I can totally understand that.  But here's the thing, when Lawson pees all over my furniture, there is no cleaning people for me to call to deal with it.   So diapers are the lesser of evils in my book.  Plus, Lawson's other-worldly big sister potty-trained herself.  She announced one day that she would start using the toilet, and, unlike her mother, she sticks with her plans.  But Lawson has repeatedly demonstrated himself to be very much of this world.  This chaotic, cruel, fallen world.  He was not potty-training himself.  The teacher was bugging me, saying he was ready, I just needed to put him in underwear and let the pee rain down.  And worse, she probably was right.

So I girded myself for battle.  I cleared off the schedule for the day.  I filled a bucket with soapy water. I covered the furniture with tarps.  I positioned the Disney Cars potty seat (with south effects) on top of the toilet.  Lawson donned his Angry Birds underwear.  And I waited.  And he peed.  On the floor.  Over and over again.  Not one drop of urine was deposited in the toilet.  Not a drop.

I took him to school the next day in pull-ups, defeated.  I reported to Ms. Cindy that I believed she was wrong, he was not ready, and I had the puddles to prove it.  I went to work.  A few hours later, I got a call.  It was Lawson on the phone (no, really), and he had something to tell me.  "Mommy, I pee peed in the potty!!!" He could not have been more proud of himself had he decoded DNA.   Even more miraculously, he did it again and again (Fortunately, he quit calling me after the first time).  And then he did it AT HOME.  Yes.  Granted, I put him on the pot as soon as we walked in the door and left him there to play his iPod until bedtime, but still, all manner of human waste products evidenced themselves in the toilet.  Then he did it again the next day, and the next.

Now, he's not batting 1000 yet, and there have been mishaps.  For awhile there, I feared he would still need to be holding an iPod in order to poop when he was 25.  That was the only way I could get him to sit there at his usual hour of defecation (6 PM EDT or Eastern Defecation Time).  But gradually he stopped demanding his iPod or candy or other kickbacks in exchange for his performance.  Now he actually asks to go to the bathroom.  And all this in the space of about 3 weeks.   It is like Moses has parted the Red Sea of Diapers.

It is an emotional time in our house, and I don't mean in the Classic Mom sense of bemoaning my babies growing up.  I don't do bemoaning babies growing up.  I'm in fact already dreading having grandbabies because parents these days seem to expect a lot in the way of childcare from the grandparents.   It is more akin to what I felt after finally, finally completing my PhD after wading through 8 years of academic crappola or what I am imagining I will feel Saturday after running 26.2 miles (and probably needing to go potty at that point, let's be honest) and what the Israelites must have felt viewing the Promise Land, filled with milk, honey, and potty-trained children--WE HAVE SURVIVED.  Praise God in heaven, we are done with bottles and diapers and breastfeeding and spoon feeding and sleepless nights and carrying a full luggage set with you just to go to McDonald's and dare I dream, even Elmo.  Yes, Elmo, your days in our house are indeed numbered.  We can look forward to at least a few years of reasonably comprehensible conversation, reasonably interesting interests and pastimes, a reasonable amount of love, devotion, and respect before we are plunged into the confusing and maddening world of Justin Beiber and his ilk.  At that point, I plan to claim I am an illegal Canadian immigrant and self-deport myself.   Or maybe just have Morgan Freeman narrate everything.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

January's grade: C- (and that's grading on a curve)

So this screen time addiction we have going is for real. It’s going to take more than a month to break it, I’m afraid. And a month in which we don’t also have illness and out of town trips and wicked winter weather and marathon training. Those are the excuses I’m giving anyway. On the latter point--wow, is my marathon training ruining my mothering. I get in from a long run, and I am DONE. Those kids could be selling crack out of the garage, and I would not have the energy to stop it. Hey, at least they wouldn’t be watching TV, right?

We’ve had our proud moments. I personally have made it through two Sundays of (almost) no electronics of my own, and it felt really good. I’m next going to relocate my iPhone’s charger from the nightstand to the kitchen. It’s just nice to feel like I am more powerful than a tiny little phone. Take that, Siri, you are sleeping alone from now on, and don’t go claiming you love me when you don’t even know my name. For the last time, MY NAME IS NOT BILL!!! It’s Holly, Dr. Holly to you. And I own YOU. So there.

The kids, however, are still in the throes of addiction. In particular, I worry about Lawson and that iPod. He goes into hysterics when I take it away. And this week, when I’ve been sick and Kevin is out of town, well, he can just live happily ever after with his iPod, I just don’t have the strength to break up that relationship. And quite honestly, I may not have the strength to break it up before he hits kindergarten, because acts like such a maniac so much of the time. He seems to believe we are all hard of hearing, thereby necessitating he scream everything. Either that, or he is secretly preparing to audition for the part of Hitler in a toddler-themed World War II film. He even punctuates his commands with, “I SAY!!!” As in, “GET ME MY MILK, I SAY!!!” Needless to say, I don’t get him his milk when he behaves like that, and with any luck, he will figure out that these tactics don’t work sometime in the next 15 years, during which time I will slowly lose my tenuous grip on sanity, my hearing, and my will to live.

In fact, I am thinking of revamping the family makeover schedule a bit--you see, this is what I do, I come up with well-organized plans that I then abandon in favor of flying by the seat of my pants (I would be a terrible military commander). I’m really not sure what this is about. In any case, I was contemplating using February to try to break Lawson of the screaming habit and some of his other bad habits as well. I in fact already have the secret weapon, a kind of Lawson kryptonite-doomsday machine, if I only dare to deploy it. Not only is it very, very effective, it is just abusive enough to meet the discipline requirements of my evangelical friends and family without causing my liberal friends to shun me. I give you...THE SQUIRT BOTTLE.

Not sure I have revealed this magical parenting device before. But as some of you know, when I want to punish Lawson, I just squirt him in the face with water like he is a little kitty cat. He hates it! Hates it! And it’s totally harmless! Water in your face does not hurt you! Yes, he may never be able to shower without scuba equipment, but I think that’s a small price to pay. Usually, all I have to do is threaten him with it. But I think I am becoming the Mom who cries 1, 2, 3 at this point. I think I need to start squirting him without warning. The minute he screams, “MY IPOD, I SAY!!!” I need to show him who’s boss. It could be rather fun.

So I think I’m going to switch up the schedule. February’s goal is to launch an all out water fight with my three-year-old tyrant (no, that doesn’t sound at all crazy). And keep working on the screen time. You know, so I can feel bad about myself on a daily basis. Self-esteem is so overrated. And because I am such an over-achiever, I’m going to do the meal stuff also. I actually have already started, and it’s going well. Lawson is downing green smoothies, believing they are some kind of magical Dr. Seuss concoction, and Charlotte ate a piece of edamame the other day. It’s like a miracle.

The struggle continues...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Year's Resolutions Part II

First of all, before I get to laying out the rest of the 2014 program, a January update.  We haven’t actually been low-teching it very long, as we didn’t all get home from the holidays until Jan. 5, and I was out of town this past weekend, and Lord knows what went on at my house in my absence.  I told Grandma she could handle things however she wished, and while she is supportive of our endeavor (and is generally a saint), she spent most of the weekend at home indoors with the children.  Even Mary Poppins would cave in this situation, and I would not blame her if a screen-time binge resulted.  

And we won’t talk about the last two days, a holiday and a snow day (THE HORROR!).  Monday morning I went on a really hard, nausea-inducing long run, which finished me for the day.   Bring on the screen time.  And today...ugh.  Is there anything worse in the annals of motherhood than a snow day?  I used to absolutely adore snow, and I still like it, objectively speaking.  But as with all things, when you add kids, the enjoyment factor goes down exponentially.  Love watching football on TV? How bout with 2 kids climbing on you and screaming?  Love eating out a restaurant? Now add a dining companion who throws food at you and won’t stay in his seat.  A snow day for a childless adult means cuddling up on the couch with a good book and drinking hot chocolate all day while you watch the snow falling peacefully outside.  What’s not to like.  Even after I had Charlotte, I couldn’t wait for it to snow and take her out in it.  She would think the snow magical, we would spend hours making snowmen and snow angels, having snow ball fights and catching snowflakes on our tongues.  Then it actually happened, and like everything else having to do with motherhood, it’s not quite like the idealized version I had in mind.  

Taking a small kid out in the snow in reality goes something like this.  First, you have to convince the small child (or one of them--they never want to both go outside, that would be too convenient) that they actually want to go outside, and the only reason you would commit such insanity is that you have exhausted every possible activity inside.  You have made cookies, you have played play doh, you have fashioned empty toilet paper rolls into doll furniture.  And of course you have travelled the shameful path of Excessive Screen Time, and now you feel guilty.  So let’s go outside kids!  Next, you have to don the snow gear.  Oh dear Lord in Heaven, the snow gear.  Can I just say, for starters--I would pay an obscene amount of money for a pair of waterproof, toddler mittens that are easily put on and actually stay on.  It’s like trying to wrap a raisin in a slab of bacon for some kind of chi-chi appetizer.  Definitely more delicious than a banchee toddler though. Big dilemma--do you put the mittens on before the coat or after? If you do it before, there’s a greater chance they stay on, but then it’s hard to get the child’s hand through the coat arm and he’s gonna let you know about that.  Then there’s the pants and the boots and the hat--by the time I’m done, I’m so overheated, I could go out in the snow in a bikini and it would feel awesome.  Then you send them outside, where they play happily for about 11 minutes, then they are cold and the snow isn’t sticking together  and their snowman isn’t working out for them and their sibling hit them in the face with snowball and they can see the grass a little bit when they step on the snow and--of course--their mittens are falling off.  There are three certainties in life--death, taxes, and toddler mittens falling off.  You cajole and bribe them to bring the grand total of outdoor snow fun to about 30 minutes. At that point, you risk the neighbors calling the police due to a disturbance next door.  You go back in, where you remove the gear as quickly as possible, before anyone tracks snow all over the house and jumps on the sofa in drenched snow pants.  Well.  That was fun.  

But apart from sick days and snow days and lazy days and travel days and mental health days--we’ve actually been doing fairly well.  Or, I should say, the children have been doing fairly well.  I am another matter and continue to carry on an intense love affair with my iPhone (by the way, if you ask Siri to marry you, she tells you she is not the marrying kind. For real! Try it!  Also, she calls me Bill all the time, I’m not sure if she just calls everyone Bill or if I sound particularly Bill-like to her).  I did observe No-Tech Sunday last week, however, although I made an exception to watch the Golden Globes Sunday night, why I don’t know.  These award shows are always the equivalent of pigging out on stale, burnt, sugar-free cookies made with tar extract.  I end up spending hours of my life to see a bunch of fat-free bodies in gorgeous dresses that only make me feel like crap and 10 minutes total of banal, generic acceptance speeches from actors I don’t even really like, all of which I could see on the internet the next day if I really wanted to. Totally not worth breaking my Sabbath.  I have also started reading books on a plain ol’ Kindle that my wonderful father gave me instead of on my phone, so that it is harder to multitask while I read (it’s also easier on the eyes.  I may yet dodge complete blindness).  Still, you would be amazed how easy it is to put a Kindle down and pick an iPhone up periodically.  I’m really good at it, and I’m not even that coordinated. So I need to up the ante on my iPhone.  For one thing, I need to relocate its charging base far away from my nightstand and replace it with a low-tech plain ol’ alarm clock.  

The kids have been doing quite well, but then the technology never was for their sake anyway.  I explained to Charlotte that Mommy has been breaking the doctors’ rules by letting them watch so much TV and play so many computer games.  If there is one thing Charlotte respects, it’s rules.  I have been reprimanded by her on numerous occasions for breaking them--for going up an escalator with a stroller, when there was clear signage that this was not legal; for giving her and Lawson their iPods before takeoff, which was illegal the last time we flew (it is now OK, proving that major progress is possible in the world); for allowing Lawson to stand on the top step of the pool during the bizarre and ridiculous 10 minute rest period each hour that is mandated by Virginia law for public pools (proving that there is less major progress in the world than there could be); and for calling her a Drama Queen, which calling people names is completely unacceptable in all of the world’s major ethics codes.  So she has been on board with the tech restrictions.  Lawson is doing OK, too, although he still has episodes of iPod withdrawal in which he says/yells/screams, “I want my iPod!!!” 159 times in succession.  You just have to pour yourself a stiff drink and push through it.  It is serendipitous that our resolution comes just after they have been showered in new toys for Christmas, with which they are, miraculously, actually playing in the absence of other options.  The Wii is not much of a temptation and in fact is more trouble than it’s worth at this stage.  So we may survive and dare I say triumph.  

So here is the rest of the 2014 program:
March--The children will start brushing their teeth twice a day instead of (maybe) once a day.  I am proud to say that I already do this for myself (most days).  

April--Daily outdoor play will become mandatory, weather dependent.  This will also mean Lawson will have to get over his morbid fear of lawnmowers, which began last summer due to an unfortunate and very poorly timed visit from our lawn crew during a 4th of July cookout.  

May--The children will start cleaning up their toys before bed, like for real, not pretending to do so while Mommy actually picks up the toys.  Charlotte’s view that “chores are such a waste of time” will be mercilessly stamped out.  

June--If he has not already potty-trained himself, Charlotte will potty-train Lawson.  No, I’m kidding, I’m just going to let him potty-train himself.  But in June, he will be given strong incentives to do so.  

July--The children’s religious education will go up a notch.  I haven’t  decided what this will entail, but perhaps doing something other than making paper airplanes or mopping up milk spills with the materials the lovely church people diligently send home every week.  And--more incentives for Lawson to potty-train himself will be added.  

August--Charlotte and I will start volunteering somewhere.  And, Lawson WILL potty train himself.  

September--We will institute a museum day at least once a month.  We live in the city of free, world-class museums, and we will go learn stuff.  


November--We are going to discuss gratitude every day of this month.  

December--We are going to do Christmas right, like for real this time. Limited numbers of gifts. Lots of talk of Jesus.  

Bring it, 2014.