Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Normal Day.

I have been having a terrible time with my 5-year-old lately.

She seems to be desperately stuck between two worlds: on the one hand, she can carry on a sophisticated conversation about a very mature subject to the point that you forget you're talking to a kid; and on the other hand, she has taken to extremely babyish meltdowns over the most trivial (in my opinion) things (i.e., my telling her that she's taking too long washing her hands and needs to hurry up). Whenever she crumples to the floor, loudly wailing and dramatically quivering her bottom lip, I find myself exploding onto her with frustration. HOW CAN YOU BE SUCH A BIG GIRL AND SUCH A BABY AT THE SAME TIME?

And yet.

Sometimes, when the kids are finally all asleep, and the house is quiet, and I have a minute to reflect on how stressed I was that day, and how many times I caught myself yelling at the kids, and how I at one point resorted to sitting outside on the front steps so that the kids wouldn't see me crying with exasperation.... I realize that I don't really have anything to be upset about at all.

The "problems" of my day are ones that many moms, who find themselves in far, far more dire straits, would kill to have.

I have two friends whose children were recently diagnosed with significant medical problems. Those women have had their worlds turned upside down. I experience their pain, for fleeting moments at a time, through their anguished status updates. And then I go back to pulling my hair out because my three children can't stop tattling on each other for five minutes.

And that's more than a little bit crazy.

So I have been moved to revisit these two little nuggets of wisdom, the first one brought into my life by, if I remember correctly,, and the second, by The video clip is a few minutes long but I don't think you'll regret taking the time. And even if you've seen it before, I find it still makes an impact, even upon repeat viewing.

The next time, then, that I find myself sitting on the doorstep gritting my teeth in what feels like madness, I hope I will remember these messages, and go back inside and hug my kids. 'Cuz even when a normal day absolutely SUCKS, it's still a normal day, and for that I need to be more grateful. xo.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so. One day, I may dig my nails in the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want more than all the world--your return.
-Jean Irion

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guess the Baby Face Couldn't Last Forever...

Well, it finally happened.

I was checking my reflection in the overhead visor of my car today when I spotted it.

My first gray hair. Right near my temple. Glistening in the sunlight. I was tempted to yank it, but I decided to leave it there. Still not sure why. I think it's because I love to torture myself?

Now I know that, for many of you, this is not big news. Some of you have been dealing with gray hairs for a while now, and from you, I don't expect sympathy.

But I am a newcomer to this world of old lady follicles. And it's not a place I'm finding particularly comfortable.

Combine this recent discovery with the other harsh realities I've been dealing with of late:

...the sudden appearance of thin little lines at the corners of my eyes, and across my forehead, that don't go away even in the complete absence of any facial expression...

...the slow but steady erosion of whatever breastesses I once had, a sacrifice not in vain due to their nothing-short-of heroic efforts in feeding 3 children for 3 years, but a crippling blow to my self-image nonetheless...

...and the dogged insistence of my unrestrained belly to keep puffing out to its 3-month pregnant dimensions, regardless of the fact that no further pregnancies are forthcoming.

So here I am, wrinkly, both puffy and flat but in all the wrong places... and now with a gray hair.

If this is what I look like two months short of age 36, I shudder to think how the wheels will have completely fallen off the wagon some thirty years from now! Will I be a raisin with legs??


All recommendations for eye creams, hair dye, and girdles welcome in the comments section below.

Kindly take a moment and help ease my transition into OLD.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Your Kid Sucks. Accordingly, You Suck, Too.

I have a kid finishing up Pre-K this month. (I can hardly believe it's only Pre-K as I write that; the drama lately has been so much more suited to junior high.) And if you've been reading this blog since it's humble beginnings, you already know that this child o' mine had a bit of trouble at the start of the year trying to gain entry into the "cool crowd" of the class. (Again, it's Pre-K, people. Sheesh!)

But as the year progressed, said cool crowd ultimately agreed to associate with her--occasionally-- and within reason. My kid was only invited to one playdate (and we reciprocated with exactly one playdate; I wasn't about to go out of my way to impress these two little snots), and sometimes she would still come home to report that she had been left to play all by herself at recess. For the most part, however, I thought my kid had established a pleasant rapport with the 5-year-old powers that be.

Until last week.

At which time Kid got into the car after school and announced: "[Mean Girl A] and [Mean Girl B] got into big trouble at school today!"

"Why?" say I, silently thrilled by the news.

"Well," Kid continued, a little less enthusiastically, "[Mean Girl A] pushed me off the swings and [Mean Girl B] scratched my arm and both of them were laughing at me so the teacher made them come and apologize and we all had a big group hug."

"I TOLD YOU THOSE KIDS WERE JERKS!" I reflexively sputter, and then wonder if perhaps I could have handled this differently. Oh well.

Now, this swing-pushing-and-arm-scratching sucks in its own right (*especially* when I came to find out that the very next day, my own kid JOINED the Mean Girls in teasing someone ELSE! aargh, classic peer pressure! already!)... but it is particularly uncomfortable in light of the fact that-- geez-- I really liked the mommy of Mean Girl A.


See, I'm incredibly efficient in my dealings with people. You cross me, your whole family has crossed me. You cross my kid, you've crossed me. *Your* kid crosses *my* kid... well, then, it's ON, bitches!

It used to be that Mom of Mean Girl A [MOMGA, henceforth, for ease of reference] and I would pass each other at school pickup and exchange meaningful friendly words. When I had a crisis vis-a-vis the teachers' presents I was supposed to organize, she was the one I trusted for guidance. And when I had to fill in as field trip chaperone, she was the mom I hoped to get paired up with.

But now? Ugh, I can hardly look at the lady without being overcome with emotion.

ANGER: You let your kid hurt my kid!

CONFUSION: Weren't my kid and I good enough friends to you both??


LOSS: You were my favorite mom from the class! I loved you best! And now it's all RUINED!

Query: Am I the only one who is reduced to the maturity of a fellow 5-year-old in this situation? WHY can't I be an adult here, and acknowledge that MOMGA is *not* Mean Girl? It's not like *MOMGA* showed up on the playground and pushed my kid off a swing. Just as it's not *my* fault that, the next day, my kid, for all intents and purposes, bullied some other innocent. And yet...

Am kinda dreading the end-of-year class party on Thursday. I will *literally* be able to make eye contact with only two people in the entire room-- the teacher and my own child-- since half the parents think I screwed up the teacher presents (ah, Class Mom, the great unsung hero of the suburbs! a truly thankless job!), two of the parents are MOMGA/Bs, and at least one of the parents (the mom of the child who MY kid teased!) has every right to give me the stinkeye.

At this rate, I'm as likely to get my ass kicked on the playground as my daughter is.

Mother of the Year strikes again!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No More Teachers, No More Books, No More Peace and Quiet.

A lot of my mommy blogger friends and Facebook friends have been posting about the onset of summer vacation.

A concept that strikes fear into the hearts of many a mother.

Like, if you think *weekends* with three little kids trashing the house are bad, how 'bout a THREE-MONTH WEEKEND.

Now, in fairness, I do send my kids to day camp for a large chunk of the summer. How families cope with summertime in the absence of day camp is truly BEYOND me. And to those parents, I offer you my highest admiration, praise, and sympathy.

But even for a mommy like me, who does get to ship her little ones out the door from 9 until 3 many a-summer's day, I am still experiencing this last week of school as if every child-free hour is ticking down my doom. So what can we do, as moms who would desperately like to maintain some semblance of composure this season, to minimize the pain?

Well, let's break it down.

If you ask me, the problems with no school are: NO STRUCTURE, NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES, SIBLING WARS, and STIR CRAZINESS.

Alright, so let's knock each one off one by one.

1) NO STRUCTURE. Ok. What makes the school day manageable is that there's a reliable routine. Get up, get out, do your after school activity (if applicable), come home, watch the minutes on the clock crawl agonizingly towards dinnertime (wait, what?), eat, bathe, sleep.

Alright, so what if we create some kind of reliable routine for non-school days? Like, we need to be dressed by X time, we are going to do a craft at X time, we're going out for lunch at X time, we're going to have quiet time / nap time / study hall (the goal is little NERDS, people) at X time, we're going swimming (UGH, so much effort!) at X time, we're doing board games (bored games) and puzzles until dinner.

Aargh, that sounds good on paper. I just don't know if I can carry it out. The idea of having an "activity schedule" sounds too much like homeschooling. But who are we kidding, whenever the kids are at home for extended periods of time, we moms are on the clock. So hey! we might as well get all the granola props of giving ourselves the title "homeschooler." Bring on the equivalency exams! We are officially crunchy now!

2) NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES. Alright, I'm fantastically guilty of spending my husband's hard-earned cash on child-related junk that I hope will buy me some calm in this house. I have an entire cupboard stockpiled with connect-the-dot books, coloring books, just-add-water painting books, paints, canvases, sticker books, etc., etc., etc. Now, there are a few problems with this approach: First, it wastes money that my husband is slaving to earn (I buy almost everything on sale, but still). Second, it SPOILS the kids rotten-- why would they work toward stickers on their good behavior reward charts, when they're being littered with small presents all week long? And third, it creates, I think, an unhealthy reliance on the material stuff. I hereby challenge myself to coming up with more kid activities that don't require me to BUY anything. Especially now that eldest is a very capable reader, I guess I should be writing out (impossible-to-complete) scavenger hunt lists and the like. (Btw, IDEAS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME. Come on, show off what a better parent you are!) Hey, maybe I could tell the eldest she has to teach the 3- and 2-year-old kids to read. *That* would take up some time, cost nothing, *AND* appeal to the mini-dictator in her... :)

3) SIBLING WAR. Another headache for me, quelle surprise. Having 3 girls aged 5, 3, and 2 is the best of times (when they're playing nicely) and the worst of times (when they are battling to the death over a toy that appeals to all 3 of them equally). In fact, the competition between the kids has reached new heights when it comes to the eldest and her books: heaven help us all when she declares, "I will read to the little kids now!" because the inevitable effect is all 3 of them demanding to be the designated reader. (Am very grateful that we discovered the series of monkey books by Jez Alborough-- they are picture books with a few simple words that my 3-year-old is able to read aloud-- they make her feel like she's a contender.) (HERE ALSO: SUGGESTIONS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME for very basic books that the 3-year-old can conquer.)

Ok, so what if I attempted to deal with this tension by giving each of the 3 kids a certain exclusive job that only SHE can do. For example, right now the 3-year-old knows that, after my eldest is off to school and before the little one wakes up, it's her job to take my shopping list around the kitchen and mark off anything that we're running out of (I added little drawings next to each word to help her out). Maybe the eldest could be in charge of organizing the art supplies (ugh, that will keep her busy for all of 2 minutes) and the baby could be in charge of picking up the clothes on the floor (and, when there aren't any, I will throw them all over the floor just to give her something to do) (sounds reasonable). THEN, when I see that war is about to break out, I could happily announce that it's time for all the kids to do their designated jobs. This is admittedly a stupid idea but I will try it. Perhaps I'm underestimating the power of distraction.

4) STIR CRAZINESS. Well, folks, this is your big ticket item right here. The best part about school (other than the education, blah blah blah) is that it gets my kids out of the house, gives them a change of scenery, and allows them to revel in the company of people who are not genetically related to them. During the summer, it's just a WHOLE LOT of family time. Time that is, I think we can all agree, most enjoyable in finite segments that have distinct starting and ending points. So what to do with the prospect of family time that goes on for weeks on end?

Well the obvious answer is to get the kids out of the house. Which means that I may have to tackle my irrational fear of public play areas (those ball pits! GERMS!) and other people's houses (what if their kids had been secretly sick recently? GERMS!) and the public pool (I heard that one kid got warts from the pool! GERMS!) and suck it up.

Summer "vacation" (ahahahaha) also means that MOMMY MUST FORCE HERSELF TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE ON A REGULAR BASIS. This is my downfall right here: I get so wrapped up in obsessively entertaining the rugrats, sometimes it doesn't dawn on me that *I* haven't been outdoors with an adult destination (and by this, I mean the supermarket, which is as close to adult entertainment as I dare to imagine) all by myself in days and days and days. Sometimes even a solitary drive around the block is the difference between holding it together and completely losing my sh*t. Somewhere in the house, this reminder should be put up on a plaque-- WARNING: A DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK MAY CAUSE TEMPORARY SANITY.

So there you are: the solutions to all of your summer woes. Homeschooling... scavenger hunts... designated chores... and separate playdates for both the kiddies and the mommy.

And because I fully expect that all of these suggestions will result in an EPIC FAIL, check back here soon to hear all about how I went ahead and lost my sh*t anyway. :)