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Greetings from the Hotel Bassemonte

Musings of a mother of three from her subterranean sanctuary

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For Better, For Worse - My Messy Beautiful

Do you know how your kids are always so much better behaved for other people – teachers, babysitters, your friends – than they are for you? And when you tell people stories about how bad they can be at home, you can tell they don’t really believe you? I used to think it was unfair. Why do my husband and I always have to suffer the meltdowns, the drama, the fighting? 

Of course, if I had to choose, I would prefer them to be well-behaved at school and naughty at home instead of the other way around. But still, do they have to be so bad for us sometimes?  Do they have to take everything out on their parents and siblings and say such hurtful things at home?

But then again, I do the same thing.

I can safely say that I have never screamed at another person in the last 20 years. Except for my kids, that is.  I may be rude to a telemarketer once in a while, but to the world outside my family I am polite, even-keeled, and non-confrontational.  I don’t threaten or bribe other adults, and I don’t lie to them about going to a fake hotel in my basement when I need sleep.

But at home, when nobody else is around, there are times when I can make unnecessarily bitchy comments to my husband, or start screaming at my children in full-on adult-tantrum mode. I’m not exaggerating. I remember one night when I shut my eyes, clenched my fists, stomped my feet and screamed, “NOBODY’S LISTENING TO ME!!! WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY LISTEN TO ME AROUND HERE?!”  Kids often model their parents’ behavior, but sometimes it’s the other way around.

I’m not like that most of the time, but I have snapped and absolutely lost my Skittles more times than I care to remember.  Just like my kids, I get cranky when I’m tired.  And raising three young children who don’t always sleep through the night is a tiring task, so I’m tired a lot. Which means I’m cranky a lot. Which means I yell too much.

I’m working on it, and it has gotten better.  Even so, my husband and my children - as my parents and brothers did before them - witness the worst sides of me that nobody else sees.

Why do I take out all my negative energy on the people I love the most? If I love them, shouldn’t I want to be the nicest to them, instead of saving all my patience and politeness for total strangers?

I know I’m not alone. Why are we nastiest to those we love most? Is it because we feel safe, knowing that they are the only people who will love us forever, unconditionally? Or is it because nobody can annoy or frustrate us more than members of our own families can?  It’s probably a combination of both.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing. You see, we also give our families our best sides that nobody else sees.  Just as I don’t scream at other people, I don’t cuddle with even my closest friends, and I don’t go around telling people unprompted that I love them (well, unless maybe I’ve had a few too many glasses of wine, but that doesn’t count). I don’t kiss other people’s boo-boos, wipe their poopy bottoms, read them books, or stay up all night nursing them when they are sick.

I give my everything to my family. Yes, that includes some bad, but it’s also a lot of good. All the million little things I do for my family everyday are my greatest acts of love.

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And my family gives me their best selves too. My kids don’t share their scary nightmares, or tell when their feelings are hurt, or say, “I love you” to their teachers. Other people don’t see how heart-achingly sweet my girls can be to each other when they’re playing a game of school together or when they are worried about one another for various reasons. My kids don’t cuddle on the couch with anyone else and they save their biggest, tightest, most suffocatingly squeezy hugs for their Mommy and Daddy.

And if you could witness my husband telling his girls one of his animated, outlandish bedtime stories, you would fall in love with him too.

So instead of lamenting about how bad we can be to each other at times, I will try to focus on how wonderful we can be to each other. I will remember how lucky I am that I get to see all of my childrens’ sides: their good, their bad, and their out-of-control, sibling-fighting, back-talking, tantrum-throwing, property-destroying, raging ugly. And because I get to see all that, I get to truly love them completely. I love their whole selves, whole-heartedly. And that is a beautiful thing.

When things get tough, I will remind myself that if it were always sunny, we would never have rainbows.

So, to my kids: keep giving me your worst; I will keep loving you and seeing the best in you, no matter what. Thank you for bringing out the best in me; you also bring out the worst in me at times, but I will keep trying to give you my best everyday. Forgive me when I fail, just like I will always forgive you, and we will get through this messy, beautiful life together.

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Filed under messy beautiful carry on warrior parenting

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Say what??

This morning I was in the bathroom while with my three-year-old was going potty and I heard a loud boom echoing from the toilet bowl.

Me: “Excuse YOU!”
3yo: “But that wasn’t a toot. When you toot on the potty it’s not called a toot.”
Me: “Then what is it called?”
3yo: “Um… it’s called a ‘classic.’ When you toot on the potty it’s not a real toot, you just call it a ‘classic.’”

Clearly “classic” was the first nonsense word (nonsense to her) she could come up with, as I’m almost positive she has never heard anyone in this family exclaim “Classic!” after tooting on the toilet (it’s sad that I had to insert the word “almost” in that sentence, as you can never be sure in this household).

The scene reminded me of all the times I’d used words incorrectly as a child – although unfortunately in my cases, I was much older than her, really believed I was using the appropriate definition, and said these words in public.

The first time I was publicly humiliated for mis-using a word (or in this case, using a made-up word) was in Kindergarten, but I blame my mother for this one. She did not approve of the word “fart,” but instead of teaching us to say “toot” or “pass gas,” she taught us to use the even more vulgar and disturbing and ever-so-literal expression, “fanny-burp.” I don’t understand why, but she somehow thought “fanny-burp” was a more dignified term. I’m pretty sure she made it up. But as a child I of course assumed that everyone used this same term. That is, of course, until one fateful day in Kindergarten when I smelled a foul odor and asked in a loud voice, “Who fanny-burped?” Whoever the fanny-burper was had no reason to be embarrassed, for I was now the one being ridiculed. 

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My next experience I cannot blame on my mother, this one was all me. For a long time, I thought that the term “balls” was a reference to a woman’s breasts, not to male genitalia.  I eventually learned that boys had “balls” too and that they didn’t like to be hit in them, but I still thought that there was a female version of “balls” on a woman’s chest, regardless of whether or not her breasts had actually developed yet.

One day in gym class, in fourth or fifth grade, somebody whacked me in my flat chest with a red rubber ball during a dodge ball match.  I hugged my chest against the burn and yelled, “Ow!! You hit me in the BALLS!!” Suddenly the gymnasium was silent. Then everyone started laughing, but they were actually laughing with me, not at me, because it made no sense for a girl to say that, so they assumed I was joking. I figured they just thought it was funny that I got hit in the balls.

Unfortunately, this misunderstanding allowed me to continue my misconception for another year or two. Finally, in sixth grade, when we girls started growing “balls” (or marbles in my case), we would sometimes walk with our school binders over our chests to protect them from stares or naughty boys who tried to touch them when they passed us in the hallway.

I remember a boy asking me why I was carrying my binder that way, and I said, “To protect my balls.” He looked confused and asked me to repeat myself. “I’m protecting my balls!” He asked me what my balls were and I said my chest. Oh, the laughter. And this time it was most certainly directed at me and not with me. Even if girls did have balls, I had the flattest chest in the sixth grade and you could never find any ball-like qualities in my upper torso.

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My third experience also occurred in sixth grade and I have no idea what happened here. I was staying after school with a group of students to make a banner for some event. I thought the big bubble letters we drew would “pop” more if we drew an outline behind them to make them look more 3-D. For some reason, I thought there was a term for this technique, and for some reason, I thought that term was “constipate.”

I have NO idea where I got this notion. None. Not sure where I’d heard the word before or why on earth I thought it had something to do with dimensionalizing letters (spellcheck is telling me “dimensionalizing” isn’t a word  - see, we need a word for this technique!).  I said to my friends, “We should constipate the letters so they stand out more.” They were confused, nobody knew what constipate meant, or if they did, they now started to question themselves. 

Finally, in exasperation, I went to the teacher and asked if he knew how to draw constipated letters. Poor Mr. Cassesse was a sweet, friendly science teacher who all the kids liked. I still remember the confused, embarrassed look on the man’s face when I continued to try to explain myself, “You know, to constipate the letters, draw a line around them, so they’re constipated? You know?” His face started turning red and finally he said gently, “I don’t think you know what the word ‘constipated’ means.” I asked him to tell me but he told me to ask my mother when I got home. Well, we never did constipate those letters (we kept them regular - pun intended), but I did learn a new vocabulary word when I got home from school that day.

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I’m sure there are more experiences that I’ve blocked out. The two things I’ve taken away from these embarrassing moments are 1) don’t teach your kids the wrong words on purpose because you think it’s cute or you’re embarrassed by the real word, and 2) by the time they reach Kindergarten, make sure you correct them when you hear them use a word incorrectly – it’s cute when they do it at home, but potentially scarring when they do it at school.

Adios, I need to fanny-burp but think I’ll go on the toilet and make it a classic instead.

Filed under parenting humor

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What about Mrs. Sisyphus?

Hello, I’m Mrs. Sisyphus. I’m sure you’ve never heard of me, but everybody’s heard of my good-for-nothing husband, Sisyphus. You know, the deceitful king who Zeus sentenced to push a heavy boulder up a hill only for it to fall back down once he reached the top so he would have to keep pushing it again and again for eternity?

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Well, while Sisyphus is busy pushing that stupid rock up a hill, who do you think is home taking care of the house and kids all by herself?

Me, that’s who. Mrs. Sisyphus.

Everyone always says, “Oh, poor Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of wasted effort and frustration.” Waah-waah-waah.  I’m sorry, but he’s not the only one in this family with never-ending, never-completed chores. At least he doesn’t have three little rug-rats at his ankles while he tries to get that boulder up the hill.

I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to clean a house with a two-year-old behind you pulling out everything you just put away? For years I just left the scrolls on the floor because every time my toddler saw them on the scroll-shelf she thought it was an invitation to dump them out back on the floor.  We’re talking papyrus everywhere. I put them away, she pulls them back down, I put them away, she pulls them back down. And as soon as I finish sweeping the kitchen floor, my toddler spills her milk on it. Every time. No matter how often or thoroughly I clean my house, it’s still always a mess. But no, it’s Sisyphus who gets all the sympathy.

Then there’s the dishes.  Everyday I wash all the goblets and earthenware, three times a day to be exact, and then I put them all away. But the next day they are dirty again so again I wash and dry and put them away. No matter how many times I wash the dishes, there are always more the next day. Every day more dishes.  Every. Single. Day. For eternity.

And the laundry. It never ends either. I will spend all day washing a pile of laundry the size of Mount Olympus, and when I think I’m finally done I look and see more dirty clothes in the hamper. Where did they come from? How many white togas do my kids seriously need?  Oh Zeus, you are a vengeful god.

After all my cleaning and washing I have nothing to show for my efforts but a messy house and a pile of dishes and laundry. You might say Sisyphus has nothing to show for his hard work either — but have you looked at his arms? What I wouldn’t give for toned arms like that!  And to be able to work in peace and quiet, all by myself with nobody whining for me to do this or that for them? Oh Sisyphus, you don’t know how good you have it.

I swear, if it weren’t for my dear friend Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, I don’t know how I’d survive.

Now, I don’t want to sound like too much of a complainer.  I do these chores out of love and obligation, and I know I am lucky to be able to spend so much time with my three favorite people on earth. I’m just saying, the next time you find yourself feeling sorry for old Sisyphus - who, by the way, was a lying, murderous cheat who deserved his fate – think of the woman behind the man, the woman with the chronically messy house, the never-ending stack of dirty dishes, and the bottomless hamper of dirty clothes.

Filed under humor house cleaning sisyphus

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Napaholics Anonymous

My name is Megan, and I’m addicted to my daughter’s nap.

My youngest is 3 ½ and still takes a nap at least 5 days a week.  I know kids naturally outgrow their naps at different ages (my oldest was 5 and my second daughter 3), but it can be difficult to know when the child is ready. Or when the parent is ready.

Her nap has become like a drug: it provides an emotional high for both of us, but the after-effects are not always worth it. Part of me wants to quit it, but part of me can’t let go.

In the early days, her naps were great. She would sleep 2-3 hours during the day and then 11-12 at night. We had everything under control. But then as she started getting older and needing less sleep, things started to get ugly, and I realized that our nap addiction was partly to blame.

But oh, how I love her nap! Two hours of “me time” to do whatever I want! Most days it’s just a little bit of uninterrupted computer time, dinner prep, and maybe a shower if I didn’t squeeze one in earlier. Nothing that exciting, but also nothing that I could do easily with my little shadow nipping at my heels. I need that nap. I crave that nap. It is a little jolt of tranquility in my otherwise chaotic day.

But then there’s the nap hangover, or what I call the “Napover.” It’s 8pm and her older sisters are drifting off to sleep, but the three-year-old - who has the most exhausting bedtime routine of the three - is wide awake. She gets the munchies and needs some food. Now she’s so thirsty!  We nurse her Napover with water, a banana, some books and cuddling. By 9pm if she isn’t asleep, I am. Sometimes it’s even later than that if I’m completely honest. And I’m resolved that we are Never. Napping. Again.

But then I can’t stand the nap withdrawal.  On the days when she skips her nap, she is usually ok for a while, until she isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t until the next day that I feel the wrath of her skipped nap. When she doesn’t have her fix, she becomes impatient, irritable and irrational.  I tell myself, “But she skipped her nap today!” or “If only she’d napped, she’d be so much happier!”

So we fall off the wagon again and I find myself going to great lengths to get another fix. Since she transitioned from crib to bed last year it’s been a lot harder to attain the nap high. Desperate for “just one more” nap, I will drive around in the car to get her to fall asleep, looking suspiciously like a drug dealer as I cruise the neighborhood at 15mph, circling the block again and again to make sure she is really out before I head back home. Then I carefully, stealthily, transfer the goods - I mean my daughter - to her bed. I tiptoe up the stairs with my heart racing, please don’t let me get busted, let me get away with it just this one more time!

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I have a problem.

I need a 12-Step program for transitioning my daughter, and myself, off her nap.

If I were to design such a program, it would look something like this:

  1. Admit that you can no longer handle the late bedtimes and that something has to change.
  2. Acknowledge that - after an adjustment period - the consolidated nighttime sleep will result in equal, if not longer, total sleep, thereby eliminating any symptoms of over-tiredness experienced during the de-napification process.
  3. Be patient during the adjustment period. Mood swings and irregular sleep patterns are normal and to be expected. Think of Jesse in Breaking Bad whenever he tried to quit heroine. It’s nothing like that, but maybe a little bit.
  4. Create a new “quiet time” routine where she entertains herself in her room. It might not be as long as that two-hour nap, but you will become more efficient with your limited time.
  5. Don’t feel guilty if you use “screen time” as part of “quiet time” – think of it as a nicotine patch, but for naps.
  6. Don’t feel guilty if you need to provide a reward (sticker, treat, etc.) for observing quiet time – think of it as the price for peace.
  7. Allow for regression: naps happen. A nap here or there does not make her a nap addict.
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  8. But don’t be a nap enabler: don’t drive around in the car seeking the nap on purpose.
  9. Realize that if your kid is still over-tired and not going to bed earlier after a couple weeks, maybe he or she isn’t ready.  Nap interventions are most effective when the subject is ready and has hit rock-bottom of bedtime alertness.
  10. Schedule playdates and afternoon outings to take advantage of the fact that you are no longer stuck in your house for two hours every afternoon.
  11. Replace some of your afternoon “me time” with more “us time” with your spouse after the kids are asleep.  You are much better company after a quick and early bedtime routine than after an ugly, dragged out, bedtime battle.
  12. Go to bed earlier yourself. You cannot control what time your kids will wake you up, but you can control what time you go to bed.

After writing all this, I know my daughter and I are still not ready to drop her nap. She will give me more signs, and I will begrudgingly acknowledge them. Perhaps someone else will have to do an intervention for us.  

For now, I’ve got to go circle the neighborhood in my desperate quest for another nap.

Filed under parenting humor nap

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Caught in a Trap

It’s a little before midnight on St. Patrick’s Day Eve. Tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays as I get to celebrate my Irish heritage.

Except lately I’ve been feeling some guilt over this holiday. The same guilt I feel at Christmas and Easter and every time one of my kids loses a tooth. It’s liar’s remorse. You see, we jumped on the Paddy-wagon and started setting leprechaun traps in my house three years ago, and with that tradition came a lot of lying, and a lot of guilt.

As implausible as he is, I’ve come to terms with the Santa story and I even got into the Elf on a Shelf sham in my own half-hearted way. The Easter Bunny baloney makes me a little more uncomfortable - I have a hard time telling me kids with a straight face that a human-sized bunny rabbit comes and brings them goodies on Easter. The Tooth Fairy fib is just plain creepy: a fairy who sneaks into children’s bedrooms at night to collect their teeth? But I grew up with these falsehoods myself and that makes it easier for me to propagate the myths onto the next generation.

The St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun lie is new to me, however, and perhaps that’s why I am so conflicted. If you’re not familiar with the leprechaun trap, here is the gist: leprechauns are greedy but not that smart, so if you set a trap in your house using fake gold as the bait, you can capture a tiny green man and convince him to give you his pot o’gold. Sounds like something I’d come up with after a few too many pints of Guinness.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of the leprechaun trap. I first heard about it four or five years ago from friends with older children who were making traps as school projects. I thought it sounded like a fun way for my kids to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, and also teach them a little science and ingenuity, so I got in on it too. And it’s been a lot of fun. And also a lot of blarney.

I wouldn’t feel so bad if my middle daughter (age 6) weren’t so completely convinced that she will catch a leprechaun tomorrow.  Each year she has improved her traps to the point where she is certain she has an escape-proof trap tonight.

Three years ago she made this trap:

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She was three at the time and was was so excited as she explained how it worked, “It has wheels so it can chase leprechauns - leprechauns are very fast - and hands to grab the leprechaun and put it inside. Now it just needs real eyes to see the leprechaun, Mommy can we get REAL eyes, like from somebody’s head?” I suggested we glue on some googly eyes instead and she yelled in frustration, “That is NEVER gonna work!!!” before storming out of the room in disgust. She was right, it didn’t work, no leprechauns that year.

But she was not deterred. The next year she made a less imaginative but more practical plan: a ladder up the side and trap door right before her “gold” bait (rocks painted yellow). But they escaped again. Last year she improved the plan with a one-way trap door (popsicle stick on top won’t let the door swing back open) and face-up electrical tape lining the floor of the shoe box. image

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She was sure last year’s trap would work. My husband thought it would ease the blow if the leprechaun left a note. He wrote that the leprechaun was indeed caught and about to give up, but he called for his mates who shook the box until he was able to climb out.

Disappointed but not discouraged, on March 17, 2013 she started scheming for St. Patricks’ Day 2014.

Thanks to my husband’s note, she knew the one flaw in her trap: the box could be lifted off the floor. So she decided she would stick the box to the floor with electrical tape. At least once every two weeks for the past twelve months, my six-year-old has asked me how many days it is until St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes in the car she’ll just start laughing out of the blue, and when I ask why she says she can’t wait to get all the leprechaun’s gold.

While it was fun at first, the guilt is catching up with me, and I feel as though I am the one caught in a trap. To assuage my guilt, I keep telling my kids that I don’t believe in leprechauns, I’ve never seen one and don’t know anybody who has ever caught one. I said it would be on the national news if someone caught one, yet I’ve never read of this happening.

Today my six-year-old accused me of needing to see something to believe it. “Mom, you don’t believe with your eyes, you believe with your heart. Just like with God, you don’t see Him but you believe in Him, so why don’t you believe in leprechauns?” Oops. So when she learns the truth about these false idols, will she also question God? I suppose we all learned the Tooth Fairy isn’t real and that didn’t shake our faith, but still, hearing her say that made me feel like I’d broken more than one Commandment.

Although I won’t explicitly lie about the leprechauns, I know I am complicit in the deceit. This year I again helped them with their traps, and just a few moments ago I sprinkled green glitter all around their traps, created an escape exit out of the traps and left a note from Mickey, Nicky & Tricky McNaughtypants.  I even left each child a $1 bill as consolation after they complained last year that their friends’ received money from their jilted leprechauns.

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Why do I continue to do this if I feel guilty about it? It’s the same reason why I continue the Santa and the Easter Bunny myths: I love to see the magic in their eyes, to see their imagination working over-time as they try to conceive the inconceivable. It’s pure innocence, wonder, and joy. And ok maybe a little disappointment.

So I will continue to implicitly lie and live with the guilt. I was raised Irish Catholic, so guilt is no stranger to me. Tomorrow my daughter will wash down her disappointment in her annual bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, and start plotting how to improve her trap for next year. For it’s not just the luck o’ the Irish that makes us a resilient people, but the pluck o’ the Irish, and if there is a way to capture a fictitious miniature man in a shoe box, my daughter is going to find it, as sure as a shamrock is green.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone, Erin go bragh!

***UPDATE***

7:30am 3/17/14: She was more incredulous than disappointed. “They ripped a hole in the side, I KNEW they would do that! Next year I’m wrapping the sides in electrical tape too!” Then she explained that the leprechauns won’t give away all the problems with the trap in their note, because they don’t want to get caught, so she is already brainstorming more improvements (next year’s might be a house with signs saying there is a leprechaun party inside). She is rising to the challenge, and the only real disappointment this morning is that they have school on this important holiday. They truly could not believe that they had President’s Day off yet had to go to school on St. Patrick’s Day.

Filed under st. patricks day leprechaun trap parenting

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Dear Librarian

My house is a Black Hole for library books. Every time it’s Library Day at school for my two daughters, we all run around frantically looking for books. We (I) usually find them, but we have received several late notices and have had to pay two fines so far. Note: If you ever can’t find a library book, just pay the fine to replace the book - the original will turn up the next day, guaranteed.

(To the rhythm of “Green Eggs and Ham”)

"Librarian, Librarian
We lost our books
Librarian.”

"Did you really
Look for them?”

"I really looked, Librarian
I can’t say how
Sorry I am.”

"But did you look
Here or there?”

"I did not find them
here or there,
I did not find them
Anywhere.
Please just tell me how much to pay
So I can get on with my day.”

"Did you look in the toy bin?
What about the ottoman?”

"They are not in the toy bin
They are not in the ottoman.
I did not find them here or there
I did not find them anywhere.
We cannot find them, I swear we can’t
We cannot find them, Librarian.”

"Did you look under the couch?
Did you look under the bed?”

"Not by the couch, not by the bed
Have you even heard a word I’ve said?”

"Did you check the garbage cans?
Or where you keep the pots and pans?”

"I emptied every garbage can,
I looked in every pot and pan.
We cannot find them, I’ll say again
We cannot find them, Librarian”

"Would you, could you check the car?
I’m sure that must be where they are!”

"Of course I checked the
Fucking car.”

"Her desk! Her desk!
Her desk! Her desk!
Would you, could you
Check her desk?”

"Not in the desk, or the toy bin,
Not under the bed or ottoman,
Not in the couch, or garbage cans,
Not where I keep my pots and pans.
Not under the rug, not in the car,
Not in her backpack or the backyard,
Not in the basement, not in her room
Not where we keep the mop and broom.
Not in the dryer, not in the closet,
Not in the fridge, I swear, we lost it!
I’ll gladly pay whatever I can,
I cannot find them, Librarian.”

"Say!
You’ll pay the fine?
You will pay the fine on time?
Would you, could you, pay the fine?”

"I’ve been trying to say that this whole time."

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Filed under parenting humor

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How my kids prepared me for becoming a dog owner

A lot of people say that having a dog is good preparation for being a parent. Well, I acquired my dependents a different order and I have to say that the reverse is true as well.  I don’t like to think of my children as guinea pigs, but they did do an excellent job of breaking me in to become a dog owner.

I’ve never owned a dog before and was never very interested in the idea. But exactly one year ago this week, my life was forever changed when a former colleague of mine posted this on facebook:

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It was love at first sight, I knew he had to be ours. My husband, a dog-lover, said we should wait - our youngest was almost potty-trained, why would we want to bring more poop into our life right now? But maybe that was why my maternal (or should I say “peturnal?”) instinct was kicking in - because my youngest was starting preschool in the fall and I needed someone else to take care of. Some women feel a stirring in their womb when they see a picture of a baby; my womb was silent, but I felt an itching in my poop-scooping, fur-petting, treat-giving hand and clicked on the “Comments” box and typed that we were interested.

I knew that I didn’t fully comprehend what I was signing up for, just as there is no way to be fully prepared for parenthood.  Fortunately, I wasn’t walking into this completely blind, I’ve had prior experience taking care of domesticated animals - I have kids.

Here are some ways that having kids helped prepare me for owning a dog:

1. I’m used to not having any privacy.  My dog – and my three-year old - follow me everywhere. I pee in front of an audience of two. When I shower, Bo is sitting right outside the glass doors, watching and waiting. It would be unnerving if my three-year-old wasn’t sitting next to him eating crackers. Or maybe that should be more unnerving. When I step out of the shower, Bo licks my ankles before lapping up the water on the shower floor. Fortunately, my daughter hasn’t tried that. Yet.

2. Poop, vomit, and pee stains are old hat. My dog has major separation anxiety, and used to pee on our rug every time we left him home alone. He has also thrown up in the house and in my car several times, and just this past weekend he had explosive diarrhea all throughout my house while we were sleeping.  While I did dry-heave a few times during the cleaning the process, it’s not the first time I’ve cleaned someone else’s diarrhea, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

But don’t ask me to pick up another dog’s poop; just like changing other kids’ diapers grosses me out, so too does another dog’s doo. We get used to our own brood’s poops, and outsiders’ poops are just plain nauseating.

3. I know how to turn off (or down) the Mommy Guilt.  When we first got Bo, I felt terrible every time I left him home alone. Knowing that he’d been passed around a lot in his past, including time at a shelter and time with an abusive owner, I felt I was contributing to his feelings of abandonment and anxiety. I stayed home a lot more and brought him with me wherever I could. But as a Mom I knew this was not helping him; he would just have to learn that Mommy always comes back.

4. I’ve gotten used to having unrealistic expectations placed on me. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “I wish I were half as good a person as my dog thinks I am.” Well, just as I’m not nearly as wonderful as my dog seems to think I am, I am also not the all-knowing demi-god my children believe me to be. I’m getting used to disappointing them.  Every time I give a wrong answer or say, “I don’t know,” the pedestal my kids have put me on inches lower and lower toward the ground.  Pretty soon both my dog and my kids will realize I’m a hopeless mess and take pity on me.

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5. I’m ok not knowing what I’m doing. It’s been a year and I still don’t think I pet my dog the right way. It doesn’t feel natural and is often a bit awkward (I’m a great cat-petter though!). But Bo doesn’t seem to mind, he still wags his tail happily and begs for more. I’m his Mom, and he loves me no matter how clumsily I man-handle him. 

My daughters already taught me this lesson. I’m a hopeless braider, particularly of the French variety, but my six-year-old still proudly goes to school with my pathetic, disheveled attempt at a French braid. By the time I pick her up at 3 o’clock, all her hair is down except for a couple loose strands still clinging onto the elastic band. She still asks me to do it again the next morning.

6. I’m used to inappropriate touching. Fortunately neither my kids nor my dog is a crotch-sniffer or thigh-humper. Although if my dog were, I suppose years of kids grabbing my boobs or tugging on my pants and giving me plumber’s butt in public has probably given me a little training in handling inappropriate touching.

7. I don’t fall for the sad, puppy-dog face (most of the time). If I did, I’d be in trouble with this guy:

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Just look at him, even when he’s happy he looks suicidal.  My youngest also has a very convincing pouty face, some have suggested that her sad face resembles a Basset Hound (as her mother, I cannot say this is true, but I won’t deny it either).  I’ve developed an immunity to the puppy pout over the years, though I admit to occasional lapses.

8. If you can sleep-train a toddler, you can crate-train a 4-year-old dog. We didn’t have much choice other than to put our dog in a crate when we leave him home alone – he peed in the house every time we left him, even when we gated him in the kitchen, and if we left him in our fenced backyard he would howl constantly, disturbing our neighbors.  I’m not sure who crate-training was harder for - me or him. But I sleep-trained two of my kids and I knew what I had to do: be tough, be consistent, and bribe when necessary. We got through it.  Now, if only my kids’ bedroom doors had an outside lock like the crate, sleep training would have been a lot quicker.

9. Sleepless nights and house-training: been there, done that. I know that puppies wake you up several times at night to go outside and are prone to accidents until they are fully house-trained. After surviving three newborn periods and potty-training three kids, I have a pretty good idea what this entails. And that’s why I didn’t get a puppy.

10. Drool is cool. My dog is a slobbery mess. He drools when he’s stressed, he drools when he’s happy, he drools when he’s asleep, he drools when he’s awake. I’m not going to say I like getting slobber on my clothes or furniture, but after three teething children I’m not as grossed out by dog drool as I was pre-kids.

11. I know that nobody thinks he’s as special as I do. Just as new moms marvel at every little thing their baby does and love to tell you how it’s the cutest thing ever when little Johnny sleeps with his butt in the air or stretches on the changing table, I found myself telling people about Bo’s cute “quirks” as if he were the only dog in the world that did them.  “You should see what he does before he lies down in his bed, he circles around it three times, pats it down with his paws, then lays down. He does this every time, it’s so funny!” It was a while before I realized this was a common dog behavior.  But being a mom to humans, I have already accepted the fact that nobody else will ever fully appreciate just how wonderfully special my charges are. Sure, people think they’re cute, but only my husband and I know how cute they really are.

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What I was not prepared for when we got our dog is the same thing I was not prepared for when we had our first child: how quickly he would become an irreplaceable member of our family; how easily he would steal our hearts; how happily we would accept his smell, his accidents, his slobber, his howls and his following me around everywhere in exchange for his unconditional love, unquestionable loyalty, and undeniable sweetness.

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Then there’s this other reason to have the kids before the dog:

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My 8-year-old scooping poop in the rain for 5 cents a turd.

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Filed under parenting dog humor

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Paraphrased Parenting Philosophies

I always hear people talk about their “Parenting Philosophies” and I feel inadequate because I don’t have one, aside from “Do what you gotta do,” which is more of a motto or survival tip and doesn’t sound very philosophical.

So I decided to get inspiration from some of the great philosophers in history.

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I give to you now, my Paraphrased Parenting  Philosophies:

“I think, therefore I am.” - Rene Descartes

“I stink, therefore I pooped in my diaper.”



Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it." - Confucius

"Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it gets tossed in the recycle bin."



He who thinks great thoughts, often makes great errors.” – Martin Heideggar

“She who makes great dinners, often makes great meals nobody eats.”



One cannot step twice in the same river.” – Heraclitus

“One cannot pee twice in the same Pull-Up.”



“The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.” – Epicurus

“The greater the tantrum, the more glory in ignoring it.”

 

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

“The unexploded diaper is not worth changing.”

 

The life of man (in a state of nature) is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” – Thomas Hobbes

"The temper of a toddler (in a state of over-tiredness) is unpredictable, poor, nasty, brutish and short."



Liberty consists in doing what one desires.” – John Stuart Mill

"Liberty consists in peeing in privacy."



If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” - Bishop George Berkeley

"If my kid loses a tooth and I don’t post it on facebook, did it really happen?"



There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” – Albert Camus

"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is, ‘Is it ever okay to wake a sleeping baby?’”



The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.” -Jeremy Bentham

"The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of television and other screen time."



Leisure is the mother of philosophy.” – Thomas Hobbes

"Leisure is the mother of grown children."



There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers.” – William James

 “There is only one thing a parenting expert can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other parenting experts.”

 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

“We are what we repeatedly do. Emptying the dishwasher, then, is not an act, but a cruel, cruel joke.”



Only one man ever understood me, and he didn’t understand me.” – G. W. F. Hegel

“Only one child ever listened to me, and she didn’t listen to me.”



You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” – Plato

“You can discover more about a parent in an hour of playing Chutes & Ladders than in a year of therapy.”



All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – mistakenly attributed to Edmund Burke

“All that is necessary for the ire of wives is that good men do nothing.”



I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

I don’t know why we are at Chuck E. Cheese’s, but I’m pretty sure it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.”



The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” – Socrates

“The only thing I know is that somebody forgot to flush.”



Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Children are born naked, but are everywhere discarding clothes on the floor.”



Man is condemned to be free.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

"Parents are condemned to have children."



“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard

The function of bribery is not to spoil the child, but rather to change the behavior that is driving the one who bribes mad.”



Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” – Denis Diderot

Parents will never be free until the last child is dry in the last pair of diapers.”


 

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” -  Confucius

"Before you embark on a journey to bedtime, pour two glasses of wine."



God is dead! He remains dead! And we have killed him.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

"Sleep is dead. It remains dead. And the kids have killed it."


What are your parenting philosophies?
 

 

Filed under parenting humor philosophy

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How to host your own Winter Olympics

I’m not the only one with Olympic Fever in my house. My girls are hooked on what my 3-year-old calls the “Limpsticks” and have transformed our Seattle home into Sochi slopes and ice rinks. For the past week and a half they’ve been studying the sports, taking mental notes, and then re-enacting them in our house. They’ve done this all on their own without any help from me - my favorite kind of activity.

Here is how you too can host your own Winter Olympics without leaving the comfort of your home. (Also file under “Things to do on a Rainy/Snowy Day”).

Disclaimer: I am not liable for any injuries, arguments, or tears shed should you and your family attempt to re-enact any of these activities. Participate at your own risk.

Make sure to have plenty of tissues on hand as tears are always likely when competition, siblings, and/or rough-housing are involved. In this case, all three are in the mix. But there are always lots of tears in the real Olympics too, right? Trust me, the amount of drama involved in an in-home Olympics event is an NBC commentator’s dream come true.

Here are three of the many events my kids competed in (the only 3 I managed to capture on film):

1. Bobsled/Luge:

They held 2-person and 3-person bobsled events as well as one-person luge races. I highly recommend not letting your children attempt the head-first skeleton event. Also, when they ask for cookie sheets to help them do a Snowboard Slopestyle event, just say no.

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This picture was taken after several runs where my middle daughter got squished. Hence, the unhappy face.

Here’s some video from another round of Basement Bobsledding, I’m told it was just a practice round, however.

2. Ice Dancing

Move over Alex and Maia Shibutani, there’s a new American sibling Ice Dancing team:

My daughter’s former preschool teacher, Mrs. Olson, came up with the brilliantly creative idea of putting wax paper bags over your socks so you can “skate” on carpet. We bought a box of bags on Amazon and they “skate” twelve months a year on them. So fun.

3. Biathlon

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This one is my favorite. My kids were so intrigued by the idea of skiing with guns. My six-year-old dubbed the biathlon “the WEIRDEST sport EVER!” I kind of agree. Well, after curling. Here is their interpretation of the indoor biathlon. First they tried using backward scooters as cross-country skis…

… but that proved too difficult for the six-year-old, so they went back to the good old wax paper bags ….

And then they improved their shooting range. They taped a white circle to the kitchen cabinets, then flipped a coin. If it landed on heads, they hit the target; tails, they missed. I have a feeling the 8-year-old was cheating, but I can’t prove it.

Finally, it was time for the penalty laps for each missed target:

And when they finally passed the finish line, they collapsed in complete and utter exhaustion, just like the biathletes on tv.

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There you have it! All the fun of hosting an Olympics without the cost.

GO USA!

Filed under olympics sochi2014 parenting

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The Valentine’s Olympics

The games in Sochi are not the only competitive events going on right now. This week we have had a lot of competitive Valentining going on in my house. Yes, “Valentining” can be a verb. And it can get ugly.

Like just about any other everyday activity, my oldest has turned this holiday about love and appreciation into another opportunity to one-up her younger sister.

Being better at soccer, reading, math, running, jump-roping, avoiding cavities, prematurely losing teeth, brushing her hair, cleaning her room and eating healthy foods was not enough for my eight-year-old. Nope, she had to prove to her sister – almost two years her junior – that she could also make better Valentine’s cards.

It’s no coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls during the Winter Olympics. Well, actually, it probably is, but that’s beside the point.

Move over Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding – there’s a new rivalry this Olympic season, and it involves just as much drama, scheming, and sabotage as your Olympic scandal.

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Here’s the background:

As I do every year, I got store-bought Valentine’s cards for all three girls’ classmates and had them make homemade cards for their teachers. My six-year-old (I’ll call her “Nancy” from now on) had so much fun cutting out hearts and gluing them together for her teacher and teacher’s aide that she decided to make one for all of her specialist teachers and administrators – that’s 12 faculty members. The girl worked SO hard on them and was very proud of herself.

Which of course was killing my eight-year-old (“Tonya”).

So “Tonya” did two things: she made sure she made better cards, and she sabotaged “Nancy’s” efforts.

First, “Tonya” got a book out from the library on how to step-by-step draw horses. She spent hours and hours drawing a horse on the outside of 12 cards for the faculty, then another horse on the inside, with a personal message about what a great librarian or PE /Music/Technology/Art/French/etc. teacher or Principal they were. For the PE teacher the horse was kicking a soccer ball, for her teacher the horse was next to the teacher’s Irish Setter named Phineas, etc. They looked awesome, and she knew it. She also made sure to tell her younger sister repeatedly how hers were more “detailed” than cut-out hearts.

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Then - and this is the slightly evil part - she tricked “Nancy.” I was busy making dinner and couldn’t help “Nancy” spell the teachers’ names, the final touch to her beautiful cards. I got the School Directory out and asked “Tonya” to show “Nancy” where each teacher’s name was so she could copy the name onto the card.  I came back an hour later to admire “Nancy’s” cards but did not recognize the names on them.

“Tonya” had circled names for middle school teachers and other faculty “Nancy” did not even know. “Nancy,” ever-trusting of her big sister, just copied the names without paying attention to what she was writing.

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Oh the tears. The drama. The agony. As if someone had whacked her in the knee with a police baton. Poor, poor “Nancy.” “I worked SO HARD on these!” she cried. When I looked at “Tonya” I saw a smug look on her face. There was no Jeff Gillooly to blame here; she was guilty and she wasn’t sorry.

Just like the real Nancy Kerrigan, my 6-year-old picked herself back up, and re-made all twelve hand-made cards for her teachers. The asymmetrical, lop-sided hearts were perfect. She barely knows the Head of School but in her innocence and sweetness she unabashedly wrote, “I love you” on his and everyone else’s card. In another year she’ll be too embarrassed to tell people outside her family that she loves them. It was precious. (She brought them all in on Wednesday before I had a chance to take a picture.)

And now … [cue Olympic music] … the moment you’ve been waiting for:

The 2014 Valentine’s Day Card Gold Medal is awarded to….

Six-year-old “Nancy Kerrigan!!!” “Nancy” wins gold for persevering through her setbacks in true Olympic fashion, and having a heart of gold this Valentine’s Day.

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Silver goes to my 3-year-old (“Ashley Wagner”) who signed her name on all three teachers’ cards.  Last week her teacher mentioned that “Ashley” could spell her name but would not write it. Oops, it had never occurred to me to see if she could write her name yet - she is my third child and I tend to forget this kind of thing with her. So we made her cards and I asked her to write her name. She nailed it. Sorry kid, who knew? Just like the real Ashley who people doubted, this is a scrappy kid who deserves a spot on the Valentine’s Day Card Olympic team.

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And the Bronze Medal goes to “Tonya.” Though she was almost disqualified, she did work really hard on her cards and I’ve never seen her draw so well. Even though her motivation may have been suspect, I think her teachers will enjoy their cards with their heart-felt messages and will never know the plotting and competitive drive that went into them.

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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Be a “Nancy” today and share your love, don’t be a “Gillooly” and break anyone’s heart.

I just wanted to say “Gillooly” again. Gillooly. I did it again. Hee hee.

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UPDATE: “Nancy” had a surprise at bedtime. She’d secretly made Valentine’s cards for each member of the family and hidden them in her underwear drawer. “Tonya” was NOT happy about being upstaged! The scheming never ends around here… but it’s all in the name of love at least??

 

 

Filed under valentines day olympics nancy kerrigan tonya harding jeff gillooly