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Greetings from the Hotel Bassemonte

Musings of a mother of three from her subterranean sanctuary

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Screwed Up!

After a crazy afternoon/evening with the 3 kids who I should have enrolled in summer camps this month, I sat down on the back deck with my husband and a well-deserved glass of wine and started to enjoy the beautiful weather and setting sun.

Then I heard screaming from inside. Something about poop. Ran inside to discover that my 4yo had interrupted my 7yo mid-poop, 7yo decided to get off the pot to shut the door, but on the way back to the pot, the piece of poop that had been hanging on for dear life fell to the floor. And more on the toilet seat.

So I got out the Clorox wipes and de-contaminated the bathroom and calmed everyone down.

Finally, I returned to the deck and my now warm glass of white wine. About two sips in and just as I was starting to relax, I heard more screaming from inside. Something about a screw in someone’s nose.

This time I just yelled, “Get out here now and tell me what’s happening!” 7yo comes out and says her little sister shoved a screw up her nose and it’s stuck.  Fuck. (Sorry Mom)

I find the 4yo. She has a bloody right nostril. “Did you put a screw up your nose?”

4yo: “Yes.”

Me: “ Is it still up there?”

4yo: “Yes.”

Me: “Why did you put a screw up your nose?”

4yo: “I don’t know. I wanted to?”

Me: “Are you SURE it’s still up there?”

4yo: “Yes.”

Me, after searching with a flashlight and not being able to tell if the whitish thing I saw was a booger – she’s starting to come down with a cold – or a nailhead, “Are you SURE it’s still there and didn’t fall out? Because if we go to the hospital we could be there all night and it’s already past your bedtime.”

4yo: “I don’t know.”

I was now faced with the age-old dilemma: Do I risk embarrassing myself and wasting my money, the doctor’s time, and the rest of what could be a nice evening, only to be told that there’s nothing wrong with my daughter?

I was immediately reminded of the time a childhood friend of mine got a Tic-Tac stuck up her nose and went to the doctor, only to find that the tiny mint had dissolved in her nostril while she was in the waiting room.

But then I remembered the online images of someone who had a nail gun go off next to his head and had a nail inside his brain.

With images of a screw lodged in my daughter’s brain, I raced off to Seattle Children’s Urgent Care, which is fortunately only a few blocks from my house.  (Yes, I realize her brain wasn’t in danger and her lung was the real risk, but I can’t help the images that come to mind in situations like this).

Meanwhile, back at the home front, my husband was interrogating our 7-year-old. After denying any involvement in her sister’s screwing up her nose, she finally admitted, “Well, she might have been hiding it from me so I wouldn’t steal it.” My husband probed, “Were you trying to steal it?” 7yo: “No, but she knows I steal everything from her.” My husband was left to wonder what else was stuck inside our 4-year-old’s nose.

But back to me!

Within half an hour of the screwing, my 4-year-old daughter and I were sitting with a nurse. She shined a light up my daughter’s nostril and couldn’t see anything. We kept trying to get my daughter to blow out, but every time she tried, she inhaled instead, sucking it farther up. Cue more images of nails imbedded in her brain.

Soon the doctor came in with a better light and saw the screw right away. It was very high inside her nostril. She explained that the least invasive way to remove it would be for me to perform mouth-to-mouth on my daughter and literally blow it out. If that didn’t work, there were special instruments she could use.

I decided to give it a go. (I’m trying to talk British now in preparation for our upcoming trans-Atlantic move).

It was one of the more bizarre experiences of either my or my daughter’s life. She opened her mouth, I placed mine over hers, and I blew as hard as I could. I heard an elephant trumpeting out of my nose, air coming out of hers, and then a cry-laugh escape her mouth as I finished. The doctor looked again – progress. I had to blow again.

I blew my brains out 4 times into my daughter’s mouth, and FINALLY this tiny little screw was close enough for the doctor to grab with tweezers.

The doctor asked my daughter if she wanted to keep it or throw it away. My daughter, only slightly traumatized by the events this evening said, “Throw it away.” Before the doctor could toss it in the trash I interjected, “Wait! Can we keep it as a souvenir? I could use this in my blog.”

I present to you now the offending screw. The red stain that looks fake is my daughter’s actual nose blood: image


So there you have it: how my four-year-old totally screwed up my evening. But we are all still here to tell the story, and as the doctor assured me, there are worse orifices she has had to retrieve objects from (and no, I would not blow out any objects from any other orifice).

 

Filed under parenting humor ObjectsUpNose i'm screwed

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From Bitter to Glitter: Trying to Find the Sparkle in Worst Birthday Party Ever

Wow. Not sure how to describe my day. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, today we celebrated my youngest’s 4th birthday.  But contrary to what I wrote in the previous blog post, my girl apparently does NOT know how to party.

She was SOooooo looking forward to her ballerina-themed party.  Perhaps too much. She had me decorate the house five days in advance, on her actual birthday, and it was all she talked about all week.  She even said she wasn’t “really” 4 until her party - which made me wonder if I should cancel my upcoming 40th birthday party so that I’m never “really” 40…

Since this was her first real party (unless you count some special playdates or family barbecues we passed off as her birthday parties in previous years), we decided to keep it small and only had five girls over.

Apparently that was four too many. She only had eyes for her B.F.F. and wanted to play with her alone in her room. When I made her come downstairs to play with her other guests, or invited her other friends into her room, she started crying. And she wouldn’t stop. The ENTIRE party.

She loves her other friends, and has had great 1:1 playdates with most of them, but she did not know how to share them with her one-and-only and it stressed her out. Plus, she’s just been really moody all month with the end of the school year, transitioning off her nap, and who knows what else. Perhaps she has picked up on my increased stress level this month. Or maybe it’s just P.M.S. – Preschooler Meltdown Syndrome.

Whatever it was, it didn’t get any better. Once the tears started, she didn’t know how to stop them, and anything and everything set her off.  She said she wanted to start the dance party, then started screaming when her friends started dancing because she didn’t want a dance party. She said she wanted to play with her friends upstairs in her room, then screamed that she wanted to be downstairs. She said she wanted everyone to just sit on the couch and talk. They did, and she stormed out crying that she didn’t like what they were talking about.  I was losing it and she had clearly already lost it.

Thank God her friends were so sweet, and their mothers were so awesome, they all carried on while the Birthday Girl hid behind a chair in the corner of the room and screamed her head off.  There were moments of calm: when the pizza arrived, when she opened her gifts, when she ate her cupcake, and in the end when I let her play with her B.F.F. upstairs. But the remaining 105 minutes of her two-hour party she was in tears (note to self: two hours is too long for a 4-year-old party at your house when you have not hired any entertainment).

I mentioned to the other moms that this could be good fodder for my blog, if I could even bring myself to write about it. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I usually try to have a positive angle on even negative things – to turn crappy into happy – but I couldn’t find any silver linings in this crap.

The truth was, I just wanted it to end and to never think about it again. As soon as the last guest left, I took down all the decorations and hid all evidence of the party. I gave a few cupcakes to my neighbors and then scarfed down too many myself (another note to self: don’t make a batch of cupcakes for only 5 guests, there are WAY too many leftovers).

My daughter bounced back shortly after the party, but I was still shell-shocked for hours. My heart honestly did not slow down back to normal pace until about seven hours and two glasses of wine later.  I don’t know why it unnerved me so. Part of my trauma was seeing my little girl so miserable on her special day; part of it was my own disappointment in this party we had planned and looked forward to together; and, if I’m completely honest, a lot of it was that I was frustrated that the other moms were getting such a wrong impression of my normally sweet and happy girl. 

At bedtime the Birthday Girl was elated and wouldn’t stop talking about all the great presents she received at her party. At one point she clutched some glitter pens that came with one of her gifts and said euphorically, “Mommy, today was the best day EVER! Because, [raises glitter pens up high] GLITTER!”

I looked at my sweet, gleeful daughter with equal parts awe, relief, and appreciation. She was not dwelling on her previous misery or disappointment; she felt no shame or embarrassment; all she felt in that moment was pure joy. Because, glitter.

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According to Wikipedia, glitter “describes an assortment of very small, flat, reflective particles. When particles are applied to surfaces, they reflect light at different angles, causing the surface to sparkle or shimmer.”  That’s exactly what my girl did tonight. She applied her current good mood to her earlier frustration and saw her day from a different angle, causing the whole day to sparkle and shimmer and brighten any lurking darkness.

I need to do more of that. Forget the bitter and focus on the glitter.  My glitter today was seeing my four-year-old’s eyes light up as she regaled me with animated descriptions of each of her gifts. My glitter today was tucking her in her bed and hearing her say, “I love you Mommy” (it was almost enough to make me forget her saying, “I hate this party and it’s all your fault, Mommy!” earlier in the day). My glitter today was lying down in her bed next to her after she fell asleep, listening to her deep, calm breaths, and remembering how soundly she used to sleep on top of me just four short years ago.

It’s true that “all that glitters is not gold.”  Sometimes really crappy, stressful, embarrassing, painful things can also glitter, if you allow yourself to see it.

Filed under birthday parties preschool parenting

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6 Ways Turning 40 is A Lot Like Turning 4

My youngest just turned four on Tuesday and is acting like she has suddenly doubled her age.  Four is still young compared to her older sisters, but in her mind, she has officially made it into the Big Kid Club.

Seeing her behave this way made me reflect on my own upcoming birthday. In a mere 50 days, I will turn 40 (gasp!). My husband is already 41 and I have an older brother and several older friends, so in many ways it does not seem like such a big deal. But then again it does. Forty. I remember my father’s 40th birthday, back when I was 11 years old and I thought 40 was so old. Am I really that old?

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Watching my daughter this week has made me realize how many ways turning forty is actually a lot like turning four. Here are six of the ways:

1. You’re not as old as you think you are…  For the past few days my youngest has repeated that “Four-year-olds can do” this and “Four-year-olds can do” that, as she tries to carry a heavy porcelain dish to the table or stay up later than usual, as if suddenly overnight she became a Big Kid. Sure, she’s no longer a toddler and she no longer qualifies for free meals at any restaurants, but let’s be clear: she’s still a Little Kid. She still wears Pull-Ups to bed at night and has all her baby teeth.

Similarly, forty is a long way off from qualifying for Senior discounts or wearing Depends and dentures: it is not old. Ok, not that old. I look at my 40+ friends and they’re not old, they are fun, fetching, fabulous and forty-something - I hope I can wear 40 half as well as them. At the risk of dating myself by paraphrasing a car commercial from the ‘80s, forty is not your father’s old.


2.  … But you’re old enough to realize you’re not as young as you used to be. Last year my middle daughter dared me to do a cartwheel. When I said no, my oldest explained to her sister, “You know, you get to a certain age, and you just can’t do a cartwheel anymore.” Of course I then had to prove that I could do it. After doing a half-decent cartwheel and pulling a hamstring in the process, I realized it’s not that you can’t do a cartwheel at a certain age, it’s that you shouldn’t. I was 38 when I did that, so young and foolish, what did I know? No way would I attempt a cartwheel at 40, I’m above that kind of crap.

Likewise, my youngest knows that she’s too old to ask for “uppy” anymore, too old get away with not eating her vegetables at dinner, and too old to suck her thumb. Well, she knows that last one, but she still does it anyway. Just like I know I’m too old to be on facebook as often as I am.

3. You get to have a big party … I celebrate my birthday every year, but I haven’t had an actual party since I turned 21.  But this year, I’m throwing myself a raging dance party (actually my dear friend and I – the same one I had a joint 21st birthday with – are throwing ourselves a joint 40th birthday bash).  Because, after throwing parties for my kids for so many years and going to everyone else’s 40th birthday party, it’s finally time to celebrate me, me, ME! (oh and my friend, too ;)  )

My daughter also cannot wait for her ballerina-themed birthday party this weekend. If last year’s birthday party is any indication, she will dance around with her friends, shove her cupcake in her mouth, sneak another cupcake after the party, and pass out on the couch with her dress hiked up over her Elmo underwear. My girl knows how to party.

4. …and you can cry if you want to.  With a big birthday comes lots of emotions. A big life event can make you feel excited, scared, happy and sad all at once. My daughter has been exhibiting these feelings this week with extra tantrums and increased whining.  I betray mine with extra complaining and increased wine.

5. You’re not afraid to ask for what you really want. It’s no secret that my youngest wanted an American Girl doll for her birthday. She told me just about everyday for a year (basically everyday since I tried to trick her with a knock-off doll last year — and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for her meddling older sisters!). Yes, she sounded spoiled and a little greedy making these demands, but it worked, she got what she wanted this year and was not disappointed.

I’ve reached an age now where I’m not going to be coy or passive-aggressively beat around the proverbial bush anymore, only to be disappointed later. If I want a party, I’ll throw one myself rather than drop hints to my husband to plan a surprise party (though if my husband wants to surprise me with something else on my actual birthday, I wouldn’t object. Hint, hint).

6. Your clothes don’t quite fit you like they used to. Since Tuesday my daughter has started inspecting the labels on her clothes and discarding everything that says “3T” because they are “too small” for a four-year-old. As if she suddenly grew two inches Monday night. But, for the most part, she is right: those pants I’ve been letting her wear all spring were not really meant to be Capris. My girl is growing up fast.

I’m not growing up so much as I’m growing out. This process has suddenly accelerated in the past year as I approach my 40th birthday.  I used to have a flat stomach and a round butt. Now I have a flattish butt and a round belly. Many pants I used to wear confidently now give me a muffin-top and/or show crack when I bend over.  My daughter needs “4T” clothes, I need “FOR-TY” clothes.

There you have it, 6 ways turning 40 is a lot like turning 4. Caught in between Big Kid and Little Kid, or between Old and Young, we 4- and 40-year-olds live in a Limbo-like age. But great things can happen in the space between.

So as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday this summer, I’m going to take some cues from my recently-turned-four-year-old: I’m going to have my cupcakes and eat them too (and three and four); I’m not going to hide my age in shame but instead proudly shout it out to the world (or at least the blogosphere); I’m going to get a new well-fitting wardrobe and stop pretending I will one day fit into those skinny jeans I used to love two years ago; and I’m going to party my ass off until I pass out. I might even wear an adult diaper to bed after my party to be safe.

Forty: it’s the new four.

 

Filed under 40 40th birthday parenting humor

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Let it Go. Away. Now.

So I think I’ve recovered from the Frozen birthday we hosted at our house on Saturday with nineteen Kindergarteners, three 3-year olds, and one very bored 8-year-old. Overall, it went better than expected, and everyone seemed to have a good time (except maybe my 8-year-old).  

However, as if the last seven months weren’t enough, I think Saturday finally guaranteed that the Frozen soundtrack will forever be etched in my brain. So forgive me if some Frozen lyrics weave themselves into my recap, I just can’t seem to let it go.

Okay, can I just say something crazy? I just had 23 kids over for a Frozen party! And maybe it’s the party talking, or the bright blue cupcakes, but it’s nothing like I’ve ever known before. We’ve had big parties before, just not this many girls at one time. Who knew we owned 8,000 Frozen-themed paper plates?

A lot of preparation went into this event. My daughter scoured the pages I found on Pinterest and knew exactly what she wanted. Now, I’m not a crafty person, and Pinterest intimidates the heck out of me (click here if you want to see how Frozen parties work on Pinterest). I think they need a spinoff site with more attainable ideas for people like me who aren’t so over-the-top but more like somewhere-in-the middle. “Pintermediate” maybe?

I was worried my daughter would expect a Pinterest-worthy party, but she seemed to understand my limitations –- both budget- and artistic ability-wise – and chose some Pintermediate decorations, treats, and craft projects. Now it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through.

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I was proud of my Pin the Nose on Olaf game (thank you How to Draw Drawing Tutorials for step by step drawing guide) …

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But the Olaf marshmallow cupcakes weren’t quite what my daughter envisioned:

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Some of them look more like the scary snow monster Elsa created than the adorable snowman who likes warm hugs: 

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And some weren’t so much scary-looking as they looked scared themselves:
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My daughter’s exact words were, “These looked a lot different when I pictured them in my head.” Welcome to my world, darling, you have my genes and might as well get used to this.  So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper, so he’s got a few flaws, she wasn’t going to let this get her down, not on Coronation Day – I mean birthday party day!

When the morning of the party finally arrived I was a little nervous and started to question myself for telling my daughter that if she invited girls from the other Kindergarten classes, then she had to invite all the girls from all three Kindergarten classes. But people make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed, it was time to move forward and hope for the best. Finally we were opening up the gates.

I tried to hide my fears from my daughter and her guests. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. But every time the doorbell rang I couldn’t help but think, “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see.” I would then remind myself, “Be the good Mom you always have to be.” So although I wanted to turn away and slam the door, I smiled and welcomed everyone in. The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all!

And… it went great! It was a sweet, well-behaved group of girls, they tackled the Do You Want to Build a Snowman? craft project way better than I had anticipated:

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They were just so excited to be together they entertained themselves, taking the pressure off of me.  I don’t know if I was elated or gassy, but I was somewhere in that zone. Truthfully, I was probably a combo of both.

For the first time in forever, I felt like Super Crafty Party Mom. Kindergarteners don’t care that your Olaf cupcake topper looks possessed – if he’s made of sugar, they will eat it and be happy. Let’s just say I wasn’t alone in wanting to stuff some chocolate in my face.

After the cupcake-induced sugar-high, things started to get a little dicey. But what else could I expect? Cupcake mix, buttercream frosting, sprinkles and marshmallows: put ‘em together it just makes sense!

We got some of the wiggles out with a “Freeze Dance” game to the Frozen soundtrack and some backyard play time. Then, just as some kids started to show signs of a post-sugar crash, we played highlights from the movie (“highlights” meaning Elsa singing “Let it Go” five or six times, plus a couple of other songs). As soon as I hit “Play” I took a deep breath and started to relax. Here I stand, in the light of day. Let the storm rage on. The chaos never bothered me anyway.

Before I knew it, the party was over. I survived! The kids seemed to have fun! The Birthday Girl did not melt down once and seemed happy with the party! Trust me, I am not always so fortunate.

It’s now two days later and it’s all a blur.  It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small, but I know I was exhausted and crashed on the couch when the last guest left. I now just have one more birthday party to host this month, and then I can finally do what other people do in summer (until my oldest’s birthday in August, that is).

Now that it’s all over I can look back and say that yes there was some work and some stress involved, but I actually had a lot of fun planning it and it was all worth it to see my little girl have a great time on her special day with her sweet friends.

As a wise snowman once said, “Some people are worth melting for.”


That said, if I never, ever hear a song from Frozen ever again, I will not complain.

 

Filed under frozen birthday party parenting Frozen party Pinterest Pintermediate

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Looney-June: Surviving My Most Stressful Month of the Year

June is Crazy Time here in the land of the Hotel Bassemonte.  Sorry Baby Jesus, but the births of two of my daughters, my wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, and the End-of-the-School-Year-Palooza make December seem like a sleepwalk in the park. We cap off the month by flying across the country for an extended visit with family and friends.

It’s just 30 days of parties, presents, and packing. Or 30 days of me trying desperately to hold onto my sanity.


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I caught myself complaining the other day about how busy this month is and how I have my hands full. Sort of like I started to do in my opening paragraph. Then I realized: I shouldn’t focus on how full my hands are, but on how full my heart is.

How lucky am I to celebrate birthdays for two beautiful, healthy girls this month? How fortunate am I to be ringing in ten years of marriage to a kind, funny, supportive husband and amazing father in a few weeks?  I should be grateful to be marking the end to another great school year – the best one yet (I say that every year, but it’s been true so far). How can I complain about visiting my family and life-long friends in the place where I formed so many special childhood summer memories?

I’m getting so caught up in the details of what has to be done, I’m forgetting the big, beautiful picture.

Yes, there is a lot of stress for me in June, I can’t deny it, but there’s a lot more bliss in this month too. I’m not a very spiritual person, but even I can see that Bliss + Stressed = Blessed. Yes, I am blessed to have these wonderful milestones that keep me up at night and have me driving all over town and forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing all the time.  I am very blessed.

I know in a few years when my kids have grown and my hands are not as full, that my heart will feel less full as well as I ache for a time when my kids needed me so much.  I will miss the school parties that I begrudgingly attend now, miss making my ridiculously lop-sided cakes that my daughters think are confectionery perfection, miss holding their hands when the airplane takes off and lands (ok, that’s the only part of flying with young kids that I’ll miss). These things I stress over now, I will yearn for when my kids are older.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even though I remind myself of this, I know tomorrow I will still be running around trying to figure out how to entertain twenty Kindergarten girls at our house on Saturday (current plan is to pop in Frozen DVD and hit “play”).  It’s nice to count your blessings, but gratitude won’t stuff twenty goody-bags, or pack suitcases, or frost a cake, or figure out what to get your husband for your 10-year anniversary, or remember to send your kids to school with a beach towel for their End of School Summer Beach Parties which all fall on different days.

But gratitude can change my attitude. It can help me get through this hectic month with a little more grace and a little less grumbling.

So I will still run around with a half-crazed expression on my face for the next 3 ½ weeks, but I will try – I will really, truly, try – to slow down, look around me, let go of some of my tension, and be grateful for all my wonderfully stressful blessings.

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Filed under parenting stress birthday blessings

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American Girl Craze: Cute or Creepy?

My girls adore their American Girl dolls, even my oldest (8) who has never been into dolls is crazy about Kaya the Native American doll and her horse Steps High. My younger two (almost-7 and almost-4) love to wear matching outfits with their dolls. American Girl encourages this cloning behavior: the store and catalog are filled with identical outfits for girl and doll. You can even customize your doll to look like you – picking out skin tone, hair color/length/style and eye color.

Um, hello? Remind anybody of the movie Single White Female? You know, the film where Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character cuts her hair to look like her roommate (Bridget Fonda) and starts dressing exactly like her too, before going completely insane and trying to kill her?

The other day I scared myself when I put on a brand-new shirt and my 6-year-old asked me why I was dressing like her doll McKenna. I picked this shirt out myself, among a rack of similar shirts in different colors. Somehow the green/grey combo jumped out at me. Was I subconsciously trying to dress like McKenna? Was I becoming the crazy woman in Single White Female?
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This whole matching doll fad is beginning to make me a little uneasy. I used to think it was cute. I mean, what’s not cute about a little girl pushing a stroller with her mini-her, or feeding her mini-her, or bringing her mini-her along with her everywhere she goes? Ok, I guess it’s a little creepy.

Where is the line? When do we go beyond cute, and step into creepy territory?

I decided to compile some pictures to illustrate the difference between cute and creepy, to help you decide what is ok for your family. Some of the faces have been altered to protect the innocent.

Here you can clearly see the difference between cute, and not-so-cute:

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The American Girl dolls all come with their own books that tell their personal story. The books are generally sweet, uplifting, positive stories. They are cute. Trying to become the girl on the book cover, not so much:

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The movies are surprisingly entertaining and even more shockingly have good acting performances. But they are meant for a younger audience:

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Here are some more illustrations of cute behavior, versus just plain crazy.

Reading to your doll:

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Going horseback riding with your doll:image

Going on a pretend camp-out with your doll:image

There you have it. I hope you and your family stay on the cute side. It may be too late for me…

***Note: my husband wanted absolutely no part in this project, but my girls had fun taking pictures of me and posing for pictures. However, the whole family agrees that I am very, very strange. If you read my previous post, you’ll understand that my girls now think I’m Weird Mom.

Filed under american girl doll humor parenting american girl dolls

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I Got to Be the Fun Mom Last Night

My husband and I both like to make people laugh, but he reeeeeally likes it and cannot help performing for his easiest, cutest, most enthusiastic audience: our kids. So he is the “Fun Dad,” making me, by default, the “Mean Mom.” Well, not exactly mean, but the Boring, Serious, Responsible Mom. Which in my kids’ minds pretty much equals mean.

You can’t really have two Fun Parents. If you did, kids would never go to bed or pick up their toys or eat their vegetables. So I let my husband be Fun Dad, and I accept my role as Wet Blanket Mom. I’m the one who puts a damper on all the fun. When Dad gets them riled up at bedtime with one of his wildly outlandish bedtime stories (see below), I’m the one who has to come in and tell him to calm down. image

When they are jumping all over the couch on top of Dad in a pillow fight, I’m the one who comes in and says they are being too rough and someone is going to get hurt.

Of course they laugh even louder when they think Daddy is getting “in trouble” with me, further solidifying my Mean Mom reputation.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids and I still have a lot of fun together – I take them to fun places and we do fun activities at home - and if anything I’m not strict enough, but I’m just not as silly as their Dad. My husband (the youngest of seven children) is a true kid at heart and loves to relive his youth.  He is not above using potty talk in his bedtime stories if it’ll get him a laugh, which of course, it always does.

I get silly with the kids too sometimes. When we have a family dance party I will bust out some of my signature silly moves like the Leg Guitar and the Running-Through-The-Sprinkler-Man. But they just look at me like I’m Embarrassing Mom, and I stop.

I’m usually pretty content being Lame Mom. I love that my kids have such a fun, engaged Dad and have a great relationship with him.  Sure it hurts every once in a while when one of the kids alludes to the fact that he’s the fun one and I’m the strict one, but I know they love me, and I know someone has to take this role. Besides, there are advantages to not being the Fun Parent.

I learned early on that when you’re the Fun Parent, the kids request you at bedtime every night. I will happily relinquish Fun Parent status if it saves me from telling an original bedtime story every, single night. Starting a few years ago, on nights when my husband wasn’t home, I would tell the most boring bedtime stories - on purpose. Now when I try to tell a story, they usually say, “We don’t need a story tonight, we’ll wait until Daddy comes home tomorrow. Good night.” Score! Yes, they would rather sit in silence than listen to one of my boring, potty-humorless stories with a blatant moral message in it. Win for the Boring Mom!

I’ve told my husband this strategy, but he can’t do it. He cannot resist his #1 audience. So he tells outrageous poop- and fart-filled stories that take longer to tell and longer to calm down from afterwards, extending the bedtime routine by at least a half hour if not more, but he and the kids love it, and I can’t take that from them.
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But last night I got to be the Fun Parent. I was reading the Disney version of Princess and the Frog for the 100th time to my youngest and decided to spice things up a bit by using an exaggerated southern accent, since the book takes place in New Orleans. My older two overheard my strange voice and came in to listen. Yes, even my princess-hating eight-year-old.

I’ve been binge-watching House of Cards and Kevin Spacey’s drawl in the show just came out of my mouth naturally (a few glasses of wine went in my mouth previously, which also helped liven the atmosphere). The kids were dying, my oldest could not breathe she was laughing so hard. Encouraged by their laughter, I kept taking my reading up a notch - I was screaming out the lines, using all sorts of ridiculous voices, each with their own butchered southern twang, making up words as I went along.  After catching her breath, my eight-year-old said through giggles, “MOMMY! I’ve never SEEN you like this!!” I asked if she liked it, and all three girls screamed, “YES!!”

My husband heard all the commotion and came in to check on us. I could sense that he felt threatened, his Fun Parent status in jeopardy. He even said, “What is Mommy trying to do? I’m the one who tells the funny stories around here!” The 8-year-old said, “You’re not the only funny parent Daddy! Mommy is HYSTERICAL!!” I have to admit I felt pretty happy hearing that.  Trying to defend his title, my husband attempted to chime in with a southern accent. My kids looked at him like he was from Mars, and I said to him softly, “Please, will you just let me have this tonight?”

He understood, and left quietly, while we continued to hoot and howl and get all riled up even though it was past bedtime on a school night. I didn’t care. I let go of my Responsible Boring No-Fun Parent role and relished being the Fun Mom, even if it was for only one night.

Sometimes I get too wrapped up in my role of being a Mom, and forget that I still get to be a kid sometimes, too. Tomorrow I know I’ll go back to keeping them in line (ok, trying to keep them in line), but I do plan to bust out the Silly Mom more often.  It was really fun. And worth the sore throat the next day.

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Saved by the Bell

As I have written previously, my youngest child doesn’t get out much. I kind of burned out on the playgrounds, zoo, and children’s museums with my older two kids and now her outings are limited to preschool and the grocery store. If she’s lucky, she gets to go to Costco every once in a while.

I was feeling guilty the other day as I mentioned to my friend that my daughter had never been inside the Children’s Museum – at least not since she graduated from the Baby Bjorn. So today, the one day of week she does not have preschool or any regularly scheduled activity, I decided to take my (almost 4-year-old) baby to the Children’s Museum.

I despise the Children’s Museum for many reasons. Parking is a pain, for one. Then there’s the whole following your kid around from one thing to the next, feigning interest when really all you want to do is sit down somewhere and check your email, but you’re too embarrassed to check your phone because all of these other parents around you are so engaged with every little thing their child is doing.

And then there’s the germs. My youngest is a thumb-sucker who loves to touch everything she sees, which means that, in essence, she is walking around licking every surface of the Children’s Museum, digesting every germ known to humankind.

But it’s spring, when germs are supposedly on decline, and sunny Mondays aren’t typically too busy as the Seattle Children’s Museum, so I went for it. She loved it, of course. I did too. For about five minutes. Then I remembered how much I hate the place.

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I looked around at the other parents who were with what I am assuming (or telling myself) were their first-born children.  Not just because these parents were all at least ten years younger than me, but because they seemed so genuinely excited to be there, just like I used to be back in the day when I was a season pass holder.

These parents were actively engaged in fort-building, Lego constructing, and/or splashing around the water table. I was the mom who kept trying to move my kid along, “OK, let’s go see what’s over there now!” My three-year-old had a longer attention span than I did, which tells you something about me: I think I have museum-induced A.D.D.

And I was also apparently the only parent that didn’t pack snacks. We arrived when the museum opened at 10am and my plan was to grab lunch in the food court upstairs when we left at 11:30 – 12:00 latest.  My daughter had snacks (or “second breakfast” as the Hobbits and I call it) before we left the house.  Since we graduated from diapers a year ago I have stopped carrying a diaper bag and therefore no longer tote a 3-day supply of food, water, clothing, first aid, and diapering goods wherever I go.

Yes, my purse could fit snacks, but that would require forethought and preparation. The kid is lucky I even thought to go to the museum and remembered where it was, please don’t ask too much of me. We could go 90-120 minutes without food, right?

Apparently not.  I learned this when we accidentally wandered into the new snack area which did not exist four years ago. There should be a warning sign before you enter this area, stating, “WARNING: This is a Bring-Your-Own Snack area. There is no food for sale. Enter without snacks at your own risk.”

My daughter was instantly drawn to the cute tables where other children sat with their forethinking, always-prepared Super Moms. “I want Goldfish!” she screamed as she lunged towards one of the children.  I tried to divert her attention to the train table across the room, but nothing is more interesting to a toddler than other kids’ snacks.

I did my best not to meet the other mothers’ eyes. I knew what they were thinking: “How could she leave the house without snacks?” “That poor, starving child, her mom must be a total rookie.” “What a shame. What kind of mother wouldn’t want to her child to feed herself in this bacteria-filled petri dish?” Ok, maybe not the last one, I’m just doing a little defensive projection there.

Anyhow, I finally tore her away from the snack area by showing her the adjacent Lego section.  This plan backfired, as she then decided she wanted to spend the majority of our visit at this not-cheap, paid-parking, once-in-her-lifetime venue, playing with Legos.  As if we don’t have over a thousand Legos in our house.

A museum employee, who probably took pity on my daughter when she caught me checking my phone sat down and started building Legos with her (incidentally I was posting on my Greetings from the Hotel Bassemonte facebook page, bragging about the fact that I was actually at the Children’s Museum with my youngest).

The woman clearly did not have children of her own because a) she enjoyed playing with Legos waaaay to much, b) she kept mistakenly thinking that my 3-year-old might follow some piece of architecturally or aesthetically sound advice, and c) she did not interpret my constant peppering of  “Aren’t you getting hungry for lunch, shouldn’t we go soon?” as code for “Step away from the Legos, let’s get the heck out of Dodge.”

Every time I thought my daughter was maybe about to lose interest, the woman asked, “What about this piece? Where can we put this one?” and I would try not to glare at the sweet, well-meaning, devil woman. We were never getting out of this place. And I really was hungry now that it was past twelve – what about all those snacks she was so upset about 45 minutes ago?!

Just when I thought I was going to have to start eating Legos (note to self: don’t pack snacks for the kids, pack some for yourself!) a loud, blaring fire alarm went off. At first I assumed it was the lost-kid-alert, but when everyone stood up and exited the room in an orderly fashion I realized what was happening: divine intervention.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t divine, I overheard a firefighter talking later about a smoky kitchen in the food court upstairs, but as I exited that building I certainly felt like I was heading out of a dark tunnel and into eternal light.

I have never been so grateful to a stranger before. Not just for rescuing me today, but for providing me an emergency backup plan better than anything I could fit in a diaper bag: next time I can’t get my kid out of some place, I’ll just pull the fire alarm and run …

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Hotel Bassemonte theme song

In honor of my blog’s 6-month anniversary, I thought I’d rewrite the lyrics to the song that has been stuck in my head since I started writing from the Hotel Bassemonte, “Hotel California.” It works better if you play the music in the background, but I don’t know how to imbed songs, so just imagine it :)

Hotel Bassemonte

In a dark upstairs bedroom, rocking in my  chair,
We’ve read our three books now, and said a little prayer.

Time for a hug and kiss now,
Won’t you please just take the bait.
She’s rubbing her eyes and just gave a yawn, 
Yes it’s getting very late.

Then she stood up in her bed,
I heard her start to yell.
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could get ugly, I think I’m in Hell”


Then she said, “Get me some milk” and she pointed the way,
There were voices talking in my head,
I thought I heard them say….


Welcome to the Hotel Bassemonte
Such a quiet space (such a peaceful space)
Your home’s saving grace.
Hide from your kids at the Hotel Bassemonte
You can get some rest (please be your own guest)
It’s really the best.


Her mind is devious and sharp, she ignores my begs and pleads
She’s got a lot of sneaky stalling tricks, she calls “needs.”
“I need another story”
“I need to pee”
Sometimes it’s a nightmare, sometimes she’s hungry.


So I call to my husband,
“Please refill my wine”
He says, “What’s taking you so long don’t you know, it’s quarter to nine?”


And still my daughter is calling out, “Pleeeeease Mommy!”
Wakes me up in the middle of the night
Just to go potty.


Welcome to the Hotel Bassemonte
There’s no whining here (there’s no crying here)
But there’s wine in here
I’m livin’ it up at the Hotel Bassemonte
It’s a paradise (I can close my eyes)
Without lullabies!

Upstairs it’s not pretty.
I’m starting to unglue.
And I say, “You can’t keep me prisoner here, I’m the boss of you!”
And in the master bedroom
We are in way too deep,
We try to let her cry it out
But she just. Won’t. Go to sleep!

 
Last thing I remember, I was
Drifting toward a dream,
When I felt her crawl in my bed
And then I heard myself scream.

“Relax,” said my husband
“The ‘hotel’ room is so cheap.
You can stay in your room if you like,
But you will never sleep!”

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Original lyrics by the Eagles below:

Hotel California

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

So I called up the Captain,
“Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine”
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax, ” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! “

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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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