Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moms Say The Darndest Things

Things I have had to say to my children in the last 24 hours include these statements:

We do NOT color our friends.
We do NOT eat the astro turf at soccer
I know you are wearing your bathing suit. Get in the car anyway because we are late.
Do NOT put toys in the freezer.
Swim suits are NOT underwear.
We do NOT eat in the bath tub.
That is NOT a real potty. Please do NOT pee in there.

Did I mention that it is September in the Midwest? At first I thought it was cute that the kids wanted a beach party. They covered their plastic Adirondack chairs with beach towels and put them in front of our window. They put on swimsuits, sunglasses and leis. Christian even practiced swimming on our beige carpet while Sara "sunned" herself on her beach towel. It was all cute and fun until they wanted to eat, sleep and bathe in their beach attire. Now I am the mean mommy who won't let them. I can live with that.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kids Do The Darndest Things

My kids fight like cats and dogs. Or like Kate and Jon Gosselin. They usually wait until I am on the phone to start the yelling and screaming. I've resorted to making calls from the garage and bathroom just to have a sliver of a chance of quiet. Today was a prime example. Sara came home from school, had a snack and did some homework. Christian played with his toys and puzzles quietly. I jumped at the chance to make a phone call. Like an animal smelling wounded prey, they saw their chance and pounced. On each other. I have no idea what crime was committed by which felon. I just heard ear-piercing screams and sobs. Using hand gestures worthy of an air traffic controller, I sent Sara to her room and Christian to the kitchen table to eat snacks. (Eating shuts the kid up - briefly). FYI - I was on the phone for a total of 7 minutes.

Peace and quiet is briefly restored. Dinner is served early because both kids declare they are starving. They inhale their dinner with little mess and no fuss. My kids will do anything to eat avocado. So, as a treat for eating dinner and clearing their plates nicely, I start slicing up avocado. I hand Sara hers and she starts to devour it. Then I cut up the 2nd one. Big mistake. I'm no avocado expert, but I'm guessing that the black mushy thing I cut open was not edible. I tell Christian that we don't have any more avocados. He looks sad. Sara gets up, grabs her avocado and puts the whole plate in front of him. I couldn't believe it. Granted, it wasn't chocolate but it was a close second for her. It was a completely unprompted and selfless act. 30 minutes earlier she was ready to throttle the kid and now she is handing him a coveted treat. He hugged her and said she is his best friend. Kids do the darndest things.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Kid at Heart

Sara is 7 years old going on 17, 37, or 67, depending on her mood and the circumstances. Sometimes it is hard to remember that she is 7. When she was 3, her preschool was relocating and we needed to find another one. The director recommended that we have her tested. I stared at her blankly and wondered what were we testing her for and why? She thought Sara might be "gifted".

See attached link here:

Basically, gifted is defined as having higher than average intelligence. Of course, as parents, we thought she was amazing, spectacular, fabulous, wonderful and miraculous. Turns out, the little rugrat really does qualify as a "genius". We had her tested and her IQ is off the charts. But, the doctor was quick to explain to us that in many ways, she will always be her age - physically and emotionally, specifically. So, life with her is a balancing act. She started kindergarten at a school for gifted education at age 4. She thrived and loved her classmates and everything she was learning. She was challenged and engaged. The other kids didn't mind that she was younger.

Fast forward to age 7 and living in Indiana. We placed her in the public school and everyone is constantly asking her why she is in third grade. She is at the top of her class but also painfully aware that she is, by far, the youngest in her class. It was a choice we made. If we kept her in the 'age appropriate' class, she would steam roll over everyone, including the poor, underpaid, overworked teacher. So, we kept her on course and she is thriving academically in third grade. She is reading on a fifth grade level but we monitor her content. She still loves Tinkerbell, the tooth fairy and Santa.

Today, we saw "Dolphin Tale". She read all about the dolphin and was thrilled to see the movie. All day, she regaled me with dolphin facts and information. She told me the differences between a dolphin and a porpoise. She explain how 'Winter' got injured, how she was rescued and recovered. Even before seeing the movie, I learned that a dolphin's spine is much like a human's and controls everything, including breathing. Winter lost her tail and learned to swim by swishing her body side to side which damaged her spine, making a prosthetic tail necessary. Yes, this font of information came from my 7 year old who can barely tie her own shoes and just learned to ride a 2-wheeler.

In the movie, a soldier got injured. Sara asked me how. I explained that he was injured serving in the military during a war. She looked at me with huge eyes and asked why anyone would want to fight in a war. "War is bad, Mom". See? She can absorb information like a sponge. She has the memory of an elephant. She has the reasoning abilities of a Rhodes scholar. Yet, she is still a 7 year old she cannot fathom someone going to war because war is bad. She has the mind of a grown up and the heart of a kid. It makes life with Sara very interesting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's All About Me

I like to tease my friends and family that it's all about me all the time. Ok, so maybe I'm not completely kidding. Wouldn't it be great if the world revolved around you? Everything happened exactly how and when you wanted it? I know that is never going to happen but it's nice to wish. Imagine it. The kids obey all the time. No yelling, no fighting. The playroom would always be clean. I would never trip over toys or have to search for missing socks. Christian would be potty trained. Bath time would be efficient. The bathroom would not resemble the last 20 minutes of the Titanic's sinking. Friends are always available to chat or go out for girls' night. Telemarketers never call. I would never have to wait in line anywhere. Dinner would never be burned or missing ingredients (like tonight's meal). I would never have to rush somewhere and stress about being late.

Here is how the life of a wife and stay at home mother really works. The kids have selective hearing and amnesia. They hear what they want to hear when they want to hear it. They forget the basic rules of safety and hygiene. Husbands forget to tell you when they have to work late or go out of town. They spring faculty dinners and in-laws on you at the last minute. Everyone's schedule comes first because it has to. The kids activities and doctor appointments take precedence. The husband's work schedule is more important because, hey, we gotta keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. When exactly did my life get taken over by other people? I used to have a say in my own life. I used to be in control. Oh, wait, I know. It happened 7 years ago when I had our first child. I'll get my life back someday, won't I? Actually, my life now is pretty great so I probably shouldn't whine too much. But I'm gonna anyway.

Wife and Mother According to the Bible

Proverbs 31:10-12 and 25-31
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things,but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Ok, that is a lot to live up to. Or is it? The Bible encourages us to be brave, strong, truthful, dignified, wise, and faithful to ourselves, our loved ones and our God. Are those things so hard to accomplish? Do we continue to strive for these things even if we fail day after day? I try to be a good wife, mother, daughter and friend. I want the people in my life to be proud of me and trust in me. When I close my eyes at night, I vow to myself that tomorrow I will strive to be strong in my character. I want to be noble and dignified. I want to focus on the internal more and less on the external. So what changes in the bright dawn of day? I'm focusing on the weight I want to lose, the bad hair day I'm having, the house I have to clean, the errands I have to run and a million other things that don't really matter. At the end of my life, I don't want people to say that I had a clean house or that I was thin (ok, that one will never happen). I want to be remembered as kind, generous, thoughtful, giving of myself to others and devoted to the people in my life. I want to be known as a good and happy wife, mother, friend and daughter. Does it really matter if my house is messy, cluttered or that I could fit into my skinny jeans.

So, come tomorrow I will still try to stick to my diet and clean my house. But I will focus more on being the kind of person described in the Bible because she sounds like someone I would like to be.

The Bible and Discipline

Hebrews 12:11: "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness."

My mind tells me that I need to be the tough mom. Even the Bible tells me that my role as mother includes being the disciplinarian. Who am I to argue with the Bible? After 16 years of catholic education, I can say I'm pretty familiar with the rules, guidelines, testaments, commandments and beatitudes. I am a huge fan of the honor thy mother and father commandment. My kids aren't the biggest fans of that one, however. Maybe if they had seen Moses hike up the mountain and schlep down carrying those heavy stone commandments they would have a deeper appreciation of the basis for my authority.

Rationally I know that I am disciplining them for their own good, safety and well-being. It's not for the cheap thrill of being the mean mommy. It's the right, smart thing to do. I don't feel bad when they cry or stomp off in disgust. I'm just tired of having to discipline for the same things over and over. Seriously. What is the learning curve for normal, healthy toddlers and grade school children? Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. So, who is crazy? Me? Them? Are the inmates running the asylum? I like to think we practice calm, reasonable parenting. Ok, most of the time I am calm and rational. Humor me. We explain what is expected of them. We give a warning about the consequences of ignoring us. Them we carry through. Sara has lived with this for 7 years. She is a seasoned vet. Why does she still react with shock and awe when we follow through? Christian tests us on a daily basis. If you ask him what will happen if he doesn't obey, he will tell us that he has to go to the corner for a time out. Then he does it anyway.

So, I'm left wondering when do I get to feel the peaceful fruit of righteousness??

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Rules

Here are my simple rules to follow to make the world a better and happier place:

1. Mind your own business (unless doing so would cause bodily harm or involve a crime being committed).
2. Wait your turn in line (especially if you are even considering cutting in front of me).
3. Be prompt (or have a really good excuse that involves a maimed immediate family member).
4. Don't judge people (until they give you a valid reason).
5. If your creature poops on my lawn, pick it up or I have the right to put it on your driver's seat.
6. If you see my kids riding their bikes, please slow your car down to a reasonable 65 miles an hour.
7. If you must chew gum, for the love all things good and holy, chew it with your mouth closed and never, ever crack it in my presence.
8. Talking during a TV show or movie around me is expressly forbidden under any circumstances (unless you need to warn me the building is on fire).
9. Never, ever give me any role with any responsibility or authority. I will mess it up any way I can. The only people I like to order around are my husband and kids.
10. Pay attention to the traffic lights. It it not a time to check emails, file nails or clean our your purse.
11. Never, ever ask a stupid question in my presence. You will mocked endlessly.
12. Do not parent my child. I may be a really bad parent but I made my kids and I get to parent them.
13. Do not give me blatantly obvious advice. I'm not as dumb as you look.

12. If you ask my opinion, be prepared to hear it.


I'll start this blog by stating that Abraham Lincoln had more fun at the theater than I am right now. My weekend was great. We won a playhouse. We had friends visit. Then everything started to spiral down. As Paul and assorted recruited friends installed the playground in our backyard, some neighbor we have never met comes over to play tattle tale. Apparently, according to him, we are committing a heinous crime by giving our kids a playhouse. We nod, smile and pleasantly ignore him. Monday doesn't fair any better. Christian, with his impeccable male timing, needs a diaper change right as we are leaving for school. (I swear I'll potty train him .... Someday). School drop off complete, I race home to clean, do dishes, laundry, etc. Until I get a call from the school nurse because my delicate little flower of a daughter has a headache. Sorry, not bailing you out of school at 10 a.m. Feeling only slightly guilty, I go about my day. Christian decides to take a pathetic nap that was way too short. Of course, he wakes up crabby which makes me crabby. Sara comes home feeling tired with a nose bleed and a sinus headache. Ok, now we are only 4 hours from bedtime. I can make it. Homework done, dinner eaten, baths begun. Phone rings. We ignore it and finish putting kids to bed and house back in order. Finally listen to voice mail marked "urgent". Note to all, unless you are telling me someone died or I won the lottery, do not EVER mark a voicemail urgent. It will annoy me which no one wants to do. It's the president of the neighborhood association demanding that we immediately remove our cool new playhouse. So, the nerdy neighbor down the road complained. Really, buddy? My kids playing in a new playhouse so annoys you that you have to go and complain to the powers that be? I have rarely met someone is such dire need of a hobby. And, FYI, if you think we are going down without a fight, you are sorely mistaken. I will move my entire family into it and call it our new home before I let you win. Still seething, I try to sleep. No luck. I spend all night plotting ways to overthrow the communist association and annoy the neighbor.

A new day has dawned. Here is how it goes: Send Sara to school with little hassle (a miracle). Feed Christian a waffle. Clean syrup off floor, table, and child. Refuse 11 requests to watch cartoons. Smell something nasty. It's my son's diaper. And pajamas. Race upstairs to clean him. No such luck. Plop him into shower and begin the hosing off process. Note - it took 20 minutes of scrubbing. Then I bleached the tub and emptied the trash. Dry and dress him. Shower myself vigorously to remove even the memory of the nasty experience. Realize I have 13 minutes to make it to school to have lunch with Sara. Throw some snacks in my purse to keep boy calm and fed during the 25 minute lunch period. I really hope nothing else happens because I am at the end of my very short, rapidly fraying rope.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Proper Care & Feeding of Barb

Although I think Dr. Laura is the spawn of Satan, I like the idea of an instruction manual about the proper care and feeding of people. So, I've decided to make one for my friends about me. I think they will find it simple, informative and helpful. If they don't, I hope they stay quiet.

  • Life will be easier and more pleasant for all if chilled Diet Coke is kept on premises at all times.
  • Bud Light, Miller Light, Killian's and chardonnay should also be available.
  • Beverage location should be mutually agreed upon and easily accessible in case the host/hostess is unavailable when need is urgent.
  • Room temperature should be kept between 68-71 degrees to avoid watching me suffer heat stroke.
  • Kleenex should be readily available because I am allergic to everything and everyone.
  • Pie is an acceptable dessert under the following conditions: rhubarb is not involved in any way, shape or form. Ice cream and/or whip cream is provided appropriately.
  • If you have a pre-approved signature dish, it should be made at least once during my visit.
  • Mindless magazines are an acceptable form of entertainment.
  • Last, but a very important rule is - never treat me like a house guest. It creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable. You wouldn't want me to leave early, would you??

The $5 House

Friday night was the fundraiser "fun night" at Sara's school. Fun for the kids. Expensive, giant pain in the butt for the parents. Spend an insane amount of money on tickets so your kid can jump in some inflatble house, play dumb games and eat junk food. Oh, and try to keep an eye on your kid in a sea of K-5th graders while she runs off every time they blare a Justin Beiber song. I vow to all that I will slit that singer's throat if I ever meet him. I don't know who is more annoying - him or his fans. It's a toss-up. Hundreds of shrieking girls singing and dancing to "Never" is going to give me nightmares for a long time.

I was assigned the dubious honor of being "prize walk coordinator". This arduous task involved me taking tickets from kids, letting walk around in a circle until I yelled stop and picked a color for the winner. I gotta tell you. I got a little giddy with the power. I have never seen so many middle-class kids get so jazzed up to win some "free" junk. I was flinging candy at them so they would go away. When we arrived, I handed Sara a wad of tickets and told her to behave and have fun. She rolled her eyes, thanked me fore the tickets and took off like I shot her out of a cannon. I decided to splurge and spend $5 on a raffle ticket. I support the school so I figured it was a good thing to do. My choices were an iPod and a playhouse. Since we own more iPods than people live in our house, I tossed my ticket in the playhouse bowl. The last thing I won was a clock-radio in 3rd grade that broke 3 days after I got it. As I was diligently performing my "prize walk coordinator" duties, they suddenly announced that I was the proud winner of the playhouse. I screamed, flung my color cards at some child, tripped over the candy bowl and ran to claim my prize. I think there are still kids walking in a circle waiting for me to yell "stop".

Next came the 'fun' part for me. Calling my husband to tell him we won a house. This is how that conversation went:
"Honey, we won a house!"
Long pause and annoyed sigh on his end. Then, "Really? I'm giving Christian his bath. I don't have time for this."
Indignant and amused, I replied, "No, really. We just won a playhouse for $5."
I can hear the wheels turning in his brain. "Are you kidding? Where are we going to put it? It probably violates neighborhood bylaws."
Playing Scarlett O'Hara, I charmingly say, "We can worry about that tomorrow. By the way, it's being delivered in 15 minutes. Can you move your car out of the driveway? That's where he needs to park it."
He hung up at that point.
We now have a playhouse in our backyard. I'm trying to convince him that it should be "my time-out space". I think he's considering it because he discovered it can be locked from the outside.

Painless Doctor Visits

With 2 kids under my belt, I like to think I have mastered the art of the doctor visit so it is less painful for all of us.

First, never, ever make an appointment during nap time unless copious amounts of blood and/or vomit are the reasons for the visit. Tired, cranky kids do NOT like to strip naked in a cold exam room and be poked and prodded. I am the voice of experience on this one.

Second, bring lots of snacks, drinks, books and toys. Snacks will distract your child during the long wait in the world's most boring waiting room (unless your kids like to play on the germ-covered toys, thus assuring more future visits). Plus, the other moms and dad will think you are a fabulous and well-organized mom. Double bonus!

Third, write down ALL your questions and concerns in a notebook before you go. This is vital with newborn visits because you will be sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. Our pediatrician nodded and patted my hand when I asked the same question 3 times in one visit. You will not remember all the information they throw at you. They will give you lots of numbers - height, wight, head circumference, etc. They will give you a laundry list of do's don't's, maybe's, should be's. Unless you have a photographic memory and a child who sleeps from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. you will need to write these things down if you stand a snowball's chance of remembering any of them. This is another one I learned the hard way. Oh, and put the notebook in the diaper bag so you remember to bring the notebook. If it's forgotten, find a way to make it hubby's fault. Since you just gave birth to a large, peeing, pooping, crying human, he will take the fall for this one.

Fourth and vital info NOT to be forgotten- bring extra diapers and clothes. They will be needed. They strip kids buck naked to do stuff to them. And, the kid WILL pee and poop through their clothes while they are there just because they can. Taking your kid out of the office wrapped in paper towels is humiliating and a risk you do not want to take with a car seat. People will look, judge, snicker and comment about your (bad) parenting.

Fifth handy tip, actually make their yearly well-visit appointments. It's a tad embarrassing to schedule a 2 year well visit when the kid is edging on his 3rd or 4th birthday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Own Personal Groundhog Day

Ever see the movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray? He is trapped living the same day over and over. This is my morning every Monday through Friday: Paul wakes Sara up and cooks her breakfast. I wander downstairs shortly after. She is playing in the bathroom. I tell her to pee, flush and wash her hands. Is any of that vague, unclear or confusing? After complicated mixed message is ignored, she either cooperates or loses a privilege. And acts surprised every time. Then comes the breakfast eating/staring out the window/random question asking portion of the morning. More Sophie's Choice time. Does she cooperate or lose more privileges? I'll tell you, folks. I'm on pins and needles every morning. Then comes the very difficult and time consuming portion of the morning. Putting on clean underwear, a shirt, pants and socks. This takes way more time than anyone could possibly imagine. We tried letting her have privacy in the bathroom but we discovered that all she does is dance naked in front of the mirror. Now she has to get dressed with the bathroom door open. This has improved her dressing time marginally. And if you think brushing short hair and teeth is a quick and simple process, you are woefully mistaken, my naive friends. It involves trying out multiple Lady Gaga-inspired hairstyles and walking around the house while brushing her teeth. I almost have to let that one slide because it's one of the many, many weird habits she picked up from side of the family. We are almost ready for the bus! The finish line is almost in sight!!!! Don't get too excited, folks. She has not suited up in her shoes, coat, backpack and lunch bag. This is another song and dance ritual that takes an excruciatingly long time. Finally, she is dressed and ready for school. We kicked her out to the driveway to wait for the bus. Once outside, she must examine every berry on our weird berry tree. Then she prances up and down the driveway until we see the bus headlights. When she finally boards the bus, I breathe a sigh of relief and know that the stalling, delaying and distractions are going to be handled by her very able teacher.

What keeps me from strangling my adorable yet frustrating daughter each morning? I mean, besides being the greatest mom in the world? When she is heading out the door, she does 2 things. First is our secret 'sign' to each other. She points to her eye, then heart, then me. It's our 'I love you'. Then, when it's cold enough, she draws a heart on the frost on our storm door so I won't be too lonely without her. I know, she rocks. And we are insanely cheesy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All By Myself

Well, I did it. I actually hosted a party with little help from my husband. No, I'm not slamming him. Usually when we entertain, he does more than his fair share of the work. He helps shop, cook, and clean before and after. Tonight, I had a girls' night at our house. I actually did the prep work, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. Afraid he would feel useless and unloved, I did make him buy ice, open the wine ( we have a very high-tech and scary opener) and take the kids to their various activities. My husband is my own personal MacGuyver. He can sew, iron, cook, clean, and repair almost anything. He successfully re-wired my hairdryer in 3 different countries on our honeymoon. Since having kids and acquiring many, many items that need installation, set-up, multiple batteries and various tools, I have become quite adept at the "wait until Daddy gets home and he will fix it". As a newlywed, I learned that I could spend 3 times as long as it would take my husband to put together, fix or repair something. It's not that I'm lazy. I'm just efficient with my time. Ok, truth is that I get frustrated and usually end up throwing out or breaking whatever I'm supposed to be repairing. I also let him do these little mundane household chores so he feels needed around the house. Let's just say that he is very, very needed very, very often around our house.

Sara vs. Teacher

Sara rarely, if ever, meets her match. My dad is certainly no competition for her. She straightened him out about various species of dinosaurs years ago. She put him in his place before she could crawl. She corrected her zoo class teacher this summer about lions and lionesses. Rest assured, that rookie won't be making that mistake again. She debated her 2nd grade teacher about a homework answer and got her grade changed. She can out-reason, out-logic, out-debate and flat out tire out anyone in her path. Don't get me wrong. I adore her. She is smart, sweet and the funniest kid I have ever met. When she blinks her enormous blue eyes at you you better surrender. You don't stand a chance.

Enter her third grade teacher. This lady is awesome and amazing. She has seen it all and it doesn't scare her. She has a pet ferret and a pet tarantula. I envision Sara turning into this patient, devoted and intelligent lady when she grows up. If we are lucky. Her teacher was born to teach and loves every minute of it. She doesn't see problems. She sees opportunities and teaching moments all day, every day. I can honestly say I have never seen anyone get quite that excited about a science book. Imagine someone handing me an enormous block of chocolate. Get the idea? Sara has finally met her match and I think they are going to be an amazing match. She understands Sara and the way her minds works. Instead of being frightened and running into early retirement, she engages and challenges Sara. Trust me, Sara needs it. Sara is going to thrive and blossom this year. I can feel it. I just hope the teacher can survive a whole year of Sara and her endless, yet amusing questions. This one may actually have some, if not all, the answers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Princess Random

Paul calls me the Queen of Random Thoughts so I guess it's only natural that my daughter would become the Princess of Random Thoughts. Today, her CCD instructor was the lucky beneficiary of her random amd obscure knowledge. I'd feel sorry for the guy but, hey, I hear her stream of consciousness thoughts 7 days a week. It's only fair that someone else gets to experience the wonderful and strange world that is ruled by Sara's thoughts.

Today, her CCD teacher was talking about the Pope. So, Sara piped up with random piece of trivia number one. "Excuse me, my mom's grandparents met a Pope but he's dead now. So are they". Kind of a conversation stopper. The poor guy experienced the delightful inner working of her mind last year so he should have known she wasn't done. She graciously let him continue with his lesson plan. Briefly. The she decided she had more vital information and wisdom to impart. Here comes random yet vital information number two. "They also met the Queen of England. She's still alive but they are still dead." Is anyone besides me surprised that the class didn't stop everything and say a novena at this point?

Her instructor is a wonderful, kind and patient man. He's also brilliant. He has decided to hand her a piece of paper at the beginning of each class. She is allowed to write down all her questions and then turn them in atbthe end of class. He will return the questions, with answers, at the next class. I may have to start using this policy at home, in the, grocery store, mall.........

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fiscal Responsibility Redefined

My husband has an MBA. I graduated from college without taking a single math class. I am notoriously and proudly the cheapest human being alive. My theories of economics are very simple, clear and concise. I will not buy something if I can borrow it from someone else or get someone else to buy it for me. This will explain why there was a 70 year old man buying diapers for me at Costco for the last 7 years. He would also buy me lunch. I could not tell you the cost of a postage stamp.

I have a new, insanely cute and adorable new niece. She has 2 older brothers. Oh, yes, and my brother for a father. Let's just say that she needs a wardrobe consultant. My brother is still baffled and frightened by the word 'bloomers" and does not understand their necessity in a young lady's wardrobe. I've explained (repeatedly) that a real lady doesn't parade around town flashing her diaper at the world. He has also put her pants on with the ruffles in the front. Really? A girl needs ruffles on her tummy? How ridiculous is that? She needs them on her booty, clearly. This is where I, as her favorite aunt, come in. Ok, so I'm the only aunt she has met, but still...... Don't I have a moral obligation to this child? Isn't she already at a disadvantage? Two brothers and a dad who thinks pinstriped shirts are wild and crazy? So, I tried to reason with my husband. I tried to use logic on him. He flat out refuses to see the moral imperative of buying every pink and frilly thing I see in her size. Not only does the girl need a basic wardrobe, the double bonus of my brother rolling his eyes upon receiving these gifts of life's basic needs AND watching him be baffled, confused and frustrated by trying to dress the little vixen in these outfits is too hard to resist. Is it too much to ask that we take out a 2nd mortgage so my youngest niece can be clothed in the manner she does richly deserves? The fact that I will get immense pleasure from annoying and confusing my brother and have tons of Kodak moments is secondary. I promise. Sort of.

Monday, September 12, 2011

If I Ran The Zoo Part 2

Lest anyone think I only dwell on the negative about my children, let me write about the good times we had at the zoo. Christian was thrilled to see so many animals up close. He was equally impressed with the ant farm and the polar bears. He was very impressed with the monkeys and their jumping skills. He decided to show them his very advanced and skillful jumping. We assured him that they were favorably impressed. He tried to speak to each and every animal in their language.

I will never forget the joy in Sara's eyes when she saw an ocelot up close for the first time. She regaled all those around her with her wide range of her knowledge. That girl's mind amazes me. When she is interested in something, she will read and learn everything about it. And retain it all. Unlike her squeamish mother, she boldly marched up and asked to hold a snake. I screamed and ran away. She was fascinated by each and every animal and asked some very interesting questions. We couldn't answer them all, but we were still in awe.

Overall, the day was a giant pain in my butt. It was hot, hectic and stressful. But, I have to say it was worth it. The kids had a wonderful time and were amazed by all the animals they saw - especially the ones that were eating and/or pooping/ What can I say? This is my life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If I Ran the Zoo

If I ran the zoo, I would make many, many changes so it's not the nightmare experience I had to endure this weekend. First, I would put ankle tethers on my children so they cannot roam far and free. I would not have food and souvenir stands every 6 feet selling junk my kids know I won't buy yet they beg for anyway. Seriously, starving children beg for food with less drama than my kids beg for T-shirts and cotton candy. Sara wandered around climbing things like she wanted to be tiger food. After 2 hours of this, I was very seriously considering tossing her in myself. And I know animals need their space but really? Could that zoo be more spread out? At several moments, I was tempted to kick my tired 3 year old out of the stroller and plop myself down. And despite seeing lions, tigers, polar bears, elephants, etc, my son was fascination by......... Chipmunks. Yes, the little furry rodents that chill out every day on our deck. I would also install industrial sized fans in all public restrooms so they don't smell like the animals have been using them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I'm a daddy's girl from way back. I'm 40 years old and still proudly declare myself to be a daddy's girl. Growing up with 5 older brothers, he was my champion. He looked out for me, took me on special outings and, let's face it, bought me stuff my mother wouldn't because he didn't know better. In high school when my boyfriend's mother decided I was a wanton hussy and not good enough for her precious son, my dad quietly explain that she was nuts and I was fine. Come on, I went to all girls catholic school, wore a plaid uniform, had a curfew that made nuns look like Girls Gone Wild and thought I'd get pregnant by sitting too close to a boy. I should have been a mother's dream girlfriend. To this day, when I need to vent, complain, brag or seek advice, I dial up my dad. He's pretty much seen it all (mostly thanks to me). Apparently my puberty was a little stressful on him. Hormones, drama, boyfriends, cat fights, bad hair days, wardrobe traumas, I gave him the whole baptism by fire. My brothers just ate, slept and mumbled through their teen angst. Mine was an all-hands-on-deck experience. I like to think I made him a stronger man. He's just glad it is over and we both got out alive.

Sara has been a grandpa's girl since she was born. She can do no wrong in his eyes. He has never uttered the word "no" to her. And probably never will. He is her biggest supporter.

Despite being a daddy's girl, I was not spoiled. I had the same chores as my brothers. I got punished the same. My parents struck just the right balance of fairness and firmness. I know I don't have my parents' patience, wisdom or experience. I hope I gain a little of it soon. I think I'm going to need it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes

Today was the open house at Christian's preschool. He will be returning to the same class with most of the same classmates this year. He loves school. He straps on his Elmo backpack and races into school like the varsity quarterback. (He even tackles anyone in his way). As a typical 2-3 year old boy, sometimes his playing can get a little rough. Luckily, he is not exactly a criminal mastermind and rats himself out the minute he gets back home. He can no longer pretend to be shocked that there is a rule against hitting. Today he ran into his old buddy, Cole. As they started playing together, Christian got overly excited and hit Cole with a dinosaur. Cole, being a wise and mature 4 year old, quickly handled the situation. He explained to Christian that he doesn't like being hit and hitting isn't nice. I love watching 3 & 4 year olds self-regulate. Apparently, they do know right from wrong (enough to point out the transgressions of others). Christian even apologized unprompted to his buddy. When we left, Christian told me again he was "really sorry he hit his buddy, Cole". Maybe my 3 year old will grow up into a wise 4 year old who can show a 3 year old the error of his ways.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Third Grade Terror

Ok, I have to vent and since this is my blog and you all are a captive audience, here I go.

I know my kid is not a saint. She isn't an angel. However, another third grade terror is making her life miserable. She started tormenting Sara last year. She decided she was too cool to be friends with Sara and let the whole world know it. Sara learned to give this little terror her space but it really upset her that someone so actively disliked her. She made a few feeble attempts to befriend her only to get shot down (rudely) at every turn. This year, they are thrown in the same class again. The torment has gotten more aggressive and sophisticated. Sara is to keep her distance and not even speak to this girl. She has Sara so terrified Sara is afraid to even sit next to certain kids on the bus for fear of upsetting the little demon. Sara has stopped asking kids to play at recess because she knows invariably the response will be "I would but, #@$^& wouldn't like it". I'm sorry, who elected this little terror queen of the classroom, bus and playground?

I am all for kids working out their own problems and learning to stand up for themselves. I know my daughter must learn that, throughout her life, there will be people who simply do not like her. She needs to learn to shrug it off and move on. But, come on. How do I explain to a 7 year-old girl that this little girl borders on evil and Sara needs to wave some garlic at her?

The school promotes an anti-bullying environment. The teachers have materials all over the classroom to encourage kindness and inclusion but clearly these messages are lost on this kid. How does an 8 year-old decide it is ok to act this way and wield this much power over another kid who has never don't anything but try to be her friend? Did her parents convince her that she is so special and wonderful that she simply doesn't need to acknowledge people she doesn't approve of? Have they thought about teaching this kid to be kind to everyone? Have they stopped to ask how they would feel if their kid were treated like something someone stepped in? I can tell them from my parental experience, it is miserable. When your child comes off the bus in tears because her nemesis is convincing other kids to exclude her as well, your heart breaks and you want to fix it. But, how do you fix someone else's child?