Saturday, December 31, 2011


I joined Sara's Girl Scout troop for their roller skating party. To clarify, I did NOT look like Olivia Newton-John whirling around on roller skates with her hair flowing around her. The experience was like child birth. There was bad lighting. I checked my dignity at the door and put my body in to unnatural positions. It was painful and awkward. It is most definitely NOT like riding a bike. You DO forget how to skate. Did those hideous faux suede monstrosities always weight 20 lbs? I clutched the wall and hobbled around the rink slower than an octogenarian with a walker.

Sara was a trooper. She straps on roller skates twice a year, at most. Some of these girls looked like they were ready for the Olympics. Sara stomped around the rink and fell down a lot. But she didn't get frustrated, upset or even embarrassed. (Very unlike me, I made the other moms stash their cameras and sign non-disclosures before I left the rink). She would wipe out, laugh, get up and skate/hobble off. She never gave up. She asked me to skate with her. Despite my lack of athletic prowess and basic coordination, I readily agreed. I know she is coming to the age where parents are an embarrassing necessity of life. We had a blast skating together. She encouraged me and said all the things we say to them when they are trying something new and difficult. I guess she does listen sometimes.

I was proud of her. She didn't quit when it was hard or she saw better skaters. She didn't whine and fuss when I told her no to buying all the junk for sale behind the counter. When I said no to the arcade games, she shrugged and headed for the snacks.

When the party was over, she took off her skates, thanked the clerk and troop leaders. On the way home, I asked her if she had fun. She said she had a great time and it didn't matter if she is a good skater. Proud moment. Then, being Sara, she informed me that she "would be even better and have even more fun if she practiced a lot". The kid has a point. But, I'm sitting on the sidelines next time.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Escape from mommy hood

My husband decided to surprise me for Christmas. My present was an escape to Chicago by myself. Yup, he was kicking me out of the house for 3 days. I'm such a nerd that I was thrilled. Maybe a little offended. Was this a gift for husband and kids as well? Three mommy-free days? Secretly I was excited. With his new job/promotion, he ha been putting in a lot of extra ours at the office so the kids and I have been fending for ourselves a lot. So, I got to work planning my mommy gone wild solo weekend. I made a reservation for tea for one at the Drake. I made a couple spa appointments. I was excited to spend a few days by myself with no duties or obligations. I could do what I want when I want without worrying about anyone else. I packed my gym shoes and a stack of books. Windy City, here I come. I buy my trains tickets like a pro, hop on the train and zone out. For about 10 minutes. Paul texted me to say that Sara has thrown up all over the car. Now I am in panic mode. Do I pull some lever, halt the train and hop off? Paul says no way. He can handle it. Since he is better in a crisis and doesn't get grossed out as easily as I do, I agree to stay on the train. I check into the hotel and head to the gym for a run. The day is off to a good start. I shop Michigan Avenue and have lunch. Getting a little tired and having no responsibilities, I decide to head back to the hotel. Unable to help myself, I check in at home. Christian and Sara have the flu and most of it has landed on Paul. Two hours later, I have the flu as well. I make it through the night convinced that I am being punished for abandoning my children in their hour of need. Recovered, I head out the next day to explore Lincoln Park and enjoy being by myself. The next day, I head to tea at the Drake. I'm a little self conscious that I am the only person there by myself. But, I have my book and no one is pointing, laughing and calling me a friendless loser. Turns out 3 days alone was just what I needed. I could set my own pace, explore, read and relax. Some people would go stir crazy being alone for 3 days. I loved it. I also loved getting off the train and seeing my kids grinning from ear to ear because mommy was home. I love being a mom but I also love having a break from being wife, mom, cook, maid, referee and chauffeur. My birthday is coming up. I wonder if he will kick me out again?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mankind v. Sara

As Christian and Sara play, it is not the Norman Rockwell scene I had hoped for. But, they are playing together without fighting. Sort of. They are playing super heroes. I just heard Sara bellow "I will destroy all of mankind. By mankind, I mean the men. Not the girls". Christian is following her around dutifully doing and saying whatever she tells him to do and say. Not sure she should want to destroy all men if she can get them all to follow her orders like that.

Exercise Barbie

I have come up with rules that will make going to the gym more enjoyable (if that is possible).

Times will be allotted based on ability, weight, perkiness and TV viewing preferences.

I hate going to the gym on Saturdays because my TV choices are sports, sports and more sports. I want to watch my cheesy entertainment TV. So, old men and uber jocks will not work out with me.

If you are a size 2, spandex is baggy on you, your ponytail swishes when you run, and/or you look happy and perky when you run, then you will NOT be allowed to work out when I do. I do not need the visual pollution.

If you can bench press a Buick, you will not work out with me. Go rearrange the cars in the parking lot, psycho jocks.

To be allowed to work out when I do, you need to meet the following criteria:

You will NOT own spandex or coordinating outfits.
You will be red faced, puffing and miserable.
You will watch cheesy sit-coms or entertainment shows.
If you turn on any cooking and/or baking show, you will be thrown off your treadmill.
If you require oxygen when you exercise or are over 65, you are welcome to hop on the treadmill next to me. I will feel young and swift.

Going to the gym is hard enough. I do not need to see skinny happy people plugging away for hours on a StairMaster. I don't enjoy watching teenagers with bulging muscles chewing tobacco. What will motivate me is seeing other chubby moms trying their hardest to lose some of the baby weight now that their babies are entering middle school. I 'enjoy' working out. Sort of. I like the escape. I like how it makes me feel after. I don't enjoy seeing skinny happy 18 year old girls bopping around the gym without breaking a sweat. I want to tell them that I looked that way once. Then I had 2 kids. Enjoy it while it lasts but don't flaunt it in front of me. Respect your chubby elders.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm Not A Doctor But I Play One On TV

I love watching "Grey's Anatomy" and "House". I love Greg House's honesty, sarcasm and fearlessness. I want to be him -minus the handicap and Vicodin addiction. I love "Grey's Anatomy" for the acting and story lines. I close my eyes for the gory parts. What I don't get is the heartfelt, impassioned speeches given by the doctors and the patients. Who has even heard or given one of those life changing, inspiring speeches in a real medical setting? Not me. I'm too busy whiny about my ailment or pregnancy and demanding drugs and/or relief. I want to know as little as possible about my medical condition. In my mind, this makes me the ideal patient. I don't ask a lot of questions. Tell me what is wrong with me in words that the average 6 year old would understand. Then tell me you are going to fix it and give me some fun drugs for afterwards. This is how my pregnancies progressed. I peed into a cup. I was told I was pregnant and given a due date. The doctor did a bunch of stuff to me. He washed his hands, hoisted me off the table, patted me on the back and watched me waddle out of his office. After 56 months of gestating, I went into labor. I checked my dignity at the door, got some fun drugs and tuned out anything resembling medical jargon. I mocked my doctor's clothes. In my defense, I swear he was wearing Garanimals. And I was on some type of drug. When that got tired and he stopped finding me amusing, I resorted to calling everyone in the room names. I would repeat them here but I am a lady. After 45 days of labor, I was handed a giant baby. See? Ideal patient. I don't ask a bunch of questions and demand to know what is going on. My insurance pays the doctor to do his/her job. The job is done, no questions asked. I don't want to hear a blow-by-blow from my dentist. I want my laughing gas and a cheesy movie. I treat the septic tank guy the same way. If I don't ask, then don't tell.

I don't pontificate to the doctor about my life views and philosophies. Maybe I am too busy trying to elicit some sympathy. Doctors are not the most overtly sympathetic people. At least not to me but maybe it's because I am a big wimp and even bigger whiner. I don't bond over life's goals, hope and disappointments. Maybe it doesn't make for good TV but it makes me an amusing and obedient patient. Or so I have been told. But, what do I know? They usually give me laughing gas or something.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Defective Elf On A Shelf

I think our elf, Frizzle, is useless and incompetent. I think he is slacking on the job. He is supposed to spy on my children then tattle on them to the fat dude in the unflattering red suit. Really, how hard is his job? He works, at most, one month a year. This Big Brother Is Watching concept is supposed to encourage my kids to behave better. Sara sleeps 11 hours a night and is at school for 7 more hours. Christian naps for 2-3 hours them sleeps another 10-11 hours at night. He attends preschool for 7.5 hours a week. So, really, the skinny felt guy with spindly legs only needs to be on duty for 6 hours a day at most. I'm not even including bath time and meal times. I think he spends his nights raiding our liquor cabinet then passing out. Because, if he were reporting my kids' behavior to Santa on a daily basis, I'd be seeing either a vast improvement in their behavior OR receiving a large delivery of coal products. Maybe he is writing a book about my kids entitled "I can't believe they get away with some of this #%*^€£". I better receive some royalties. Otherwise, get your skinny butt off my shelf, do your job and spy on my kids.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's Good To Be The Queen

I done drug Sara to Minnesota this weekend to get us some culture. Paul was kind enough to take Friday off so we could head the airport. He carted Christian to and from preschool, complete with Elmo backpack. The morning got a little hectic. We had to finish packing and I wanted Sara to get her homework done before we fled the state for our girls gone wild weekend. So, I left a dishwasher full of clean dishes, dishes in the sink and laundry in piles everywhere.

Yup, that's right. We left the guys home to watch sports, shoot pool and smoke cigars. While Sara and I were watching the Nutcracker ballet and enjoying fine cuisine on my dad's dime, back home the guys were just as busy. They got Paul's tires changed, played at mall and did various manly things. Then they shaved, slapped on some cologne and ties and headed to Paul's office party. Note to all men - "I has tie like dadddy" is a sure-fire pick-up line with the ladies.

Most woman would have to leave the house spotless and the fridge stocked so their men would be fed for the weekend. Not me. I came home to a cleaner house, laundry washed, dried and FOLDED. I don't fold laundry. I buy hangers. Lots of them. As we arrived home from our travels, dinner was in the oven. As the title indicates, sometimes it's good to be the queen of this household.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This too shall pass..... right?

God, I hope so. Sara and I are in Minnesota to see my niece, Molly, dance in the Nutcracker. I have been looking forward to this for months for many reasons. First, my niece is an amazing ballerina. Second, I knew Sara would adore seeing her cousin dance in a 'real show'. Third, I thought it would be a chance for Sara and me to spend some quality time tougher. Getting to Minnesota was an exercise in frustration, which Sara handled like a pro. Because of time differences and airline incompetence, she stayed up way too late. Always a bad idea. Today, Sara had fun playing with her cousins and was entranced by the ballet. After the show, she congratulated each dancer with a poise and politeness that made me proud. Things went downhill at dinner. I gave her a couple chances because she was over tired. But when she started picking fights at the table with her cousin, I knew we were on thin ice. I pulled her aside, chatted with her about choices, manners and proper behavior. I threw in a warning for good measure. Stop fighting, calm down, and behave or we will leave before our food is served. She chose to ignore my warning and go Varuca Salt/Willy Wonka on us. I did what all the experts and parenting books tell us to do. Carry out the threat and leave. Embarrassing and mortifying? To say the least. Learning from past mistakes, I controlled my anger and remained calm. I told her that I am sorry that she was so over-tired that she chose to lose control and force us to leave. She was not surprised that I carried out my threat. I'm usually pretty good about keeping my word, for better and worse. She was quiet for the drive to back to the hotel but maintained an indignant air. She really fell apart when she realized that leaving abruptly caused us to lose any chance at a proper goodbye with our Minnesota relatives. I explained again that this was all her choice through her actions. I also made her write apology notes to my dad and brother's family. (Not sure if that has any effect on her)

What really drove it home for her was what happened back at the hotel. Instead of yelling or lecturing, I told her to put on her pajamas and read quietly. I did the same thing. I could feel her glancing at me frequently. She was probably waiting for a lecture or a scolding but she knew what she had done and I wasn't interested in hearing excuses or justifcations. I think the cooling off period was more effective and beneficial for both of us. My dad returned to the hotel later with our food. We ate while he kept us company. My dad is not one to 'parent' our children. He raised his 6 kids and he is retired. But, he did speak up about her behavior and choices at dinner. He told her that we all love her and we were sorry that her actions caused the evening to turn unpleasant and end abruptly. I think the fact that even my father was upset by her behavior struck a chord with her. I was relieved to turn the light out, go to sleep and put an end to the evening.

Today was a million times better. She got up and dressed without a squeak. She ate breakfast and traipsed through the airport like a trooper. No whining, talking back or sassing. When we changed planes, she stopped soldiers and thanked them for their service. When she saw a female soldier in line for food behind us, she thanked her then asked me if we could buy her a cookie. I thought that was a brilliant idea. She travelled through 3 airports, 2 airplanes and waited in multiple lines without a single complaint.

I know as a parent there will be good days and bad days but can't the good days outnumber the bad ones???

Friday, December 16, 2011

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Given my bad luck this last week, I knew I was tempting fate by flying from South Bend to Detroit to Minneapolis to see my niece dance in the Nutcracker. But, I thought my luck has to change some time, well, not yet. We start our trip by leaving our GPS in the car at the South Bend Regional Airport. This means that for the rest of my trip, I will be relying on a combination of celestial navigation and help from my father and 7 year old. My father proudly declares that the only class he almost flunked was, in fact, celestial navigation. Since he went to school with Christopher Columbus and Magellan, I wonder why he didn't just copy off their work.......

Getting my chatty and inquisitive 7 year old anywhere is always an adventure. We check in at the airport. I show my ID. She introduced herself as Sara Grace Velasco, then gave her student ID. For Sara, that qualifies as valid identification. Onto security. I'm pretty sure she doesn't have an explosive or firearm on her so I think we are safe. She decides to ask all sorts of questions about their procedures and policies. FYI- she thinks the shoes off rule is asinine. Then she asked if her toenail polish was OK. Armed with snacks, we hunker down to wait for our flight. She notices some activity out the window and sees people with 'light sabers'. I tell her that the ground crew use those to guide the planes in. She asks if she can go out and help. I'm telling you, the gate attendant seriously considered it for a second. As my luck would have it, our 30 minute flight from South Bend to Detroit was 30 minutes late. We run the length of the airport to make our connecting flight and meet my dad, the most insanely prompt being on the planet. We see the plane still at the gate. Sara tackles my dad and I think life is good. Nope, they "closed the door". No flight for us. Ummm, excuse me. We are late because of your airline. The plane is still there. Put us on the plane. Nope. My father, my daughter and I all handle it with the same about of grace, maturity and stoicism. None at all. I feed Sara a Happy Meal to kill time at the airport. This involves explaining to my dad that when you order fast food, you do most of the work yourself. You pick up your food, clear your food and get your own drink. The look on his face when I handed him an empty cup was priceless. He is NOT part of 6347 billion served. In reality, they should say "6347 billion self-served". I digress. We hope and pray that we get on the next flight. Miraculously, we do. After locking the flight's captain in the bathroom (accidently), she is invited to hunker down in his seat, wear his hat and get a crash course in flying. Of course, all 3 of us are in middle seats. Sara is thrilled because now she has 2 older men doing her bidding and being a truly captive audience for the flight's duration. They have fetched her drinks, peanuts, magazines, etc. She may be landing the plane shortly. I'll keep you posted after she safely lands this bird.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When It Rains It Pours (Literally)

We had a great weekend. Now we/I am paying for it. Things started going downhill Monday. We had friends over to make Christmas cookies, a gingerbread house, decorate the Christmas tree and get into the Christmas spirit. Typical sibling rivalry broke out but Sara escalated into a Carrie at the prom hissy fit. Eventually, order and calm was restored and the rest of the night was enjoyable. I had dinner with a friend and we chatted late into the night. I came home and tried to clean up the mess we left in the kitchen. I ended up spraying myself and the entire kitchen when the sink sprayer went haywire. Valuing his life, my husband refrained from laughing. Can't say I would have been able to exercise such restraint and maturity. End of Monday. Everyone is safe and still alive.

Tuesday dawns rainy and grey. We got an email from the school that Sara was mean to a girl at school. Grrrr. Have we failed in teaching her right from wrong? Did she ignore our messages about treating others as she wants to be treated? I was angry, upset and disappointed. So, we talked to her, punished her, made her make amends. I spent the afternoon running errands. Put the kids to bed and got online to order some presents. Realized my credit card is MIA. Now I have to retrace my steps. Luckily, I discover I left it at the restaurant Monday night and they have it safe and secure.

Wednesday starts with more rain. Lots of it. We send Sara off to school full of apologies and remorse for yesterday's misdeeds. Drop Christian off at school and head home to put the house back in order. Pick Christian up from school and head to the restaurant to claim my credit card. Clutching my driver's license, I proudly announce I am there to claim my ID. They look at me like I'm crazy. I'm baffled. Then I realize that I just showed them the ID that I claimed I lost. I collect my credit card and flee, leaving a wake of employees thinking I'm a big moron. They would be right. Get a phone call that notified me that my MOPS group is responsible for bringing food for tomorrow's meeting. Oops. Dropped the ball big time. Time to start baking, cooking and begging for reinforcements. Luckily, everyone took pity on me and will be bringing food. In my rush to get things baked, I mess up the directions and burn a dessert. Lovely smells fill the kitchen and now I am really in a bind. Off to the store as soon as Sara gets home. Get another email informing me that Sara's brownie troop will be doing a grab bag gift exchange tomorrow. So, I tear apart the house looking for a suitable gift. Find one, wrap it and throw it in the car. Score! Convince Sara to start her homework so I can drag her and her brother out in the rain to multiple stores. With a sigh of a tortured child, she agrees and gets to work. Has the curse been lifted? Are things looking up? Nope. Not even close.

I drag the kids through the rain puddles into Target to make a bunch of returns and buy some ingredients. My kids behave exactly as you would expect. They are playing together but they are running a little wild. So, I try to rush out. Head to store No. 2. Realize that I forgot to pick up new pajamas for Christian and our Christmas cards at Target's photo center. Rush through store No. 2, feed the kids and drop Sara at CCD. I figure at least one of us could use some divine intervention and salvation. I put Paul in charge of some of the baking to save any remaining sanity I have and rush back out into the rain back to Target. Deciding to get ahead start on packing up the car for tomorrow, I head out to the garage. I realized that I forgot about the torrential downpour when I felt my sock clad feet get soaked.

We put the kids to bed. I think the curse has been lifted. I can relax. Or so I thought. Sara has just popped out of bed for the third time. A little girl in Granger, Indiana is about to see her Mommy go all Carrie at the prom crazy on her. I wish I could say that I know tomorrow will be better but who am I kidding?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Teachable moments

Shockingly, my child is no saint. She has her faults (mostly inherited by me). For the most part, she gets along with people (brother excluded). Last year she was the victim of extreme bullying. She didn't even want to tell on the kids because "she doesn't want to get kids into trouble. And if i get them in trouble, then they won't want to be my friends." While I was very pleased with how proactive the teacher was in her handling of the matter, I was shocked and dismayed that I never heard from any of the parents of the bullies. I never got a call or email. Sara never received a letter of apology. I emphatically declared that if my child ever did or said anything to hurt another child that she would be punished and have to write an apology letter. Got one of the teachable moments, put-your-money where-your-mouth-is incidents today. Sara hurt another girl's feelings today quite intentionally. We were notified and dealt with it swiftly. Since Quitmo is at full occupancy, we chose a house arrest. When she came in the door, she saw the look on her warden's face (mine) and knew the hammer was coming down. First she tried defending and justifying her actions. For a change, I was in the parenting zone. Before she got home from school, I had time to reflect on ways to handle this. I asked her to trade places with the other girl. What if the other girl had said those things to her? How would she feel? Wouldn't she appreciate an apology letter? She agreed sheepishly. Would she have said those things to her best friend? I think putting things into perspective helped her understand what she had done.

When she sat down to write her letter, I had a sneaky feeling she would tried to 'explain' or 'justify' herself in it. I told her to tell me what she planned to write. I was right. I explained that an apology letter is not the place to defend yourself. You apologize, promise to treat her with respect and be done. Then I did what I always do when I am stumped. I called my sister-in-law/guru. She had a brilliant idea. Have Sara write 2 letters. One she gives to the girl and one she keeps for herself to express her feelings. Genius. I thought about taking credit for the idea but who would believe me capable of such brilliant and insightful parenting??

As we speak, the letters are written. Sara is up in her room for the day with no electronics, privileges, dessert or human contact. I really, really hope I don't have to go through this teachable moment again for a very long time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christian's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

First of all, tell that creepy little Elf to stop spying on me. He needs to mind his own &%$# business. And that breaking and entering while we sleep and perching in new places is just downright illegal. Can't you just take my word on it that I have been good. I am pure of heart, just like new fallen snow. Why parents need reinforcements to spy on me is beyond me. There are two of them and one of me. How lazy are they that they have to hire out their job?

I would like some more alone time. A man needs his space. But my nosy parents are always lurking in the shadows. How am I ever gonna sneak into Sara's room to play with all her cool toys with them always on me like white on rice? I have no place to call my own. Unless you count my new big boy bed. But, who are we kidding? All I get to do in there is sleep. And that is really, really boring. A man needs a man cave. Someplace to chill out.

I'd also really appreciate it if you would get my parents off my back about potty training. What is their obsession? I am trained. So are they. I pee and poop at will in my Pull-Up. They leap to attention as soon as they catch a whiff of my newest deposit and clean it up. If the system ain't broke, why fix it? They do all the work and I reap the rewards. It's been working for 3.5 years.

As for loot, well, I don't want to be greedy but.....
I could really go for my own IPad. I know how to use it and get much more enjoyment from it than my parents do. All they do is type and read. I can do puzzles, color pictures, play games, read books and download stuff. All with the swipe of a finger!! I could rule the world!!

I could also use my own cell phone. And don't try pawning off a fake one that lights up. I know the difference and those baby ones hold no appeal for me anymore. If I can't call Mom's friends to bitch about her, what is the point?

I could also really go for a US Military-approved super soaker missile to make bath time more enjoyable. I can only get so much range out of the puny little squirt toys currently taking up residence in my bath tub. I need power and precision. With a telescope, please, for improved accuracy. My parents are sitting targets. If I get them wet enough, that counts as their bath for the day, right? I'm all about efficiency and multi-tasking.

Because I like to pitch in around the house, I'd appreciate my own washer and dyer. Those are awesome little gadgets. I like putting weird stuff in there, dowsing it all in bright blue goo and pushing all sorts of buttons.

Let's not nit-pick this year and discuss all my shortcomings. I am a work in process. If you meet all my demands this year, I may even be even better behaved next year,

Christian James Velasco Boy

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Male Wife

My husband works while I stay home with the kids. I drive a minivan. We live in the suburbs, attend church and the local public school. We even belong to the local country club. Sounds like a 1950's sit-com, right? Well, here's the funny part. My husband is a much better wife than I ever hope to be. He cooks better. He cleans better. He does laundry better. He even folds the laundry- bras, underwear and fitted sheets. Until I met him, I was not aware those items could be folded. If any garment has a stain, it is left for my "wife" to handle. He irons. I don't even attempt to anymore. I don't even know where he keeps his iron. I don't pick out his clothes for him. Until our kids are over 12 months of age, he handles all bathing. When he grocery shops, I don't make a list for him. I just send him. He may come back with 2x the amount of food stuff we need but...... When we have company, we all assume he will do the cooking. He actually knows how to use a sewing machine. But, I still think he is making up words like 'bobbin' just to mess with me. I don't drink coffee so I never learned how to make it. So, if I have friends over for play dates, he sets up the coffee maker for me.

Just like me, you are all probably wondering why he married me. Trust me, it's not for my domestic goddess skills. It's not because I am so charming and well-behaved at faculty functions. He probably married me because he realized that, without proper adult supervision, I would sit in a dark cave, wearing dirty and wrinkled clothes while eating stale cereal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In My Next Life

In my next life, I will be smart, witty and insightful. I will also be calm, patient, a size 8 and a fabulous cook. I will be crafty and handy. I will be graceful and dignified. I will remain cool under pressure. I will never have verbal diarrhea. I will be the one people come to for sage advice. I will be a snappy dresser with fabulous hair. I will be brilliant and creative. I will be organized and motivated.

In my next life I will be a cartoon superwoman.

Family Law

Each family has its own unique sets of rules, regulations, traditions and quirks. Coming from a large family, we have lots and lots of them. Our quirks almost outnumber the number of people in my family. I have a father, 5 older brothers, 3 sisters-in-law, and 9 nieces and nephews. We are like a counting song on Sesame Street. Welcome the world of fertile Irish Catholics. We live in every time zone. We've given up trying to figure out what time it is before calling. We just dial and hope for the best. When the family gets together, there are certain rules to be followed. There are certain inevitable things that will occur.

First, stock up on chardonnay, Diet Coke and bacon. No, they are not all consumed at the same time. Diet Coke is an all day beverage for us. We aren't even civil enough to put it in a mug and pretend it is tea or coffee. We just chug it straight from the can at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between. The bacon must be prepared by my father. The kids will clamor and beg for it until he has cooked up an entire Babe. While cooking the bacon, he will drink half glasses of orange juice. I've stopped wondering why he only drinks them in half glass increments and go straight to the mocking. In turn, he shakes his head at my morning Diet Coke. (He had the same reaction to my brother's chicken noodle soup breakfast all though high school).

A hard and fast rule of family law is that if your father visits, your kids will seize this opportunity to be possessed by the devil. Like animals sense fear, they sense that mom and dad will let much slide rater than punish you in front of a grandparent. My son chose my dad's last visit to stop wearing pants. And use every girly placemat in our house. He stopped short of wearing his sisters clothes. Their fighting put the Middle East to shame.

If your siblings visit, the cousins will fight like jackals and blame the other family.

Another fun fact of a parental visit- there is nothing appropriate on TV to watch with your parents. Everything is beyond ridiculous, reality TV, pornographic or graphically violent. "Murder She Wrote" may be acceptable but I kept waiting for Angela Lansbury to turn into Mrs. Potts and belt out "Be Our Guest".

Another disturbing development is the realization that even if you are 40, own your home, and have your own kids, your father is still distinctly be uncomfortable riding shotgun. He will stomp that imaginary Driver's Ed brake pedal until the cows come home. Conversely, you get to chide him about putting on his seat belt.

A new scientific conundrum I discovered is that adding one guest to your home quadruples the number of time you have to run and empty your dishwasher. I'm pretty sure he wasn't sneaking around and dirtying dishes just for sport but the evidence is against him.......

A rule to keep peace and harmony during family visits is to make sure some topics are off-limits. These might include, but not be limited to, sex of any kind by any one, money (unless he is redoing his will and you want to kiss up), childhood grievances, your children's faults (because grandparents are oblivious and in denial), parenting strategies and tips (because parenting has changed in the last 40 years and they don't buy into this new-fangled Dr. Phil parenting), just to name a few. So, you are forced to make idle chit chat. Acceptable topics are - family gossip, complaining about politics, traffic and weather, and bragging about your children.

Tips to make a visit my any of my family members more enjoyable - watch Godfather I & II on an endless loop. Feed them until they pass out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Big boy bed

Parenting is a balancing act. As parents, we constantly strive and struggle to find the right balance in raising our children. Too strict or too lenient? Helicopter mom or free range mom? Tiger mom or pushover? Push too hard or not enough? Our parenting philosophies are pretty simple. We stick to raising our own kids and let you raise yours. And we prefer the gradual approach to certain tasks. For the most part, our approach has paid off. With our firstborn, we gradually moved from bassinet in our room to bassinet in the nursery to crib. Worked like a charm. Sara never knew she had been evicted from the master bedroom. Potty training started when she got interested. When she wanted to try, we let her. We didn't stare at the calendar and panic. We didn't freak out when some of her friends were diaper-free. Hey, in the potty battle, they are holding all the cards. I prefer not to negotiate from a place of weakness. I also don't negotiate with terrorists who use pee and poop as WMD. As a result, potty training was not a nightmare and was successfully completed before she entered law school. Aside from her falling into the toilet at my dad's house and one badly timed game of hide-and-seek, we have no major meltdowns or problems. She moved into her new room and big girl bed before the arrival of her baby brother. We put rails on it, told her to stay put and call for us when she woke up. It actually worked. It also marks the first and last time she obeyed a command on the first try. So, we decide to have baby number two....

I wouldn't say we were cocky about our parenting skills but we felt better equipped. We knew what to get work up about (major medical issues) and what to let slide (anything else). I am a huge fan of the expression "it's just a phase". My kids will probably be going through a phase for the next 18 years. I even tried to passed off a whiny 6 year old's attitude on teething because I discovered that they do, in fact, get 6 year molars. (No one bought it)

Christian weighed in at 10.5lbs at birth (a fact my OB/GYN announced as he was running for the door). Smart move, considering that I am NOT the most stoic of women. Put a large growing fetus inside me, take away my caffeine and I can get downright nasty. He has the stories to prove it. So, our bouncing baby boy has been called many, many things but little isn't one we hear often. Until last night when we tossed him into a bed the size of Montana and told him to fend for himself.

So, second time around, we used the same approach- go slow and try to relax. We remained firm about naps. For all our sakes. My kids are great sleepers. Sara napped until she was 5. Follow their bedtime routines and my kids go to sleep without a peep. Hearing stories about kids climbing out of cribs and breaking bones terrified me. So, when Christian announced he wanted a big boy bed, I rushed out and bought one. Paul was out of town so it sat in the hallway for a week. Once it got moved int his room, he quickly lost interest in it. Maybe we called his bluff. He likes his crib, blanket, and 'neigh-neigh'. What he lacks in animal-naming creativity, he makes up for in cuteness when he snuggles that poor equine to death. This weekend, we took the plunge. We set up his bed, rails, beloved horse and blankets. Nap time arrives. We snuggle, read books then look at each other dumbly. Now what? He is supposed to sleep where? On that enormous sprawling bed with no wooden slats to provide either one us with any sense of security and comfort? Who are we kidding here? I tuck him in, kiss him and look at him. Big boy? Are you kidding me? He looks tinier than a newborn in that bed. THAT is no big boy bed. That is a toddler shrinking device.

Tonight as we got ready for bed, I checked on him one last time. Then, I promptly returned to our room and told Paul that the full sized bed & box springs sitting on the floor with extended rails is too big and dangerous for my little boy and we need to move him back to the crib. My husband's cold hearted response? "Good night, honey". Do you people see what I have to put up with? He's probably enlisting the poor kid in the army tomorrow. At least those cots are more size-appropriate than the Elvis-sized thing my baby is sleeping in right now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sticks and Stones......

It's always something. Not to go all Michael Corleone but every time I think I have this parenting thing handled, something happens to pull me back down. Sara picked up a lovely new word on the bus from a 4th grade future criminal. Yup, my daughter, my sweet angel with the big blue eyes started dropping the F-bomb at school. Fortunately for me, one of her friends mentioned it to her mom who informed me. As embarrassed as I was to get that call, I am grateful she told me so I could nip it in the bud. When Sara came home, we talked about the word. She didn't know it was a bad word. She thought it was a word older kids use to be cool. I explained that it is a really bad word that we don't use. "What does it mean, Mom?" "Ummmm, well, honey, it's an awful bad word that upsets people. So we never, never say it." She paused. "So, where did that kid learn it?" "Good question, hon. Some people use it but they shouldn't. Please make sure you never say it again." "Ok, mom. You should call his mom and tell her that he knows that word."

Good point, Sara. However, in this crazy world, some parents freak out and shoot the messenger and cannot fathom that their angelic child would ever do anything wrong. The other scenario? My child and I are overreacting and kids will be kids. How do I know these possible responses? Because I have gotten them. When Sara was getting bullied on the bus, I found out when other parents called me because their children saw it happening. So, I screwed up my courage and left a pathetically nice, non-confrontational voicemail for the mom. I played the whole "there are two sides to every story and I'm only hearing Sara's version. But, if your kid could stop calling my kid stupid and retarded, I'd really appreciate it. Also, Sara doesn't want to ride the bus anymore because your child tells her everyone hates her and she should stop riding the bus. Could your little angel stop saying that stuff, too?" Guess what happened? The mom freaked out on me, demanded names and said that her child is the nicest kid on the planet, doesn't have a mean bone in her body and would NEVER say those things. Then she hung up on me. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding, Lady. I wish my kid was as perfect and sweet as yours.

Later that night, Christian decided to get into the whole name-calling thing. His major insult? Sara, you are an APPLE! Do I wash his mouth out with soap? As soon as I am done laughing.