Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All Good Things Come To An End

I knew it wouldn't last. I always appreciated what a good thing I had. It was great while it lasted. The one (and I DO mean one) battle I rarely have with my kids is about sleeping. Sara napped until she was 5 then had quiet time until she was 6. Being a STAH mom of a chatty 6 year old made quiet time necessary for our survival. It was the ONLY time all day she was quiet.

I dropped Christian off at preschool this morning and brought home little Chucky. In the 30 minutes between preschool pickup and nap time, he threw 3 off-the-charts, crazy, over-the-top hissy fits. His first fit was because I didn't immediately greet him with a FULL bag of "bones" (Scooby Doo graham crackers). I offered the implausible suggestion of eating the 4 bones in the bag and getting more at home. I was rewarded with a screaming child as company for the whole ride home. His screams being ignored, he threw the bag on the floor. His next fit was because, after sitting on the potty with no 'outcome' for 10 minutes, I suggested he eat lunch and try again. Never before in my 7 years of parenting have I come up with such a ridiculous idea. Wailing and sobbing ensued. It took this boy 3.5 years to get remotely interested in potty and now I cannot get this kid off the toilet. He is Archie Bunker and Al Bundy combined. If he ever wore pants at home, he would have his little hand down them. It isn't even the thrill of using the big kid potty that has him hooked. Nope, this boy is in it for the junky little toy cars he scores. I have created a monster. Will poop for matchbox cars. Won't leave the potty until he has a hot rod in his hot little hands.

I sat him at the table in front of his lunch. He continued to cry and fuss. I read a magazine and ignored him. After 5 minutes of temper tantrum, I took away his food. Realizing it may be 2 whole hours before his next meal, he decided to eat. Potty and food taken care of, nap time has approached. Guess what? More crying, wailing, sobbing and flailing occurred. I carried him upstairs, kicking and screaming, changed him into pajamas and offered bedtime books. He refused. So, I put him in bed. He defiantly declared that he also didn't want any songs. Huh? Seriously? Ok, I put him in bed, kissed him and left. He continued to cry. (This boy always declares he is NOT tired but never, ever fusses at bedtime) He actually cried for 10 minutes. I know this is not a tragedy. But, this is weird for my kid. Like me, my kids love their sleep. My kids put up plenty of struggles over listening, turning off the TV, cleaning up toys, placing nicely with each other, putting coats and shoes on to leave. But, bedtime is rarely a struggle. I'm not sure what got into him today but I hope it was a one time deal. By the time he fell asleep, I was ready to cry and fall asleep, too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

All or Nothing

To say Christian has resisted potty training would be an understatement. He kept promising us "soon". Or, when pressed, he would assure us that he would poop in the potty when he turns 5. Gee, thanks. He likes the set-up we have. He makes a mess, continues playing until we notice the stench. Then we do all the messy clean up. Works for him. We have everything ever related to potty training in our home - 2 toddler potties, 2 charts, stickers, many books on the subject, and many, many prizes. All we need is a boy who is potty trained for basic training. Poop and the potty have taken over our lives and most of our conversations. Not to jinx it, but today something clicked for him. He has pooped in the potty all day. And I mean all day. He has pooped 5 times. We are out of prizes. Every time I turn around, he is in there. Be careful what you wish for, I guess. When it rains, it pours. When he poops, he really poops.

Third Grade Heartbreak

Sara has been dumped. Her BFFFFFFFFF (her description, not mine) has dumped her. Now, she "has no friends, will never be happy again and will never have another friend ever". Well, at least she is being calm, rational and reasonable.

In high school and college when a boy dumped me, I recovered by watching sad movies and eating Haagan Dazs with my girlfriends. Being in 3rd grade, not old enough to stay up late and "friendless", these coping skills are not available to her. I tried explaining to her that she may not, in fact, really be dumped forever. Maybe the girl was having a bad day. Maybe Sara did something to annoy or upset her (very likely). Complete with eye roll, Sara assured me tearfully that they will never ever be friends ever again. Tears, sighing, etc continued. I attempted to explain that I, too, was once a third grade girl and experienced these highs and lows on the friendship spectrum. I've been dumped and dumped lots of girls in the dramatic fashion 3rd graders love. I reminded her that I am still BFFFFFFFFs with a friend from preschool. I am still close to many friends from grade school, high school and college.

I feel her pain. Truly, I do. My heart breaks for her. I cannot stand seeing her big blue eyes crying because she thinks she has lost her friend forever. Right now, she is incapable of believing me when I tell her that this is not "forever". What do you do when you have the answer but your child is too upset to listen and believe you? I want to cry right along with her. I hope Scarlett O'Hara is right and "tomorrow is another day".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

To Eat or Not To Eat

I have never been nor will I ever be a perfect parent. I know there isn't such a thing. Two areas that we have been lucky in with our kids are sleeping and eating. I say lucky because we don't have any magic skills or powers. For the most part, our kids are good sleepers and eaters. Our problems arise when they are awake and not eating. I see my friends struggle to get their kids to eat, to gain weight and grow. I feel their pain. Worrying about our kids and their development is scary and stressful. Sara will try almost any food, especially if someone else is eating it. She is known in our family as "the mooch". Christian is slightly pickier but we have found if we ignore it or threaten to take away his plate, he changes his tune. Our attitude is to let them try whatever they want. Sara started snacking off my dad's plate as soon as she could sit up. She ate his coleslaw (with her hands), his soup, etc. She got over her blind hatred of pickles and tomatoes when she saw him eat them. My fondest memories are of our weekly lunches with my dad and watching the 2 of them discuss and negotiate what he would order. Guess who won? Sadly, she has inherited his fetish for salt and pepper. We have to dole out her salt judiciously so she isn't the only 3rd grader with a pace maker. My kids love going to Sam's Club, Costco and the supermarket because they pass out food constantly. Sara even asked the butcher if he had any samples. Ironically, she eats like a frat boy bulking up for spring training but is a stick with arms. So, we give her Pediasure and let her order milkshakes at restaurants. Only my kid could justify a milkshake as medically necessary. I get angry when random strangers comment on how skinny she is. Really? She is 8. Do we want her to have a negative self-image? They don't know how much she eats. All they see is a skinny kid. But Sara hears the comments and asks me about them. I tell her the only opinions that matter are hers, ours and her doctor's. Then I swipe the cherry out of her milkshake. Told you, I am not perfect mom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Son's Career Goals

I'm a little worried that my 3 year old son has no career goals. He loves listening to the CD of the Sesame Street Live show "When Elmo Grows Up". Basically, Elmo is having a panic attack because he doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. Ironically, Elmo has been 4 years old for as long as I have known the little furry guy. So, he asks all his furry little buddies and comes up with some career paths - mailman, policeman, cowboy, trash collector, fairy godmother, etc. Whenever I ask Christian what he wants to be when he grows up, he always says "Christian James Velasco Boy". Then, he thought more about it. The other day, he asked me in a panicked voice "mommy, when do I have to grow up?". Not being very quick on my feet, I had to think about it for awhile before coming up with some brilliant parental answer. Sara, being 7, immediately had an answer that made him happy. "Christian, you don't have to grow up until you ARE a grownup.". That answer seemed to satisfy him. I may direct all his questions to her in the future. Luckily, he is very secure in his identity. When asked his name, he proudly declares that he is "Christian James Velasco Boy". Or "Green Lantern". Or "Spiderman". So, we may have to worry about his split personality before we seek out a career counselor for him and all his alter egos. It might be handy having a superhero around the house.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Snow Day

We just survived Christmas vacation. Four days back at school and God decides to mess with me and give the kids a snow day. And no school on Monday for some made-to-annoy-me reason. And Paul is working non-stop this week, weekend, next week and weekend. Do the math. That is a LOT of togetherness and cabin fever for my kids and myself. Pajamas have melded to our bodies, toys have exploded over every surface, the kids have eaten everything food-related in the house. Fights have broken out over anything and everything. I have become referee, judge, jury and parole officer. I'm thinking about installing a boxing ring, filling it with jello or mud and selling tickets to their fights. My kids have two skills - eating and fighting. They do both loudly, messily and often. And usually at the same time. I don't know how many more snow days I can handle. I may run away from home. Except I can't because I'm snowed in!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dance Moms

Is this show for real? I'm embarrassed to admit that I caught this freak show and got sucked in. I know "reality television" is an oxymoron. Here is my summary of the show. Take a fat, rude, arrogant, brutish bully of a woman. Add some moms living vicariously through their daughters and put them on TV. The sparks fly. The moms clash with the dance instructor over everything - choreography, costumes, music choices, favoritism, you name it. They clash with each other over, well, everything. Amazingly, the little girls are remarkably well behaved, mature and poised. They get criticized harshly for every wrong dance step but rarely cry over it. They keep trying until they get it right. They dance because they love it and are extremely talented. But, when the moms and instructor go after each other over their daughters, you can see the pain and stress in their JonBonet Ramsey overly made up faces. At least on camera, the moms are very supportive and encouraging of their daughters. When one girl froze on stage, the mom smiled, hugged her, told her she loved her and was proud of her no matter what. I only hope and pray that these parenting moments are not staged and only fodder for the public's entertainment. Somehow the girls manage to compete against each other while supporting and encouraging each other. I know many adults who could use a refresher course in that skill. But, dance is their life. They have no outside interests, hobbies, friends or free time. They are not little girls. They are dancers. That is all they are.

I would be a terrible dance mom. My daughter would not be permitted to wear showgirl style makeup, hooker costumes and perform sexy dance moves to a song that belongs in an adults-only club. The second the sadistic instructor ripped into her, we would both be in tears. While I love how supportive the girls are of each other, I don't like the 'compete against your friend' aspect of it. How do you explain to a 9 year old that you can be happy for your friend who just won the trophy you wanted and worked so hard for? The pressure on these girls at weekly competitions would put me into cardiac arrest.

My niece is an amazing and gifted ballerina. Actually, she works her butt off so it really shouldn't be called a "gift". When we saw her perform in "The Nutcracker" recently, one thing that struck me was how calm she was. Backstage, I didn't see any prima donnas or psycho dance moms. The girls worked hard but managed to enjoy themselves. Besides being a dancer, she is also a singer. She has friends, hobbies, interests and free time. She is a normal girl living a normal life and has an amazing talent. I don't know if I'm more proud of her because of her dancing or because of the beautiful young lady she is. Despite a grueling rehearsal and performance schedule, she made time for her 7 year old cousin who was in awe of her. She took her backstage to see the costumes, props and meet the other dancers. She answered a million questions and posed for even more pictures. My daughter will never be the dancer her cousin is but I can only hope and pray she becomes the kind, thoughtful, and caring young lady that her older cousin is. I hope that when those moms tell their daughters to "break a leg" that they are not also breaking their daughters hearts or spirits. Dancing is a beautiful thing. Being a beautiful person is a better goal.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fit For A Queen

There are many reason I, and my whole family, are grateful there is no chance I will ever become a queen. Watching "The King's Speech", as sorry as I felt for the Reluctant King, I felt even sorrier for his wife. Hesitant to even marry him because she knew what life as a royal would entail, she never dreamed she would become Queen. Suddenly, every move you make, every word you utter, how you dress, raise your kids and conduct yourself is open to public ridicule. Your life is not your own and never will be. The entire country comes before you and your family. Not to mention the pesky threat of kidnapping and assassination. I am seized with terror just attending a work function with my husband. What if I trip? Spill something? Say something dumb or insulting? I was raised with manners. I can make chit chat at a cocktail party but beyond that I am a total Neanderthal. I am clumsy. I trip, I spill things, I drop things. Worse, I get nervous and babble or blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Can you picture me in a tiara chatting up world leaders? Can you see Michelle Obama and I swapping kid stories and fashion tips? Ne neither.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Family Lunch

We met Paul for lunch today at a local deli. Everyone ordered their own food. Did everyone eat their own food? Yes and no. Sara ate her lunch. Christian ate his lunch. I ate my lunch. Paul ate his lunch. Sort of. Christian and Sara ate Paul's lunch. Paul was happily munching away when he felt Sara's giant sad eyes on his coleslaw. "Daddy, Grumpy always shares his coleslaw with me." What kind of cold-hearted monster could refuse her? He handed it to her and picked up his sandwich. Christian pipes in. "Daddy, your num-nums look yummy. I has some?" Bye-bye sandwich. In our quest to raise non-picky eaters, we never noticed that we have raised food moochers. They will eat anything off anyone's plate. Sara once ate a classmate's lunch and defended it with "She was done and I was still hungry." She scammed our contractor's lunch from him with "You have blueberries. I like blueberries and it's nice to share." (Her weirdest snack ever was strawberry yogurt and clam chowder). My kids can out-eat a teenage football player.

We had dinner at a friend's house last night. I had no idea how much pizza my kids could pack away on someone else's dime. Answer - 3 slices each. Yes, they had snacks before bedtime, too. No wonder we don't get invited to dinner very often. People cannot afford to feed our kids. And their children would starve while my kids eat all the food.

My Career As A Talk Show Host

If it didn't involve getting up at 4:30 in the morning, I decided I could have a career as Kelly Ripa's wacky sidekick. Besides the grueling hours, her job is pretty easy. People dress her up, slap a ton of makeup on her and set her loose on America. We'd sit in comfy chairs, slurp some caffeine and yak about about our husbands and kids. We would get to tell embarrassing stories about them. I could do that. I have a million embarrassing anecdotes. Well, they mostly involve me embarrassing myself but still.... I could make a living doing it. For her salary, I'd embarrass myself and my family on national TV. She also gets to schmooze famous people and ask them dumb questions. I am the queen of dumb questions. I don't think I have ever asked an intelligent question ever. For one hour a day, I would have a captive audience that would be forced to listen to my brilliant ideas, theories and inventions. It's a win-win situation. I better keep the phone lines open so she can call and we can have a chat.

I used to want to be Oprah's best friend. Then I saw Gayle King, the most annoying "friend" on the planet. I knew Gayle was an annoying idiot when she met some nice Amish family and her only questions were "Do you even know who Oprah is?" and "Have you ever seen black people?" If I were Oprah, I would have left her on that farm. I just thought it would be fun to hang in a penthouse apartment in Chicago, meet some famous people and score those cool Christmas gifts. But, if it meant chilling with Gayle King, I'd rather be Oprah's enemy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's NOT just me!!! Or my kids.

There is strength in numbers. I went out with the ladies last night - other tired, frazzled moms. As we talked, laughed, bitched, and complained, I discovered something amazing. I am not the only mom who feels overwhelmed on a daily basis. My kids are not the only ones who fight with each other. My kids are not the only ones who don't listen to me sometimes. I am not the only one who has had to scoop up my kids and leave a public place abruptly. Who knew there were other moms out there who didn't do everything perfectly and have perfect kids? Where have these moms been hiding all my life. Feeling reassured that CPS will not be knocking on my door any day now, I went to bed confident that I am a halfway decent parent. Today brought a chance to reaffirm my belief in my parenting skills and my wonderful children. I hosted a playgroup at my house. I prepared Christian for the invasion of other tiny people who will want to play with, touch and look at his toys. I reminded him that he would have to share, take turns and play nicely. He nodded and smiled at his crazy mom with her even more insane ideas of people breaking and entering to steal his toys. Guess what? Kids came. They played with his toys and he freaked. They were playing with them wrong. How dare they want to play WITH HIM? What is wrong with these tiny people? Any why weren't their moms restraining these little maniacs? Who do they think they are, coming into his house and touching his things? After a very awkward, emotional and noisy 30 minute adjustment period, he discovered that the world wasn't coming to an end and he could play with these kids just fine (mostly). Luckily for both of us, the moms stuck it out. He had fun chasing kids around and playing with them instead of against them. It's a catch-22. He would be better at sharing his loot if he got used to it. But, given the way way he recoils in horror at the prospect of someone else's grubby little hands touching his priceless, irreplaceable toys, who, in their right mind, would bring their kid over? So, moms out there, please have patience with him. Bring your kid over. I "swear" it will get better. And if it doesn't, I will have really good snacks.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A vacation from vacation

I am really ready for Christmas break to be over. We've celebrated Christmas. We've wrapped, opened, assembled, played with, broken and lost toys. We have watched Christmas movies. We baked, decorated and ate Christmas cookies. We had the flu and survived. We have rung in the new year. We've had family time. Lots of it. Now I am ready for life to go back to normal. The kids need to go back to school and get out of the house. We need our normal routine and schedule. We need a reason to get out of our pajamas before dinner time.

The holidays were wonderful. Paul was home. He cooked. We ate. We played together. Paul got chores done around the house. Sara actually cleaned her room. But now we have the holiday hangover. Christmas and New Years came and went. Now we are staring at piles of snow and getting cabin fever. Paul is back at work and we are at home trying to entertain each other for hours on end. Sara is already asking when school starts again. I give it 5 days before she is asking when she has spring break.