Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Being Neighborly

For the most part, we have great neighbors. They are friendly, keep their yards and homes tidy and let their dogs be mauled by my children. Or, they tighten the leash on their killer, vicious attack 4 pound dog that terrifies my son. We have a couple of exceptions. First, the yahoo who, despite having never met us and NOT living next to us, hates us and anything to do with our children. Specifically, our kids' playhouse. He wanted it moved, burned, destroyed, etc. This playhouse is nicer than my first apartment but it offended his eye line if he walked into the middle of his back yard and looked way far to the left. We compromised with the neighborhood board and moved it to the other side of our house. Our next offense was installing a playset in our yard. Ironically, the side of the house it had to go in was closer to his house. He clearly does not like the idea of our kids frolicking and having fun in the safety of their own backyard. The other exception would be the race car drivers who fly through our street as if they are practicing for NASCAR. See why we need to keep the kids confined to the backyard? This morning my husband was grilling up brats and kielbasa. Apparently, in addition to being the boss, he is also the den mother and has to provide snacks for his employees. I have learned to stop asking about such things. Like why my house smells like a brewery at 7:00 in the morning. My neighbors are not used to Paul and his wacky ways. So, this morning while they were walking their dogs, they wandered into our yard, prepared to call in the fire department because "who in their right mind is grilling at 7:00 in the morning?". My husband, apparently. I appreciate the neighbors for being on the lookout. I just hope they don't think we are crazier than we actually are.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grandfather Duties Clearly Defined

My kids have very specific ideas about what their grandfather is (and isn't) supposed to do. He does not discipline them, ever. Why would he? In his mind, they are perfect little genius angels. On command, he will feed them, play with them, call them, write them letters, send them postcards, etc. The postcards present a bit of a dilemma in our house. To send postcards, he must leave town. If he leaves town, several problems arise. First, he is not available to take their multiple phone calls about their various accomplishments, gripes, complaints, problems, random thoughts. Second, he might be on a trip and having fun .... without them. Very nervy and rude of him. Sara is already plotting to get him to take her on an African photo safari, fishing trip, a cruise AND a Prince Edward Island/Anne of Green Gables tour. He is out of town right now. Sara has checked the mailbox daily. They have both left several messages on his voicemail. The messages have included their grocery lists, menus and plans for our visit. They have also been to leave updates about what is happening around here. Hint, not much. Christian begged me to dial. He said he HAD to talk to Grumpy. I explained (again) that he was not home so he would have to leave a message. That was ok. His vital message that he HAD to leave? "Hi..... ummm Grumpy...... this is Christian....... I am still 4....... Sara is mean to me...... I hit her..... I love you." I am constantly amazed at what they get away with when we visit. If we were not supervising, he would feed them ice cream for dinner and cookies for dessert. They get to jump on beds, drag him on endless walks, play with anything that isn't on fire, and he will cook them anything on demand. My kid's grandfather is NOT the father I grew up with. Jumping on the beds? We were too busy planting, weeding and watering "his" garden. So, next weekend, he will be their chauffeur, chef, book reader, audience, etc. His home will be their personal playground. And, just for fun, my kids still have the nerve to call him "Grumpy". And he answers to it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just Call Me Doctor

Christian has been complaining of stomach ailments off and on for 3 months. His stomach pains can flare up when asked to eat his vegetables, clean up his toys or go to bed. Other times, it seems quite legitimate. When he chooses to stay home from summer day camp and lies on the couch all morning, I know he is in pain. We went to the pediatrician and had blood work done. All came back normal. Next visit was to a pediatric gastroenterologist. I can barely spell that, much less pronounce that specialty so you know it must be fancy and important. It took a month to get an appointment. I booked the appointment and put it out of my mind. Christian still complained about his tummy, but it was random, sporadic and usually not very convincing. A few days before his appointment, I noticed he was complaining more often and more convincingly so I kept the appointment. The doctor begins his exam by asking Christian a lot of questions. Christian answered them in all serious with the following information: His tummy hurts all the time, no matter what. It keeps him up all night, every night. On a scale of 1 to 10, his pain is 60-10-100. He poops all day. The doctor is nodding and taking notes. Does he believe all this?! It's a miracle this kid is still alive and mobile, clearly. Then comes the diagnostic portion of the appointment. - Christian's self-diagnosis, that is. His tummy hurts because we never ever let him eat snacks, we make him eat yucky vegetables and he drinks pool water when he jumps in the pool. At this point, I am expecting Child Services to break down the exam room door and snatch him. When the nurse mentioned that they have service/therapy dogs in the office every Wednesday, Sara casually mentioned that her stomach bothers her sometimes and maybe she needs an appointment, too. I hope they have a frequent customer/patient punch card. Maybe we will get a free blood pressure test after our 10th visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bike vs Car

From time to time, I like to put on my padded bike shorts, helmet and biking gloves and go for a nice bike ride. It's not a pretty sight but I enjoy it. I exercise all caution and obey all safety laws. So, when someone tries to run me over/off the road, I get a wee bit cranky. When I know the identity of the driver, I get really pissed off. Our history is long and ugly. Our kids do not get along, to put it mildly. Their daughter refers to our daughter as her "archenemy". Our daughter rarely, if ever, mentions their daughter anymore. They are no longer a factor in our lives. We have moved schools. There should be no more contact. But, there is. There has been trash talking our kid to mutual friends. There have been rocks thrown at our house. And, now, apparently, attempted vehicular injury. While our daughter has not been a perfect angel, she has, on 2 occasions written apology notes. They were read, tossed in the trash with a "I don't believe you" thrown in for good measure. When Sara came home upset that her apology was "trashed", I explained that it didn't matter if she didn't believe it. If it was sincere, that is all that matters. Sara has never received an apology of any kind. Sara doesn't bad mouth her to anyone. She has no need to talk about here. Ever. Sara would rather leave the past in the past. I have been run off the road in my car, my husband and child almost run over in the school parking lot. I assume those were just cases of extremely bad driving. I hope my bike vs car was also just distracted, fake macho driving and not target-specific. I hope their parenting is better than their driving.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Mother's Fears

I am not a Tiger mom. I hope I am not a helicopter mom. I try to balance my fears and worries with the need to raise strong, independent and self-sufficient kids. I may not always succeed. Kids in our neighborhood have more freedom and independence that I am comfortable with. I don't feel my 8 year old should be able to roam free in the neighborhood. People treat our neighborhood streets like the Autobahn. And let's not forget all the random service trucks that cruise through the 'hood. The worry and fear that something will happen to my child isn't worth the risk. Sara understands and accepts this because she has no choice. She doesn't try to challenge the rules. She knows them and follows them because if she doesn't, she knows that she won't be allowed to play with those friends. Tonight Sara is at a Girl Scout overnight. I chaperoned the last one but was not able to attend this event. I helped drive and set up the cabin. The girls were climbing all over the bunk beds in the lodge and setting up "camp". Sara immediately climbed up to the top bunk and staked her claim like Charles Ingalls. She set up her sleeping bag, pillow, stuffed animals, book, flashlight, etc. Did I mention that my kid thrashes around her bed like a mackrel out of water? Seriously, she sleeps sideways, vertically, upside down and backwards. I pulled her aside and mentioned that she might be better off on the bottom bunk. She shook off my concerns, assured me that she would be fine. I didn't want to make a fuss so I let it be. As I was leaving, I noticed her stuff had been moved to a lower bunk. I asked her if she had done it or had someone else? She told me that she had moved her stuff because she "knew I was worried and didn't want me up having bad dreams about her falling all night". My kid is 7.2 miles down the road, sleeping in a cabin instead of her bed. I didn't tuck her in. We didn't sing "our" song. I don't think I will be sleeping much anyway. But I appreciate the gesture.

Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner

Once in a while my husband gets these wacky ideas in his head. I nod, smile, go along and hope he will learn from his mistakes. He had the "brilliant" idea to invite a visiting professor to our house for dinner. Did I mention this guy is from North(or South) Carolina? Yup, the south, where they have actual manners and use words like "sir" and ma'am". So, I get to grocery shop, clean the house, bathe both kids and myself and prepare a full meal - salad, veggies, dessert and everything in between. Did my husband not see "Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner" and "The Birdcage"? Some people are not meant to have people visit their homes at meal time. I only wish my problems were a wacky servant who can't wear shoes or inappropriate dinnerware. For 2 days, I prepped (threatened, bribed, begged, pleaded) the kids about expected behavior. The list included: no nakedness, no yelling, no hitting, no throwing anything, keep hands to self, sit at table (with clothes on), eat food, chew with mouth closed, eat only your food, and so on. Everyone was fully clothed a full 8 minutes before our guest arrived. He was greeted by our 4 year old with "Hi, I am 4. I just had a birthday. You can't sit next to me at dinner". As the adults sit down to chat and have a glass of wine, we realize we stand a better chance of peace and quiet if we give the kids a large bowl of chips and "green dip" (guacamole) to keep them busy and quiet. Christian, trying to be a good southern gentleman, kept offering our guest soggy chips with dip. No wanting to push our luck with Christian and broccoli, we let him off the hook and gave him corn. Give this kid an inch, he will take a mile and run with it like an Olympic sprinter. He demanded croutons but no salad. Then disliking the crouton, tried to pass them off onto the rest of our plates. Typical 4 year old boy, Christian decides he needs to use the potty in the middle of dinner. He can it all himself but prides himself on his running commentary, which is.....graphic. Dinner and potty handled and over, we move to the living room to chat. We let the kids watch cartoons. Sara, a typical 8 year old with a thirst for power, snatches the remote. I don't know if they were watching "Rambo" or "Scarface" but it sounded violent and inappropriate. Being a good/bad hostess, I declare it bedtime and herd them off to bed. Christian graciously offers to let "daddy's work buddy" sleep on his floor. I guess my kids do have some manners. Sort of.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tomorrow Is Another Day

I woke up thinking today was going to be great. We had a wonderful at the beach yesterday, filled with sand, pizza, ice cream, and carousel rides. Kids woke up way too early but that was fine because they were both heading to camp, allowing me to tackle annoying chores and errands without small chatty chaperones. First trauma occurred at 7:30 a.m. I politely asked Sara to take her menagerie of stuffed animals upstairs to avoid her brother's attempted kidnapping/ransoming of said beloved animals and avoid any potential breakfast food spills all over them. I thought this was reasonable, if not brilliant, suggestion. She thought it was insane, cruel, unreasonable, etc. and reacted like Nathan Lane's character in the "Birdcage" upon being asked to vacate the house for the day, with accompanying screams. Calm and order restored, breakfast served, kids sunscreened, lunches packed, we head off to camps. Christian's drop-off was first, which concerned and delighted Sara. She was afraid she would be late for her camp but got to see her BFF. Their squeals of delight at their reunion would make passersby think it had been years since they last laid eyes on each other - it had been 4 days. I drop Sara off at zoo camp and remind her that she probably won't be able to feed and bathe the lions, no matter how much she begs. I head home to fill an order from a Thirty-One party I had last week. If it could go wrong, it did. Many times in many ways. The computer wasn't working properly. Items were not calculated properly. The poor hostess is probably getting a restraining order against me because of the multiple phone calls and emails. After Christian's too-brief nap, we pick up Sara from camp, cruise through the zoo and swing by Paul's office for some free drinks and snacks. We head home because we are hosting a friend's kids for a couple hours. I think I have a great afternoon planned out - feeding ducks, playing, spaghetti dinner followed by homemade cookies. What could go wrong? Everyone survives the fowl-feeding with limbs intact and clothes dry. Everyone plays nicely while I channel my deeply hidden inner domestic goddess and whip up dinner. Kids are eating dinner happily. For awhile. One of the girls tells me (post-dinner) that she is allergic to red sauce. OMG! Did I just kill my friend's kid? She is still leery after a mix-up at a dinner with a spatula and her husband's fatal nut allergy. Update - the child is fine but I may never recover. And I doubt I will ever be asked to babysit again. As Scarlett O'Hara says, "tomorrow is another day".

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Growing Up ..... Slowly

My little girl is growing up. Slowly but surely, she is growing up and maturing. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but lately I have noticed that she is getting better at handling difficult situations and life's little disappointments a little better. Last week, she attended a pool party. In the past, she has had mixed results with these friends. She could come off a little too strong and stubborn. And, let's face it, she IS her mother's daughter, so she is a bit of a drama queen. All week, she was excited about the pool party. She was conflicted because it meant she would have to leave day camp early. I let her decide. I told her that either decision was fine but it was HER choice to make. Since she is moving schools, she decided she really wanted to see everyone from her old school. When we arrived, she was a little hesitant to join in. She jumped into the pool but hung back, swimming by herself. Slowly, I watched her seek out a couple of girls. She was having a great time. I was sitting back with the other moms. Quietly, without crying or making a scene, she came to me and announced that she wanted to leave. I pulled her aside to ask her why. Someone had been mean to her, excluded her and told her she couldn't play with them. I asked her a few questions to see if we could remedy the problem. She told me she was frustrated and felt like she didn't fit in and wanted to leave before she got upset. She also didn't want to name names and get anyone in trouble. So, I told her we could leave. A friend came by and saw she was upset and asked her if she was ok. She hesitated. I told her I had to pick up her brother. She could leave with me and we could go swimming somewhere else. Or, I suggested, I could go home to pick up her brother, come back and she could use the time to see how she felt. Showing some real maturity, she said she would stay and see how it went. By the time, we returned, things had improved. She was swimming with a couple of girls and having fun. I noticed that if girls started fighting, she simply got out of the pool and headed for the snacks, instead of getting caught in the middle. A very strategic move. I wish she were better at not letting these little things get to her. I wish she could shake it off and move one. (I wish I could, too). Do as I say, not as I do. I hope it will come in time. Girls will be girls. They can be mean. But this was not a horrible case of bullying. It was a case of a girl saying something unkind in the heat of the moment. This is a nice girl who just said the wrong thing the wrong way. Sara is highly intelligent but also highly sensitive. We ended up staying for the whole party and she had fun. On the way home, I told her I was proud of her for staying. She was glad she had. That night, she told me she wanted to write a thank you note to the family who hosted the party. Today, we were swimming and she lost an earring. We are not talking about a Cartier earring. We are talking about the Target variety. Initially, she was very upset. I sat her down and explained that "if there is a solution, then it really isn't a problem". I told her that she hadn't been irresponsible and accidents happen. I would be happy to replace the earring. She calmed down a little but was still upset. Then I told her she had a choice to make. She could let it upset her and ruin everyone's afternoon or she could put it behind her and have fun. Again, she showed a maturity that she was not capable of 6 months ago. She jumped back in the pool and we all moved on with our lives. I know we have not closed the book on drama, meltdowns and hissy fits. But, I think they are going to be fewer and far between. And hopefully short-lived.

Swimming With Sharks

Swimming with a 4 year old boy is........... interesting. Until a month ago, my son feared the water almost as much as he fears vegetables and haircuts. He would tolerate the water but sat on the steps throwing dive toys for others to catch and return to him - a water version of fetch. Now he is Michael Phelps but with more baby fat. He jumps and dives and splashes like Shamu at feeding time. We recently went to the beach in Michigan. He approached this new experience with a mix of fear, loathing and dread. First he was horrified that I expected him to walk 50 yards in SAND! What kind of mother does that to her child? Me, especially since I was carrying towels, toys, snacks, chairs and towels. Grudgingly, he trudged through the sand to the lake. Or "pool" as he called it. There was no changing his mind. It was a pool. Ironically, he kept asking me if there were sharks in the pool. Once he discovered that he could fling sand at everyone and everything in his path, he found the whole experience rather enjoyable. The other day, at the pool he got tired of pulling his wet swim suit up and down to go to the bathroom. He proudly and loudly announced to that he would just swim naked from now on. Down, Magic Mike. We have rules, buddy. No running. No drinking the pool water. No peeing in the pool. No swimming naked. I'm proud of the progress he has made with his swimming. In other words, he is actually (finally) swimming! He also takes great pride in making giant splashes. No one stays dry if they sit in his "splash zone".