Sunday, February 26, 2012

Honey, call the sitter. We're going out tonight!

Before kids, the hub and I used to go out all the time. We'd go to the movies at least once a week. We'd have dinner out several times a week. We'd RSVP 'yes' to every party without a second thought. We'd spend weekends at music festivals or take an impromptu drive down to the Florida coast. It was not unusual for us to jump in the car and see where the road took us. Very little planning went into our escapes. Grab your coat and go. And go we did.

Once our beautiful children came into the picture, our social life became a home life. We had to pick and choose our outings. Armed with a colicky baby, we steered clear of movie theaters and restaurants. We had to pack multiple bags for every out of house experience. Not only did we grab our coats, we grabbed the diapers, diaper rash cream, baby wipes, bottles, change of clothes, toys, blankets, stroller, colic water, teething biscuits, and teething rings just to visit my folks. The adventure started before we even walked out the door.

Now that the kids are older and require less outing prep, we try to venture out more as a family. The hub and I even go on the rare date night or grown-up party. My in-laws live down the street from us, so we are pretty set on the babysitting conundrum. We try hard not to take advantage of our pro bono sitters so our outings are still pretty few and far between.

I've noticed something now that we are slowly entering back into the social world. At least once during the night, a non-parent friend will ask me, "Who is watching your kids tonight?" At first, I'd tell them the grandparents were babysitting for the evening and not think much about it. After several inquiries during the next few parties, I started wondering why they would question the whereabouts of my brood. I don't recall ever asking my friends with kids where their kids were when I was childless. I assumed that if the kids were not by their side, they were somewhere else under the watchful eye of a caregiver of some sort. Besides, before kids, I was more concerned about the beer in my hand or if the DJ was going to ever play my jam than the location of other people's kids. But, I digress.

I can take the "who's watching your kids" question, one of three ways:

1. My non-parent friend wants to have a conversation with me and thinks the best way to start is with a question concerning my kids. Your kids are not at your side, so whose side are they at now? Fair enough. I understand that we live different lives now and common ground is hard to find. I know we don't come to these parties very often and we haven't talked in months. Thank you so much for trying to connect with me again. Now, let's go get a drink.

2. My non-parent friend does not believe I am a responsible parent and that I left them home alone. They have DFACS programed in their phone and they have an itchy dialing finger. Highly unlikely but still an option.

3. This is a fantastic opportunity to mess with my non-parent friend's head. Of course, this is the option I take. I am evil like that. That's the chance you take when you're my friend. Besides, they signed the contract. They have been warned.

"Hey Terese! Who is watching your kids tonight?"

Below is a list of possible answers:

- "The kids are at home. I put them in the closet with a litter box and a bowl of food. They'll be good for another 6 hours."

- "Oh, they're just driving around the block until we call them to pick us up."

- "They're on their way... Beer run."

-"Um... we don't have kids."

- Figure out who is arriving late to the party. Tell the non-parent friend that the (late arriving) person is watching the kids. Act horrified when he/she shows up later without the kids.  (This one takes a bit of pre-planning but it's worth the extra work. I find that it's best not to clue in the late arriving party goer either. It really adds to the element of confusion.)

- "Yeah, about that... the kids refused to eat their veggies again so we sold them to the gypsies. Hey! Whatcha think of my new shoes?!"

- "A bum."

-  Gasp, turn and look terrified at the hub. "Oh my God! I knew we forgot something!"

Friends with kids rarely ask who is watching our kids. If they do, they are usually looking for a babysitter recommendation. What is the most common question they ask us?

 "When's your curfew?"

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Dark Secret

Last night, I told my 6 year old daughter, S, to put her shoes in her bedroom.

S: "But, Mom! It's dark in there!"

No kidding, it IS dark in there! That end of the house is really creepy and it just so happens to be where all the bedrooms are located. Your room is the creepiest of all the rooms in the house. I try not to go in there alone as much as possible after the sun goes down. Why do you think I refuse to sit on the side of the couch that faces down that hall and directly into your room? I'll tell you why.

I am still afraid of the dark.

I am a 30-something year old mother of two and I am still incredibly afraid of the dark. Not only am I afraid of the dark, I still believe in monsters. All of them. I still hurdle into my bed so the "Under the Bed" monster can't grab my feet and drag me under. Toilet gremlin? Real. I bet you've never noticed that I never turn my back to any closets. I'm not giving that pale, hairless monster with beady red eyes and an oversized mouth full of razor blade teeth a clear opportunity to ambush me. Never turn your back, kiddo. 

Daddy sleeps on the side of the bed facing the closets and the hallway. Always has, always will. If anything is going to slither into my room, it's going to have to go through him first. Then there's the bathroom door situation on my side of the bed. How do I keep the toilet gremlin from getting me while I sleep? Simple. The door is always closed. Toilet gremlins are too short to reach the door knob to get out. For added security, I pull my blankets over my ears, even in the summer. Blankets will not keep you completely safe from the things that go bump in the night, but you will be harder to find. Night lights do not repel monsters. They just help you see where you are going if you are ever chased by one.

There's a monster in the attic. Monsters live in basements, too. We don't have a basement in this house, so that's one less scary place to fear. "But, mom! I thought you said daddy scared away all the monsters in the house before we moved in?" Lies. All lies. Daddy can't scare away monsters. That's ridiculous.

I'm afraid that if I stare into a mirror too long, I will get sucked in. Those beautiful porcelain dolls sitting on the shelf above your bed? I hate those dolls now like I hated them when they sat in my childhood bedroom. But, you like them so I am forced, once again, to be on guard and wait for Chucky to possess them. 

They look innocent... until you turn off the light.

I fear our house will be the house aliens select for their first walk through when they land in our neighborhood. I hate washing the dishes at night because I know, one of these days, a zombie face will appear in the window over the sink. "Wait a minute. I thought you loved zombies. You watch The Walking Dead!" Correction. Daddy watches The Walking Dead. I use The Walking Dead for research. You've got to know your enemy, darling daughter. I figure, if I study zombie films, I can better equip myself against a zombie apocalypse. Same with all the other scary movies your dad and I watch. 

Don't tell your dad this, but I will totally trip him to get away from a zombie. Let's just keep that between us.

I never walk in front of sewer vents. "It" lives in those with the alligators. I am afraid of being attacked by Jaws while swimming in the ocean AND the neighborhood pool. Let me explain: One of these days, a deranged man will wait until I am swimming in the pool alone, go to the pool pump shed, flip a hidden switch, and a secret door will open up, releasing Jaws into the pool. I know the pool is chlorinated. Jaws only needs a few seconds to swim in and devour me before the chemicals kill him. 

These are my childhood fears. Childhood fears that did not fade when I grew up. People say that you grow out of your childhood fears, but I never have. They are as real to me today as they were when I was your age. What's worse is that now I have grown up fears to add to my list. I fear a sick man will kidnap you or your little sister and I will never see you again. I fear you will have an accident and break a bone or worse. I fear illness. I fear bullying. I fear that I will make too many mistakes as a parent and you will have to pay a shrink to discover that I broke you and that explains why your food can't touch or you live with twenty-five cats.

But, the simple fact is, I will never admit to you that I am still afraid of the dark or monsters. Now, I am your first line of defense against the nighttime evil. I will rush into your room the second I think something is in there to get you. You will never know that when I check your closet or lift your bed skirt during our nighttime routine, I am scared that whatever is hiding in there will get me, too. But, as your mother, I would sacrifice myself to your monsters. Because I would rather come face to face with the closet monster than let you spend your life in fear.

Me: "There's nothing to be afraid of, honey. You'll be fine. I promise."


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Colorful Words

The final conversation with my husband last night went a little like this:

Me: "Damn. I just realized tomorrow is Ash Wednesday."
The Hub: "Ok, cool."
Me: "You know, the start of Lent*? I'm going to give up swearing."
The Hub: "Yeah, that's not going to happen."

I swear. A lot. I swear more now as a mother of two than when I was without children. It could be from the lack of sleep. It could be that my two darling daughters bring me to the brink of insanity on a regular basis. To be fair, I've always had a flare for the naughty words but I never intended to use them in front of the kids. That's just wrong, right? They are good, sweet, funny, smart, loving kids but they are just that... Kids. Kids do stupid kid things all the time. They don't listen. They challenge the rules. They don't think before they act. You know, things we did as kids. Normal kid behavior.

I find myself saying the following throughout the day:

"Don't hit your sister!"
"Clean up your Mr. Potato Head pieces before the dogs eat them!"
"Eat your peas!"
"Don't stand on the toilet seat cover, you'll break it again!"
"This is a living room, not the 'Wipe Out' show!"
"Why did you wait for me to sit down before you asked for glass of water?!"
"No, that's not good enough. Go brush your teeth again!"
"Mommy's in the bathroom, GIVE ME A MINUTE!"

At first, I add pet names to the demands. "Eat your peas, honey." "Baby, please get off the toilet seat cover." But after the umpteenth time, I start adding colorful words. I've also become more lax in my personal censoring. I let a colorful word slip when I step on a barbie shoe or burn dinner or when B drops her last clean binkie on the grocery store floor half way through my shopping trip. It didn't seem to be a big problem until my kids started using colorful words, too. And not just saying them. Actually using them in the correct context. Here are my two favorite examples:

Almost 3 years ago, I was driving my first daughter, S, to daycare. I was working and was very pregnant with my second daughter, B. Because I knew there was no way I could fit both kids in the back of my Mustang GT convertible, I decided to sell it. I kept that baby spotless and placed a For Sale sign in the back window. While sitting at a red light, a big white service van cut the corner way too close and missed my fender by a hair. In a moment of pure terror, I yelled out, "Holy [fecal matter] you [F-bomber]!" Then, from the back seat, I hear a sweet little voice cry out, "Yeah, you [F-bomber]!" I could feel the blood drain out of my face. Here we are, less than a minute from the daycare and my sweet little girl dropped the F-Bomb. I panicked. S is a smart girl and loved to share any and all new knowledge with her teacher and classmates. I immediately went into full damage control mode:

Me: "Oh no, baby girl! I am so sorry! Mommy said a very bad word and I was wrong. Please don't say that bad word again."
S: "But, Mommy, he almost hit your pretty car! He IS a [F-bomber]."

The other example happened not too long ago. B dropped her binkie. She looked down and muttered, "Oh [fecal matter]!" I ignored it because I did not want to make it seem like a big deal. Anyone who knows B knows she enjoys the naughtier side of life. She does not take "no" for an answer but more as a challenge. If I made that colorful word sound like it's dangerous and forbidden, she would use it more often. So instead of correcting her directly, I try to correct myself around her. I make a point to say, "Ah nuts!" when I drop stuff, especially in her presence. I say it has a 75% success rate. The other 25%, I have to apologize to our company and assure them I am not raising a sailor on purpose.

When I was a little girl, my family lived next to a sweet elderly couple in Knox, PA. One beautiful afternoon, they held a neighborhood tea party on their back porch. All the kids on my street came over and ate cookies. While sitting at the table, a fly buzzed my head several times. I waved my arms around and said, "Ah, that damn fly!" All the kids gasped. "Don't say that, Terese! That's a BAD word. Say 'darn fly' instead!" At the time, I had no idea that "damn" was a bad word. It was just a word. It did not hold meaning other than it went well with my frustration. Once I was told of its evil connotation, it became a powerful word. I also began to recognize other "bad words." They were short, simple words with strong emotion behind them. Sometimes, they were funny. I was told not to use them... but I did and still do. Maybe that's where B gets her fascination with the dangerous, naughty side of life. 

I'm sure everyone can remember the first time they recognized colorful language, whether they heard it from a parent, an uncle, the older next door neighbor kid, or if you lived anywhere in the New England area. I'm also pretty sure many of  you have a favorite colorful word... Your go-to word when no other word will do.

So, what is your favorite colorful word?

I can't tell you mine... not for another 40 days.

*Lent is one of few Catholic traditions I still actively follow. As my sister, J, says... I'm Catholic Lite.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mom, what's for dinner?

Dinner time is always a source of anxiety in my house. To begin, I did not start cooking* until I was in my 30's. Growing up, my mom did not like too many people in the kitchen (read: anyone other than herself). If I did get the rare invitation to help prepare meals, I made the salad or cut the bread at the kitchen table, hence my incredible salad making skills and impeccable bread cutting technique. At first, I blamed all my culinary inadequacies on my mom. I mean, wasn't she the one who was supposed to teach me everything there is to know about feeding a family? Where are those recipes passed down from generation to generation when I needed them? How the hell do you hard boil an egg?

The truth is, and there will be many times I admit this, (and I say this with all the love I possess in my heart) kids are a pain in the ass sometimes. I believe my mom's time in the kitchen was her time. It was her special room in the house where we were to stay out of until the oven timer dinged. She used meal prep time to regroup after a long day of child rearing. And she did not want to clean up the messes we would inevitably make while trying to help. And it wasn't until I had my lovely daughters that I learned this final reason... feeding a family is a job in of itself. Everyone wants something different. This person won't eat anything green. This person wants fish sticks and only fish sticks... until you make fish sticks and then fish sticks are gross. I forgave my mom and now call her for recipes. She's always happy to share her knowledge now that I'm using my own kitchen. I get it mom. I don't blame you.

So when I stumbled across the E-Card posted above, I laughed. That woman is tired. She is defeated. She just wants to finish that chapter of that book, damn it! I am that woman except I'm not dressed to the nines. I'm pretty sure I forgot to brush my teeth this morning... again. I felt the need to share this jewel of an E-card and posted it on my facebook wall. Several friends immediately "liked" it or commented on how funny it was. Then one of my darling friends, W, who is 8 months pregnant and reveling in the idea of her new life as a stay at home mom, stated, "What?!!! No one told me I had to do THAT!!!" Of course, she said that in jest. I hope. I'm excited for her, really I am. As a former working mom, I know it feels so good to be home with the kids. You do have more time to take care of everything. You don't have to live two lives. You are at home. With the kids. The day is your oyster. Sometimes.

This is what I wrote back:

Now is the time to practice. Here is my New Mama 12 Step Program for Meal Times.

1. Wait until you are exhausted to make a meal.

2. Put on some loud metal music (the more screaming, the better).

3. Stare blankly into the pantry and fridge for about 5 minutes for inspiration.

4. Scratch your first 3 ideas because while you were shopping earlier you forgot to pick up all of the necessary ingredients. Blame it on the baby.

5. Prepare some sort of meal. (It doesn't matter what you make as you will learn in step #10)

6. Yell from the kitchen: "It's almost ready!" "I know you're hungry but I'm working as fast as I can!" "Turn off the TV and go wash your hands!"

7. Plate meal.

8. Sit down at the table. Get back up. Sit back down. Get back up. Sit back down. Take a bite. Get back up. Repeat.

9. In one minute intervals, repeat the phrase, "Please eat your dinner."

10. After about 30 minutes, get up and throw away the dinner you prepared.

11. Have a big glass of wine.

Or you can skip all that and go directly to step 12.

12. Call your husband and ask him to "pick something up on the way home."

You've got a month to practice this. You'll be fine. I promise. Wait... I messed that up... Never skip step #11.

I just made dinner. My husband can pick it up from Papa Johns in 15 minutes.

* "Cooking" as in not pulling a prepared meal out of a box and pressing cook time on the microwave.