Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mom! I'm Bored!

It's summer! Huzzah! No early mornings, no homework, and no anxiety from bus route changes (as described here). And I don't even go to school! I've always loved summer. Once I entered the working world after college, I realized summer is better when you are in school. You don't get long breaks anymore. So when I quit my job to stay home with the kids, I discovered the joy of summer once again. It brings me back to the long, lazy summers of my youth. I remember spending afternoons making googly eyes at the neighborhood pool life guard and journaling about how life was going to be awesome once I got my driver's license. I would sleep all morning. I would watch MTV all day long... it was the early 90's... MTV was still cool back then. The most I had to worry about was reading all the books on the school summer reading list. For this book nerd, that wasn't an issue. I didn't have to do anything. That was the beauty of it all. I didn't have to do ANYTHING! I really enjoy a free schedule. I like the freedom to do whatever I want to do even if I choose to do nothing at all. I am happiest when I don't have to do anything. That's usually when I do the most. My kids, however, are nothing like me. They want, no, demand a schedule. They wake up at 7:00 AM, asking for breakfast. They jump on my bed, wanting to know what I've planned to do each minute of the day. Ugh! It's cruel! They don't want to sleep in. They don't want to lay on the couch watching Beavis and Butt-head reruns. That's boring. Everything I like to do is boring. I freaking hate that word. Boring. It's a bad word. It's a whiny word. It goes like this: 

"Mmmmmmooooooooommmmmm!!!!!  I'm borrrrrrrred."

Do you know what causes boredom? It's not from a lack of things to do. It's from a lack of imagination and creativity. Boredom is the ultimate form of laziness. People who say they are bored are really looking for someone else to entertain them. They want you do the leg work and come up with something to do. They don't want to utilize their creative brain.

Another issue I've discovered while hanging out with kids during the summer is that they want to spend money when they are bored. They want to go to this amusement park or that summer camp. Since we are down to one income, we have to keep a tight budget. We have to utilize what we have already. We are members of our neighborhood pool this year which is a major source of entertainment, but only if it is not raining. I love going to the pool but even I need a break from chlorinated water every once in a while. So what do you do with two young kids on a tight budget the rest of the time? I have complied a list of activities that keep my kids entertained that require little to no money. It does not require a ton of adult supervision or assistance. These activities keep my kids busy for hours. Nothing involves glitter. As the great Demetri Martin says, "Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies."

Rainy day fun without using your rainy day funds:

A Bed Sheet:

Help your kids build a fort out of a large bed sheet. I tuck an old bed sheet into the couch cushions. Everything is better in a fort. My kids like to play house, read, color, watch movies, eat lunch and even take naps. Leave the fort up after the kids go to bed and then the adults can enjoy the change of scenery. (Yes, everything is better in a fort. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)

They begged to take a nap in the fort. That's right... begged.

Be crafty with your crap:

Dad's old sock:

Turn an old sock into a puppet. Give the kids old buttons, glue, markers, and scrap paper and let them make sock puppets. Your kids can spend the day putting on silly puppet shows.

A triceratops.... more like a biceratops really... you get the point.  

The incredible, versatile, amazing cardboard box:

I'm not kidding. Kids love a plain old cardboard box. A kid can turn a cardboard box into a boat, a car, a cave, and a house. Put several cardboard houses together to create your very own hobo shanty town! A few weeks ago, my girls made a cardboard couch. They spent hours on this couch. HOURS!

Cardboard box couch in front of real couch complete with Styrofoam remote control.

Paper plates:

Why only wear masks on Halloween? All you need is a paper plate, some crayons or markers, scissors and a piece of string.

The hub after a long day at the office

Popsicle sticks:

Don't throw away your popsicle sticks this summer. Wash the sticks and give the kids some Elmer's glue. They can make popsicle log cabins, picture frames, little rafts to float in the tub, and my personal favorite, popsicle stick drink coasters for my wine glass.

Fun with food:

Decorate your own cookies. Bake a dozen cookies. Mix plain white frosting with food coloring in little sandwich baggies. Cut a small hole in one end of the baggie and let the kids pipe the icing on each cookie. (Warning: Not for the faint of heart. I suggest you funnel a few Red Bulls to match their sugar high energy rush after this project. Better yet, drop them off at the grandparents' house for the afternoon. Consider it payback for "spoiling" your kids with candy throughout the year.)

Diabetes on a plate, anyone? 

Why clean when you can be creative:

If you love housework as much as I do, try these fun creative ways to get out of your chores.

Give your kids a box of sidewalk chalk and let them cover your driveway with beautiful art. (What oil stains?)

Don't worry about getting that ketchup stain out of their shirt. Tie-dye old stained t-shirts and forget about stain removal forever!

If you must clean, get the kids involved. Make it a competition! Challenge the kids to a race to see who can collect the most toys off the floor, sort the laundry or make the bed the fastest. Give the kids a rag and have them race around the house, wiping down the baseboards. Award them a ribbon or a prize. If you want to get fancy, you can have an Olympic games style metal ceremony. Kids go nuts over prizes and boom... your house is clean.

Have a large window that is covered in hand prints? Yeah, me too. My patio glass door is constantly covered in hand and paw prints. Want to know how to get out of washing that window for the millionth time? Finger paint. Give your little artists finger paint and tell them to paint a mural on the outside of the window. (It's easier to get the paint off later from the outside... trust me.) You don't have to wash the windows if you've got pretty art covering up the smudges.

This makes me an artsy mom... not a lazy mom.
It's all in how you spin it, folks!

Get a jump start on your holiday card portrait:

Give them your (inexpensive) camera and let them be photo journalists for the day. You, too, can get great shots like this:

Malcolm about to lick the lens

B's self portrait

Weird kitty keyboard that randomly turns on in the middle of the night.

S learning how to use the flash feature on the camera.

My good side.

My better side... Hey-oh!

Don't be a stereotype - turn off the television and go outside!

Get a bottle of bubbles. Kids freaking love bubbles. 

When bubbles attack...

Punch holes in the lid of an old glass jar. Catch fireflies at dusk.

Turn on the hose and get wet. Fill up water balloons, water guns, and buckets and have a good old fashion water fight.

Have a nature scavenger hunt. Give the kids a list of items to look for in your own backyard or local park. Hunt for a pretty flower, an unusual looking bug, or a feather. They can find a cool looking rock and turn it into a pet rock.

S gave me this pet rock 3 years ago. It hasn't peed on the floor yet...
 Which is more than I can say about the other pets in this house.

You can also go to the local library and check out books for free. Libraries are great. They have children's story times. You can read a few chapters in peace while the kids are engrossed in a Shel Silverstein poetry reading. Some libraries even host free craft or activity programs for kids. Get your kids a library card... it makes them feel all grown up.

That's all I've got. Hopefully, my suggestions will come in handy if your kids ask you for some summertime entertainment. If all else fails, you can always use my mom's old standby:

If you're bored, you can go clean your room!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Love Letter to my Kids

Dear kids,

I have read a lot of articles lately about the right way and the wrong way to raise a child. Unfortunately, no one can agree on which way is the right way or the wrong way. So many folks are upset and angry about this. I'm not. Do you know why I'm not jumping on the "my way is better" bandwagon? Love. Love and well... I don't really give a damn what other people think of my parenting techniques. When I look at you, I see smart, talented, kind little people. You both have an eagerness to learn and a Curious George like curiosity about everything. You are funny. The kind of funny that takes astute observation and a quick wit. I'm not sure where you got all these great traits from, but I think it's fair to say your dad and I had something to do with that. I didn't learn how to raise you from a book or using a popular method. I tend to just wing it a lot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I've found that no two children are alike so if one thing works for one, it probably won't work for the other... at least that's how it goes with you kids.

Getting back to love.

I try to teach you all that you need to know about life. I remind you to use your manners. I hover over you while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. I put education at the top of your list. Someday, I'll teach you how to drive a car. But, for now, the most important thing I am teaching you is how to love. Not hearts and roses love. That comes later. Way later. Like when you are 30. This love is soulful love. Compassionate and selfless (well, sometimes a little selfish) love. It is kind love. It is tough love. It is respectful love. It is the kind of love that is really hard to act out but even harder to feel sometimes. I'll break it down.

Act in Love:

Everything you do impacts someone else. Everything. It's kinda like that whole butterfly in Asia that causes rain in Ohio (or something like that) theory. Look it up kids. The same thing goes for your actions. If you act in love, other people will feel love. Love begets love. If you act without love, other people will not feel love. No love begets no love. It can be the most grand act of love or a small act of love. For now, I'm just focusing on the small acts. For example:

While brushing your teeth, if you spit toothpaste all over the sink and then do not wipe it up, you are not acting in love. By taking a moment and cleaning up your mess, you are being considerate to your mom and showing her love. I see that you took my time and energy into consideration and saved me from having to chisel dried toothpaste off the sink the next day. In return, I will have more time to laugh and play with you.

Hitting your sister with a Barbie doll is not acting in love. Not to mention, it hurts. After you strike her with a Barbie doll, what does she do? She kicks you out of her room and now you are alone. If you are loving and not so violent, she will allow you to join her in her room. The flip side to that is if you are bossy to your sister, you are not acting in love. She will hit you with a Barbie.

Do little acts of love as much as possible. Help your sister tie her shoe. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Be good in school. Don't use your hands in anger. Compliment someone. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.

You can go bigger, too! You can work at an animal shelter or volunteer at a hospital. Give time. Give money. Give effort. Clean up a beach. Raise money for a good cause. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Listen to someone. Take care of someone who is ill. Make someone laugh when they are sad. Get involved in your community. Donate blood.

See? Butterflies make rain... or something.

Defend Love:

When I was growing up with my younger sisters, we fought a lot. We didn't just hit, we eviscerated each other with hateful words. I remember a time or two when blood was drawn. We used each other as scapegoats. Just watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon and you'll get the picture. But, heaven forbid someone outside of the family hurt one of us. We were taught to watch over, protect, and defend each other. I expect you to do the same and not just for your family. Defend other people, animals, and the Earth. I expect you to speak up when you see someone or something being harmed. I don't want you to turn your head if you see any kind of abuse or wrong doing. If you can't stop the situation, tell someone who can. I promise, I will stand behind you every time.

Think Love:

It is not your job to judge others. It doesn't matter if they don't look like you or talk like you. Some people don't believe in what you believe in. Some people don't think about what you think about. Some people just don't think. Some people don't like sushi or hummus as much as you do. (I know that's hard to believe, but it's true.) People may like different kinds of music, art, sports, or books. People have different ways of learning, playing, praying and loving. Instead of judging, ask questions and learn about some one's "something different." Remember to live and let live... love and let love.

P.S.  There are a lot of people out there who point out other people's differences and tell them they are bad for being different from them. Don't listen to those people. Don't take what they say into your heart. They are scared of "different." Be loving and don't judge them either... just don't become one of them, okay?

Love Yourself:

This is always the hardest love for me. Love yourself. There is a fine line between loving yourself and being selfish. Over the years, I've decided that loving yourself is all about honoring the gift that is you.

Love your body. Breathe deep and use your lungs. Play. Use your body. Bend and stretch. Feed it the good stuff. Let it rest. Take the time to maintain your body. It's the only one you have. There are people out there who would love to fully use their bodies but cannot due to illness or birth defect or injury. You have been blessed with your body. Love yourself by taking care of yourself.

Love your mind. Learn as much as you can. Read, read, read, and read some more. Read everything. Read about your history and then read the book that contradicts everything you've just read. Read non-fiction. Read fiction. Read poetry. Read comic books. Read cookbooks. Have as many art books on your coffee table as possible. Never stop collecting children's picture books. Ask questions. Never stop asking questions. Look at everything. Listen closely. Take the time to think about things... anything. EVERYTHING! Take things apart and put them back together again. Don't be afraid to change your mind. You're never too old to learn something new.

Love you as a person. You have every right to be here. You have every right to be you. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your right to live, love, and learn. If anyone tries to take that away from you, fight like hell. No one on this earth owns you. We are all flesh and bone. We are all made up of the same materials. The only reason powerful people exist is because other people have let them be powerful. We all entered this world the same way and we will all eventually die. Don't let anyone dictate who you are in the time between. You will always find people who want to tell you how to live. But let me be clear. This in no way means you should be disrespectful to people in authority like your parents, teachers, your elders, your future employer, or law enforcement. We are not always right, but we are here to help you learn and keep you safe. If you feel we are wrong, speak up. You have that right. Fight with respect. Fight with love and honor. If you live in love always, you will never be wrong ever. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I try to be love. I try to act in love. I try to practice what I preach. It is not easy. You kids drive me nuts quite often. You challenge my ability to think straight. You make simple errands difficult with tantrums and not listening to me when I tell you to stop hiding in the clothing racks or running through the store. You do ask questions.... a lot. And I don't always have the answer or the patience to explain my answer after the 5th "why?" But, I try. I try to be a good role model for you. You teach me every day what it means to love. You love me even when I make mistakes. I hope you learn from my mistakes, too. The whole point of being a parent is to raise a better, stronger, smarter, more loving person than you. We should always strive to be better. Be stronger. Be smarter. Be more loving. If you can do that, I have done my job.

Be love.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mommy? My Tummy Hurts...

There is nothing quite like the sound of your kid throwing up from the backseat of your car. You know the warning signs:  A few moments of pitiful complaints about stomach discomfort followed by complete silence just before the eruption. You never think it's actually going to happen until it actually happens. It always happens when you are driving on a busy road or when you are miles from home. It happened to me yesterday. B and I were on our way to meet my friend, W, and her new baby, Lil Pineapple for lunch. (You first met W here... she still doesn't cook.) Twenty minutes into the forty minute drive, B starts wiggling in her car seat and crying about "the belly hurts." At first, I thought she might be hungry since she was in good spirits all morning. In hindsight, that should have been my first clue that something was wrong. B is not a morning person and she was bouncing off the walls a little earlier than usual. I handed her a chip from her lunch bag. She ate it and said, "Thank you mommy. I feel better.... BLAHHHHHH!" As it turns out, B is a violent barfer like her mother. There is nothing dainty about the way we spew. It also occurred to me that this was the first time B has ever blown chow. Not like baby spit up but real stomach retching up chucking. It was awful. I pulled into the nearest gas station and handed her an old grocery bag and tried to comfort her while holding back sympathy gags. We canceled our lunch date with W.

As gross as that was, B's first ralph was nothing compared to the Great Stomach Virus of 2006. S was just shy of a year old and I was a few months into my new job. I found out that there was a really bad stomach virus making its rounds through the company for a few weeks. I also found out that the kids were dropping like flies at S's daycare. It was a Thursday and I remember making a mental note to buy some vitamins and orange juice on the way home from work, just to be safe. That night, the Hub and I went to bed. At the time, we were living in a ground floor apartment and did not feel safe leaving S in her room clear across the hall, so she slept with us in our bed. Sometime around 1:00 AM, S rolled over on her back and projectile vomited into the air like Old Faithful. What goes up must come down and down it came. All over my face. I had S vomit in my eyes, up my nose, and in my mouth. As I shot out of bed, dazed and confused, the hub woke up. He grabbed S and held her upright, fearful that she would choke while lying on her back. He was yelling, "Get a towel! Quick! Get a towel! She's hurling all over the bed!" I was stumbling toward the bathroom with my eyes closed, gagging and trying to breathe. Once the Hub realized I was having some issues of my own, he started laughing and gagging too. About an hour later, we were all clean and tucked between clean sheets. Just as I started to drift off to sleep, S erupted again, but this time, I rolled out of the way.

Four complete baths, pajama and bed sheet changes later, S and I curled up on the couch in the living room and the Hub slept on beach towels on the bare mattress in our bedroom. S had soiled every piece of linen we owned. I still don't know how something that little could produce so much chum. Then it started coming out the other end. Needless to say, I stayed home from work and did a ton of laundry the next morning. Around 9:00 AM, while bribing S with a new car for her 16th birthday to get her to drink some water, a wave of nausea rushed over me. I was sick. Very sick. The kind of sick that forces even the most able-bodied adult into the fetal position on the bathroom floor. I called the Hub. At the time, he was still a newbie at his firm so he was very wary about leaving early.

Me: Hi honey, I'm very sick. 
The Hub: Okay babe. I'll be home after one o'clock.
Me: I think I need you to leave early today. I'm really not feeling well, the baby won't take a nap, and I could really use your help.
The Hub: It's only four more hours, babe... do you think you'll be okay? I really can't leave right now.
Me: I have "Two Bucket Disease!" 
The Hub: I'm on my way.

That weekend, all three of us became violently ill. It hit the Hub on Sunday. He immediately called his mother (aka Meme or MA!!!) and she rushed over with an arsenal of soda crackers and ginger ale, scolding us for not calling her sooner. She played with S, who was feeling better, so the Hub and I could embrace our stomach virus without guilt.


About three hours after B and I returned home yesterday, B was running around like nothing happened. She ate her lunch and kept it down. I'm not sure if it was a little bug or motion sickness that caused her to hork all over the backseat of my car, but whatever it was, it's gone now. I'm truly grateful that it wasn't something serious like The Great Stomach Virus of 2006... which also happened to be my mantra while I hosed off the car seat yesterday.

Parenting is so gross.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Doing It

A few nights ago, right before her bedtime, S glanced over at the television as she walked through the living room and said, "They're gonna do it."

[Record stops]

Do what now?!?!

The hub was working on his lap top and I was picking up B's toys off the floor. The television was on but neither one of us was watching it. We shot each other horrified looks and then turned our eyes to the television. It was an old episode of That 70's Show on Nick at Nite, which meant the cartoons were over and they went right into older people programing without us realizing itEric and Donna were kissing. Fully clothed. They weren't actually going to "do it." (Well, not during that episode, anyway.) But that wasn't the problem. S said something that referred to "sex" and she is only 6 years old. The hub and I had the following conversation telepathically:

The Hub: Did she just say what I think she said?
Me: YES!
The Hub: Do you think she knows what that means?
Me: I don't know. Ask her.
The Hub: No! YOU ask her.
Me: Oh no. I handled the last awkward parenting situation. It's your turn. YOU ask her.

The Hub:  "S? What do you mean, 'They're going to do it?'"
S:  "They're going to smooch."

Oh, thank God.

Having "the talk" with S has been on my mind since the ultrasound technician announced, "It's a girl!" Before S was even born, I vowed that I was going to be honest and open with her about sex and all things sex related. My daughter would know the proper names of the body parts and what they do and what they are used for before anyone one else could misinform her. Sex is a natural and a beautiful part of being human. BUT NOT AT AGE 6!!! I'm not ready. I'm not ready for her to be ready. She never once asked me how babies are made in all her 6 years. I didn't go into details when I told her I was pregnant with B. She never asked. I just imagined she would be much older and it would start off with, "Now that you're getting older, some crazy and exciting things are happening to your body..." then several years later, we would pow wow over lattes and I'd boldly tell her the real deal about sex and that boys in high school are stupid so don't do anything with them. Then she'd say, "Wow, mom! I'm glad I can talk to you about anything! I love you!" [End scene.]

After I tucked S into bed that night, I sat down and thought about what she said. "They're gonna do it." Where did she hear that from? From a friend? From a young relative? From the older kids in the back of the school bus? Yeah. That has to be it. Those naughty 5th graders at the back of the bus, gambling, drinking moonshine, smoking and looking at nudie magazines. S got it from them! Those older kids talked about sex, drugs, and Justin Bieber in front of my baby! Those little bastards!  

Typical bad 5th graders... in my mind anyway.

Ok. Maybe I'm exaggerating. But, admit it. You learned a thing or two about a thing or two from 5th graders on the bus when you were in grade school. I know I did. Truth is, I happen to know a couple of really sweet 5th graders that ride S's bus, and to the best of my knowledge, they have never gambled, smoked, drank, or looked at nudie magazines. The jury is still out on Justin Bieber. So it's not fair to immediately look to blame someone else. As it turns out, absent minded parenting was the culprit. S was simply repeating what she heard on the TV. We were not paying attention to what was on the channel. In fact, I'm not sure why the TV was even on since no one was watching it. S just happened to walk by and heard the line, "They're going to do it." You can watch it here:

It's one of my all time favorite shows, but I understand time constraints so fast forward to 16:37 to watch the scene that started this whole thing.

I wish this was the last thing S said to me that made my heart hurt a little this week. Yesterday, when she came home, S announced that the next day was K day of the ABC days of school count down. (The kids in her Kindergarten class do something special each day using the alphabet to count down the days left of school. A - Make Autograph books, B - Blow Bubbles during recess day  C - Get Cookies after lunch day and so on.) On K day or "King" day, the boys of the class "rule." I suppose they get to be line leaders or get to choose the story time book for the class or whatnot. S was not looking forward to K day but she is looking forward to Q day... "Queen" day... the day that the girls rule. 

S: Mom? Can I pick out my outfit for Queen Day? I wanna look hot!

[Record Stops... again!]

Me: Hot? What do you mean by "look hot?"

What I think she thinks "hot" means: 

But after talking to her, I learn that "hot" means this to a 6 year old:

Again, thank God.
So, the lessons I've learned this week are:

  1. Make sure the television is turned off if no one is watching it.
  2. The hub and I can telepathically communicate with each other.
  3. My daughter is still innocent and sweet and I shouldn't assume the worst... yet.
  4. I should probably cut MY television watching time down since all my references on this post come from TV or movies. I should read a book.
  5. I need to read some parenting books about talking to kids about sex and stuff like that because obviously, I'm not ready... yet.