"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Friday, March 27, 2015

commercialism

"Mom!" he practically screamed from his car seat on the way to preschool this morning. "Do we have Clorlox?"

"Clorlox? You mean Clorox?"

"Yeah! Do we?"

"Um. Why do you need Clorox? I'm kind of afraid to know, actually..."

"No, I don't need it now. Just in case. Did you know that if you get a huge spaghetti stain on a perfectly white tee shirt and you put it in a washer with Clorox and...well, actually, you need two perfectly white shirts with spaghetti on them 'cause then you put one in a washer with Oxi-Clean and, Mommy! THE CLOROX GETS THE SHIRT PERFECTLY WHITE AGAIN. The Oxi-Clean shirt still has a yellow circle of a stain on it!"

"I see. Have you been watching commercials, Max?"

"Yes. But do we have it?"

"We do."

"Oh, great! So we have the best one! And, Mommy, do you know why we still need Oxi-Clean?"

"Why, Max?"

"Because it's best for dishes.....but I learned that on a different commercial."



Lesson Learned:

It's working, Ad People. He's buying it hook, line, and... stain-remover.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

the school book sale

Every year our school has a Used Book Sale, where donated books are sold as a fundraiser for the PTO. Tonight was the night and, just before dinner, I told the kids "If you're going to want to buy books tonight, don't forget to bring some money. The books are 50 cents each."

While the boys ran up to their rooms, Molly sat on the couch reading books.

Evan came downstairs with a gold dollar coin. "I'm saving my dollars, but I've been collecting these gold coins from Pop and the tooth fairy. This one's from Pop. I'm only going to want to buy two books tonight."

Max called down for some assistance from Sam: "I need help opening up my piggy bank!" He, eventually, brought down a handful of quarters. "I'm going to buy every single Rainbow Magic book there is!"

Molly sat on the couch, still reading books, but now with her Elsa and Anna purse by her side.

When it was time to leave, I reminded them to grab their coins from the counter before putting on their shoes. Molly went to the mudroom and put on her red cowgirl boots. She was holding her Elsa and Anna purse like a little granny, in the crook of her elbow.

"Are you bringing your purse to school?" I asked her.

"Yes, for buying my books," she said.

"Oh! Of course!" I replied, "Let me just hold it for a minute while I help you put on your sweater."

As I took the purse from her, I noticed some heft to the otherwise near-weightless purse. I opened it up to find six pennies inside.

I don't know why, but I nearly cried.

"Oh, Molly! Is this your money to buy books?"

"Yes," she said, with a grin so big it threatened to turn her inside out.

"And you found this money all by yourself and put it in your purse?!"

"Yes! And Imma buy LOTS of new books!"

***

She bought her books, and proudly showed them to every person we passed in the hallways.

Lesson Learned:

This girl. I swear. She kills me, every day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

signs-of-SPRING mission: accepted

I've been lecturing. Raising my voice. Losing my cool....a lot lately. One of my kids, who shall not be named, has been going through a tough time. He's testing me. He pushing boundaries. He's yelling. He's being unkind. This is not something we have not been through before. It seems every six to nine months or so, Evan just Can Not Deal. (Whoops. Looks like I named him. But you were going to figure out which one it was anyway in just a minute...)

Sam and I have slowly come to realize (over and over and over again, yet somehow, it seems as though for the first time every time) that Evan needs to be in control of his world...and that's pretty hard when you're only seven and people are telling you what to do all the damn day. 

So, control we will give him...when we can (non-negotiables, of course, will include school, health/hygiene, safety, and how he treats others). We're not really going to be giving him more control, because we already run a pretty loose ship around here when it comes to the little stuff. But we're going to be making all of those little choices he does make every day blatantly overt: "Evan, where would you like to sit to eat breakfast?" (Even though he's sat in the same damn stool at the counter for breakfast Every. Single. Day. since we've lived in this house.) "Evan, what clothes do you want to wear tomorrow?" (Even though he picks out his own clothes every day anyway.) "Evan, would you like to do your homework first or play Minecraft?" (Um? Hmmm....I wonder...)

And, so far, it seems to be working. 

It's working so well, in fact, that today, when we were outside enjoying this glorious spring day, hanging out with our wonderful friends and neighbors, I did something that I don't always do: When he came up to me (though I was just about to engage in a long-overdue catch-up chat with my friend) and asked, "Mommy? Will you play Crusades or Viking Warriors with me?" I said "Yes."

[I mean. Seriously. Could the kid have picked a WORSE game for me? I don't even know what the Crusades were except for the fact that it somehow involved King Richard...and I only know that from Robin Hood (animated version, naturally). And war games? Ugh. Fake battles and shouts of "Man down!" and "Get my artillery guys up here, stat!" I mean, what? Where does he even learn this shit?]

Yes, Love. We shall play Crusades. I would be happy to. Unless...........maybe I could distract him from the Crusades with a different, even MORE awesome idea!

"Or, buddy...Do you want to go on a mission? Take my phone and explore the whole yard in search of signs of spring! Take pictures of every sign of spring you see and report back to headquarters!"

"Um. No. I want to play Crusades."

"I want to go on a Signs of Spring Mission!" piped up Max, from across the yard.
"Yeah, I want to, too!" said his sweet friend.
"And me!" chimed in me-too Molly.

Well, looks like those three will be occupied....I guess Crusades it is.

After a solid 20 minutes (though it felt much, much longer...you know what they say, Playing War is Endless. They say that, right? Never mind. Playing War is Endless TM. There, now it's a thing.), Max and the Spring Sleuths came back with their findings...and they're awesome.

Unfiltered, un-retouched, un-photoshopped...these are Max's original Spring Mission Photos:

  





...and then about 30 more, too. Which, I think, confirms it: Spring Has Sprung.

Thank god.

Oh, and the Vikings won the Crusades. But they got help from some back-up troops (the Americans, the Italian Alliance, the French, and the Romans). So...you know. God Bless the Church of England. Or whatever.

Lesson Learned:
Breathe deeply. Say Yes. The kids will be alright. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

runaway

I'm ready for spring.

Have I made that abundantly clear?


*****


My family has had a lot of togetherness lately. It's wonderful, of course, until it isn't. Snow days as bookends on either side of a family vacation have meant that the kids and I have endured nearly two weeks spent in very, very close quarters.

This is not difficult because I don't want to be with my kids. This is not difficult because I don't know how to keep my kids happily occupied at home. This is not difficult because we haven't had outside time (although we desperately need more that will come with spring). This is not difficult because my kids don't get along (although sometimes they don't). This is not difficult because my kids are little shits (although they certainly have their moments).

This is difficult because I am an introvert.

I need alone time.

I try to carve moments out of the day here and there....though I haven't had a true nap time lately, we do have daily Quiet Time, during which we non-nappers each have some time apart; reading, writing, or playing independently. When Sam comes home, I disappear behind my closed bedroom door for half an hour to write or do some yoga. But I needed more. By yesterday afternoon, after a particularly difficult day (and a particularly shitty attitude of a certain 5-year old...), I couldn't breathe.

"I'm going away tomorrow," I greeted Sam as he walked in from work. "I don't know where I'm going but I'll be out all morning."

"Stay out all day!" Sam countered, "We'll see you at dinner."

So I went.

I took the long way to town, blaring Sirius as I drove, singing (terribly) along with every song that came on. It's amazing that, with Mommy Brain affecting my ability to string sentences together, I have such solid lyric recall for so many mid-nineties hits. When I arrived, I walked through a couple of stores...taking my time more than I can with my toddler tagalong in tow. I browsed.

I'm at a cafe now and I just ate a lunch that I didn't prepare--a whole lunch! Not the leftovers from my kids' plates. I ate sitting down. I'm not going to wipe any hands or mouths, other than my own, and I won't have to finish chewing a bite while assisting a 3-year old on the potty in an Emergency Potty Situation.

It's been a great morning.

But I'm ready to go home. Sam took the kids to the library and I want to find out if Evan was able to find the third book in Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicle series. Did Max find some fairy books in the Rainbow Magic series that he hasn't read yet?

I miss them.

How strange.

Lesson Learned:

An introvert needs space. But this one doesn't need too much: Just an occasional morning runaway, then I'm craving their stories and snuggles. I think I'll linger here at this cafe just long enough to enjoy an uninterrupted cup of tea...and then it'll be time to run back home.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winter, We're Done: A Break-Up Story

As I sit here drinking my cup of hot coffee, watching the snow fall outside my window and listening to my kids bicker after not enough school and too much togetherness, I'm struck with a single thought: Winter, We're Done.

It's March. My daffodils are starting to peek up through the mulch. I'm ready for short sleeves and warm days at the park and open windows and sunshine. I'm over you, Winter...but it's not because I don't like you.

I chose to live in a place where I would experience all four seasons and, while I might have a special place in my heart for late spring and early fall, I love each of you because mostly, I love the change. But damn, Winter, talk about over-staying your welcome. Where were you in December when we were all eagerly awaiting cozy jammy days and mugs of hot cocoa? Where were you when we were dreaming of a white Christmas? You showed up in January and it was beautiful and fresh and quiet and perfect--the start of a wonderful relationship. Then you hung around in February and it was sledding and snowball fights and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? and Yes! Yes, we did! We were happy. We were comfortable.

But now it's March, Winter, and this just isn't working for me anymore. I need to move on. I'm ready for crocuses and picnics and water balloon fights. I'm asking you politely to please just go. Don't be that guy who hangs around post-break-up, making it all weird for everyone.

To be perfectly honest, you're already making things kinda weird for us. You do realize that you're responsible for creating the newest battlefield in the Mommy Wars, right? Here we were, finally starting to realize that it doesn't f*ing matter if you breast or bottle feed, or co-sleep or Ferberize, or stay at home or work full-time. We were finally starting to just Live and Let Live.

And then, you came in.

You and your Snow Days.

Do you want to know what's clogging up my Facebook page these days?

"Ugh. Not another Snow Day. What the hell am I going to do with these kids all day?"

...to which other moms are responding along the lines of: "You should be be happy to have extra time with your kids. Don't you love them? Why'd you have kids if you don't want to spend time with them."

On the flip side, there are the posts like:

"Hooray! Snow Day! I just LOVE these extra days with my sweet kids! I hope we NEVER go back to school!"

...which make all the moms who are pulling their hair out as their kids beat the shit out of each other with foam swords feel like they're failing at Snow Day Parenting.

Can you believe that, Winter? This is how we're talking to one another and how we're making our fellow moms feel now and, while I'm not saying it's all your fault, I'm just saying that we didn't treat each other like this in the fall....

And don't even get me started on the damage you've done to the relationship between parents and school systems. Regardless of the weather and regardless of their decision, schools can't win when it comes to Winter Weather cancellation and delay policies.

"School is CANCELLED? But there's only the CHANCE of snow! Who's in charge of making these decisions anyway?!"

"Two-hour delay?! There's no WAY I'm putting my kid on a school bus with these road conditions! Who's in charge of making these decisions anyway?!"

"With all of these snow days, we're going to be going to school until the Fourth of July! Good luck getting the kids to pay attention!"

It's like one big bitchfest around here, Winter, and I just can't listen to it anymore.

So, I'm ending it.

I'm ready to wash those snow pants and mittens, pack up the boots and sleds, and ditch the hot cocoa for lemonade. I'm ready for Spring.

Lesson Learned:
It would be easier to quit you...
I just wish you weren't so damn beautiful, Winter...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

that time I actually did have skin cancer

About a year and a half ago, I hurried in to see a dermatologist for what I was sure was a melanoma. It was a shiny, black spot on my forearm that I had not noticed before. Ever since my sister was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma almost nine years ago, I've been keeping a close eye on my skin and this new, sinister-looking spot had me worried. After (not even really) diagnosing me with nothing more than black spot poison ivy, the dermatologist said he didn't want to see me back in his office for another six years. Six years? I remember thinking...even with a first-degree relative with a history of melanoma?

I figured I would go back, though to a different doctor, for regular skin checks anyway, despite his recommendation. In the meantime, I noticed a mole on the top of Molly's scalp. It is flat and even and light in color, but I wanted a dermatologist to take a peek at it out of an abundance of caution, so I went ahead and made a couple of appointments for this morning.

After a brief run-down of my family history with skin cancer, the (new, and lovely) dermatologist began her head-to-toe exam on me, before checking out Molly's mole.

She shined her big, bright, fancy light on my face and immediately said, "It looks like here we have some basal cell skin cancer."

Um. Wait. What?

"There are also a few very faint 'wisdom spots,' which are perfectly normal..."

"Um, hang on. Going back to the skin cancer?!"

So, apparently, I have skin cancer. But if you're going to get skin cancer, basal cell skin cancer is the kind you want. It is slow-growing and very unlikely to metastasize. It can be removed surgically. She will do a biopsy of the area to confirm that it is, in fact, basal cell skin cancer but, based on her diagnosis by sight, she is "certain" it is.

In about a week, once the biopsy results come back, she will refer me to a Mohs surgeon, who will perform a special, microscopically-controlled surgery to remove the skin cancer. The cancerous skin will be removed layer by layer and then analyzed to ensure that a clear margin of tissue is removed around the cancerous skin tissue. It will be fine. I will be fine.

And then, I'll be on a six-MONTH (not six-YEAR), skin-check schedule.

I'm so, so thankful for Molly's mole (which is perfectly normal and perfectly fine to monitor at this point, rather than go through a traumatic removal process at this age). It forced me to go with what my instincts were trying to tell me all along: Have yearly skin checks.

And wear sunscreen!

I will. And so should you.

Lesson Learned:

Getting older sucks.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

33 things about my Dragon Lady

My littlest baby is three years old today. Can I still call her my baby? I can. And I will. She fills the role of the "baby" of this family so perfectly, a role I didn't know she was destined to play until the moment she was born. In that moment of unmedicated-labor-induced clarity, I knew Molly would be our last...our forever Baby.

On this, her third birthday, instead of writing her a letter, I'll simply jot a list to record this moment in time. This moment of her life that is moving and changing so quickly. This moment immediately preceding a time when a potentially fearsome Dragon may rear it's nasty, 3-year old head. It's okay, she's my third. I know what's coming.

Here are 33 of my favorite things about my favorite just-barely-a-3-year old:

1. Her hair. I love that she has such opinions about how she wants me to style it. Most days she wants it "low in a pony." Other days she'll want a head band or a barrette. My favorite days, of course, are the ones she requests either "Elsa" or "Anna" braids (1 or 2, respectively).



2. Her eyes. They sparkle. They are deep, denim blue. She stares into my eyes, inches from my face, her hands on my cheeks. She opens her eyes wide or squints one eye to make a Pirate Face. She rolls her eyes like a tiny, adorable tween-wannabe. She furrows her brow and cocks her head to one side as she asks a million times a day, "But why?"

 

3. Her laugh. From her adorable little tickle giggle to her full-on belly laugh to her totally fake "innit dat so funny, guys?" laugh at her own jokes...she kills me with her laughter. I'm a lucky mama to be able to hear it every day.

4. She calls bananas "pooblanas."

5. She calls anything small "little teeny tiny."

6. She sighs and says, "Never mind" at completely inappropriate times, like if I say, "Molly, it's time to brush your teeth." 

7. ...and then, if I say, "I do mind, come on in and brush," she'll dramatically drop her arms and say "Rhine!" which is how she pronounces "Fine."

8. I love that when Molly sees a baby, she smiles sweetly and says something like, "Oh, hi, cutie baby!" before running away shrieking, "Ah! That baby's going to touch my stuff!" Like I said, she was born to be the Baby.

9. But her love for her Baby Dolls is unwavering. 


 

10. She knows exactly what she wants to wear everyday, and it's always a dress. And if she must wear a skirt, it had better be twirly. Bonus points if it's also sparkly. Do not offer her jeans. She will throw them.

11. She knows exactly what shoes she wants to go with each outfit. They are rarely sensible, as she tends to choose glittery, sparkly, strappy sandals or shiny "clippy cloppy" shoes or her red cowgirl boots. If she's going for a hike or to play on the playground and you want her to choose sneakers, make sure you call them her "super cute, super fast, super green sneakers" and she'll allow it...but just this once.


 

...but, oh, those boots...

 

12. She's so ladylike that, now that she Uses The Potty, she insists on going to the bathroom even when she just needs to pass gas. She says, "Mommy! Potty! But I jus' need to fawty fawt." And I die every time.

13. Like every other kid her age, she loves Band-Aids. She calls them "Bayn Ayns" and they must have princesses on them thankyouverymuch.

14. When sitting on the couch to read or watch a show, she needs to be on a lap or sitting so close she's touching the person next to her. She does not sit alone.



15. Her sense of humor. This kid is funny. On purpose. She's wacky, and goofy, and clever...although she not above falling back on the old stand-by potty humor for a cheap laugh from her brothers. (Um, and me and Sam.) 

16. She still climbs into our bed every night. 

17. From very early on, Molly had exceptional fine motor skills. I love to watch her manipulate tiny pieces, color so carefully, place stickers so precisely. She loves Small Things...or, as she would say, "Little teeny tiny things." 



18. She's a vegetarian. Actually, aside from the fact that I bake with eggs and she'll eat a piece of pizza occasionally, she's vegan. Other than the one bite of a chicken nugget she accidentally ate about a year and a half ago, she's never eaten meat in her life and she doesn't drink cow's milk. Thank god Evan's nut allergies are not contact reactive...she lives on cashews, peanut butter sandwiches, almond milk, and fruit. She's my little teeny tiny baby bird.

19. "Hol' me, Mommy?" a hundred times a day. Yes, please, Baby.

20. After reading a book together at nap time, I lay with her as she falls asleep. Sometimes she wraps her hand around my neck and twirls my hair, our noses touching...




21. ...other times she turns away from me, as if I'm not there, soothing herself to sleep by singing quietly to herself...

22. ...but she doesn't sing lullabies. The other day, it was Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." Before that it was "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction. She's into pop.

23. Molly has never spent a day of her life in school, but man, is she ready. When we walk into the preschool to drop Max off in the mornings, Molly takes off her coat and makes herself at home. I'm sure there will be some separation anxiety at the beginning of the school year next fall, but I'll be able to handle that knowing just how much she's going to Thrive there.



24. She's a great helper in the kitchen. I mean, really great...like the best kind of toddler helper. She's not the kind of kid who wants to "help" and ends up spilling a five-pound bag of flour all over your pantry or splattering batter all over the kitchen. When Molly "helps," she watches while I do the messy things. ("You do the eggs, Mommy. They're so yuck. And the sugar. It spills all over the place. You do all it, Mommy. I don' want my clothes to get so dirty.") Then she, maybe, sprinkles some chocolate chips on top of the muffin batter. Or not. Maybe she'll be the taste tester. Or not. Really, she just wants to stand there, hanging out, chatting, letting me do what must be done. 


25. She calls cantaloupes "cantamelons" and carousels/merry-go-rounds "merrosels."

26. She has dance moves like Elaine from Seinfeld.

27. She has such a Big, Loving heart. Her brothers push her buttons, as big brothers are wont to do, and she inevitably ends up yelling at them to "Dop it, E'an! Dop it, Mats!" She'll stomp away, often towards me, so she can tell me all about the injustices of being the Little Sister. She'll take a hug, allow me to wipe a tear, then she'll drop her shoulders and look at the floor. She'll walk back to her brother, the one who (it's true, though I say it doesn't matter) started it. "I sorry for yelling at you, E'an," or "I sorry for pushing you, Mats," she'll offer, which usually then elicits a half-hearted apology in response. She'll smile big and hold out her arms, "Huggie?" she'll suggest. Heart of Gold.


28.  She is an absolute Book Lover.



 

29. She can raise her voice, and hell, when she feels like she's not being heard. She Will be heard. Oh, yes. My little Dragon Lady will Roar. And I'm thankful for that. 

30. She will play any game, at any time, with her brothers. From Lalaloopsies to Lego to Attack of the Zombie Pig-Men from Mars, Molly wants in on the action.

31. She gives great, tight, arms-around-the-neck hugs...



32. ...then she pulls back, puts her hands on my cheeks, kisses me on the lips, and says, "I love you too tight, Mommy."

33. I love the way that, through the very act of Being Born, Molly filled up my heart and our family. She completes us.

Lesson Learned:

And that doesn't even scratch the surface. I love everything, Every Thing, about you, sweet Molly. Happy, happy Birthday. Be nice to mama, this year, okay? I know three is hard. But we can do this. You can do this. [smooch]


Here's a little photo montage of Molly's year. Stay tuned until the end to check out some of those Elaine moves for yourself:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYuVckoiX1w&feature=youtu.be