Friday, December 11, 2009

All I Want for Hannukah is Privacy

You know, when your kids are little, you expect (well you resign yourself to) having no privacy. Whatsoever. EVER.

(WARNING: The following entry may be charged with TMI. Read at your own risk. And don't look at me funny the next time I see you. You WERE warned!)

No potty breaks, no shower time, no dressing with the door closed. Mom and Dad are on-duty and, apparently, need to be accessible at all times.

How many times have I solved crises while sitting on the toilet? I've tied shoes while in the shower. Applied band-aids while brushing my teeth. The last time I put socks on my children's feet that I wasn't at least partially naked? Nope. Can't remember.

With children ages 8, 6 and almost 4, we're gently moving out of that phase (praise the Lord). We're having discussions about appropriateness and our bodies, with a strong focus on modesty. This, amazingly, lets me turn those personal time/space moments into teaching moments.

We moms live for that stuff.

So imagine my glee when a teaching moment presented itself to me over and over the other morning with my oldest son!

Every time I sought some personal time -- bathroom, shower, other-grooming-that-I-don't-necessarily-want-him-to-see-but-he-always-asks-me-why-my-eyebrows-are-so-red-and-sometimes-my-upper-lip -- knock, knock...Mom?

At least he knocked. We are getting somewhere!

I fed him breakfast, packed his lunch and snack, went over homework with him, picked out his clothes, found his shoes (in various stages of undress) and so on, and there was never a question IN ALL THAT TIME.

The moment I go to the bathroom, BAM.

Apparently there was some confusion and concern on his end because Hannukah was listed on one calendar as beginning the 12th, and on another had a start date of the 11th. And so, he literally followed me around asking about it. He was very upset about it.

No, we're not Jewish.

So, why? I don't know. Well, ok, he's 8, he's curious about religions and traditions and all these new things he's being exposed to. Which is good.

But why did it never occur to him to ask me about it until I was mid-shower?

I think our children crave our attention most when our attentions are elsewhere. Even if they have non-stop attention all day long, they never want it until it's not available. Hence the toilet bowl dispute resolutions, or the half-naked shoe searching.

But one day, they're not going to "need" me for much. One day, they'd die rather than run the risk of seeing me naked EVER for any reason. Right now, honestly, that sounds like heaven. But I know, like everything else about parenthood, it's bittersweet. Still, a girl can dream, right?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Jail

Why are my kids so fascinated with jail?

You might even say obsessed. They draw towns in the driveway with sidewalk chalk, and there's always a jail. They sit behind the deacon's bench that resides in our TV room -- you guessed it -- jail.

My 3-year old in particular. He, somehow, realizes that this is the ultimate punishment, and will often, out of nowhere, exclaim that he never wants to break the law and go to jail.

Good boy.

Because I'm not thoroughly convinced that one of my other children might not end up there at some point.

So we're at WalMart one day, and you know how at the front of WalMart there are banks, opticians, customer service...little cubbies built into the store. Several of these "cubbies" in our WalMart are gated -- closed.

Tate thinks they're jail.

I've tried to explain what they are. I've tried to convince him that jail ALWAYS has policemen; that they don't put jails in retail stores; that criminals don't shop at WalMart (hmm, I need to think about that one). No dice.

And then there was that fateful day.

It was an accident, a lapse in judgement brought about by exhaustion and desperation. It was a weekly trip to Wally World where those of us who are net-not-working now frequent on a regular basis. It was one of those days. Tate didn't want to walk. He didn't want to sit in the cart. He didn't want to be carried. He didn't want his jacket, he didn't want his shoes, he didn't want new toothbrushes, he didn't want ice cream, he didn't want wine (I did), he didn't want the dog food, he didn't want to stop screaming, he didn't want to get. Off. The. Floor.

Having reached the end of my wits, I did the unthinkable. Pointing my finger, I showed him the caged up cubby. "You see that jail? And see that police man (security guard)? He's looking to see who's doing all the screaming. And if he finds you...."

He paused. Laying on the floor with spit in his eyes, he said "nuh-uh. jail's for grownups and I'm a kid."

Me: "Well, that's kid jail. That's for children who are misbehaving in the store and not listening to Mommy."

He thought for a minute, then got up, climbed in the cart, and he's never NE-VER misbehaved in WalMart again.

It's a lopsided victory -- on the one hand, I made him behave. Go me! On the other...well, I'm a little ashamed of myself. My mother is not pleased.

But honestly, who hasn't, in a moment of desperation, told a little (ok, maybe not so little) white lie to make an impression on a child?

Mom, you let that bald man in the Shop & Save tell Carrie (my sister) that if she kept twirling her hair (her bad habit as a kid) she'd end up like him. I don't think she ever twirled her hair again and don't tell me you weren't a little relieved. And yet also just a wee bit ashamed.

He's OK. Besides, I think a little fear isn't necessarily such a bad thing. Especially if it encourages good behavior.

Moms, we don't always do things the right way. But I think that if we can encourage good results, as long as we TRY to do it the right way MOST of the time, our kids will turn out just fine.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

8 Years Ago Today...

...my precious little miracle baby was born.

Time goes by so fast.

8 years ago, we were worried about buckling him into his carseat -- now I'm worried about him not being buckled into one.

8 years ago, he stopped crying and opened his eyes to look at me when I told him hello for the first time. Now he rushes out of the car to meet his school friends without even a goodbye.

8 years ago, he had chubby little cheeks. Today, he's all limbs and head, but he still has the cheeks.

8 years ago, he had a dusting of auburn hair, rosy cheeks and full rosebud lips. He was a beautiful baby. Today his hair is an out-of-control mop, but it's still auburn. Same little rosebud lips and cheeks. That beautiful baby has turned into a very handsome boy.

8 years ago, the doctors informed us that he had a birth defect that would require surgeries and years of monitoring, despite the fact that it was mild. To me, he was perfect. 8 years later, all is well and corrected and normal. And he's still perfect.

8 years ago, all he wanted to do was snuggle and be held. Now I'm lucky if I can get a hug a week.

8 years ago, he changed the world of so many people. That day, parents and grandparents were born. Great grandmas were born. And great great grandmas. Who knew then that such a little thing could turn so many worlds upside down?

8 years ago, I fell head over heels in love. 8 years, and counting.

Happy Birthday to my precious son.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

BooBoos and Big Boys

Earlier this evening we were at a neighbor's house enjoying a warm fire pit on a cool evening. It's been rainy and cold here for the last week, so the sunny, warm weather was a welcome respite. The kids were out, the adults were out...it was just a perfect, perfect afternoon.

My boys were playing there, along with two other pairs of neighbor boys. And my daughter. They were throwing the baseball and we watched and cringed as balls whizzed past kids on a way too crowded "ball field."

Sure enough, kids started getting hurt.

My oldest son, who's turning 8 in 16 days (who's counting, right?), got bopped in the cheek with a ball. He was very brave and I could tell he was trying not to cry, but I know my tough-as-nails son and if he has an inclination to cry after getting hurt, it must've REALLY hurt.

So I walked over to see if he was OK. I gave him a little hug and was hovering over him a little and...

he pushed me away.

I suddenly realized that the day I dreaded (him being too old to need his mom) was here. He was embarrassed. By me.

As a parent, you know it's coming. You understand. You realize it's time. It hits you that they're really not babies anymore.

But nothing prepares you for how it feels. Like a kick to the gut.

No, not the gut. The heart.

It's OK. I know now that he doesn't need me that way when he's hurt anymore. He's tough and the work we've put into making him feel independent has paid off. He's growing up and becoming his own person. That's it's own reward, isn't it?

Isn't it?

(Sigh) Yes.

So I'll just have to remind myself of that every time it happens.

Even as it breaks my heart.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compassion

Little Meems learned about compassion in her Kindergarten class last week. She happily defined it to me as, "like, when someone falls or something, you help them back up and pat them on the back and stuff..."

Poetry, sheer poetry.

A couple days later she wanted me to help her brush her teeth. She's 6, and we have to remind her relatively often that she's old enough to brush her own teeth, get the stool to reach her underwear drawer instead of making one of us come all the way upstairs to do it, button her own shirt, dry herself off after a bath...you get the idea. She loves the idea of growing up; just not so much the reality.

I (standard answer) said no.

"You know Mom, you could have a little compassion."

She said it in a singsong, teasing voice. And while I've no doubt in my mind she was merely flexing her new vocabulary muscles and trying to get her way, still I couldn't help but think about what she said.

Last night, she woke up crying for me. Once in her room, she informed me that she was cold. She wanted me to pull her the blankets over her.

I started to react...and then, like a whisper on the wind..."compassion."

Ignoring her dramatic moaning and groaning (I comfort myself with her imagined Oscar speech where she thanks me for all I've done for her) I arranged her covers, put socks on her chilly feet, rubbed her little cheek, gave her kisses and tucked her in like a burrito.

A little later, still awake, my husband and I heard her making creaky door noises in her room. Quite loudly. My hubby exclaimed "that child has lost her mind."

But I just smiled. I realized that instead of haunted house noises, we could be listening to hysteric, whiny moaning and groaning, had an argument ensued at her request. Instead, she was a happy, warm little girl trying to find a creaky melody.

In that moment, I admitted that she still needs to be babied, just a little bit. Because while she's ready to grow up, she's not ready to be all grown up. But what she also needs is a little more patience (and therefore compassion) with her process of doing so.

Besides, it turns out I'm not ready either.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Not Shamich, It's Shamich!

My 7-year-old son told me he needed some "prahbacy" this morning. "Privacy" for all you regular, non 7-year-old folk.

I started thinking about all the funny things they say when they're little and trying to figure out big words, just like they're trying to figure out the big world in which those big words live.

Fridgerfridger = refigerater
libulit = little bit
wuuuun minee = one minute
nahwynowinaminah = not right now, in a minute (it took us a REALLY long time to figure this one out)
i'm noying you = either "i'm annoying you" or "i'm ignoring you" - not sure which
bemember? = remember?
in a wipe = in Hawaii

The summer before Will started Kindergarten, he suddenly became very smart. Therefore, he felt compelled to share his sudden sophistication and intelligence with his far less worldly younger sister. In his newly found infinite wisdom, he condescended to correct her speaking on a regular basis.

My favorite examples:
She, as many kids do, said "shamich" instead of "sandwich." One day I walked in on Will correcting her, as (to her credit) she tried very earnestly to say it the way he was instructing.
Him: "It's not shamich, it's shamich!"
Her: "shamich"
Over and over. He had lost his teeth in front and didn't realize he said his "s" like "sh." Nevermind he was trying to say "samich," which is still wrong. Poor little girl was so confused.

One night I took them to Burger King for dinner. Excitement abounded in the back seat, and Meems, unable to contain herself, shouted with glee "I so cited we going to Burger Game!"
Will, with the air of exasperation that became all too familiar that summer, corrected her.
"It's not Burger GAME, it's Burger KEEM."

Oh worldly little one, I hope school can handle your beautiful mind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Mother's Love

Can anyone offer a fiercer love than the love a mother has for her children? You know, sometimes I'm amazed that I'm someone's mother -- times 3! And I'm madly in love with each one of them.

We tend to think of the expression "mother's love" in broad terms, or at least I always did (before becoming one). Mother's love can turn a troubled child around. Mother's love is strong enough to protect her little ones from harm's way, whatever the cost. Mother's love can heal all wounds. Mother's love is unsurpassed by all others.

Personally, I've come to realize that "mother's love" is most potent in little, everyday ways.

The way my son's hand barely grasps the sides of the dentist's chair as he's about to get his tooth pulled. I know he's a little anxious, no matter how calm he seems. That little movement, imperceptible to anyone else but me, conveys the bravery he doesn't necessarily feel, but is trying to muster. As I sit in the dentist's office witnessing this, I tear up. It's all I can do not to walk over and scoop him up in my arms. But he's almost 8, and, as hard as it is for me to curb my maternal instincts, I settle for a little hug after it's over. That catch in your throat when you instinctively feel your child's anxiety -- that's a mother's love.

Or the way my daughter spoke to all of her friends on the soccer field the other day. The other mothers merely assumed she was a friendly little girl. Only I knew the struggle the last year has been for her -- being moved back from Kindergarten to a JK program, having to make a whole new set of friends (who weren't always that nice), her confidence dashed by a series of circumstances that were just too much for her little 5-year old self. And here she was, after all the worry and despair and disappointments, with this sudden confidence. I caught a glimpse of the little girl I hadn't seen in a whole year. The relief, the pride and amazement and peace I felt...that's a mother's love.

This morning my 3-year old was trying to learn the names of Snap, Crackle and Pop. He was sitting, all alone, at the breakfast table, his brother and sister having long ago finished and departed to get dressed. He practiced them, over and over, to himself. I heard him whispering their names as he pointed at each one on the box. He was so serious and determined to learn something new. When he got them right, he gave me this little shy, sly smile. It's ridiculous, but the little gush of love I got after observing the intense determination to learn something new...well, you know.

Sometimes, the little things are really not that little after all. Maybe that applies to people, too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Picture Day

Sometimes, I just don't have the words. Luckily, pictures are worth thousands of 'em.

"4:00"
(Bonus points for finding the kid)


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Seriously???

More than anything, I want to raise children who are confident, independent, gracious people. I want them to be able to think for, and do for, and be themselves.

But sometimes I feel like I might not succeed in that mission.

If I hear one more "huh"? Sometimes I think I talk just to hear myself talk. And I'm starting to hate the sound of my own voice.

And the "doing things for themselves" part just confounds me. How is it that my 3-year old can get himself changed and ready for bed by himself, but he can't walk down the stairs because his legs aren't working? How can my 6-year old know all the words to "American Pie", yet can't get herself buckled in the car seat? How can my 7-year-old NOT know how to brush his hair or wipe his mouth? This is the same kid who rides his adult-sized mountain bike. WITHOUT HANDS.

Seriously??

Case in point. My husband is out of town, and I let the kids take turns sleeping in my bed with me. They're not allowed in the bed otherwise, so it's a real treat, apparently. Well, they fight over it, if that means anything. But it probably doesn't because they fight about EVERYTHING, including whose eyes are the most closed when they're sleeping (?). Anyhoo, my daughter slept with me last night. At one point she woke me up because she was cold and wanted me to cover her.

Seriously???

Later, after a bath, I ask her to towel dry her hair a little and she says "with what?" I've been towel-drying her hair since she had any, and granted she doesn't have the history with hair that most children her age have, but still! A. TOWEL.

Seriously????

And get this! I'm cleaning up the kitchen while the boys watch a movie in the family room. My oldest is sitting on the sofa, and all the remotes are on the coffee table IN ARM'S REACH and he asks me to hit play.

Seriously?????

Where, oh where have I gone wrong dear Lord? Is this my cross to bear for a previous sin? I repent, I repent!!!

I suppose, Mom and Dad, if you're reading this you're getting another good chuckle at my expense. I'm glad you find all this so highly entertaining, and I take comfort in the knowledge that one day that privilege will be my own.

Until then, "seriously???" pretty much sums up the next 15 years for my husband and me. Or so I think.

I can't get my parents to stop giggling long enough to give me a straight answer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Whew!

So, it's been a crazy couple of weeks here. Crazy good, which is a nice change from the usual!

First, an article I wrote appeared on one of my favorite local sites, RichmondMom.com.

THEN, my baby girl turned 6 and had her very first sleepover. Not much sleeping was done, but I'm not sure when I've ever heard her laugh so much!

After that, my hubby took me on a little vacay to South Beach and Key West. We rented a convertible, put the top down and trekked down the Keys blasting the Jimmy Buffet. Alas, it was only for a night, but it was a wonderful treat.

And while I was gone, another of my favorite sites, Babble.com, featured kikibOnan (the little business my sister and I created) in their Droolicious blog. So exciting!

But now I'm exhausted!

When's the next vacation???

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Big Jump

My little one got brave today and is now jumping into the pool.

Arms and legs spread all akimbo, mouth and eyes open wide...he puts his whole entire being into it and flings himself into the pool with total abandon. I laugh at how he always tilts slightly sideways, and how his mouth and eyes are as big as saucers and full of wonder when he resurfaces.

Life has been so crazy lately, and I've been so stressed and wound so tightly, that seeing him today was a much-needed reminder that the joys in life really are very simple, that no adventure is too small or insignificant, that whether it's baby steps or a giant leap from the edge of the pool...the point is, take the plunge. Live your life. Conquer your fears. Delight in the the little things. Believe in the magic of being a child at heart.

Today, he took one more step away from babyhood. And as much as I loved watching him, it was bittersweet. I scooped him up and smothered him in kisses and praise and...

He told me I was embarrassing him.

Oh well. It's just another gentle reminder to enjoy every little thing, because all too soon, it could be gone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Dixie Satellite

My son, at age 7, is already in some pretty serious orthodontia. Born with a cleft palate (and his father's overcrowding problem) we have to not only manage the growth of his repaired palate to make sure it's growing with him, but we also have to seriously make space in his cute little rosebud mouth for the giant chompers that seem to be sprouting up every day.

We've done the palate expander, and it definitely has helped. I actually see holes in his mouth where once upon a time there was nothing but a wall of teeth. Continuing on the expansion of his mouth and jaw, yesterday he got his reverse-pull headgear.

Bless his little heart.

For those of you who've worn it, headgear is a lesson in humility. I mean, what's more humiliating than looking like a Hannibal Lecter satellite?

The resignation and embarrassment that registers on his face when he puts it on breaks my heart. All that joking around we did, teasing him that he'd look like Saturn...well, it doesn't seem so funny anymore.

(To my sister, Carrie, I'm sorry I teased you about your headgear when we were kids.)

My job is to feel his pain and make him believe this isn't all that bad. It'll be our little secret. Just think, when all the other kids are getting this, they'll be preteens and you'll be done! It will be really hard for them, because no one wants to look like that when they're a preteen! Right?!

He doesn't really know what a preteen is. And honestly, why tell him what to expect? The anticipation would kill the poor kid. He's rough and tough, but he's got a soft, squishy center.

But he's brave and he's strong and he'll overcome this, the first in many, many trials of growing up.

And just think! His mouth will be even bigger soon!

Good for the teeth, maybe not so much for Mom and Dad...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kids Having Kids...Sort Of

Little Meems just came into the room where I'm sewing. Our exchange was so bizarre. And yet, it really was nothing out of the ordinary at all.

Her: "Mommy, can I change my shirt?"

Me: "No, just wear what you have on."

Her: "MO-om, please? I really want to change my shirt!"

Me: "No." (thinking of the massive piles of laundry I'm already facing)

Her: "MOM. I. WANT. TO. CHANGE. MY. SHIRT." Oh, the drama.

Me: "Meems, why do you want to change your shirt?"

Her: "Just because."

Me: "That's not a good reason." (Lord, I sound just like my mother).

Her: "Because I can't fit a baby in my tummy in this shirt, that's why. It's. Too. Tight." Arms and hands extended and head down in an exasperated, "I'm-trying-to-make-my-point-and-I- don't-possibly-see-what-you-don't-understand-about-this" pose.

And then she adds, with a air of supreme frustration at my utter lack of understanding: "Aye-aye-aye-aye-aye." Lady.

And, sassiness aside, BECAUSE this is SO normal, I don't bat an eye. Actually, I'm a little relieved that she only wants to pretend she's pregnant, instead of something else equally crazy.

Later, I round the corner with some of the aforementioned laundry to witness her admiring her preggo silhouette in the mirror on the stairs. Strangely, there are things tied around her waist, I'm guessing to hold the baby in her shirt. Swinging her hair down in her face and talking to herself and her imaginary friends about her pregnancy and her due date. And her other kids. Apparently, she's having a girl. To be named Jane. And she's due in June. Which I'm not sure she realizes is now. And HER name is Kate. After our friend Kate who's expecting and who Meems is obsessed with these days because of it.

Just another day in the life of a 5-year-old wannabe mom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Swim Meet

My son had his very first swim meet last night.

This is a sport with which I am both familiar, and yet not. I swim, but I'm not a swimmer. I know all the strokes, but I'm not fast. I know what I'm doing, but I'm not confident.

He is. And that's good. But, can I be honest here? I was a nervous wreck yesterday. All day long, a bundle of nerves. Anxious, dreading, stressed out...nervous. Why?????

Terrified he's going to freak out, terrified he's going to miss his event, terrified he's going to do the wrong stroke, terrified he's going to be discouraged if he comes in (gasp) last...

Me, not him.

As a mom I've learned to appreciate organization -- not my strong suit (ask anyone who knows me), but I crave it nonetheless. I had no idea what to expect, no clue what to do once we got there, no concept of what was going to happen. Show up by a certain time; these are your events (whether you can do them or not)...that's all the information we had. I was a hovering helicopter parent-from-hell -- making sure he was in the right spot, making sure he had his goggles, making sure they're on, making sure I wish him good luck. I was my own (and his, I'm sure) worst nightmare.

The kid...well he's amazing. Incidentally, the next meet I absolutely WILL NOT hover.

He finished first in his heat in the freestyle, and second in his heat in the backstroke. Regardless of where, overall, he finished in his events, I'm one proud mama, let me tell you!

The adrenaline is just pumping. Through him -- he's so excited. Through me -- I am too!

My son has done soccer, T-ball and basketball. Never, NEVER have I had the jitters I felt last night.

Lying in bed later on, it hits me.

You see, I have a love/hate relationship with swimming. Heck, with ANY athletics. I am not an athlete, no matter how hard I try. I have a very REAL fear of failing that, luckily-and-by-the-grace-of-God, my son doesn't share.

But you see, I was the kid who got picked last in P.E. I was the kid who signed up last. I was the kid who came in last.

To top it all off, I have a long and deep-rooted love/hate relationship with the pool. Swimming, diving...these are the things that color the nightmares of my childhood. Pneumonia the summer when I was 8 was such a welcome relief -- I didn't have to fail in the pool again!

So to see him succeed where I had always failed was breathtaking. He doesn't have my fears! He wasn't last. He didn't falter. He didn't fail.

He's everything I was not. Am not. To think of your child feeling like a failure, even when you know he/she's not...it's one of the worst fears you have for your children. Especially if you know what that feels like.

So THAT'S why I was so excited last night. THAT'S why my adrenaline was off the charts. THAT'S why my heart skipped a beat every time the buzzer sounded for the start of the race.

Maybe the apple DOES fall far from the tree sometimes.

Thank God. Because, worse than our children feeling less than adequate would be us, as parents, passing along our own fears and insecurities that paved the way for them to do so.

Or so I think.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hair Affair

My daughter is obsessed with hair. And it's because she has so little, even at age 6. Bless her little baby heart, the poor child's hair grows...well, it grows at a snail's pace. Really. She was almost completely bald until she was a good 2 and a half. I gave her her first trim just before she turned 3, because when her hair DID finally start to grow, it only grew on the sides. Like a man who's balding. Except in reverse.

When she was 3 and a half, inspired by her brother's haircut, she decided to give herself a trim as well. To illustrate how slowly her hair grows, we were still waiting for the trim I gave her 6 months before to grow back. She reached into the kitchen drawer, pulled out the kiddie safety scissors and SNIP. I walked in, saw the hair on the floor, the scissors in her hand and this hesitant little smile on her face. The hair on her scalp was, in essence, gone. It was maybe a half-inch long. I truly fought the urge to get sick.

It was devastating.

Not because it was going to look bad.

Because she had cut off almost 4 years worth of hard-earned, intensely wanted hair. After trying to calm her down (her hesitant smile turned to tears when she saw the shock and horror on my face), and cleaning up the hair and trying not to cry myself, I could do nothing else but survey the damage, reassure her that she looked precious and darling, make her promise to only let grownups cut her hair from now on, and send her off with a lollipop to watch a video. I poured myself a stiff drink and, when she was out of earshot, sat at the kitchen table and let the tears roll.

Which brings me back to the beginning. There's still not much, but what she has, when it's behaving, is really gorgeous. Big, loose, Campbell Soup Kid type curls. And since it's still short (despite the fact that we've been growing it long since last spring), it looks cute with her big bows and her deep dimples.

The funny thing is, now everyone gives her hair for special occasions. Wigs, hair extensions, ponytails...

My sister called to ask what Little Meems would like for her birthday. The only thing my daughter has asked for is a trash can for her room. So, knowing how fond she is of the hair my sister gave her for Christmas, and knowing how tangled and disgusting it is, I offered new hair as a birthday gift idea.

And I'm so excited!

The girl wears her hair. Everywhere. Until it's so matted and tangled that birds fly out of it when she puts it on.

Not long ago she wore it out to run errands. We went to Sherwin Williams, where she bellied herself up to the little paint bar they have and proceeded to play "moms" with her doll and her purse and her fake, 3-foot long Rapunzel ponytail. To say she looked ridiculous is an understatement. She was also wearing pink Barbie high-heel feather-boa mules and a raincoat with traffic signs all over it.

I caught the customer service guy ringing us up giving a little smirk over her way. Feeling defensive that he might be laughing at my little daughter, I was ready to point out how ridiculous those grommets were in his ears. GROMMETS. At which, by the way, my oldest son sat and stared, mouth open, trying to figure out what was going on up there.

I don't know if he thought she was funny, or cute, or ridiculous, or what. But as I finished my transaction, blocked my son's gaze with my body and told him it was time to go (flashing him one of those "we'll talk about it in the car" looks), I caught site of my daughter, in all her glory, walking out the store talking to herself and her imaginary friends.

The breathtaking feeling I got is the reason why I will go to the ends of the earth to arrange for her to have her heart's desire. I will continue to haunt drugstores, and take delight in, the search for the perfect hair.

I WILL get defensive about my daughter's wigs. Even if they're pink and she's wearing them to the playground.

Because, I can't give her what she REALLY wants. And that kills me.

But I can give her the next best thing!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blessed Naptime Victory?

My daughter (almost 6 - gosh I can't believe that) is asleep in the hallway upstairs. In the floor, with her blanket and pillow. Why? Because that's where she wanted to sleep (or so she said). And honestly I'm so desperate for her to take a nap, I actually gave her the OK. If I know my daughter, she was trying to catch me off-guard. Her motivation was not so much a change of venue as it was a reaction. She was pushing my buttons and I knew this because of the twinkle in her eye when she called me upstairs to say "look where I'm sleeping" (insert singsong voice) and the slight shock of panic and disbelief in those same eyes when I said "ok" and walked back downstairs. After some loud, off-key singing and little-brother taunting that ALSO got no desired response from me, she just gave up and fell asleep.

Yes, in the name of some holy quiet time, I had a battle of wills with, and called the bluff of, a 5-year-old. And she being as stubborn as she is, she was not about to move, so off to dreamland she went sprawled out in the middle of the hallway.

I can't believe it! In the epic battle of wills between the two of us, I won. Of course, I won by nearly surrendering, but victory, my friend, is sweet.

Turns out, it's also fleeting.

Because it has just occured to me this one true fact -- that I'm virtually a prisoner of my downstairs.

And the things I was counting on naptime to get done are all UPstairs.

But still...ahhhh...quiet.....

Monday, June 1, 2009

How Many More Days of Summer Vacay?

Two days in to summer vacay. This is how I feel. How much longer???

(Mmmm. You think they sell these at Starbucks?)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mean Girls

You know, one of the (many, many) things I was unprepared for as a mother was the social dynamics of childhood. Clearly, my memory is either very selective in that I don't remember a thing about it, or things truly have changed in the last 30 years. Were kids always this mean?

My daughter regularly comes home from school with tales of playground power struggles. This has been going on since she was 4. Best friends one day, not friends the next...it's a crazy cycle of meanness. Is it all about dominance and power? Are girls really that insecure that they need to be cruel to each other to feel better? This has happened at three different schools, with three different groups of children. It makes me wonder - is this an epidemic?

Some girls come by it honestly -- their mothers are the same way. So, is it nature then, or nurture? Or a little of both?

I try to encourage my daughter to always be kind. To always be accepting. To not let these things bother her. To branch out and seek other playmates when she's told she can't play. To be sure to let other children play with her, because to be told "no" makes you sad.

I'm not so naive as to think she always follows my advice. Heck, I'm not so sure I always follow it.

But the truth is, I know she's in for a long, hard ride. Because, at almost 40, I'm still dealing with it. I'm wise enough now to distance myself from toxic friendships -- the women that need to be queen bee. The ladies who deliver back-handed compliments, the moms who like to compete, the women who make a point of ignoring you, and then make a point of letting you know they're ignoring you. I feel sorry for those women. It's the playground all over again. Some people just never grow up.

It happens...but you can deal with it. And that's what I'm trying to teach my daughter. Be the bigger person. Don't let it get you down. Be secure in who you are. Know who your true friends really are.

But it's hard. How to resist the urge to tell my daughter that the reason that this little girl is being mean to her is because the little girl is immature and insecure. Explain THAT to a 5-year-old. When what I'd REALLY like her to do is punch the little girl's lights out. Or have a wicked comeback ready to put said little girl in her place.

But isn't that the problem? In encouraging my child to be mean right back, aren't I reinforcing what I'm trying to overcome?

Wow, it's hard to show kindness in your heart when you can taste meanness in your mouth.

But I'll trudge on, hoping that I can give her the tools she needs to overcome these dramas.

Until she has a daughter of her own and has to deal with it all over again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Itchy Buns

Of all my children, my almost 6-year-old daughter is the most high-maintenance when it comes to sleeping (luckily, I have extremely low-maintenance sleepers, so comparatively, it only SEEMS extreme). She has to have her blanket (this humongous, gosh-awful pink and purple princess nightmare) and ONLY her blanket covering her whole body, with the fuzzy side up and if it's cold, any additional covers need to cover her in a certain way. Then she needs to be tucked in like a burrito. After kisses, hugs, arm rubs, singing American Pie, nightlight, music on and door cracked just the right amount, oh, and more hugs, she's so exhausted she falls asleep right away. Whew!

Not uncommon demands for young children, no?

But when she wakes up during the night, this maintenance takes an unusual turn.

She's not one to wake up wanting water or because she had a bad dream. She awakes and starts screaming for Mommy. SCREAMING. Groggy and usually a little perturbed at her proclivity for hysterics, I stagger down the hall only to find that...she wants to snuggle. Or she wants her arm rubbed. Or she demands to know what we're having for breakfast. Or she has dry skin. Or her nose hurts when she pushes on it. Or her lips are chapped. Or she can't stop yawning (?). Or that her blanket has fallen out of her bed.

Really??

The latest? Itchy buns. Her backside.

Her buns.

It's the dry skin thing again, taking on a life of its own in the latest of her midnight afflictions.

Last night she called for me again. Not one to jump up and run down the hall at the first holler, I ignored it. Quiet. I must have fallen back to sleep. Suddenly, I awake with a start to find her looming over my head. In the dim glow of the 100 or so nightlights upstairs, I see her wild-haired silhouette.

Her: "My bottom itches." In her famous pre-hysterics whine.

Me: trying to comprehend what she's just said, "What?"

Her: whining more loudly, "My bot-tom ITCHES." You dummy.

I see that she's got her hands down the back of her pants, sleepily scratching her backside as hysteria starts twisting her facial features.

This has been going on for about a month now. Usually, I traipse back to my bedroom, rummage in the medicine cabinet for the Eucerin, traipse back to her room, apply the Eucerin, arrange her blanket and various and sundry other covers, and traipse back to my room to drop back into bed, usually with an exasperated sigh.

Tonight, I'm ready.

Me: "OK. Turn around."

Total confusion ensues (hers) as lickety split, I spin her around, dip into the cream, rub my hands together, and apply to the offending backside. Pat her gently, smile and say "There. Better?"

Her: "What just happened?"

Me: "You'll feel better in a minute. Now go to sleep."

Motherhood truly is a learning experience. And with any luck, she'll remember these times and be inspired and amazed by my maternal efficiency.

Or so I can dream.

But only if I can stop the buns from itching so I can actually get some sleep.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Me Likey (Are You Reading This Richmond Mommies?)

Hey Richmond Moms!

If you're in the Richmond area, check out some resources I've had the good fortune to stumble upon. You might even score for Mother's Day!!!

RichmondMom.Com
If you haven't been, go directly to this site. RichmondMom.com is an amazing site and excellent resource for all you local moms. Full of great articles, events and promotions, it's designed to be the ultimate resource for moms in our area.

Kate Hall, the creator, is a dynamic mom of 3 who was inspired by her children and her needs as a mom to create a resource for the rest of us. I had the good fortune of meeting her recently and she's sweet, smart and totally together. She's constantly building the site to include more and more resources that are important to moms, including great shopping deals! Yay!

Check it out soon, and often. And be sure to sign up for the Savvy Saver card for exclusive discounts to local retailers. For us recessionistas, sale is NOT a four-letter word!





Another gem you must discover for yourself RIGHT AWAY. Local aesthetician Peggy Cummings has developed a little enclave in the heart of Westhampton. It's an undiscovered jewel, a preppy-zen retreat, a little slice of heaven. And I bet you didn't even know it was there! Yes, right there at the crossroads of Libbie and Monument. If you've ever met Peggy, you know she has the best skin ever. And you know that skincare and makeup is her passion. She offers a full array of services (find her full line here). And be sure to check out her specials. If my skin would look like hers, I'd go every day!

Rosemary's Photography
Another local gem is Rosemary's Photography. She has a small studio in her home in the west end, and she does on-site work as well. Check out her galleries. Love this.


And this is one of my all-time favorites. She got this shot of my daughter at a 4th of July party. She's super creative, and she's super reasonable (and that's always a good thing).

Ask for Rosemary, and tell them Jennifer G. sent ya!



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dandy Lions

Spring is here and you know how I can tell? It's not the frigid, rainy weather we've had all March and April here in Richmond. It's not the daffodils blooming in my yard (they emerge from the dirt, but never bloom), it's not the three tulips out of 100 planted bulbs that weakly burst forth from the ground in my yard (are you sensing a theme...it's about my yard). No, it's not the azaleas that might or might not bloom this year and haven't seemed to grow AT ALL since we planted them two years ago.

It's the dandelions that have overtaken our yard.

But I'm not complaining. Because I LOVE the dandelions!

I might be the only one who does, but here's why.

Dandelions elicit such spur-of-the-moment sweetness and thoughtfulness in my children. Every day there's a dandelion or two being picked just for me. Waiting on the car seat before church, when I'm covered in dirt from planting the flowers that don't seem to want to grow in our yard, as I'm seeing kids off on the bus in the morning...

Children see color and easy access. To them, dandelions are beautiful. And because they spontaneously pick them and present them to me with a kiss and a hug for absolutely no reason other than because they love their mommy... it's hard for me not to think they're beautiful too.

Which is a good thing, considering our yard.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring

My son had computer lab at school today. I always love what he brings home, and have several very sweet notes that make me smile every time I see them.

Well, this is what he came home from school with today. Keep in mind he's in the first grade, so interpret using your best phonics skills. His teacher may be used to reading "first grade" but it's a little more difficult for the rest of us. My scanner isn't working, so this is verbatim.

Spring
I love SPRiNG becues we get to go to the pule. And im going to do swem teme this yere and cant wate I wontre wute teme nowone nows and I mite have to ware zukeny.

Translation:
I love Spring because we get to go to the pool. And I'm going to do swim team this year and can't wait! I wonder what team? No one knows. And I might have to wear a bikini!

Zucchini/bikini. Same difference.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Check me out, babe.

My oldest son is 7. Make that almost 7 and a half. That's important, you know, until you hit 22, when all you have to look forward to growing up is gone.

He's all boy. Rough and tumble and athletically blessed. Always on the go, never tired, never stopping until he drops. Since he first crawled, I've not seen legs that weren't covered in bruises. Or arms. Or his torso. Or face.

And girls! Girls, as a rule, make him gag. His little friends all had little crushes at their schools and daycares. Not him. Even now, in the first grade, there's no one at all that interests him. Which is fine. It'll come.

Except for a little girl in our neighborhood...

I say "little" but she's twice his age. She's adorable -- blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs. And she's cool -- the kind of kid who just is and always has been. The kind of girl who probably will always be out of his league. Bless his little baby heart.

Her little sister is my daughter's very good friend, and she often accompanies her mother and little sister on walks around the neighborhood. I'd noticed that my son would get kind of goofy and aloof in her presence, but it was always such a subtle reaction from him that even though I was surprised, I never thought much of it.

Until one night a couple years ago. Early Spring.

I'd given the kids a bath 0n the early side, looking forward to quiet, quality time with a glass of wine and my husband. Upon coming downstairs, I realized my husband was still outside, so the kids and I went out to see what he was up to (and to give him one final, not-so-subtle hint that it was time to go in). It was dusk, and my son had on these cotton pj's that had glow-in-the-dark rockets on them.

You moms know that unless they're fire-retardant, jammies are snug. And snug pj's, while cute, make skinny kids look slightly ridiculous.

He was 5, and he's just gotten a big 20" mountain bike that I'd found at a yard sale (he's been riding a 2-wheeler since he was 4. I told you he was athletic.) Cute big sister is riding her bike up and down the street. Before I can stop him, he's donned his Power Rangers helmet and is flying like a bat out of hell out of the garage, down the driveway and into the street on his bike.

Going for broke, his skinned and bruised little baby legs peddle as fast as they can. He's a blur of lit-up rockets shooting through space, as he races to keep pace with the big sister. He's gaining on her...faster...faster.... Gotcha!

He slows his pace, straightens is back and...

Cue Barry White.

"Hey girrrl. You feeling goooood? Mmm. You like what you seeeeee? Yah babe. You know? Mmmm..." He looks over at her with this come-hither, "check me out babe" look on his face. She's 9! He's 5! And a half!

And he's wearing tight glow-in-the-dark rocket ship pajamas.

With a Power Rangers helmet.

That's making his 95th percentile pumpkin head look even larger on his skinny little cotton pj-clad bod.

Whether she picked up on the vibes he was throwing her way or not I will never know. My guess is, yes, she did. He wasn't very subtle. At the very least, she was amused. Maybe she was flattered. Who could deny that he was the total package?

For me, it was an unexpected and very overt gesture of adoration from a shy little guy who so vehemently is opposed to all girls.

Two years later, he's still got a crush. We've teased him a little, but he gets really upset, which is how I know I'm right about it. Even though he denies it, I watch him now when she's around, and he still shows off for her, but in a much more subtle way. With a hint of shy embarrassment. I know this because he always cuts a glance at me when she shows up to see if I'm watching.

I am. I always will. I'm his Mom. That's my job.

It's endearing. And wonderful. And heartbreaking.

I wonder if, one day, he'll remember his crush. I wonder if he'll still think, many years from now, about this little girl and the power she had over him. I hope he does, and that the pajama story will make him laugh. I hope it embarrasses him just a little, but not too much.

Mostly, I hope he finds someone who moves him to do the wonderful, painfully awkward things he did to impress a girl when he was 5.

And this time, I hope it works.

Monday, March 16, 2009

American Idol

My daughter, in all her glory. We were thrilled to enjoy a rash of extreme patriotism last spring when her preschool taught her all the words to every patriotic song that ever existed. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. And my daughter, who adores singing, sang each one over and over and over again.
Alas, she has a voice only a mother could love.

What do you think, is she the next American Idol??

video

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bubble Burst

My youngest son recently celebrated his third birthday.

He's a typical third child -- hand-me-down clothes, hand-me-down furniture, hand-me-down gear. We, i.e. Santa, took pity on the poor child and bought him a John Deere tractor with trailer and bulldozer-thingy for Christmas, justifying ONE MORE RIDE ON TOY with the fact that he'd never had a new ride-on toy. Poor thing. He gets the rusty, but fully functional three wheel scooter with the Spiderman decal peeling off -- his choice, because there's a fairly new-looking non-rusty Disney Princess scooter that lights up, but he's got no interest in that one -- and thinks he's hit the jackpot because he has a scooter and he can hang with the big kids. And he actually rides the tractor. But only occasionally. And when his sister hasn't commandeered it for her "shopping trips."

Who drives a tractor with a bulldozer scoop to the mall?

Since he's the third, we've also scrimped a bit in the birthday party category. You know, grandparents, cousins, a couple neighbors.... He hasn't minded. He's 3. But, realizing that I have yet to enter anything into his baby book, and that his pants are slightly too short and that the poor thing has a drawer full of hand-me-down underwear (I know, but can't I use some of it? There's a small fortune sitting there!), I decided this would be his year for a party with some friends. Of course, his friends are all age 7 and older. And they were mostly mommy and daddy's friends. And the menu consisted of wine, beer, juice boxes and cupcakes.

I asked him what he wanted. "Fi- duh-man." He's fairly articulate, but he still has trouble with "sp" -- he says "f" -- and so...is that fireman or Spiderman? After asking him to clarify for the 100th time (still fi-duh-man, except with an air of exasperation and with his eyes bugging out at me), I ordered a fire truck and had Spiderman plates and cups. There!

Feeling pleased with myself that I was so on the ball with the fireman/Spiderman theme and having actual non-relatives at the party, I'm strolling through Target one day talking to my son about his party and a nice old lady overhears and asks him if he's having a birthday. He says, without any hesitation, that he is. Doing the proud mom thing I think, he must be so excited about his party to not even be shy with her! Until she asks him what kind. Gearing myself to explain the whole (cute, right?) fi-duh-man thing (remember, I'm feeling ridiculously pleased with myself), I'm jolted back to earth when he blurts...

"A penis party!"

She looks at me in shock. My face mirrors her expression, but with a healthy dose of horror added.

All I can manage to say is "um" as my face turns hot and my palms start to sweat.

Then she bursts into hysterical laughter. Stunned, and yet somehow returning to my senses, I apologize and encourage my son to do the same. He starts running around, gleeful that he's made a funny. She explains that she had boys and so she knows all about penis parties. And she walks off, still cackling.

Later, when recounting the experience with my husband, we had a good laugh. And it just goes to show you that as soon as you feel like you've actually done something right as a parent and you're feeling like an all-star, you child will decide to tell everyone he's having penis party.

Just to put you back in your place.

Etsy

Since I've been unemployed, I've had time to explore other interests. I'm looking at my new status as a chance to try new things and pursue my creative inspirations. No really. I'm finding the motivation to try new things -- things I wouldn't have had time to try before.

That said, my sister (who's also my best friend, but, alas, lives far, far away from me) and I decided to start a store on Etsy. She's got a wicked creative streak too, AND three children, AND no time, AND no money -- just like me! And kikibOnan was born.

The name is my nickname for her when we were kids. Don't ask, it's very complicated. Anyhoo...we decided to start sewing and now we've gone a little crazy.


We make appliqued tees and onesies for kids. Using our own kids as inspiration, of course. And, thanks to the blogosphere, we're now getting some props from our other blogging peeps! Check this out.

dressing-the-stars-with-etsy-suri

The little hot chocolate tee is a kikbibOnan original!

Yay us!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stir. Crazy.

I recently lost my job. Hey, the economy's a bitch right now. So while I've been home full-time recently, and with the rash of strangely frigid weather we've been enjoying here in Richmond, I've been stuck inside. A LOT. And I'm going stir crazy!

But not in the way you think. OK, a little bit in the way you think, but what I mean is, I'm in a redecorating frenzy!

Now that I have long stretches of time to spend in my rooms and really LOOK at them, I'm like, ugh. So I moved my daughter's and my son's rooms around, rehanging pictures (and in her case, hanging curtains that she doesn't need to hide the patch of wallpaper she peeled off -- another post for another day). Not satisfied to stop there, I've taken this opportunity to finish other projects -- I finished painting the trim in the playroom (and it only took me a year!) and now I'm making curtains. But now that I'm almost done with that, and before long-awaited warm spring weather robs me of indoor time, I'm going crazy wanting to paint everything else. My room, our bathroom, furniture...it's crazy.

But it's so easy. And so gratifying. And I'm a big fan of instant gratification. On the cheap, too, since we're down an income.

Speaking of paint, I love Sunny's Goodtime Paints. Now, I've never actually done any of her techniques, but I worked with her recently for some catalog shots for work, and she's one of the nicest, smartest ladies I know. Her work is amazing and creative and her techniques are actually pretty easy! I know! I couldn't believe it. And she has a great site that has tons of ideas, including a blog where she provides inspiration.
Right now I'm thinking of doing the stencil shown here to my downstairs hardwoods -- they're a mess and I'm too poor to redo them. Her stencils will really make you rethink "stencils." I think I've spent hours here.

Hours I probably should have spent actually doing something!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Be Still My Beeping Heart

My daughter is 5 and a half.

She's one of those "kids say the darndest things" kids.

Not trying to be funny. When she tries to be funny, honestly she's downright ridiculous.

What I mean is, she still mangles words and expressions. For example, we finally got her saying "girl" instead of "gwoyl." But now she can't say "grill." It's "girl." And she's just downright confused.

Sometimes I worry -- should this still be happening? I admit, it used to really bother me. She seemed too old to still be doing that. Especially considering how articulate my three-year-old is. But those are little memories you cherish and laugh about for years to come, and so I've decided that right now I can't bear to correct her. Is that OK?

Just the other day she came running into the kitchen with her hand on her chest and, flushed with excitement, stated "Mom my heart is beeping like crazy. I must be starving!" (Note to self -- review some basic anatomy with the kid) Keep in mind, this is also the same child who says things like "It's not your house" when I ask her to pick up her toys, and screams "your breath is bad" when I'm trying to explain why she's in time out, AGAIN. She's also the child who regularly threatens to run away and tells me God's gonna be bad at me for yelling at her. She's got the back-talking ability of a 16-year old. She could go head to head in a sassing contest with most of the teenage girls in our neighborhood, and win.

What gives?

So I won't correct her. For now.

Because we have plenty of time for that.

Because when she runs into the kitchen, cheeks flushed with excitement and eyes wide and tells me that she needs breakfast because her hear is beeping like crazy, I realize that it's all too soon that that innocence will be gone. And it makes my heart stop a little.

Be still my beeping heart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Well, I'm a little late on this, but no one who knows me would really be surprised. Each year, my resolutions include being more organized, better at correspondence and communicating in a more timely fashion. So far this year, I'm 0 for 3. So, that got me thinking, what about my other resolutions?

After much thought, I've decided to up the ante on my resolutions. Organized, communicative and timely aside, I thought about all the OTHER things that go unmentioned. Things I need to work on.

Which got me thinking even more (and I really don't have time to think, so I'm probably neglecting my kids with all this thinking -- make that resolution #4 -- think less) about resolutions. Because aren't they really just...true confessions? I mean, listing organization as my resolution is a roundabout way of admitting I'm a mess, isn't it? And if we label it as "true confession" doesn't that give us the ability to just come clean? Who doesn't like the thought of that? I do. Maybe it's that I've always been envious of Catholics -- I mean, they get to confess their naughtiness anonymously and feel better.

Well, I guess there's True Confession #1. And so here we go.

  1. I'm a flake. Always have been. That explains the three things listed in the first paragraph.
  2. I don't like gossip, as a rule, but I can't help succumbing to its powers occasionally.
  3. I still tell little white lies sometimes. Now, I value honesty. I really do. But sometimes those little babies are unavoidable.
  4. I still cross my fingers when I tell them.
  5. I see nothing wrong with buying a tub of cookie dough and never making the first cookie.
  6. I raise my voice at my children more than I would like to (which, of course, would be never).
  7. I don't necessarily believe that "money can't buy you happiness." Big picture (family, friends, contentment, love) -- no, it can't. Smaller picture (being able to pay the bills without holding your breath, replacing the sofa when it's threadbare instead of trying to cover it, not having to make a choice between which child gets sports/music/art lessons this time...) -- totally yes.
  8. I need to speak up more.
  9. I really am a mess. My poor husband...
  10. I am snarky sometimes. And judgemental. And critical. I believe that sometimes it's the only way to move on from a hurtful situation. Think about it. When you've been hurt, which works better, the "I'm OK, I'm the best I can be, I'm a beautiful strong person" approach? Or "You're a freak, your teeth are big and you need to pluck your eyebrows." Just as long as you're not like that ALL the time.
Whew, I feel so much better coming clean about my faults. Maybe my newfound honesty will actually help me overcome them this year.

Or, there's always next year.