Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hand Over a Whole Mango Please...

Included on the list of things my little girl has inherited from me are her eyes, the ability to roll her tongue, and a love of Free to Be… You and Me.

As a kid, I spent many happy hours listening to Marlo Thomas and Friends singing songs, telling stories and reciting poems. My brother, sister, and I even staged a live version at Thanksgiving one year. And now my old favorite is in heavy rotation on my daughter’s pink, pumpkin-shaped CD player.

I still know the album by heart, but I appreciate its gender equality message/agenda more now. My perspective has changed-- a point made most clear to me by one song, “Parents Are People.” Basically, the premise of the song is that both parents can be anything they want to be: moms can be doctors, drive taxis, or sing on TV; and dads can be writers, welders, or sail on the sea. The song points out that “when mommies were little, they used to be girls, like some of you, but then they grew and now mommies are grown-ups…” Of course, when I was little this song was about my parents and I imagined my mom as a rancher or a baker, my dad as a painter or a funny joke-teller. Now I’m the grownup. Yikes. How did that happen? (And what happened to the cool, anti-gender stereotyping job I was supposed to have?)

But children do forget that their parents were once kids (it’s so hard to imagine). Last month my son came home singing “Johnny and Suzie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…” This playground classic was new to him and hilarious. He sang it over and over (and over and over), but the version he had picked up ended with “then came the baby in the baby carriage.” At some point I absentmindedly chimed in with the ending I grew up singing: “sucking his thumb, wetting his pants, doing the hula-hula dance.” The record scratched. My son’s expression was caught between utter amazement that I even knew the song and utter joy that I had introduced him to a new verse (and a subversive one at that).

Just wait until we get to “Miss Lucy.”

My new favorite joke

A lion comes across a mouse deep in the jungle and roars out, "MOUSE! Why are you so small and weak and insignificant?"

And the mouse replies, "Well, I've been ill..."

My own personal Waterloo

The other day we had parent/teacher conferences at the kids’ schools which I always find a daunting process. For no good reason, I always feel like I’m the one in the hot seat, under scrutiny ( I say “I” because my husband almost never attends these events). Across the board thus far, my children have been blessed with fantastic, energetic and kind teachers (grovel, grovel) but I still find it awkward to sit across from someone I don’t know very well and listen to them dissect my child (and by extension, me) for half an hour. I wonder whether my facial expression is too eager and while I’m wondering that I probably appear more than a little vapid.

My two older children are relatively compliant, well-mannered and empathetic. I used to look down with benign condescension upon parents of misbehavers and their off-spring, believing that I had somehow cracked the parenting code and attained if not perfection, then certainly something close. And then Number 3 was born. Let’s call her Minx.

Minx’s “Twos” teachers summed her up as ‘defiant’. At three, she was upgraded to ‘passionate’, although the teacher had known her since birth so there might have been some bias there. Lots of words were used at her assessment last week, including loving, funny, bright, stubborn, strong and totally unfiltered. Apparently after a particularly trying school day, Minx will resort to nostalgia to make amends with her teacher: “Remember when I was born? Remember holding me?” As her parent, I was cautioned not to expect to exert much influence, something about just being along for the ride.

So I apologize sincerely to those families at whom I rolled my blinkered eyes. Apparently, I have two abnormal kids and one normal one and I mean that in the nicest way. No parent can control every situation (damn it). I’m just glad that when it came to the sequence of birth, I had Minx last. Accordingly, I always plan the parent-teacher conferences in reverse chronological order.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brace Yourself

What if I told you there was a product that could make you look and feel like a tweenager while also helping you lose weight? You’d want in, right?

Not so fast, my friend.

My miracle is also my mortification: Braces. Orthodontia. Tinsel teeth.

As part of a larger plan to try and embrace the inexorable approach of a four in my tens column, I am fixing some crowding in my mouth that has gotten worse over time. So far, it has not been fun. There’s the physical pain of the braces themselves— the pressure in my jaw, the raw skin inside my lip— and then there’s the mental toll.

First of all, it’s kind of embarrassing to be the only adult unaccompanied by a child in the orthodontist’s waiting room-- my minority status (further) driven home by the fact that the TVs suspended from the ceiling to distract me from all the tools and fingers in my mouth were tuned to Phineas and Ferb.

And I had to have a tooth removed, which has resulted in a hillbilly look that drove one friend to coin the (loving, I’m sure) nickname Mountain Dew. Flossing has become a Herculean task involving special floss and a fair amount of time. But that’s okay-- I can’t really eat anything because it feels weird and I don’t want stuff to get caught in my Jan Brady grill.

Which brings me back to where I started. I look like a misplaced middle-school student and I’m dropping weight like crazy. You in?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Don't Come Back Real Soon Now, Y'Hear?

What good is having other kids come over to play if my kids aren’t having any fun? If I’m forced to entertain, referee, and intercede, it’s not a playdate, it’s babysitting. Anyone else experience these playdate pariahs? Have one to add to the list?

1. The Bore. “I don’t want to play that.” “I don’t like that game.” “I don’t want to play outside.” Pssst. Hey, kid. You’re a kid. You play. That’s what you do. It’s kind of like your job. Do your job.

2. The Dumper. This peach derives some kind of twisted pleasure from opening up a bin of toys, emptying its contents on the floor, and then NOT PLAYING WITH A SINGLE THING before moving on to the next bin. The game is in making the mess, or maybe in watching your friend’s mom twitch.

3. The Picky One. Usually demands a snack at the outset. This is a trap. The picky one doesn’t like any food. Forget fruit (too fruity) and veggies (ha!)-- pretzels are too salty, crackers are too crumby, yogurt is too runny, granola is too crunchy. I actually had a kid wear me down to the point where I was offering oreos and mallomars and he still said no.

4. The Snob. “I don’t like tap water.” “Where’s your Wii?” “is this all the books you have?” “our kitchen is way bigger and nicer than this.” Charming.

5. The Bully. Initiates and sustains warfare against any and all siblings in the house. Secretly wants to play girl games with the little sister or just a jerk?

6. The Destroyer. Like the bully, except the naked aggression is aimed at the house. “I bet I can throw this car against the wall harder than you!” “Let’s see if we can jump from the chair to the sofa to the coffee table.” Let’s not. Let’s go outside. Let’s leave the dog alone. Let’s schedule the next playdate at your house.

Friday, March 26, 2010


We’re having some work done on our house. Joe, our carpenter/contractor, is someone I know fairly well and trust. And he’s got good people working for him. This is not the first project we have undertaken at this house, so I’m pretty familiar with Joe’s crew (although not familiar enough to ask whether Sixtoe is the man’s real name or… yeah, that’s why I haven’t asked).

This job involves the basement bathroom. At present there is no toilet in that bathroom so, of course, if the guy who is working down there needs to use the bathroom he’s got to come upstairs. It would be nice if he put the seat down when he was finished, but… whatever, maybe he’s just trying to remind me that he’s using the bathroom too. I’m a little messy.

Now, at some point in the past, a whole crew was doing outside work in the heat of summer and I said that they should feel free to grab drinks from the garage fridge whenever. ‘Whenever’ now includes “to go with whatever lunch you’ve brought from home.” Okay, fine. I made the offer and I stand by it. It would be nice if the empty bottles made it into the recycling bin, but… no biggie.

Here’s where it gets sticky. I went to grab a banana. I had just been to the store and had bought some green bananas knowing that I had one nice yellow one at home. But the ripe banana was nowhere to be found. Was I wrong? Had I already used the ripe banana? Or… No. Impossible. The guy working on my bathroom couldn’t have actually helped himself to a banana off my counter. He couldn’t have, right?

What a pickle. I mean, I would never have denied him a banana. I don’t actually care about the banana. But it just made me feel a little icky. I’m not here all day. What else is he helping himself to?

And then today I came home and he’s having his lunch at my kitchen table with one of my husband’s Diet Sunkists. When I came in he just kept on reading his magazine (or was it mine?!). Make yourself at home, dude. That’s weird, right? I felt so uncomfortable I had to leave. The topper: I turned on the TV tonight and it was on Telemundo. I think I have a problem establishing boundaries. I know this guy does.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Warming Up

All winter long I miss my summer clothes. Day after day it’s the same story: sweater, jeans, boots. Oh sure, I might change it up here and there and wear—gasp!—cords; but, really, by the end of December I’m practically on auto-pilot. Sweater, jeans, boots.

But, what’s this? It was 70 degrees here the other day. I raced to bust out the flip flops. And then I was like, wait-- what the hell did I wear all last summer? After spending 25 minutes trying to find something, ANYTHING, to put on my body, I had the same wake-up call that I have every spring: the one nice thing about my winter wardrobe is that it hides a multitude of sins (muffin top, lazy shaving habits and scary toes, to name a few). Ugh. And it all looks even better with pasty white skin. The groundhog would see me, go snowblind, and stumble back into his hole.

So, I got my pedicure, my waxing, and a new diet plan (deets on that to come). I pulled out the bins of cute dresses and skirts and tops (how I missed you black Carve from-poolside-to-dinner-out dress…). Presto. I’m all geared up for warm weather.

The only problem is that we’re back to 50 degrees. Yup. Sweater, jeans, boots. That’s okay. It’s coming. And I’m ready. I do love summer.

Chain of Fools?

I remember someone telling me that the first three months of motherhood are the hardest. You pay your dues in infancy then develop a bit of a life for yourself again when they reach school age. What rubbish! Oh sure, you can plan your week like you’ve got from 9 till 3 to yourself, go food shopping alone, start your 5 loads of laundry, pay bills, slip in a manicure or, dare I say it, have lunch with a friend – but don’t think it can’t all be taken away in a nanosecond. The leash of motherhood may be pretty (some of you have bedazzled it in rhinestones- you know who you are) but it is SHORT. Kid gets sick - YANK; Snow Day – YANK; I volunteered for what now? – YANK.

There are whole, phenomenal days when I feel like I have mastered it: the morning goes smoothly, lunches are made, bags are packed, someone says something thoughtful to somebody else and I think (phew) finally, I get how to do this. Without yelling too! But it is a false sense of security. Within an unreasonably short amount of time we have returned to complete and utter Greek-mythological chaos.

My first foray back into the workplace after 9 years, failed spectacularly. I was heading into the city to work for the day (hours of ironing were involved). I had all the kids ready to go to school/friend’s houses and was performing last-minute ablutions (which, honestly, is when things usually go wrong) and my son ran right through an interior glass door lacerating his forearm from wrist to elbow. Seriously, I can’t have two minutes to use the bathroom in the morning????!!! I called the taxi company, I called my boss, and I drove like an idiot to the hospital. Thankfully, he didn’t do any permanent damage and was the epitome of bravery. And, yes, my first call should have been an ambulance.

I have such a tenuous grip on freedom that it’s hard to make decisions well sometimes, like when your child says they don’t feel well but there are no apparent symptoms. Do I keep them home or do I not? Do I go to the doctor or do I not? I do go and it’s just a virus. I tell my daughter she’ll be fine and then she develops bronchitis. Why can’t they invent one of those medical scanners they had in Star Trek which tells you EXACTLY and IMMEDIATELY what’s wrong with you and sell them at a ridiculously low price at participating drug stores? Fact is, I should have become – or married – a doctor.

Before you condemn me to 30 lashings with a wet noodle and perhaps dial Children’s Services, I get that this is what I signed up for. I’m just griping about some of the fine print. I love being a parent and my kids are great people. I read somewhere that you must stop and savor your children every moment you get because the days of childhood are long but the years are short. Fine, but some days are just harder to palate than others.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Middle-child syndrome

Yesterday I looked up from my Starbucks coffee and high-brow discussion with my friends (why WON’T our husbands wear sweaters!) to observe a startling dynamic occurring in my four- year-old’s game with her friends (it was a controlled environment; she was never in any danger from my neglect). In their game of “Dogs and Owners”, the kids who were the second child in their family were, without exception, the “dogs” and the first- and third-born were the “owners”. This epiphany – I don’t have many insights so forgive the hyperbole - triggered flashbacks to my own middle-child experience.

My sister is two years older than me and until adulthood really, was the dominant personality. If she said I didn’t have to nap and could come out through the bedroom window and play with her, then that’s what I did. If she said the pretty-smelling soap in the wicker bowl at the furniture store was free and mine to take -she didn’t want any, thank you - then I took a bar (and later had to return the stolen goods with a VERY reluctant apology). If she said it was fine to run across a six-lane highway to hit up the candy store and then access an island in the middle of a river to eat our hard-earned bounty, you guessed it, that’s what we did.

Our family lumped us together as “the girls” – I have a younger brother too, but that’s a whole other pathology/story. We shared a room. Whatever gift she got in a beautiful shade of blue, her favorite color, I also got in a rather natty (NOT) shade of brown or green. My favorite color is red. On Christmas morning she would always wake up first, unwrap her stocking gifts and then wake me to inform me that I would also have a chocolate letter, a tangerine, a Now That’s What I Call Music Cassette and a six-pack of new undies … only in brown/green.

Of course this translated into playdates too. Somehow, whether I had a friend over or she did, I always assumed the role of the subservient. I was the backup singer to her Debbie Boone (“He’s a Rebel”), Sabrina to her Chris and her friend’s Kelly, Supergirl to her Wonderwoman and I was the brown –haired A from ABBA, never “the one with golden hair”.

At 13 I outgrew her, physically. I was taller, more confident and no longer second fiddle or so I thought. Alas, my height did not save me but rather recast me in the role of ‘the man’. I became Donny to her Marie, Buck Rogers to her Wilma Dearing, Dean to her Torville. I was Mr. Roark, Captain Stubing, both Hardy boys, Han Solo.

I realize now that our sibling dynamic was stereotypical and, honestly, could have been a lot worse. I think back on those roles now with much amusement and fondness. My sister is funny, creative and brilliantly cunning and like a dog and her owner, we are best friends. I hope my kids grow up to feel the same way.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Should Be Ashamed...

At the urging of my son, I indulged my Hello, Cupcake! obsession and set out to (try my best to) make some very adorable Pug and Bulldog cupcakes for his birthday celebration at school. At 11:30pm on the night before his big day, just as I was putting the finishing touches on my 30th and final dog, I heard my son come out of his room and throw up on the stairs.

Oh no! Poor Baby! Are you okay? Yes, yes, some combination of those words did come out of my mouth as I charged up the stairs, but here’s what I was actually thinking:

1. Holy crap. Ho-ly crap! There is throw up everywhere. Even on the walls. And all over his bed. And the floor. Must. Get. This. Cleaned. Up. Now.

2. I can’t send him to school tomorrow if he threw up tonight. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THOSE FREAKING CUPCAKES?!

Not Quite Physics

For every joy that comes with being a parent, every heart-swelling moment you try to etch into your brain so as never to forget it, there is an equally awful fear or anxiety. Like Newton’s Third Law of Motion, except, you know, about your kids and your own craziness. I’m going to call it the Neurotic’s Third Law of Emotion. I’ll leave coming up with the first and second for another day.

Think about it. There may be debate about when Life begins, but worrying starts at conception. “Yay, I’m pregnant!” is soon followed by plaguing thoughts about all the things that could go wrong in the development of the baby. Especially if you consumed six or seven pomegranate margaritas the night before you peed on the stick.

As your sweet baby grows, the Third Law of Emotion rears its head over and over. Most often in the form of developmental milestones. Should my baby be clapping? Walking? Talking? Cuckoo crazy. I remember one baby playgroup at which someone (it was probably me) was worrying about when her baby was going to be able to roll over. My friend Sara, super laid back as always, was like, how many otherwise healthy adults do you know that can’t roll over?

But we have to worry. And there are so many things to worry about — swine flu, speech issues, breathing disorders, is anyone making these kids wash their hands at school?, food allergies, bullying, cyber-bullying, peer pressure and on and on.

So here’s what’s making me crazy now. I say now but it has really been almost two years (and if I’m truthful, to way back before I even had kids). Lice. Holy cheese and crackers how these freaking parasites have turned me into a nutjob.

I always dreaded the day that my kids would bring home lice. I’m not a bug person at all. I’ve always been creeped out by the idea that they could crawl into my hair and I wouldn’t know it. So a bug that actually lives in your hair and lays a jillion eggs a day is kind of like my own horror movie. Dial L for Lice. The Lice Nit Project. Scream.

In the Spring of 2007, my two kids and I all got lice (my husband, strangely, didn’t). I held it together long enough to bag, wash, or vacuum everything in the house and become the most conscientious nit-picker in the world. I even went to someone and paid to have my hair and my daughter’s hair combed. Twice. We got the all-clear. And still, it took me until about late August to stop thinking every itch was a resurgence.

And then, in January, we got the dreaded note: “There is a case of lice in your son’s class….” Breakdown sequence activated! I checked my kids daily for the first month, panicking at every scratch (theirs and mine). I had to call the lice lady to have her talk me down.

Now here’s where the Neurotic’s Third Law comes in: the other night, my four year old had a nightmare and got into bed with us. She snuggled up to me and in the cutest, sleepiest, little girl voice said “I love you Mama. You’re the best Mama in the whole world.” And as my irritation at having been woken up at 3 a.m. instantly vanished and I snuggled her back I had a chilling thought: HER HAIR IS ON MY PILLOW!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

About Us (jump)

With a tip of the hat to Google and Dave Barry, we settled on Weaselsnot. Random, maybe, but also a perfect metaphor for our amusing, if insignificant, dribblings.

Why blog? Considering how many TV sitcoms we’ve watched in our lives, we probably shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that our families, friends, and suburban life provide us with enough laughs, frustrations, aggravations and salacious gossip that we feel compelled to start writing things down. (For amusement purposes mainly, but also because we secretly believe fake sugar is stealing our memories and we don't want to forget anything.)