Saturday, October 31, 2009

Creative Packaging

Over the last couple decades, Doug and I have had the pleasure of attending several concerts and sporting events, and the displeasure of paying $7.00 for a beer way too many times. I know that some people will say that it's possible to enjoy a hockey game without drinking, and obviously those people are crazy and need to do a couple Jello shots.

Before the days of full body pat-downs and bag searches, we would occasionally put a couple beers in our coat pockets. This technique had it's seasonal limitations, and often resulted in warmish, foamy beer since I have a tendency to skip down sidewalks.

Once we had kids and started taking them to some of the events, and I was hauling a ginormous tote/other people's shit/diaper bag, I started smuggling in juice boxes, Twizzlers, a bag of peanuts, crackers, etc. Technically you're not supposed to bring outside food into any venue because they want you to spend, spend, spend, but I have yet to come across a security guy that can look at my kid that has been well-trained to look sorrowful and say no.

More recently, this bag has been used to smuggle not only fruit snacks, but vodka. But since you can't just drop in the handle jug from Costco and walk through the gates, the packaging requires a little bit of creativity. I've used a refillable water bottle a couple times, and if the kids are with me it works. But Metallica was a different story.

It turns out that the security guys at a Metallica concert are kind of suspicious of everyone. Since I was hauling a giant momma tote bag, but had no kids with me, I suppose I looked extra guilty. He found my water bottle, which was wrapped in a sweater, in record speed and after I pleaded with him and tried to convince him that it really was just water, he pointed me toward the nearest garbage can and told me to throw it out. Doug just stood behind me, trying to hide his shame. As my girlfriend and I sadly walked toward the garbage can, she noticed a ticket line right by us that had no security and shoved me toward it. The vodka was stuffed back into the bag, the tickets were scanned, and we were good to go. Did this moment make me proud? Absolutely. We just saved at least $60 on cocktails!

After this incident, though, I realized that I needed to step up my efforts. After a little brainstorming with one of my husband's employees (yes, he has kick-ass employees), we came across the perfect vessel...a tampon box. Six 3 oz. refillable plastic bottles fit in the box, leaving just enough room for a bag of wedged limes. I filled four of the bottles with vodka, two with gin (clearly labeled, of course), and re-sealed the box shut with some double-face tape. I put it in the bottom of my bag, threw in some trail mix and Fun Dip's and after admiring the results, patted myself on the back. It was perfect.

During the Miley concert, one of my guy friends wanted to make a drink. It was great watching him fish through a tampon box to find the vodka like it was perfectly normal, and of course there are limes too!

Yes, my kids know that mom is sneaking in booze and I hope they're paying attention to the techniques being used, because when their old enough to drink, think of the money they'll save.

Friday, October 30, 2009

If That's The Look You're Going For

The flat tire on my minivan was probably a sign. The fact that my neighbor who was kind enough to give me a ride (she was going anyway) was at risk of running out of gas on the freeway was definitely another sign. But I ignored all of it, subjected myself to the Miley Cyrus concert, and I can safely say that my daughter, unlike 96% of the other fans, was not dressed like a whore.

I know that it's difficult to buy cute clothes for girls, specifically a 5 year old that weighs 31 pounds and has no ass. It's almost impossible to find something that doesn't say "Daddy's Little Princess" or have bears, bows, balloons, or bears wearing bows holding balloons on it. One walk through the aisles of Kohl's results in nothing but scratchy fabrics in Pepto Bismol pink, gathers at the shoulders, shirts printed with kittens and glittery hearts, and yes, even some of the dreaded eyelet lace. I don't think I'm being unreasonable, wanting to find something for my kid to wear that won't get her beat up on the playground.

As I discovered last night, though, apparently the main goal of some girls is "I want to wear something that will get me picked up on the playground." I don't consider myself naive, prudish, or completely clueless, but maybe your daughter shouldn't be wearing a size 6X miniskirt when she's actually a woman's size 10. The number of exposed guts (yes, I said guts), sleeveless tops, black leather boots with platform heels, and ass-exposing skirts eventually overwhelmed me and I had to self-medicate with alcohol. I was grateful for the fact that I had a friend by my side that was willing to take the same approach.

The saddest thing for me was that it probably wasn't long ago that the majority of these girls played with stuffed animals, could put in their own pony tail binder, and were genuinely excited to finger paint. Now, someone knowingly lets them wear false eyelashes, makeup, and a Bump-It wedged into the back of their hair. And since when does a 7 year old wear a black lace bra?

Earlier in the day, I had asked Zoe if she wanted to go shopping so we could buy her a new shirt for the concert. She gave me a bewildered look and said "Um. No. I have shirts in my closet. Even one with a sparkly star on it. I don't need a new shirt. I don't want to go shopping." Now I know for sure that Daddy's Little Princess is being brainwashed by her father.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yes, They Get It

Watching your kids grow up is pretty amazing. Between mastering the alphabet, riding a bike without training wheels, getting on the school bus, and learning to not point at people while you laugh at them, a parent definitely feels a sense of pride.

An area of growth that is often overlooked is a kid's ability to identify great TV shows that incorporate a decent story line, great writing, memorable music and a little bit of dark humor. There is a lot of crappy programming created for kids, but with a little bit of parental influence, someday they will be able to choose shows that will make you proud.

A couple weeks ago when Zoe was sick, she rediscovered Dora, and basically the entire lineup of Nick Jr.'s mind-numbing shows. Although it's funny to listen to Zach and Charlie's MST3K-like commentary, we eventually had to take back control of the remote since a person can only hear "backpack backpack, backpack backpack, backpack backpack, gooey geyser, backpack backpack" so many times before they will voluntarily rip their own head off. And I'm pretty sure that a future episode of Max & Ruby will include a visit from Child Protective Services.

Lately, the kids have been watching classic episodes of Looney Tunes. I'm happy to say that even though they are seeing, on average, 526 acts of violence per episode, they haven't asked for anything from ACME, started carrying around meat cleavers, and they're not hoarding sticks of dynamite. Instead, they laugh at Porky's speech impediment and love to watch Bugs dress in drag over and over again. I, on the other hand, had forgotten how much I love Slowpoke Rodriguez. You gotta love a mouse that loves tequila.

When the WB started running edited versions of South Park, I was ecstatic. It was like South Park for Beginners. I don't let my boys watch the show without me, because first of all, I love it and don't like to miss it. But also it's a great opportunity to see just where their moral compass is pointing. Do they recognize the fact that it's not very nice of Cartman to always make fun of Jews? Or fat women? Or the handicapped? Or poor people? And that he's greedy, selfish, and rude? Yes, and even though they know he's a foul character, they know that he's funny as hell. They also know that he's fictional and if they were to ever act like that, I would be forced to make empty threats.

Zach is old enough now to watch a lot of unedited episodes of South Park, but I still watch them without him first, just in case. When I find one that I know he'll love, and he laughs at all the right spots, it makes me laugh even more. Also, it's a reminder of just how educational junior high is, and how important it is to remember...a teenager knows more than you think, and he knows why it's funny that the Jonas Brothers were spraying little girls with their hot, white foam.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Angry Eyes

After having kids in the house for 13 years, I have definitely dealt with my share of tantrums and public meltdowns. All of them, except one, have been executed by Zoe. She is independent, stubborn, outspoken, smart, and demanding. Someday all of these traits will help her kick ass. Right now, they just get her in trouble.

Her public meltdowns used to occur in the grocery store on a fairly predictable schedule. We'd make it through produce without any conflicts, but then we'd get to the bakery where she'd make the horrific error of picking an oatmeal raisin cookie instead of chocolate chip. Instead of just saying "Ewww, raisins" she'd instead hurl the offending cookie across the aisle and collapse into a sobbing heap. I would just stand there and ignore her, feigning interest in the hot dog buns.

When Zach and Charlie were little, I could actually say "I will not bribe/beat/scream at/swear at/threaten my child" and actually mean it. Zoe has made things a little trickier and as a result, I've had to rethink discipline.

Have I bribed the girl? Why do you think she has so many nickels in her piggy bank? Bribes have ranged in size from a roll of Smarties to small change to an overpriced plastic Schleich animal at Target to DVD's. No matter what child experts say, bribes work and I don't see a lot of lasting damage being done. When you want them to sit still in a restaurant, exit a store, or put their butt in a dentist chair, nothing works quite as efficiently and quickly as a piece of candy or a small toy.

Do I yell? Yes, but I try not to all the time. Sometimes, though, when dinner fails to cook itself, kids are fighting, the dog is barfing, and the weather forecast says 42 degrees and rain, I just need to yell. And sometimes, even when things seem to be going well and one little thing pisses me off, I yell. I know of a mom that was really not very happy the other day because she was dealing with an avalanche of misfortune, and while communicating her displeasure to her kids...she accidentally mangled the double stroller with her car. I can totally identify with this type of anger, and fortunately I just sold my last stroller on Craigslist.

Have I made threats I have no intention of keeping? Does "I'm pretty sure Santa will be leaving you a big pile of nothing this year" count as a threat? Yes? Well then, let's just say that threats have ranged from not taking the offending child on a family vacation to spending an entire day sitting on the naughty step. I may have even said "You know what, I think I'll just leave you at the bookstore." And by the way, nosy old guy wearing the Members Only jacket who gave me the look, I obviously wouldn't have actually followed through with it, at least not for more than a couple minutes. And don't stare at me with your mouth hanging open.

Do I swear? Fuck no. At least, not at my kids.

Do I spank? I will be honest and say that yes, the girl has received a quick butt swatt on the few occasions when she has completely lost her mind and is about to do bodily harm. Now, if you ask me whether I use a wooden spoon or a belt, I'll just say that if you walk around with a wooden spoon sticking out of your purse, waiting for your kid to be naughty, you may receive more than a few raised eyebrows. And please use the belt for what it's meant for, to keep your pants up.

Lately, the meltdowns have pretty much disappeared and the spontaneous rage is under control. There are still moments, like after sitting at a tennis tournament for 8 hours, that I can see her getting a little feisty. But in these cases, I can usually just flash her the angry eyes or grab her upper arm and, pushing my thumb into that little spot two inches from her armpit, definitely get my point across.

This morning I was telling her how important it is that she doesn't act insane or go out of her way to be naughty when her brother is babysitting. She said "Okay. Because otherwise I won't go to the Miley Cyrus concert. Or to the basketball game. Or trick or treating. Are you mad right now? Cuz your eyes look kinda mad." I guess she's catching on to how things are done around here.

When she figures out that the threats never stick and of course I'll take her to see Miley Cyrus, I can always take her DS away for a couple weeks. That is a threat that I always follow through on.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Introducing Alex

A couple months ago I found myself actually having to be productive and take the dive into domestic bliss. Since this prevented me from making mosaics with dried beans, having a Candyland tournament, or my personal favorite, playing Go Get Mommy a Beer, I let Zoe play on the Mac for a couple hours.

Assuming that she was wrapped up in a captivating game of helping Spongebob brush his rotting teeth, I cracked open the cover of my new InStyle magazine. Suddenly, she came sprinting out of the computer room and ran up the stairs, yelling "I'm so sorry! I'm really, really sorry! I didn't mean to break it! Something's so wrong!" These are not my favorite words to hear, and are pretty much the opposite of "Excuse me, but can I get you another martini?"

I put my magazine down, went to investigate the source of her sadness and discovered that she had been screwing around with the system preferences. Everything on the screen was white on black, the contrast was set up to resemble a Red Hot Chili Peppers video, the text was in 85 pt. font, and best of all, she discovered "Alex, the voice of Leopard." Alex's job is to give a play by play of what you are clicking on, and the way Zoe had it set up, he was saying everything really loud. It was like Alex with a megaphone. I guess I should have been thankful that she hadn't selected Bruce or Fred as the Mac voice, because those guys really get on my nerves.

Basically, she had the computer set up for the blind, deaf, and technologically challenged. I attempted to turn down the volume, but unfortunately she had reassigned the volume keys so that pushing them just made the windows fly around the screen.

After the computer was returned to the point where a non-deaf/blind person could operate it again, Zoe came creeping down the stairs, still apologizing, and was relieved when I told her that nothing was permanently damaged. Sadly, though, she also found out that her Spongebob time was over. And no, mommy wasn't getting out the Play-Doh either.

Yesterday, when Zach was on the computer working on English homework and listening to some piano music on YouTube, I was congratulating myself on what a fine child we've been raising. Here he was, writing insightful comments about "Flowers for Algernon" and listening to Debussy, and wait...what was that? Did I hear Alex? Sure enough, while playing around with the right-click he found the "speech" option, was highlighting text, and then laughing as Alex read it back. He then typed "$$$$$$$$$$$nvfngkvesrngviewngvouerhv; the hippo ate the lion quickly" and, while Alex struggled with the gibberish, followed by "the hippo ate the lion quickly," I have to admit it was pretty funny.

For some reason, this made me imagine someone turning on the closed captioning while watching porn, which made me laugh even more.

They Didn't Say Anything About a Crowbar

Zoe came home from kindergarten today with an assortment of paperwork; a worksheet emphasizing the letter T, a notice that a child in the classroom has flu-like symptoms, and a newsletter with information about the upcoming Halloween parade.

The Halloween parade consists of all the kids in the elementary school putting their costumes on and walking through the halls, where parents are crammed in with cameras, waiting for that 2.3 second window when they can catch a blurry shot of little Frankenstein or Princess Jasmine sprinting by. Or, in more recent years, Pimp Daddy or Hooker Harriet.

The newsletter is very specific about what is allowed and what you should leave at home. No masks, face paint, hair dye, fake blood, S&M accessories, guns, knives, grenades, machetes, throwing stars, swords, rabid animals, or anything that would be considered religiously or racially offensive. There goes my idea to dress Charlie as a pregnant nun.

I know that there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence in the school, and obviously anyone with a brain knows that a kid should leave weapons at home, but wouldn't it be nice if the policies were a little looser for Halloween, as long as the accessory is clearly made of plastic and necessary for the costume? Any kid that is weird enough to voluntarily dress up as a policeman knows that a cop carries a Glock 17. He doesn't catch the bad guy by bludgeoning him with a breadstick and then giving him a good talking to.

I used to be really motivated to keep all toy weapons away from my boys. I thought they were unnecessary and that they would never miss what they never had. We were going to be a weapons-free household! But after Charlie, at 2 years old, nibbled a graham cracker into the shape of a gun and started shooting his brother with it, I realized I was being unrealistic. Now we have a "weapons drawer" in the playroom, a "weapons basket" in the garage, and yet my boys still haven't shown any desire to harm small animals or rob banks. Plus, watching graham cracker crumbs shower the floor gives me way more anxiety than watching Charlie pelt his brother in the head with Nerf gun darts.

A girlfriend of mine has a kindergartner who has been busted a few times for head-butting his classmates. Is my friend a good parent? Absolutely. Is her husband a champion UFC fighter who is teaching his son some really cool moves? Not to my knowledge. Does this kid head-butt because he plays with swords and guns at home? No. He head-butted Little Travis because he was using a creative way to get his point across, and honestly, Little Travis probably had it coming because you can only steal someone's crayons so many times before you have to deal with the repercussions.

Zoe wore a pirate costume to school a few days ago to celebrate the letter "P", and the first thing she said was "Cool! Where's my sword?" For the Halloween parade she'll be wearing her fireman costume, and although she won't be bringing her ax to school, she's going to be really pissed off if someone takes away her crowbar.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

He Took a Dump Where?

Cosmo, our rat terrier, has been a great family dog and we've had him around for 14 years. Sure, there are quirks...he eats frozen shit in the winter like it's a delicacy. He has allergies at the end of the summer that cause him to lick his paws until they look like they've been dipped in red Kool-aid. He doesn't really know any tricks, unless you count "get your cold slimy nose off of me" a trick. He pretends he's deaf and blind unless bacon falls on the floor, and every morning after he eats and takes a dump he deals with a red rocket. Trust me, you really do not want me to go into any further detail on that last bit of information.

Basically, though, he's a good dog. He rarely barks after dark because he knows we'll kick his ass if he does. He has never eaten any stuffed animals, shoes, toys, furniture or video game controllers. He doesn't bite strangers, and is always patient around little kids. He has never ran away and loves to chase the geese out of the yard.

Unfortunately, the last few weeks have left us looking really hard for those redeeming qualities. Just how many times can a geriatric dog shit/barf/ shit/shit/barf/barf/shit on the floor before we say adios? The last few times that I've bought the 15 pound bag of dog food, I wonder "is this the last bag of food I'll need to buy?" or even "maybe the 8 pound bag would be enough." It's horrible to think that way, but I'm just trying to be realistic.

Honestly, I think dogs have it pretty good at the end of their lives. When they get old and lose their eyesight, hearing, tolerable body odor, control of their bowels, and can't drive their Buick faster than 43 mph, they can simply get a shot to put them out of their misery instead of asking someone to change their colostomy bag. When I think of it this way, it makes the end a little easier to accept.

The Sacrifices We Make

Last night was a demonstration of how my husband and I are willing to step in and do the responsible thing, not be selfish, and put our own lives aside. I'm tearing up now just thinking of about it.

After Zach won his tennis match, we were going to stop somewhere on the way home for a Friday night beer and let the kids hang out with us. Then, since not everyone appreciates being at a bar with 3 kids coughing in harmony, we realized that this maybe wasn't the best idea. Nothing ruins happy hour more than getting nasty looks from a bunch of drunks and having the occasional lime wedge chucked at your head. Plus, it was time for Zoe's evening dose of antibiotic.

So then the plan changed to racing home, giving Zoe a mild sedative and putting her to bed, and leaving Zach to babysit while we went out without them. While this seemed like an easy task to pull off, we ran into a couple snags. The fact that Zoe wouldn't stop galloping around the house singing a song about "ride 'em cowboy in Texas, horses horses horses" at the top of her lungs delayed her bedtime. Also, we were both ready for a beer now, not 45 minutes from now. So, within seconds of Doug saying "We could just stay home and pursue our quest toward alcoholism" I heard the comforting sound of a beer can opening, and we started inhaling chips and salsa that didn't cost $10.95. Sure, we couldn't swear nearly as much as we wanted and the people watching wasn't as entertaining as it could have been, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

I eventually told Zach and Charlie that, since they were both still coughing, I wanted them to go to bed by 9:30. I got the expected response of "What? You're obviously (cough cough) insane (cough)." but they headed up anyway, at 9:40.

"Just once," I whined to Doug. "I wish they would actually take me seriously and go to bed at the time I tell them to!"

"You surprise me sometimes by being so trusting," he said. "Tell them to be in bed 20 minutes before you actually want them there. You definitely need to become more cynical."

He did have a point, and that is something I'm definitely willing to work on.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Party for What?

When my oldest kid started school, I was introduced to the process of subtly screening the other parents and putting them into categories. There were the crafters, the over-eager-to-volunteer, the enablers, the over-educated and the ones I could actually be friends with. Now that my youngest has started kindergarten, I am faced with a whole new crop of parents to weed through and I don't have near as much patience for this process as I used to.

Yesterday, one of the mommy's (Let's call her Ione, short for "I only have one child") left a message for me, using her most exasperated tone:
"Hi Zoe's mommy. It's Ione. The RSVP cut-off was yesterday, and we are wondering if Zoe will be able to make it to Suzie's Halloween party on Saturday. I need to know right away because I'm trying to assemble the party bags and organize crafts. Please call me right away because this is really important to Suzie. I know that all of the girls in the class are coming, because their moms RSVP'd already."
Apparently, while I had been dealing with my germ infested family last week, I overlooked the critical RSVP for Suzie's week before Halloween party. I'm guessing that the main reason Zoe was invited is because word got out that she is dressing up as a fireman, complete with crow bar and ax, and they want her there in case any of the highly flammable princess costumes go up in flames.

With 3 kids, a science project, two tennis tournaments, eradicating a gallon-size pickle jar worth of germs from my house, a geriatric dog that won't stop barfing, and the occasional need to pee, I'm happy to throw together a couple costumes and buy some extra sugar to hand out to the tricksters...on October 31. Needless to say, keeping track of an RSVP date to a middle-of-a-Saturday-you-don't-have-anything-else-to-do kindergartner's Halloween party wasn't exactly high on the list of priorities. Making sure I have cider to add to the Captain on October 31, definitely a priority.

After listening to Ione's message 4 times for clarity, I had heard bags and crafts. I've seen a couple articles recently, supporting my belief in the banishment of party bags at birthday parties and criticizing the trend of inviting entire classrooms to get pedicures or go on a helicopter ride. I'm ecstatic about the fact that my boys are finally at the ages where the frequency of birthday party invites is diminishing, but just when I was choreographing my dance of glee, I find myself right back in the land of Who Can Overindulge The Most.

Needless to say, Zoe is busy on Saturday. She'll be at her brother's tennis tournament, being deprived of all joy and forced to go without craft time and the bag filled with whistles, bracelets and spa gift cards. Unless, of course, she has a relapse of last week's illness. In that case, she might make a surprise visit.

I Thought I Was Messed Up

Zoe's dream last night:

"I got out all of the broccoli from the refrigerator, and you got pretty mad because then there was broccoli all over the floor. So then I got out the potato chips instead, and took them to the store and sold them so that lots of people could have the potato chips. And then I came home and played with Tiger, who is my friend, and did you know he looks kind of like Diego from Ice Age? And I hid in the kitchen, with the potato chips, and Tiger found me."

I should probably reevaluate my organizational skills for the drugs, since clearly the Children's Motrin shouldn't be kept right next to the acid.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It Came With What?

Over the last week, my family has been a cornucopia of coughing, sore throats, fevers, one episode of barfing, H1N1, sneezing, and general discomfort. Somehow, though, I have managed to stay completely healthy despite the fact that I am constantly showered in a fine, sometimes chunky, mist of germs. It's been seven days of living in a drug-induced fog, and two of the kids have been on Motrin pretty consistently.

Zoe decided to make her medical encore in the form of an ear infection, so yesterday we finally decided to throw caution to the wind and, after fastening all of the buckles on our Hazmat suits, headed to the doctor's office.

The doctor confirmed her ear infection, pulled enough wax out of her ear to make a pillar candle (Q-tips don't fit into her petite ears. I've tried.), called in her prescription and sent us on our way.

We headed to Target to wait for the antibiotics, and I figured since the poor girl just endured a week of feeling like shit and then hearing me say "Don't touch anything or I'll have to cut your hand off" no fewer than 83 times at the clinic, I probably owed her a toy. She skipped happily to the toy department and, with frightening efficiency, chose a Playmobil equestrian playset. Since her brothers had also been sick, she picked out toys for them, too: a keychain and a microscopic Super Mario action figure.

When Zach and Charlie got home from school, she gave them their presents and waited for the thank-you's. Zach asked me if she got to pick out anything for herself, and I gestured over to the new Playmobil's. The boys walked over, looked down, and then looked at each other and started laughing. Charlie reached into the pile of plastic horse legs and fences and said... "Holy crap. It came with a whip!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No, My Name's Not Sarah

Being adopted from S. Korea as a baby by a caucasian family, only to grow up in a school district where I pretty much represented the minority population, had it's ups and downs. The ups are that I had a family that loved me. The downs...There was a blonde neighbor girl who thought it was funny to call me "Chink" every time she saw me. I hated going to Chinese restaurants because the employees always assumed I was an exchange student, looking for a taste of my native land. Some people were confused by the fact that I didn't love to take pictures, and I frequently amazed strangers with my excellent English. When it was discovered that I was good at math and played piano, it wasn't considered to be shocking news. More than a few people increased the volume and slowed down the pace when they talked to me. Apparently, the "you're a moron" look that I have worked so hard to perfect is not universally understood.

The craziest thing by far, though, has been the phrase "you look just like ____." I have been mistaken for that one person that plays volleyball at Hamline (she might be Asian), one lady's own daughter (I'm not kidding), and countless distant cousins (but it's never my own family member that asks). I've been asked "did you go to high school in ___?" (they never ask Forest Lake) too many times to count, "do you know my mom?" (No), and "did you used to work at TGI Fridays?" (Hell no). One person asked me if my name is Sarah. When I informed him that I was not Sarah, he replied "Are you sure? You look just like Sarah."

Perhaps it's these experiences that make me a little bit jumpy when it comes to strangers making generalizations about my kids. When one individual found out that my boys play piano, she said "Well, of course they would be good at piano. Because, you know..." Since she seemed to be waiting for me to fill in the blank, I offered up "because they have hands?" Instead of taking the hint, this lady kept jamming her foot in her mouth and corrected me by saying "No, because they're Oriental!"

While at a tennis tournament, a boy who obviously considered Hostess as a main food group walked by my 11-year old and said "stupid Chinaboy." Charlie informed me of this incident when he saw the boy waddling back to the concession stand for more sustenance. I know I could have just ignored the name calling, but instead I poked a finger into his doughy shoulder and informed him, very clearly, that he was kind of a creep and that walking around calling other boys such creatively challenged names wasn't really acceptable. Waste of breath? Probably. Gratifying? Definitely.

Numerous people have told me how much they love the Microsoft ads because the little girl working on the computer "looks just like Zoe!" For one thing, I write on a Mac, so I don't pay attention to Microsoft ads. And besides the fact that the person in the tv spot is a girl and has hair, she doesn't look anything like my daughter. Someone could say that she looks just like Venus Williams, and I would actually see the resemblance, since Zoe does have a great forehand.

There's a lot of assumptions that can be made about almost everybody. Belong to a country club? You must be an asshole. Live in a trailer? You have a lot of recipes for Spam. Stay-at-home mom? You must be an alcoholic. Just remember, though; when you assume, you make an ass out of you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Everything in Moderation

I spent the majority of today at a tennis tournament, watching parents hover over their boys with giant jugs of Gatorade, forcing them to eat energy bars that had the texture of wet cardboard, and glaring at other parents who let their kids have pop, bologna sandwiches and Doritos. I don't know if they noticed the layer of orange goo that had formed on my own left hand, but at least it wasn't under my fingernails. Or at least it isn't there anymore.

I came across one family who took a group of boys to lunch. Their original destination was Subway, but then the boys all decided to head to McDonald's instead. The mom that chaperoned the lunch was a little freaked out afterward, wondering if one boy specifically was even allowed to eat McDonald's. She tentatively talked to the other mom, who merely shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head, and had a "well, the damage is done, since he's already digesting it and it's too late to make him throw it up" kind of expression.

Okay, first of all lady, your kid got a free lunch. With friends. Second of all, he's almost 12 years old. At some point you have to trust him to make his own choices as far as what he's going to eat. Chances are that if you let a kid that normally eats healthy food choose to eat fast food enough times, that kid will most likely shit his pants within 10 minutes of eating the double cheeseburger. This is not a desirable outcome for a normal 11 year old boy, which will result in him never wanting to eat fast food...again. Best of all, he will have discovered the horrid realities of fast food all on his own, without feeling nagged by the parent. Unfortunately, though, you end up with the laundry.

My kids never ask to go out for fast food, but won't turn down the occasional small fry. They voluntarily eat vegetables, fruit, carbs, and meat, but also have a piece or two of candy almost every day. We always have fruit in the house, but we also have a shit load of fun size sugar and chocolate. Sure, I've used a roll of Smarties here or a single-serve Fun Dip there to serve as some very effective bribery, but for the most part they see a little bit of sugar as something normal, not something to be coveted or hoarded.

We all know people that pride themselves on feeding their families nothing but whole grain goodness, 100% organic, sugar-free, soda-free and definitely no MSG. And chances are that you've seen the children from these families at a birthday party, without their parents, putting extra pieces of cake into their coat pockets, drinking orange pop by the pitcher-full, and hoarding licorice and gummy bears in their party bag. These kids have rarely been given the opportunity to choose what and how much they eat, and they are pretty sure that this particular birthday party is the last time they will ever see that much sugar in one place at one time. So, better stock up now while mom isn't watching!

I think that kids, at some point, need to experiment with a little sugar overdose, deal with the repercussions of eating too much grease, and learn how to interpret the serving size on a nutrition label, and that all food, including sugar and snacks, should be presented in moderation. Nothing should be forbidden, except for maybe those special brownies that fun Uncle Harvey made. Those are mine.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sarcasm is Fun for the Whole Family

As our oldest kid will confirm, I have a hard time responding to questions with a straight answer. I try not to use sarcasm in a mean way, and I definitely don't swear at them, but it often makes our conversations more productive, and much more entertaining for other people to listen to. As an added bonus, I feel like I'm giving them critical survival skills for junior high and beyond.

I know there are moms out there that speak to their kids in a chromatic scale, using such phrases as "pumpkin wumpkin" and, "Oh, let mommy do it. Mommy loves to help!" These are the moms that always have cupcakes in the house, wear turtlenecks printed with seasonal images, and probably have elastic somewhere in their 1"-too-short jeans. I really appreciate having parents like this around, because it's fun to laugh at them.

I'm not saying that kids should be talked to like you're at a truck stop. I recently encountered a mom buying scratch off lottery tickets en masse and telling her ten-year-old daughter that she was a "fucking slow ass, slower than a fucking turtle, driving me fucking crazy." I wanted to tell her that her daughter really wasn't that fucking slow, she was just having a hard time choosing a bag of fucking chips from the vast selection at the gas station. Those fucking kids have a really hard time making decisions if there are too many choices.

When talking to my kids, I try to find a balance between "I just rolled off the futon at a frat house" and "being a mom is the most gratifying experience ever." I think kids appreciate a little respect, a little sarcasm, and not being talked to like they're incompetent three-year-olds. Unless, of course, the teenager is acting like an incompetent three-year-old. In that case, watch the fuck out pumpkin wumpkin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

4-Day Weekends

I remember looking forward to the MEA weekend with excitement; four days off, maybe a night or two at the Holiday Inn, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and no homework. Now, as an adult, I find myself stuck in a house with a "wintry mix" falling outside, one kid crashed on the couch with a fever and a barking cough, another kid bitching because I'm making him go to his tennis lesson early, and trying to help the moody oldest child with a diorama for his science class.

Let's just say that if I hate "helping" with science projects more than stepping in a pile of dog shit, then the diorama is for sure the Great Dane of projects. Trying to illustrate a scene from a book using plastic army men, fishing line, and a boot box just doesn't seem like a great way to spend a day off from school. Locking the threekids in the super secret soundproof room in the basement while I eat Cheetos and watch a South Park marathon? Now that's more like it.