Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Can't Find It

Since I am often on the receiving end of generalizations, I don't like to say things that are all encompassing to any specific group of individuals, like "the male gender sucks at finding things." So I'll just say gee, it seems that the boys in my house sure do have difficulties locating certain objects like, for example, everything.

There was one time when we were on vacation when, after his shower, instead of looking on the towel rack over the toilet to find a bath towel, Charlie just assumed there weren't any and used a washcloth to dry himself off. There have been several times when I've been accused of losing various tennis shirts, only to look in their closet and find them hanging in plain view.

Everytime they ask me where things are or can't find something, I always think back to one of the most hellacious trips to the grocery store that I have ever made. It involved two boys on a quest to find one box of Capri Suns. How hard can it be, right? I sent them off to find the item and waited in line at the deli for my processed meats and salad. While I waited I noticed that the boy in front of me, who was no more than 17-years-old, was shopping by himself. He was holding a list that had obviously been written by his mom, had put the eggs and bread in the seat section of the cart so they wouldn't get smashed and was managing to pronounce actual words in a volume loud enough to hear while he ordered a pound of turkey and some Swiss cheese. I stood there watching him, thinking wow, it's a good thing I have my boys learning how to find things in a grocery store at such a young age so that they will also be able to do the shopping for me when they're older. I'm a good parent who is teaching her children to be responsible!

I was prepared to praise the boys and tell them "Job well done! Thank you!" when they returned to the cart with the Capri Suns, but when I saw them wandering toward me carrying a box of the most disgusting generic orange drink ever created by mankind, my thoughts became "I am a sucky mom whose boys can't even manage to read 'BEVERAGES & JUICE' on the sign hanging over their heads."

"They are all out of Capri Sun. In fact, I don't think this store sells any juice boxes." My intelligent oldest child who gets straight-A's actually thought that a fucking grocery store didn't sell juice boxes. What the hell.

I sent them away again (mostly for their own safety) to return the pouches of flavored orange food coloring and to find the god damn Capri Sun box and wasn't at all surprised when they returned two minutes later, empty-handed. "Nope. No juice boxes. We looked really hard this time."

At this point, I think I said something like "you're a couple of morons" and started telling them about the teenage boy I saw who could manage to not only find juice boxes, but put actual food in his cart and be helpful to his mom. Then Zach said something like "I don't care about grocery shopping" and this filled me with enough rage to make me temporarily blackout, because I don't remember what else I hissed at him through my clenched teeth.

A couple nights ago Zach pulled an unopened bag of Sun Chips out of the pantry and stuffed a few handfuls in his mouth. Since I'm in a workout more/stop eating like shit phase, I left the kitchen. After a few minutes of munching, I heard him putting the bag away (Note to Frito Lay: Maybe you could have made the new compostable Sun Chips bag louder. What the hell did you guys use to make these things? Sheet metal?). He wandered in and out of the pantry and around the kitchen for a full minute before he yelled "Where are all the chip clips? I can't find one anywhere!"

From two rooms away, I said, "They're in the pantry, right in front of your face."

"No they're not! I looked there! They're not in the....oh, wait a second. Here they are."

Yeah, I can see how they were easy to miss. After all, they're labeled Chip Clip, not Sun Chips Chip Clip To Be Used By Helpless Boys.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jr High Swimming=Hell

A couple weeks ago, Zach came home from school and told me something that I have been dreading all school year: The three-week swimming unit in phy-ed is starting.

While I have some pretty crappy memories of junior high, the swimming unit is definitely on the top of that list. Since my school didn't have a pool, I had to ride a bus to a different junior high, which meant that I had less time after swimming to get dressed and dry my hair. I had to use a thick polyester, school-issued "swimsuit," which I'm convinced was sewn together by blind women who also had limited use of their hands. In addition to the shapeless swimwear and lack of post-swim primping time, there was the fact that even though I was good at sports, I couldn't do the survival float. Every single time the teacher blew that fucking whistle, it was like a cue for me to start sinking like a rock.

Besides the fact that junior high swimming still requires kids in various stages of puberty to change together in a locker room, Zach's experience will be much more pleasant than mine. His school has it's own pool, since he wears prescription swim goggles his eyes won't be fried out from the chlorine and the kids now get to use their own swimsuits and bring their own towels.

Wait. What the fuck. The kids get to bring their own swimsuits and towels? This means that, oh holy hell. He's going to be bringing home chlorine-filled, soggy swim trunks and a towel everyday! Like I don't already have enough laundry to do!

Surprisingly enough, the beginning of the week went pretty well even though I had to immediately put his swimming stuff in the washing machine as soon as he walked in the door. There was one day that it sat in a basket for a couple hours and it made the laundry room smell like a junior high pool, so every time I walked in there I started having flashbacks. I do no enjoy junior high flashbacks.

Toward the end of the week I was waiting for him to walk in the door, ready to grab his swimming bag, pinch my nose and stuff it into the washer. Sure enough, that was the day that he said, "Oops. I forgot to bring my swimming stuff home and it's sitting in my locker." Um, gross. I immediately had to forget that he even told me such a horrid fact because thinking about that stinky bag sitting in his locker overnight made me nauseous.

I reminded him no fewer than 372 times the following morning to "think about how much anger he will witness from me if he forgets two bags of disgusting swimming crap in his locker." Forunately for him, he remembered to bring everything home and I couldn't get the washer started fast enough. As soon as I hit the "start" button, though, he said "Hey, is my lock in there? Are you washing my lock?" I opened the door, held my breath and rummaged through the grossness to find...NO LOCK! "Oh, I guess someone stole it. Now I need a new lock." I guess he didn't remember to bring home everything after all, and note to self: when Charlie starts junior high buy a six-pack of locks so that they all have the same combination, because the locks will be lost/stolen/misplaced/eaten by a zombie.

If I haven't mentioned it before, let me just say that OH MY GOD! THIS SCHOOL YEAR HAS GOT TO STOP BECAUSE IT IS DRIVING ME INSANE.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sympathy? I Think I've Heard of That

When Zach came down the stairs for breakfast the other morning, he was taking the steps one at a time because his ankle was feeling a little stiff after playing tennis all weekend. In addition to the ankle injury, he also said: "I hope I'm not getting sick because I feel cold and my throat hurts a little bit when I swallow." And then just in case I didn't hear him he demonstrated his throat discomfort by wincing in pain as he swallowed.

Since I'm not exactly known for dishing out overwhelming amounts of sympathy, I decided to surprise him with a big dose of compassion by handing him an Advil while telling him that if he really started feeling crappy half-way through the school day that he could call me. And who knows, I might even scrape myself off of the couch and go pick him up.

He responded to this by grunting at me and then limped for the bus. Right after he left Charlie came down the stairs, taking the steps one at a time because his knee was feeling a little stiff after playing tennis all weekend. I asked him if he was going to survive or if we were going to have to amputate and he informed me that it wasn't just his knee, but that his whole body was sore. I guess playing four 2-hour tennis matches in one weekend will whip a boy into shape after all. I said hmmmm that's neat, handed him an Advil and gave him his bagel.

By the time both boys were home from school at the end of the day, I noticed that all traces of limping had disappeared. Miraculous joint healing had occurred without the assistance of ice packs, Ace wraps or orthopedic intervention. But I was still a little concerned about Zach's "illness."

Around 9:00, I suggested to him that he should maybe go to bed since he was fighting a sore throat and, as expected, mentioning something so absurd as going to bed early brought on an instant recovery and a crabby kid. "I'm not sick and I don't have a sore throat! What are you talking about? I never said anything about my throat! I said my ankle hurt."

Usually I'm pretty good about translating his teenage rants and less-than-desirable tone of voice into something that doesn't make me want to smack him, but on that particular night I wasn't really in the mood to be treated like shit on a shoe. After pointing out the fact that yes, he did in fact tell me that morning that he had a sore throat, because why else would I ask him how he's feeling. And hey by the way I am not a complete moron that just makes things up. And I'm pretty sure that this is the last time ever that I attempt to be sympathetic and concerned. And listen jerk, stop talking to me like that because I AM YOUR MOM!

After he realized that he was out of line and apologized I suggested that in the future, before he says something to me, he should consider saying whatever it is he's about to say to himself first, in his head. Because the problem is that since he doesn't even realize when he sounds like a creep, he doesn't believe me when I accuse him of snapping at me.

If this doesn't work and he continues to sound like an asshole when he talks to me, maybe I'll just do to him what I do to Zoe when she throws a tantrum: I'll video tape him so he can see and hear it for himself, and then I'll put him on the naughty step. Or maybe I'll just give him an Advil.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jack's Story

After Charlie was born in August of 1998, I knew immediately that I would eventually want three kids. Zach was such an amazing big brother, Charlie was an easy baby and I wasn't ready to be done. I didn't have the feelings of: "I never want to be pregnant again. Keep all babies away from me. No I don't want to hold your baby. Why doesn't the baby hold it's own head up?" Those feelings arrived after Zoe was born.

We wanted our third kid to arrive about the same time that Charlie turned five and sure enough, I got pregnant and had a due date in July, 2003. Everything was going fine, the pregnancy was easy and I sailed through the first trimester. While at my 20-week appointment, however, my doctor realized that the nurses had failed to do some routine testing that is normally done at the 16-week appointment. The testing was rushed, an ultrasound was performed and that's when in addition to finding out that we were having a third boy, I also mutated into a giant red flag.

One major medical issue after another was brought to our attention basically resulting in us being told that, "Your baby is really, really not healthy, and if he even makes it to full term, will need several invasive surgical procedures immediately after birth and probably throughout his life which, because of other issues, will be very difficult."

Additional testing and ultrasounds were scheduled, including an amnio appointment on my birthday, and all tests came back positive for everything we were hoping was a false alarm. After receiving all of the information, we then had to make the decision of whether we were going to continue the pregnancy (and guarantee to our unborn child that he would have an extremely compromised quality of life filled with obstacles and also change our lives, and Zach and Charlie's lives, forever), or if we were going to terminate the pregnancy.

What I quickly learned is that it's impossible to say with any amount of certainty what you will do in specific situations until the decision is actually in your face and yours to make. It was a lot like someone saying to us: "You have to have one of your hands chopped off, but you get to choose whether it's the left or the right hand. Which way will it suck less?" Because either way, it sucks. Bad.

People always say that a parent's job is to be an advocate for their kid and always try to provide the best quality of life. So, when does that role begin? After birth, or when you're given the pre-natal testing results? Could we knowingly bring a child into this world that, if he survived, wouldn't experience things to the fullest, all because his father and I didn't have the balls to make a tough decision when we were handed the information? Could we change Zach and Charlie's lives forever, forcing them to make future sacrifices that they had no control over?

After spending a couple of rotten, shitty days processing the information and considering all of the possible scenarios, we decided to terminate the pregnancy. So on February 25, 2003 I went through labor induction, eight hours of contractions (with an epidural, obviously) and then Jack Adkins, at 21 weeks, was stillborn.

Telling the boys was brutal. Zach was old enough to get it, and he cried. Charlie was only four and all he said was, "So this baby is sick, but the next baby we'll get to keep." They're the ones that chose the name Jack.

It has now been seven years since we went through this hellish experience. Does it still suck? Absolutely. But as crappy as those days and the months following were, great things came out of it too. Amazing friends showed up at my front door with support, our families never doubted our decision and a year later, in June of 2004 right before Charlie turned six, Zoe Joy Adkins arrived.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Tempting, But...

There are times when I feel kind of bad about how much time Zoe spends in the car, but that's what happens when two out of three after-school activities take place 20 miles away from our house. Even though I have a DVD player in the minivan, I only use it if we're going to be driving for an hour or longer because I don't want to have a daily battle about which movie she's going to watch, spend a couple extra minutes before I back out of the garage getting the movie started and then have to wait a few extra minutes when we arrive at our destination because she doesn't want to turn it off yet.

Since she isn't allowed to watch movies and (since I'm not a big fan of having my windows smashed out while horrible people steal things) I don't let her bring her Nintendo DS in the car, she has a couple books, a small Magna Doodle and a calculator to play with. Because of these spectacular diversions she usually doesn't mind getting in the car at least twice a day to run off to whatever activity is on the schedule that she doesn't get to participate in. Judging by her reaction on Monday, though, I should probably put some new toys in the van.

Zach had to stay after school for an extra choir practice (by the way, this school year cannot come to an end soon enough because I am going insane), so instead of riding the bus home, I had to pick him up at 3:50 and then race back to the elementary school because Charlie had to be picked up at 4:00.

After telling her two times to get her shoes on because we had to go go go and getting no response except moaning, I told her a third time with just a hint of anger in my voice. Okay, I yelled. She suggested that I just leave her home by herself and she would watch a movie, have a snack and promised that she wouldn't get scared. Or in her words, "Come on mom. Just go. I'll be fine."

"That's tempting, Zoe, but I can't do that. There's no one here to watch you, and if I leave a five-year-old home alone then the cops will come and they'll put me in jail and I don't want to go to jail." Plus, I would hope that she didn't want me to go to jail, either.

"Oh, well when you go to jail then dad can watch me, cuz he's not in jail yet."

Ha. She said yet. "What do you mean by yet? You think he'll eventually go to jail, but just hasn't been caught?"

"Right. But he won't get caught cuz he drives fast and has a faster car, so the cop won't catch him and put him in jail. So he can watch me when you're at jail. So are you going to go, and I can get a snack and watch a movie?"

Note to self: In addition to basking in the glow of my daughter's love and putting new toys and books in the car to make riding in the minivan more pleasurable for her, put the new toys and books in a new, faster car that can't get caught because then I won't get thrown in jail, which wouldn't matter to Zoe anyway because after all, dad's not in jail. Yet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whose Birthday Is it?

When I see the extravagant birthday parties that some little girls get to have I'm always tempted to pull them aside and tell them not to get used to being over-indulged on their big day, especially if they have plans on ever being a mom when they get older. Everyone knows that a mom's needs are low on the priority list and at least in my house, birthdays are included on that list because my birthday was on the 21st, but my kids thought it was just a typical Sunday.

Judging by the gray hairs that occasionally come shooting out of my skull and the fact that collagen has decided to make a mass exodus from my skin, I know that I'm getting older and I don't need to look at my birth certificate to prove it. My birthdays in the past have rarely been celebrated with much fanfare and have actually coincided with some pretty miserable events, including funerals and medical procedures. While I don't expect everyone to bend over backwards just because I'm getting older (And to be honest, the thought of having a birthday makes me ill. I mean, a bunch of people coming to a party because of me freaks me out.), it would have been wonderful if my kids would have remembered.

Due to a variety of reasons, the boys played in a tennis tournament over the weekend and I knew when I registered them that it was likely that they would end up with matches on Sunday. I even told Charlie that if he ended up playing in semi-finals and finals matches on my birthday, it would be a great present for me. I had mentioned to Zach that I was okay with the fact that I would be spending the weekend packing coolers and driving them around, even though it was my birthday, because he wanted to play in this tournament. I also told him on Saturday to get his homework done so that I wouldn't have to nag him tomorrow, on my birthday. In addition to these reminders, Doug wrapped a present for me and left it on a table in full view.

Somehow though, the three of them still managed to forget and to be honest, my feelings were hurt. I couldn't help but think about all of the shit I do for them every day and the great birthday parties I've had for them but, despite all the reminders, they couldn't remember my birthday. I sat and watched their matches, put new laces in court shoes, regripped racquets and made sure everyone ate the lunch that I had packed, but never heard "Happy birthday, mom."

After Charlie won a match, Doug called to congratulate him and reminded him what day it was. When Charlie handed my phone back to me he said "Oops. Happy birthday." I glared at him, said "Gee, thanks" and told him that he wasn't the only one that forgot and that I didn't want him to remind Zach and Zoe.

When we finally got home in the afternoon, Zoe walked in and her present radar went off. "Whose present is this? Is it mine?"

I had told Doug earlier that the kids had all forgotten about me so he was prepared to shower them with guilt. "No, it's not yours. It's mommy's present because it's her birthday."

"No, it's not. Mommy doesn't have a birthday today. Whose present is it?" Zach heard what was going on and his face instantly reflected what he was thinking, which I'm sure was "Oh, shit."

"Yes, Zoe. It's mom's birthday. You all forgot about it and that's really sad. Maybe you should sing for her."

So Zoe started singing "Happy Birthday" to me, while staring at a kitchen stool. Zach said happy birthday and, since he was probably afraid my anger and disappointment was going to make me violent, cautiously hugged me before he started doing the homework that he didn't feel like doing on Saturday. I emptied the cooler and stayed busy while I had a five-minute pity party for myself.

To be fair, they aren't the only ones that forgot. One of my brothers never called or texted, a few friends that usually remember didn't call this year and neither Doug's nor my parents called. But my mom and dad are off the hook since they sent a card a few days ago, were partying it up in Las Vegas on Sunday and I'm sure my mom was thinking about me while she was playing slots and slamming beers.

Despite how the day started out, it wasn't a 12-hour suckfest. Charlie won the championship match, I got a couple texts, a bunch of happy birthdays on Facebook and after a couple loads of laundry were done and the homework was finished, Doug made us go out to dinner where Charlie somehow managed to get a piece of tortilla chip shrapnel in his eye. Seriously, I can't make this shit up.

Oh, and Doug got me great birthday presents: "Guitar Hero Metallica" and the coolest piece of cross-stitch ever created:

You can find similar works of greatness here:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rosco The (Germ-Encrusted) Bear

When Zoe got home from school on Friday, I looked in her backpack and discovered a green shopping bag containing a journal and a bear named Rosco. I then learned that the kids all take turns bringing Rosco home for the weekend and are supposed to fill a page in the journal with pictures and descriptions of where they went, what Rosco saw, the strange noises he might have heard coming from mom and dad's bedroom on Saturday night and if he was subjected to any physical harm.

While looking through the journal, I noticed that most of the kids were able to take Rosco home for their birthdays, so there are several pictures of Rosco propped up by presents, balloons and cakes. There is also a note on almost every page about Rosco sleeping with his host. In their beds. Being breathed and drooled on. Since Zoe is the 16th child to take Rosco home for the weekend, that means he has slept with 15 other children, the most recent of which was sick. Wonderful.

Rosco's care instructions include what he likes to eat (anything) and that he's supposed to receive a bath in the washing machine on Sunday night before he is returned to school on Monday morning. If there were some way for me to be 100% sure that everyone had actually given him his bath, I might actually let him come out of his green shopping bag. And then I noticed that Zoe had taken him out of his bag and was playing with him in her room. Extra wonderful.

I went upstairs and discovered Rosco sitting on a doll size potty chair, having his fur vigorously rubbed down with a washcloth that had been saturated with a bottle of fake soap. Zoe was giving him a bath and telling him that he had to pee and get a bath before she would play with him. Play with him? Ah fuck. What the hell were we going to do with Mr. Germarific that would be journal and picture worthy? The only thing that I had planned for the weekend was a tennis tournament for the boys. If I had known in advance that Rosco would have been coming home this weekend, I would have scheduled some unique activities for him to enjoy.

Up to this point, Rosco's outings with the other kids have been pretty uneventful. He's been to a bowling alley, birthday parties, Costco, sleepovers, swimming lessons and been forced to watch a couple horrible movies. He's eaten at Culvers, played Wii, cavorted with family pets and even had someone "drum on his belly." There's a noticeable absence of activities like "helped the family with the marijuana harvest, fell asleep in a puddle of my own barf" or "stood on the street corner with a few baggies and a wad of cash." He has yet to do his first keg stand, drink a vodka Red Bull, watch porn or go downtown to bail Uncle Mark out of jail. Again.

I guess I'll do my best to find something for him to do that isn't mind-numbingly boring, but doesn't result in us being able to include a picture of Rosco in an orange jumpsuit. Even if there aren't any extra super fantastic events to write about, I know there will be one thing about Zoe's page that will make it unique: there is no way in hell she will be sleeping with that petri dish named Rosco.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Who Delivered Me?

As I get older, I try to appreciate the small benefits that are only acquired with age: low car insurance rates, not having to freak out when I find a gray hair and, after years of practice, hard work and dedication, having a high tolerance to alcohol. I'm also appreciative of my health because I don't get sick very often. Even when Zach and Zoe had the flu in October and Doug had the flu in December, I somehow managed to escape it all and, unfortunately, was able to take care of everyone. As a result of my good health, I usually only have to go to the doctor once a year.

About a week ago, I managed to act like an adult and actually attend this once-a-year appointment with my OB/GYN. After peeing in the stupid cup (yes, I know I'm a little dehydrated), standing on a defective scale (I wish someone had told me that I was wearing an x-ray apron) and telling Zoe to sit quietly outside the exam room door (a Nintendo DS is great for times like this), I put on the super-stylish pink paper gown and waited.

I've been seeing the same doctor for 20 years and we've been through a lot together, so he is always genuinely interested in how my life is going. It may seem a little weird that we talk about the football season, recent vacations or his kids while I'm doing my best impersonation of a cowgirl, but what am I supposed to say: "How's the view from down there?"

The worst part of the OB/GYN experience is the week between when I write my address on the pink "your test results are negative" post card and when I receive it. There has only been one time that the postcard didn't arrive, and sure enough I received a call instead, notifying me that the tests came back with questionable results, so further testing would be necessary. The results of the additional testing necessitated an undesirable procedure which consisted of having a part of my body that is hidden from view converted into a chunk of ice. A lovely experience, really, and now I know how an ice machine at the Holiday Inn feels.

Ever since then, waiting for that damn post card to arrive is always a nerve wracking experience. I figure that since I tested positive for some fucked-upedness once it's bound to happen again, especially as I get older.

Fortunately, after a week went by, the coveted pink postcard arrived in the mail notifying me that I'm normal (stop laughing). While holding the piece of mail I let out a happy little "Woo hoo!" and Zoe asked me what was up.

"I'm happy because the doctor said I'm healthy, that's all. Remember when I went to the doctor last week and you saw me in that junky pink dress? Oh, and you got to meet the doctor that delivered* you?" As soon as I said this, I instantly knew that she would be confused.

"Delivered me? When was I delivered? I came in a box from that brown truck?" Oh, if only it could be so easy.

"No, Zoe. Before a baby lives in a house or rides in a stroller, it has to grow inside the mom. Then a doctor helps to get the baby out. That's called a delivery."

"That's crazy, and that makes no sense. You're wrong. A delivery comes to the front door, from that man wearing the brown clothes." There was no convincing her otherwise. The girl now thinks that she arrived via UPS.

*When Zach was three, he tried to convince me that I should get another baby. Not have a baby, but get one. In fact, he wanted two: one for him and one for Charlie. His suggestion was that I go to that "Babies R Us store and pick up two babies. Can we do that today?" I guess it's probably a good thing that I couldn't take that approach because considering how crazy Zoe makes her brothers some days, they'd probably be asking for the receipt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's Getting Out of Hand

Ten years from now my memories of this school year won't be "Oh, that's the year Zoe started kindergarten" or "That was Charlie's last year of elementary school." It will be "Fucking-Ay. That was the year that Zach worked his ass off and did 873 science projects."

Believe it or not, my son is working on another science project. This one, though, is going to require a little bit of involvement from his dad. No, Doug will not be shopping at JoAnn for felt and styrofoam balls and surprisingly enough I would gladly welcome a project that required such accessible, inexpensive and realistic science project materials.

This is a group project with the end result being an eight-minute presentation about the weather. Is the presentation performed in the classroom, like a skit? Oh no, because that would be convenient and age-appropriate. This presentation has to be filmed with a video camera (preferably high-def), transferred to a hard drive, edited together in a creative way and it should be exactly eight minutes long and turned in on a DVD or other high-quality format. They must also include a commercial, that they have to write and perform, for a product or service that benefits the environment or is in some way related to Earth Day.

Although this project was assigned a month ago, Zach's group is still only about 85% done. Since they all need to participate and they aren't provided with any time in class to meet as a group, they need to get together in the evenings or on weekends. Finding one night that five 13-year-olds are all available and able to get together is a tough task. Finding several nights has been almost impossible, specifically for one boy named Kevin that for some reason thinks that going skiing with his friends at the last minute instead of working on a science project is more fun.

Since Doug is familiar with editing software he tapped into his patience and, after transferring the footage to our hard drive, spent some time in front of the computer showing Zach how to edit it together to create a movie that makes sense and is worthy of an A. After Zach spent over three hours editing on Thursday night, the movie was complete and Doug transferred it to a DVD and a flash drive.

This might make me sound boring and old-fashioned, or maybe I'm being hyper-sensitive to the impact that the economy has had on some families, but it seems like this project could have been completed for a few thousand dollars less, and have been just as educational, with a presentation performed in class including a couple props and some charts made on poster board. It makes me wonder: was the main goal to teach the kids about interpreting weather reports and how to work together as a group, or was it to find out whose parents have spent the most money at Best Buy? After reviewing the scoring system, I have come to the conclusion that a good grade will only be possible if you have a high quality video camera, a fairly new computer with decent movie editing software, blank DVD's or a large storage flash drive and group members that don't have any other weeknight or weekend activities that require any time.

After a few productive meetings, Zach's group has made a surprising amount of progress. They designed some elaborate weather chart backdrops on Powerpoint and incorporated the weather channel on the Wii, both of which are displayed in the background on giant TV screens. Their time logs are completed, the script will be written over the weekend by Kevin (if he doesn't go skiing instead) and as long as there aren't any misplaced DVD's and hard drive failures, everything should be completed on time.

One benefit that has come out of this project is that Zach realizes that he is very lucky. Not only do his parents shop at Best Buy, but he also has a dad that is a creative director, knows how to edit film and feels immense amounts of sympathy for a kid that has spent virtually every weekend of the school year working on one science project after another. He has also learned that there are always members of a group that won't hesitate to slack off and do the bare minimum, that PC's suck and using Powerpoint on a Mac is the only way to go and that his mom doesn't love having three teenage girls talking about their hair and giggling in the basement on Valentine's Day, even though she hates the holiday anyway.

But has he learned anything new about the weather and how to interpret a weather report? I don't think that really matters, since we all know the weather forecast is wrong 95% of the time anyway.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Main Motivation

Even though February is only 28 days long it is a long, freezing, crappy month when feelings of pessimism and doubt start to creep in. You begin to think that the snow will never melt and even if it does the grass underneath could have never survived such a cold, shitty winter and we're all going to be wearing clothes that say The North Face or Columbia on them forever and ever. So since the fleece and Gore-Tex will never be put away, why bother to work out? Who cares if there's a little extra insulation under the insulation?

Everyone has a different reason for working out, and this time of year it takes a lot of motivation to get the job done. While I will happily spend hours running, biking, walking, playing tennis and anything else that involves physical activity when it's nice outside, I dread spending 45 minutes indoors at a health club, running on a treadmill while staring at a muted TV with the closed captioning on. Seriously, the only thing more painful than hearing what Glenn Beck has to say is having to read it. And whoever thought that airing "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" at the club has a really sick sense of humor.

Since my germaphobic side tends to surface when I think about working out at the club, I usually use the elliptical trainer that we have at home. I've tried different things to make my time spent on this devil's contraption go faster and suck less: watching a movie, watching Sportscenter, watching one of the kids play a video game while I listen to music, talking on the phone (I do not recommend this one) and once I even tried to play "Guitar Hero" (again, not recommended because Doug almost passed out from laughter).

I could just say "Screw it" and deal with the reality that comes from eating too much comfort food later, but the thought of putting a swimsuit on in (hopefully) three months with a chicken pot pie stuck to my ass is enough to keep me motivated. I also think it's important to set a good example for the kids and emphasize the importance of health and fitness. And if there's one thing I hate shopping for it's jeans, so if I want to be able to eat fries and fit into my existing jeans, I should probably burn a few calories now and then.

When I get off the elliptical, wipe the sweat off my face and walk across the room to get a drink of water, that's when honesty kicks in and I am reminded of what my real motivation is:

There's nothing quite as satisfying as knowing that I just burned a few calories so that I can replace them later, at happy hour. Besides, I hear that Spanx makes some really cute one-piece swimsuits now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wacky Wednesday

Zoe finally gets to be Star of the Week this week. They sent the pre-printed booklet home about a month ago, probably assuming that some parents were going to put off completing the thing until the Sunday night before the big week. Whether this is a good or bad thing to admit, I am not one of those parents. That sucker has been hanging, completed, on our refrigerator for over three weeks and the anticipation has been building.

As luck would have it, Zoe's week happens to be a four-day week so she gets shafted one day of stardom. Also, her big week coincides with the classroom's celebration of Chinese New Year. Whether this was intentional or not, I will never know. But FYI teacher: Zoe is not Chinese.

One thing I forgot to mention in the previous SOTW post is that in addition to including pictures and completing the questions in the booklet, each day requires a special item to be sent to school and shared with the class. Monday is booklet and picture day, Tuesday is talent day, Wednesday is "Mystery Bag" day, and I won't bore you with the rest. Since there was no school on Monday, I sent Zoe's booklet and "talent" on the same day. Her "talent" was her tennis racquet, but since we aren't lame we don't refer to tennis as a talent: we refer to it as a sport.

When she got home from school on Tuesday with the handle of her racquet poking out of her backpack, I asked her if the other kids thought it was cool that she plays tennis and if she got to demonstrate her backhand. She said: "The teacher didn't have time to do that today. I guess I'll just skip it." Oh yeah, sure. Shaft my daughter one day from her SOTW week, and then don't let her "accidentally" nail the nose-picking kid in the back of the head while she shows off her backhand. I don't think so.

I emailed her teacher (yet again) to ask what happened and if I should send the racquet again tomorrow even though it was Mystery Bag day, or what the hell she wanted me to do. She replied: "I asked her if she had her talent, and she said no. Please send the talent tomorrow and the Mystery Bag, too." I was immediately frustrated and emailed back, saying that "Zoe calls tennis a sport, not a talent. She had no idea what you were talking about when you asked her if 'she brought her talent.'"

Again, I don't know if this is a good or bad thing, but I am a parent that sends signed permission slips and Wednesday Envelopes (don't ask) back to school the following day. If there are art supplies requested for the following week, I send them to school a week early. I do not forget to send snow pants, labeled mittens or library books and none of my kids have had to walk around with the stamp of shame on their hand, alerting everyone to the fact that they have a low balance in their lunch account.

If the teacher would have thought about it for one minute, she maybe would have realized that I most likely didn't forget to send something in for Zoe to share and maybe she could have just asked in a different way. Perhaps, "Is there something extra in your backpack that you brought to show the class?" or "Why is there a tennis racquet handle poking out of your backpack?" These are questions that Zoe would have understood, because they make sense.

Also on Wednesday, in addition to swinging her racquet in class and sharing the contents of her Mystery Bag, it was also Wacky Wednesday. In the past Zach and Charlie have never dressed wacky or done wacky things with their hair, mostly because they have buzz cuts but also because they consider dressing wacky a "girl thing." So since Zoe is a girl and isn't passive or shy, she was more than happy to embrace Wacky Wednesday, including wearing a Squidward tattoo in the middle of her forehead. I guess I won't be surprised, though, if her teacher says: "Zoe, did you remember to wear something for Wacky Wednesday? Where's your wacky outfit and hairdo?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm In A Hurry!

Hello, my name is Jody, and I drive a minivan. This form of transportation gets me, my kids, and their shit from Point A to Point B, and then often times to Points C, D and E before it is parked safely in the garage at the end of the day. I like the power sliding doors because I never have to say, "Don't hit the much cooler car parked next to us when you open the door!" I like the built in DVD system, the storage compartments, the sunroof, the XM Radio, and ever since Zoe hurled in the car last summer, I am really loving the leather upholstery. Most of all, I like it because I'm able to drive fast without getting pulled over. Most of the time.

Over the weekend my speeding attracted the attention from someone that I normally don't like to associate with. We were on our way to tennis when I saw a reddish/brownish car parked on the shoulder. I didn't see any lights on the top of it and thought it was someone pulled over with a flat tire, so I continued at a rate of speed that was a bit excessive and flew right by. Unfortunately, as I was passing it, I saw four fully-inflated tires and the words State Trooper clearly painted on the side. Oops. Hmm, maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he was reading a book. Or eating a doughnut.

Or maybe he saw me, because sure enough I watched in my rearview mirror as he merged into traffic, moved in behind me and flipped on his lights. Shit. The boys tried not to laugh and Zoe was a little worried, thinking that maybe mom was finally going to jail.

When he got to the car, I had my license and insurance ready and was instantly relieved about the fact that I had just put my new license tabs on that morning. He went through the usual questions of "Do you know why you're being pulled over? (I was probably going a little too fast because we're kind of late for tennis) Do you know what the speed limit is? (Um, 65?) How fast do you think you were going? (Um, 69?) Do you have other speeding tickets on your record? (No)"

He returned to his car, and while we waited Zach said: "What the heck? You were going so much faster than 69. And it has never been 65 mph here and we are not late for tennis!" I tried to explain to him that if you automatically admit your actual speed of travel and also know the posted speed limit, it's like saying "Screw you, cop. I know I was speeding, and I don't care. Just give me the stupid ticket and let me continue with my day." And you're guaranteed to end up with a ticket.

As the trooper walked back to my car, instead of seeing the horrific white envelope with the red stripe I saw him holding a small piece of tan paper. He gave me a warning! I kick ass! All he said was to slow down a little, and that he knows the speed limits in the area are confusing because it's a stretch of road that switches from 70 to 60 mph, so I should pay more attention to the signs. (Obviously he didn't know that I drive that particular stretch of freeway no fewer than five times a week, so of course I should know what the speed limit is.) Originally, I thought that he let me off with a warning because of my willingness to cooperate, my charm and clean driving record. Now I'm thinking he let me off because he looked into my eyes, took a look at my kids and not only felt bad for me, but understood why I speed.

On the way home (three hours later), Zoe was a little bit crabby and everyone was a lot bit hungry. When we were about ten minutes away from home, Charlie (the child that doesn't have perfect pitch) started singing along to the radio in a not-so-quiet voice. Zoe didn't appreciate his performance, and felt that the best way to inform him of her disapproval was to yell, "Charlie! Stop with the annoying singing!" and then fake-spit toward him. Even though no moisture actually touched the boy, she might as well have launched a giant glob of mucus onto his arm, because he started yelling at her: "Zoe! Gross! Don't spit on me! I can sing if I want to!" She of course denied the spitting, so he pointed at an invisible spot of saliva as evidence, then she cried and Charlie continued to sing.

At this point, instead of flinging my door open and throwing myself onto the freeway, I looked at my speedometer and noticed that I was, in fact, speeding again. Gee, I wonder why.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cuervo, Take Me Away

I actually look forward to the kids having a day off from school, as long as it's a Friday, it's not winter and there isn't a science project that needs to be completed. Since Presidents Day didn't meet any of these requirements, I was ready for the day to be over by 10:30. Ay-Em.

I was hoping to sleep in until Doug had to get up for work, but instead my kick ass dream was interrupted at 6:45, courtesy of the dog sprinting around our bedroom at a frantic pace that meant: "I have to go pee. I have to go pee. Get up, get up. I have to go pee." So I got up, let the dog out and then shoveled the driveway.

At 7:50 Zoe came stumbling down the stairs, complaining that her leg hurt because she had been asleep for too long. Four moans, three groans and one full body flop-on-the-floor later, she ate her waffle and then launched into her "There's no school so when can I play Mario Kart" campaign.

At 8:45 Charlie woke up and made it all the way to the couch before he collapsed again, physically incapable of sitting upright or pouring a glass of orange juice. He did manage to appear in a chair when breakfast was ready, but couldn't find the energy to grab his own fork.

After Zach was brought to consciousness by Zoe (after I told her to go wake him up) at 9:00, he mumbled something that sounded like "Morning," read the sports section while he ate breakfast, and the first audible words out of his mouth were, "Ugh, there was a little too much cheese on my eggs."

I reminded the boys of when we were leaving for their piano and tennis lessons, and since Zoe was busy reading books to her stuffed animals I went downstairs to workout, hoping that burning a few calories would be the equivalent of hitting a reset button on the day.

Usually if I'm on the elliptical when the kids are home, I get interrupted no fewer than three times with random questions or reports of naughtiness. Maybe the kids all sensed that I needed a few dozen minutes to myself, because no one came downstairs to tell me anything. Or maybe, like I eventually discovered, they were just waiting until I was done.

Thanks to an elevated heart rate and being able to laugh at a few people on "The Price Is Right," I had managed to pretty much forget about the start to my day. So when I came upstairs refreshed and ready to start over and the first thing I heard was Charlie say, "Guess what Zoe did!" I was more than a little ticked.

"She was in my room, digging through my desk drawers and closet. And then when I told her to stop she charged at me and hit me! And then she practically bent my fingers so far backward, I'm surprised they didn't break off!" Apparently Charlie had been in his room, wrestling with a rhinoceros that had recently been handed a UFC contract.

I looked over at Zoe who was in the same exact spot as before, reading books to her stuffed animals. This is a girl that can hear a candy wrapper from two miles away, but right now she was pretending to be deaf.

I constantly remind these kids that it is not my daily goal to see how mad I can get. I don't walk around waiting for the naughtiness to begin, excitedly anticipating a good scream or being able to yank a fistful of hair out of my head. So when I get stories like this it makes me crazy, and it results in the same stupid conversation everytime:

Kid 1: Kid 2 was mean, and hit me!
Kid 2: I did not hit you!
Kid 1: Yes, you did!
Me: Kid 2, were you naughty? Did you hit him? Tell the truth, please.
Kid 2: Okay, maybe, yeah. Cuz he deserved it!
Me: Well, then say you're sorry. And don't hit.
Kid 1: That's it?
Me: Oh. Um, Kid 2. Stay out of Kid 1's bedroom.
Kid 1: UGH!
Kid 2: UGH!
Me: UGH! Where's my drink!

I would love it if they didn't get quite so much joy over getting each other in trouble. You'd think they would figure out that when one of them makes me miserable, the slightest wrongdoing from the others just adds to the misery. And the drama could come to a grinding halt any day. Did Zoe almost bust Charlie's fingers off? I don't think so. Did he overreact to her looking through some pictures that he had drawn? Probably.

After the finger-breaking/hitting crisis was settled, I reminded the boys of what was on our schedule for the rest of the day. Five minutes later while Zach was getting something to drink, he asked me: "So, what time is tennis again? When do we have to leave? And why do we have a piano lesson in the middle of the day anyway?"

Last night when the boys were playing a video game together, Charlie asked Zach a question. After asking the same question for the fourth time Zach said to him, "Hey Charlie, why don't you try listening to me sometime." Excuse me, Kettle Black. Get in line. And since you have the limeade out, make me a margarita.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Please Don't Poison My Child

Every February I shop for school Valentines and every year, due to the increase in class sizes, the number of Valentines I have to purchase gets bigger. Next year, when Charlie is finally in junior high, I will be back to buying for only one classroom, but this year was obnoxious. But I'm sure there are 60 kids that are ecstatic about receiving yet another red heart sucker stuck to a Spongebob card.

The funniest thing for me this year was comparing the contents of the Valentine box between a kindergartner and a sixth grader. Charlie's box contained nothing inedible and was mostly Fun Dips, Skittles and chocolate. After examining the contents of Zoe's box, though, it's now a proven fact that there are some really un-fun parents in kindergarten.

There are no fewer than four pencils, one box of raisins, a paper airplane, a couple tattoos, and a few sticker puzzles. She was really excited about receiving one Ring Pop, but unfortunately it was shattered into 27 pieces. Yes, there are a few heart suckers and one piece of taffy, but mostly, it's a box of disappointment.

Everything was pretty lame, except for one Valentine, which was lame and toxic. It seems like there is always one classroom mom that goes above and beyond the world of fun size, trying to impress all of the other moms and hopefully buy her kid a few more friends.

While I don't have any issues with daily sugar consumption and definitely don't consider myself a nutrition nazi, this "sucker" almost made me barf into her box. Even if it weren't for the fact that I hate marshmallows almost as much as I hate kiss-ass parents, there's no way in hell I will let Zoe touch this cellophane-wrapped, and I am not exaggerating when I say this, piece of shit.

The ingredient list: sugar, corn syrup (Glucose), Dextrose, water, gelatin (HALAL - whatever the fuck that is), corn starch, artificial flavors, artificial colors, (FD&C Red 40, FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Blue 1). These wonderful ingredients, when whipped together in Arkansas, result in an apple-flavored Marshmallow Lollipop containing 240 calories and 41 grams of sugar.

I felt like kind of a bitch mom when I told Zoe that she wasn't going to eat it, but then she said, "It looks gross and it smells horrible. I don't want it anyway. Oh hey, look! Skittles!"

I'm so glad that the next holiday to look forward to is St. Patrick's Day, when all I have to worry about is drinking beer and Irish whiskey. After all, I need to celebrate my heritage.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh Yeah, It's Valentine's Day

I thought about not writing anything today, and instead I was going to spend the day soaking in a warm tub filled with rose petals and sipping on champagne while nibbling on frozen grapes. But since I don't live in a Nora Ephron film and there's the fact that I think Valentine's Day is dumb, I decided to post something after all.

The following "poems" are entries from a Washington Post competition asking for a two-line rhyme. The stipulation was that the first line had to be oozing with romance and the second line had to be, well, you'll figure it out.

My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife
Marrying you has screwed up my life.

I see your face when I am dreaming.
That's why I always wake up screaming.

Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;
This describes everything you are not.

Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss,
But I only slept with you 'cause I was pissed.

I thought that I could love no other
--that is until I met your brother.

Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead,
the sugar bowl's empty and so is your head.

I want to feel your sweet embrace;
But don't take that paper bag off your face.

I love your smile, your face, and your eyes.
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!

My love, you take my breath away.
What have you stepped in to smell this way?

My feelings for you no words can tell,
Except for maybe 'Go to hell.'

What inspired this amorous rhyme?
Two parts vodka, one part lime.

I'm actually surprised that there isn't a special section for these cards at Hallmark. If there was, I might be more of a fan of Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sharing The Love

Valentine's Day is lame. I'm convinced that the holiday was conceived in a junior high locker bay in Wichita by an 8th grade girl named Bernice Madsen. Bernice was frustrated because her main man Walter had been expressing his love and affection in ways that Bernice found inadequate, pathetic and cheap. So, after a brainstorming session with a few other pissed off girls, they created a day called "Buy Me Shit Or I'll Be A Bitch Day" (which has since been renamed "Valentine's Day"). News of this gift-giving/unrealistic expectations day spread like a flu epidemic across the country, eventually resulting in the production of hideous heart-shaped jewelry, highly-flammable heart-shaped pillows, overpriced flowers that die within hours of receipt and pajamas that no woman, unless booze is involved, would ever allow to come into contact with her skin.

Since I profess my love to my kids and my husband on a daily basis, and I have a strong dislike for anything heart-shaped, I won't be celebrating Valentine's Day. But since I don't want to be a complete party-pooper, I thought I'd use the day to express my love for a few individuals that I sorta love, because they make my life easier:
  • Happy Valentine's Day garbage man, and thank you for showing up every Wednesday morning bright and early to haul away my crap. Even when I've strategically stacked stuff well over the top of the container and it falls out and lands on the street, you always take the time to get out of your warm truck and pick the shit up. I really appreciate that, because the thought of having garbage in my possession any longer than absolutely necessary makes me crazy. I don't know if you do this extra service because you're good at your job, or if it's because you see me glaring out the front window, ready to scream if you quickly drive away, pretending not to notice the stuff that fell out. Either way, thank you.
  • I really like Elle, at Floyd's Barbershop, for always managing to cut Zoe's bangs in a way that makes her look bad ass and cute at the same time, and not at all like an American Girl Doll.
  • The non-English speaking table clearer guy that has worked forever at Noodles & Co. has a special place in my heart because not only does he take away my dirty bowl, but he always has a smile on his face and a free cookie for Zoe.
  • I love that the tennis racquet stringers at Michael Lynne's have saved our asses by being able to get a stringing job done in less than an hour. In a perfect world, my boys are supposed to monitor their strings and check them for wear, and not wait until we are minutes away from leaving for a tournament to say: "Hey, check it out. This string is about to break." Obviously, we do not live in a perfect world.
  • I love any bartender or liquor store employee that has carded me, and went the extra, morale-boosting mile to say "Wow!" after looking at my birthdate.
  • I definitely like the people at school drop-off that actually know what they're doing and don't drive around with their head up their ass.
  • Since I'm supposed to love my neighbors, I guess I should be extra appreciative of one neighbor in particular for showing me exactly what to do if I ever want to be known as The Worst Neighbor In The World. By all means, keep using your lawn mower/leaf blower/ weed whacker after 9pm, your snowblower at 6am, your Shop-Vac at 10pm and put your screaming, uncoordinated kids in the yard anytime you want to. And speaking of your kids, you should definitely take every opportunity to tell me about how amazing, smart, intelligent, one-of-a-kind, spectacular, gifted and outstanding they are. I can see why, if I have the common courtesy to mutter "hi" while I'm getting the newspaper in my pajamas, you would interpret that as "Oh, you must want to hear all about my kids. And my job. And my wife's job." By all means, neighbor, keep up the good work because the longer you keep acting like this, the more people will talk about you, which will leave them less time to talk about me.
I hope everyone has a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow, whether you're acknowledging it's existence or not. I might even take the day off from writing and being mean, because after all, in addition to it being about horrendous gifts, disappointment and feeling lonely, it's a day about love. In fact, maybe I'll hang out with my neighbor for the afternoon, while our kids have a play date. You never know, I might just find a new use for his Shop-Vac.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Unexpected Empathy

Although Zoe loves all animals, worms and toads, she hates bugs. There have been moments during the summer when she has chased the boys around while wielding a sword in one hand and a water pistol in the other, only to run into the garage shrieking like a girl, all because she saw a bee. Bees are definitely the king of her hated bug kingdom, but her dislike of flies, mosquitoes, ladybugs, dragonflies, and box elder bugs comes close. Oh, and she also hates ants.

A few days ago, Zoe and Charlie were tolerating being around each other and watching the movie Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. I was a little worried about how she would react when the bees swooped in sounding like B-1 bombers, but she handled it pretty well and didn't hide behind the couch or anything. She was more upset about the fact that her bedtime arrived before the movie was over, but after reassuring her that it would be on DVR and she could watch the rest of it the next day, she agreed to go to bed. It was then that I realized that she had stopped watching right before the ant (creatively named "Anty"), after saving the kids from the scorpion, gets attacked and dies.

Now, I've seen how this girl reacts when surrounded by ants. Let's just say that she cannot stomp her New Balance size-10's fast or hard enough, and will happily smash ants into the concrete for hours. So even though Anty was like a pet, the kids are all sad and Ron sheds some tears, I wasn't really worried about how Zoe would take the news about a dead ant. After all, she's personally responsible for ending the lives of thousands of them.

The next day while she was watching the movie again, I took advantage of the time to get a few things done since I knew I wouldn't have to console her during the giant bee scene. But then we got to the part that she had missed and the scorpion appeared. Sensing a bit of distress, I sat on the couch with her as she watched Anty take the fatal blow. She sat there in silence with her mouth hanging open, and then said: "He died? He's dead? How can he die? It's Ron's pet ant! He can't die! Does he get a new Anty? Promise me he gets a new ant!"

She looked at me, and I could see her eyes start to get glossy. Within ten seconds, she started sobbing, devastated by Anty's death. If only the kindergarten teacher who thinks that my daughter has a little bit of a mean streak could see her now, crying over a dead ant.

"Yes Zoe, I'm pretty sure that Ron gets a new pet ant in the sequel." This, and some fruit snacks, seemed to make her feel better, and she managed to finish watching the movie, never even flinching when Nick almost got sucked up and chopped into little bits by the lawn mower.

Meanwhile, I think I'll file this moment away in my brain because it might come in handy at some point. Like this summer when she is freaking out about "all the stupid ants" and is obsessed about destroying all of them, maybe I'll casually mention the fact that one of those ants might be someone's pet, so perhaps she could STOP BEING INSANE AND QUIT STOMPING ON ALL OF THE ANTS!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Parenting Anti-Advice

I've decided that now is as good a time as any to fine tune some parenting techniques. I know that there are a few things that could use a little improvement, like my lack of patience (okay, a lot of improvement), and since there seems to be more advice out there than ever before, I thought maybe I'd look into a couple age-appropriate suggestions and give them a try.

Goal #1: Stop yelling at Zoe so much.

To accomplish this goal, I looked into the "positive discipline" philosophy. This approach takes a lot of work, patience and mental strength. It also requires a lot of time, like your-whole-life kind of time. With positive discipline, there is no such thing as "wrong, evil" or "punishment," only "inappropriate" and "teachable moment." And here's the real kicker: negotiation and raising your voice are definite no-no's.

Well, things seemed to be going pretty smoothly and I thought that maybe just reading about positive discipline did the trick. I'll never have to yell again! I did all of that research for nothing! After informing her all afternoon that we would be leaving for Charlie's violin lesson in one hour, half-an-hour, and then fifteen minutes, the moment arrived where I asked her to turn off "Tom & Jerry" because we actually, really did have to leave, which instantly triggered crabbiness and a meltdown. Time to engage Project Positive Discipline!

"No! I don't want to! Maybe in ten minutes." She was sprawled out on the couch and showed no signs of cooperation.

"Zoe, we have to leave in no minutes, not ten. You're acting inappropriately. Please turn the TV off, get a snack, put your shoes on and get in the car." I still hadn't raised my voice, the snack wasn't really a negotiation or bribe since she needed to eat, and I felt like I was still in control.

"But I'm tired. I don't want to go." Now she was crying and doing her best eel impression by sliding off of the couch and into a heap on the floor. Meanwhile, Charlie was standing by the door with his coat on, waiting for us to get in the car and Zach was attempting to get his homework done amidst the drama. "And I'm hunnngreeee!"

"I already said you could get a snack! And you need to get your shoes on now! All you have to do is sit in the car and eat some crackers. The way you're acting is so naughty and wrong." I didn't have time for this and now I was definitely yelling. "Positive discipline" was quickly becoming "project unrealistic."

After a couple more minutes of sobbing and yelling, she finally composed herself enough to get in the car and we were headed to the violin lesson. In a perfect positive discipline world, I would have knelt down, looked my overwhelmed daughter in the eye, and taken a few minutes to explain to her that her behavior was inappropriate, and that I sure did love her lots and understood that she was mad and felt powerless. Then I would have wrapped my arms around her in a reassuring hug, pulled an organic snack out of the pantry, and carried her to the car. But here's the thing: I live in reality, where we have places to be ten minutes ago. Sure, my method resulted in a few more tears and a little bit of yelling, but at least I embraced a "teachable moment." After all, she learned that she should stop acting like a psycho and get her ass in the car already.

Since Goal #1 was such a rip roaring success, I figured I'd take a shot at another goal, since I couldn't possibly do any worse.

Goal #2: Communicate more efficiently with Zach.

According to the teenage communication experts (which, by the way, I'm now convinced do not have teenagers of their own), a parent should find common ground and mutual interests that they share with their teenager. Spend more time together talking about things other than school, don't snoop through their things or spy, and if they tell you or show you something that you find inappropriate or don't necessarily agree with, share your disapproval with them in a non-judgmental way. And when you are having a conversation with them, make sure you have their full attention before you start talking.

Zach gets home from school an hour before Charlie does, so it's a great time for us to catch up on his day and maybe even talk about what is on the schedule for the rest of the week. If he's willing to talk and/or listen, that is.

While he was eating a granola bar, and before I started talking about after-school plans for Thursday, I made sure to make eye contact so that I knew he was listening. As soon as I said "Okay?" though, he said "What about Thursday? You were talking to me?" It's official, I completely suck at this.

After a couple minutes of silence, he said, "Oh hey. Check this out. John got this random text from someone and he forwarded it to me. You gotta see this." I decided to suck it up and not be mad about his lack of listening skills, and instead I was going to be open-minded and non-judgmental. After all, he was voluntarily showing me stuff on his phone, so I wouldn't have to snoop through his texts like I usually do. And then I saw this:

Okay then, very well. So then I guess if anyone needs me, I'll be outside shoveling the driveway. Oh, and I think I also had a Goal #3 for Charlie, but for some reason I seem to have forgotten what it was.